20191119_lif_black_squirrel_ch10

The story so far: Mac and Wesu have come to the Meeting Tree, a magical untouched place in the forest that is the Heart of the World, only to see an army of machines and monsters bent on destruction heading their way.

n Chapter TEN Destruction

Mac stared to the north. There the living forest was being destroyed. Nothing was left behind but choking smoke and stone and people who moved as stiffly as if they were made of stone themselves. He remembered another old story Grandma Kateri told. In that story, the Creator first made people out of stone. But those stone people were giants who crushed everything under their feet. So the Creator broke them up and returned them to the earth. Then new people were made from the trees. And now the new stone giants were destroying the trees that had given birth to the people.

Wesu had turned around from his perch on Keeyii’s shoulders so that he was facing Mac. He reached out a hand and tapped Mac twice with it, once on each shoulder. As soon as he did so, the vision before Mac changed. The smoke and stone were gone. The forest rolled on like a green carpet.

“Then it hasn’t happened yet?” Mac said.

“Other places,” Wesu answered. “The Stone Hearts have not reached here yet. But it is starting to happen. Look there.”

Mac looked again. The forest was no longer endless. Now it was just the thousand acres of Grama Lampman’s Woods. There, to the north, he could see the edge of Plot 999. A road was being cut from it into Grama Lampman’s Woods. There were three bulldozers and a crew of men in hardhats. They were following a dozen dark shapes that led them into the forest. The dark shapes moved and danced around the men, who did not seem to see them. Those dark shapes were giant black squirrels.

“That’s not right,” Mac said. He felt angry. “They aren’t supposed to start cutting into the woods unless the Town Board approves it. That’s why we’re having the meeting tonight.”

“Unh-hunh,” Wesu said. “That is true. But once the trees are cut down, they can’t just be put back up again. The worst that could happen is that the development company will have to pay a fine. Then Tall Tree Estates can go ahead and be built.”

“But they’re breaking the law. Can’t someone stop them?”

Wesu looked at Mac and raised one eyebrow. “What do you think, Eagle Boy?”

“You mean us? What can I do?”

“What’s that over your shoulder?”

Mac reached up one hand and felt the rawhide string, the weight of the bundle holding the bow and its four arrows. He’d forgotten all about it. “This?” he said.

“Ah,” Wesu answered.

“But I can’t shoot people.”

Wesu smiled. “Don’t worry. I have a dozen of my people waiting there at the edge of the woods. Stone Throwers. They’ll take care of the humans. Once we wake them up,” Wesu said with a laugh, “they’ll just run away. They don’t even see the Black Ones. They are not men with bad hearts. They just thinking they’re doing their jobs. But my people can’t do anything against the Black Ones. Their weapons are no good against such powerful things made out of smoke and greed. If we try to fight them, those Black Ones will destroy us.”

Wesu sighed and then grew silent. When he looked up, there were tears in his eyes. “My cousin Mano tried to fight them. Now he lies unconscious in our big lodge with wounds that our medicine cannot heal. We do not know if he will live or die.” Wesu shook his head and then looked straight into Mac’s eyes. “The only things that will stop them are those arrows you have there.”

Mac placed the bundle between them on the broad-feathered back of the goshawk. He unrolled the bow and arrows and looked at them again. They were so beautiful, so perfectly made. Looking more closely now, he could see that the bow that Wesu had said was named Striker was shaped out of ivory. The arrows were tipped with shiny black stone arrowheads that were razor-sharp and chipped from obsidian. He lifted one of the arrows up. It seemed to throb in his hand as he held it. It felt like a bird eager to take flight. He knew that he would surely hit whatever he shot at with such an arrow. For a moment he believed what Wesu had said. He could do it. Together they would do it. They could drive away the men and machines. They could defeat the Black Ones. They could stop the cutting of the forest.

Then he shook his head. “We can’t do it,” he said. “Look! I have only four arrows. And there are a dozen black squirrels!”

NEXT WEEK: Striker’s song

Glossary and Pronunciation of Abenaki Words:

Unh-hunh (unh-HUNH): Abenaki word for yes

Mano (mah-NO): Abenaki name

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