The Iron Writer Challenge #164
2016 Spring Solstice Open, Final Round
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Mamie Willoughby Pound, Richard Russell, C. S. E. Greenberg, Tina Biscuit
Around the Campfire
Fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat
Main character grandparent was executed
It’s the End of Our World … As We Know It
Five teenage boys gazed into the flickering campfire as Alex continued, “And still today you can find the fossilized remains of the grossly disfigured three-legged fruit bats right here in this valley. Some say they still live here, looking to drink warm blood… from their victim’s eye socket.”
Dave shifted, “Okay, Alex, first, fruit bats don’t drink blood. And second, there’s really not much blood in an eye socket.”
Dave turned to the others. “Guys?”
The vote was unanimous; sentence was passed. “Alex, your story is LAME, so you must drink the poison.” Alex threw back his “punishment” and shuddered; bourbon was NOT his favorite.
Sam rose. “Okay, it’s my turn, but be forewarned, this is as gruesome as it gets!”
Several eyes rolled in disbelief as a few more beers were opened.
“This happened right here in the valley, just over there by that oak tree. My grandparents were living in the cabin on the ridge with no electricity, no running water, and no internet service …”
Bob shuddered, “Your weirdin’ me out, Sam!”
Sam smiled and continued, “and the family was starving. So Grampa takes his gun and comes down the river to shoot some dinner. Well, this side of the creek belonged to them Jacksons that lived in the holler, and they caught Gramps huntin’ on their land, so they tied Grampa to that old oak right there and executed him; cut him wide open and all his guts fell out. ‘Course, they were starvin’ too, so they took his body home and ate him. But here’s the thing; this happened just a few weeks ago and I can prove it.” Sam jumped up, ran to the oak and shined his flashlight on an old, dried-up pile of intestines.
They all vocalized their objection to Sam’s tactics emphatically. “So, we’re camping right here with that old stinkin’ pile of deer guts right there!?” Sam, a bit crest-fallen, retorted, “Hey, ya gotta give me credit for creativity!”
Dave conceded, “That’s gross, but he’s got a point. Nobody else has used props. I vote ‘approved’!” The others concurred, and sentence was passed. All but the storyteller had to “drink the poison.”
Spying the blue rays of an LED flashlight working its way through the woods toward them, Bob quickly began his story.
“Have you guys ever heard of the Blue Star Kochina?”
“Well, it’s the Hopi Indian spirit of doom; that comes to earth as a blue star to destroy the world due to rampant human corruption. And guys,, I think Kochina’s fixin’ to rain doom down on us … RIGHT NOW!”
They turned in time to see the blue light crashing through the woods as several outraged parents burst onto their camp-site.
“Samuel Thomas Jenkins, you’re GROUNDED!”
“David and Daniel, how could you DO this to your mother?!”
“Robert William Wakowski, you LIED to us!”
“Where’d you boys get this alcohol?”
Bob glanced sideways at the others and whispered, “True story.”
The Coming of Saquasohuh
C. S. E. Greenberg
Hanai tapped his bound feet against the kiva wall. It was difficult for him to keep the rhythm of the sacred dance. Grandfather stood beside the fire, blood dripping from the feathers that Grandmother had carefully woven into his hair. The fire popped and crackled as the Katsina mask that he had worn burned next to the pieces of his Pahos.
“Mighty glad we caught this heathen trying to magic up trouble.” said their captor, his beady eyes reflecting the firelight.
He removed his hat, and turned to the parson brooding near the fire. “Not to say that I’m afraid of injun magic, mind. I’m a good Christian, and ain’t nobody got power over me. But who knows what sorta evil that redskin was trying.”
The parson stared through the hole in the roof into the night sky. His eyes refocused, and he turned to the man. “Shut up, Whittaker. The Lord hates a Christian liar worse than an honest pagan.” He snorted. “Hopefully, the injun’ll see reason before we hang him.”
Whittaker kicked the leather pouch that lay at Grandfather’s feet. Hanai yelped in protest, and Grandfather glared at him. Hanai smoothed his face and remained silent. He knew that white men could not be allowed to defile the fossil of the sacred sawya, the three-legged bat that Saquasohuh had gifted the Hopi as a symbol of their stewardship over Túwaqach, the fourth world.
Hanai kept tapping. Hopefully, Grandfather would find a way to continue the ritual of the Kachina dance, and help guide the sun back from it’s winter slumber. Grandfather shifted his feet slightly. Whittaker kicked him in the stomach, and turned to the parson. “You know the sheriff’s gonna say that he’s gotta hang; why don’t we just kill him now?”
The parson looked over at the man. “You’re right.” He pulled out his Winchester. “Mr. Medicine man, do you wish to confess your sins before you meet your maker?”
Grandfather did not reply.
“Alrighty, then. Boy, cover your ears if you can.” The parson fired. Grandfather, unbowed before any taqaa, toppled. Blood speckled Hanai’s face as Grandfather whispered, “Don’t… let… Saquasohuh… dance.”
Hanai stopped tapping his feet, and instead began to chant. “Oh Kachina of the Blue Star, hear my plea! This world is koyaanisqatsi, corrupt. Use my body to dance before these unitiated fools! Remove your mask and destroy Túwaqach! The ceremonies have ended! No more shall we dance for Soyal, to return the Sun from the slumber of winter!”
Whittaker looked at the parson, confused. “What in tarnation is that youngster going on about?”
The parson turned back to Whittaker and shook his head. “I don’t rightly know, John. His grandfather must’ve turned him injun. Once he’s safely home, I’m sure I’ll be able to bring him back to Christ.”
Hanai stared through the hole in the kiva, out into the star-spotted sky. He smiled as a bluish dot on the western horizon became a streak, then a blur, as Sasquasohuh danced across the sky. Blue fire rippled through the atmosphere as he came to dance the world away.
Big Kachina Burger
The last smile of the moon dropped below the invisible horizon. The campfire flared as chicken fat ignited in violent plumes. As I walked back, I could see my father’s face – telling his story.
There were eleven more faces around him – some of my friends, some of the scouts. We were recreating a battle against Mexico, for the centenary, but apart from the hats, it was an excuse to camp out. I listened to the end of my dad’s story:
‘… and when he chipped out the last piece of stone, we saw’, he paused for a few seconds, ‘a third leg!’
I joined the circle. I saw a light, and knew Billy was on his phone, probably looking up “three-legged fruit bats” – hoping to dispel another urban myth. Unperturbed, my fossil-hunting father stepped over to the fire, and picked out some chicken legs.
‘Anyone still hungry.’ He offered the cremated legs among the group.
‘Only three left.’ He glanced at Billy, who was shaking his phone, still looking for a signal.
‘I’m good’, mumbled a few of the boys in unison.
Tired bodies slumped; shoulders eased onto bedrolls. My father sat cross-legged and alert. We were his soldiers, his platoon, and he was taking first watch. I sat next to him, trying to keep my back straight.
‘Do you remember that, Jim?’
I looked up.
‘Is it Orion?’
‘Yes. Can you still find Sirius, son?’
I traced the line of Orion’s belt, like he had shown me. It was so bright; I didn’t need Orion’s help.
‘It’s almost blue, dad.’
‘I know’, he put a finger to his lips, ‘it’s changed’.
‘Blue Star Kachina.’
We startled, even though the voice was soft. His footsteps had been silent on the sand. His silvery hair shone in the firelight. Everyone sat up, waiting for him to speak.
‘This is the last sign. When the star you call Sirius turns blue, the purification begins’, he announced, and drew two fingers down each cheek.
The boys looked up; I looked him in the eyes; my father answered:
‘We’re heading down to El Paso.’
‘Celebrating another battle. My grandfather fought there. A lot of the Hopi tribe helped you down at Camp Cotton. He was put against a wall, and shot, by order of Pancho Villas himself.’
‘I’m sorry’, said my dad.
‘Not your fault, my friend’, our guest continued, ‘you need to worry about camping on a riverbed; the stars are disappearing’, he gestured with an open palm.
‘Do you mean the Kachina thing?’ I asked.
‘It means the clouds are covering the stars’, he answered.
‘He means it’s going to rain’, my dad explained.
‘It could be the Kachina’, the group gathered around him, ‘the Hopi see it as an apocalypse, the cleansing of souls. It could be water; it could be fire.’
A raindrop stained his palm. The blue star flickered, obscured by cloud. The rumbling started in the hills.
My father pulled up the last of his platoon; the flash flood extinguished the fire, spreading argent rivulets across the desert.
The Hopi chief stroked a finger across his brow, and smiled – again.
The desert highway was nothing more than a stone river running through a silent night. The battered Chevrolet sped toward the rising moon.
“Slow down. Turn there.” She pointed toward a trail of potholes.
“No one will see us,” she said. “Looks like a good place to sleep.”
He gathered sticks and piled them in the clearing.
“You hitch-hiked all the way from Baton Rouge?” he asked.
“What?” she said. “No, Birmingham.”
“You could’ve been murdered,” he said, breaking the brush limbs in half, dropping them into a pile.
“Give me a break,” she said.
He lit the dry brush, poked it with another stick.
It went out. He cupped his hands and blew on the embers until they caught. Once the fire was going, their silhouettes danced on the canyon wall.
“We could sleep in the back of the truck,” he offered.
“I like it out here,” she said.
“Scorpions and rattlesnakes,” he began.
“I’m not scared. The Hopi say this place is sacred,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean the snakes won’t bite,” he laughed.
“You know, my great-grandaddy was an indian,” she said.
“Hopi?” he asked.
“Creek,” she said.”On my mother’s side. A white man took his daughter as his wife, burned his house. Shot him dead. My grandmother, his daughter, buried a three-legged fruit bat under the white man’s house to curse his family. ‘So they would always wander’. Unfortunately, he was also my grandfather. She was pregnant with my mother at the time.”
The fire crackled, smoke tendrils snaked toward the glowing stars. Coyotes’ barks echoed throughout the canyon.
He stared at the expanse of sky.
“Why did you pick this place to camp?” He asked.
“I don’t know. Time stands still here,” her eyes found the Milky Way.
“Look at the stars,” she said, waving her arms overhead. “They’re so beautiful. And what better place to see them?”
“Except that it’s a million miles from Alabama,” he laughed.
“Where’s your sense of adventure? What happened to the guy I skinny-dipped with, in January, all those years ago?” she joked.
“What happened to just hanging out downtown? It’s worked for a decade, “ he smirked.
“I’m different now. Something in me wants to be here, where things are real and wondrous,” she said. “Like the Hopi way of life.”
“You realize that the Hopi believe that people will be sucked underground when the Kachina shows up? And you’re Southern Baptist. They probably won’t even let you on their spaceship,” he said.
“I don’t care about that, or the blue star or the fifth world. I just want to slow time in this world. I want to jump naked into the Cahaba River. I want to go back,” she said. “Just for a while.”
And there she was, standing before him, the girl he’d known all those years ago, before kids and marriage and life, stars blazing in her eyes.
It had been so long.
“Yeah. I get it, “ he whispered.
The light of ages past burned as if it had waited forever for this night. The desert sands stilled.
And somewhere beneath them, the earth shifted.