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Here's another excerpt from Part 3 of MEET ME AT THE FALLS concerning Wiley, the youngest member of the Murphy family. Somehow, he managed to reach Snoqualmie Falls before his family...so there he now waits. Starving. Thirsty. And alone. Until he spots the reclusive Snoqualmie Tribe who have reclaimed their lands, and heritage, beside the mighty Falls.
And please, click these links to read Part 1 and Part 2 first!
MEET ME AT THE FALLS - PART 3 - SUBMERSION
Excerpt from "THE SON"
Clouds thinned above the Falls, allowing in the night sky. Stars. Millions of stars. Like diamonds pressed into black velvet. Wiley didn’t need to look up to see them. They burned in the glass of the Native American girl’s eyes. The one who shot the elk. And stopped her mother from putting an arrow in his heart. And left signs for him to follow. His savior. And now, his accuser.
"You…" Wiley started, but the girl jabbed a finger hard into his chest.
"No, you.” Her voice thickened angrily. "You killed Great Warrior."
“It wasn't my fault…" Run, Wiley’s mind told him. Now!
The boy backed through wet ferns into the redwoods. But the girl caught his sleeve. She tugged. The fabric mashed against his bee-stings, hitting a dozen pain buttons. Hot spots flared across his arm. His head felt bloodless, like he’d stood up too fast.
“You shouldn’t harm a living creature unless you’re going to eat it. All of it. Even the heart.” She advanced, he retreated. Tripping, stumbling. She held fast. Her unflinching gaze drilled into Wiley. “That’s what dad says. Animals have spirits. They walk the same ground we do. No one deserves to live more than another.”
Wiley sweltered with embarrassment. Sweat soaking through his clothes. His steps uneven in the rotting earth.
"But…I know it was an accident,” she said. “Not even our strongest warrior could kill a full-grown bear.”
When she let go, Wiley dropped onto his butt. Mist clung to the forest floor like inverted clouds.
“If I hadn’t shot that elk, he would’ve tried to kill you too.” She smirked. “Let me guess…Seattle?”
“What’re you talking about?”
“I bet you’re from a big city. Never slept outdoors until all this happened.”
“Detroit. Michigan.” Wiley got up, dusted off his knees. Pointless since dirt covered him head to shoes.
“Whoa…” Her brows raised, surprised. “That’s far. What’re you doing way out here in Washington?”
“Supposed to meet my family. Down there.”
Wiley pointed through the criss-cross of trees. Down to a distant gray smudge of campsite by the Falls. River fog crawled along the shore, fell with the water 270-feet to the pools below.
“Guess I got here before they did…I hope.” Hot sweat slid down his nape. His pulse felt off. Unable to keep the beat. Shaking, he turned to the young girl. She stood stubbornly as an old tree. “Can I come back home with you? I…don’t want to be alone anymore.”
A veil of rain hissed over the two children, droplets peppering the leaves and their heads. Cold wind blew. Still, Wiley burned red-hot. A furnace overheating.
"First you kill Great Warrior, now want us to give you a place to stay?"
“Just ’til my family gets here. They’ll come soon. They’re coming. I promise. Please.” Tears welled on Wiley's lids. Cuts, bruises and stings riddled his body. Leaves poked from his hair. The sight would have been comical, if Wiley didn’t look so miserable.
Pity, something the girl’s dad taught her never to show, slowed seeped into her heart.
“I’m Aiyana,” she said. “What’s your name?”
A smile bloomed on Aiyana’s face. Her wooden exterior softened before his eyes.
"Like Wile E. Coyote?!”
Her smile vanished.
“You’re kidding, right? Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote?”
Wiley looked away, embarrassed.
“They’re these two cartoon animals who’re always trying to kill each other. With, like, dynamite and cannons and stuff. So funny.”
“But you said it’s not good to kill a living creature.”
“Unless you’re going to eat it. And that coyote was planning to for sure. I’ll show you.”
Aiyana loped off into the forest, creating a wake of waving branches. A second later, her head parted back through, brows knitted. “Aren’t you coming?"
Without waiting for his reply, Aiyana ducked off toward home. She moved like a ghost through the redwoods. Her steps fell softer than leaves.
Wiley followed her with mounting difficulty. The world began wobbling beneath his feet. His vision split double—two fleet-footed girls lead him through the expanse of moss-dripping trees. Wiley felt his bee-stings heating up. Itching. Spreading across his flesh in swollen mounds. Each footfall sent pain bouncing through his body.
"We're almost there," Aiyana's otherworldly voice floated through the fog. Ahead, the village's bonfire glow silhouetted trees into tall, black columns that held up the night sky. Entranced by the warm glow, Wiley tripped on a row of felled tree trunks. But the girl caught Wiley, held him back.
"Wait, not yet," she whispered, an arm around Wiley’s chest. They crouched behind a twisted hand of roots digging into damp soil. "Let's wait 'til my dad's alone."
Wiley glanced down at the chopped tree trunks. They had been woven together with leather and ringed the entire village. A fence laying on its side.
"Won't he be mad I accidentally…you know…the bear?"
“Oh, he’s always mad,” Aiyana said. “Mostly with me. He'll get over it."
The children waited until the funeral procession returned and slowly trickled back to their teepees. The bonfire smoldered to ash, sizzling in the light rain.
"Okay," said Aiyana. "This way."
Quietly, Aiyana lead Wiley through her village under the wide-open, watchful eye of the moon. They passed teepees, longhouses, smoking cook-fires, tools for tanning leather, a practice archery range, a vegetable garden. Not a single piece of modern equipment or electronic in sight. Wiley felt transported back to a time before the modern world ever existed. He grew delirious, lost in thought of when or where he was, and walked straight into a solid wooden pole.
"Ow!" Only half a cry got out before Aiyana clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Shh! You're gonna wake everyone!"
Wiley stepped back and saw what he had run into. A totem pole. It stood dead-center in the village, as if everything had been built around this sacred symbol. It was colorfully painted and carved to resemble humans, animals and otherworldly spirits. Next to the totem pole, piles of curlicued shavings surrounded a freshly carved wooden trunk. Wiley stifled a gasp when he realized what the new totem was.
A bear's head.
“It’s a calendar,” Aiyana said.
“How?" Wiley quickly looked away from the bear to the other totems. "Where’re the days and months?”
“Doesn’t work like that. Our people mark important events in history from bottom to top.” Circling around, Aiyana admired the enormous totem pole. “My dad started this one after everything went bad. It's for the New World, he said.”
Wiley's gaze dropped to the bottom. There, he saw a winged bird, painted in white and blue.
“So that bird's the beginning?”
“The beginning of The End." She nodded slowly. "It's the Thunderbird. The beast of chaos. Marks the day the sky exploded.”
Aiyana pointed to the next totem up the pole. A rabbit.
“Then we were like the rabbit, timid, fleeing at the first sign of danger. Running from our cities, our homes, our Old World…”
Wiley’s eyes continued upward to a pink fish’s head.
“My dad and I used to catch those. It's a salmon, right?”
“For when we decided to return to the waters of our birth. To live off the land and Falls as our ancestors did."
Aiyana twisted toward the rumble of Snoqualmie Falls beyond the darkened woods.
"This waterfall has always been home to the Snoqualmie Tribe, the people of the moon," Aiyana began. "Legend says that we were born here and when we die mist from the Falls will carry our spirit up to the afterlife.”
“My dad always said there was nothing after death," Wiley said. "That when we die…we die.”
“He’s wrong." Aiyana returned her gaze to Wiley. He appeared woozy. Waving back and forth like a stalk of corn in the wind. "There’s an afterlife for us all. How can there be nothing after we die?”
Wiley gently rubbed his bee-stings. Something was wrong. They were on fire. So was his skin.
“Do you remember anything from before you were born?”
Aiyana thought about it. Curiosity turning to frustration when she couldn't. She folded her arms.
“It’s like that." Wiley peered up, hoping to see the stars and moon again. But the clouds had closed. A low, dark blanket. "I wish I believed what you do. Then I wouldn’t be afraid of what happens when people die.”
Wiley slowly surveyed the bear totem, wider than a redwood tree, taller than him. Its hollow, wooden eyes like caves that had no end. The boy stared at the bear…and she stared straight back.
MEET ME AT THE FALLS (PART 3) COMING SOON!