The old man had said he could teach me to reach the nahual, the jaguar god that teaches the spirit dance. I almost cursed at him. Stupid old man, giving me trouble. Then he told me about the desert lines, the places where magnetic currents in the earth come up to the surface. Told me where to find a place where the spirit walker waited in the deep trance.
I gave him what he wanted from me, some herbs from my bag, a little money. Greedy old crow snatched up the money just like anyone else. But he marked on the map the place and time, early autumn in scrub desert. I didn’t thank him properly, but how could I? Life is what it looks like sometimes. An old snake with no teeth won’t bite.
I brought a girl, Sharene. Sharene had big bright eyes like mirrors that came from the First Nation. She said would dance and sing the song with me while I played the drum. I brought tobacco and herbs, some blankets. Brought wood for a fire. Brought black feathers and a brown leather book with a gold cross.
We knew when we got there that this was the place, the door to the night lands. The wind blew all the way up the hill, but on the flat top of the little table, there wasn’t a trace of dust or wind. Sky was clear and the stars were out just then, ten trillion eyes of light that must have known somehow, must have seen in a way that we don’t.
We made a fire up there, burned the feathers, burned a page from the book. Lit a candle from the fire’s last light and spilled the sweet wax on a dry stone. Sang the song and danced the dance. You’d have liked it, but I don’t tell you, do I?
One star fixed me just then, eye of god, alive with the distortion of time and distance. Sharene shivered, and I felt the connection turning inward again. Something made me blow out the candle, spill the wax in a circular cross. Four dots, one in each quarter. Finished, it looked like nothing, and I felt the end of the night come down, heavy and kind of mixed up bad.
Further away, the wind was kicking up dust. Night was black, stars dimmer beneath their grey blanket. Something burning in the desert, thin smoke rising in the dry air. Night breathed of time, the movement of bodies, living by dreams and visions. I lit a cigarette on cue, turning away, collecting the gear from around the fire, burying trash.
Sharene cranked the truck alive. Smelled like oil and gasoline, like a different kind of time, manufactured from the bones of the dead, time as a carbon-date product of decay. Dawn was lifting the eastern sky as we drove home to safety, dust falling on same old skin and bones.