Waking the High Priest

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey

“I will not wake him,” said the Owl Man.

“Who, then?” asked the warrior.

Both were the most junior and newest members of the High Priest’s house, and they were the only ones left on duty in the hours before first light. Both knew what happened to the last ones to wake the High Priest.

“Pok,” said the Owl Man. “Pok should wake him because he is in charge of protecting this canyon.”

“I will not wake Poke,” said the warrior. He knew the order: do not disturb the Chief Warrior.

“They must know,” said the Owl Man who had been with the High Priest’s house more than a moon longer than the young warrior.

“So who do we tell?”

The Owl Man’s eyes darted from side to side. “If we do not say anything soon, they will be the last to know. That will be worse than waking them.”

“Maybe we should wait until it’s visible from here,” said the warrior. “In case they want proof.”

The Owl Man eyed him. He has a good point, he thought. “You are right. We have not even seen this new star. We just have the runner’s word from the High House.”

“Runners do not lie. If he said he saw it, he saw it.” The warrior stood tall to emphasize his thumb-width’s height advantage over the Owl Man. “But maybe it will go away before it rises over the canyon wall.”

“I am not a skywatcher,” said the Owl Man. “I do not know these things.”

They stood quietly, both their eyes searching from side to side in the darkness, looking for an answer, a way to do their duty and not risk their necks.

The Owl Man sighed. He glanced at the orange flicker of the dying signal fire from the High House. The risk of not telling the High Priest about the unexpected appearance of a new star in the sky began to seem more grave than merely waking him. He sighed again.

“We must tell someone,” said the warrior.

“I will wake the High Priest,” said the Owl Man. He looked at the rim where he expected the new star to appear along with a sliver of moon, but he saw only the usual smudges of light. “I will wake the High Priest,” he said again. He looked at the warrior who held his gaze a moment, then nodded.

“And I will wake Pok,” said the warrior.

The Owl Man and the warrior both nodded, but they stood without taking a step in the chilly morning air.

# # #

Am I too obscure about the new star? Just for the record, it’s the Taurus supernova that exploded into the Crab Nebula, visible on earth as the brightest object in the sky (other than the sun and the moon) for about a month beginning on July 4, 1054. Imagine being down in Chaco Canyon and reports come in about this new star, but you can’t see it yet because its not risen above the canyon rim. Would you wake the High Priest before you actually saw it?

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Waking the High Priest

  1. KjM

    I had to smile at “…“And I will wake Pok,” said the warrior.

    The Owl Man and the warrior both nodded, but they stood without taking a step …”

    It brings to mind the last line and the last stage direction of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”:

    ESTRAGON: Yes, let’s go.
    They do not move

    A difficult situation for the two in this story. But, they do have the comfort of the roles in their culture: “Runners do not lie. If he said he saw it, he saw it.”

    Cold comfort, maybe. But it’s all they have between themselves and their fear.

    Again, you draw the reader completely into the story so well, I could see the two clearly.

  2. You aren’t being too obscure. The reader doesn’t need to know anything more than what Owl Man and warrior know at moment.

    Perhaps the others who awakened the High Priest did so for a silly, unnecessary reason–without proof–and incurred his wrath.

    Can’t imagine that the High Priest would not want to be informed of this. As one of them said, runners do not lie.

    So, I’d tell, but from a safe distance to the bed!

  3. G.P. Ching

    Interesting. I was not aware of the history behind the supernova but I can only imagine what it must have meant for the people of the time. I agree with John that you don’t have to know to appreciate the story.

  4. The early line, “Both knew what happened to the last ones to wake the High Priest.” threw me because it can also mean what happened to the people who wake up the priest last – which doesn’t make sense, but is relatable as an action these two characters would undertake, and is thus the first thing that comes to mind. Different wording like “They didn’t want to suffer what happened to the last guards who woke the High Priest.” or something like it.

    The name Pok/Poke is inconsistent early on.

    You’re not too obscure with the star. I didn’t know what it was and can’t imagine anyone else guessing it, but it doesn’t matter. For the purpose of the story we’re not even supposed to know if there was a light in the sky, and we’re worried they’ll get in trouble for making the wrong decision about it.

    Since I don’t know what happened to the “last” people who woke up the high priest, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d guess I’d hesitate, then get stuck in a hesitation pattern and be royally embarrassed when the nova became visible.

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