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Pillagers of Time
The Neanderthal & Bottleneck Events and the Transmogrification of Three-Rivers: Book Two of The Sunset Saga


Beyond The Ember Star: From Chapter 6

Jacques was really suffering and wouldn't be headed back just yet. Terrence was trying to help him with the Canadian despite his own uneasy state. Eddie could still feel the earth rotating beneath him. Apparently this sensation was overpowering for the others. This was his first patient so he probably over did the care a little. He hit him with the inhaler, a sedative, and shucked his back pack, propping the man's head and back up so he could not swallow his own vomit in case he hurled anymore.

He began looking around once Jacques was stabilized and Terrence came to one knee besides him, taking their incapacitated team-member's hand, "I got this brother. Enjoy the view."

A grey dawn was unfolding as they looked east from the base of a deep and very wide valley. Menacing thunderheads were rolling up from the south. The beige looking disc of the sun was just beginning to rise above the eastern horizon. They were standing a half mile from the east bank of a wide slow river. The river flowed southwest through the head of the valley that ran in the same direction. This grassy snow-blown depression narrowed enough just to the northwest that both the east and west escarpments could be seen. To the southwest the lowland widened into an apparently limitless plain, through which the slow river wound like a great snake, onward he knew, until it reached the Atlantic, the ocean he had been rocking on moments ago.

The snow cover was uneven, blown or apparently swept into drifts in places, and seemingly scraped away to a dusting over patches of thick grass that had been gnawed to a frosty stubble. Frozen mounds of earth were also scattered about, looking like clods thrown from the treads of a giant-sized sneaker. He was awestruck. This is nothing but nature, absolutely nothing manmade! I feel naked. I've got piles of clothes on and I feel naked—but not cold, just exposed.

He heard something that sounded vaguely like a snort behind him. He and Terrence, like two heads swiveling on the same body, turned to see Jay, in a squat position with one gloved fist on the frozen ground. The man's nostrils were flaring as if he were a two-legged bloodhound. His teeth were partially bared in an inquisitive snarl as he craned his neck, sucked in air through his bent and flattened nose, and licked his lips, as if tasting this new world. Dude is having a hills-have-eyes moment on me.

Eddie suddenly felt as if he was going to have to lead in order to kick this thing off. Well, at least inquire. His country ass is surely the expert on all things hairy and frightening.

"Yo Jay-Bone, what we got here? We good?"

The man answered with an affirmative nod and then unlimbered his pack. They stood wide-eyed as Jay strapped two swords and a sheath of arrows to his back, two knives to his hips, strung one of the bows, checked his boot laces, packed away his gloves, and then covered his eyes as he looked into the rising sun. He then pointed east to an escarpment that seemed unreachably distant on foot, and looked up at Terrence questioningly.

This is beyond weird. I'm exploring an empty world with the mime-from-Hell.

Terrence then looked at Jacques and Eddie and looked back at Jay, "I gotchya bro. We ain't clocking out until Jacques is well, and we got ta do it from high ground anyhow, else we go back into the ocean en drown. I'll carry dude here."

Beyond The Ember Star: From Chapter 15

...They had stopped in a clearing above a spring. He took up an over-watch position about fifty yards up-slope behind a thick weathered hardwood that he could not identify. These ancient European trees are irking me.

At some time a large hardwood had been split by lightning below. The seared remnants of the tumbled tree made a natural barrier to the north. The spring bubbled into a briar-choked streambed to the south. A steep wooded hill of crumbling shale rose behind, east of the clearing. The well-worn trail ended beneath the lightning-struck tree. Look at how old that ring of fire stones is. This is their sacred place. No, it's your kill-box.

Old Man was short and wiry with real broad shoulders and long gray-black hair, tied in a top-not. He was wearing well-made sleeveless buckskins and a bear-hide cloak. Big Boy had a cloak of layered reindeer hides, but was otherwise dressed like Old Man, his hair though was long and loose. They both had three throwing spears thrust into the ground and spear throwers and large bone knives tucked into thick bison-hide belts. They appeared to be dark-skinned Caucasians and were cleanly shaved, except for handlebar mustaches. Little Girl had a huge mass of curly black hair and had her face painted black. She stood behind Old Man who held his arms wide while the young man arranged the haunch on a spit above the fire.

If anyone has an objection to this marriage, speak now or forever hold your fire.

Jay stepped out from behind the massive tree. The people had good wood-sense because they immediately caught his movement out of their peripheral vision. He had not made a sound.

Are you serious? Why not? Just cut them down and take her. No, they deserve a chance. Cut them down! No, I want her to know it's about her, that I'm not just murdering her people. Ah yes, I can tell by the look of abject horror in her eyes that you haven't ruined her wedding at all and she can't wait for you to sweep her off her feet.

Beyond The Ember Star: From Chapter 8

The hes had tracked a snorter—an old snorter wounded by howlers—across the windblown land. Before the fire-face rose to its highest point they were all at the stream bank, where it bent and was made muddy, before it pushed down to the valley below. A maimed howler lay on the grass above the bank. The other howlers—two hands or so—scattered when the Family approached in strength. Spear skewered the maimed howler and threw its carcass at the other howlers, not even valuing its meat. The snorter would be theirs'. The howlers were their enemies, but they were often useful in this way, running down a snorter or a runner for the much slower hes.

The shes and young and old stood upon the bank as the hes plunged into the icy water and stabbed the snorter, exhausted and hamstrung from its struggle with the howlers. The howlers, for their part, skulked about, waiting their turn, knowing that the hes would not have time to take everything before the laughers and roarers arrived. The bellowing and snorting of the great beast soon gave way to gurgling as it drowned and flopped in the stream.

The hunters used their hard sharp hand-stones to get at the good parts; cracking open the skull for the brains—eating these raw—and ripping out the heart, kidneys and liver—passing these up to the shes, young and old. They then cleaved the massive haunches from the animal, the four largest hes struggling up the bank with these weights of meat and bone and hoof as the lesser hes kept the gathering howlers at bay. Then they were off, away from the sight of the kill that might draw laughers, roarers or even Others, down upon them. They hurried on and Dawn Star was handed the big heart of the snorter by Pounce, who had made the fatal stab.

Comes the Six Winter Night: From Chapter 1

Of Thunderbeasts and Journey Houses

He had once dreamed of coming to Sunset, to the Great White House of the Sunset Grandfathers, and pleading for the freedom of the thunderbeasts. This was not to be, at least not yet. Chief Medicine-Shuei, his patron from Furthest Sunset, must practice his medicine building in secret. Therefore, his disciples, including Burnt Man—unfortunately known among the Sunset People as Doctor Charles Robinson, a name that did not reflect his awesome achievements or deep spirit—and all of the Servants of Burnt Man, such as Three-Rivers, must maintain secrecy. Three-Rivers, being an accomplished and still-aspiring trickster, did not dislike the game of secrecy. It did however pain him that the thunderbeasts would suffer because of this.

One day wrong-eyed boy, you will free the thunderbeasts, and they will love you.

He had held many inquiries and even debates about the nature of thunderbeasts with Burnt Man called Doctor Robinson, Healer called Doctor London, The Sunset Lady called Tina and by him Mother, Crazy Brother Badwater called Randy Bracken, and this blood-haired warrior from Further Sunset called Hoost, who now escorted him within a very sleek thunderbeast toward Chief Medicine-Shuei's journey house. All of these wise and powerful people initially made it clear, that since thunderbeasts were really no different than a bow, both being tools called machines made by men, that they were not indeed living things. Three-Rivers was fond of pointing out that this was analogous to The Beginner claiming that people and animals were not living things in that he had created them. Only Burnt Man, being wiser than the rest, allowed that this may be so and that someday the very things that man made might seek their freedom.

Burnt Man permitted the consideration of your heretical notion as he tinkered with one of Thunderer's dream-catchers, the very one that has been put into your care. Perhaps Burnt Man seeks to build better machines, such as this powerful dream-catcher, so that the machines may one day gain their own freedom. You must put this question to WhiteSkyCanoe when next you ghost-walk.

He peered out and above, looking across the mighty and much changed Wild-Goose-River, toward the place of the Sunset Grandfathers called Washington D.C. Above this great churning stream, the headwaters of which he once crossed on the back of Don Tinoco's savage warrior-dog Bruto in the time of Mother Earth Past, swooped a thunderbird, huge like a winged longhouse. He could not wait to find his way to the base of the Starlit Path when next he slept so that he might hold this image up in his mind for WhiteSkyCanoe to see.

Father, your possession is a blessing. But still, I wish your ghost could accompany me across the face of this many-changed world during the waking hours so that you might experience the wonders that should have been yours to behold.

Next to him sat Angh, a medicine-man of Nearest Sunset, and next to him Bruco, fierce warrior of Mother Earth Lost, who would protect Angh and Three-Rivers during their journey to the World of Autumn Past. Ahead of them, controlling the purring thunderbeast of the Mercedes Herd, sat Hoost, listening to his thunderbeast play the blessed music called classical even as the lady ghost called GPS spoke to him of their progress through the deadly storm of thunderbeasts pouring like white-water through the stark thunder-trails like a river after the spring rains. He liked this silent warrior and sought his mind, "Warrior Hoost, we much appreciate your mastery of this fine thunderbeast of the Mercedes Herd on our behalf. This is so much better than walking."

"You are welcome Three-Rivers."

"Warrior Hoost, this possession of your thunderbeast by the ghost called GPS, how is this accomplished? Also, do you think this Lady GPS was beautiful when alive? She sounds very stern and unloved. Is she bound by a curse, in the Purgatory of the Spanish perhaps?"

Angh appeared very interested in the question and obviously wished to answer, but observed courtesy toward the warrior and permitted him his explanation.

"The GPS program is written into this automobile's onboard computer. Its function is to access the Global Positioning System of satellites—man-made moons—that circle the Earth beyond the blue sky you see above. You might be able to glimpse one of these as a star in the night sky. GPS is not a name but an acronym for Global Positioning System. I believe that the voice installed by the programmer is a synthetic one, imbued with female characteristics in order to make it less threatening to the driver."

"So, Warrior Hoost, the GPS Lady is a creation of man like this thunderbeast, not a bound ghost?"

"Correct."

"She is then a child of man and a slave to your mind?"

"The service she provides is merely a function, the function for which she was configured."

"As your function is war and protection, the function for which the Masters of Further Sunset configured you?"

Hoost swallowed hard and looked nervously into his reflecting stone called mirror into the eyes of Three-Rivers, "Yes, I function according to the purpose for which I was configured by my parent corporation."

"Warrior Hoost, are you alive?"

Thunder-Boy: From Chapter 4

...Eddie guided his thunderhorse along the stone trails that crisscrossed this congested warren of high stone houses. As they drove past a dirty crowded bay called harbor and a journey house with roped trees called masts he was certain that this was the same ground on which the Spanish had built Porto Soto back in Mother Earth. Eddie then took them beneath the square sky-piercing mountain houses and put his beast to sleep outside of a trading place called Lexington Market, "Okay son, around here we carry our helmets and saddle bags. We need to get some cell phones—prepaid, and a coat for you. Then we go get a hotel room."

There was only one decent food stall in this sprawling trading place; a place of bread-trading, where Three-Rivers traded money for bread called multigrain. He also bought a coke and sipped on it while pinching his nose against the reek of burned animals. The Sunset People had some disgusting dietary habits: foremost among these being the cooking of one animal in the melted grease of another animal.

What crooked mind first decided to melt the grease of a four-leg and then burn the flesh of a flyer in it!

The most unfortunate of all Sunset animals had to be the flyers—that obviously could not fly very well as they were caught in such great numbers—called fried chicken. Everywhere he turned one of these poor birds was being torn between the hands and teeth of some ravenous person. And then there were the shaved imprisoned bison called cows ridden by boys with hard moccasins before having the milk sucked out of them and being ground up by some pitiless thunderbeast to fit between two pieces of cow-eating bread called rolls. Even though Three-Rivers loved his bread he could not bring himself to eat one of the tasty cow-oppressing rolls. Last, but not least abused, was the dirty squealing Spanish animal called pig who was turned into flesh-bark called bacon, flesh-maize called sausage, and ribs called finger-licking good by Eddie, who so relished the fake blood called barbeque sauce!

Wrong-eyed boy, it would be best if you avoided dying while on Sunset, for you might just transmigrate into the body of one of these hapless animals to be devoured among these dirty stalls. At least they do not eat dogs like your Longhouse-men back in Mother Earth. Thank The Beginner.

"Eddie, when you are done sucking your fingers can we find a pinecone trader. I want to burn something in our space-trade that will smell good."

Suck, "Sure thing son", smack, "Miss Sheila ova dare gotz a whole cart", slurp, "a some nice smellin' shit." lick.

Beginner save me!

"Eddie, I am not so poor that I must trade a matron for her waste to burn in my campfire!"

"Oh, my bad—a figure a speech son. She got smelly beads—yo Sheila! Hey baby girl gotz a customa' fo you girl!"

Matron Shelia, who, on any sane world would have been named Melted Bead after her art, stood by a cart that did not roll but had wheels anyhow, and sold her beads. Three-Rivers walked up to her and bowed with praying hands and said as formally as possible, "Matron Sheila, I seek the scents of Mother Earth in order to cleanse my nose of the vile reek that abounds here."

The woman beamed with puffy brown cheeks creased in an honest smile, "You came to the right place young man. Let me demonstrate our weekly special. We have Lassie, turkey and dolphin burners with tea lights, stick matches and an assortment of beads—any you choose. I make these beads myself in thirty-four scents. Fifteen gets you the whole deal—gift-wrapped. What will it be?"

"I am headed out into the wild for a vision quest, so I should need the turkey—he is a friend though not a close one. I will have oak, pine resin and spring-flower scents—no manure thank you."

Sheila made a show—and an art—of demonstrating the melting of her beads, sold him on an extra measure of clean-cotton beads, wrapped it all in a medicine box, and blessed him by God."

"May The Beginner bless you and your beads as well Sheila!", and they were off to get cell-phones...

Cell on hip, and a new coat called pee over his shoulders and dragging on the ground, Three-Rivers followed Eddie out of the market, and immediately recognized a fellow prophet! Now that he was outside and away from the dead animal smell he was beginning to get hungry.

The man was very tall and very dark with a moon-colored beard. He wore a straight-tie tuxedo called suit and offered soft picture-books called newspapers and a delicious looking pastry made of beans and smashed up bread called crust. Eddie tried to hold him back from approaching the man. But he did the spinning-step-of-avoiding-a-mother's-one-armed-restraint-while-she-held-a-baby and glided up to the man, who looked down at Three-Rivers suspiciously, as if he had come with prayerful hands to challenge this man's medicine, "Would you like a paper?" he said, pointing to a book he was just trading but obviously did not believe in.

"No holy man. I want your words of prophecy. My people too have suffered the Four-hundred- Winters-of-Woe at the hands of the White Man. I would seek the wisdom of the Africans who were freed to kill the Yellow Men."

Eddie was mumbling once again about human waste behind him. But the Burnt Prophet, was pleased, and proclaimed himself not a prophet but a disciple as he handed Three-Rivers a soft picture-book, "This is The Final Call, the words of the Honorable Reverend Louis Farrakhan. It is free to you my red brother."

Thunder-Boy: From Chapter 18

..."Mister Bracken, there are many things about your past, and your appearance here that I do not like. Apparently you have spent your life as an itinerant laborer, prize-fighter and nightclub bouncer. Although I do not know, I suspect there are long stretches of dubious activity. However, although your older half-brother appears to be a hardened criminal and virulent social misfit, I have found no connection between your activities and his and you have no criminal record."

By this time Jay was getting so nervous that his stomach was twisted up in knots as he squirmed in the big easy chair. George removed his glasses and looked Jay square in the eyes, "Young man life as I see it consists of finding out what people are willing to pay for and then developing a skill to address that need. From there your word is your bond and you fulfill your contracts. Although your skills are not those I would like to see in a boyfriend of a young woman under my protection your history demonstrates a certain character—and for a young woman I suppose—a certain mystique."

The man fixed him with a piercing gaze as Jay's stomach churned and he began to get nauseous, like that time he had swallowed two pints of his own blood losing that decision to Gonzales in Mexico City. He had been knocked down 13 times before 20,000 screaming Mexicans, who he had always been proud of disappointing by surviving the fight.

George does not like you but is going to give you a chance anyhow. You can stop sweating it hillbilly.

"I have viewed a clip of one of your fights online—a loss apparently, although I could not stomach sitting through the bloodbath in its entirety—and you do not seem the kind of man that quits or violates a contract. I will, Mister Bracken, assist you in the development of a marketable resume, and even agree to serve as your mentor. However, you must first agree to sign the waiver I am about to set before you. This stipulates that you shall accept no cash gifts from Suzanna Nelson, and will receive no financial compensation in the way of palimony or alimony upon the dissolution of your relationship..."

He was reeling in a cold sweat as he extended his hand and shook on the contract and signed the waiver in a swimming haze of nausea. George was asking him if he was well...

He heard himself say, "Don' touch me sir, iz dangerous." then crying, "This can' be happenin'", and telling George, "No amblince", and then saying, "Tell Duty I didn' jus' wander off..."

There was a moment of clarity as his body heated up and they heard thunder rumbling above. George sat with a worried look on his face like a person watching a drug overdose in a public restroom, "Jay, are you epileptic? Does Duty know about your conditi—I will call her..."

Jay heard himself groan as George reached for the phone, "She's da..."

This was different. He had never been this sick. Events had never been this harrowing. His wrist insert was firing up like a branding iron... Am I malfunctioning, dying? Has the Man Below finally sunk his claws into my hillbilly hide?

The lightning struck him, the windows burst and the thunder rushed in. Then he heard a groan echoing across the land as he elongated into nothing but information racing through a crease in the Universe...

From Independence Day

There were plenty of things for Jay to like about his new job as a cashier at George’s Food Market: there was the green hat that concealed his bald scarred head; the pleasant young college students he worked with; the little Jewish manager named KC [an easy to remember name] who always patted him on the back; Mrs. Jackson, the bookkeeper, a nice lady who corrected all of his mistakes—even putting in her own money when he was short—and drove him back to his room at the motel and stayed a little while each night.

But most of all, what was nice about being a cashier was being nobody; not a time-hunter abducting ancient celebrities, not a war-hero or war-criminal ambushing a bunch of murderers, not a demon or an angel, just a dude in a green hat and vest ringing up groceries.

Sure, He had to run down purse-snatchers and shoplifters and tell the panhandlers to get lost for KC, who was just a little dude. But it wasn’t like he had to kill people. Overall he counted himself lucky to have this job in this beat-up old college town. There were some things that bothered him.

For one, he felt really inadequate as a cashier. The only produce code he could remember was bananas: 40??—well the other two numbers usually came to him when needed. It was embarrassing really. The other cashiers even made a game out of it; watching his order while they rang out theirs’ and calling the codes to him. Then there was counting the money: the twenties stuck together; there was the counterfeit pen—what color was it supposed to turn?—and the change!

That wasn’t the half of it though. With the credit cards and independence cards you just had to hit the EFT button. But the WIC checks, good God! And that is exactly what he was looking at this moment.

Dummy, this lady has five—oh, yeah, the one in your hand—six WIC checks. How are you going to maintain?

Breathe deep. Good. Remember the drill Mrs. Jackson taught you.

Yeah, I got it.

“Good afternoon miss. Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“Yes. Thank.”

There you go dummy. The cute little Mexican lady and her twenty kids love you. You’re halfway there.

Check the name in the book against the name on the check.

Match.

Check the lady’s I.D.

Match.

Check the start date and end date on the check.

“Hey, Merv, what’s today’s date? …Thanks man.”

It’s in date.

Check the product against the pictures in the book.

Are those honey nut or regular?

Match.

Ring it up.

Check.

Fill in the amount on the check.

Done.

Have her sign it.

That’s it lady—done.

Enter the code.

Done.

Enter the start date.

Done.

Enter the end date.

Done.

Press clear to continue.

Done.

Insert the check—no, the other way dummy.

It’s printing! Yes!

Don’t forget the lady’s receipt.

Done.

Deep breath and smile.

Good.

Just then the sound of Mervin the law student’s voice chimed up next to him, “Excellent Jay, that only took you six minutes, and that was seven whole items.”

“Thanks Merv.”

You see dummy, even Merv thinks you’re catching on. Just five more checks to go before you get to the main part of the order. Shoot, you’ll have this lady out of here within the hour!

After five more WIC checks, one being the special fruit and vegetable WIC, which did throw him a curve ball, Jay was standing proud, ringing and sliding as the nice Mexican lady and her 20—well, there was really just eight, but Jay liked even numbers—kids bagged for him. He was laying on the customer service thick and feeling good, when he heard the obnoxious voice of Mister Clean, “Come on pal, my ice cream is melting.”

Mister Clean was the nickname they had for this large bald Whiteman with a handle-bar mustache and pirate-hoop earrings that tended to demean the cashiers. He called Tyrone the English major “Boy” and always had a pro-Hitler comment when he was in Mervin’s lane. KC was terrified of him and just stayed away from the frontend while he checked out. Mister Clean called all of the female cashiers Babe, like he owned them. Jay put on the smiley face, “Be right with ya sir.”

Ten minutes later, as Mister Clean continued to grumble, the lady handed Jay her bent and taped independence card and he began punching her code in, repeating the numbers out loud to himself just to make sure he made no mistakes. As he was calling out the last three numbers to himself Mister Clean shattered his concentration, “For God’s sake KC! What-the-fuck? You finally hire a real White person and this is the best you can do?”

He could hear KC mumbling off in the background as the man continued to grouse.

It’s not personal. Let it go. Start from the beginning. There you go. The little lady is smiling up at you. She likes you.

“One-six-zero”

“Do you need me to put the numbers in for you boy? My ice cream is ruined and”

KC to the rescue, “Let me help you with this Jay.” Click, click, click like the fingers of a pianist and it was over, the four-foot long receipt printing out, sounding like Ma Bracken’s sewing machine stitching his jeans.

You’re back in the saddle hillbilly. Nice smiles for everyone.

“Thank ye KC. Good day mam. Good afternoon sir. Did you find everything you were lookin’ fer?”

The man was fuming and leaning, “I was—what are you looking at you little brown rat?”

Mister Clean had turned his anger against Jay on the Mexican lady who was still trying to jam all of her bags into the cart. She flashed a fearful look at Jay and then choked a little as if to cry.

Salvage the situation dummy.

“It’s okay miss. You’re good.”

Mister Clean was now in a rage, “No, it’s not okay, not with her kind breeding us into extinction!”

Stay cool dummy.

Mister Clean continued his rant, “But you know brother, I don’t blame her. She’s just doing what a mama rat does. I blame this. This is the problem!”

The man slapped the back of Jay’s computer terminal and looked Jay in the eyes, “Right brother! This is the problem, the government taking our money, and our land, and giving it away.”

It’s time to go dummy.

I know man. I know.

“I agree sir. Dis thing is a problem; vexes me somethin’ fierce.”

No. Not like this. Not in front of Mrs. Jackson.

“Well brother, what are you going to do about it?”

No dummy, you can’t be serious.

“Smash it sir.”

“Do it brother! Throw off the yoke! Walk like a free Whiteman! Work with your hands building something, not prostituting yourself for this parasitic system!”

“Yessir!”

When he grabbed the man by his mustache handles and pulled his mouth into the terminal he did not expect his teeth to all come out in one piece.

Oh, those are false teeth! Oh wow, the ones on the bottom must be real, they’re snapping off one-at-a-time every time you slam his face into this thing.

Mrs. Jackson was screaming, “No Jay!”

KC was talking out loud to himself, “Who do I call to take care of this? Do I want to take care of this? …I wonder if that Canada Dry order is on the dock yet?”

The man’s mustache had torn off after the first few smashes. His head was starting to get too slippery to hold onto, and there were still a couple of teeth left in it. So Jay leaped over the register, feeling free—so free—again, and grabbed the man’s neck in his right while he held him up by his belt with his left.

Wow, this is a big mug.

As he began to drive Mister Clean’s face into the aluminum frame of the lane table a cacophony of voices accompanied the squishing smacks of the large pink face as it sprayed its contents across the table, which Jay had so diligently polished just before his last order. The little Mexican lady was chattering at her children, who where crowding around to see the demise of the man who had shouted at their mother. One was even climbing the back of the table to get a better view. She was outnumbered and ineffective so chattered on helplessly.

Tyrone was on his cell phone giving a blow-by-blow account to his friend Leroy back in produce, “Yo Misser Jay be bangin’ da shit out a Misser Clean. Yo need ta come en see dis shit yo!”

Mrs. Jackson was pleading, “Please Jay, don’t kill him.”

Little Mervin was leaning over Jay’s checkout belt brushing some bloody snot off of his apron, “You might want to turn his head a little to the right Jay. The left side of his face is still in pristine condition.”

KC could be heard over the intercom, “Brian, please meet me on the dock with a pallet jack.”

He could hear the Sunfire Women singing his name while he cut down those big Iroquois warriors under the Autumn Hills and Mighty Hare was screaming some Algonquin curse while he disemboweled the Susquehannock scout to his left…

Blood on aluminum smells good like summertime in Virginia...

He could feel the roar of two thousand warriors as they charged down Cooper Mountain into Don Tinoco’s column and the horseman’s head arced over the flailing hooves of his falling mount…

The neck is getting slippery, grab an ear—no that will tear off…

He could nearly taste the blood-curdling howl of Thag echoing across Deep Valley as they sunk their spears into the bellies of the tall screaming Others…

The big meat puppet just shit itself.

Well I’m not eating him now, not until I clean him.

“DeathSong do not kill the Whiteman before the children. It will injure their souls.”

“Three-Rivers?”

He looked around for the little Iroquois boy and noticed everyone running away from him.

Why are the friendly meat puppets scampering about?

He heard a slathering, teeth-gnashing snarl.

Oh that’s you. Stop, you’re scarring the kids. This is embarrassing. Get it all cleaned up before you go…

…He propped up Mister Clean in his 2010 Jeep Cherokee, laid his teeth and a fresh pint of ice cream [with a plastic spoon from the deli] on the dash, and patted the man on the shoulder, “Sorry dude, dem WIC checks test a man’s patience somethin’ terrible. Drive safe.”

Mister Clean mewed listlessly through smashed lips as Jay walked off.

He kept the hat but tossed the vest over the rail to Author the old cart guy…

An hour later he was hitchhiking, headed west as the sun set, toward Detroit.

At least that’s someplace I don’t remember from the past.

An 18-wheeler ripped by him and that gust of wind seemed to drive up into his soul and echo in the dark corners of his mind…

…He could hear the old giant’s song as he kneeled before him on the squishy turf of the battlefield, ripping open his bird-bone breast-plate and offering his life up to him as a sacrifice, the price for letting his people go. He could feel the claymore shiver in his hands as he tilted it for the subclavian thrust. He cursed himself even as he gave way to the impulse to take this holy man’s life. Then little Squirrelboy’s voice stopped him. A warm river seemed to flow up from his pelvis, through his chest and into his head as he reheard the unintelligible Iroquois words that had saved his soul on that blood-drenched day in the fall of 1538.

That was the same voice that stopped you today hillbilly.

I know dummy—seems like we just can’t get rid of that kid, can we?

Thunderboy: From Chapter 2

The Hollow Boy

Three-Rivers was feeling like a baked stone, a lifeless piece of matter that did nothing more than conduct heat and sound. It was the Moon of Falling Leaves on Sunset, and though he was loved, fed and cared for by people at once compassionate, wise and powerful, his soul—with a small ‘s’ now—was diminishing within the increasingly hollow shell of his bent little body.

At age seventeen he was barely four Sunset measures called feet tall and had a twisted back—which Healer called Doctor London named scoliosis of the severe kind and said he would soon fix Three-Rivers by cutting him up and boning him like a gutted fish and then putting him back together again!

Nasty medicine that is! Besides being boned like a fish, and hence not enjoying the procedure, you will surely be purged of whatever remains of your Beginning Spirit. On Mother Earth you were regarded with awe and wonder; the Magic Boy of Winter; the Escort of Souls; the Disciple and Son of WhiteSkyCanoe; the Many-Speaker of the Longhouse-people; Servant of Burnt Man; Tamer of the flesh-demon known as DeathSong; and, most of all, a Voice of The Beginner. They came to you in their wonder seeking healing and prophecy, never taking pity on your twisted little form.

Only you knew the secrets of your power: the frail twisted body your punishment from The Beginner for a past life’s sins to remind you of your duty to men, and to force you to forsake the ways of men; the vision sicknesses granting your ability to walk with the dead and receive possession by the grandfathers; and your spells-of-not-talking-or-hearing and the night-terrors and your attention-deficit-called-disorder-with-an-H-for-being-bored-with-pointless-chores the trades made with the Seven Aspects of Beginning that enabled you to speak with the four-legs and flyers and commune with the living world.

He stood on tip-toes in his hard Sunset moccasins-for-bald-bison-riders called cowboy boots to look outside at the falling leaves in an attempt to commune with The Sunset World.

Nothing, a hollow tune lost on a deaf ear. The Sunset medicines of Healer forced upon you by doting but soul-blind Mother, have poisoned your spirit. It has been three moons since WhiteSkyCanoe last came to you, and then only in a whisper. You are no longer even possessed! What kind of prophet are you now that you have made your much vaunted journey to Nearest Sunset? You are no longer even a fit medicine-man for Lady Doe-Eye. You have promised to find and return her lost baby to her in defiance of Mother and you can no longer even compose a prayer! You remain lost underfoot like a child, nothing but a many-speaker for the Sunset Lady and Burnt Man as they collect the lost children of the past like the Sunset Grandfather Noah stuffing animals into his floating house. You are honored yes, but impotent; like DeathSong without his fury; like Burnt Man without his science; like Mother without her beguiling beauty…just a wrong-eyed Sunset boy.

Imagine Mother, how barren you would feel if you lost your beauty; if all the men of Sunset ceased their clamoring to mate with the marvelous Sunset Lady Tina Hesperia, seducer of worlds? How would you feel then Mother? How can you not see? Every time I come to you with my woeful plight you seize me like a dead-baby-called-doll and toss me on your sleek hip—oooh Mother, you anger me so!

The others were all about their daily tasks called chores, and he, having astutely attention-deficited-his chores to some lost corner of his mind, was lurking around the windows, the low ones beneath the tables and healing beds, looking out upon the remnants of a dug-up world. It was time for a prayer of the simple asking kind so loved by the God-beseeching people of Sunset called Christians.

Father, though I can no longer hear your words, or feel the beating of your ghost’s wings across the surface of my soul, I trust that you might hear me. Even though I beseech He-Who-Makes-Rivers when it storms, from behind this wall of looking-stone called glass, he answers me not, by sign or word. I know I have fallen far beneath his hearing after the arrogant fashion in which I used you to command Thunderer, his father after all...So I ask you Father, please, send me a sign…

He attempted to fall off into a trance, but the chalky poison medicine of Sunset called no-more-epilepsy-take-once-a-day-forever-without-beer—But I like beer Mother!—prevented him from careening into the realm of ghosts and souls…

Do you see that! That fat squirrel just came down from that oak for one last acorn. He should be working on his nest this time of day. Everyone knows that the cats are about this early in the morning. Thank you Father. It is time to sneak out of this place wrong-eyed boy. Father has sent your totem animal—a chief of the local squirrels no doubt—to parley with you. Perhaps you can offer to have Eddie chase off the local cats in return for the news of squirrels. This is so exciting, to be contacted by your totem animal; he who you are best able to speak with!

Three-Rivers sneaked, and lurked, and skulked, and tucked-and-rolled—well, as best he could—and did all of the other deceptive tricks of Sunset sneakers called spies and force-recon and swimming-dogs-without-paws called SEALs, until he reached the fenced garden of Lady Tannika toward which the squirrel was also sneaking. They eventually sneaked to within a spear-length of one another, before Three-Rivers spoke the greeting of squirrels. The squirrel stopped, acting as if he suspected a trap, and then returned the greeting. But Three-Rivers heard it as a man hears it, not as a squirrel does. The squirrel said more things, and Three-Rivers attempted to answer in kind, but he could understand nothing said by the squirrel. Soon the squirrel arrogantly twitched its tail and bounded off, leaving behind a broken-hearted boy, without even his totem-animal to lift his spirits or ally his fears.

Three-Rivers walked back inside, past the healing room for wounded children, past Healer’s place-of-decision-making called office, and into the climbing machine called elevator that took him down to their spacious and plush underneath house called base. He went to bed dry-eyed and without hope or recourse, but determined somehow to regain his medicine.

What about your chores wrong-eyed boy? You are not a medicine-man any longer and no warrior to be sure, so there is no excuse for you shirking your mundane duties.

To The Ender with chores!

He then got out his picture-book called cell, the small living ghost of knowledge that accompanied people everywhere on Sunset, and opened up his pictures so that he could say his prayers. He had pictures of every one of his friends, even evil Randy Bracken of the White Hate Society called Skinhead. As he brought up each and every picture, especially of those lost such as Bruco, Angh, Terrence and Jacques, and those not yet returned like Bluebird—who was still apparently possessed by the flesh-demon DeathSong—he said an appropriate prayer from among WhiteSkyCanoe’s collection, and then composed a new one of his own, though these now lacked inspiration.

Your prayers now suck Sunset boy!

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