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.