Louie Kwastila tried to clear his mind under the cold morning river water. The dark steel gray water enveloped him like a cocoon and usually provided the environment of metamorphosis for his mind and spirit needed when preparing to enter the Big House. Not this morning however, his mind could not relax and let go all the average events of the last few days.
The water also seemed foreign. Everything in his being told him that today the river was different, not toxic or bad…just different. On many levels the water even seemed enhanced and energized, but it was definitely different – deeply different – and this left him uneasy. Since the moment he had entered the water, Louie had felt the urge to turn around and get out.
Finally, he relented and lifted his head out of the water.
“What the fu..!”
How did he miss a blond dead white girl on the river bank? He froze not sure what to do, immediately aware that his life had become instantly complicated and his life was going to be under a microscope. Dead white girls discovered by half naked Indian men tend to get a lot of scrutiny, and more times than not pay for the crime; guilty or otherwise.
How did he miss her?
Louie retraced his steps in his mind to the river bank and into the river itself. Shit, he thought, he would have practically had to step over her, and sure enough his foot prints in the wet sand bank revealed a path within inches of her blonde head. His mind raced and he considered bolting from the water and just getting out and away from this scene.
Did he phone the cops? Tell the village Elders?
This was his spot on the river. Since he was five, and for 20 years since, every day at dawn this is where he came to cleanse his body, mind and spirit. No one else came here…it was his and only his. Just like it had been his father’s; his grandfathers…since the beginning of time this place belonged to men in his family. And since he was the only one left, no matter how this played out he would be the focus of attention in the death of this woman.
For the first time in his life he shivered in the river, and still he was certain it had nothing to do with the temperature of the water.
Louie Kwastila took one last final moment to process the scene and look at the dead white girl from the safety of the river. Her eyes were open and they looked dark…even a little sad. He would go home, seek the village Elders counsel…phone the cops…and then retreat to the sanctuary of the Big House and pray for resolution to this discovery that did not end with him in behind bars.
He would do right by her.
Death is a sacred matter, and the last thing he wanted was to take a misstep here and have her spirit hanging around and harassing him for the rest of his existence. He would trust that the old people, those who had gone before him and whom he had asked to watch out over him, would take care of matters on the flip side. But that also meant he had to act just and honorable on this side…no escaping that.
“Okay…you listen to me.”
He emerged from the water and made his way up to her.
“I am going to call the police and they will come and take you from here. I am not sure why you’re here and I am sorry that you are dead. I will do right by you…I expect the same in return.”
He knelt and in the sand in front of her cold dark eyes carved the image of the grizzly bear talisman. Quietly he went about the ritual and made a small prayer, an intervention, to calm the soul of this young woman. Finally he took some sand in his hand, held it over her cheek and let it fall like the sands through an hour glass. In this final act, he conveyed to his ancestors a request to protect the both of them.
He was leaving nothing to chance.
“When this is done… you are never to return.”
Louie rose to go and do as promised.
“You’ll leave me be.”
He paused though, this time aware he was not alone. This was not something he was unfamiliar with…a presence was lingering. He was a spiritual being, trained in the ways of his ancient people…a practitioner of sacred rituals. In his young life he had seen many things and experienced many other worldly manifestations. He had experienced the types of spiritual events that most people would not understand and find incredibly frightening.
This was different though.
It was both familiar and unfamiliar in the same instance. It struck him that this was because the presence was not ancestral, not connected to this land and his people – it wasn’t the sacred he knew or understood. Still it was recognizable in a different way, and he could feel it surging in and out of his consciousness.
It was the girl.
Then it was gone.
Louie Kwastila looked down and the once cold dead dark eyes were now blue and alive, and staring back at him.