“So Class,” Michael said to his Introduction to U.S. History 101 class, as he fixed his eyes on the clock at the back of the room, desperately trying to will the clock to count down to the end of the period. “Did Abraham Lincoln fight the Civil War to abolish slavery? Or to preserve the Union?”
“Professor?” a female student in the front row asked, one of only two students sitting in the front row. Michael long ago discovered a direct correlation between grades and the seating chart. Well, at least he had two students actually interested in U.S. history.
Michael glanced at his seating chart. “Yes Mandy?”
“We covered this material last week,” she said.
“We did?” Michael flipped through his lecture notes, trying to remember his last lecture to the class.
“We were supposed to read the chapter on Reconstruction for today’s class,” the student added.
“Oh yes. So sorry,” Michael replied. “Don’t know what I was thinking.” Several students in the back snickered. Michael knew perfectly well what he was thinking. Red Tara sat perched on the window sill of the history lecture hall window on the second floor of Denny Hall, open thanks to another gorgeous Seattle spring day. The students saw a strikingly colored red and green macaw parrot, with a pure white face scored with zebra stripes of tiny black feathers. Michael saw a stunning six foot tall red skinned Amazon goddess with four arms and a long bow slung over her shoulder. A red skinned Amazon goddess only partially clothed. In Michael’s defense, any red-blooded male history professor in similar straits would have difficulty concentrating on his lecture notes.
“Reconstruction. Oh yes. Reconstruction. . .” Michael glanced at the clock before his eyes strayed back to Red Tara. He could feel sweat beading on his forehead. Michael became a minor celebrity at the U Dub when Red Tara started flying around the campus following Michael between his office and his classes. Some days even Margarita scampered along as well. Students became to call Michael the pied piper of the U Dub, or Doctor Dolittle behind his back. Michael did notice that women students began to smile at him more often, and even stop him for conversation as they passed on campus. Red Tara would perch on top of campus buildings like a gargoyle and wait for Michael to finish his lectures, or like on this day, sit on an open window sill.
“It’s started!” a male student at the back of the hall shouted, jumping to his feet.
“Reconstruction?” Michael responded, confused. “Wait. What’s started?” he asked as students scrambled to their feet.
“Deportation Police are moving into the city. In force,” the student said, holding up his tablet. Local news video on the screen showed masses of black clad Deportation Police goons surrounding Seattle Police Department headquarters downtown. “The regime nationalized the city police!” the student cried out. Anyone still sitting jumped out of their seats and surrounded the student with the tablet, trying to get a glimpse of the news broadcast on the slab.
Red Tara squawked, flapped her wings, jumped out the window and disappeared into the sky.
“Reconstruction. . .” Michael whispered, and closed his lecture book.
“They’re rounding up the city police and detaining any cops that refuse to change their blue uniforms for black jumpsuits. They’ve occupied City Hall. The mayor is in hiding and calling on the city to resist this federal incursion,” the student continued, attempting to explain the developing situation as students yelled questions at him.
“Class dismissed,” Michael softly said, not sure if the bell rang to end the class. It was clear his students no longer cared about Abraham Lincoln or Reconstruction. He thought to say something about the next class assignment, but realized no one was listening to him. The room became a cacophony of incoherent shouts and questions yelled at the man with the tablet, while the man with the tablet tried to concentrate on following the news broadcast. Shouting and the sound of running feet in the hallway outside the classroom door competed for attention with the shouting inside the classroom. Michael gathered his lecture materials and dashed out the door. He wanted to get back to his office so he could call Charlie at the bird store to get an update on the underground Seattle expedition.
Michael ran out of Denny Hall and smack into a line of black clad Deportation Police holding nasty looking machine guns, almost dropping his books and lecture notes. An officer armed with a side arm and a magic harpoon stepped forward to confront Michael. Tall. Sallow face and skin. Long stringy black hair. Sunken black eyes. A laxsa. “Papers!” he ordered. Michael held out his lecture notes.
With a swipe of the magic harpoon the laxsa knocked Michael’s lecture notes and books out of his hands, scattering them across the lawn. “Does this look like a circus to you? the officer asked Michael. Michael shook his head. “Then why are you treating this like a joke?”
“You asked for my papers,” Michael replied. “Those were my papers from the class I teach.”
The goon swung the magic harpoon and clocked Michael across the side of his head. Michael screamed in pain as his knees buckled and he fell to the ground.
“Show me your campus identification!” the goon yelled at him. Michael struggled to his feet, the side of his face covered with blood. He jammed his hands into his pockets, searching for his wallet.
“I must have left my ID in my office,” Michael tried to explain. He froze in terror as the goon lowered the magic harpoon.
The harpoon fell to the ground. It dawned on Michael that an arrow stuck out of the goon’s forehead. The goon toppled over backwards, a stream of blood running down his nose.
One of the other Deportation Police goons raised his machine gun. With a thud, another arrow pierced his skull and the point stuck out the back of his head. The goon spun to the ground, firing off a burst from his machine gun as he fell. The burst of bullets cut down three Deportation Police goons standing next to him.
Michael grabbed the magic harpoon and pointed it at the remaining cops. Several collapsed to the ground, dead. The last two goons standing turned to run. One stumbled face first onto the sidewalk with an arrow sticking out of the back of his head. Michael realized that Red Tara stood next to him, bow in hand as she nocked another arrow into place. The last goon spun backwards onto his back when a black dervish with steel claws bounded out from the corner of Denny Hall and slashed his throat, separating his head from his shoulders. The goon’s head rolled down the sidewalk to stop at Michael’s feet. Back arched, fur standing on end, Margarita walked up to Michael and rubbed her head on his leg. Students gathered around the battlefield and stared at the bodies in stunned silence.
Michael stood frozen in shock. Holding her long bow at the ready, Red Tara grabbed Michael’s arm with one of her extra hands and shook him to break him out of his stupor. “Snap out of it!” she ordered. “Take the magic stick. This would be a good time for us to leave.”
Michael mumbled something about his books and lecture notes strewn across the lawn.
“Never mind that!” Red Tara insisted. “We have more important matters at hand.”
Holding Michael’s arm she dragged him down the sidewalk away from Denny Hall. Heading back toward Michael’s office, a line of Deportation Police strung across Red Square blocked their unfettered retreat to the Suzzallo Library. The espresso cart lay broken and smashed by the steps to the library and the bullet riddled body of the barista lay in a pool of blood on the red brick.
“Ah, fuck!” Michael exclaimed. Running his fingers through the blood on his face, he drew red lines of blood across his forehead and chin. Screaming his best impersonation of a war cry recalled from any number of old John Wayne movies, he lowered the magic harpoon at the goons and charged. Three goons to his left toppled to the red brick, dead. He turned to face two goons to his right, but as he pointed the harpoon an arrow pierced one goon’s head and planted itself in another’s skull. They fell to the pavement dead. The black steel-clawed dervish Black Tara separated the heads from their bodies of the last two goons standing.
“Run!” Red Tara commanded, and they sprinted around the library to the door leading to the subbasement and to Michael’s office.
Michael slammed his office door shut and bolted the lock, then pushed a file cabinet against the door.
“How long can we hold out?” Michael asked. “What if they decide to come after us?”
“We are safe here in this space,” Red Tara replied. “No extra precautions are necessary.”
“How is that?” Michael asked.
“We exist in a different dimension here in this space. The ghouls could break down your door and enter this place, yet they would not be able to see us.”
“Why can’t we exist in a different dimension in the real world? A different dimension without Deportation Police and cannibals and witches?”
“That kind of power does not exist. This is the real world. Unfortunately the real world is more complex than you might like.”
“Why didn’t I take that tenure track offer at Beuhler College?” Michael asked, just for the sake of asking.
“What is a Beuhler College?”
“A little Baptist College down in Southern California. They offered me a tenure track appointment for chrissakes.”
“That was not meant to be,” Red Tara replied.
“At least we have a magic harpoon again. That was some nifty work with that bow,” Michael said. “How did you ever learn to be so good with a bow and arrow?”
“There is nothing to learn.” Red Tara gave Michael a puzzled look. “Firing a bow comes as easy to me as seducing a man. That is what I am.”
With one hand she took the bow off her shoulder and placed it next to the door. Another hand swept books and papers off Michael’s desk. A third hand took hold of Michael’s belt and pulled him to her. She lay back onto the top of the desk. Her fourth hand pulled Michael down on top of her. She kissed him. Her tongue slid into his mouth. Then all four hands removed Michael’s clothing. Michael’s hands found Red Tara’s breasts. Margarita curled up on her sleeping mat next to the desk and hissed.
“Two of the Taras have answered Blue Tara’s call,” Kinqalatlala said.
“I have a large number of laxsa at my service,” Hamatsa replied, clearly unhappy with what he watched. “But their numbers are not inexhaustible. This is not our only fight. We are stretched thin by the resistance. It is imperative that the Taras be stopped. Whatever the cost.”
“Yes master,” Kinqalatlala replied.
“If more Taras join the resistance our position here will become precarious. We have control of the city police, and once we capture the mayor we will control the city government. We need to secure the campus and root the Taras out of their hiding places. I’m putting you in charge of this operation,” Hamatsa told Kinqalatlala. “Use whatever force is necessary. Start blowing up buildings if that’s what it takes!” Hamatsa yelled at his lieutenant. “I want the man with the parrot brought to me in chains! Is that clear?”
“Why are you still standing here?”
Kinqalatlala saluted, turned, and ran out the door.
When Michael regained consciousness he found himself sitting naked in his office chair. Red Tara stood on one leg in front of him, smiling. Her right foot rested against her left knee. She stood completely naked. Michael stared at her brilliant red body, then jumped out of his chair and threw his clothes on as quickly as he could.
“Shouldn’t you get dressed? Or something?” he asked, his face flushed. Not moving, Red Tara continued to smile at him.
Michael panicked, recalling the events of the afternoon. “What time is it?” he wondered aloud. “Oh God! I need to call Charlie. Find out what’s going on.”
Michael picked up his desk phone off the floor. The line was dead. He slammed the receiver down and fumbled for his cell phone in his jacket pocket. A big red ball where the signal strength bars should be. No cell phone service. He flipped his computer on. No internet service. “Well, that’s just great!” he exclaimed. “What do we do now?
“We wait,” Red Tara replied. “Things will happen when they are meant to happen. Our numbers are too small. We can not take on the forces of the Winalagalis just by ourselves. We need help from the other Taras.”
“So we just sit here?” Michael replied.
“We are safe here. We wait for Blue Tara and your friends. We wait for the other Taras.”
“I’m not good at just sitting and waiting.”
“Neither am I,” Red Tara said. She stepped up to Michael and put two arms over his shoulders. She pulled him to her, sticking her breasts in his chest. She licked his face and his lips. One of her other two hands undid his belt while another slid into his pants. Michael felt his body tense.
“Just relax,” Red Tara said. “You have nothing to fear from me.”
“I’m trying to relax,” Michael tried to reply, as Red Tara’s tongue slipped between his lips and found his tongue. His body tingled as if from an electric shock wherever Red Tara’s body touched his. He lost all sense of touch and feel. He felt his body melting into Red Tara’s body. Finally he lost consciousness.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jean pull the 45 Smith and Wesson out of her holster. She pointed the pistol at Hamatsa and pulled the trigger. “Go to Hell!” Jean screamed. A huge red hole appeared in the center of his forehead before I heard the gunshot. The impact flung him backwards against the wall of the longhouse, where he crumpled to the ground.
The shaman appeared out of the darkness of the longhouse holding a magic harpoon and pointed it at Jean. I screamed, “Watch out!” I threw myself at Jean to try to knock her out of the way of the death stick. I was too late. Jean dropped her pistol as she collapsed to the ground. I screamed again as I grabbed the pistol off the ground and swung around to fire at the shaman. The bullet struck his chest and knocked him back onto the ground, the magic harpoon flying out of his hands and bouncing off the wall.
Surrounded by the grizzly bear dancers and the men with the lances, Kinqalatlala walked up to me. I pointed the pistol at her chest. She put a hand on my shoulder and pulled me to her until the nozzle of the 45 pressed against her naked skin.
“Pull the trigger,” she told me calmly. I couldn’t speak. Her penetrating black eyes hypnotized me. “Pull the trigger,” she repeated. “Know the power of death.” I felt my will succumbing to hers. My finger tightened on the trigger.
“Do not shoot her!” I had completely forgotten Blue Tara during the melee. “Do not act impulsively,” she commanded. “Do as I say.”
“Shoot me,” Kinqalatlala said. “To gain power in the realm of the dead you must know death. Shoot me.”
“No!” Blue Tara demanded. “She is not the one to die.”
“Then who is?” I asked. The pistol wavered in my hand. “They killed Jean!” I screamed. Tears poured down my cheeks as I waved the pistol at Kinqalatlala’s head. “What am I supposed to do?” I cried.
Blue Tara stepped to my side. “You must enter the realm of the spirits to search for the tlogwe, the ultimate treasure the spirits have to give to those brave enough to enter their realm.”
“But how do I do that?” I pleaded. I stuck the nozzle of the pistol against Kinqalatlala’s temple. “Do I take her life?”
“No!” Blue Tara insisted. “To enter the realm of the spirits you must know death.” She placed her hand on my back. “You must die.” I stared at Blue Tara, incredulous.
“Then die it shall be,” Kinqalatlala said. She raised her hand to her face and watched her fingers turn into a narrow blade of steel. I tried to pull the trigger of the pistol, but my muscles froze in fear. Kinqalatlala thrust the steel blade that was her hand into my chest. Excruciating pain overwhelmed my senses. I could feel blood pouring down my legs. My blood. It seemed to me that Kinqalatlala put her arm around my neck and pulled me to her. Her lips touched my lips and her tongue touched my tongue. I had no sensation of touch or feel. My legs gave out and I blacked out before I hit the ground. Before I completely lost consciousness I thought I heard Blue Tara screech.
Jean beat on the bottom of the trap door to Charlie’s basement with a stick for about ten minutes before Charlie finally pulled the door open, and helped Jean and Blue Tara up the ladder. Dirt and mud coated Jean’s tattered clothing and caked Blue Tara.
“What happened. Where’s your friend? Where’s my 45?” Charlie asked, staring at the empty holster on Jean’s hip.
“He’s dead!” Jean blurted out.
“What?” Charlie asked, stunned. “My God, woman. What happened?”
“Kinqalatlala stabbed him with her hand. She killed him!”
“You’re kidding? With her hand?”
“She stuck her hand through his chest. I saw it. Her hand turned into a steel blade.”
“Where is your friend. . . Where is the body?” Charlie asked hesitantly.
“We found the old Indian village. Hamatsa burned Kinqalatlala to death. Then brought her back to life. To demonstrate his powers. I shot Hamatsa.”
“Good Lord, woman. This sounds like you were in the middle of an Indian war. So where is your friend. . . friend’s body?”
“He’s still in the village. His body is still in the village. I was almost killed by a magic harpoon, but he pushed me out of the way at the last moment and saved my life. I thought we were all dead.”
“What village?” Charlie asked. “Where is this village you’re talking about?”
“The old Indian village under the city,” Jean replied.
“There’s an old Indian village under the city?” Charlie looked incredulous.
“It really exists. It’s not just ruins. We were there. I saw it.”
“The village of the ancients exists in a different time and space,” Blue Tara said. “We traveled through time and space to get there, and I bent time and space to get us back to you.”
“Why didn’t you bring your friend back with you?” Charlie asked. “His body anyway?” Charlie stared at Blue Tara’s naked mud caked body. “You sure you don’t want a towel or robe or something to wear?” Blue Tara shook her head.
“I could not bring your friend back with us. His path lies with the spirit realm. He must search for the tlogwe, the gift of ultimate power. That is our only hope to overcome the Winalagalis.”
“So he’s not dead?” Jean asked, grabbing Blue Tara’s arm.
“Yes, your friend is dead. He has entered the spirit world. He must complete his quest for the tlogwe.”
“Why didn’t you bring him back?” Charlie asked.
“If I had brought him back with us all would be lost. We would have no hope of defeating the forces of the Winalagalis, the forces of evil.”
“You let him die!” Jean screamed, pounding her fists on Blue Tara’s chest. “You could have save him!” Charlie grabbed Jean’s shoulders and pulled her back. She threw her arms around Charlie and buried her face in his chest, sobbing. “She wanted him to die,” she blurted out.
“I had no choice,” Blue Tara replied. “We had no choice. It was necessary for your friend to die so he could commence his quest for the tlogwe.”
“You could have saved him! We need to go back,” Jean cried to Charlie. “We need to save him!”
“We will, young lady. We will,” Charlie replied. “But first we need to get you cleaned up and we need to hook you up with that fellow who teaches at the U Dub. We need to figure out how we’re going to save your friend. A whole lot of shit has come down here in town since you left on your little expedition.”
“What’s going on?” Jean asked.
“The Deportation Police are trying to take over the city. They’ve nationalized the city police and tried to arrest the mayor. He’s in hiding, trying to organize a resistance.”
“Oh no!” Can we call Michael at the U Dub?”
“Phones are down. No cell phone service. Even the Internet’s down.”
“We will return,” Blue Tara told Charlie, and then she screeched. When Jean opened her eyes she found herself on the floor of Michael’s office with her hands protecting her ears, staring at the face of Michael’s cat, Black Tara, Margarita, who walked up to Jean and licked her face.
“Am I ever glad to see you,” Michael exclaimed, as he helped Jean to her feet. “You wouldn’t believe what’s happened. Say, where’s your boyfriend?” Michael looked up and down Jean’s tattered and soiled clothing. “Jesus H. Christ!. You look like shit.”
This seemed an unusual way to be dead. When I opened my eyes I found myself sprawled out on a cedar bark mat outside the longhouse. The longhouse sat just below the tree line above the mud flats at the mouth of the Duwamish River, where the river emptied into Elliott Bay. I could hear the surf lapping against the rocks on the beach. Wisps of fog rolling off the bay flowed up to the longhouse and seemed to bring the double headed serpent painted on the front wall to life, as if it were blowing smoke out its nostrils. Up the river to the south Mt. Rainier glowed red in the light of the rising sun. With no pollution in the sky it seemed I could reach out and touch the snow-capped volcano, even though I knew the mountain stood thirty miles away. Seattleites call Mt. Rainier ‘the mountain’, even though any number of other mountains can be seen from the city.
Kinqalatlala stepped up to me and the shadow of her tall, dark, svelte, naked body fell over my face. I struggled to try to get to my feet, but my muscles refused to respond to my brain. I realized if I was already dead she couldn’t kill me again. She reached down and took my hands and pulled me to my feet. I was relieved to see normal hands and not steel blades. I tore my shirt open and gingerly felt my chest. I expected to see a hole where Kinqalatlala had stabbed me. I found nothing. Not even a scratch mark.
“Am I dead?” I asked her.
“Yes, you are dead,” she replied.
“Then are you dead?” I asked, confused.
“Death is a relative state of existence,” she replied. I didn’t have a clue what that meant.
“What the hell does that mean?” I responded.
“Hell has nothing to do with this state of existence. Hell is a possible destination, if you are not careful. You have begun your journey into the spirit world. I know that Blue Tara sent you on a quest. A quest for the tlogwe.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied.
Kinqalatlala stepped up to me and put her arms over my shoulders. Her dark naked skin smelled of cedar smoke. She ran a hand through my hair and traced the outline of my lips with the forefinger of her other hand. She pulled me to her, her breasts sticking in my chest.
“Don’t spirits ever wear clothes?” I asked.
“I am not of the spirit world.”
“What are you?”
“I am your heart’s desire,” she said, placing her hand on my chest. “I am your guide for your journey through the spirit world.”
“You killed me,” I replied. “And now you want to help me? You are a slave to Hamatsa.”
“It was necessary for you to die, so you could begin your journey. Why do you think that witch Blue Tara failed to save you?”
“What? Blue Tara failed to save me? What do you mean?”
“She let you die. She allowed me to kill you. She wished me to kill you.”
Kinqalatlala’s tongue traced my lips. She forced her tongue between my lips and pushed it against my tongue. I grabbed her arms and pushed her back away for me. I ran to the longhouse and looked inside.
“Where are Jean and Blue Tara? Are they dead?”
“Your friends reside in the world outside this one. They abandoned you to me.”
“No they didn’t! If they left Blue Tara had a reason. Why are you here? If you killed me already, you can’t kill me again. Can you?”
“As I said, I am your guide through the spirit world. I can help you. Or I can stop you. I can pleasure you.” She took my hands in hers.
“Why do I need your help? And why would you help me? Is Hamatsa trying to trick me to confuse and mislead me?”
“It is true I am Hamatsa’s slave in the world outside this one. But his powers are not unlimited. And I do not intend to remain his slave forever. By helping you, you can help me break free of his domination.”
You killed me!” I exclaimed. “And you want me to help you?”
“Killing you was necessary,” she replied. “Killing you was what Blue Tara wanted.”
“What? Bullshit!” I yelled. “You’re lying to me!”
“Your only hope for finding the tlogwe is here in the realm of the spirit world.”
“You want the tlogwe for yourself. You and Hamatsa!”
“The tlogwe can only be bestowed on the one the Tlogwala deems worthy enough to receive it.”
“The Tlogwala? What is that?”
“Not what. The Tlogwala is the one who holds the secrets to the tlogwe. Blue Tara knew that I could assist you to find your way to the Tlogwala. That is why she didn’t prevent me from killing you.”
“So you and Blue Tara are working together? Are you a Tara?”
“We are working to the same end.”
“To unleash the power of the tlogwe. To stop the Winalagalis.
“You’re a double agent!”
“I do not understand those words,” Kinqalatlala replied. “I am working to break the hold that Hamatsa has over me. And I am willing to help you break the hold that Hamatsa has over you.”
“If I am dead, what kind of hold can he possibly have over me?”
“The Water of Life.”
“Are you one of the Taras?” I asked again.
“I am not one of the Taras.”
“But you are a witch.”
“I have special abilities and special magic. If that makes me a witch, then I am a witch.”
“I don’t understand. You’re not one of the Taras, but you want to help Blue Tara? By killing me. By killing Jean.”
“I did not kill your friend.”
“I saw her die by the magic harpoon.”
“That was not my doing.”
“Where is she? Where is Blue Tara?”
“I have already told you that they are not in this realm of the spirit world.”
“Is Jean not dead?” I asked, begging for the answer I wanted to hear.
“I can not tell you what I do not know.”
“She is alive?”
“We must begin our journey.”
I felt euphoric. If Blue Tara did her time and space bend trick to get them out of harm’s way, I knew it would be only a matter of time before they came back to rescue me, with the help of the other Taras. And I knew that with Blue Tara time was relative and fluid.
“How do I know you and Hamatsa aren’t setting me up? That you aren’t trying to trick me?”
“You don’t’ know. It is in your best interest to trust me and let me help you. I have already explained my situation. And what I can do for you. And what I expect you to do for me.”
Kinqalatlala put one hand on the back of my head and pulled me to her, kissing me. She ripped my shirt open with her other hand and slid the hand into my pants. My hands found her breasts and I kissed her back. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I couldn’t help myself. I was bewitched. Chalk this up to research, I told myself.
“I don’t understand how we’re supposed to fight ghouls like Hamatsa and Kinqalatlala that can exist in two realities at the same time,” Michael said. “You saw them in the ancient village. Yet we’ve seen them in this world.”
“I shot Hamatsa,” Jean replied. “I practically blew the top of his head off with Charlie’s 45. He must be dead.”
“Hamatsa’s powers are great,” Blue Tara said. “With the Water of Life he can give life to the dead. With such power the boundary between life and death is fluid. He has mastered the magic to travel between the spirit world and the world of men,” Blue Tara said.
“And the world of women,” Jean added.
“I don’t know about anyone else,” Blue Tara added, “but I am starved.” She screeched to bend time and space. Jean and Michael found themselves rolling on the floor of the Ballard apartment in the St. Charles Hotel with their hands pressed against their ears. Margarita growled at Aboo, the blue and gold macaw, Lord Garuda, who sat perched on Princess Tara’s stand.
“You need to buy us pizza,” Blue Tara told Michael, as she walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. “Yes, beer.” She reached in and grabbed a can of Rainier.
“While you’re getting the pizza I’m going to jump in the shower and see if I can find some clean clothes to wear,” Jean said.
“Maybe we shower together?” Blue Tara suggested.
“Maybe you drink your beer. I’ll take a shower. You can shower after I’m done if you want. On second thought, I’ll take a beer into the shower with me," Jean added.
Over pizza and beer and wine Jean filled Michael in on the events at the longhouse.
“You were standing at the original site of Seattle long before Seattle as ever established,” Michael said. “How is that possible? You say you were working your way underground through the ruins of old Seattle, and suddenly find yourselves in another time?”
“Your concepts of time and space are too rigid,” Blue Tara replied. “Time is not linear in my world.”
“You bent time and space to get back to Charlie’s, right?”
“Yes, that is right.”
“So once we work up a rescue plan you can bend us through time and space back to that place? Save us the hassle of going through all the tunnels and basements.”
“Unfortunately, I can not,” Blue Tara replied.
“But why not?”
“It is because time is fluid, that I can not know precisely what point in time we might arrive at. I could be a thousand of your years off, and we could be lost in time and space.”
Michael glanced at Blue Tara. “I’m a big science fiction fan, you know.”
“We will need to go through the tunnels below the city again, as we did before, and retrace our route to the ancient village.”
“But if he’s dead, what can we do? Without the Water of Life I mean. Will we even be able to see him? Or will he just be a ghost?”
“I do not know the answers to your questions. We must search for the tlogwe. We may find your friend and possibly the answers to your questions. Kurukulla will come with us,” Blue Tara said, nodding at Red Tara. “Aboo will remain here to await the other Taras.”
“Margarita will come with us too,” Michael added, as the cat chewed a slice of pizza underneath the dining table. “We may need a good mouser.”
Hamatsa, his long stringy black hair tucked under a black leather fedora and his scalloped yellow skin hidden under a black leather frock coat, and Kinqalatlala, her dark-skinned svelte athletic body accentuated by skin tight leather pants and a coat, stood on the sidewalk on old Ballard Avenue across the street from the St. Charles Hotel, looking up at the lighted bay window in the northwest corner on the upper floor.
“You explained your situation to the man with the parrot?” Hamatsa asked Kinqalatlala.
“Yes master,” she replied. “I explained how I wanted his help to break free of your hold on me.”
“And he believed you?”
“I am very convincing, master. He is weak. Men are weak.” She glanced up at Hamatsa’s fiery red eyes burning under the black leather fedora. “Men of this world are weak,” she clarified.
“Once he leads you to the tlogwe you can dispose of him once and for all. Just remember. I want to see his head mounted on the wall at Control. Is that clear?”
“Do you believe he will lead the Taras into the trap we have set for them?”
“I believe he will do whatever I want him to do,” Kinqalatlala replied.
“How can you be so certain?”
“All I need to do is show him these,” Kinqalatlala replied, pulling her coat open to show she wore nothing underneath.
“Then we will proceed with our plans. Once we eliminate the Taras, and once we eliminate those fools who fall under their spell, we will establish a seat of power here in Seattle. A seat of power to rival that of the Winalagalis himself.”
“Yes my master.”
“It is time to summon Bokwus and the Gagit.”
“Bokwus? The chief of the dead?”
“Do not make me repeat myself.”
“The Gagit I understand. Because of Lord Garuda’s power, the furies can not challenge the Taras. And although he can fly, the Gagit is not a furie. But Bokwus desires to build his own empire of the dead. Is it wise to unleash his power?”
“I will deal with Bokwus at a time and place of my choosing. But for now he is useful to me. His army of the dead can not be killed. The Taras can not fight ghosts. I will use his power to wipe out the Taras once and for all, and then I will turn his power against the Winalagalis. What happens after that will be of no concern to me.”
“You are wise, my master.”
Hamatsa reached under Kinqalatlala’s coat and grabbed one of her breasts. “Remember who you serve,” he commanded. “Fail me and I will cut these off and feed them to the furies. I will cut your heart out and feast on it myself!”
Margarita jumped to her feet underneath the dining table and raced across the apartment floor to the bay window. Stretching herself up to her full length, she growled and pawed at the blinds. Blue Tara slammed her beer on the table and jumped out of her chair. “Something is wrong,” she said. She stepped to the window and peered through the blinds, her hand gripping her battle axe.
As I struggled to put my clothes back on I asked Kinqalatlala, “Where do we go from here? I’m guessing the tlogwe is not going to come to me, so we’ll. . . I’ll need to go and find it.”
“You are correct. The tlogwe will not come to you. You must seek the tlogwala, the keeper of the treasure.”
“And where do I find the tlogwala? How do I even know where to look?”
“You are already on the correct path. You are in the spirit world. I can not tell you where to find the tlogwala because if I knew that I would seek him out myself.”
“Well, that’s not a lot of help. And I’m guessing the spirit world is just as big as the real world. If not bigger? Only without cars.”
“The spirit world is just as real as your world. Your standing next to me talking to me should convince you of that. Do not make the mistake of denigrating that which you do not understand. It could cost you your eternal soul.”
“So, if I’m dead. . . “ I found myself staring into Kinqalatlala’s hypnotic black eyes, like black holes into her consciousness. “If I’m a ghost, then can I just dispense with walking around this reality and searching for something I have no clue about? Can’t I just levitate? Or mind meld? Or do whatever it is that Blue Tara does to bend time and space?”
“You can not change your reality and assume magic you do not possess. The spirit world is just as real as your world. And is governed by the same laws of nature. The sky is up. The world is down,” Kinqalatlala said, stamping her foot on the ground. “A rock dropped will fall down, not up.” She picked up a rock off the ground and dropped it on my foot.
“Ouch!” I cried. “No, wait. How is that possible? I’m dead. Or am I?”
“You have a narrow conception of death,” she replied.
“Death is simply the absence of existence. You are dead now to your world, but you are very much alive to the spirit world. Someday, with my help, you may be able to master the magic required to travel between these two worlds. Without my help, you may find yourself forever lost in the spirit world, or worse. Forever lost.”
“Will I get hungry in the spirit world? Or thirsty?” I looked up and down Kinqalatlala’s naked body. At least I’m not dead to women, I thought to myself.
“You waste time concerning yourself with trivial matters when you should be searching for the tlogwe.”
“See, there you go again. I don’t have a clue whether to go east, west, north, or south. Should I go into the forest? Or should I go out to sea? I’m not going to just charge off like a chicken without a head.”
“Why would a chicken charge off without a head?”
I looked back into Kinqalatlala’s mournful eyes. “Did you just make a joke?” She looked back at me quizzically. “It’s a figure of speech. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“You were a person who studied your world and your history, is that correct?” I nodded. “Then apply the same principles to this world. You face a problem. You need to solve it.”
“But when I study the history of my world I have books and documents that give me answers. I don’t see a library here,” I said, as a waved my hand toward the longhouse. “Maybe I’ll just sit here and wait for the Taras to rescue me.”
“Then you are a fool. You would have a long wait. The Taras, as powerful as they are, have no powers in this world.”
“So you say, but I’m not so sure. You might just be saying that so I don’t sit here and wait for them to rescue me.”
“I have no reason to lie to you. And every reason to help you.”
“Then help me by telling me how to start my journey. Tell me which way to go. Tell me how far to go.”
“You stand on a sacred ground, home to the ancestors who created this place. Possibly your journey is shorter than you realize.”
Damn. Kinqalatlala would make a great poker player, I thought to myself. “Michael said there was an ancient Indian burial ground under the city. Is that what you mean?”
“You are in the world of the dead. This entire world is a burial ground.”
I walked up to the longhouse and inspected the double-headed serpent painted on the front wall. Then I noticed the totem standing in front of the building. The furies. Qoaxqoaxual. Hoxhok. Gelogudzayae. Nenstalit. I rubbed the cedar wood with my hands.
“Of course,” I said. “The tlogwala is a bird. The ancients worshiped birds. The great raven. The giant crane. The fierce condors. I’m looking for a bird.”
“See. Your task is not so difficult as you might think.”
“But I need a bird to find a bird. I need the Taras. I need Princess Tara and Garuda.”
“As I have told you, the Taras can not help you here in the spirit world. They have no powers in the world of the dead.”
“Then help me get back to my world. It seems you possess the magic to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. Get me back to my world. Join with me and the Taras. We can fight Hamatsa together.”
“Only Hamatsa has the power to get you back to your world. Or possibly the tlogwala. I do not possess that magic.”
“Then what good are you to me?” I asked.
“If you want to find a bird, you need to get up into the sky where birds can be found,” Kinqalatlala replied.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have any wings.”
“Neither did the furies, at first.”
“Yes, but they found a cliff of crystal quartz, which turned them into birds. And then they couldn’t turn themselves back into people. They had to make a bargain with the devil.”
“I saved them from obliteration,” a voice said from the doorway into the longhouse. “The devil had nothing to do with it. I saved their lives.”
I spun around. I recognized Hamatsa’s voice immediately. He stepped out of the doorway, clad in black boots, black leather pants, a long black leather frock coat, a black leather fedora, and black leather gloves. The black leather accentuated his pallid yellow face and glowing red eyes. I stumbled backwards away from him as he stepped forward.
“You enslaved the furies,” I said. “You didn’t save them. You gave them a fate worse than death. You turned them into cannibals, just like you.”
“I gave them immortality. Eternal life. I can do the same for you. I can give you the Water of Life and send you back to your world. Or I can obliterate your very existence.”
“And turn me into your slave? Just like her,” I replied, pointing at Kinqalatlala. “As for turning me into a cannibal. No thanks. I’m a vegetarian.”
“You found my slave pleasurable, did you not?” Hamatsa said. I stared at Kinqalatlala in surprise. Her face remained expressionless. Did Hamatsa watch us make love?
“You can enjoy her pleasures whenever you wish, if you help me. I can make her your slave.”
I began to think my former life of celibacy didn’t seem so bad. “She bewitched me,” I replied, knowing that was a lame excuse. “I have no interest in helping you, and a lot of interest in stopping you. And I have no interest in a sex slave,” I added, glancing at Kinqalatlala’s breasts.
“Then I have no choice but to obliterate you,” Hamatsa replied.
“I take it you make up for your lack of intelligence with your good looks?” I told Hamatsa.
“Insolent fool!” Hamatsa yelled. He struck me across my face with his gloved fist and knocked me backwards into Kinqalatlala’s arms.
This being dead thing just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I thought to myself as I scrambled to my feet, trying to rub the pain out of my chin with my hand.