Woman Who Walks On Stones
By Brother Theo
Part VII The Believer
Belief is never about what we can see; It’s about what we can’t see. This is an old saying passed on by Black Elk, a Sioux, but a red man nonetheless, and therefore wiser than most.
When I arose from my bed in the mid afternoon of the next day, my head felt heavy, as it had when my father (my uncle?) had made me drink the clear To di hi, or black water, as my folk call it, liquor. Even though I had been in my bed for more than ten hours, my body felt lethargic, my brain was numb. My memories of childhood drunkenness had seemed like like snapshots in an incomplete album, while my memories of last night were clear, concise, and most of all coherent. I thought about how I felt. how did I feel?
I let my mind loosen itself from the bonds of my body and my thoughts, and felt tugged backward. Back down the rabbit hole. I remembered as if I were watching an old movie vignette my mother (still not right, but better than aunt) told me to make some pictures and had left some blank pages and some crayons on my little writing table. I remembered, as if for the first time, drawing pictures of the monsters on the mesa, snake, and the great cat. I remembered with a start the acid sarcasm from my mother, the beatings from her and my father, the long periods of imprisonment. Unwanted memories of a time, after my father began to do…things to me in the name of setting things right. I realized that the pictures must change.
I tried to draw a house, a family, a dog. Nothing seemed right though. Everything seemed false. finally I gave up. Hopelessness replaced hope, and time began to lose it’s meaning. But I clung to an idea that my Akei had taught me, that in hopeless, one can always find hope. One morning I awoke to find a blank piece of paper thumbtacked to my wall. I knew that I must have put it there myself as my body slept during the night. I stood before it and looked at it for a long time before I realized what it was. I could not see her, but I knew she was there, and that she was beautiful. Later, when my mother asked me what it was, I answered “It is an angel in a snowstorm.” I knew my mother did not see her, but this pleased my mother greatly, and it made her believe that I was on the path to the Mormon way, It was not THE Mormon way, but it was a way, for it led me out of the prison of my bedroom ultimately. Now I also remembered how it felt to look at it, vainly searching for the angel in a world that was the blind emptiness of a blizzard that I nonetheless knew to be there. It made me feel utterly alone, as lost as the angel must have been. That was exactly how I felt right then.
Turning my steps to the bathroom I looked down down at my feet. They were brown on top like the feet of all my people and whiter on the soles. I imagined that whiteness spreading up over the tops of my feet, my ankles and legs, covering my entire body in whiteness and I wondered what it must be like to be white. I wondered what it must be like to not being able to see what I saw last night or to speak to the spirits that live in the stars. Was that what praying to the creator was like? I didn’t think so. I had prayed to the creator many times in the Mormon church. I had been taught how to do so by the missionaries, then my mother. I had reached out to the creator, but the creator never reached out to me. I had always thought that I had never gotten it right. That I had missed something or that something had missed me. I had tried, tried with all my heart to believe, but I had failed in my belief.
Standing in my bathroom I turned on the light and leaned close to the mirror. I had never questioned the scar on my shoulder as being the results of falling from the Mesa. I had never questioned that the scar was the result of my own foolishness. Looking closely at the scar now I wondered how I had ever seen it for less that the thing it was. The teeth marks were clearly evident, and a vague, but discernible shadow of malignant cruelty festered over the scar binding the moment of the act to the evidence of violence. I knew somehow, that the next time I looked, I would see only the faded scar which was the result of a foolish child’s attempt at adventure. So I looked closely now. I took a long look at a bite mark that shifted and swelled, purpling bruised flesh. As I watched my vision blurred with tears. I suddenly realized that the reason I had never heard the Creator’s voice was because I had never believed. The thought swept through my mind, clearing all before it. I had not wanted to believe, because this was the price of belief. Truth, untouched by pity, or compassion. The facts of our existence without the comfort of denial. The deadness of life surrounded by other lost souls forever wandering a material wasteland. The vast wind of this realization caused memories of childhood to fly by like objects in a whirlwind. My people, the empty poverty of the reservation, the families huddled together against the constant onslaught of indifference from a rainbow of other peoples. It shone a great light as it arched over my people, illuminating the gray nothingness of our lives. Lives that had had the color sucked out of them by that rainbow. Lost in a maelstrom of emotions I felt myself being pulled toward that rainbow, forward, toward the mirror. I knew if I was pulled into it I could forget last night’s vision. I could stop seeng things that my mind told me simply could not be there. I could go back to believing that my aunt and uncle were my mother and father,and forget that Beaver was way to old to be real.
As my face touched the rainbow I saw that it was hollow, and allowing my face to penetrate it I saw something on the other side. The enormous coyote was standing thirty feet away, grinning at me. Surrounding him and spreading out in every direction as far as I could see was a desert landscape littered lavishly with the remains of plastic bags, empty boxes, broken furniture and every description of what remained of people’s lives when they were done with them. There was no color. the dark sky overhead contained stars, but not those of this world. The screams of tortured souls echoed among the jagged peaks that jutted up all around me like rotting teeth in a cannibal’s mouth. Before the monster could speak I placed my hands against the wall of my bathroom and pushed hard.
The coyote’s grin grew wider as he said “yes Stonewalker, fight it.” He licked out toward me. I pushed harder, but by now my head was entirely through, and I could feel the rest of me being drawn through.
The coyote stepped forward and he licked the scar. “You are lost girl, and all alone.”
This made me think of the angel in the snow storm, and in a voice distorted by panic and effort I managed to cry out “Please, I want to believe.” With a final effort I cried again “Please, don’t let me be lost! I I do not want to be alone!”
I felt a powerful force take control of every atom of my body and felt myself being pulled back. as by body began to move back I actually saw the inside wall of the rainbow; it was shiny and slick looking as the inside of a sausage casing might look. Color pulsed through the wall as I was drawn further outside of it. Seeing his quarry being drawn from his grasp, the huge beast lunged forward and taking my entire head into his mouth he snapped his jaws shut on me. I tensed for the sensation of being torn apart, but I may as well have been encased in glass for all his effort. The great coyote planted his feet and shook his head from side to side, but his teeth slid easily over my hair and skin. From the inside I could see that his dagger like canines were easily a foot long. It was both terrifying and fascinating to see the process of his effort to pull my head off from inside his mouth. after one last look at his tongue flattened against my face, the sight was replaced by my bathroom mirror; In it was a small diorama of my native village. Next to the village was a path which led to the top of the sacred mesa which had lines of many of my people walking as if in a dreamlike state up the path carrying gifts of the earth in their arms. Hovering over the mesa was a fat rainbow which pulsed with different colors as the people fed their gifts into it. Each returning figure looked grayer and more starved than those ascending. My eyes shifted focus, and I saw myself reflected in the mirror, wide eyed, my features a rictus of impending violent death. Behind myself I saw the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, her face as composed as if it had been carved in marble, and her hands were on my back.
Moments, or years later I was standing on nothing, surrounded by white nothingness. I took a step, then two, and then froze. Where was I? How far was a step in this place? Had I moved two steps, or two hundred miles? My eyes ached with the strain as I tried to make out a landmark, a clue to how I had entered this place. I feared movement. What if I walked off the roof of a building? Or into a raging current? Taking a moment to gain control of what was rapidly becoming a rising panic, I decided to call out. “Hello?” My voice must have quavered, but the nothingness was far more than visual. It was as if my voice had encountered a wall of damp cloth, the words extinguished as quickly as they were spoken. If anything this was more terrifying than the whiteness which surrounded me. I knew that I would not, could not. scream, for to scream and hear nothing would push me into madness. As I fought for control of my sanity it occurred to me that I had become the angel in a snowstorm, and that no one would ever see me or hear me again, for who would believe in something they could not see? Hearing gasps and the sounds of struggle coming from inside the house, Beaver rushed up the steps of the porch and burst into the house, the big tomcat right behind him. a cry from the bedroom drew his attention, but he followed instead the movement of shadows in the bathroom. Standing before him was a beautiful young woman, clad in a white shift and some kind of flowing robe: she was balanced on the balls of her feet, and looked ready to leap at the sink and into the mirror.
The old man had just enough time to see something strange, something like a multicolored hot air balloon floating over a makeshift village of old homes, trailers and shacks reflected in the mirror. The angel, for what else could she ever be, glanced briefly at him; in her right hand she grasped some kind of double edged short sword pointed at the mirror. It looked very sharp. Both figures froze as the voice of the great cat, now the size of a great dane roared out “Stop! this is not for you diyin ya naal a i, if you make a move you shall answer to the ceator!”
Lowering her sword the angel spoke softly. “He must not be allowed to live.”
“His time is not now,” said the big cat sitting now. “I know she is under your protection, but if the stars are to be as they were when I left them, then she must needs be also at risk.”
“The fate of that one” he inclined his huge head toward the mirror, which was now merely that is written there.”
The Butcher Shop