About Us

Contact Us


The 21st Century

Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Fiction

Black Buffalo Woman
Jeffrey Beyl

He 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 him.

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 couldn’t 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 didn’t 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 Buffalo Woman.

"No-Water has fled to the camp of Holy Bald Eagle, his brother," He-Dog said. "He won’t 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 Horse’s 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-Water’s 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 river’s 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 didn’t 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-Dog’s next words brought back the heavy emptiness in Crazy Horse’s 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 Horse’s 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 thought.

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 didn’t 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
Seattle, WA

Montana Fish

More Fiction in Dreamscapes


© Hackwriters 2000-2004 all rights reserved