A SAMPLE OF NUMENON by SANDY NATHAN––CHAPTERS 1 & 2
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He darted across the lawn, fleeing along the lake’s shore. Treetops lashed the sky and leaves tumbled past him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the towers of his home stark against the thunderheads. Something was after him. He couldn’t see it, but knew it wanted to destroy him.
He felt the wind blowing off the lake the way it did when he was a child. The piercing cold left him shivering and weak. He heard his father’s voice, bellowing from within their stone mansion.
Then he was inside, moving through the great hall. Gothic arches admitted slashes of light. People and things seemed to pop into existence out of the shadows. “Hello, Master Will.” A servant fawned. “Good show on winning the Championship!” Win more! Win more!
He ran along the lakefront, his soul tossed like the treetops. Some- thing was trying to get him—he dodged this way and that, searching for a way out. Tears stung his eyes and his legs ached.
Will sat up in bed, heart pounding, sweat running down his cheeks. He looked around frantically, before realizing it had been one of his . . .
Had anyone seen him like that? His eyes searched the room until he was satisfied that he was alone.
He didn’t try to go back to sleep. Will got up and put on his jogging clothes. He would run in the gym until he was so exhausted that the nightmare couldn’t return. As he left his room, he glanced at the book by his bed. He seldom read psychology, considering it self-indulgent. But someone had written a book supported by decent research, a book that gave him answers.
People called him a genius. The label didn’t matter to him, but he knew it was true. Only a genius could do what he had done. That book explained the rest of it: The flashes of insight, the vision of what life could be, and the drive to create it formed the sunny side of his brilliance. The nightmares and horrors were its other side, the negative perks that came with his gifts.
Will snorted bitterly. His dark side was as big as the light. He made his way to the gym on the lower level of his home. The house was shuttered for the night. Bulletproof metal shades covered every window. He placed his palm on the sensor by the elevator. The door opened.
“Is that you, Mr. Duane?” A voice came from a speaker. An operative. “Yes. The sun will rise again.” He carefully enunciated that night’s passwords for the voice recognition system. He knew he had been monitored from the moment he stepped outside his bedroom. “No surveillance while I’m running,” he ordered.
Lights went on when he entered the gym, rippling across the equipment-filled expanse like the surf rolling across a rocky beach. The house’s lower level was dug into the hillside to allow it a larger foot- print than the fifteen thousand square foot residence above. Every conceivable training device found its place on the floor. An indoor track circled the workout area. Handball courts were beyond the far wall; outside, past steel-clad windows, the pool awaited.
Will was a runner. He didn’t warm up, simply launched himself onto the track. He’d run until the sound of rough breathing, the smell of his father’s cigars, his gravely voice, and the revulsion at what happened disappeared. He’d run until his chest ached and he couldn’t think. If he was lucky, the joy that came from running would set him free. His legs moved easily as he began. His breathing expanded and became rhythmic. He’d hit a groove in a few minutes. Until then, his mind roved.
He’d had the nightmares as long as he could remember. He thought of them as spells. He had no idea what anyone else would call them. Once past childhood, he’d never told anyone about them. They were deeper than dreams; sometimes he’d come out of one to find that the world seemed dangerous and unreal. He had a hard time shaking the feeling.
They all began the same way. The world became silent and empty, a colorless, foreign landscape. He could feel the malice behind every- thing. And then he was running along the North Shore of Lake Michigan where he had been raised. His father bought a mansion built by one of the old Robber Barons the moment he could afford it. He manufactured a family tree to go with his new wealth. Will scowled. They were not American royalty. They didn’t have a fancy pedigree. Will hated pretense. He’d seen enough.
He could recall the whiskey-roughened voices in the library when his father and his friends played poker. Cigar smoke penetrated the walls. They joked about fancy women and what they’d do with them later. His mother was in the house, awake—how could his father talk about that with her there? They spoke of Micks and WOPs and kikes. These were good Christians who praised Jesus on Christmas Day and screwed anyone they could the rest of the time. They got country clubs, while their workers got union busters and substandard wages.
During the day, he was the perfect son. But in his sleep, he found himself running along the lake. As a child, the nightmare came almost every night. A river of darkness sucked him down. The evil in that darkness was so absolute that no terror could express it. He fought the murk and filth as something toyed with him; a malignant something hid behind the opacity of daytime life. If he made a mistake, it would capture him. He would have to crawl for it forever, doing its will.
He’d awaken, screaming and sobbing. His mother would come. “Will, Will—what’s the matter, darling?” He’d rave about something terrible that was going to get him. She’d sit up stiffly and pull the
bell cord for his nanny. “Will, I don’t know where you get these stories. I simply don’t understand you.” She’d finger an amulet she had, a jade piece, as she left the room. Her quick steps and averted eyes told him that his mother was afraid of him.
What happened next depended on his nanny. They changed all the time. A few held him and petted him until he went back to sleep. Most caned him for his wild imagination and refusal to shut up. That was at his father’s orders: “Make a man of him.”
The beatings taught him to bury his screams in his pillows and never tell a soul about the night visions. With good reason—they took him to realms that separated him from everything good.
They say I’m the Prince of Darkness, Will thought, pausing to tie his shoelace. I am. You can’t be a good person and know what I know. He had seen things about human nature that revolted him in his spells, but he knew what he saw was true. His reality wasn’t for ordinary people; it was his special gift. Will’s mouth tightened.
All his life, his father had told him what he thought of him: “You’ll never be the man I am.” He bellowed the words when he was drunk, and said them silently when he was sober. No matter what Will won,
or what team he captained, or how good his grades were, they were never good enough.
His nightmares ended the same way: A vortex dragged him toward the malevolence at the core. The stalker. He clawed against the whirlpool. His father appeared above him, grabbing his arms and hauling him to safety. Will looked into his father’s eyes with sobbing gratitude, and saw the stalker’s hatred blasting back. His father was the demon, as evil as hell.
The old man bent to Will’s ear, drawing in a breath to say something . . .
And the dream ended. Wherever he was sleeping—at school as a youngster, or later, in some woman’s bed or his own—he woke up, sweating and gasping. If he wasn’t alone, he’d hide his panic, jumping out of bed and throwing on his clothes.
“Is there anything wrong?” the woman he was with would say, confused.
“No, no. No problem.” He’d leave no matter what time it was; he couldn’t let any of them see his terror. They’d be afraid of him if they knew what he saw. They’d leave him.
Of course, he would never go back to any of them anyway—they’d seen him like that. He stopped bringing women home, and never took them anyplace he couldn’t make a fast exit.
Will took off, flying along the track. Unaware of the pounding of his feet on the gym floor, the sweat flying from him, or how long he’d run.
He would forget. He would forget. He couldn’t forget.
The funny part was, even if he wanted to tell someone how much he suffered, who would care? His father had been a millionaire, and he was the richest man in the world. No one cared about the rich kid— Will knew that better than anything.
He knew what his father was going to say when the dream stopped: “It will get you in the end, no matter how hard you run.”
Will ran faster. His torso was erect and his mind clear. His breath moved in and out without effort. His legs fired away like steel shafts. He could go forever. He was so strong, he would go on forever. He tore around the track.
When he ran, nothing but his power existed. Will didn’t feel the ache in his heart that whispered on quiet nights. He had no longing for a childhood that didn’t happen or anger over the one that did. He never noticed the little boy inside him that still hoped everything would turn out fine. When Will ran, only running existed.
Tonight he wanted more than relief from pain. Will pushed his limits, hoping that it would happen.
It did. When he’d run himself close to oblivion, the light burst from the base of his spine and traveled upward. His back arched and his chest expanded. The force moving through his body was so powerful that he couldn’t run. He stopped abruptly, bouncing along the track. He slammed into the side of the gym, sliding for a yard or two. He stayed on his feet and swung to face the wall, pressing his chest against it. The column of light rose up his back. Groans escaped him. He put his arms out, palms hugging the wooden surface. His head twisted to the right, as though he were trying to face the center of the room. His face contorted as the energy moved upward. He couldn’t stop what was happening, and didn’t want to.
The pillar of light rose up his back. When it climbed above his head, it exploded into a brilliant golden fountain, brighter than the sun. He rose onto his toes. The energy unfurled around him, spreading and spreading, moving everywhere. It felt like it reached the edges of the universe. Will was its center. He knew things when the light surrounded him; he could see relationships between ideas, organizations, and people that were hidden from him before. The worst business problems became simple.
The bliss that came with the light was hard to accept. He felt so much pleasure that it shocked him. He had chased pleasure all his life, but this was beyond that. Sex paled in comparison. He pushed off the wall and walked down the track, his hands reaching up, enraptured. He talked to it, the Light.
“I love you. I love you. Oh, stay with me. I love you.” On like that, words he’d never spoken to anyone. The Light could understand what he said, he knew that. It heard his dreams and desires, his sadness and pain. And it fixed him; it healed him, at least for a while. With it, he could keep going. The Light was the most precious thing in his life.
Will had no idea what it was. The closest he could come to an explanation was that column was his soul. Or maybe God. He thought it might be God, except that he didn’t believe in God.
The bliss played with him, flowing upward in a torrent. He moaned in delight, walking around the track, face alight. He held his hands high, reaching for something unseen. “I love you!” he shouted. “Oh, I love you so much.” He danced, filled with joy. Tears of gratitude splattered the floor. The gym was magic, enchanted. He skipped and laughed like a child.
The Light had come to him years before. After being whipped because he had a nightmare, Will crawled into his bed and pulled his quilt over his head. He shook with a child’s shuddering sobs—and the Light came to him. Delight traveled up his spine, erasing his pain. Will found himself lifted to a place as wonderful as his nightmares were horrible. The Light showed him a world he never dreamed existed. In it, he found creatures—people and animals and things he’d never seen— moving between luminous hangings across a mythical landscape inside him. Every touch was ecstasy; every sound, a chorus.
The dazzling column had no physical characteristics, but he felt it was a person. It could understand like a person. It had different parts. One was female. She was like a mother or angel. Her presence suffused the good place, and she enfolded him, making everything that happened all right. He called her Beloved. She and the Light kept him alive. If the dark torrent yanked him down, the ones who lived in the bright place brought him back. They brought him back, regardless of what he did in the ordinary world or the dark dreams. They loved him no matter what he did.
One day, they showed him a world where people cooperated, where commerce served everyone, and the good that everyone said they wanted came to be. They told him that his job was to make it real. It was real; he had touched it . . . Reality, the numenon. The thing as it exists. He named his corporation after it.
The world of Light was his deepest secret. He couldn’t explain the beauty of that realm; words would defile it.
Besides, if they thought he was crazy because of his nightmares, what would they say if he told them about a Light that gave him answers and protected him? Or an angel called Beloved?
Will didn’t trust his experiences: He thought he was crazy.
He’d never heard of anyone who had such encounters. They didn’t talk about them at Stanford or its Graduate School of Business, where he went to school. No one talked about such things at meetings of the Numenon Board or any other corporate venue. He wished he could ask someone, “Does a brilliant light surge up your from ass and give you unbelievable pleasure—then tell you how to solve that merger problem?”
He knew how that one would go over, so kept his mouth shut.
Will felt the rapture drifting away. “Don’t go . . .” he cried. It always left. He knew it would come back—when he needed it. Running as hard as he could was a good way of getting it to return, but he couldn’t make it do anything. It came tonight because he needed it––after Marina kicked him out, after everything else, he needed it.
When the light had gone, Will threw a towel around his shoulders. His legs shook as he walked to the elevator. He was so exhausted that he could barely place his palm against the sensor. “The sun will rise again.”
He got into the elevator and became aware of something. He punched a button on the wall and spoke into a microphone.
* * *
Rick Bromberg took off his headset and handed it to the guy on the next shift, still shocked by what he’d seen. He resisted the desire to tell his replacement about it. Pretty good for my first night at the freak house, he thought.
He had been thrilled to get the job, even it if was the night shift; it paid better than any job he’d ever had and offered perks you couldn’t get anywhere else. Passing the test to get into the place took everything he’d learned getting his MA in Computer Science and what the Marines taught him about surveillance. But he passed.
And he signed the inch-thick contract that granted him the privilege of coming to work. He knew all about the non-competitive agreements that were standard in Silicon Valley employment contracts.
But this one, shit—if he breathed one word about what he saw in this house, they’d have his first-born child.
He hadn’t meant to do it; it was just so boring, sitting in that cubicle alone. There were five of them on duty. He didn’t realize they’d be manning separate stations. True, it was better professional practice to have five people in separate rooms monitoring the screens than all of them together. The urge to talk came up when guys were together—it was a natural thing. Rick had even given in to the urge to drink beer once in a while on other jobs. He never brought the stuff, but if it was there, hey . . . Yeah, guys in the same room could miss things.
Before showing him to his security booth that night, his super- visor had told him that they meant it here. His name was Dunkirk. He was a fucking stiff—a Brit who acted like the Empire hadn’t fallen. He was one of the commandos Duane had all over. “We are here to facilitate Mr. Duane’s security. We do that, and nothing else. Have you read your contract?”
Yeah, he had.
“Any breach of contract will be taken very seriously. Mr. Duane gives the orders. If he tells you to do something, or not to do some- thing, you will do whatever he wants. If you don’t, you’re fired, that’s it. No appeal.” Dunkirk had looked at him with those frost-blue, British eyes. “Or, if you must appeal, you will appeal to Hannah Hehrmann. You will never forget that experience, and you will lose. Now, it’s time to begin the shift.”
Everybody was scared stiff of Hannah Hehrmann. He hadn’t seen her. Hadn’t seen Will Duane, either, until the monitor showed him walking out of his bedroom in the middle of the night. Looked just like all the magazine covers: white hair, tall even on a screen. Good looking for an old guy. Duane was in his mid-sixties. Rick couldn’t imagine being that old.
He heard him say, “No surveillance while I’m running.”
Yeah, Rick heard it. But as the time went by, he began to get worried. Duane’s old, he thought. How could he run that long? What if he had heart attack and they didn’t find him until the next day? So, he flipped a couple of switches and fired up one of the screens.
Rick knew that Will Duane couldn’t tell he was watching. He knew his stuff; he had an advanced degree in stealth. Besides, Dunkirk gave him his introductory walk around that afternoon. They stood in the gym, and he said, “Mr. Duane does not like to be aware that he is being observed. The house’s surveillance system is designed so that none of the monitors or sensors can be seen or detected in any way. For instance, do you see any cameras in this room?”
He looked around and shook his head. “No. Nothing.” Yet when Dunkirk took him to his cubicle and replayed the videos, Rick could see himself on five cameras and hear every word they said. The gym was loaded. That’s what he called smooth.
He wasn’t worried that his boss would know he was taking a peek. When he first saw the old man on the screen, he couldn’t believe how hard he ran. He must have been an Olympic runner when he was young. Now, for Pete’s sake. Mr. Duane was tearing up the track, and he’d been out there a long time.
He almost punched a button for help when his boss suddenly stopped and bounced into the gym wall. A heart attack, Rick was sure. That’s what he gets for being so built at his age. He couldn’t help but compare his paunch to Will Duane’s non-existent belly. But then, Duane put his hands out straight and started moaning and arching his back like he
was humping the wall. He turned his head to the right like a corkscrew.
Rick’s eyes widened. Jesus, was he possessed, or something?
He’d heard a lot of stories about Will Duane being a warlock or the fucking devil, even. Lots of stories about his new boss were out there. When he started doing that shit, Rick stared into the monitor, mouth open. His new boss started dancing around, waving his arms and screaming, “I love you.” This was certifiable, Rick thought. Real nutcase stuff. Which he’d also heard—that Will Duane was crazy.
But then his shift was over and he came back to earth. What Duane did was his own business—if you’re the richest man on earth, you can do what you want. If he wanted to hump the wall or dance around his gym all night, who cared?
Rick went to the checkout point where they patted them down before letting them go home. As he was being searched, he thought, Why all the need for security? What else does Duane do in here? It was only his first night and the place was starting to get to him.
Dunkirk burst in, looking at Rick like he’d run over his dog. “Bromberg, I need you in my office.”
His office was a cement-walled cell with monitors ringing every wall. They hadn’t been watching him, had they?
“I need your identification badge, your code book, and your keys.” Dunkirk looked as scary as a skinny Brit could. He handed them over. “I need you to sign here, showing that you understand the reason you are being terminated and you will . . .”
“What? I’m being fired? For what?”
“You were spying on Mr. Duane as he ran, Bromberg, against his orders.”
The expression on Dunkirk’s face and the cement walls, plus all the monitors and steel doors got to him. He told the truth. “Okay. I did watch him for a while, but I won’t tell anyone what I saw.”
“Definitely not, Bromberg. You’ll never mention it again, nor will you mention your reason for relocating.”
“Relocating? I’m not . . .”
“Yes, you are. And you’ll be no more trouble to us. You are banned from employment at Numenon or any Numenon partner . . .”
“That’s practically the whole world!”
“Yes, it is, Bromberg. So you’ll be happy that we secured employ- ment for you at your new location.”
“Where is it?”
“I’m not at liberty to say. A car is waiting for you . . .” “
But how did you know?” Rick sputtered.
“Mr. Duane told me.”
“How did he know?” Rick’s voice rose in a wail.
“Mr. Duane knows, Bromberg. He knows without all this,” he waved his hand at the banks of monitors. “I don’t know why he keeps us on, really.”
* * *
Will stood swaying in his bedroom. Traces of light seeped from behind the metal clad windows. The silk draperies didn’t hide the fact that the new day had arrived. Should he get dressed for work? Will wore a robe embroidered with the Numenon logo that he’d put on after showering. His face felt like a leaden mask; his eyes kept blinking as though they were filled with grit. He couldn’t think of his schedule for the day, didn’t notice the lovely furnishings of his vast room. Not the Turner over the bureau or the little Monet he loved. The bed beckoned. A minute won’t hurt, he thought.
Will laid down and pulled the quilt over his head.
He ran through the grey-green world, the thing he feared behind him, roaring for his blood. He turned his head, and something overran him. He was tossed without mercy, slammed into the ground. He rolled and tumbled, landing on his feet, battered but alive. He watched the juggernaut’s howling progress.
It destroyed everything. He watched everyone die, smashed and bent, torn to pieces. The maelstrom killed those he loved first, then the rest. Everyone died; all humanity. Billions of bloody, ruined bodies piled up around him. He was the only one left.
He stood in the void, surrounded by nothing.
He had to live when everyone he loved was dead. Everyone he hated, too. Nothing was left, not even hatred. He had to go on living and living and living. Realizing that caused his jaw to drop, and pulled his hands to his mouth. Made him curl into a ball.
He lay, dazed. His chest rose and fell. The movement of his ribs was the only thing he could grab onto to tell him he was alive.
Was it a prophecy? Was that going to happen? Nothing could tell him; everything was gone. He felt a rumbling below the earth and heard the sound of rocks grinding together. His stomach roiled at the noise.
He realized what it meant: The stalker was coming for him.
His Beloved appeared from nowhere, speaking softly. “Yes, my dar- ling, it is true. The fate you have fought for so long will come to be very soon—in days. You have one chance to save yourself and all you love.” Whispering, she told him the way out.
Will did as she directed. It was already shaping up: He had a call in to the Indian shaman. He’d made it in hopes that what Marina said was true. He’d heard from her once since she threw him out. She wrote: “He’s a great holy man who has helped many people. If Grandfather tells me I should see you again, I will. But only then, Will. You and I are done.”
She did include a phone number where he could reach the shaman. He originally called the old man hoping he could get her back, but then he had that dream. He had to go now; the world of light required it.
The sucker didn’t return his call . . . He kept him waiting.
When the shaman finally called him back, Will was ready to detonate. He forced himself to be civil; he agreed to everything. “I’ll go wherever you want; I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go on your retreat, just tell me how to get there.”
The old man didn’t sound surprised. It was as though he knew what Will would say.
“Bring you best warriors,” the shaman said. “As many as you want, as long as they’re your best.” And then he laughed.
Will’s stomach clenched. The joy in the old man’s laughter hit him like a fist.
And then he gave orders that would make it come to pass. “I want you to go, too, Betty, and a few others from the Headquarters.” They looked at him in disbelief. He convinced them: “We have to go. This is the most important thing we’ll ever do.”
But he would never tell anyone the real reason for their pilgrimage.
The boy felt his legs trembling and cramping, moving purely by the force of his will. He heard the breath enter his lungs, rage, burn there, then exit, only to reenter, burn again. The child couldn’t run any longer, he was run out. He shouted at his little brother, “Go there! Into the canyon! Hide!”
The younger child veered off, going in the direction the older boys had taken. The boy turned, running at the horsemen, trying to provide some cover for his brother. The two horses headed straight at him. He heard the hard staccato of the gallop on rock. A lasso’s whir filled his ears as one rider swung his loop overhead. He charged the men, waving his arms.
The horses ran past him. He stopped, bewildered. Before he could turn, something grabbed him around the waist and jerked him back- ward. He was dragged, popping over ruts like a twig. One bounce flipped him onto his belly. His face hit a rock. His arms were pinned to his sides: He couldn’t protect himself. The impact was so hard; he didn’t know his tooth had chipped. He didn’t know what happened until everything stopped and he found himself lying in the path.The lariat’s loop bound his body. Like a tight fishing line, it ran straight to the stranger’s saddle. At the end of the rope, the horse loomed above the boy, larger than any horse he had seen. It stared at him, ears pointed like spears. Loud blasts of air came from its nostrils. It moved the thing in its mouth, and streams of white foam splattered its chest. When the beast’s hooves hit the rocks, sparks flew. It danced around and the foreigner yelled at it.
“Whoa, Buddy. Whoa. I know he smells like shit. It won’t kill you! Whoa, you . . .”
Eventually, the horse settled and stood stiffly, arching its neck, and backing to keep the rope taut. The man looked directly at the child. The boy had seen such men before, but never had been close enough to one to see his pale blue eyes. He became stiff, shaking. “Y’re in a hell of a fix, ain’t you?”
He couldn’t understand the stranger’s words, but he smiled in a way that told the boy what he already knew: This man would enjoy killing him. His father had warned of these people and kept their band out of their way. The warnings had not been strong enough.
His breath came in fast pants, and his heart felt like it would jump out. He shook all over. The man began reeling him in, hand over hand, looping the lariat on his saddle, dragging him across the rough ground. Rocks struck him, bloodying his face, bruising his flesh. The smashing impacts dazed him, and as they did, he realized that a monster was ahead of him. It was a two-headed demon, both horse and man. A skin- walker, a giant of the mountains, come to eat his flesh. His body moved like he had the falling sickness, shaking out of control.
Windborne streams of sweat and saliva lashed him as he groveled. Rowels of spurs that were as big across as his face spun and flashed. The interloper’s stench assailed him. The closer he got, the more terrifying the monster became. The giant horse began tossing its head. Its feet started moving up and down so fast that sparks flew without stopping. When he finally was dragged next to the animal, he felt nothing: no pain, no injury—only terror. His body went limp. The horse spun away from him and tried to run.
“Knock it off. It’s just a kid. A fucking digger kid.”
The rider reined hard and finally, the animal stood still. When that happened, the cowboy yanked him up, dangling him in front of his face like a fish on a line. They looked into each other’s eyes. The man was opening his mouth to speak, when suddenly the boy’s paralysis lifted. In that instant of freedom, the child lunged, tearing into the flesh of his captor’s chest.
“God damn it to hell!”
The man shouted, and then struck him. A blow made his ears ring. Another blow, and everything went blank. When he could remember again, he was tied face down on the saddle in front of his captor. Something was stuffed in his mouth, and something else was tied around his head.
“Try that again, you little bastard!”
The other rider returned with the smaller boy over his saddle. “The big ones got away,” he said to the first.
“This little fucker bit me, damn it to hell!” He rubbed his chest. “Damn waste of effort. You can’t do nuthin’ with this bunch. They’re never gonna educate ‘em fit for nuthin’.”
“It’s a job, Roy. It pays good.”
A third rider came up behind them and halted his horse. “Slim pickin’s,” he said, eyeing the two little boys.
“The rest of ‘em high-tailed it up that draw.”
“Why, hell, that’s a blind draw, I bet,” the third one said, grinning. “It’d be easy as shootin’ fish in a barrel.” The other two grinned back. “Throw me them runts, an’ you go get the rest.We’ll save the tax-payers some money.” The boy was thrown across the front of the third man’s saddle. It wasn’t hard to do: He was small, even for his People. His younger brother was tossed on top of him. When they ended up back at the band’s camp, the boys were dumped into a mule-drawn wagon, balong with some girls their age and some older kids that were too slow making their escape.
Dazed and exhausted, the boy saw his father standing in the open space before their shelters. His face was bruised and bloody and men with guns surrounded him. The agent waved a paper in his face.
“I do, too, have the right. My right is here. They gotta go to school— it’s the law. We’ll make ‘em civilized Christians. We’ll make ‘em good Americans, every one.” The children sat in the wagon, crying silently, looking at their parents who stared back with hopeless tears. The mothers’ faces beseeched the agent and his hired hands. The boy sat looking at his father. Why didn’t he do something? He looked for his mother, and then remembered she ran away with his baby brother and sister when the scouts came back saying that the white men brought a wagon. The band knew what that meant. The boy’s father had protected his clan as long as he could, moving far into the wilderness. They couldn’t go any farther.
His father was a man of peace: surely he could reason with these white men. Then the group waited, silently, until the two riders returned.
“Couldn’t find any of ‘em! That’s the last of the bunch I reckon we’ll get. The rest got clean away.” One rider chuckled (he’d have to clean his guns when he got home).
As the wagon pulled out, the boy’s father came to life. He remembered the words in English, though he knew his father spoke in their language; try as he might, he couldn’t remember a word of his tribe’s tongue.
His father shouted, “I will come for you!”
He called his son’s name, but his mind was a blank. He couldn’t remember his own name, which his father had given him in their lan- guage; he couldn’t remember it at all.
“I will come for you! I must move the camp. I must find the boys who ran. Then I will come for you!” The wagon pulled out and his father ran beside it, looking in the boy’s eyes, “You are the leader, my son! You will be Chief one day. You will be great. I will come for you, my son. I will come for you, or the sun will cease to shine.”
His father couldn’t keep up. The boy watched him recede into the distance. That was the last time he saw his father. It was 1918.
The old man lay back on his bed, gasping at what he had remembered. Starlight illuminated the interior of the lean-to, but all he could see was his father’s form, hands grabbing the wagon as he ran along- side so many years before. The sun was going down, and it outlined his father’s head, the bright light surrounding him like a halo. He turned to the wall, pinching back tears.
Even with his eyes closed, his mind showed him the canyon where it happened as clearly as if he stood in the path. A brilliant blue sky arched overhead. Canyon walls topped by spiky pine trees loomed on each side. The cheerful sound of water played down the stream bed, dancing past rocks and trees with fluttering leaves. He and his brother ran through the scene, a beautiful place where something ugly occurred. He had lived perhaps eight summers when he was stolen.
The old man’s mind was an open corridor. That morning, he could see everything he had ever done and feel each event as though it were happening. Bud Creeman had told him about amusement parks; the Shaman had never been to one. He told him about a ride where you got in a little boat that floated in a darkened indoor stream. Without warning, the channel would widen and— wham— a scene would appear. This morning, the boat took the direction it had been commanded, going back in his life. He would watch whatever it presented, knowing the Great One willed it, knowing he would need what was revealed in the week to come.
He reflected upon what would soon unfold. Thousands were coming to be with him and learn what he had to teach. The coming week was the last Meeting—the retreat had grown beyond anything he imagined.
It was the last chance that many of his People would have to meet him and imbibe wisdom of their Ancestors.Preparations had been made to assure the Meeting’s success. The campgrounds were groomed and facilities repaired. The Founders had studied everything touching the Meeting, making sure they were ready. Paul Running Bird’s report, tabulating the data he’d gleaned, was part of the preparations.
Grandfather knew all this, just as he knew that those questions Paul had presented to him last night were the reason he felt the pain of remembering his past. He wanted to hate Paul’s report, but knew that everything that happened was the work of the Great One.
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