“Do you see him Meoquanee?” my father whispered. The summer breeze warmed our skin carrying with it the scent of countless wild prairie roses from the meadows beneath us. It sifted through father’s charcoal hair and I could see a good many new lines I’d never noticed before 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 striding around the newly built fort in the valley down below. Naturally there were lots of other soldiers around but Father seemed sure he was the one we were looking for.
“Yes I see him father. But he seems strangely unafraid of what lies ahead,” I said. I was referring to what would happen when they came to take our land. Or perhaps I should say “if” they came to take our land because that’s what we were trying 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 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 that he’s the one?” I asked, leaning back on a rock and gazing into the late afternoon sun. Suddenly I began to doubt that someone so young could hold so much power. After all amongst my people, the Chippewa, authority and power generally belong to the older more experienced males, although I realized it would be difficult to pinpoint the white man’s age with any certainty from this distance.
Pressing his body to the ground like a lizard, father crawled forward on his elbows and knees and peered over the edge to take another look. He turned to me and nodded in confirmation.
“He is the one. So be sure to get a good look at him so that you can find him again.”
There was no need for him to add that our entire tribe were depending upon me to somehow avert the advancing alien forces. I already knew.
To us their methods and ways 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 said it was pointless to resist but so far we refused to let such rumours paralyse our hearts with fear.
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 there is always a first time for everything. Supposing the white man’s mind was too different, what then?
All I could do to counteract that fear was to allow his 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 greater intensity I could see how he wore his power like a cloak, setting himself apart from his men with 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 to please him.
Even if I managed to walk inside his dreams how would I go about convincing 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 arms. No words passed between us but I could sense his utter faith in me, strong and eternal like the sweeping rivers and the mighty ocean tides. With a gentle pat he signaled we should continue our journey back to camp, so we turned and left the white man to his quarrelsome ways.
When we got back to our encampment darkness seemed to fall with an unnatural swiftness and our blazing communal campfires to turn to red hot ash at 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.
I stretched out on the deer skins and pelts, marvelling at the brightness of the stars plainly visible through the smoke flaps above my head. I wondered how I was ever going to sleep at all. The bed was certainly comfortable, far better than my own in fact but the thought of what would befall us if I failed, kept me awake for some time.
Eventually my mind surrendered to the will of my exhausted 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 descent into lucid dreaming; the sound of my raven wings flapping as I circled the pine trees outside.
Now I was free from the constraints of human form there was no need for a path. Straight as an arrow I flew to the fort, sensing the repulsive resonations of his hatred and pride even before I saw him. Like a moth drawn to a flame I flew in through his open window to find him stretched out on his bed like a shadowy smudge of war paint in the light of the silver moon.
Without even stopping I aimed directly for his head passing straight through flesh, skin and bone as easily as smoke moves through a peace pipe. Once inside I gingerly opened my eyes having shut them tightly on the way in. I blinked in confusion and reached out as if to touch the grey mist surrounding me as it swamped mysterious shadows and altered every sound.
One sound seemed to swell above all others, driving the mist from before me in curling, creeping tendrils. I identified it as a merry, heartfelt laugh and suddenly was hopeful. If this man could laugh with such intensity of feeling perhaps all was not lost after all, I thought. I pushed my way forward, seeking him out, weaving the details of the dream I had planned for him. But my work was curtailed before it had even begun when he boldly stepped out in front of me, fully dressed. Again he wore the strange warrior clothes I had seen earlier only now he held out in front of him a handful of Chippewa scalps still fresh enough to drip warm blood 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 for him it would never ever succeed in turning aside the invasion of our lands. The only answer, was to never let him leave, to trap him there, locked inside the dream world forever. It would just be a question of who died first.
After four days Cha’kwaina resorted to using her strongest magic in order to wrest me from the dream world. She sat with me hour after hour, much longer than any old woman should have. And now she wept silently as she knew my struggle was almost over.
But my will is strong and I sense we are almost at the very end. One last time he tries to fight his way back to consciousness, pushing me away with his blood stained hands in order to claw his way through the mist.
Outside the dream world, their own medicine man stands over him, holding two gnarly fingers to his wrist. Nearby two other men stand waiting for his final verdict, shuffling their feet and staring at the ceiling.
“It’s no use, the fever’s claimed him. I’m afraid he’s gone,” said the doctor. With a respectful bow of the head he reaches forward and closes the general’s eyes just as I manage to tear myself free. It has taken a monumental effort to do so and for a second or two I sit on the window ledge simply preening my tattered feathers, thoroughly stunned at what I have accomplished.
Who knows? Perhaps it will only stall them for a time, but I know one thing for sure now, father had been right all along. My journey as a Dream Walker is just beginning and for the time being at least the full extent of my power is a land yet to be discovered.