RURAL FALCON RIDGE
May 13, Sunday
Charlie tromped down escarpments strewn with rocks, boots crunching through patches of snow that persisted beneath the pines. The way was familiar, allowing his mind to ponder the day's events.
Memories of family members he'd lost besieged him. Their bodies were wrapped, then placed on high scaffolding to prevent them from being ravaged by wild animals. When sufficiently decomposed and dried, the remains were buried or, in some cases, burned. Burial sites were sacred ground, where one's ancestors dwelt. Now his brother would dwell forever along that trail.
Once omotome, the breath of life, ended and mahta'sooma returned to the Great Spirit, the person was gone. The Cheyenne referred to death as simply "going home." So many died too soon: his father, his grandfather, and now his white brother. Yet, he knew they were only in another place.
When he reached his cabin, he gathered up the badger hide and sacred red pipe, then got into the Ford Ranger Bryan sold him a decade ago for fifty bucks. He drove to the accident site where slow, thoughtful steps took him to his former spot. Once again his arm hooked the aspen by the side of the road as he peered over the edge.
As expected, the wreckage still lay far below, battered and abandoned. Since the revelation three weeks earlier of evil design, no further information had come. During his fast he didn't think to ask for further instructions. He pictured Eaglefeathers shaking his head, wondering if he'd learned anything or not.
Thus, he'd fasted the day before as well as this one, not sure that would be enough. If no answers came, he'd continue to do so, though he didn't look forward to the rigors required.
He got settled on the ground, badger hide with the pipe and tobacco pouch spread out before him. After making an offering, he lit the pipe. Its smoke rose and blessed the leaves of the lone tree beside him, then continued heavenward.
Forgive my ignorance, he prayed in Cheyenne. I am but a lowly human asking humbly for truth and direction. If I am to avenge my brother's death, please guide me. I know not what it is I am supposed to do.
Eyes closed, he continued to pray and meditate for over an hour.
As always, the tail end of the weekend brought a steady flow of traffic. Before long, the bombardment of pebbles each time a vehicle passed brought too much distraction. At that point he no longer replenished the tobacco and allowed it to burn out. Disappointed, he packed everything up and prepared to leave.
Again gripping the tree, he stood at the precipice's edge. The knot in his gut winched up to his throat as he contemplated what lay below. The breeze carried a chill, western horizon marred by dark clouds.
Leaves overhead sang, their inflection sad. A few shriveled catkins still clung to its branches and littered the ground, indicating the tree was female. He regarded the tree with a speculative frown. As a witness to the sordid event, what might she tell him if she could talk?
Gentle hands caressed her smooth white bark slashed with black. Aspens exemplified beauty in multiple ways. Their noble appearance and musical leaves bespoke clarity. Determination. Overcoming one's fears and doubts.
His eyes shifted to the ledge where the truck initially landed. The young aspen's splintered trunk evoked another strong impression.
His fingers tightened. She, too, was mourning, having lost a daring child living on the edge. Empathy poured from his heart to another living thing who'd suffered from the vile deed.
Words flowed into his mind.
Answers lie below in your brother's truck.
A gust of wind pushed him forward as if to punctuate the statement. He staggered back, startled, then gripped the trunk again as he took another look at the decimated vehicle.
Swirling eddies of sinister intent swarmed the truck's body as vermin. Hackles rose on the back of his neck. He blinked hard, thinking it a side effect of fasting. He glanced around. His own truck across the road and the vista beyond were still and clear. Looking back to the wreckage, the aura persisted, but nowhere else. His heart swelled with the stamp of truth.
His mind, however, raced.
What was down there?
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