Friday, 19 March 2010

White Elephant's Graveyard - Fridayflash

Bit different this week, I have steered clear of the usual word acuity and just gone for a story. A weird one, inspired by the pictures.

The Coyote trickster turned to whisper in the ear of Geronimo.

"They have taken our name in vain and given it to one of their birds who spit death".

"So? This is not new to my ears. Black Hawk of the Sauk tribe has been personally cursed forever in this vein".

"But now they have set these silver birds to roost on our sacred ancestral lands. They lay claim to it yet again, but this time they mock us in doing so".

"How so?"

"They bury their dead on top of our own".

The Coyote sunk to its haunches and offered its back to Geronimo. Still uncertain, he climbed on and threaded his arms round the beast's throat and held on to the creature's dewlap. The beast sprang back up and they set off on their journey.

Geronimo was agog at what he saw. Every type of metal bird it was possible to conceive of, laid out along the desert like the pebbles of a sand painting. Some had spilled their guts on to the sand, silver droppings too dull to catch the sun's rays.

"What is this place?"

"The soldiers call it the Bone Yard".

"But bones are not made of iron. Guns, rifles they are cut from metal".

The coyote brushed at its ear with its paw. It might have been take for the gesture of a shrug, only he proceeded to then tap the ground. Geronimo understood and lay with his ear pressed to the ground. There he could hear the true bones, of his people and the prey they hunted asleep in the desert sand. But beneath that even, the cries of older spirits. The bactrians and bison, wapiti and sloths lying so far down, no sandstorm could ever reveal them. They were protesting the weight pressing down on them. Talons and claws around their throats and gullets.

"They say they are Tomcats, Eagles, Hornets and Nightingales, but they are no creatures we recognise. They profane our resting place and they challenge your naming of things. They seek to usurp us all. To take our land once again. To strip us of our landmarks so we no longer know where we are".

And Geronimo was struck by a vestigial rage. The old warrior spirit was rising in him once again, in this desiccated land.

He rode on the ghost of his war steed and consulted Cochise. The latter told him of his time in captivity when the pale faces tried to instill in him the myths of their mortal god. He related a tale they told him of a tribe who marched around a city wall seven times playing their pipes of war and shouting, so that on the seventh tour the walls shattered and fell away to the ground.

"This is what we must strive for Goyaale".

"But metal is harder than flesh, bone and adobe walls".

"Indeed. We have to summon beyond the Apache world. I call for a global pow wow".

So medicine men communed with shamans. Shamans conjured necromancers. The voodoo men couldn't quite conceive that it was metal birds rather than dolls of men that were required. Smoke signals billowed around the underworld where their message could not be seen above ground. Cold corpses packed sweat lodges, while the drums sounded their sonorous call. Animal familiars and totems pricked up their ears. The spirit plane was alive with hubbub and intent. From Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan came the dead. From Somalia, Grenada, a great host of spirits churned and writhed.

They beat their bloodied hands, their ectoplasmic stumps, against the soft earth, the arid desert sands, the stone-sowed plains. They pumped their upturned palms, shook balled fists and waved magic sticks. Their pent up energies bored through the foundations of mountains and hitched rides along river beds, so that no ordinary mortal had any sense of their uprising. They were whispering their incantations into the very rock as they sought to move at the pace of a grain of sand. Linking arms, fusing with the web of the rock, gradually they formed the most perfect of circular chains around the earth's belly pregnant with their fury.

And a great crackle of energy surged and charged around the veins of Mother earth. Electrifying her, she shuddered and held out her wrists, like a penitent or a suicide. But she kept drawing her arms up towards her own surface, disinterring her own resting place. As she broke clear into the daylight, it was clear that the Spider Grandmother actually had eight limbs and each was raking up the ground of the desert. The metal birds were shaking and quaking before her terrible grip, pulling up the desert floor like a rug that need beating for dust. The ground was shaking with just such a resonance, that the birds' own bodies started humming and cracking. She had set their song inside their own skeletons and they snapped and collapsed in on their own metal bones.

And when it was over, the air was still and silent once again. A gentle wind blew the sand to cover up the tracks, though the birds had their wings and guts plucked irreversibly from them. The man from Hollywood had encountered no trouble in journeying to keep his appointment. But as he surveyed the rental wares that were beyond repair, he just shook his head. "It ain't that kinda movie" he said, stubbing a cheroot out under his leather boot. "It's a patriotic one where we win". And he climbed back into his Jeep Cherokee.


Carrie said...

I liked this voice. I enjoy ethnic tales told in an authentic dialect and cadence. But aww, the end? It wasn't real? Gah. You got me. XD

Mark Kerstetter said...

Just a story, huh?

I loved the end. It justified all the "weirdness" that came before.

Cascade Lily said...

I for one appreciated the focus on story this week - and what a story! And with a gotcha at the end too. Some great word choices throughout - especially love dewlap.

Marisa Birns said...

The gotcha got me! And I laughed that it was a Jeep Cherokee.

Really loved this. The voice, the "weirdness", the words, the "It's a patriotic one where we win."

Quite the storyteller, you.

G.P. Ching said...

I think this style suits you. Well told story and I didn't see the twist coming. I found one small typo -4th line down- I think you mean "sacred ancestral". My favorite character was the coyote. Nicely done.

Lou Freshwater said...

Oh, you can take the writer out of the language but you can't take the language out of the writer. Or something like that.

Might be more plot and less wordplay, but still has your sensibility which is a relief for me at least.

"Every type of metal bird it was possible to conceive of, laid out along the desert like the pebbles of a sand painting. Some had spilled their guts on to the sand, silver droppings too dull to catch the sun's rays."

I mean, that's worth triple the admission price, just that alone.

As for the ending, twists are not my favorite. But that's just my bias for character over plot, which in not necessarily a good thing.

PDAllen said...

I dig Coyote stories. Of course, this is different from the traditional Coyote Old Man stories. But I love what you have done with these American Indian icons.

One nit, shaman is not formed from the root man, it is Siberian in origin. The plural should be either shaman or shamans.

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks for the heads up Dale. Will amend. (Influence of naff 90's band "E's Are Good" The Shamen!

Chance said...

I really like the idea of this, and it was a well woven tale.

Just one small thing, I did find the line "Global pow-wow" a bit jarring. I think its the word global - anyhoot thats my two pence

Good Stuff

David Masters said...

Like Lily, I enjoyed the story focus. And anything about a coyote will always have me instantly hooked.

Skycycler said...

No bones to pick with this Marc. Great crackles of energy surging through this, pinballing of of your clever prose. I loved it. What a fantastic read.

Diandra said...

Really liked it. Old and new bones, birds... all mixed up together. Fascinating idea.

Linda said...

Fabulous read. And what Lou said. Fave line I wish I'd written: "Electrifying her, she shuddered and held out her wrists, like a penitent or a suicide."

I've seen one of these old graveyards, they are eerie out in the desert...

Laura Eno said...

Terrific story, full and rich with your distinctive style.

Deanna Schrayer said...

"Every type of metal bird it was possible to conceive of, laid out along the desert like the pebbles of a sand painting." Love, love, love this line! Indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story, was entralled, completely engrossed in this world, until that twist ending. I usually love a good twist at the end, but this one, as creative as it is, left me saddened - I wanted so much to believe it all!
I especially appreciate that I didn't have to look up even one word in the dictionary this week. :)
Thanks for a great read Marc!

peggy said...

Entrhalled, engrossed--good words to describe how I read this one. I always enjoy the mystical, and I liked how so many different sorts of spectral types united to overthrow the menace.

Laurita said...

Coyotes make excellent characters. Some great phrases in this, and the Jeep Cherokee was a nice touch.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

I really enjoyed this story in so many ways. The coyote was great and the Jeep Cherokee was perfect - play on words/characters. I found this story very interesting in the details. I felt like I was learning about a secret culture.

I still needed to look up a few words, but that makes me happy.

In a word - fascinating!

Amy J Taylor said...

Very clever use of language made this flow beautifully. Almost had a poetic quality about it. An interesting and totally engaging tale.

ganymeder said...

This was so clever! What an imaginative tale.

Anonymous said...

Great writing, and a great read. Brilliant ending. Thanks

Cathy Olliffe said...

The Hollywood guy in his Jeep Cherokee is just another way that native American heritage is stepped on and bastardized for whatever weird gain 'the white man' wants to take. First it was skins and land, now it's their spirit world for entertainment purposes.
Thought-provoking, beautifully written, poetic and interesting. And, like David says, anything with a coyote (or a Jeep) in it has my attention.
Nice job.

Sulci Collective said...

Thank you all so much for your very kind words.

I have to admit to feeling slightly non-plussed (though still very grateful) by the warm responses you've given it, since this is so far removed from my normal writing. It was more of an idle curiosity to see if I could write something strictly telling a story, without much in the way of layering of meanings which is what I normally pursue.

So thank you all again and I'm going to have to think about what next!

mazzz in Leeds said...

It's not *that* far removed from your normal writing. The language, for starters, was beautiful as ever.

"He rode on the ghost of his war steed" - this snippet will be with me for a while, and I might have to one day turn the mental image it has given me into a story of my own.
I shall of course ensure to credit you appropriately in the relevant blog post :-)