THE PATH Part 25

Pa’haana slept, and dreamt of pain. In those dreams, he battled both T’cho and Maker-of-Ghosts. Time and again, the bear’s claws found him; over and over he felt the meat being torn from his bones. Then T’cho joined in the torture, jabbing him with a sharp stick.
“Stop!” Pa’haana managed. He tried to hold off T’cho’s attacks.

“I am sorry,” T’cho replied. But the voice did not belong to T’cho. “These wounds must be closed.” Why did T’cho speak with the voice of Tobazhi?

At length, Pa’haana found himself on a great plain of ice. No trees, just hills and valleys covered in snow. No wind. Though Wakanti could not be seen, hidden behind a veil of thick gray clouds, a pale white light reflected off the snow and ice, hurting Pa’haana’s eyes. He looked up, seeking the source of that light. Icicles hung from the clouds above, frozen solid in the leaden sky. Legend told that, at one time, the great ocean that surrounded the world had frozen over. Has this happened again, Pa’haana wondered?
Pa’haana noticed that he stood naked on the ice.

Pa’haana tried to walk. He fell with his first step. He looked down, saw that his feet were frozen. Swollen, black and dead. Pa’haana lay on the ice. He began to shiver with violence, but he could not get back up. Not even when he saw Maker-of-Ghosts coming towards him across the plain. *So I have died, then. And this is the land of the Spirits.*

Maker-of-Ghosts had become a spirit-bear, as white as the snow on which he walked. Pa’haana had heard that many seasons travel to the north could be found a land in which all bears wore white fur. Were these all spirit-bears, then? Pa’haana had always been taught that the realm of the Spirits lay to the East, the realm from which Wakanti appeared every morning. *I should ask Tobazhi. He is W’tah. He knows of such things.*

Strange that the cold no longer bothered him.

“Hello, Maker-of-Ghosts,” Pa’haana said as the bear came near. “We have slain each other, have we not?”

“You must be still,” Maker-of-Ghosts said. He also spoke with the voice of Tobazhi. “You have a bad fever.”

The bear stood on his hind legs and removed his pelt as one would remove a cloak. Underneath, nothing remained of the giant bear, just a skeleton. Maker-of-Ghosts stooped and covered Pa’haana with his own skin, the fur soft and warm against Pa’haana’s naked flesh.

“Why do you give me your skin?” Pa’haana asked. “Do you no longer need it?”

“We are brothers now, Pa’haana,” the bear replied. It no longer sounded like Tobazhi. “You have slain me,” Maker-of-Ghosts said. “But you will yet live. Therefore I give to you my fur and my claws and my teeth. We are brothers now.”

Pa’haana stared up at the great skeleton. Its bones were made of ice. “I do not understand,” Pa’haana said.

“I give to you my strength,” the bear, the skeleton made of ice, said. “Use it well.”

“Are you not angry that I have killed you?” Pa’haana asked.

“I die, and yet I will live,” Maker-of-Ghosts said. “I will live inside you, Pa’haana.”

“I still do not understand.”

“You will in time,” Maker-of-Ghosts said. “Listen to the little W’tah. He is wise, and can tell you many things.” The skeleton turned and walked a few feet, then dropped to all fours. The immense skull looked back. “Farewell Pa’haana, brother,” it said. Then the skeleton collapsed, the bones of ice piled in a heap on the ice. They burst into blue flame. The heat reached him. It felt good. Pa’haana closed his eyes to sleep.

Something shook him awake. Pa’haana opened his eyes. He saw fire, but not the blue flames of the Spirit world. Tobazhi leaned over him, shaking him. The little man stopped, seeing that Pa’haana had opened his eyes. “I have to get you closer to the fire,” Tobazhi said. “You have a chill.”

Pa’haana looked around. He noticed that the world had grown dark, the sole light that of the fire. “Where is Maker-of-Ghosts?” Pa’haana asked.

“You killed him,” Tobazhi said. “But you are wounded, and now you are sick from the wounds. Can you roll closer to the fire?”

“This is my own cloak,” Pa’haana said, removing his cover. “And yours. Where is the skin of Maker-of-Ghosts?”

“Still on the carcass,” Tobazhi said.

“But he gave it to me,” Pa’haana said. “He said that we were brothers.”

“You were dreaming,” Tobazhi said. “It is the fever.”

“No,” Pa’haana said. “I do not think so.” He closed his eyes.

“Pa’haana, please,” Tobazhi said. “We have to get you closer to the fire. You are very sick.”

“Do not worry,” Pa’haana said. “I will not die.”

“Not if I can help it,” Tobazhi said.

“Maker-of-Ghosts told me,” Pa’haana said. “I do not think a spirit-bear can lie.”
With that, Pa’haana went back to sleep. He dreamed no more dreams that night.

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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