Slipping into the shadows, the forest encloses us in its protective darkness. A sigh of relief escapes my lips, just a moment before the cry of alarm reaches my ears. For a just one moment, we are all struck with panic.
“RUN!” I scream in desperation. “The stream is our only chance, GO!”
We are off running, fear at the back of our heels. It feels like an eternity until we reach the stream. At the edge of the forest I can hear the voices and dogs; They are closing in.
I must buy them time, otherwise all hope is lost. My heart is pounding, my hands shaking, I am drenched in sweat. I am sure of only one thing, there is only this one chance at escape.
Fear grips me. I know what needs to be done. This is the only way to save them. I cannot falter in the execution of this plan. I am the last line of defense.
“Get in the stream and keep running, do not stop for anything! It is a half day journey until you reach the edge of our village.” I shout the instructions.
It shakes my resolve to see their fear, because their fear reflects my own. I want to live; I have a reason to live. Still I knew my selfishness could get us all killed.
“What about you? You’re coming? Aren’t you?” Sarah stepped forward, a tremble in her voice tears coursing down her cheeks.
“I don’t have time to argue with you!” I shouted harsher then I meant. “If there is any chance for you to make it I have to be the distraction. If there is any way for me to come to you I will.” My breath catches as reality crashes down around me. Sara, please you have to go.” I grab her hand pressing my medallion into her palm. In a moment of desperation and need my lips take hers in a tear soaked kiss.
“Please Go.” I command, not wanting her to leave.
I put her hand into Joseph’s. Standing here I am powerless to do anything, but watch. Always I am powerless.
This time I can make a difference. This time I can save her, I will not fail her again. I will never again stand by helpless unable to protect the girl I love.
It still tore me apart to remember when she cried out for help and I could do nothing to save her. I never want to feel that way again. “Please make it”. I whisper as I watch helplessly their forms fading into the night.
Tearing off my shirt I run rubbing my shirt along trees. Recklessly, I run in the opposite direction. I barely scramble up a tall tree before the barking dogs, voices and lights come my way.
Her taste still lingers, the salt of tears and sweat. I can almost feel that kiss on my lips even in this moment. I already knew when I let go of her hand that I would have to fight. I already knew for her to live I would have to die.
When the sun set that night, I was ready with my request. The grandfather was already there singing softly to himself whittling as I came upon him.
Again, there is something about him that tickles the edges of my memory?
“Hello little one, you found your answer?” He asks of me.
“That’s why I am here.” I shrug. “I am here to find the answers” I reply.
“Be careful of the answers you search for it may not be what you desire.” The grandfather warns. “If you lose your heart to despair and hate along the way, there is no one who can save you.” His gaze intensely searches mine. “Are you sure you wish to continue?”
“Yes, I wish to continue.” I respond with (what I hope is) unwavering resolve. I need to know.
The grandfather takes the wood he has whittled holding it out to me. It is a smooth circle with intricate carvings. It is my medallion. The design is exactly the same, as the beaded one I once had.
“How? Is that common?” I ask Bewildered, unsure and shaken.
The grandfather smiles, it is a sad smile.
“This amulet will allow you to come and go until tomorrow’s sunrise.” He said, putting the amulet in my left hand and closing my right hand under his.
“Hold this amulet tight in both hands. Do not let it go for any reason.” He instructed.
“Can the living harm me?” I ask my voice to unsteady.
“No little one, this amulet will protect you. That is why you must not let go of it.” He assures me.
“Be careful of letting anger overwhelm you. If you allow hatred to take control the hate will devour you. Do not lose yourself to the darkness or there is no return.” He warns wrapping his hands, over my own. I can feel the energy encircling the amulet within our combined grasp.
“Close your eyes little one” He instructs.
I closed my eyes my hands holding tight to the amulet. His hands are warm and reassuring around my own.
He is singing softly, then louder his voice grows increasingly intense.
I remember others, we are always hungry, always in pain. We are always ashamed and afraid. All of us trying to escape notice. All of us hiding until we became nothing more than shadows.
I remember the dark cold fear. I remember the dreaded sound of footsteps in the hallway. The stark terror when those steps stopped outside of your door. `
I could feel the anger rising. Why, I wanted to know why? Why was it that our lives were a sin? Why were we beaten, starved, and raped by this almighty God’s “chosen ones”?
What had happened to the others? The children like me who had suffered humiliation, fear and pain under these so-called, self-named saviors?
I want to know why it happened? Was there any reason for our suffering? What was so evil about our existence that we had to be that severely punished?
There is a light ahead. The pinpoint of light, grows, becoming clearer, beyond the light are images. The images blur together, they are hazy. I hesitate before stepping forward unsure if I want to see the images any clearer than they already are.
Are the answers there? Is there anything before me that can lay down my regrets and allow me to rest? If I go forward will I understand? Will understanding allow me peace?
Shaking and hesitant I take the first step.
At first the light is unfocused. With each step forward the images clear. Images from the life I left behind. These images surround me with every step. The light distorts with each new memory.
As the memories awaken the path begins to fork, eventually becoming two distinct paths. The first path is filled with images from my mother’s people. The warmth of a life I knew before they took us away. My life before I was forced to enter the Indian Boarding School.
Images from a time of love, warmth and laughter call to me. Distant laughter tickles my ears. I can see the children we had been. These memories cause my heart to ache for innocence lost. The light from this path is warm, so very inviting.
For one moment all I can do is watch dumbfounded, a beautiful and carefree girl laughing. This lovely girl runs free; laughter surrounding her. This girl I had loved long before the fear and pain overshadowed our world.
I had almost forgotten before they took us away she had a name as free as her spirit. A beautiful girl whose laughter had yet to die.
It is at the second path of light. I see others who suffered the same fate. Are they pointing out the path to take? If I go forward will I understand why we had to suffer? Will it make me stronger, immune from the shame?
The second light beckons to me, sly promises of answers and understanding. Something dangerous in the distance is calling to me. A cold chill runs down my spine. A curious pull is leading me towards the second path.
Unwittingly, I have already started walking this nightmarish direction. The light at the end is bright, beckoning me forward. What awaits me at the end of this path? I am not even sure if I want to know the answer. A warning inside my head begs my legs to stop, even as I step forward.
In the distance beyond the light, there is nothing more than an old man. He is kneeling upon the floor. At first sight, he appears to be praying. It is when he lifts his head back in obscene pleasure, I remember. Just the sight of him has cold stabbing fear robbing me of the ability to move. I remember.
-End part 2
This is part 2 in a 5 part series. Read Part 1 here
by Rae Rose
My name is Rae Rose and I live in the Pacific Northwest. I have always, always loved stories. I love writing, reading, listening and imaging the words coming to life. My youth was not the happiest and it is not an exaggeration when I say stories saved me more than once.
Every story I tell carries a seed of truth. Mine and of those who were not able to survive. Every story is special and personal to my heart. It is my hope that you enjoy the stories and find comfort, love, and laughter in my words.
*Rae Rose (Paiute, Mayan, Japanese) is a writer based in the Northwest. Follow her @Rae_Rose7