THE PATH Part 17

Pa’haana scowled at him, then turned to the Chief. “What is to be my punishment, then, Grandfather?”

The Chief took the pipe from his lips. “To make atonement for the blood you have spilled,” he said, “you will go into the deep woods and kill Maker-of-Ghosts.” Pa’haana didn’t answer, but he felt a cold quiver in his belly. “Bring back the teeth and claws of Maker-of-Ghosts, and your crimes will be remembered no more,” the Chief said. He turned his weathered eyes to Tobazhi. “Are you prepared to depart?” he asked.

“Yes, Grandfather,” Tobazhi replied.

The Chief nodded. “It is good,” he said. “Go then, loyal one. And let Wakanti guide you.”
He turned to Pa’haana. “Go now, slayer of your own tribesman. Return after you have completed your task. Do this, and you will be given a new name. You will be ‘Outsider’ no more.”

Pa’haana bowed his head. “I thank you for your wisdom, Grandfather,” he said. He stood. “I will do as you have spoken, or I will die in the attempt.”

The Chief nodded. Pa’haana took up his bundle, his shield and spear and turned away. Tobazhi followed him. Pa’haana could feel the eyes of his neighbors upon him. He refused to meet their collective gaze.

Tobazhi fell in beside him. “This will be a great adventure,” he said.

“You are a fool!” Pa’haana snapped. “Maker-of-Ghosts will kill us both! We will end our days in his belly, and as shit on the ground! No one will sing for us!”

“You are such a pessimist,” Tobazhi said.

“Better than a fool!” Pa’haana replied. “Do you wish to die, little man-girl? Is that why you asked to come with me?”

“No,” Tobazhi said. “I asked to accompany you because you are my friend.”

Pa’haana gave him a sideways glance. “Friend? You mean you desire me, I suspect. But you are a fool twice made, then, following me into the deep woods. I will not let you swallow my cock, nor will I make of you a woman. You might as well keep your breeches up.”

“Though it may be hard for you to believe,” Tobazhi said, “I do not desire you. You are not so handsome. I said that you are my friend.”

“You are no friend of mine!” Pa’haana said.

“No,” Tobazhi said. “But I did not say that you regarded me as a friend. I said that you are mine.”

They stopped at the edge of the village. A few yards distant, over a clearing of scrub bushes and tall brown grass, streaked with footpaths and trails like veins, the trees of the forest reared like a great wall, so thick it seemed light failed to penetrate it. Beyond that wall waited monsters. Wakanti Himself does not enter the deep woods alone, the village elders were want to say. Pa’haana saw no reason not to believe them. *But then I am not going alone.*

“Why would you call me friend?” Pa’haana asked as they stood there. “I do not even like you.”

“You have made that clear,” Tobazhi said.

“You are a fool or a simpleton,” Pa’haana said. “I do not relish the idea of sharing the beast’s stomach with you.”

“I promise to keep my hands to myself,” Tobazhi said.

Pa’haana snorted, shook his head. “Well, come on then, little man-girl. Let us see who gets eaten first.”

With no more words, the two men entered the forest.

Categorized as darkness

By The Evil Cheezman

Purveyor of sacred truths and purloined letters; literary acrobat; spiritual godson of Edgar Allan Poe, P.T. Barnum, and Ed Wood; WAYNE MILLER is the head architect of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, serving up the finest in entertainment and edification for the stage, the page, and the twain screens, silver and computer. He is the axe-murderer who once met Andy Griffith.

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