The Glittering White World
by: Dawn Bear
The Rock Eagle Monster
The Rock Monster’s hunched frame leaned against his trailer. The threads on his button up plaid shirt were worn over the hump, like something was trying to break free of its confines. If he were more hunched he’d look like Quasimodo. Over the course of a couple decades he had mined the nearby mountains for minerals and stone. He was proud that there were no mountain peaks remaining, just a bleeding plateau. Parts of the canyon had been thoroughly mined, leaving the sand decayed white. Only tumble weeds rolled through the site.
The Rock Monster picked at his teeth. His cell was covered by his shaggy black hair. A piece of bloody wool hung from the toothpick’s tip as he pulled it from his crooked teeth.
“How’d it go?” the man on the other end of the line asked.
“Let’s just say sheep aren’t as tasty as people, but the revenge, the revenge was sweet.” The ends of his lips anchored up from his beaked nose as he placed the phone in his pocket.
“Get back to work,” he yelled at no one in general and disappeared into the trailer.
Changing Woman held the grinding stone with both hands. It’d been a long time since she had ground corn and her hands ached in a human fashion. She stopped only to add more corn or to wipe the sweat from her brow. It was dry and too hot for the season.
Corn Pollen Woman kneeled beside her, grinding stone in hand.
“This is something I have to do on my own,” Changing Woman said.
“You were once strong enough to carry this burden on your own, but the People turn to other gods, the white God for help. We are weak. The only way we will succeed is if we do it together.” She placed some corn and the sound of stone against stone sang.
Corn Pollen Woman was right, the world no longer felt like home. “Why did you tell Jeff who you were?” Changing Woman asked after a stitch of silence.
“Why wouldn’t I? He is my son.”
Changing Woman placed her hand on Corn Pollen Woman’s wrist, her fingertips dusted with corn. “He cannot follow us.” She lowered her tone. “He is not one of us.”
Corn Pollen Woman’s shoulders fell. Her lids fell across her hazel eyes. The wind whistled in her ears. “It was the people who ventured from the other world into this one. Jeff will follow because he is of us.”
“He is not of your body.”
“He is made up of us all.” She opened her eyes and moved the stone back and forth. “It’s time to stir.” She ended the conversation.
Changing Woman placed the cake in the ground on top of the burning coals and shoveled the earth over. The Big Giant was always enticed by her corncake.
Chapter Five: The People Bleed
Ariana was squeezed between Bryant and Jeff in the little green pick up. Bryant had made the purchase helping the neighbors with their cars, livestock and crops. The cone looked smaller as they got further from home. When Ariana was a child she thought the white cone was as big as Mount Everest, but as she grew the cone was less intimidating. She even ran to the top on occasion.
The stick shift rested against her knee, and each time Bryant had to shift into gear her bare knees rubbed against Jeff’s legs.
“Stop playing footsie,” Jeff joked each time.
Her response never changed. If she could shoot daggers through the slivers of her stare, he’d be a dead man.
“If we are the Hero Twins, who are you?” The truck rocked as Bryant hit a pot hole.
Ari’s body pushed against Jeff’s and she moved away as soon as balance was restored.
“Mom never told me,” Jeff shrugged. He rested his arm on the ledge of the open window his hand dangling from the “oh shit” bar.
“Who do you think you are in the stories?” Bryant asked.
“I don’t know.” He sighed. “You’re the heroes. I feel like I’m just a minion.”
Bryant elbowed Ari in the side.
She glared at him, but put her hand on his knee, and looked him the eyes. “You are.”
Jeff for a moment looked taken aback before the laughter fell into his eyes.
“Hell I’d trade places with you any day,” Ari said.
“It’s weird that they would tell you that its all real but not let you in on who you are and what part you play.” Bryant passed another vehicle.
The road was unusually crowded. Two lanes of bumpy highway out in the middle of nowhere, only used by the locals and as a trucking route, yet cars were bumper to bumper trying to get out of White Cone. The bodies of many sheep, cows, horses, dogs, and cats laid across the roadside.
“I’ve asked,” Jeff said. “But they don’t tell me nothing. Maybe I’m a bad guy.”
“You’re mom is Corn Pollen Woman, how can you be bad with those kind of genetics,” Ariana said.
“Our mom is Changing Woman, and you don’t have an empathetic bone in your body.” Bryant laughed, nudging Ariana again in the ribs.
“She doesn’t seem too empathetic to me.” Ariana adjusted, not able to find comfort in hugging her legs.
“It must be hard. I mean in 24 hours you found out that your mom is still alive and that she’s Changing Woman, and, well, you’re the Hero Twins,” said Jeff.
Bryant bumpily pulled into the gas station next to the new chapter house, at least that’s what everyone called it, even though it had been around for as long as Ariana could remember sitting next to the old chapter house. A beaded lanyard dangled from the rearview mirror. It flopped back and forth like the broken arm of a grandfather clock.
The gas station was full of vehicles. Lines like she had never seen waited to fill their tanks to get out of town. Groups of people leaned up against the wall of the laundry mat and gas station. Crowds of people gathered on the basketball court, sitting on coolers waiting for help to get out. A couple of the kids they knew from school tossed a basketball half heartedly.
“I guess we’re gonna have to wait here,” Bryant said.
“I bet the one down in Indian Wells isn’t as crowded,” Jeff said.
“Why did Grandma make us go into town?” Ariana grumbled.
“She probably just made up an excuse to get us out of the house,” Jeff said.
“You’re probably right, but we might be able to find a good deal in Holbrook on some sheep for Grandpa. I bet people are selling like crazy knowing what happened at home.”
“I doubt we’ll find decent prices. Need always causes a spike in prices.” Jeff pointed to the gas prices with his chin. It was more than a dollar more per gallon than the last time they had to fill up.
“Let’s just go into town,” Ariana complained. “We have enough gas to get us to Holbrook and back. We don’t even need to stop in Indian Wells.”
Bryant turned the engine and put the truck in gear, having to reverse and move forward several times between the other vehicles before he could point the nose toward the exit.
He had put the truck in gear when someone knocked on the side of the truck. Donavan cradled a basketball in his arm and leaned against the open window with the other.
Alex shadowed him, his spiky military cut glistened with sweat. Alex had always been the sidekick to Donavan. He was quiet and brooding. A good ball player who hid his high GPA from his friends so they didn’t mock him for being a nerd. His parents had been activists in the 60s and 70s and had him late in life and doted on him like he was still in diapers. Ariana had always liked him, but could never get more than a few sentences from him.
“Hey,” Donavan said. “Where you guys going?”
“We’re headed to Holbrook,” Bryant said.
“Haven’t you heard the news?” Alex assertively forced his way to the window, which was uncharacteristic of him.
“What news?” Ariana asked.
“Grandpa wants us to see if we can find anyone to sell us some sheep,” Bryant said.
“Their entire herd was wiped out last night,” Jeff added.
“Everyone’s was,” Donavan said. “They shut down the schools because of it.”
“The government thinks it’s some type of virus,” Alex said. “They aren’t letting anyone in or out of the reservation.”
“There’s road blocks set up on all the main roads.”
“What about the back roads?” Bryant asked.
“There’s so many dirt roads from here into Winslow and Holbrook they can’t block all of them,” Jeff said.
“Even if you could, the locals won’t let you in.”
“There’s been a dozen shootings already in Winslow,” Alex said. “If you’re brown and coming in from the wrong direction, they’ll shoot.”
Ariana’s eyes bulged. “Shouldn’t the government be protecting us? How can they just let a bunch of vigilantes murder a bunch of Natives?”
Donavan shook his head. “They’ve never cared if Native blood is spilled. Just look at how they romanticize the death of our tribes in movies. Heck they think we’ve all disappeared that they get white actors to play us.”
“That politician guy, Roger Norman, said on the radio this morning that the state considers it a state of emergency and if the sheep can be corrupted then the people could be as well,” Alex said. “He addressed the whole state and it’s all over the news. The Navajo and Hopi are not to leave the reservation because they’re afraid of our cooties. How could you not have heard it?”
Ariana’s eyes met Bryant’s.
“We’ve spent the morning burying our dead,” Bryant said.
It was the first morning Ariana had woken up to not hear the old radio crackle in the den as she walked in for breakfast. She hadn’t even realized its absence with everything going on.
“What about that?” Donavan pointed to the radio with his chin.
“Broken,” Bryant said. “Hasn’t worked since I got this truck.”
“Is Roger Norman that dude who looks like a toad?” Jeff asked.
Alex and Donavan nodded in agreement.
“What about all the doctors and teachers who aren’t Navajo or Hopi?” Jeff asked.
“That guy said that they will be setting up evacuation areas for them. They think white people are immune, but keep them separated from the rest of the population for a while to make sure,” Alex said. “Plus they have friends and family on the other side.”
Jeff laughed. “Of course.”
“But why the entire reservation?” Ariana asked. “I mean I thought it was just this chapter that was effected.”
Donavan and Alex shrugged, shadows cascaded down their faces.
“We better get home,” Ariana said, breaking the silence.
“You guys need a ride back?” Bryant asked.
“No, they are supposed to make a drop of supplies at each chapter to get us by,” Donavan said. “It was supposed to be here over an hour ago.”
Alex looked from Donavan to Bryant. “I’ll go. Being home is better than wasting my time here.”
“Take care,” Bryant said, his knuckles connected with Donavan for a moment. Alex jumped into the bed of the truck with a thud before Bryant sped off, coming to an abrupt stop at the highway. “I don’t think we should go home.”
“We have no where else to go,” Ariana said.
“I think we should see whats going on at the border.”
“I agree,” Jeff said.
Ariana’s eyes popped in disbelief. She wasn’t even in school yet when the fires broke out near Show Low. On occasion they’d do their grocery shopping there because they had a better selection and prices. They waited a month after the fires were tamed before venturing into town. As she walked through the aisles with her grandparents, people whispered and gave them looks of disgust. That part was bearable, but when they carted their groceries back to the car a group followed, cursing them and telling them to go home. That was just a fire. There was even more reason to be met with violence if they tried to go into Holbrook.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Ariana said.
“You can stay,” Bryant said.
Jeff opened the rear window as he knocked to get Alex’s attention.
Alex craned his neck to face him.
“Change of plans buddy, we’re going to the border. Maybe you should stay here.”
“Nah,” Alex said. “I want to see what’s really going on.”
The truck crawled to the border, which laid about ten or fifteen miles outside of Holbrook, just after the closed down petrified forest gift shop and the I40 junction truck stop. The town of Holbrook, though county capital, was just as run down as any place on the reservation. Ariana was surprised it wasn’t included in the quarantine, although there were a lot of good Mormon families in the town with a lot of pull. It wasn’t run down because it bordered the reservation, cities like Show Low and Pinetop thrived as a result of the neighboring rez. Holbrook was a ghost town because of the lack of infrastructure. It had been a thriving town when railroads were big. Even with the Painted Dessert and Petrified Forest, it’s tourist industry suffered.
A line of trucks and cars all covered in dust lined the highway. As they got closer to the border they saw cars being turned around not allowed to go any further than the sign that said now entering the Navajo Nation. Navajo had been crossed out in spray paint and Diné was written over it.
They were five cars closer and could see the national guard vehicles probably sent in from Winslow blocking the roadway. Men leaned idly against the camouflaged trucks, smoking. Another pair sat on coolers as they played some card game.
An old orange bronco was at the front of the line. At least eight heads shadowed the rear window. A large turquoise braceletted arm reached out from the open window, grasping the hand of a gun toting white man.
Bryant turned off the engine. The truck bounced as Alex stood to watch.
The national guardsman was angered by the gesture. He forced open the door and pulled the man out from the vehicle. He looked much older than Grandpa. His wranglers sagged and crinkled at the waist tightened by a leather belt.
Ari dug her nails into Bryant’s arm. “Do something.”
The man covered his head with one arm as he was forced to his knees. He pulled out something shiny from his western shirt pocket.
The man slapped it away propelling it in their direction.
Alex jumped out and ran toward the old man.
An old woman, dressed in Navajo attire had exited the truck. She was gesturing and pleading with the old man. Tears glistened in the sun as they fell from her face.
Bryant opened the door, walking to the scene.
“Hurry,” Ariana said.
Jeff held her hand. “It’ll be alright.” He motioned to his right to open the door.
Ariana pulled at him pleading with her eyes to make him stay. “Please don’t go,” she said.
They sat in silence. The leather of the seats stuck to her thighs in the heat.
Alex was yelling so loud they could hear him.
“Can’t you see he’s just an old man,” he said. “He’s a vet. Look!” He held up the shiny object that was tossed away. “A code talker.”
“I don’t care,” the national guardsman said. “No one is crossing that border.”
“All they want is food. We have no grocery stores and your promised supplies have not come,” Bryant said calmly.
He stepped closer and the national guardsman raised his gun.
Bryant froze. “Hey man, I’m not trying to start anything. I was just want to help them back into the car and we will all be off.”
“We’ll go home,” the old man’s voice broke.
The national guardsman butted him with the end of his rifle. “I didn’t say you could talk.”
The other guardsmen abandoned their card game to raise their guns.
“Go back to your vehicles and turn around,” a man said on a loud speaker.
Alex dropped the medal and dove for the man holding the gun to his elders head. The man propelled backward and then a single shot rang through the air. The national guardsman pushed Alex off him, red running across his uniform.
“Get in your vehicles and turn around,” the loudspeaker echoed. “This is your final warning.”
The old man was crumpled on the ground trembling, his wife’s arms wrapped over him.
Bryant fell to his knees, his hands interlaced behind his head. Inhuman gurgling noises came from Alex’s body.
“Get in your vehicles and turn around, right now.”
Ari’s nails dug into the back of Jeff’s hand. Little dots of blood peppered the half moons as she released his hand.
“Bryant!” Ariana screamed from the truck.
She stepped out of the truck intending to run to him, but another shot rang through the wind. The old man’s body fell face first into the asphalt. He no longer trembled.
The orange bronco began to maneuver to turn around.
“Grandma get in the truck,” someone screamed from inside. “Grandma!”
She would not move.
A young boy, no older than thirteen stepped out from the orange protector. He pulled the old woman’s blouse free from her woven belt, but she would not budge. She howled with grief. Wailing up and down over her husband’s body.
“If you do not get back into your vehicle son, you’ll be the next one to go,” the loudspeaker said.
The young boy pled with his grandma. “Please, Grandma we have to go.”
“I can’t leave without him,” she screamed. “At least give me that. Please.”
“Please, let us just take our dead. That’s all we ask. We’ll leave and tell everyone to stay away.” Bryant found his legs and stood, walking cautiously toward Alex.
A symphony of gun shots whistled through the air.
Bryant ran toward the truck. Ariana triggered the engine, backing up and propelling it forward, stalling as she tried to get it into first. Tires squealed. Cars moved in sync with her movements trying to escape the hostility. She heard a thud in the bed and sped off, driving on the dirt bed to move past the border as fast as she could.
The truck bounced, dragging tumble weeds in the bumper.
“You can slow down now,” Jeff said, holding the oh shit bar for dear life.
She turned into the junction at Indian wells. The truck fish tailed, not stopping until she was at the pump at the small gas station. The mountain that looked like King Kong stared at her.
“I just ran,” she cried. “They were helpless. Kids. Grandparents. I ran.”
“But we’re alive,” Jeff said opening the door, like she was addressing him and not the mountain.
She followed suit and leaned against the truck, afraid to look at her brother. But more afraid to face the judging stare of the mountain again.
“You okay?” Jeff asked.
Ariana turned around, resting her arms against the medal, looking at the ribbed bed.
Bryant cradled his legs in his arms. A glimmer of medal glistened from his hands.
“Bryant?” Ariana said.
“They were defenseless,” he muttered.
She stepped onto the tire and crawled into the bed with him. She reached out to grab his hand but felt the coolness of the medal instead. Taking it away from him, she looked at it. The ribbon was worn. The gold of the medal was decaying into a grayish color. Two men talking into a radio were engraved and aged in the medal.
“We have to do something,” Ariana said.
“What can we do Ari? They’re already dead. And so are we. It’s hopeless,” Bryant said.
Ariana looked to Jeff. His face was shadowed behind his long hair. He did not look at her. He wasn’t even looking at Bryant.
“We can do what Grandma asked us to do,” she said. “We can become the heroes. We can save the people.”
“But how?” he asked.
“They will show us,” Ariana said.
Jeff moved back to the truck. Slamming the door like he could shut them out.
A hand slammed against the hood of the truck. “You kids need something,” a man said.
She looked up. The man was dressed in western attire. His nose so large that it covered the middle of his lips and he had a back hunched like he suffered from scoliosis.
“We’re just here for some gas,” Ariana said. There was something about the guy she didn’t trust. “You new here? I’ve never seen you work this station before?”
The man laughed. “I don’t work here. I own it.”
Ariana was taken aback.
“He okay?” he asked, pointing to Bryant with his chin.
“Just a bit upset about our sheep.”
The man’s lips anchored on both sides of his nose. “Yeah, seen a lot of folks like that today.”
The mountains in the background were no longer mountains, just opened gashes in the earth. The cinders bled from the flattened topped. The other was completely pale.
“It’s been a rough day.” She jumped out of the truck. “We just need gas.” She went to walk inside. The pumps in Indian Wells weren’t equipped with the credit card slider yet, but advanced enough that she couldn’t pump without paying first.
“Saw you guys head from the Holbrook way,” the man said.
Indian Wells hadn’t been affected yet, only by relation the people couldn’t leave.
“They letting anyone through yet?” he asked looping his thumbs through is leather belt. The buckle was grander than anything Grandpa had ever worn. Turquoise stones rimmed the silver masonry and the leather seemed to tell a story she had never seen. Eagles diving, canyons and people.
She shook her head.
“Is that blood?” His chin pointed toward the back of the truck.
She didn’t like the guy. There was something about him that was distrustful.
“From the sheep,” she said.
Bryant crumpled further into the bed, curled up on the ribbed bed.
“You sure he’s okay?”
Jeff stepped out of the truck. “Everything alright?”
He didn’t seem as brooding as before.
“Can you go pay for the gas?” she asked reaching out her hand and card to him.
Jeff hesitated before he took the card.
“It’s fine,” she lied.
She watched as he walked into the trailer, looking back at her every second step.
“That your boyfriend?”
She shook her head.
“Protective, ain’t he?” The man grinned stepping closer.
“Wouldn’t you be after waking up to find all your livestock gone?” She tried to relax her posture.
The man shrugged, his shoulders barely meeting the height of his hump.
“You from this area?” she asked.
“You could say that.” He spat tobacco onto the ground.
Ariana dug the nozzle into the truck, pushing the trigger until she could feel the spray.
“Those are my mountains,” he said.
“Not much of a mountain anymore.”
“A mountain of dough.” He grinned. His index and middle fingers rubbed against his thumb.
Ariana nodded as she watched the numbers on the pump tick by.
“Where you from anyhow?” he asked.
“We’re from White Cone,” Jeff answered, jumping over the concrete median.
Jeff wasn’t even from White Cone. His family lived in Jeddito, which was basically Hopi land. The had both gone to school there from kindergarten to junior high and then switched to Hopi High because it was either that or bus it for hours to and from Holbrook.
Ariana could feel the warmth from his body against her back as leaned up against the truck.
“I told them fifty, that ok?”
She nodded. “That should be enough.”
“He sure acts like your boyfriend,” the man said, stepping even closer.
Ariana took a step back, her ass touched Jeff. She had always been proud of her ass. Many of her relatives and friends suffered from flat assess but she didn’t. However, she didn’t want it touching any part of Jeff. She quickly stepped forward, feigning a laugh.
“He’s like a second brother to me.”
The man stepped within whisper distance. “What really happened? I can see it all over your face,” he said. “That doesn’t smell like sheep’s blood.”
“That’s none of your business,” Jeff said, stepping between her and the man.
The man held his hands up like Jeff had held a gun to him.
“No harm, man. Just looking for news.” His hand fell upon Ariana’s shoulder. “Good?” he asked.
The image of a man grown into a massive bird flashed before her eyes. A beak snapped at the life before it, playing with the sheep before it broke every little neck. Nizhoni barked and the bird sped after her leaving a pile of bodies behind. A flash of light and a man shadowed before her. His body looked tired and hunched as he walked south away from the red door.
“No harm,” she managed to mutter.
The man walked away from them with a speed Ariana didn’t think possible. There was not a slide of leg like she’d seen in the Hunchback movies, just a smooth, steady gate before he disappeared behind the doors of the trailer. Though she thought she could hear him laugh as he walked away.
“That guy was creepy,” Jeff said.
“I think I know who one of the monsters is,” Ariana said putting the nozzle back in it’s resting place.