The Glittering White World
by Dawn Bear
The Horned Monster
The Horned Monster looked out upon the view of Phoenix, his hand leaning against the window as if swallowing the Four Peaks in the distance. His frame silhouetted against the setting sun, crouched and neckless. He had the mouth of a toad: large, with long, thin pursed lips that dipped at the corners.
His belt was decorated with hogans, sheep and children, swallowed by a large silver buckle and then a black plastic holster for his phone. It vibrated and he released it from its slumber.
“It’s started,” it read.
The dipped corners of his mouth trembled as if fumbling into a grin before giving up. His sausage fingers slid through his silver hair greasing it over the bald spot on the top of his head.
He turned into the conference room, filled with pant suited women and men with voluntary nooses.
“Sign it,” the monster said. “The water is ours.”
The sun engulfed his home in shadows, but the purples and oranges lingered in the woolen curls of the sheep. Spider Man grunted as he tightened the wire to the fence. He gazed at the sheep’s brilliant coats as he leaned against each post, ensuring nothing gave to his weight. The shadows slid like fingers across their wool and he saw flocks upon flocks swallowed by darkness, just as he had when Collier had promised his people a better livelihood.
His hands shook as he reached out to the nearest body and the vision faded. The sheep were calmed by the evening dark, but Spider Man’s knees weakened with each step back to the cratered, windowed house.
Chapter 3: Rock Eagle Monster Feeds
Ari’s bedroom was cluttered with nonsense that only meant something to her. Pictures cut from magazines and pasted to the wall, a quote scribbled in her flowing cursive, stones and other odds and ends found or collected here and there. Dusty books packed into any available space on the only bookshelf in the room. She sat on the floor, huddled against her bed while Bryant sat in her computer chair, spinning back and forth nervously.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he mumbled. “How can she be our mom? And if she is, why come back now when we don’t even need her anymore?”
“Don’t forget her claims to be Changing Woman. I mean, the Hero Twins?” She rolled her eyes. “That’s about as believable as Superman being real.”
“All stories come from a place of truth,” Bryant said. “You, bookworm, should know that.”
“You actually believe them?”
“Look, I just think there has to be a reason for them to say something so unimaginable. They’ve never lied to us before.”
“Never?” Ari unravelled the braid she had started. “That woman just showed up claiming to be our dead mother.”
“You mean our “gone” mother.” The chair steadied for a moment as his eyes laser beamed at hers.
“So now you’re gonna talk semantics? Gone or dead, we both believed she was dead.”
“But didn’t you ever get the feeling like there was a piece of you being molded by someone or something?”
“Sixteen years absent and you want to credit her for making you into who you are? I can’t believe you aren’t angry. I’m angry.”
“You’re always angry.” Bryant’s chair went into a spin.
“Knock, knock,” Grandma’s voice came from the door. She had an irritating habit of voicing her knocks instead of doing them. And opening the door before she was invited. Her skirts entered before her head peeked out behind the frame. “Dinner’s ready.”
Bryant shot up, always eager for food.
“I’m not hungry,” Ari said.
“You should eat something,” Grandma said. “You barely ate this morning, and nothing at all after.” She paused. “We’re having mutton stew.”
Ari’s stomach rumbled. Mutton stew was her favorite.
“And fry bread.”
Her mouth started watering.
Grandma and Bryant exited the room. The door was left wide open. The gamey iron aroma of the fresh meat wafted into her room followed by the salty warmness of frying lard.
She struggled up, her stubbornness fighting against her need for nourishment. The sounds of steaming coffee competed with the crackling stew. The linoleum was cold on her bare feet. The stranger, because she couldn’t bring herself to call her mom, stood at the stove, her hair draped down past her ass. The familiar clapping of bread from one hand to another came from the strangers hands, not her grandmas.
“Hungry?” The stranger asked, a smile radiating from her face. She had high cheek bones, like Ari’s, with dimples drilled on each side.
Ari shrugged. She walked past her even though watching the bustle of someone cooking and flapping bread was one of her favorite things.
Everyone was seated, aside from her and the stranger. It was either sit at the back, cramped against the dusty window that peeked into the Arizona room and the table, or next to Grandma. Ari chose the more cramped option, though it left her little room to escape.
The Stranger laid the bread and stew in the middle of the table, a faint orange glowed in the webbing of her hands, like the sun was hitting them but it was only the glimmer from the dusty old light fixture.
“Dig in,” the stranger said.
Grandma first filled a bowl for Grandpa and herself, then allowed everyone else to dig in. Ari usually served everyone at dinner but didn’t feel charitable tonight.
“Grandma, your stew is awesome,” Bryant said, a bit of the greasy broth sliding down his chin.
“Your mom made it,” Grandma said.
A paper towel rubbed the smile and food from Bryant’s chin. “Thank you,” he said in an almost inaudible whisper.
Ari’s bread drowned in the stew. She was hungry, there was no doubt about that, but it was hard to muster eating a meal made by someone who had abandoned her at birth.
“So, if we are the Hero Twins, what does that make you?” Ari said, glancing at Grandma.
“Your Grandma,” she said, the spoon steadily went to her lips and she sipped the broth loudly.
“The twins didn’t have grandparents in the story.” Ari stabbed her bread with her spoon, forcing it further into the depths of the bowl.
“They had many grandparents,” Grandpa said. “And they still do.” He took a large bite from his bread.
“Who are you in the stories?” Bryant asked.
“If you’re asking who, then you must believe us,” the stranger said, putting down her spoon as if the burden of carrying it was too much.
“I thought you were smart enough to figure out our roles in our emergence,” Grandma said, her eyes directed at Ari.
“I’m smart enough to know the twins were boys.”
“Histories change, you know that. They are influenced by the world and then reborn or modified to fit the needs of the history makers,” Grandpa said.
“Even with your head clouded with all those books, you should know who we are.” Grandma’s buried her frown with the Santa Fe mug she held.
Ari put her spoon down. “Want to know what I know?”
All eyes stared at her.
“What I know is that the story of the Hero Twins is as made up as the stories in the Bible. They may guide people who need morals and hope and belief, but they are nothing more than that, a guide. A guide molded by the imaginations of humans.”
Grandpa grabbed his napkin and wiped his mouth, though there was nothing there.
Grandma raised an eyebrow, her gray speckled strands taut from the strain.
“It’s true,” Ari said.
Bryant mouthed her name.
The strangers eyes didn’t leave her bowl of soup.
Grandma poured a fresh cup of coffee, put four teaspoons of sugar as custom. Her spoon spun and spun, making a whirlwind of amber fluid. Her coal eyes locked with Ari’s. “You’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid. This whole story is just ridiculous. How can you expect anyone to believe it?”
“I know it’s hard,” the stranger said. “But can’t you feel it inside? That humming and fear that something has awoken?”
“And the overwhelming urge to set things right, like I am the only one who can,” Bryant whispered. He looked up at Ari. “That WE can right it.”
Ari’s lip trembled. “I think you’ve all been drinking the Kool Aid.” She stood. As she tossed the balled up napkin from her hands, the table quaked. The sound of glass or ceramic banging against each other came from the kitchen. The stew and coffee monsooned from their containers. And then a flash.
“What was that?” Ari asked, frightened, falling back into her chair.
Grandma’s cheeks puffed as she clenched her teeth.
The stranger looked around. “It can’t be happening so soon.”
Bryant shot up, ready to run but the stranger’s chair blocked his escape.
Ari folded her legs into her chest, rocking back and forth.
“Sit down, Bry. Grandpa will go see what it was.”
The light beamed again and then was gone.
The stranger began to sing quietly, almost like a chant. The only thing audible from Ari’s end was, “Be still.”
Grandpa got up, holding onto the table for support. There was no one blocking Ari’s escape from the table. When he got to the den, she followed, evading Grandma’s attempt to grab her.
Ari got to the door, no shoes. Grandpa stopped, staring. She couldn’t see anything. The stars pulsated like unmoving satellites. The only light came from the moon. She put her hand on Grandpa’s shoulder. He padded it mechanically and then held it as he moved forward. The moon caste a shadow of the two of them on the still ground. There was no wind, no breeze. Grandpas fingers were cold and course. He waffled his fingers in hers, his grasp getting tighter as they walked to the corral.
There was no noise. Just stillness.
“Something’s not right,” she said, wanting to turn back.
Their last two peach trees looked skeletal as they passed. The branches reaching out like knobby fingers. She had never known them to produce fruit, though Grandma said that the best peaches came the year Bryant and she were born. Grandma had refused to buy peaches, since Ari could remember, because she hoped it’d blossom again. It’s our history, she’d always say. They will always be as resilient as our people.
“Where are the dogs?” Ari asked, missing the surge of doggy paws and slobber when she stepped outside.
Grandpa’s hand weighed heavier in hers.
The frame of the corral was black in the moonlight. They stepped closer, Grandpa leaned more and more on Ari as they got nearer. He collapsed before they fully reached the first post.
“Please tell me they are ok,” he pled.
Ari squeezed his shoulder, a gesture inherited from him. She let her hand slide from his and ventured forth. The sheep were lying side ways. No noise. No motions. She opened the gate but none moved to nozzle her. Her knees hit the sand and dug her skin like knives. Her fingers tangled into the coat of the nearest sheep. Blood stained the wool. Their necks were bludgeoned like something had bitten them and left the remains.
“They’re gone.” The words choked her. “They’re gone,” she repeated louder. Tears warmed her cheeks and chilled as they tumbled toward her chin.
The stranger was silhouetted behind Grandpa, but he did not move.
“Why is this happening?” Grandpa asked.
“They know we’re here,” the stranger said.
Ari laid her head on the sheep, hoping she was mistaken. There were no belly noises, no lambs to nip at her hair like straw.
Bryant laid a hand on her back and one under her arm. “Let’s go inside. There is nothing more we can do.”
He pulled at her. “Ari. Please.”
She nuzzled the sheep, just as they had once done to her and allowed Bryant to pull her to her feet. Bryant cradled her in the cusp of his shoulder.
Crutching Grandpa on one side was the stranger and Grandma on the other.
Ari pulled away from Bryant.
“None of this would have happened if you never showed up with your lies,” she said.
The stranger’s grip slid from Grandpa making him look like a limp ventriloquist doll.
Bryant yanked at Ari’s arm trying to drag her away, but she was firm in her anger.
“If whatever you said is true, then make them come back. Let everything go back to how it was yesterday. We don’t need you. We don’t need this.” Her face was warm from the flood, eyes burning with anger and tears.
The stranger turned to Grandma. “Take him inside. I will be ok.”
“It’s not her fault, Ari. Sometimes we are destined to take on things we don’t volunteer for and suffer as a result. Be the Ari I raised,” Grandma said, clucking her tongue.
With Grandmas wide hips and Grandpas slim frame they looked like conjoined twins as they walked back to the red door. Aside from Ari’s deep breaths, it was silent until the three of them watched their loved ones recede into the house.
“Let’s just go inside,” Bryant said.
Ari’s chest rose and fell. “No. What do you have to say? Are you happy destroying us?”
The stranger took a step forward. “This could have been avoided if you would only accept your destiny. The longer we coddle your anger and fear the less time we have. I may be to blame for coming too late, but so are you,” she said and walked away.