The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
was tired. Exhaustion and pain washed up and over him like rising
flood waters. The pain was intense and radiated through his face
where the bullet had entered and tore along his cheek. He lay, eyes
closed and felt as though he were floating yet the pain grounded
He could smell wood
smoke and the familiar aroma of leather and dried meat and these things
as well as the pain told him that he was not dead. He wondered why he
was not dead. Time meant nothing to him yet he knew that others had
come and gone and had cared for him. Someone had tried to give him broth
to drink and dried meat soaked in water to eat but he couldnt
partake of these things because of the pain in his face.
He lay in the tipi and tried to remember what had happened. It was hard
to concentrate on trying to remember because the pain beat in his face
like a drum. He had to first conquer the pain. He had seen Lakota women,
silent and still upon the prairie while the pains of childbirth came
upon them in increasing severity. He had seen them seem to almost put
their pain on the outside of their bodies, on the outside of their consciousness
and he always admired this. All Lakota warriors would do well to learn
this, he thought. He lay still, his eyes closed, and though it hurt
to breathe he drew air in through his nose and sunk through the pain
like a stone in the river and imagined the pain rising from him and
felt it surround him like a cloud and he lay calm and silent and the
weight of his suffering pressed in on him and he thought of nothing
and in the clearing of his mind the memories crept in like snakes.
Vague, smoky scenes flitted across the vision of his mind. He could
smell the memory of smoke, the memory of food. He tried to empty his
mind even more by allowing himself to sink deeper and deeper through
the pain. He allowed the pain to envelope him like a heavy mist and
through the thickness of the mist there came flashes of movement and
memories. He remembered being in a tipi. There had been others near
him sitting by a small fire. It was quiet inside except for the occasional
crack of the wood in the flames. He could hear the music of the river
outside as it flowed over rocks and the breath of the wind as it drew
the wood smoke up through the center of the tipi. He felt good. He had
eaten. He had smoked. He had laughed among friends. A woman sat beside
him leaning lightly against his shoulder. He remembered that he could
smell her hair and her skin. She was wrapped in a buffalo robe and he
was comfortable and content and he felt happy.
He heard a rustle and the noise brought him back from his memory. He
felt a more intense stabbing of the pain in his face. He knew that someone
had entered the tipi of this time and was rubbing something wet along
his cheek. It was cool and felt good but it sparked more pain and he
wanted to sink under the weight again and remember more. The person
touching his face put something against his lips and he could feel the
coolness of water drip slowly along his lips and down his chin and onto
his shoulder. He wanted the water but it hurt too much to drink. He
felt it drip from his chin and run slowly along his chest. He heard
something from far away. The voice was bringing him up through the weight
of the pain but he wanted to sink again. He wanted to clear his mind
and put the pain on the outside and remember that night in the other
tipi. There had been a woman sitting beside him. She had leaned against
his shoulder. He could smell her hair. He could smell the wood smoke.
It felt good to have her weight against him. He had eaten and laughed.
He had smoked and talked and he sat staring into the fire and, he remembered,
he had been happy. He had been on a raid against the Crow. They had
counted coup and proven, once again, that the Lakota were the more powerful
tribe and now he sat among friends and this woman, his woman, Black
Buffalo Woman, and he was happy.
Tashunke Witko didnt remember many times in his life when he was
truly happy. When he was younger and still called Curly, before his
father had given him his own name of His Horse Is Crazy, there had been
times of happiness, as he wandered across the prairie visiting friends
and other bands of Sioux, the Brule of his mother and the Hunkpapa
and the Miniconjou. He liked being alone. The company of others save
a small handful of people such as his friends Hump and He-Dog had never
meant much to him. He remembered going on hunting parties and getting
many buffalo and the feasts and the games and friendship and laughter.
There had always been a young girl with long, black hair tied with leather
strips. She had black eyes that looked into his eyes, into his head,
into his body. Black Buffalo Woman had always been one of the prettier
girls among the many bands he had visited. He always made a point to
visit her band often. He remembered the time they had wrapped themselves
inside a buffalo robe together and he pressed his face into her hair
and they held each other. He remembered the softness of her skin and
the sweet smell of smoke on her body and her breath against the side
of his cheek. She had rubbed her hands along his back and when he left
the next day he remembered a hollow ache worse than any pain he had
ever felt. Worse than this pain now, he thought? Yes. He had always
loved her. This pain would go away. Pain always went away. This pain
now only told him that he was still alive and that the prophecy of his
vision had not been fulfilled.
Thinking of his vision brought Crazy Horse back to the now. He felt
the burden of the pain in his face. He knew he was alive. He knew he
must get well and he knew that the trail ahead was going to be a hard
one. At least Black Buffalo Woman would be there with him, he thought,
and the thought of her and the memory of her brought him up through
the layers of pain. Her face, her hair, the way she laughed and smiled
brought him back up from the depths he had sunk and brought the pain
back upon him in sharp flashes but this, he knew, was good because this
would make him better and he could go to her.
He heard the tipi flap rustle open again and he felt the warmth of sunlight.
He forced his eyes open. "How are you feeling, Kola?" It was
He-Dog, his oldest friend. "Your wound seems clean. You bled much
but Spotted Crow thinks you will soon be well though you will have a
fierce scar along your face." They had been friends since they
were young boys. When they grew older and became of age they had hunted
the pte, the buffalo, together and had gone on raiding parties
against the Crow and had fought the Wasichu. They had wandered the prairie
together and visited many of the bands and He-Dog had chased after many
young girls while Crazy Horse had always thought of only one, Black
"No-Water has fled to the camp of Holy Bald Eagle, his brother,"
He-Dog said. "He wont come out. He went into a sweat lodge
to purify himself. He thinks he killed you. Some of the young men, your
friends, are demanding No-Water be given up to them for punishment.
Spotted Crow, your uncle, has been talking with Holy Bald Eagle trying
to work this out. Here, drink this." He held some water to Crazy
Horses lips and Crazy Horse forced himself to sip of it. Pain
stabbed through his cheek. "Spotted Crow says he will bring Black
Buffalo Woman back to No-water. She has been hiding. This could cause
a serious problem, Kola. The people of both camps are preparing to fight.
No-Water is of the people of Red Cloud and we both know that Red Cloud
does not like you. They are a powerful band. But you have many friends
among the other bands and many are saying they will fight for you. Spotted
Crow says that Black Buffalo Woman is afraid her husband will kill her
for running away with you. After all, Kola, he tried to kill you."
Crazy Horse was remembering now. She had finally agreed to go off with
him. After all these years of being No-Waters wife and having
his children she had finally said yes to Crazy Horse, yes, she would
go away with him. It was her right, as a Sioux woman, to divorce her
husband any time. Crazy Horse had been ecstatic. She was so beautiful
and now she would be his woman. She had placed her three children in
the care of a friend and rode off with Crazy Horse. They had joined
up with some bands along the Powder River and set up a temporary lodge
and entered it together. They held each other and lay together. She
had cooked a stew for him and he thought that this, now, was what life
should be. They could be together and he could hunt pte with his friends
and make war on the Crow and he could come back to her, just her and
him and she could cook stew of buffalo or rabbit with wild onions that
she would collect along the rivers edge and when it was cold in
winter they could wrap themselves in a buffalo robe and hold each other
and be warm and happy. Those few days with her on the Powder River had
been, truly, the happiest days of his life.
Then that evening in the lodge while they sat by the fire. They had
eaten and smoked and laughed. They sat looking into the fire. She sat
beside him leaning against his shoulder. Little Big Man, his friend,
was there also beside the fire. He had joined them for food and now,
in the quiet moments after eating Crazy Horse sat and listened to the
music of the river outside and the whisper of the breeze and suddenly
the tipi flap flew open and someone burst in. It was No-Water, the husband
of Black Buffalo Woman and he was waving a pistol. "My friend,
I have come," he shouted. Why, Crazy Horse wondered, would he call
me his friend? Crazy Horse remembered that at first he thought No-Water
had meant to shoot the woman. He remembered leaping to his feet and
reaching for the knife at his side. Yes, No-Water had probably meant
to kill his wife. She had spurned him and he was a proud man. He waved
the pistol in the air and it went off. He didnt expect me to reach
for my knife, Crazy Horse thought. He thought I might kill him so he
shot and fled. He is a coward and I will kill him, Crazy Horse thought,
now. He is a coward. He would never face me man to man, warrior to warrior.
The pain was throbbing in his face again, beating with the pounding
of his heart as it raced with the memories. Another part of the scene
came to Crazy Horse. Little Big Man, his friend, had eaten and smoked
with them but when Crazy Horse reached for his knife Little Big Man
had grabbed his arm. Crazy Horse could hear Black Buffalo Woman screaming.
But why would Little Big Man want to stop him from killing No-Water?
Why would he want to stop Crazy Horse from protecting Black Buffalo
Woman? Little Big Man had grabbed his arm, stopping him, and the gun
flashed, exploding in his face and Black Buffalo Woman was screaming
and Crazy Horse went down and from that moment to this he had known
only searing, pounding pain.
Now He-Dog, his oldest friend, tells him that Black Buffalo Woman escaped
and is in hiding. This is good, thought Crazy Horse. It is good that
No-Water has not killed her. But He-Dogs next words brought back
the heavy emptiness in Crazy Horses guts, "No-Water refuses
to divorce Black Buffalo Woman and is threatening to cut off her nose.
This, as you know, is his right." This news hit Crazy Horse like
an arrow in the chest. The pain in his face suddenly became bearable.
He had survived the bullet, he had sunk through the pain but this new
feeling was far worse. He would take more bullets; take that arrow in
the chest. He felt as if the very ground he lay upon were falling away.
He felt a great hollowness as though the world was receding away from
him and he was falling through a great void. Crazy Horse had always
been brave in battle. He had always felt confident that neither bullet
nor arrow would hit him. He had always known that his talismans, the
pebble he wore in a leather thong tied behind his ear, the dust he sprinkled
over himself and his horse, would make him strong and untouchable. But
even these seemed to have vanished. Crazy Horse felt touched.
Black Buffalo Woman! Black Buffalo Woman! A-i-i-i! The darkness of her
eyes, the touch of her hands, the smell of wood smoke on her body and
the softness of her hair, all were fading like trees in the distance
during a heavy snow. Black Buffalo Woman! Crazy Horse knew that No-Water
would never grant her a divorce especially when he found out that Crazy
Horse was still alive. Red Cloud would counsel him to never release
his niece to Crazy Horse. Hokahey, I should give him a bullet, thought
Crazy Horse, for the one he gave me. I will give him two.
He-Dog lifted some water to Crazy Horses lips, "Drink,"
he said. Crazy Horse tried to drink but the pain seared through his
face. He-Dog set the water down and left the tipi. Crazy Horse lay and
felt the ground fall away from him. He felt a great weight as if a dead
buffalo was on him. He longed for Black Buffalo Woman. He needed her
now more than ever. He wanted to reach out and touch her and make her
real and a part of him again. He knew he could never do this again.
He tried to picture her face. Always before, even when she first married
No-Water, even when she had her first child and her second and third,
Crazy Horse always knew that he could come and look into her eyes and
she would smile at him. He always knew that she would be there. She
would smile and lick her lips and Crazy Horse knew that he could take
that with him when he went into the hills to be alone and he always
thought about the next time he would see her. But now, No-Water might
cut her nose off and destroy the prettiest girl among the tribes. Yes,
he would kill No-Water. He had to. Yes, I will kill him, Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse wanted to go away with her. He wanted all of this to end.
All of this business with No-Water and Red Cloud. He knew his wound
must heal and quickly. He longed for the hills, to be alone, just him
and Black Buffalo Woman and the earth and the sky and the Great Spirit
Wakan Tanka. Crazy Horse was tired of the people always looking to him
for leadership. He was not a chief. Now, after this, he would probably
not even be a shirt wearer any longer. He had put his own interests
first instead of putting the interests of the tribe first as a shirt
wearer was supposed to. He didnt care. He cared only for the woman.
He had always lived his life, traveled, hunted, made war and counted
coup, smoked and ate for himself only. He fought his battles and lived
his life for himself and the possibility of one day being with Black
Buffalo Woman and he never cared what anyone wanted of him. Why did
they always want something from him?
Crazy Horse lay on the ground. Unse ma la yelo, take pity on me, he
thought. He could feel the warmth of the small fire in the tipi. The
earth was falling away from him and he sunk through the void. The pain
in his face was intense. He concentrated on the pain while everything
else but Black Buffalo Woman blurred away. As he sunk even the face
of the beautiful woman faded from his vision the way the morning mist
off the river obscures the view of the deer drinking on the other side.
© Jeffrey Beyl October 2004
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