Indian Ghost Song
Awake. Shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one, the boy hears in his head. He is half asleep. He rolls over trying to find comfort in this cramped automobile. There is none. No space, he thinks to himself, and it is as if time is an illusion. He looks out the window, a vast radiant beach and a cool, jeweled moon; it is almost dawn. They are moving southeast in a car along an old desert road. Inside the car is a mother, a father, a grandmother and grandfather, and a small boy. The boy in the backseat of the car cannot be more than four, maybe six at the most. The car is really cramped, and, truth be told, the grandma smells like cough drops and talcum powder. The small boy has normal brown hair, normal brown eyes, yet he knows he is not normal. He can feel things others can’t, or see things others won’t; he’s not sure which. The boy remembers watching television with his mother. His mother had asked him a question about the show that was playing on the screen. He can’t remember the question.
“The guy in the purple shirt,” the boy answered.
“Purple shirt?” his mother questioned. “The screen is black and white. There are no colors on that television.”
“Show me the purple shirt,” the mother said confused.
The boy got up and walked up to the television. The next time the guy in the purple shirt came on the screen, the boy pointed to it. The mother only saw a gray shirt.
And so it went for the boy, though not swimmingly; he was an outsider, a stranger. He didn’t necessarily get picked on a lot but he felt odd. At night he lay awake staring at the ceiling, counting stars. The insomnia would not abate, and sometimes the boy would tiptoe down the long, dark hall and whisper into his mother’s bedroom, though he did not like to do this.
The automobile turns sharply; there is a bend in the road. At the bend several cars are backed up. The car begins to slow; apparently there is an accident. The boy feels a strange presence; he has caught the fear. It is hard to imagine what happened. There is a wreck; the boy can’t tell if there are two vehicles or one. Whatever it had once been is bent and twisted, half turned over. It looks like a truck. Beyond the vehicles are what look like many bodies scattered along the road. As the automobile gets closer, the boy can see some of the bodies are broken and bleeding; the road is covered in blood. The bodies are bleeding to death. The boy rubs his eyes, wondering if he is dreaming, peering out into the breaking dawn. It feels like a dream, he notes. Squinting through the windowpane, the boy sees that the bodies are dead Indians. Native Americans. They are dressed in dirtied workmen’s clothes. As the car gets even closer, the boy can see some of the bodies are all mangled and mutilated. Vehicular manslaughter. Murder by machine. The car pulls up and stops. The boy’s father and mother are trying to ignore the fact that this gruesome accident is unfolding right in front of them like a poisonous lotus blossom. They won’t even make eye contact with each other or the dawn’s highway, but the boy looks right into the road, into death.
From the mangled bodies, someone lets out a cry:
It is a wailing of deep despair as if he were letting go of something he had held onto for a long time. His soul? Even with the windows rolled up, the cry sends shock waves through the car. The boy’s father fidgets with several buttons on the steering wheel, while his mother looks cautiously in the opposite direction of what is really a gruesome roadside attraction. The grandfather clears his throat, but no one says a word. They pretend it is not happening, except for the boy who will never be able to let this moment go.
There is a white, blinding light. Most would have said it was just headlights bouncing off enormous boulders in the distance, but the boy knows the Indians’ spirits have ascended. The blinding white light flashes. The wailing Indian has died.
The boy feels a whirling above his head, but he knows it is not physical or of this world. It is the Indian spirits. They warrant his attention. The wailing Indian, the one that just died, is panic-stricken. He is freaking out. He is running around the ethereal plane with a look on his face which says, I have not entered the spirit world. He is afraid. He runs toward the boy, surging, jostling the child. The boy tries to defend himself, but the Indian’s fear gives him great strength. The Indian is still panicking, a look of horror on his fearful dead face, his spirit in a fit of hysteria, raging around the other side. He buzzes the boy once more, their spirits melding for a moment or two, then splitting apart violently.
The boy flops down on the seat having what looks like a seizure. No one notices; they are trying to ignore the accident outside. Each family member trapped in his or her own bubble of trepidation, the car is silent; no one, not the father, mother, grandmother or grandfather, seems to know this is happening to the boy. He is alone. The Indian spirit retreats quickly gathering more souls from the highway, only to return to the car and the boy. The spirit is now, not just one spirit but many spirits, a collective spirit, if you will. The collective Indian souls once again blanket the child. The music and voices are all around him. They are swarming and teeming, overflowing. The ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind. The boy buries his head in his hands, hiding his face, but the Indians burst through. In a rush of confusion and frenzied trepidation, the ghosts of the dead souls of those Indians leap up into the air, and come crashing down into the boy’s soul. And they’re still in there.