They are gone…
Kneeling, her chin on her chest, her arms loosely hung at her sides, her heart was saddened. It was a deep, aching, heavy sadness. As she knelt, the humming slowly quieted.
As the humming eased its grip on her, she found that her vision was still flicking back and forth, though at a slower pace. The color had returned and her senses felt.
It was easier now. She sat staring at a small point of ground that didn’t seem to change much between the flicks. One was of bare dirt between grasses, the path, and the other of underbrush and weeds but no path.
She look down at her thighs and saw the jeans she had on with her flannel shirted arms next to them. She hoped her knees weren’t dirty, knowing she’d catch hell when she got home if they were. When her vision flicked, she startled. A very rough, coarse material now covered her legs and arms. Looking at her chest, she saw the same and much longer braids. Reaching up with one hand, she touched a braid and felt the movement in her scalp, but the hair was black, rough and the braid was tied off with some sort of string instead of the rubber band she had used. The fear returned. Those weren’t her legs, body and hair!
To escape the vision of the stranger’s body, she looked up and back toward the clearing again. The slowed flicking back and forth gave her time to observe more of the details.
The shelter on the far side of the clearing was in the shadow of the trees, but it looked like it was built up on stilts. The door was open and the hinges would creak when the door was caught in a breeze. Not much else could be seen, though it did look small, very small to her.
Is anybody there? She wanted to look closer, but her vision flicked again and the shelter was gone, replace by saplings and pines. A quick glance down revealed her own denim-clad legs.
During the next flick back, she looked around the clearing. Where was the dog? The dog always ran out to greet her. She listened and still only heard the breeze through the trees, a sort of loud sighing that announced louder than silence that no one was there.
There, she could see the large stones circled around what was always a lit fire, but there was no fire. Scanning further, she saw light blue cloth next to red and white checkers. She stared hard through the tall weeds to see more, but could only discern wrinkles and twists and how the material seemed dirty and faded.
What a strange place for a dress and a table cloth, she thought, and then was struck with horror. No one would ever be there to greet her again. Not the dog, not the others and not the old woman.
The next instant, she was running, blindly bolting back down the path until she came to the powerline road and turned up the mountain. She ran up and up, cutting across the open until she came to the final steep climb before reaching her favorite place.
Panting, out of breath, she sat hard on the bed of pine needles and forced herself to take in the panoramic view now in front of her. The long river valley with its clusters of houses and businesses and school stretched out before her. Patches were lit by sun, others in shadow of the clouds overhead, clouds that looked low and touchable.
She sat for a long time. She was relieved that the flickering had stopped, glad to see her jeans only slightly dirty on the knees, and happy to feel her own soft, silky hair. She pulled the kerchief from her forehead the threw it as hard as she could, suddenly feeling that she looked stupid wearing it. Next, the rubber bands came off the ends of the long braids. She ran her fingers through her hair to unbraid it, and kept raking when she saw that her hair was now wavy from the braids. Finally, she pushed all her loose hair down her back. She blushed when she thought how stupid her actions were. No one had seen her, and no one would tell her that she never was and never will be an Indian.
The shadows were longer now, and it was time for her to head back home. When she stood again, her legs felt weak and unsteady. Picking her way down carefully, she kept her eyes on the ground ahead of her, not wanting to look around.
She came back to the place where the path had cut off from the powerline road and she narrowed her vision down to just the few feet in front of her as she walked. She didn’t want to see that path, didn’t want the flicking to begin again, and didn’t want to feel the sadness, the terror or the confusion return.
When the ground in front of her suddenly dropped off, she realized she had passed the place where the path had been and she stopped. Where was the path? She looked back up the powerline road, scanning the underbrush along its edge, not able to believe what her eyes were seeing.
There was no path!