Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chapter 9: Legends, Folklore and Truth

Shappa had insisted we have something to eat and so we settled in for a brief period of time, sipping tea and nibbling, not mentioning the strange events we had come to discuss, letting go of the call of the story. After a few hours we had climbed back into the dusty truck, bone tired and unsure of what to do. No one spoke on the trip back into town, there was little to say, how does one fight ancient monsters?

Surprisingly I slept soundly, dreamless and calm but when the morning sun streaked my room with it's amber glow, I lay silently with my mind twisting and turning. I'm a girl of action, however none of us had a plan or even the tiny inkling of a plan. This story was woven of folklore, bits and pieces of remembered dreams, embellished and perhaps colored over time. I wanted to dismiss it and move back into reality yet at the same time the tiny pieces fit together snuggly. I needed answers, well if not answers, at least more information which is why I threw back the covers, letting my feet hit the floor, and with grainy eyes I headed to the bathroom. I stood briefly, staring at myself in the mirror and had the most uncanny feeling that a stranger was looking back at me. This trip was about finding me, myself, not becoming entangled in this strange saga.

However, a couple hours later, I had located the small town library and sat on the steps waiting for it to open. It was a shiny new building in a town full of decrepit brick buildings. With concrete steps and two small statues on either side of the walkway, a tribute to both the past and the future of Sutter. My eyes drifted along the buildings on the other side of the narrow street, counting the windows, observing the thick wooden doors, letting my mind consider the duality of Sutter, a town caught in the web of the past, with a calling for the future.

I didn't have to wait long, a small women scurried along the sidewalk, her head down as if she wasn't quite ready to meet the bright sunlight of the morning. Her hair was wispy, slightly gray, her face almost hidden from sight was still clearly not old and wizen yet she seemed weary. She came up the steps slowly, almost dejected, pausing as if surprised to find me sitting quietly. With just a brief nod in my direction she headed to the door and I guess I imagined that she stood up just a bit taller after our encounter. I watched as she slid a key card through the slot on the door, green lights blinked and she pulled the door open. Amazed I followed her into the entry way of the building. 

The inside of the library was dim, the windows high up on the walls were in need of a good cleaning and only allowed in about half of the sunlight. I thought that perhaps she preferred it that way. She didn't look like the sort that revealed basking in the sun. She also didn't appear to be a welcoming sort either.

It was only once we were further inside, close to the circulation desk, that she spoke and it was crisp, short and not so sweet, as if she didn't want to be bothered.  "May I help you?"

I keep it brief also, not a morning person myself, I like few words before 10:00. "Section on Native American folklore?"

She nodded towards the back of the dim room, "On the back wall to the left." Then she turned without any further inquiries and disappeared into the small office behind the main desk. I could see her through the window gingerly placing her purse in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet. She turned, looking at me intently, our eyes locked, something silent passed between us, electric and defining, but I couldn't quite grasp it or the meaning of it before she ducked her head again and pretended to move some papers around on the desk.

I lingered there briefly, considering, only for a few seconds though, as I was already lost in thought, wondering what types of stories I would find hidden in the pages of books, some real, some imagined and perhaps some a combination of both. I didn't really expect to find answers, nothings ever that easy, but perhaps by examining the past I might find a clue to the present. I wasn't completely buying the tale Shappa had woven but I couldn't really dismiss it either. There were too many tantalizing portions that whetted the appetite and gave rise to even a deeper hunger.

The plush clean carpet padded my footsteps and left it eerily silent as I moved deeper into the dim corner of the library. I wondered if the library was brand new or if few feet tread here. The internet had overtaken the era of the printed word but with such spotty connections in Sutter perhaps it still served a role that just didn't show up on the thick carpet or in the librarian's voice.

The section was larger than I had anticipated, but there were no shiny new volumes nestled on the shelves, these were old books, they had sat on the shelf undisturbed for a long time, not feeling the air of circulation, not taking a ride on the reshelving cart, faded covers and yellowed pages that were a bit brittle made it clear few came here seeking answers. I ran my finger along the spines of the top row and pulled out a couple volumes that seemed promising. I moved to the second and third shelves doing the same. At the last moment I selected a slender green book that was pushed back on the shelf, almost out of view behind two thicker books.

Sitting at the tiny round table, I flipped through the first volume. Words caught my eye, here and there. visions, foretelling, spirits of the dead. None of these even seemed remotely linked to the story Shappa had told. Was it never spoken about freely? Did no one ever mention a creature sent to destroy mankind? I had been through almost every book I had pulled from the shelf until a faded green volume caused me to linger longer than the others.

It was thin volume, Creatures of Native American Folklore, barely 70 pages. I flipped the pages, reading snippets here and there, stories of creation, redemption, and evil. Every few pages were pen and pencil sketches, depicting the creatures of the stories. Stories told around the campfires while snuggled inside the warm rugs woven with loving hands. I smiled, reminded of the boogie man stories prevalent throughout childhood. "Don't look under the bed" stories meant to remind children to stay put once they had settled down for the night.

Most of the creatures combine both animal and human features. None looked like my memories of the one who had stalked me. I turned another page and froze. There staring at me from the yellowed page was a man like creature, short and stout, talons protruded from his finger tips. At his feet were small, round black grains of sand.

There was but a short paragraph telling of the evil minded one. Twin brother of the Great Spirit, bringer of life and his brother, the polar opposite, destroyer of worlds. I paused for a minute pondering the picture, the grains of sand were larger, so maybe, rocks on the ground by his feet? Something nagged at my mind, tempting me to follow the trail but I brushed it away anxious to find out more about this creature, destroyer of worlds.

After two more hours all I had to show for my efforts was frustration. Sure I'd read about plenty of other monsters. Winyan Nupa, or two faced seemed promising at first. This monster, according to legend, looks very human like except for it has a second face on the back of its head. I considered him because of his human like characteristics. He murders, mutilates and kidnaps, so not your average monster, true. But no where did it mention destroying world. I jotted the name in my small notebook anyway.

In the pages, I found other names to consider, although none particularly resonated with me. The Iroquois spoke of the twin gods, one born good and the other evil. The story caused a twinge in the dark recesses of my brain and so I added it to the list of possibilities.

In the story the twins represent good and evil. In short the good twin was born normally while the bad erupted from the mothers womb, killing her and bringing all sorts of destructive things into the world. However, as so often is the case, good triumphs over evil and the good brother prevails, imprisoning the evil minded one underground. So it's not like he could exactly be here in the world wrecking havoc.

The only real reference to Destroyer of Worlds, pertained to the Trickster, and he was an illusive mythological character at best. Sometimes one beast, sometimes another, sometimes malicious and at other times helpful. He is a god, yet he is not. He is of this world and yet not of this world, he lives inside and outside of time so the law of our world do not often apply to him. Through his destruction he points out flaws in the world, and he breaks the rules of god and nature.

My head ached, I pulled out my phone to check the time and realized not only had I skipped breakfast but I'd also missed lunch. I carefully placed the books back on the shelf, although I doubted anyone would really notice and slipped the notebook into my bag.  The sun slanted through the high windows, causing the dust to be visible as it danced through the air. It was then I felt her eyes on me. The librarian was gazing quite unabashed directly at me, seemed to be puzzling over something, and then ducked her head as I headed toward her. My hand was on the door knob to leave when I heard her words, louder than they should have been in the deathly quiet of the library.

"Have you seen him?"

I turned and looked her way, wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me. She seemed to be looking down at the circulation desk, unaware of my departure.

"Excuse me?" I croaked, taking a few steps toward her. "Were you talking to me?"

She looked up and our eyes met again with a sharp electric connection. My head hurt again, a sharp pain shot though it. I gritted my teeth, waiting for it to pass, and then I waited for her response.

"Have you seen him? The Evil Minded One?"

I let my hand drop from the door knob and stood looking across the vast room at her. Small and weary, almost gray, she stood with challenging eyes directed at me. How in the world did she know I had been concentrating on that, its not a particularly common turn of words, not a phrase that would be used daily or even weekly. Suddenly the pain shot through my head again, this time it brought me to my knees and just before I passed out, I saw her small bird-like figure dart across the room to gently ease me onto the floor.

The first thing I was aware of was the cool wetness on my forehead but gradually my mind climbed from the depths it had been banished to and I opened my eyes, slightly out of focus. She had placed a small throw pillow under my head and was sitting quietly next to me. I started to sit up but she admonished me.

"No, no, please just rest for a bit."  It wasn't her hand on my shoulder but her quivering voice that forced me back down. I took a deep breath and just lay quietly looking at the ceiling.  I was startled to hear her voice again.

"You are the one." she said and a shiver ran through me as I considered whether she was a bit unhinged.  It was then I slid my phone out of my pocket and with trembling fingers punched in Kane's number. He answered on the first rang. I slipped back into the darkness after asking him to come to the library. I wasn't sure he heard me, my voice a mere whisper, but as the phone slid from my hand I felt her hand gently catch it. Somewhere in the distant darkness I heard murmured words.

The next time I opened my eyes, I was looking into Kane's concerned eyes. The dark probing eyes almost consumed me and I wasn't sure if my difficulty in swallowing was from my fainting spell or from losing myself in them.

His hand felt hot against my cool arm as he helped me sit up. The librarian was hovering over by the circulation desk, a frightened bird, waiting to be told what to do. Kane frowned and then almost smiled, as if he was confused and didn't know exactly what to think of me at the moment. I felt shaky so I leaned back against him, when I felt his hard, warm chest, I thought perhaps I shouldn't have. Tingling coursed through me and I was pretty sure it wasn't from my dizzy spell. Just when I was thinking I'd stay here forever, he pulled away.

It was then I noticed the librarian, who I would later learn was named Dottie was nervously standing nearby. I had been so engrossed in my thoughts about Kane that I hadn't even heard her little bird feet.

"What did you mean? "I am the one." I managed to croak out while disengaging myself.

Her eyes darted to Kane and then back to me. He frowned but nodded at her.

"The bearer of the beads." she said as if it was obvious, which it most certainly wasn't. Then she continued, "the one that bears the beads is challenged to over turn the Evil Minded Ones grip on this world."

It sounded so ridiculous that I almost laughed but then I felt a tightness in my chest,  a tight cold fist squeezing my heart, an invisible grip that cause my mind to swirl again.

Kane's voice brought me back to the present as he asked her what she knew of  Native American Legends, to which she was quite quick to inform him that her dissertation had involved all manner of legend, but focused primarily of the duality of good and evil.

"We need Father Tamono" was his only response and then he was gone and I was left sitting on the cold hard floor gazing after him. After a few minutes, I let Dottie lead me into her cramped office behind the circulation desk. As if by silent agreement, we just sat without speaking.

It wasn't a long wait. The two men walked into the library, flipped the sign to closed and came directly to the office. With very little prodding, Dottie started to tell the story of the Evil Minded One.

"The Evil Minded One is the opposite of the Creator or Great Spirit. Some stories say they were brothers, others even twins. The stories morphed through the years and it is hard to tell where and when the oral versions were changed. Very little was written about him. The Creator yes, but the Destroyer, no.

The Evil Minded One was said to be banished to the under world but there are versions of the legend that suggest, he will return to walk among us. He is a collector of souls. He will wreck havoc on the world and because we do not see he will rob the world of its vitality."

Father Tamono interrupted: "It is a classic tale of good and evil much as what we have in any religion."

Dottie nodded and continued,  "It is true the dual nature of good and evil is played out often in the myths, legends and stories of most cultures. In a sense this is about becoming and unbecoming. Good is about "becoming" or climbing higher in our spiritual awareness and fulfilling our destiny while evil is about deconstructing or "unbecoming". Slowly chipping away at individuals until only their most primitive and base instincts remain."

"How does he do what he does?" asked Kane "Is killing his victims enough or is there more?"

"That is where the beads come in" she continued, after a quick, almost fearful glance my direction.
The souls are collected with black onyx beads." As soon as she said it, I felt Kane jerk and lean forward, he didn't speak so she continued. "According to the legends, he has to place the bead inside the mouth to collect the soul, however, there is only a short amount of time to do so. Wait too long and the soul slips away from the body, too quickly and the stronger essence created in the final moments of life is lost. Also according to legend, there is a chosen one or actually ones, different times, different places, who can defeat him with a different set of beads. Rubies, small and glistening, filled with power from holy water."

Once again I felt my hand slip into my pocket and bring out the braided bracelet with the single red bead. It felt at home in the palm of my hand, arm outstretched. Dottie gasped and this time, it was she who crumpled to the floor.

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