Authors: Drew Hayden Taylor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Canada, #Teenage Girls - Ontario, #Ontario, #Teenage Girls, #Indians of North America, #Vampires, #Ojibwa Indians, #Horror Tales, #Indian Reservations - Ontario, #Bildungsromans, #Social Issues, #Fantasy & Magic, #Indian Reservations, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Adolescence, #People & Places, #Native Canadian, #Juvenile Fiction, #JUV018000
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR
A NATIVE GOTHIC NOVEL
NE DAY, down by a slow-flowing river, an ancient Anishinabe (Ojibwa) man was sitting under a tree, teaching his beloved grandchildren about the ways of life.
He said, “Inside of me, a fight is going on. It is a terrible fight between two wolves.
“One wolf is evilâhe is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.
“The other wolf is goodâhe is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, wisdom, friendship, empathy, generosity, caring, truth, compassion, and faith.
“The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too.”
His grandchildren thought about the story for a few moments, then one child asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win? Which one is stronger?”
The old man smiled and said, “The one you feed.”
INK. PURPLE. Some red and a dash of green. The man had seen them flicker and dance above the horizon in more than a dozen countries during his infinite wanderings. Many of those countries no longer existed, or had changed in name and form, as had he. But this time, somewhere over the North Atlantic, the northern lights seemed to be beckoning him home.
He sat on the north side of the plane, next to the aisle, as he had insisted. As luck would have it, he had the row to himself, offering him an uninterrupted view through the window of the aurora borealis, as white people call them. The Ojibwa call them
, and according to legend they are the torches of great fishermen who light the night sky as they spear fish. It was a good sign, and the man believed in good signs.
There had been somebody, a small woman with an Irish lilt to her voice, seated against the window when they first took off. Her name was Irene Donovan. But once the plane was up in the air, beginning its journey to North America, the woman had relocated several rows back. It had been Irene's plan to relax and enjoy the flight. She had not seen the movie and was looking forward to it, had no qualms about airplane food, and was hoping to nap and wake up just before landing. She loved going to Canada to visit her daughter.
But something about her seatmate disturbed her mood. The man in the aisle seat seemed . . . dark. That was the word for it. It was like there was an ominous storm inside him. It wasn't just his skinâand where could he be from? she wondered. The Middle East? Could he be a terrorist? Maybe he was Spanish or Central American. They were dark too. Egyptian possibly.
But more than anything, it was the feeling of loneliness or, more accurately, the sense of emotional detachment that reached across the armrest between them. Being a good Irish woman, she stood with one foot firmly planted in the traditions of the Catholic Church and the other foot rooted in more superstitious grounds. Her family had long told stories of people who have such strong auras that they could practically overpower you. Irene, who had always felt a public distain for such beliefs, now began to wonder if there was any truth to them. Moments before, she had been cheerful and optimistic about this flight. Now, she felt engulfed in a more sober and bleak mood. And it seemed to be coming from the man seated next to her. Blocking her only way to the aisle.
She tried to ignore the feeling, but the feeling simply wouldn't ignore her. A half hour of squirming uncomfortably was enough, and finally she asked the flight attendant if she could move, pleading a dislike of window seats.
“Fear of heights. You know how it is.” And she was gone.
The man in the aisle seat was not insulted. In fact, he was pleased. He knew he was different, and was used to others avoiding him. That was fine. He was an outsider among outsiders. For if the people on this plane knew how different he really was . . . well, it was a good thing they didn't.
The northern lights continued to flicker in the high atmosphereâ a cosmic storm of ions and solar wind welcoming him home. He and those lights were old friends. He had danced underneath them as a child. He had hunted by them as a man. And he was following them home. It was a long time in coming.
It had taken him weeks to plan this trip perfectly. Unlike other passengers on Air Canada flight 859, the man in seat 24H could not afford any mistakes. Finding the right sequence of initiatives was essential and had been time-consuming. But survival can sometimes require that little extra effort. He had been very adamant with the travel agency about his itinerary. The plane had to take off at night, and land at night. Since this particular flight was leaving from London's Heathrow Airport and flying nonstop to Toronto, east to west, the plane was flying with the moon. It had taken off at 10:30 p.m. and would land in Canada's largest city at 1:25 a.m. If there were no complications, it would all work out fine. This kind of flight was called the “red eye.” He loved the irony. Again, it was a good sign.
But should there be a problemâa delay, a forced landing, or something of that natureâhe had been very specific in his seat request. In case the sun did greet the great metal bird, the man had taken what precautions he could. His seat was on the north side of the plane, away from the south-facing windows, where the sun would flood in. He was near a bathroom should he have to hide. He had chosen to travel in the fall when the sun was sluggish in showing itself. The man was nervous, but he had prepared as best he could. Now it was out of his hands. Now it was up to the pilot, the plane, and the Creator.
His journey had started in Ireland. Not that long ago he had stood on its western coast, near an area called Erris Head, the closest part of the country to North America. There, on a sheer limestone cliff buffeted by bitter gale-force winds, he looked across the vast blue water. It was a cold and damp night on that precipice, but he didn't feel the elements. He was lost in thought. Somewhere, several thousand miles west, was a place he had once called home. It had birthed him. Nurtured him as a child and young man. But he had turned his back on it so long agoâangry at what the Fates had done to him. Ashamed at what he'd become. Though he swore he would never return home as the monster he had become, this feeling had always been there, somewhere deep inside his soul. But like an uncomfortable recollection, he held it in place. It was like a scarâyou noticed it, were aware of it, it held memories, but you could ignore it anytime you wanted.
But recently, he hadn't been able to stop looking westward. He had done it in Norway, in Italy, in Spain. No doubt that was the reason he ended up here in Ireland. Legend has it St. Brendan, an Irish adventurer, had journeyed some 1500 years ago across the forbidding water and spent a decade in that far-off land. The man had read the stories of St. Brendan. He had all the time in the world to read. St. Brendan told of islands of ice. Of mountains that spit fire. And of the strange people who populated distant lands where he administered the words of God. This man's people, if the stories were true.
It was there, on that windswept jut of Ireland's coast, that he made his decision. Looking toward that distant soil was eating away at him. He did not want to spend eternity gazing after the setting moon. It made him uneasy. It was time to deal with the past. And one thing he was sure of: no matter how long ago the past occurred, it colored the present and influenced the future. And there was so much more future. There was always so much future. No one knew that more than him. It was too cloudy to see the northern lights, but he knew they were up there somewhere, flickering and dancing. Perhaps, he had hoped, they would light the way home for him.
And, as if requested, they did.
IFFANY HUNTER'S FEET hurt. They had hurt all day, and probably would hurt all night, because of the shoes her grandmother had bought her. Not because they were too tight, but because they were too large. It seemed to be a tradition in Tiffany's family to buy clothes and shoes that were a size or two too big. All her life she'd grown up wearing baggy clothes, her mother and then grandmother telling her, “You'll grow into them. Better too big than too small.” So Tiffany Hunter's feet hurt because the new shoes she was wearing were size eight instead of seven. Her feet were sliding all around in the shoes that, on top of everything else, were too shiny and girly. She preferred running shoes, but Tiffany had been at the mercy of her grandmother's generosity. Even with a fixed income, the old woman still had more money than Tiffany.
She had tried explaining to Granny Ruth that some size-seven Filas would be perfect. Preferable, even. “Everybody else at school wears them!” As much as Tiffany thought of herself as being independent and a rebel, more often than not she obeyed the governing laws of high-school style.
“Nonsense,” Granny Ruth had replied, her thick Native accent revealing her position as the matriarch of the Hunter clan of the Otter Lake Reserve. “Them look like boy's shoes. You're not a boy. I'm not so old I don't know the difference. Now these are proper girl shoes. Just like your mother and me used to wear. Ho, look. They're from China. They got small feet over there. Better get them a little bigger, just in case.”