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A whispered breath skimmed across
the long prairie grass like a giant, invisible hand stroking the fur of a
silken feline. The screech of an eagle echoed through the valley as it dipped
and glided above the river. The rounded slopes of the bank rose above the
swiftly flowing water while small clumps of trees clustered nearby, but for the
most part, the land stretched uninterrupted toward the horizon.
In the distance, a faint rumbling
could be heard. It began to shake the earth as it drew nearer. A cloud of dust
accompanied the approaching barrage. Hooves pounded. Nostrils dilated. Eyes
reddened with fear. The musky stench of sweat mixed with the heat and dust.
The huge beasts moved en masse
toward the precipice. Thousands of shaggy heads bobbed in unison as the herd of
bison stampeded forward. As if in slow motion, they continued on, up and over
the sharp bank of the river into the ravine below. One by one, they hurtled
forward, oblivious to the fate that awaited them, as they toppled headlong to
Thomas shot up in bed, panting.
The T-shirt he wore clung to his body with sweat. It was not the first time the
dream had come to wake him.
He took a deep breath, disentangled
himself from the sheets, and rose to get a drink of water. No point going back
to bed now. He wouldn’t sleep anyway. He padded down the narrow hallway,
passing the half closed doorways that sheltered his sleeping children. Ducking
to avoid hitting his head as he entered the tiny kitchen, he paused for a
moment to look at the expanse of landscape beyond the window. Mostly flat, with
a rise of gently rolling hills in the distance, it was clothed with a carpet of
rippling grass except for the odd patch of dry fallow. Just like in the dream.
The early morning sunrise was just
beginning to filter in, reaching to shed some light in the shadowed corners of
the room. Thomas had managed to rent a house near the outskirts of town.
Correction. It wasn’t exactly a house. The realtor called it a ‘double wide’.
Okay, it was a trailer, but it was the only property for rent in Marshdale at
the moment. At least, that’s what the realtor had said. It wasn’t the nicest
place – rather dingy if truth be told – and it was farther from school than
Thomas would have liked, but it was still within walking distance. Better than
the overcrowded and dilapidated homes he’d been used to as a child.
But that was another time. Another
He was here now, for better or for
worse, and the people of Marshdale would just have to accept it. He was Thomas
Lone Wolf, proud of his Cree ancestry, and determined to do something about it.
As a community liaison, he’d worked with dozens of indigenous groups all over
the western provinces trying to set up business propositions. This time was
different, though. It was personal.
With practiced fingers he undid
his nighttime braid and shook out his hair, which fell well past his shoulders.
Even at forty, there was no sign of graying or hair loss. It was straight,
coarse and black, just like his ancestors’ - the perfect picture of a Cree
Now that he was awake he allowed
himself to replay the dream in his mind – at least the parts that he could
remember. Like most dreams, the initial clarity soon faded after just a few
waking moments. There were buffalo – always buffalo. And they seemed bent on
suicide, careening to their deaths before he could stop them somehow.
He was going to start writing it
down. The theme was too familiar; the mixture of fear and power too real. Some
people said you dreamt in black and white. Thomas wasn’t sure about that. He
also knew there was blood in his dream – and lots of it. The redness of it
stood out in stark contrast to the muted prairie landscape. And the stench.
That unmistakable metallic scent filled his nostrils to such a degree that he
could almost swear he still smelled it. Almost. But that was ridiculous and he
pushed the memory of the coagulating stains out of his mind.
With a sigh he turned back to the
cupboards and started readying the coffee. It would soon be time to wake the
children and get ready for work himself. Another grueling day of lobbying something
that should be rightfully his to begin with. Reality didn’t stop for dreams.
Rachel Bosworth pulled her car
over to the side of the road; gravel crunching under her tires, and came to a
rolling stop. She put the car in park, pulled the emergency brake into place
with a jerk, and stepped out of the confined yellow compact. She inhaled a deep
lungful of the late summer air, surveying the picture of pastoral serenity
Marshdale. This was to be her new
home. Surrounded by a patchwork of gold and brown earth, it was an oasis of
clustered houses and well established trees cocooned in a desert of wide open
prairie landscape. Stretched out to the horizon, the summer sky met with
“Not very big,” Rachel’s friend
Sherri noted, joining her on the outside of the vehicle. “You sure you’re going
to manage way out here all by yourself?”
“I think it’s perfect,” Rachel
said with a satisfied smile. “Just the change I needed.”
“Just the escape, you mean,”
“Maybe.” Rachel turned to her
friend. “Come on, Sherri. I’m feeling scared enough as it is. This is a big
move for me. Besides, you’re the one who convinced me to move out west in the
“Yeah, I know. But I meant for you
to move to Regina with Dan and me, not out to some backwoods hole in the wall.
They probably don’t even have cell service for Pete’s sake!”
“It can’t be as bad as that. The
hiring committee said Marshdale was a totally modern town with all the basic
“Yeah? Let’s hope so.” Sherri
shaded her eyes with her hand as she surveyed the town below them.
“Come on, Sherri. You’re my best
friend.I need you to be excited for me.
Tell me I made a good decision and that I won’t regret it,” Rachel begged.
“You’re right, kiddo,” Sherri
agreed, putting on her most encouraging smile. “It will be nice to see you more
often, even if it is a two hour drive.”
Rachel nodded. “What’s a two hour
drive compared to thousands of miles all the way back to Toronto?”
“Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet some
cute farmer and end up getting married or something,” Sherri shrugged.
“Not interested in men right now,
remember? I am here to become the best Kindergarten teacher Marshdale has ever
“Sorry. That was insensitive of
me. I know you’re still hurting over Rotten Ronny.”
“Who?” Rachel grinned, raising a
“That’s the spirit!” Sherri
laughed. “Who needs men, anyway?”
“Better not let Dan hear you
talking like that,” Rachel warned with a chuckle of her own. “Come on. Let’s
get going. I can hardly wait to get my stuff unpacked.”
“I can’t believe you brought so
little stuff with you,” Sherri observed, climbing into the passenger seat.
“I wanted to start fresh,” Rachel
shrugged, putting the small standard vehicle in gear and rolling forward.
“Besides, moving a whole lot of furniture and stuff seemed pointless. I’ve
rented this really nice little basement suite. It’s fully furnished. And that’s
what you’re here for, remember? I need your expert advice on what stuff I need
to buy in the city before school starts next week.”
“Now, shopping is one thing I’m
very good at.”
“I know.” Rachel nodded with a
grin. “It’s why I brought you along.
“Thanks. I thought it was for the
“Of course. That too.” Rachel
laughed again. She sobered quickly and glanced over at her friend. “Thanks,
Sherri. For everything.”
“What are you talking about?”
Sherri waved a dismissive hand. “I’d be some friend if I didn’t come to your
rescue when called.”
“I mean about Ronald. I don’t know
how I would have coped without you there.”
“I know, kid.” Sherri gave her
friend’s hand a squeeze. “That’s what friends are for. Besides, I’ll expect pay
back some day, you know.”
They were nearing the outskirts of
the village. A large carved sign by the side of the road said, “Welcome to
“I bet people live more freely
here,” Rachel stated. “It’s what I’m hoping for. The simple life.”
“People have problems where ever
they go,” Sherri noted. “It may look all peaceful right now, but I bet they
have their share of troubles, just like everybody else.”
“Yeah, like what? No cell service?”
Rachel asked, the corner of her mouth turning up.
“Now that would be tragic.”
“I know my life isn’t suddenly
going to become a bed of roses,” Rachel admitted, “But it just seems to me that
country living – the slower pace – has to do something to calm people. Make
them less artificial and – you know – less selfish.”
“We can only hope,” Sherri
shrugged. “Now come on, girlfriend. Let’s find that basement suite of yours. If
we’re going to unpack, make a list and get back to the city before dark, we
better get a move on.”
“Roger that.” Rachel glanced at
the hand sketched map that was on the dash beside her. She made a left hand
turn at the first intersection.
The interior of the church was
cool, quiet and dim. Just the way Pastor Todd Bryant liked it.He sat on one of the upholstered chairs in
the sanctuary, allowing the viscosity of stillness to envelop him like a silky
Sometimes he wished he could stay
in here forever, without having to go out there. The recently refurbished
sanctuary was a peaceful place compared to the world just outside its double
oak doors. When he had come here just a year ago, he knew the Marshdale
Community Church would be a place of refuge; a place to rest and strengthen his
own weary spirit. A place to hide.
Modern and well kept, the
Community Church had the appearance of comfortable affluence – a testament to
God’s favor. The folks who attended were proud of their commitment to the
Lord’s work in Marshdale and God had blessed them with material prosperity.
They required little actual input from the pastor. Just keep the ship running
smoothly, as instructed by the board, and everything should be just fine.
Perfect. His less than amiable
departure from his last church had left him feeling just a bit shell
shocked.He needed a place to hide out
for a while. As long as he followed the program. . .
Another soul sat alone waiting.
The room was dark, the slatted shades drawn over the open window. The only
light came from three candles burning in their resting place on the pentagram
table top. The air was rich with the heady scent of incense smoldering in the
small, intricately designed brass burner. The woman breathed deeply. Empty the
mind.Allow the inner self to emerge . .
A sudden breeze whipped into the
room, announcing its entrance with a slap of the wooden slats on the window
frame. It caressed the chimes hanging nearby before darting to tease the three
flames into a flickering dance.
She smiled. Yes. There was so much
to share; to enrich the lives in this town. There were many paths to
enlightenment, but ultimately they all ended one way. It was up to her to
release this narrow minded and stiff necked people to accept that.