“Do you see him Meoquanee?” my father whispered. The summer breeze warmed our skin carrying the scent of countless wild prairie roses from the meadows beneath us. It sifted through his charcoal hair revealing new lines on his face that I’d never noticed before today. But for a man of his age he certainly wore it well.
The two of us were sitting just behind a sandstone ridge carefully watching a white man pacing slowly around the newly built fort in the valley down below. Naturally there were plenty of soldiers there besides the one we were studying but father seemed sure that he was the one we were looking for.
“Yes I see him father. But he seems strangely unafraid of what lies ahead.” I was referring to what would happen when the white men came to take our land. Or perhaps I should say “if” they came to take our land because that’s what we were there to prevent. Father looked at me with a grave expression and I knew he was wondering for the hundredth time if there wasn’t far more to my gift than he had previously thought. As usual though, he never actually went as far as asking, because to question a dream walker about his or her gift was strictly taboo.
“Are you sure he’s the one?” I asked leaning back in the late afternoon sun. I felt doubtful as to whether someone so young could hold such a powerful office. After all amongst my people, the Chippewa, authority and power generally belonged to the older more experienced males, although I realized it would be difficult to pinpoint the white man’s age with any accuracy from this distance.
Father pressed his body to the ground and in a manner not unlike the lizard he crawled forward on his elbows and knees to take another look. He turned to me and nodded in confirmation.
“He’s definitely the one. Just be sure to get a good look at him so that you can find him again later.”
There was no need for him to add that the entire tribe were depending on me to somehow avert the advancing alien forces. I was well aware of that already.
To us their ways and methods were as strange as they were merciless. We had heard how they had turned the rivers red with the blood of our Iroquois brothers, killing even the unborn and the elderly. Some had said it was pointless to resist them but so far we refused to let such fears paralyse our hearts.
However a different fear now gripped mine in its deathly maw, one that the rest of my people would never experience. What if I couldn’t even enter his dreams? True, it had never happened to me before but as father often says there’s a first time for everything. Suppose the white man’s mind was too different from ours, what then?
All I could do to counteract that fear was to allow the general’s unique energies to make a clear imprint in my mind so that I could find my way back to him later. Now that I looked at him with a greater intensity I could see how he wore his power like a cloak, setting himself apart from his men with a towering arrogance and haughty disdain. From where I sat they appeared to be just simple men trying hard to win his approval but nothing they did seemed capable of pleasing him.
Even if I did manage to walk inside his dreams how would I ever convince such a man to leave our people in peace? The responsibility felt too heavy for me to carry alone and without knowing how I got there I suddenly found myself in my father’s bearlike arms. No words passed between us but I could sense his utter faith in me, strong and eternal like the mighty ocean tides.
Later when we got back to our encampment it seemed to me that darkness fell with an unnatural swiftness and our blazing communal campfires to turn to red hot ash in what seemed like twice the usual speed. Due to the importance of the task ahead I received a blessing from Cha’kwaina our milky eyed medicine woman and a spacious tepee all to myself down by the river.
I stretched out on the deer skins and pelts and marvelled at the brightness of the stars shining through the smoke flaps. I couldn’t help but wonder how I was ever going to sleep, because although the bed was comfortable, (far better than my own in fact) the thought of what would befall us if I failed weighed heavily on my mind.
Eventually my mind surrendered to the will of my body allowing it to sink into the primary levels of sleep. Then at some point I must have reached a reasonable state of refreshment because suddenly I heard the signal for my decent into lucid dreaming; the sound of my jet black raven wings flapping as I circled the trees outside.
Now I was free from the constraints of the human form there was no longer any need for a path. Straight as an arrow I flew to the fort, sensing the repulsive resonations of hatred and pride long before I even spotted him lying sound asleep in his bed. Like a moth drawn to a flickering flame I flew directly through the open window where I found him stretched out like a black smudge of war paint, made manifest by the silver moonlight.
Without even stopping I aimed directly for his head, passing straight through flesh, skin and bone as easily as smoke moves through a calumet. Once inside I gingerly opened my eyes having shut them tightly on the way in. I blinked in confusion, as the grey mist surrounding me swallowed every sinister shadow and altered every sound.
One sound seemed to swell above all others, driving the mist from before me in swirling, creeping tendrils. When I identified it as a full throated, heartfelt laugh a seed of hope began to sprout. If this man could laugh with such intensity of feeling perhaps there was good in him yet, I thought. Pushing my way forward I sought him out and started to weave the threads of the dream I had planned for him.
Suddenly, there he was in front of me and my heart almost stopped. Again he wore the strange warrior clothes I’d seen earlier in the day whilst in front of him he held five or six Chippewa scalps, still warm and dripping with gore. Held fast by absolute horror I watched as crimson droplets trickled lazily onto his boots. He opened his mouth to laugh again like a man who had taken a bride or a father holding his firstborn son and I knew then for a certainty that no matter what dream I wove him it would never do any good. This was a man who gained pleasure when causing suffering and pain. I searched for an answer, but the only one I could find was to never let him leave this place, to trap him here forever. It was simply a question of who would die first. Him or me.
Four days passed until Cha’kwaina resorted to using her strongest magic in order to wrest me from the dream world. The old woman exhausted herself performing many ancient rituals until she finally sat beside me letting her tears run freely down her face. Cha’kwaina, wisest of all the Chippewa knew my struggle was almost over.
But my will was still strong and somehow I sensed how close we were to the end. The white man tried to fight his way back to consciousness one last time, pushing me away with his blood stained hands and clawing his way through the dreamscape.
On another plane of existence, just outside the dream world, their own medicine man stood over his body, holding two gnarly fingers to his wrist. Nearby two other men awaited his final verdict, shuffling their feet and staring at the ceiling.
“It’s no use,” said the doctor finally. “The fever has claimed him. He’s gone.” With a respectful bow of the head he reached forward to close the general’s eyes and just at that crucial moment I managed to tear myself free. The whole thing had taken a monumental effort and for a second or two I sat on the window ledge preening my tattered feathers.
Looking at his dead body I felt thoroughly amazed at what I had done. Although no one could say for certain what would happen now that their chief was dead. Perhaps it would only serve to stall them till we could find another solution, but I knew one thing for sure, father had been right all along. My journey as a dream walker was only just beginning and for the time being at least the full extent of my power was a land yet to be explored…