In the beginning, there was darkness and then there was the light, duality. The dark was not less, it was equal, two sides of the complexity of creation, of existence. No one could pinpoint exactly when or how that changed. Perhaps it had to do with some using the cloak of darkness to carry out acts that were not in accordance with the will of the one who had always existed. Regardless of how it started, it escalated into an ongoing power struggle, a challenge, a calling to those who fought for truth and righteousness. The darkness was not less, it was strong and lured those who hungered for power, ensnarling them, engulfing them, until the darkness reigned supreme in their lives.
Over the years, in different places, the Light and the Dark were called other things. Good and Evil, Love and Hate, The Becoming and the Unbecoming. Also along the way, magic bastardized the dark, transforming it into a power, warped and ruthless, difficult to control. Simple things of beauty, taken from the natural earth, that which existed for pleasure, were transformed into receptacles for power, transformed into amulets, used in ways contrary to their creation.
Sutter, South Dakota
Without speaking I climbed into the car. I was annoyed. The black bead represented, hmmm, I didn't know what it meant but it was associated with death and I really didn't want to cruise around town with it sitting in a can on the seat next to me. Practically clinging to the door, I refused to look at Kane or speak, childish perhaps but I really questioned his thinking at this point. This bead wasn't just some evidence collected in a case, it appeared to be a living breathing thing, reacting to the environment and capable of what?
We only drove a short distance when I started to wonder exactly where we were going and what he had in mind for the black bead. I had to admit I was a bit curious about the bead, it looked to me to be simple black onyx, not much of a danger that I knew of. I pulled out my phone to connect to the internet. The connection symbol swirled and swirled but I couldn't manage to get online. This town in the middle of nowhere had some of the worst connectivity that I had experienced, spotty at best and nonexistent at worst.
Kane glanced over at me, he let out a big sigh.
"What did you expect me to do with it? Leave it there on the dusty ground for some unsuspecting person to pick up?"
I could detect a hint of annoyance in his voice and that only made me madder. Gritting my teeth I remained silent. We hit a pothole and the tin can bounced on the seat, threatening to spill its contents into the floorboard, grabbing it in frustration, I asked,
"Where are we going?"
He glanced at me cautiously then spoke
"To my house. we need to call Father Tamono. I want to discuss some things with him and let him look closer at the bead, maybe he will recognize it or have some ideas."
"I think it's black onyx," I said reluctantly, still hesitant to let go of my anger. Or fear, maybe that's what coated my body and made me want to be as far away from this bead as possible.
"That's pretty common, right?" he asked frowning. I noticed when he frowned that his eyebrows also squished up making him look a bit like Oscar the Grouch, from Sesame Street. It made me smile even though I was still determined to be annoyed.
He didn't see the slight smile though because he was already calling Father Tamono, asking him to meet us at his house. After a couple of oks he closed his phone and glanced at me.
"He said it would be a couple hours but he promised to come."
A lump was forming in my chest, solid, making it hard to breathe and difficult to swallow. So I just nodded at him and looked out the windows at the passing buildings. We were headed out of town but we didn't travel far before pulling into a short gravel driveway and alongside a neat white and black two-story farmhouse.
Helping me out of the truck, he carefully carried the can in his left hand while guiding me along the sidewalk up to the wrap around front porch. He didn't stop to unlock the front door, he didn't have to, the door was unlocked, and glancing at me he shrugged,
"I figure if someone wants in they will just break the window," he said nodding toward the frosted glass.
The door opened into a spacious living room, sturdy shining hardwood floors reached from one side to the other. There was a brick fireplace along the east wall and a cozy seating arrangement faced it. He walked to the corner hutch to the right of the massive fireplace and turning on the lights that illuminated the shelves he placed the can carefully on the middle shelf.
He saw me watching him and shrugged. I guessed he was thinking that the light might somehow contain the black bead. It warmed me a bit to realize that he was being cautious. He waved his hand toward the overstuffed sofa and disappeared through a doorway. Soon I could hear the banging of pots and pans and after a few minutes, a tea kettle started to whistle.
Sinking into the sofa, I squirmed in comfort, I felt my eyes growing droopy, not wanting to doze off, I sat up straighter and shook my head. Movement caught my attention and he appeared in the doorway, carrying a massive tray. He placed the tray on the coffee table and claimed the overstuffed chair to the right. On the tray were two dainty china teacups and a floral teapot, steam wafting from the spout. Two white bowls filled with thick vegetable soup and a plate of crusty bread were also included. It was simple but hunger made it seem like a feast, mouth-watering, my stomach growled.
We both reached for the bowls of soup at the same time but then he hesitated, choosing instead to pour us each a cup of steaming tea, as he poured I could smell the peppermint scent and my mouth watered again. We ate for several minutes in silence.
"Its good?" he asked hesitantly and I realized feeding me was his way of apologizing for our earlier disagreement.
"It's delicious. I didn't realize I was so hungry" I said, offering him a tiny smile that said, "we're ok now."
Stomachs full, the warm soup worked its magic and we both dozed off and on for the next couple of hours. Neither of us had slept much the night before, stress from the day only compounded our exhaustion. Snuggling into the plush pillows on the sofa, thinking I had never felt such comfort in my life, I felt almost serene.
I must have drifted into a deeper sleep because I was suddenly jarred awake by the doorbell. When I struggled groggily up from the sofa I saw Kane was already letting Father Tamono in. I dashed into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face while running my hands through my hair trying to calm the unruly mess.
By the time I returned to the living room they were both standing over by the corner hutch. Kane was holding the can in his hand and Father Tamono was peering into it. He was shaking his head no and then he turned to look at me in much the same way he had looked at the black bead, curiosity creasing his face.
Kane sat the can on the small round dining table and we each pulled out a chair. I noticed Kane had placed a large baking sheet, with upturned edges in the middle of the table. Glancing nervously at each of us, he dumped the bead onto the sheet. It rolled harmlessly around the pan before settling into a spot closest to Kane. He poked it with a pencil. It just sat there like a harmless bead.
He handed the pencil to Father Tamono saying, "Here you try."
Father took the pencil but just sat there, staring at the bead, he didn't speak or move. It was so quiet I could hear his rhythmic breathing, seemingly transfixed on the bead, oblivious to us. I was just about to speak, fearing he was somehow being "controlled" by the bead, when he moved the pencil toward the bead, causing it to roll across the pan harmlessly.
"Are you sure it's related to the killer?" Father Tamono asked, leaning closer to Kane whispering.
"Why is he whispering" I wondered.
Kane merely nodded, Father handed the pencil to me and I hesitated. I didn't even want to touch the bead with the pencil. I felt a cold chill creeping up my back and my hand shook slightly. I closed my eyes briefly, sighing and then I stretched out my hand towards the bead. I didn't even touch it with the pencil and it shot across the pan, clinking against the metal edges. Then it started spinning. I jerked back my hand and all three of us waited until whatever energy had forced the movement of the bead lessened and finally the bead rested in the center of the pan again.
I put the pencil down, placing my open hand about six inches above the bead, palm down, I waited. This time the bead didn't shrink away but after a few moments it quivered and the black surface glowed with an inky blackness, like dark water in a deep pool. As I moved my hand higher the bead returned to normal. When I moved closer to the bead it responded.
I felt a tingling behind my eyes, closing them for a moment, I swirled into a different world, a different time. I was facing a pile of black stones almost as tall as myself. To the left was a tiny man, ancient and weathered, he was chipping at a black stone then using a rough material to sand it. I looked around puzzled, the walls, massive rocks, outcroppings here and there contained bottles and baskets, filled with feathers, herbs, roots and even fur.
I gasped as someone grabbed my shoulder but then I was swirling back into Kane's living room and his hand was warm on my shoulder. Both he and Father Tamono were staring at me, concerned, the bead was floating in the air about halfway between my hand and the pan. I heard the slight ping of the metal as I pulled my hand back and it fell to the surface.
I just shrugged, embarrassed a bit by whatever had just happened. It was at that moment that I felt the warmth of the red bead in my pocket, calling to me. I pulled the bracelet out and all three of us were transfixed. The red bead was glowing but it also seemed larger, its size expanded maybe double. The surface of the bead was bright, fire like, gazing at it made me feel like I was looking at a blazing sun on a hot summer day. Tiny beads of moisture formed on its surface.
We were so caught up in the red bead that at first, we didn't note the black beads response. The black bead rolled across the pan to the furthest corner and stopped by the edge of the pan, it lay there quivering. Nodding at the pan we all watched as the black bead shrank in size until it was almost invisible to the naked eye.
I pulled the red bead away, stood and walked to the kitchen then I called out,
"How is it now?"
"Back to normal" Father Tamono called back and he didn't whisper this time.
I left the bracelet on the kitchen island, walking back into the living room to see Kane unplugging a lamp that sat on the end table next to the overstuffed chair. He carried it over to the table and plugged it into an outlet near us. Next, he held the light over the tray on the table and switched it one. The response was immediate.
The bead raced around the tray looking for a place to hide then it flew off the tray and rolled under the sofa, enveloped in the darkness there. We all just sat quietly, thinking until Father Tamono broke the silence.
"Ok it doesn't like the light and it doesn't like the red bead," he stated matter of factly like he was talking about some common everyday occurrence rather than a weird bead flying around the living room.
Kane tilted his head to one side and said one word, "Weapons"
My throat was dry and I tried to swallow but instead just managed to make my throat tighten more. I looked between the two of them and said, "It responded to me also."
They both turned to me at the same time, frowning but not denying what I had just said. Then Kane said something that made my skin crawl.
"These might be used as weapons against the bead but what about the creature? Will he react the same?"
It was a good question. We weren't fighting the bead. We were trying to stop a monster.
After a bit, Kane scooped the bead back into the tin can, returning it to the corner hutch, we moved to the sofa and overstuffed chair. I snuggled down into the cushy pillows, soon Kane and Father Tamono's voices became a distant hum as I drifted in and out. Sleep must have won the battle because the next thing I knew I heard the front door shutting.
Groggily I pulled myself upright, staggering a bit from exhaustion, my mind a hazy blur. Kane took one look at me and ordered me to the guest room. I hesitated about staying but at the same time the black bead had me spooked and I didnt relish the thought of heading back to my room in the dark.
He didn't tuck me in but he stayed long enought to show me the guest bath and give me a couple extra pillows. Now I stood under the hot water, letting it wash away the tension in my back and neck. It slide down my body like a gentle caress from a lover. My mind drifted and I blushed thinking that my thoughts led me directly to Kane.
Emerging from the bath, wrapped in a fluffy sea foam green towel, I noticed a tee shirt draped across the foot of the bed. It made me smile, thinking that he had returned offering me a night gown. I slipped it over my still damp body and curled into the comfort of the bed. It took me a few minutes to let the day's events fade from my mind and drift off to sleep.
In my dream world the beads talked and they called to me. The red one shouted warnings while the black one whispered, mesomorizing me, using its magic to lure me toward the darkness. Suddenly I found myself on an ancient path, walking beside a vaguely familiar creek. I was barefoot, wearing only the black tee shirt. A figure stepped out from behind a tangled bush, directly in front of me, blocking my path.
He tilted his head and spoke, "I see you are stronger now." He snarled at me and he was so close I could feel his spit on my face. He did not like what he said, as if insulted by the change.
"What brings you to seek Winya Nupa?" he grunted and then answered his own question.
"Ahhh, it is time for the third and final battle. You seek knowledge? You need an advantage? It is not up to Winya Nupa to take sides."
He hesitated, peering at me as mist drifted between us. The mist clouded my dream world and he started to fade but before he was gone, he spoke again.
"This I will tell you. He will come for you. He must. He has no choice. You must pick the battle ground and you must be prepared. Do not be caught unaware."
The mist was a dense fog now, choking on it I struggled to breath. It wrapped around me, a shawl pulled too tight, struggling against it, the world shifted, instead of fog I was surrounded with an inky blackness, thick and suffocating. Unable to see, I stood rooted to the spot but I felt something. A long claw scratched at the base of my neck, searing my skin and I started to scream, deep and vibrating the screams echoed through the woods.
At the point where I struggled not to lose my mind, fearing I'd cross over into the murky world of insanity, I felt warm arms wrapped around me and I heard my name called in the distance. Was it the damn beads again, calling to me? I struggled, grabbing defensively at the arms holding me, but gradually I surfaced from the black dream landscape and awoke, finding myself wrapped in Kane's strong arms while he called out my name.
I started to cry and he whispered to me and stroked my hair, running his hand through the silky mess left soft and unmanageable from the steamy shower. I buried my face in his chest and sobbed. He caressed my cheek and waited. Eventually the sobs diminshed, then stopped all together. He tilted my face toward him, looking deeply into my eyes. Quiet and strong. I almost lost it again but instead I edged my face closer, kissing him and drawing warmth from the contact. He kissed me back tentatively at first, then deeper, running his hand down my back and pulling me closer.
I snuggled into the wamth of his body against mine, suddenly the darkness, the beads, the unknown, disappeared, losing myself in his touch, I sighed. My skin, cold from the black night of the dream, sizzled with heat, warming my core, my desire for him evident and his for me.
The next morning, I awoke tangled in the still damp sheets. I searched among them for the tee shirt, hastily discarded the night before, spying it on the floor about a foot from the bed, I stretched out my arm, losing my balance and tumbling to the floor. A chuckle vibrated across the room, turning I saw the source. Kane was standing in the doorway, leaning against the door frame with two steaming cups of coffee, watching me rub my elbow. I blushed, not from my clumsiness but from my nakedness and grabbed the sheet off the bed to cover up.
"A little late for that isn't it?" he quipped.
I threw my shoe at him, missing.
Amused he handed me a cup of coffee, sitting on the edge of the bed in silence, we sipped the hot black coffee. I sighed thinking if only we could stay lost in this moment, forgetting everything else. Then Winya Nupa's words vibrated through my thoughts, "He will come for you."