The Tainted Ground

osage-indian-tribe-children-papooseSomething very old and born of hatred was released that cool September morning.  It was 7:02 a.m. on the third of September, 2016 and as I lay in bed, awake but not yet ready to start another day, when without the slightest warning the ground began to shake.  The 5.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter 180 miles away and near Pawnee, Oklahoma shook the very walls of my Noel, Missouri home.  Little did I know then that the force which shook my bed was to be the beginning of a series of macabre events.

After what must have only been the fewest of seconds the earth around me ceased to tremble and everything was once again as it should be, or so I thought.  My very sanity was to be tested, and tested even to its very limits.

The day of the moving earth passed just as the others before it had done with little notice.  I soon forgot about the morning’s tremors and as the daylight transformed into darkness my thoughts were of a warm shower followed by a good night’s sleep.  The shower’s hot water caused the glass enclosure’s walls to become foggy and almost instinctively I found myself wiping away some of the mist as I wrote letters onto the glass.

I felt the hot water as it beat against my face and closed eyes. After what must have been only a moment I turned away from the water’s source and upon opening my eyes I found that the walls, floor and even my body were covered in a blood red liquescent substance. The air around me had a noxious odor and reeked with the stench of death and decay.  I wondered if I had somehow been cut but if that were the case how could the injury have gone unnoticed.  I quickly realized that the terrible red substance was not mine.

I opened the shower door, removed the towel from its wall-hook and began to frantically dry myself.  After most of the liquid was removed I directed my attention to cleaning the shower.  After some time I found that the shower was relatively clean so I turned the water on not knowing what to expect.  To my surprise and relief clear water now came from the shower-head.

Stepping back into the shower I rinsed the remaining red liquid from my body then noticed that some letters written in red were visible on the shower’s glass enclosure.  Had I put those letters there, I thought not as I gave the writing closer examination.  The letters were “Wah-zha-zhe.”  How odd I thought and what could the strange writing mean?  I was tired and scribbled the letters onto a piece of paper with the intent to research their meaning sometime later.

Sleep came quickly to me that night and in the quiet darkness the dream, the nightmare that inspired the writing of this story came to me.  While asleep I was visited by Ka’-wa-zi, Yellow Horse.  The Native American told me that he had once been an Osage, Wah-zha-zhe, and long ago his people lived in a village with many lodges on the land I now called mine.  He demanded that I tell the story of his wife, Ko-pa-Ka, Flashing Eyes, and his infant daughter, Me-tsa-Me, First Daughter.

Yellow horse told me that his clan, the Bear Clan, met the white Europeans in the early 1800’s and offered them friendship, food and lodging.  The white Europeans brought the Osage glass beads, metal hatchets and a terrible and unwelcome gift, smallpox.

Ka’-wa-zi said that his wife and infant daughter died of the sickness and he wanted the owners of this Osage land to know that his people once lived here.  If their names were not passed on he promised to torment me with terrible events which were yet to come.

I awoke early the next morning drenched in my own sweat.  I washed the sleep off my face and as I prepared for the new day I thought the dream was like many others, just a bit of fantasy.  However, something in me wanted reassurance so I called a friend, Rob.  Rob owned a small well drilling and water treatment business.

I told Rob about the red water and asked that he come to my house and perform some tests.  Rob arrived that afternoon and after an hour or so gave me his opinion.  He said the water tests found no abnormalities and attributed the redness to nothing more than a fluke, a random and unexplained incident.  I felt somewhat relieved but Rob could sense that there was more to the story than I had shared with him.

Eventually, and after some prodding, I told my friend about the writing on the shower’s glass, and about the dream.  He laughed a little then told me that my house was indeed built on what was once Osage land.  Rob told me that he was an avid collector of old Native American artifacts and after the ground for my house was excavated he walked the property finding many old arrowheads.  He surmised that at one time, and very long ago, a village may have rested on this very piece of earth.  Rob waved as he drove away and shouted, “You better do what Yellow Horse said.”  I returned his wave and laughed but my laughter was insincere as something told me that it was just the beginning of my encounter with the husband of Flashing Eyes and father of First Daughter.

As I slept that night Yellow Horse again came to me as I dreamed and boldly directed me to tell everyone about his wife and daughter.  The night passed and as the morning sun warmed my face I felt as though I was not alone in my bed.  I slowly opened my eyes and there crawling on the blanket, sheets and on my skin were hundreds and hundreds of spiders.

I leapt from the bed while frantically trying to brush the arachnids from my skin and out of my hair.  Gathering up the blanket, sheets and pillows I rushed to the door, opened it and heaved all of the bedding outside and watched as the pieces fell to the ground below.  The shower seemed to be the only means to ensure that all of the spiders were gone so I turned the water on and, although it was cold, I stood there wondering if this was the work of Yellow Horse.  As the water ran down my face I saw that the Osage words written in blood-red letters remained on the shower glass.

Days passed and strange and unexplained occurrences continued to plague me.  I found tens of dead and moldering bird carcasses on the grass, an unidentified thick watery and foul smelling substance began to creep into the yard and spiders of varying colors and sizes seemed to find their way into and onto objects inside my home.

The final night of the terrible dreams came when Yellow Horse last spoke to me.  He spoke as if from a far off place as he said, “I do not hate you and your kind for living on what was once the land of the Osage.  It is so that my people took the land that was once lived upon by those before us, and so it came to be that this piece of earth was later passed to your kind.  I ask, and demand; only that my people are remembered and that my beautiful wife and innocent daughter shall not be forgotten.”

I wrote this story the following morning not just for myself, Yellow Horse, Flashing Eyes or First Daughter but for those who called this piece of ground home before I came to live on it.  I also, I freely admit, composed this work hoping to appease the dead Osage of the Bear Clan.

The dreams have stopped, the birds now live in the trees and sky, the ground is dry, the words on the shower glass have disappeared and the spiders are now gone.  I tell myself that Ka-wa-zi now smiles and the life giving force of the Osage, Wa-Kon-tah has been satisfied, at least for now.

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