Art by Eli Bischof
by David Dean
Outside the winter wind pummeled the bark-clad dwelling, driving snow before it with low moans and piercing shrieks, the surrounding forest bending and thrashing with a great clacking of limbs. Within the wigwam’s quaking walls dangled strips of dried pumpkin, strings of corn, and twists of tobacco swaying over the heads of the people sheltering there, while spirit figures, sprung from the flickering fire, danced along its walls.
Sometimes silence would descend over the scene like a deafness, as if the raging world outside had suddenly ceased to exist. Then all within would stop their conversations and strain to hear, uneasy with the ominous hush and awaiting the return of the wind with its ravenous groanings.
“This is a good night for a story,” Wolf Paw announced, causing a murmur to go up from the worried folks gathered in his lodge. They had come to wait out the storm the long winter night had brought to the Lenapehoking, the land of the People. As an experienced sachem, Wolf Paw knew that a good tale was needed.
Sitting up, the old chief drew his bear-fur cloak around his shoulders, arranging his long gray hair to drape over it. Around him were men, women, and children of his village, many lying near the long fire that stretched almost the length of the structure, others lounging in the shadows nearer its sloping walls.
“I think a story of spirits and demons would be just the thing,” he intoned. His gaze swung across the crowded room, catching the eyes of each child glittering in the firelight, their faces peeping out from beneath their blankets and furs. “A tale of bravery and danger . . . what do you say?”
“Yes! Demons!” shouted several of the older boys. Some of the younger children burrowed their faces into their mothers’ breasts.
Wolf Paw stole a glance at Owl before asking, “Did you little ones know that our shaman once traveled far into the land of the Seneca to save them from a manitou?”
His youngest listeners shook their heads, turning to stare at Owl, who squatted in the shadows next to their chief. Behind him stood Snow Boy, his skin ghostly in the darkness. He was the white child Owl and Shingas had rescued from Dutch slavers, and it was said that he had learned the People’s language, yet still wouldn’t, or couldn’t, speak.
“Did you?” one brave little girl called out from her father’s lap.
Owl’s face floated before them at the edge of the light, the round golden eyes that had given him his name peering out at seemingly nothing. For a few moments he remained silent, his scalp lock glistening in the firelight, the snake inked across his forehead seeming to squirm in the flickering illumination. Then he answered, “It is true that I went north to aid the Seneca. It is also true that Shingas was with me, his strong arm and courage my shield against all mortal dangers.” READ MORE
Art by Jason C. Eckhardt
by Charlaine Harris
On a spring Friday afternoon, Principal Anne DeWitt should have been clearing her desk and looking forward to the weekend. Instead, she was looking at Danny Blackwell, who was slumped in a chair across from her. Danny looked like a poster for “Troubled Teens: How to Handle Them.” The boy’s misery ran underneath his truculence like an Alaskan river runs under ice.
If Anne had been given to indications of how she was feeling, she would have sighed. Spring had always been her favorite time at the survival camp she’d run in her previous life. The camp had been very specialized, very secret. She’d had another name then. Spring had meant it was time to hunt: animals, and people. The camp’s November–January session had been more about surviving nature. The spring camp had been more about surviving what other people could do to you.
Anne itched under her skin with the memories.
She figured Danny Blackwell would have lasted ten minutes, tops. As they waited for his parents, Danny fidgeted.
Unlike Danny, Anne was in control of her body. Nothing showed how irritated she was with the Blackwells. Danny’s parents, Fred and Lacy Blackwell, should have been in the other two visitor chairs twenty minutes ago.
Danny didn’t seem to want to confess his sins to her, and Anne herself wasn’t much for idle chatter. So she tucked away some paperwork and prioritized a few phone messages. Since there wasn’t another adult in the room, Anne had left the door open between her office and the outer office, the domain of her secretary. Christy Strunk couldn’t leave until Anne gave her the word. Anne could not be shut in alone with a student in her office. Christy was slamming her desk drawers to emphasize how much she wanted to be on her way. It was Christy’s form of spring fever.
After Anne decided it was self-indulgent to relive memories of tracking people through the woods (a student beside her to learn how to do it), she simply stared at Danny. He was a husky sixteen-year-old with brown hair, hazel eyes, and a great smile. But Anne hadn’t seen that smile in weeks, now that she thought of it. Anne was a principal who prided herself on knowing all her students, so she could have picked Danny Blackwell out of a lineup without hesitation. But the boy was only on the periphery of her awareness. His grades were right down the middle of the road. He wasn’t much of an athlete, though he turned out for football. In fact, after years of being more or less a nonentity, Danny had become notable by acting like an attention-driven showoff, just in the past few months.
A kid with that behavior caused just as much trouble as a determined delinquent.
Anne had employed—and taught—people who were killers and fighters and tough as nails—and people who wanted to be all that.
Danny Blackwell was less than a flea, by those standards.
But three teachers had reported Danny in one week, and the boy himself had given Anne attitude when she’d made the appointment for a conference. Steps had to be taken. READ MORE