Three years ago I was new to the site and I posted one of my short stories which garnered six rates and four comments which surprised and pleased me to no end. So I figured I would repost it today to celebrate the OS Fiction Weekend. I hope you enjoy the read.
Gray Wolf, the last Shaman in a long line dating back a thousand years, was a man torn with hate. His spirit was black-stained with anger and sorrow and he knew he could only find the answers he craved in one place: The Spirit Land.
Many times, throughout his life, Gray Wolf had made the pilgrimage to the Spirit Land to find the answer to his tribe's problems; truth be told, he loved that land as much as he did his own in the waking world. Something told him though that this would be his last trip to that magical place. He was an old man now, well past his prime, and he knew his days were numbered but he still must go one last time. This time, the trip would be for him alone and not the tribe, after all the tribe no longer existed. He was the last of his people. This time the answers he sought would be for his spirit alone...Gray Wolf needed peace at last.
Slowly, he eased his tired stiff body off the hard plank cot that served as his bed and positioned himself on the dirt floor of the small room. The stiff muscles in his back complained loudly as he forced himself into position: knees bent, legs crossed and back ramrod straight. He folded his arms in front of his chest and began to chant the words taught to him so many years ago by his grandfather, who had also been a Shaman of the tribe.
Gray Wolf closed his eyes and continued the chanting in a low monotone voice, the words running together as his speech quickened and his voice dropped to almost a whisper. After what seemed a long time but was, in reality, only a few minutes, he opened his eyes.
The walls of the room had retreated, the cot was gone and he was greeted by a low-lying fog that covered the rolling, grassy plains that had been the home of his youth. He stood up and was pleased to discover that while in the Spirit World his body was no longer old, his bones and muscles no longer gave him pain.
On his feet now Gray Wolf felt a sudden stiff breeze that moved and dispelled the fog nearest him and he was able to see an approaching figure of an old friend.
The Shaman could not help but smile as his old companion of the Spirit World approached him. Out of the parting fog he trotted on four great, silent paws, his head held high and the fur along his shoulders and back bristling slightly in recognition.
Wayah, the great wolf, was the Shaman’s namesake and his spirit guide in this world. The wolf padded forward and stopped in front of the man. He gazed at the Shaman with cold, piercing, blue eyes.
“I have been expecting you,” the wolf said, in a voice sounded like gravel rolling downhill. “I feel your troubled spirit and I know you seek answers.”
“Yes, Wayah,” the old Shaman said in a tired voice. “This one last time I come to you. I need your guidance. Hate fills my spirit and I feel that I must be lost to it if I do not find some kind of answer. Can you help me, old friend?”
The wolf regarded the man for a space of time, silently. Here in the world of spirits, man and beast always met as equals, the beasts of the earth all had the power to speak and the humans had the power to understand. Here they met as friends. This wolf and this man were joined, connected by fate. It had been this very wolf who had, many years ago, in his life upon the earth, come into a dwelling and discovered a newborn human baby laying on the floor, wrapped in furs.
The child’s mother had been there, but could do nothing as the great beast stood snarling over the child. The wolf had to make the decision whether or not to take the child as food or leave in peace. In that moment the wolf had looked down at the child and saw in his eyes, a connection to himself. He had backed slowly out of the dwelling and ran back over the prairie. Thus it was that the Shaman had gained his name, given to him by a grateful grandfather who was then the Shaman of the tribe.
Thus it was that Wayah, the great wolf became this human’s guide in the Spirit World and thus it was that he now stood before him once more.
“What would you have of me, oh great Shaman of The People?” The wolf replied, staring deeply into the eyes of the man. “I cannot take away your hate nor your pain, I can only show you what was and what is.”
Gray Wolf, the Shaman, nodded slowly. “What more could I ask of you old friend?”
The large wolf turned on his heels and headed away from the human in a slow walk. The Shaman fell in behind the wolf, once again walking the ground of his youth. They walked silently for an hour before reaching a tall hill. Walking up the incline, they reached its top and down below them stretched the land. It was a land of great beauty, of wandering river and tall grass. Upon its surface grazed endless herds of Buffalo and deer.
The Shaman’s breath caught in his throat...it was such a beautiful sight.
“Do you know what you see, man?” The wolf asked gruffly.
“I see the land of my youth.”
The wolf gave a sharp bark that could well have been a laugh. “No, you simple being. What you are looking at is the land before your people came upon it. This is the land of MY ancestors. Here there was no Man, it was only the beasts of the forests and the plains. Here it was that MY kind ruled supreme as did yours in their time.”
“Yes,” the Shaman replied. “I see it now, there are so many of the beasts-- even more than in the time of my youth. It is truly beautiful.”
As the wolf and the Shaman stood on the hill and watched the panoramic view of the animals passing below them, the Shaman caught sight of something moving on the horizon.
“Great Wolf, what is that in the distance, moving closer?”“Look closely,” the Wolf replied. “Do you not recognize your own people?”
Sure enough, now the Shaman could make out the figures of the people who moved closer. It was his tribe, yet unfamiliar. These were the first of his people who came out of the great north to take this land. As he watched, the tribe fell upon the beasts of the prairie and slew them. The humans took the meat and the hides and they lived from this. They now held dominion over the land and the animals shrank back from view...their time was done.
The Shaman was saddened by the death of the animals and somehow ashamed that his people had, by their quest for life, destroyed the world of the animals. Even as he watched, though, another movement showed itself on the far horizon-- a moving mass of pale creatures in the distance.
“Wolf, look there, what is that which comes this way?”
The wolf looked up at the Shaman and there was a note of compassion in his eyes as he answered.
“Look closer Shaman, can you not see that which swept your people away? That is the White Man.”
The Shaman was almost brought to tears as he saw the truth of the wolf’s words. This was indeed the white man marching ever forward, like a plague of locusts covering the ground. He watched in sorrow as his tribe was pushed ever backward and slowly destroyed.
As he watched this sight he also remembered his own childhood when he and his family were hunted and hounded by these whites. He remembered how he had fought them, how he had led his tribe after the death of his father and grandfather at their hands. He remembered how, as the years passed, the tribe grew smaller and smaller. Hunted and starved, one by one they died. His wife, his children...all dead. Until, at last there was only him, left alone, the last of his people.
The Shaman felt the hot tears streaming down his cheeks as he watched all of this unfold below him.
“Yes, Wolf, this is the source of my hate. I could not save my people and now I am alone. I failed in my responsibility to my people and I let these pale savages cover us over. Oh how I hate them!”
“Why?” The wolf asked simply.
The Shaman looked down at the wolf in puzzlement. “How can you ask that? You see what the White Man has done to my people. How can I not hate with all my heart?”
“Do you hate the storm which ravages the land? Do you hate the flood or the blizzard which kills without remorse?” The wolf asked the man.
“Of course not, that is simply nature. It happens as the Great Father says it must.”
“You mean,” the wolf replied, “like when your people came upon the animals of the land? Should I hate you for doing what was natural?”
The Shaman listened silently, beginning to understand.
“We all have a Time,” the Wolf continued. “The animals had their Time and your people came and took our place. You became the dominant force of this world. Then came the White Man and he pushed you out and took dominion. You had your Time and now that time is past.”
“But what of the White Man. Is he to forever have dominion of this land?”
“Of course not,” the wolf answered softly. “There will come a day when another will come and then it will be the White Man’s turn to fade into the past. All things have a time, my old friend. I had mine and you had yours and one day the time of the White Man will be over...it is written.”
The Shaman sat down on the hilltop next to the wolf and put one arm around the massive shoulders of the great beast as he watched the passing parade of the past flow below them. He was aware of feeling something then that he had not known for many, many years: peace. He was suddenly aware of a growing acceptance within his heart. What is, is and what will be, will be....forever and always...as it should be.
He was about to thank the wolf for showing him these things when he noticed something else. Down below them there was now a wall of blackness, like a great curtain hanging from the sky to the ground, and nothing could be seen behind it.
“Old friend, what is this I see now?” he asked the Wolf.
The wolf looked down the hill for a moment, then turned his head and looked back at the man.
“That is where I go Shaman, it is my home. You may follow me to my home now, it is a good place. I think you will like it there.”
Without waiting for an answer, the wolf took off down the hill at a quick trot. The man stood silently for a moment, watching the wolf disappear. He had never been asked to follow the wolf to any place the spirit animal called home and he had never talked to him this long in the spirit world. A part of the man was curious to see what lay beyond that wall before he awakened in his own world, so he set out after the wolf.
The man was still a few feet behind the wolf but catching up fast, when Wayah, the Great Spirit Wolf reached the black wall and, without pausing, walked directly through it. As Gray Wolf reached the same wall, he paused for just a moment, staring at it in wonder.
It was then that a great arm and massive claw reached through the wall and clamped around his neck. The Shaman felt the life began to ooze from his body as the claw strangled him.
“ENOUGH!” The cry of the Wolf echoed back through the black wall. “He comes of his own free will. He is at peace. Let him pass.”
The crowd of people who stood around the gallows let out a collective gasp as the body of the old Indian dropped through the trap door and hit the end of the rope. The body convulsed and twitched for a moment and then was still.
“Man, that was something else,” remarked a man in the front row. “Did ya see how he was smiling there at the end, before they dropped him? I tell you that damn old Indian was just plain crazy.”
“He must have been,” the man’s companion said. “Why else would he have come down out of the hills and try to steal chickens from good, law-abiding, white folks? Crazy old bugger must have been starving and crazy as a loon from living up in them hills alone for so many years. Hell, there ain’t been no Indians around these parts since ’95, and that was more than fifteen years ago.”
The two men turned their backs and joined the rest of the crowd headed toward the saloon to celebrate the hanging of an Indian for chicken stealing. Neither man saw the two figures who stood upon a hill, in the distance overlooking the town. Had they been able to see them at all, they would have wondered at the strange sight of an Indian and a Wolf standing alone together. Of course the two figures went unseen and unnoticed even as they turned together and walked away....to their home....in the Spirit World.