A certain trickster spirit has stirred the story and now a cause of concern. A dream catcher souvenir of a special kind has already aroused much suspicion and so far certain clues have been left behind, but what does a trickster spirit have to do with it all? This riveting third chapter of our short story series will immerse you in a world of urban fantasy and magical ancient myths.
A dial tone appeared. The line connected.
“Chief Junior, the boy is lost, it is too powerful for him”
A gruff and throaty voice on the other end responded:
“Asibi Minda, does he know it will not cause harm?”
“He is percipient, I spoke the side of the truth he needs. His scholarly influences will take him to answers”
“Rest assured that the asabikeshiinh can never become one lost of control”
“Our hands craft nothing less and far from what you say, but something happened.”
“Asibi Minda, I need you to follow these instructions. Listen closely.”
The evening couldn’t get any more strangely enlightening for young Evan Reyes.
He consumed a deep breath and slid his body lower down the seat, after exploiting his reading capacity on a key book he found in his local library, where he was now located.
This was none other than Tehama county library, which was a worthwhile drive away from his domicile and the place where, for a whole 3 hours straight, submerged him in a sea of printed letters. The study quarter was quiet and the boy had the whole communal desk to himself, since it was a Saturday evening.
It was the perfect day to let the engine of curiosity roar, within a domain that he was hardly acquainted with. The native american culture was in no way one single society one could point at and define easily. The more he knew about it, the more he realised how diverse it all was. “Native American” was nothing else but an umbrella term, seeing as there were a multitude of contrasting tribes and folklore plus interpretations plenty, making the duty of a researcher harder than it looked.
Nevertheless, the work was simplified thanks to Evan’s cross hairs landing on the book titled “Revelations: collections of data and interviews in and around the native american civilisations” by Dr Simon Blaith.
A 1198 page book couldn’t have looked any more appealing. As he was leafing through, he picked up some background information on the history but what really mattered was that he honed in on the keywords which he came across while listening to the interview he had conducted on his classmate Alice Hansen. Evan had only done some preliminary reading but it was time to take notes straight from the source: relistening to the whole interview clip from start to finish and pausing when needed.
Laptop charged, check, headphones plugged, check, notebook and pen, check. And with his second deep breath of the day, Evan proceeded to reproduce once again the track on the media player.
The moment of recall
First to appear in the audio clip was a static sound and then a blurry soundscape that focused more a little at a time until it sounded fully unclouded. Evan associated this to the initial messing around with his microphone settings. He remembered the one-to-one interview had taken place in the audiovisual room during recess. He had taken advantage of the only empty and irresponsibly unlocked class in his high school, so it was, in a way, a clandestine meeting.
The first human sound that was heard was Evan clearing his throat before he commenced speaking.
“Recording on. 7th of September, 2017, RB high. Interview with Alice Hansen. Uhh Alice, thanks for being able to uhh, share this story. I want you to know that…I believe every word you say and that your story is important. This will only be recorded for research purposes…”
An awkward silence followed, as typical as would be for two teens equally matched in awkwardness that could only be Evan and Alice.
“Now, uhh could you repeat the story again and this time, with all the details you can include. Try and remember everything.”
Alice’s voice was a soft stream, a feather stroke, quite juvenile for a 16 year old.
“Sure, do I speak on this mic?”
If memory served Evan well, at this moment Alice had taken her precious time to recall, with her facial expression deepening as every second went by.
“The group trip. Yeah, Herrera camping last month.” Alice at last replied.
“Who went with you on this trip?”
“My parents, my two aunts, my friends Phoebe and Ariana, Phoebe’s mom and Ariana’s parents, we were all tight.”
“How long was this holiday Alice?”
“We spent like 5 days covering a weekend.”
“Could you please elaborate about what happened now?”
“Sure. I remember that…the first three days were just an absolute bore. Just the same cycle, the same day repeated three times in a row. Like, I couldn’t handle so much middle-aged camaraderie. Being underaged and a bit left out, I needed to get away and just…drink too, you know. I wanted to stop pretending to be the sober kid who needs to be distracted in between it all and so did Phoebe and Ariana. We were all like “hell yeah” and this was our way of silently protesting.”
Evan could sense an anxious edge building up in her voice, clearly she was as troubled as it was described on the report file. It was evident that she was dragging out the unimportant lead-up to delay the upsetting part. Her story continued:
“So next thing, we sneak about two bottles of Malibu into the satchel, something decent we could share between us three. We left the gang behind and ran for the hills, they were all too merry to care anyways. It was like the perfect getaway inside a getaway.”
“Tell me about the walking part”
“Oh, yeah. Thankfully for us, there were tiny foot trails that we could follow and our phones did the work of lighting up the way, otherwise the whole land was just pitch dark. There was a certain thrill about getting intoxicated in unknown lands and so we walked aimlessly in the direction that the foot trails were taking us, possibly towards mount Shasta, who knows.”
In the background, Evan took note of the “Mount Shasta” allusion and vigorously underlined it, evoking the memory of Minda’s words about the dream catcher’s origin.
“How long did you guys walk for?” A curious Evan had asked
“It must have been twenty straight minutes until we stopped for a break and then carried on. Oh yeah, every two hundred metres or so we kept finding weird stick formations and the shadow they formed behind the flashlight was really unnerving. In the sense that the shape of shadow was intentional.”
Evan then marked down “stick formations”
Alice continued after her usual nervous pauses. “After maybe fifteen more minutes of walking we then heard a certain drum in the distance and like a human humming sound and in our drunken state we got excited about it because we thought “oh another campfire party, maybe with people our age this time, let’s check it out”.
She had taped her mouth shut for a longer period of time here. It was like a self-controlled censorship.
“Please do continue Alice” Evan had interrupted the silence.
At that point Alice had let out a heavy sigh in an attempt to regain composure.
“Sure, the next part…” She had exhaled in a shrill voice this time. “Then there were lights, which turned out to be lanterns. And then more stick formations and it all came together when we arrived at the actual place where the drumming was, it was another campfire, but really secluded. Phoebe was the one who was more excited to find out more about it, so she lead the way.”
“The closer we got, the better I could tell what was happening, but the people…”
“The people what?”
“Well… I had never seen such kind of people before…”
“What do you mean?”
“They were built differently, but they were like a tribe. It must have been isolated for years.”
“Could you describe them?”
“I want to say they were natives but I thought none of them were left in this area, at least tribes like these. They all wore skirts and had objects hanging from their ears and noses.”
“What were they doing?”
“A haywire stampede of like twenty men and two women. Some were marching, others were in some sort of dancing trance. I really couldn’t tell you exactly but Phoebe was sure it was a ghost dance or whatever, something she saw in a movie”
“A ghost dance, I see. Did you get a closer look?”
This time, Alice’s breathing sounded laboured.
“It was Phoebe’s fault. The point of no return. If I could, I would instantly wipe that moment in history and rewind. We made absolutely no noise because we were just watching from far, though somehow the tribemen must have noticed us since they all stopped in their tracks and turned their heads towards us. A very drunk Phoebe burst out laughing when that happened while Ariana and I freaked out.”
“I literally thought I was going to die, I think they saw Phoebe’s overt reaction as an insult or a war declaration, I swear they looked ready to attack from the distance with some bow and arrows but then one of the two females, who was wearing a giant wooden mask began to yell in a weird melodic way while knocking on a drum to an even beat. So bizarre. That was when they all dropped their weapons. I had no idea what she saw in us that saved our asses.”
At that part, Alice sounded panicky.
“Do you need a minute… a glass of water?”
“No! I’m fine, I’m fine” It sounded like she was wiping away a sob.
“When you’re ready, do continue”
“She approached us and sat the three of us down to join the circle around the fire and I was jittery. All I remember was that she sang verses in her language for a while and a word kept repeating itself, the word “Shasta” or “Xasta”, which was the only thing that made sense since we were close to the mount Shasta” What sounded like a sob followed immediately.
“Shasta?” Evan had asked.
A loud squeal happened which transitioned into a sob. It sounded like it echoed too.
“I don’t know for how much longer this went but I was too blitzed and physically tired to even know. I was about to throw up, I knew it, and I think the masked woman noticed. Everybody went back to their weird dance while the female served us a drink each. I accepted it thinking it was a tribal cocktail drink or something to sober us down, anything to get the taste of Malibu away. Everything started spinning and before it got any more intense I swear I heard the woman whisper in English to us.”
“What did she say?”
“I keep asking myself what it exactly was but I think it was something like: whatever you do, avoid the gaze of the trickster spirit. Yeah, something about a trickster spirit is all I know“
And just like that, there was a sound reason to reach for the pause button.
The trickster spirit
Evan realised that he had seen the term appear on the first page. Returning to the index of Dr. Blaith’s book, he dug through and detected the subheading “Discovering the trickster spirit -page 344″
On the corresponding page, the density of content was enough to make an intellectual rub their hands in anticipation. Smothered with impatience, Evan skim read through the facts written about this trickster spirit, which was apparently quite a relevant entity in some cultures, but mostly the Lakotan. He zeroed in on one particular paragraph though.
“Despite difficulties in translation, the team eventually pinned down the most circulated legend. The famous trickster spirit can play the role of several characters, in a strange mirage way. Most people report that the trickster spirit prefers to take the shape of a spider and other times as a human. Some cultures have several names for it but linguistically, they all sound very similar, as the table indicates below”
Evan whispered to himself the words in series as if it was a spell: “Iktomi, Iktome, Unktome, Ikto”
They all sounded like cousins of each other and that is all because they pointed to the same thing: the trickster spirit.
With much eagerness, Evan returned to the clip.
“I swear I had no idea what I was getting into, I wanted it to stop, really badly. I don’t know if it was the Malibu but…as much as I tried against it…” Alice sounded tormented.
“What was it, Alice?” Evan had pushed.
“I saw it, the trickster spirit, they told me I shouldn’t have but I met its gaze. In its web… he or it spoke to me..it enlightened and threatened me. It…”
The recording abruptly ended right at a crucial moment and Evan, huffing at this point at the sheer abstruseness, couldn’t figure out why for the life of him. He remembered everything else, even to a degree of detail, but the last few seconds were all a blur to him, as though some selective amnesia happened; quite panic-strickening to say the least. It was unlike him, it felt like an artificial or manipulated memory blackout.
In an automatic attempt to hypothesise its origin, Evan’s mind wandered towards the dream catcher anomaly. The dream catcher represents a spider, and so does the trickster spirit, and Alice did mention a “web”, which brought shivers down Evan’s spine. Based on this, his prevailing thought and one that raised his dismay was that this memory blip perhaps wouldn’t have been the case before the dream catcher arrived into his life, and he only had Minda to blame.
Surely the dream catcher’s supposed “explosion” that morning hadn’t happened without its consequences. Was he overthinking it? Perhaps, but it was beyond doubt that he had to wring out some answers not only from Dr. Blaith, Minda and his mother but also from Alice, wherever she was. For the moment, he had extracted enough keywords to keep him busy investigating for the rest of his evening.