BACKTRACK: The Scout's Story
The smoke was thick, and Dane Lightfoot’s nostrils flared as he breathed in the acrid air. Inhaling slowly, he identified burning wood, burning carpet, burning upholstery, burning—hair?
“Find the origin,” he muttered aloud, “Concentrate!”
Dane was a clairscent with an enhanced psychic sensitivity to smells, and tracking fire was his specialty, but he was having difficulty keeping his mind on this journey. He didn’t usually have trouble with a routine blaze; however, this time it was different. This time he had an uncomfortable sensation of heat. He made a mental note to tell Lee; then he pulled his thoughts back to work.
The next breath ended in a choking cough, but not before Dane smelled the cigarette. He recalled the lectures Lee gave him. “Smoking in bed catches up to folks eventually.” Dane was glad he finally quit. He smiled as he now detected the faintest wisp of vanilla. He often joked about how that fragrance made his temperature rise. His smile melted abruptly.
I am hot, he reflected. I’m really hot! And I can’t breathe. It’s way too smoky. Better get out now. “Home,” he coughed. Nothing happened. “Home,” he called again, but with less intensity. His arms tingled from lack of oxygen, and he was growing weak. He gasped between choking spasms and tensed, waiting for the familiar rush as his mind rejoined his body. “Home!” he croaked again. Why doesn’t someone send the homing light?
Dane tried frantically to remember who his beacon was and where he was tracking. Cognition came to him in a flash of blazing light; and as he sucked in a final breath of smoke, Dane Lightfoot realized the stench of roasting skin was his own.
* * *
Four miles away, sixteen-year-old Noah Lightfoot screamed out in his sleep. He woke and jerked upright but did not focus on his surroundings. He coughed out but one word before he fell back on the bed, and that one word was wrought with unbearable grief. “Dane.”
* * *
Hundreds of miles away, I saw it all through my blind eyes. I had never met them, but I knew them. They were my blood brothers.
I am Luna—short for Ojos de Luna (as my village family calls me); Hvresse Torwv (as my Creek Indian mother calls me). Both names mean the same—Moon Eyes. I often travel great distances as I play my flute, and in my travels I can see things that are always dark to me in the waking world of daylight.
The journey tonight is different—not hazy and shadowed, as many of the visions in my travels tend to be, but vivid and colorful, with keen sensory perceptions of sound and smell. I hear my brothers talking, though their mouths are closed. I feel the heat on my face, but I am not on fire. It is the rising sun—already making the dew turn to steam here in the jungle.
My mother says I am a “Keeper.” That’s why I remember in such detail what I see on my journeys. The stories I tell are not mine, but I keep them in my memory always, as do I keep all the other stories related to my brothers and these people whose lives intersect mine in a strange and unexplainable way.
This one is his—Noah’s. It begins the night Dane dies and he awakes.
MIST: The Bloodhound's Story
She could not have been happier. Everything was going so well. The music was loud; the beat was strong and pulsating. The lights were incredibly bright and colorful, and they seemed to dance with the tempo of the music. His hands on her bare shoulders gave off heat waves, and it felt good. She gyrated her hips and gave him her best “come-on” look.
He pulled her closer, and they danced as one unit, swaying and bumping to the undulating rhythm of the song. He pushed her hair away from her neck and leaned in to her, breathing in the intoxicating scent of her perfume as he moved his mouth beneath her ear. Pulling back, he licked his lips. They tingled—not pleasantly.
She wrapped her arms around his waist. Grasping the back of his shirt, she raised herself up on her toes to meet his kiss. Hot, she thought. So hot. She giggled at the double entendre, and then she frowned. He was so incredibly attractive, and she was anxious to be with him, but she was burning up. Sweat beaded beneath her nose and dried immediately, leaving a salty, crusty residue; her lips felt parched, chapped.
“I need something to drink,” she gasped, pulling away from him. The room was an oven; she had to cool down.
He agreed, taking hold of her hand and weaving through the dancing throng toward the bar. He suddenly felt he was dragging her—like dead weight. Why is she hanging back? Turning around, he felt the room spin, and he shook his head to clear his vision. Where is she? There. She seemed yards away, but, looking down, he noticed they still had their hands clasped.
She went to her knees without warning, panting, staring wide-eyed at him. What’s happening? She panicked. Help me! She tried to call out, but her tongue was thick, dry, stuck to her teeth. Her eyes felt like sand in their sockets.
He watched her fall over to her side. It was slow, like a stop-action movie. Her eyes never left his, all the way down to the floor. Then the room tilted away, became dark and quiet, and he was gone, too.
* * *
Thirty miles away, Dane Lightfoot came awake slowly, his nose filled with the scents of floral, jasmine, musk, and something he couldn’t identify. It was overpowering, and he jammed his index fingers into his nostrils. Pressing on the cartilage between his fingertips, he breathed rapidly in and out through his mouth. He removed one finger, then the other, and took a slow, cautious breath. Perfume—very high end, complex, smells expensive...another breath…sweat, stale body odor…another breath…what IS that?
Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with thirst. Flinging back the covers, Dane jumped up from the bed and bounded into the kitchen. Grabbing a plastic cup from the dish drainer, he filled and drank a total of four glasses of tap water before he felt quenched. The mysterious smell was gone now, and Dane perched on the bar stool, absently running his finger around the top of the cup. Somebody’s dead, he decided, and it wasn’t pretty.
* * *
Hundreds of miles away, my eyes fly open, and I stare at nothing. I don’t know the young couple, but I know Dane, though I’ve only recently come to learn of him. He is my brother—the one who just returned from beyond the veil of death.
I am Luna—short for Ojos de Luna (as my village family calls me); Hvresse Torwv (as my Creek Indian mother calls me). Both names mean the same—Moon Eyes. Mother says my eyes are so blue they are almost white, and that is why I am blind. But in my dream travels, I can see everything. I often travel great distances as I play my flute, and in my travels, the world is vivid and colorful, with keen sensory perceptions of sound and smell.
I am a “Story Keeper.” I remember in great detail what I see on my journeys. The stories I tell are not mine, but I keep them in my memory always, as do I keep all the other stories related to this group of people whose lives intersect mine in a strange and unexplainable way.
This one is his—the Bloodhound’s story. It begins the night my brother Dane awakes smelling death.
KACHINA: The Snapshot's Story
I stink, he thought. And he did. Sweat circled under his arms and around his collar. The pungent odor of fear emanated from his body. No, not fear. Panic. His lips stuck together, chapped from constant licking, and dried snot whitened the outer edges of his nostrils. Flicking his eyes rapidly left and right, he detected no motion; he heard no sounds. Nonetheless, he was not comforted. He shivered, despite the heat in the building. Taking a step closer to the glass display case, he held his breath and fitted the shiny new key into the lock. The nearly imperceptible clicking sound did give him some measure of comfort, and he let his breath out raggedly. He carefully slid the panes apart and took in the contents of the case. Lifting his chin, he acknowledged the spirit captives, and as he gently grasped each carved wooden figurine, he looked it in the eyes and reverently spoke its name.
“Angwuskatsina, Crow. Angwusnusomtoqa, Crow Mother. Nata’aska, Big Mouth Ogre. So’yokwuuti, Ogre Woman. Ewtoto, Chief. Ahola, Chief’s Lieutenant. Lenangtaqa, Flute Player. Poliimana, Butterfly Maiden. Kwewu, Wolf. Sowi’ingwkatsina, Deer Dancer. Tsopkatsina, Antelope. Sikyaqoqlo, Artist. Wupamokatsina, Guard. Qaletaqa, Warrior. Hee’e’e, Warrior Maiden. Koyemsi, Mudhead Racer. Tuhavi, Paralyzed Brother. Kiisa, Chicken Hawk Racer. Kwahu, Eagle. Kokopolo, Humpback. Pootawikkatsina, Coiled Plaque Carrier. Muuyawkatsina, Moon.”
His gloved hand trembled as he reached for the last one. “Tawa, Sun,” he breathed, adding it to the other spirit beings safely ensconced in protective fabric and bubble wrap. With great care and attention to the photos he had taken of their positions, he filled their places in the display case with expertly crafted duplicates, slid the panels closed, and locked the glass. Then, calm at last, he left the Brigham Young University Museum of People and Cultures, cradling in his arms precious cargo belonging to his people.
The Katsinam watched and listened as their mortal deliverer initiated their escape. They made no noises of disapproval, for they knew they were going home. Only Tawa knew what was ahead, and he frowned.
* * *
Across the country in Florida, Raven Looking Bird Lightfoot searched beneath her seat for the sketch pad and the box of colored pencils her new husband, Dane Lightfoot, bought her in Tampa. Drawing would make the trip to Arizona seem shorter. Although Raven was a legitimately gifted artist, her abilities transcended the ordinary and were influenced by her heiroscripting psychic powers, often without her conscious intention.
Turning to a blank page, Raven started to sketch, humming tunelessly as she outlined and shaded her picture. When she finished, she admired her work. It was Tawa, the Sun god—a Hopi Kachina, or Katsina, as the benevolent spirit being was called in her language. Its face was circular, like a target, with an outer rim of markings meant to represent the feathers on the actual Sun Katsina mask. The central circle was divided into three portions--two upper and one lower. To the left of the center line the upper area was colored red with a yellow interior; to the right, it was yellow with a red interior. The lower hemisphere was colored blue. Within the colored portions of the circle, black lines gave the indication of two straight-line eyes and a triangular shaped mouth, also colored black.
Dane glanced over at the drawing, listening as she described it.
“These are feathers, and this is the face. These lines are eyes, and here is the mouth,” she said. “The Hopi and Yavapai Indians believe that the Sun Katsina controls the seasons.”
“He looks a little sad, don’t you think? He’s frowning. Why is that?” Dane said.
Raven looked at her picture, and then compared it to the one in the book she had received from her mother. The mouth of her Sun god image was inverted, like a scowl.
“I don’t know, honey. That’s just how he wanted to be drawn,” she said.
“Well, if the Sun god’s unhappy, then we may be in for some wicked weather,” he said
A chill ran down Raven’s back, and she crossed her arms over her stomach protectively.
* * *
Hundreds of miles away, my eyes fly open, and I stare at nothing. I know the young newlywed couple. Dane is my brother—one who just returned from beyond the veil of death. Raven is my new sister, and she carries my nephews in her belly.
I am Luna—short for Ojos de Luna (as my village family calls me); Hvresse Torwv (as my Creek Indian mother calls me). Both names mean the same—Moon Eyes. My eyes are so blue they are almost white, and Mother says that is why I am blind. But when I play my flute, I can see everything in my dream travels. I often travel great distances, and the world I can see is vivid and colorful, with keen sensory perceptions of sight and sound and smell.
I am a “Story Keeper.” I always remember in great detail what I see on my journeys. The stories I tell are not mine, but I keep them in my memory always, as do I keep all the other stories related to this group of people whose lives intersect mine in a strange and unexplainable way.
This one is hers—the Snapshot’s story. It begins the first day of my new sister’s married life.