An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
Nuva lived like a cave-dwelling cat in the deep antechambers of the great house of the High Priest. Her white skin and albino-pink eyes felt a healing power in the darkness. She could see in the faintest of light and avoided brightness as if it would cauterize her soul.
Between the light and the dark came Chumana, the private fortuneteller to the High Priest. In open court every afternoon, Chumana sat draped in turquoise and copper bells, her face hidden behind a wicker mask woven with feathers and cotton fibers and disks of ocean shellfish. The High Priest called her the Goddess of the Future. He never asked questions of her, nor did she speak, in public. But she heard everything said in audience with the High Priest. Afterward, he would often ask her opinions. And just as often, he would ask if the albino woman had said anything.
“What do you think of Pok’s story?” the High Priest asked.
Chumana had removed her costume and wore flowing cotton robes dyed deep ochre red that looked black in low light. She painted her face the same color and powdered white around her eyes. The High Priest had never seen her any other way. She liked that.
“The fear he says his warriors have of the mysterious flute music in the canyons is his fear,” she said. “He thinks it somehow means the loss of his power. But he has much more to worry about than a flute player stalking him in the twists and shadows of the side canyons.”
“What’s that?” the High Priest asked.
“Something big that I don’t yet know. Pok’s weakness is what he does not allow himself to see. Sometimes I think it is his own warriors, sometimes the invisibles — the cleaning women and stonemasons and orphans. I will see it clearly soon. Before it happens.”
“What does the albino woman think?”
“She says he needs more tsimona plant.”
The High Priest nodded. He, too, thought Pok needed more medicine. He had been too agitated and distraught lately. “Tell her to make it and I’ll see to it that he takes a double portion every time he sees me.”
* * *
After his daily council with the High Priest, Pok began to feel hot and lightheaded, the world spinning wildly with every turn of his head. He staggered, but refused the help of hands offered by his closest warriors. He lurched toward his sleeping quarters where he threw up into his night pot, but couldn’t lie down because the world spiraled and he couldn’t make it stop.
On his hands and knees he rocked to the rhythmic motions of a rainbow that danced in his mind until he recognized the sounds of flute music echoing in a narrow canyon, against the walls of his room, inside his skull. He saw the flute player hiding in the shadows, his back to Pok, yet somehow watching, his eyes as piercing as the screeching high notes that came from the crumpled man’s flute.