The Witchery of Flutes

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

After he fell from the third floor of the High Priest’s great house, Peelay lost track of time and never regained it. Even after he recovered, he couldn’t tell the difference between doing something for a few minutes or for a few hours.

He lost other things as well. A fear of heights that had plagued him since childhood evaporated. The gnawing hunger in his stomach faded. Even though his upper back had been broken in several places and healed into a misshapen curve, and his vision had been knocked out of one eye, his physical stamina increased tenfold.

Because he’d become a twisted and strange-looking man, adults avoided him and children stared. He had few friends other than Leena, the flute maker, who found him after his fall and nursed him back to life.

“Back in the Plumed Serpent days,” she said, dipping him a mug of thin soup, “you heard flute music all the time. Everyone played flutes, and some were so good it would steal your mind away. Crowds gathered for hours to hear the best players. That’s why the Masaw worshippers outlawed it, I think. Do you remember any of that?”

Peelay sat hunched over his soup mug, which he barely touched. He felt no hunger to motivate him.

“I remember someone playing the flute in the house where I grew up.” He raised his head to look at Leena’s face, then dropped his gaze back to his soup. “I think it was my mother.”

Leena picked up a flute and played a few notes. “I can’t do that here anymore. It draws too much attention. The warriors have already taken most of my flutes.”

Peelay picked up his flute and put it to his lips, but she stopped him. “No, you play too long, they’ll hear you.”

“Why do they hate flute-playing so much?” He flashed with anger. Not much made him angry, but he couldn’t understand how anyone could be offended by flute music. That’s like hating the sound of rain or children playing.

“They think it’s witchcraft,” said Leena. “They think it’s a way witches cast spells over people.”

“I’ll cast spells over them.”

Leena laughed. “You’re not a witch.”

“They don’t know that.”

Leena laughed again. She urged Peelay to drink his soup, then she lay back and stared at the ceiling. “My father used to go into the side canyons and play his flute and the kids would try to find him. The sound carries so strangely up there. Even when he sounded like he was right beside us, we couldn’t find him. When he got older, he told me how certain places in the rocks, places where you can hear sound from far away, would make sound go a long way too, and that’s where he would sit and play.”

Peelay imagined such places. He remembered finding places where he could hear even whispers from across the canyon.

The next morning, he climbed into the rocks above the great house and found a place where he could hear stonemasons talking as they worked and he played his flute. He played for hours with no thought of time, until he heard a man say, “There he is!”

Peelay started, but saw no one nearby. Across a wide glade rock that spilled over the canyon wall, he saw four Masaw Warriors, one pointing at him. He heard one say, “Get him before his spell gets you.” They came toward him with their fingers plugging their ears.

Peelay laughed at the men and he scrambled up and over the ridge and jogged away from them, not thinking of time or distance, until the day’s light began to fade. He found an overhang of rock where he could hear the yips of coyotes from far away and he played his flute until the midnight stars were high and he slumped over into sleep.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction

19 responses to “The Witchery of Flutes

  1. Another great Anasazi story. Loved the playfulness of the flute-player. Sorry for the late comment.

  2. I like how you set some things up here. The canyon, the legends, the whispers, the flute–it all has the feel of much foreshadowing for things yet to come. Good stuff.

  3. I really enjoyed that small story of Leena’a father that spurred Peelay on and the dialogue between the two flows nicely 🙂 Great story overall!

  4. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for The Witchery of Flutes « Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey [] on

  5. I know just a little bit about Kokopelli, the humpbacked flute player, from reading Tony Hillerman novels. I will be proud to place your book, once it’s out, on my bookshelf right next to his.

    You bring those distant tales to life again, putting flesh on long forgotten bones. You breath life into legend. This is an outstanding installment for your Anasazi Stories, Jeff. Well done.

  6. KjM

    Oh indeed. Music has been known to steal your mind.

    This story had the quietness of flute playing but the images painted so clearly I was right there on the rocks with Peelay.

    And I love, “That’s like hating the sound of rain or children playing.” It just stuck me as perfect.

    Well done.

  7. Your words draw the picture so vividly. Simply wonderful.

  8. You have a real gift for scene-setting. That was a terrific read.

  9. I enjoyed this tremendously Jeff! Enchanting to think of how a “twisted and strange-looking man” can become so nimble and elusive as “he scrambled up and over the ridge and jogged away” from the Masaw Warriors, strengthened by the beauty of his music.

  10. CJ

    This bewitched me. Must have been the flute playing…

  11. Jen

    Beautiful the way you draw us into this world. You must live there. How can you paint it so well, if you’re not there?

  12. BCB

    Ah. To me this is an analogy of my work week. I fall from the heights, crushed and broken, disfigured and stripped of desire for even the basics to sustain life, only to be revived and inspired by the siren call of home and all it represents at week’s end — the warmth and nourishment of a hearth fire, the sound of children’s laughter, the ability to simultaneously create joy and fearsome awe with nothing more, and nothing less, than the breath of my soul.

    Very nicely done.

    Raising a flute here, a toast in your honor. 😉

  13. soesposito

    I can see from the few snippets I’ve caught over the past weeks, that you are storyteller…that is your calling. I envy writers like you, really. I’m just getting to know the characters, but I already like Peelay a lot–his passion for music . And it’s so true, one man’s fear can start ridiculous superstitions. Fear is a powerful thing. Looking forward to the next piece!

  14. Native American flutes are bewitching. There is a large population from the Passamaquody tribe where I live. I love taking the kids to the dances. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Masaw Warriors were scared of Peelay. Another great installment.

  15. Nice work – interesting development of a culture. Feels like part of a much longer work!

  16. Great sense of place and culture in so few words. Inspiring.

  17. And so Kokopelli is born. Wonderful story! A man that most would have left to die – you took some things away from him, but gave him more than he originally had in return.

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