The Spirit – A Dystopian Wars short story

“My name, in the ancient tongue of my people is Bright Eagle Sun.

My grandfather was with the party which led Samuel Hearne to the copper mines and back, he hunted the caribou with bow and arrow, and killed the wicked Inuit with axe, fists and teeth. My father was born at the village near Bloody River. He worked the mine with his brothers and sisters, he met my mother there and I was born there. He was a good man until the wicked gin devoured his good, strong heart.

I still remember how the white men laughed at him, how they would kick him when he sprawled upon the ground, writhing in unearthly agony and pleading with the world-spirit to free him from his prison. They would buy him one cup of gin, then he would beg them for more. They would make him dance for it. Make him sing. Make him deny the spirits of the world and the forests and the plains and make him lick up the spilled liquor from the floors. Then they would buy him another cup.

He killed my mother and my youngest sister in a drunken rage. She implored him to go back to work, to dance and sing to the spirits of our world, not the evil spirit; gin, of the white man. He shouted and my youngest sister cried and clung to my mother. Then he took up my grandfather’s axe and the cruel metal bit into her body again and again and the blood flowed from her wounds. I was not there, for we worked long hours in the mine, but an old mother who lived nearby heard the commotion and went to help. She said that once my father had finished with his wife and daughter, he chanted the ancient song of death and took the axe to his throat.

I blame the white man.
Without his thirst for riches he would never have come to our land. He would never have hunted for precious furs, would never have hungered for the copper in the mountain, would never have come and devoured our land and our people like an ancient and insatiable demon.
I blame the white man.

In the fall following my family’s tragedy, the French began to attack deeper into Britannian territories and the men at the fort near the mine were marched south and east, back to the bay and the company’s army there. They left few white men behind with few guns; trusting that the brothers they had made masters over the rest of us would keep us in check. But one night, I stirred my brothers with a speech in which I called on the ancient spirits of this land, our home, and danced and chanted the ancient warrior song. I called to the land to strengthen my arms and my legs and to guide me in destroying my enemies. I told them that the white men were our enemies; that they had raped the land which we called home, and that they would do the same to us. Though they knew it, I told the story of my father and the demon that infested his heart and soul; a demon put there by the white man. But they needed no excuse from me.
In the night, we crept to the fortress and scaled the wooden Walls and set fires in the buildings and waited til the men and women and children fled from the flames then we set upon them, killing them as surely as they had killed the spirits of our earth.

I expected honour and reward when we returned with news of our victory, but the elders hung their heads and cried the keening wail of those bereft. ‘We have lost more sons today.’ they said, ‘For surely the spirits are with you no longer.’ They pointed at me and the headman said ‘Take yourself from here, you are a murderer and are dead to us.’
I tried to tell them why I had done what I did but they would not listen. They forced me out onto the cold plains alone.

I traveled for many years and found others like myself, people who knew what the white man had done and knew what price he must pay for it. At first I resented my people; hated them for casting me out, but I came to understand that I should not hate, but pity them for they were as much prisoners to the white man as my father once was.
On my travels I met my first love, a beautiful, strong woman named Uhanaka, whose past was formed by pain and hate, just as mine was. The French soldiers had raped her mother before her and killed her father and brother. She killed two of the French men and escaped into the forest where she lived isolated and alone.
We dreamed of a free land where the spirits were our only masters and where we could rebuild our proud families and raise a nation of free men. And we agreed that we must put to death the white men who would stand in our way.

Eventually, the French were beaten back and the Britannian companies took their lands and added them to their own until all of Canada was under Britannian rule. The Hudson Bay company was the largest and the strongest and Uhanaka agreed with me that we must strike at them to show the white man that we would not stand aside as they took our land from us.

She met with a tribe to the south of the bay and spoke to the people there about the white men. They told her that in the fighting the two sides had both killed theirs, that men had taken their daughters and their wives to their tents and fortresses and that the men who could fight were put to death. She asked them to join us, told them that we would ask the spirits to help us avenge their dead and promised that new grass would rise from fields of white blood.
They agreed.

We attacked at dawn. The sun’s first, blood-red rays soaked the grand house that the Hudson company had built at the heart of it’s lands; a great keep of stone with vast towers and encircling walls, like a new mountain had risen on the plain.
We entered through a side gate, I killed the first of the guards and Uhanaka killed the second. We were inside the keep before the alarm was raised and I heard the first gunshot which would have alerted all other soldiers inside to the danger.
‘We must find the gunpowder room’ I told Uhanaka, and she nodded and led the way down into the bowels of the keep.
I had performed the dance of strength of body and the song of strength of mind and had begged the spirits for aid in the hours before dawn so my muscles felt stronger, my heart beat mightily and my every sense was heightened so I smelled the gunpowder long before we reached the end of the corridor and the three heavy, wooden doors that greeted us there.
I paused to try and sense which door the powder lay behind but Uhanaka, urged by bloodlust and the relentless power of the spirits, threw open the first door and plunged in; the point of her spear leading the way. As she entered I had time to see four red-coated white men with their long guns and slender swords and behind them a stack of boxes, the one on top open and full of shining gold. This must have been one of the company’s strongrooms where coin was kept until it was spent buying more native land from other white men. Those guarding it must have that sole duty; even during an attack.
One fired and I saw bright blood spring from my beloved’s side, but she was not deterred and her spear pierced the heart of the one who had fired and drove through until it burst from his back and Uhanaka stood nose to nose with the dead man. The others wasted no time in striking at her and one, seeing me, fired into the corridor. The shot whirred past my ear and I dove backwards, into the room behind me.
This room was much larger than the other and had many shelves and a long walkway between them. Each was laden with goods, some, like the furs, I recognised but others did not. As another shot followed me into the room I backed down the walkway and around a corner and into a small alcove in which several curious boxes were stacked.
They were curious, not because of anything I could see or hear, but because of what they made me feel. As I neared them I felt their warmth and a sense of peace and fulfilment came over me. I got closer still and the feeling grew stronger. I reached out a hand to touch the box-

I stood in a clearing in a forest. A forest I did not know. I wore no clothes and carried no weapons. A wind began to blow, circling in from the tree line, spiralling towards me, but it was warm and gentle. On the wind, following its spiral, a moth fluttered. It flew to my forehead and I felt its limbs push into my skin, felt it bring its head down and touch mine. Suddenly I heard a voice, but this sound was not formed by lips and tongue and teeth, and it came straight into my mind. ‘Bright Eagle Sun,’ it said, ‘I am the spirit of the world and I will help you.’
‘How?’ I asked,
‘Through me you can bend the world to your will. I will see that it does as you ask.’
I felt a stab of pain in my head and saw a bright light which forced my eyes closed. ‘Open your eyes.’ the spirit commanded. I opened them and saw, again, the clearing and the swirling breeze. ‘Open them again.’ the spirit said. I did not see what it meant at first, but then I noticed a flicker on the edge of vision, as though a ripple on a lake had flashed the sunlight into my eyes, and saw the room in which my body stood, hand still on the box.

I forced open my other eyes, my body eyes, and saw the white men enter the room through gaps in the shelves.
I closed my body eyes and opened my spirit eyes, ‘Spirit!’ I called, ‘Hide me!’.
One of the men must have heard for he swung around his gun and made to shoot. But the other put out a hand and hissed a warning; ‘Don’t shoot here! That’s Sturginium there, no telling what’ll happen if you hit it but it won’t be good, I’ll tell you that!’ he said, his quivering hand pointing right at me.
They advanced and I watched them come around the corner. They stopped and the one who had spoken let out a deep breath. The other stepped closer to me and began to peer deeper into the gloom. ‘I could have sworn he came in here Bill.’ he said.
Bill, who looked relieved, shrugged and shook his head. ‘Maybe he snook out before we came in here?’ he said. ‘Either way, he’s not here now. Come on.’ He tugged at the other man’s elbow and they turned and left.

I waited for a few seconds before emerging from the deep shadow and noted faint lines on my skin which were swiftly disappearing, lines which matched the stone behind me. I swiftly walked to the door, being sure that there were no more soldiers, and peered through the gloom into the strongroom. There was a quantity of blood on the floor, but no bodies remained. I would have to find Uhanaka’s body so that it could be properly given back to the land. I would not have her subjected to the same treatment in death as I had seen countless others of my people endure; the burial and internment of the white man in deep graves and with hollow, meaningless words which the spirit would never hear.

My feet felt as though they never touched the ground as I ran through the fortress cellars and up into the main keep. Those of my brothers and sisters who had come with us to avenge our people were all dead. I saw many of their bodies on the stone floors of the keep alongside the torn and bloody bodies of the white men. Oddly, my people’s deaths seemed more peaceful and the small holes which broke the pattern of their flesh had not let much blood. In comparison their crude weapons had gouged great tears in the bodies of our enemies and it was their blood which mainly coloured the stones.
But my love was not amongst the bodies.

A shout from the courtyard made me turn and run. More bodies littered the ground; I could see that for each one of my people that had fallen three or sometimes four white men had had their spirits freed from the mortal world. The shouts came from a group of soldiers who were clustered in a circle and who jeered and whooped and kicked at something in the centre. I heard a yelp of pain and knew that it was Uhanaka’s. My love was yet alive.
Thoughtlessly I ran at them, but for all my stealth one of the men saw me. More turned and caught me up as I crashed into them. They held me tight and told me that they’d make me watch as they brutalised my Uhanaka. I fought against their grip but my body strength was not enough to free me. I closed my eyes and opened them again upon the clearing in the forest. ‘Spirit!’ I cried, ‘Give me the bear’s strength that I might fight for myself and my love!’
As I spoke I felt my body change and twist, the muscles in my arms and legs bulged and grew and thick hair sprang from my skin and my face stretched and an animal roar burst from my lungs, past my elongated teeth and into the face of my captors.
One let go instantly and staggered backwards but the other was slow and felt the savage fury of my claws across his face. I dropped to the ground and ran at the others who turned, too late. My teeth closed on flesh and I felt the liquid warmth as a wash of blood poured onto my face, heard the skin tear away from the bone and watched the man tumble away as I released him, his throat a ruin.
Another soldier with more control drew his sword, realising that guns would be too slow with me already on him. He slashed into my shoulder and the steel sliced through my thick fur and into my skin, drawing blood and a roar of pain from me. I whirled on him and slammed down upon his arm with my heavy paw. I followed my arm and spun into the next man, slapping him away and continuing to the next soldier.
The rage felt began to abate as the men fell one by one and their blood pooled around my feet. Finally, I alone was standing.
On the floor, where the men had gathered around her, Uhanaka cowered and weakly chanted protective songs. I lowered myself nearer to her and tried to speak but she shied from the deep, guttural rumble that the words became in my bear throat. I put out a paw and my love flinched away and a small scream escaped her lips.
In sadness and despair I backed away from her and tried to concentrate on my old body, willed the bear to leave me and let me go to my Uhanaka.
Finally I felt the claws begin to shrink, the hair retreated and my body shrank back to what it had been. I caught Uhanaka’s eye as I changed and saw the terror there.
Human again, I went to her and she accepted my touch, gave way to an embrace, let me lift her and carry her to the tree line where I briefly consulted the spirit and begged the gift of speed.

Our journey through the forest was a blur, I saw no single tree, no single clump of grass or fallen leaf, everything blended together to create a verdant green tunnel through which I ran, my love cradled in my arms.
I felt the presence of the spirit within me weaken as I ran and came to rest before it fled me entirely.
The clearing in which I stopped was very familiar. A warm breeze rippled the long grass and a leaf was blown along on it.
I lowered Uhanaka and took a moment to examine her body. The bullet had left a gouge along her side but that was no worry and would heal with the aid of an elder’s healing touch and a warm poultice. The danger was a thin wound made by the vicious stabbing of a broad dagger in her stomach. I covered the wound with my hand and closed my eyes on the worldly clearing, then opened them to the moth which I could barely see in a darkened and far cooler clearing.
‘Spirit,’ I said, ‘One last gift I ask of you. My heart belongs to this woman and she is gravely ill. Grant me the skills to mend her and I will sing and dance and sacrifice to you for ten days and nights.’
I heard nothing for the longest time, then a voice, like none I had heard before, whispered close by my ear ‘Do not sing or dance or sacrifice. I give gifts freely and require nothing in return. Sleep here with me. When you wake she will be healed.’
I fell asleep before my head touched the long grass.

I woke at dawn. I had never felt so clean and fresh and pure before, nor have I since.
Uhanaka was gone but she had left behind a token; a necklace that she had worn since we met, a necklace that I had woven and decorated for her. It was a clear sign; she had not just left the necklace, she had left me.

Alone I wandered through the wilds of my country. I avoided my own people, I avoided Britannians, mercenary French and Prussians and the Americans who often ventured into Britannian lands, with or without permission.
I ate what the land provided, slept in such shelter as I could find and left no sign than I was ever there.
For years I lived this way and all the time I longed only to see my Uhanaka, even from afar, even for the briefest moment.

I heard not long ago that she had found another to share her life with and that she had had children and that she had died.

Upon hearing this news I was distraught and did not know where I walked and did not care if my sign was seen, if I was sought or followed.
Eventually my feet led me to the mouth of a long abandoned mine, a copper mine far to the north-west of the warehouses and trade buildings and the burgeoning city of the Hudson Bay company. A mine I had not seen since I was young, before my life had even really begun.
No one had been there for some time; such a long time that I could not say how long.
The entrance was half covered by fallen rock and just inside the tunnel the wooden planking which held back the rock had begun to rot and weaken. As I walked I heard the stone move behind the wooden barriers, felt it pushing in, trying to reclaim the mine.
I walked to the end of the mine, pulled by some unseen force and a familiar feeling. As I neared the ragged face at the end of the long tunnel I felt warmth bleeding though the stone and saw a pale half-light illuminating the glinting rock. A feeling of calm and fulfilment came over me and I extended a hand to the rock-

I close my body eyes.
I open my spirit eyes.
I am in a clearing in a forest…”

—–

[From: General Hammond, Head of E270 Research, Hudson Bay, Canada]
[To: [CLASSIFIED]]

Tests into the properties of E270, also known as ‘Sturginium’ are continuing.

We have attempted to react E270 with many other naturally occurring elements here with mixed results.

I have attached a more detailed scientific document with this missive (though I am sure you will be happy just to pass it along to your researchers; certainly I can understand barely one word in five) which lists our current findings and the experiments that we will undertake in the next few months.

I have taken the opportunity to write to you personally on this occasion to report something which may interest you.

I am not tasked with researching the application of Sturginium to humans but I have heard rumours (though ‘rumours’ implies a sense that their verificacity is unsure; I would like to state that this is not the case) of a native Indian who came into contact with unrefined Sturginium during an unprovoked attack on the company’s headquarters.

The account has been confirmed by three surviving combatants and implies that this Indian’s encounter with the element granted him vast power beyond what we can currently imagine.
They agree that, whilst they were attempting to detain one of the assailants, this Indian came from within the keep and attacked them. During this attack he physically transformed his body into that of a great black bear and soundly trounced all of the men present, killing five of them.
One of the survivors also states that the Indian changed back into a man, picked up the Indian girl that the others were trying to detain and then ran faster than any horse into the forest.

You might question the belief that this activity was fuelled by Sturginium but two separate accounts give me utter confidence in my assumption. Those accounts tell of an Indian which accompanied another into the cellar strongroom, we believe that they were trying to steal the gold contained therein, but he fled into a storeroom whilst under fire. The two men followed him into the room and saw no-one leave it. At the back of the room were several crates of unrefined Sturginium and nothing else. No Indian. As the keep was under attack the men thought it best to assume that he had escaped somehow and go back to defending the company’s interests. I have taken no action against them as their testimony has helped us to realise a new development in Sturginium applications with humans.

It is my belief that the reason for the particular manifestation of the Indian’s powers under Sturginium stems from their beliefs in the spirits of their land an the power that they derive from chanting and dancing their strange prayers to their heathen gods. Their presence of mind and unflinching belief in these spirits gives the Sturginium a fixed and unparalleled conduit by which to access those parts of the brain which we have not yet mapped, but which seem most susceptible to alloying, however temporarily, with Sturginium.

With your blessing we would like to expand our remit to research and develop Sturginium applications with native Indians within Canada and, potentially, with our own people who have experience of Indian practice and religion with the hope of producing Sturginium enhanced soldiers for the benefit of her Britannic Majesty.

I anxiously await your reply, my old friend.

Gen. R. T. Hammond
Hudson Bay Company
Canada

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~ by ninjabreadmen on March 4, 2011.

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