Coming Home Chapter Three

We continued up the valley looking as we went for any sign of others or the enemy but the only things I noticed was game signs. Culsit and I took the lead and weaved out way across and up as we went. Occasionally we would send a wood knocks back and forth just to keep up with each other. I was starting to learn why Culsit and his people did things the way they did. I mean to stay basically hidden for so long and still survive and thrive was truly astounding. It still made me scratch my head just thinking of how many wondered not only the wilderness but also right on the edge of large urban areas. It was amazing really the more thought I put into it as I moved towards the head of the valley aiming to intersect a low set of bluffs on my right.

As I approached, I moved to be able to come on the ridge from the top. This way I could see better up the valley and also so nothing could slip up on me from above. I had learned over these months of fighting that the saying of the high ground is life was literally true. I eased on top of a large boulder and started listening, smelling and watching. Until well after noon I watched and waited seeing only a few deer and I think a thousand squirrels. I could hear Rory and Vanessa moving up from below but as far as Culsit and I, we sat silently across the valley from each other just waiting. I knew by now that if I got that hair raising uneasiness then it was trouble. My only worry now was I didn’t have my M4, no grenades, not much of anything I was used to fighting with. I know Culsit stressed I had to learn to fight. As I sat there, I checked my gear just like I would have done with my old stuff. Instead of feeling for magazines, doing press checks to see if I had a round chambered I started a new routine. I checked on my belt on my right hip for the large drop point knife in its sheath, I reached to my neck and followed the cord down to a neck knife I had in its sheath, finally I removed the hatchet, a short axe really, more like a tomahawk than a hatchet I guess now that I looked at it from a loop on my waist and laid it across my lap. I was still more than uncertain about using this type of weapons, I didn’t doubt my ability or my will to survive but when you have no real experience with something you feel apprehensive.

I remembered a private talk Philo had giving me just before we left. I moved my finger along the edge of the blade laying in my lap and felt a tingle, almost like an energy flowing off it into my finger. It’s hard to describe but I think the words of Philo was starting to make sense. As I listened and watched I let my mind drift back to the words he spoke.

“Listen John, there will come a time when you have to use skills you don’t know that you have. I know this must sound strange but inside every cell of your body is stored the collective memory of every ancestor you’ve had, every mistake they made, every thing they learned, its all inside you, just waiting for you to listen and let it take over. By this I mean, your body and muscles are like a child’s, you can walk now in a stumbling way but your ability to run is there, you just need practice.” Philo spoke to me as we waited in the mist earlier that morning in Greenland before we left.

“I don’t understand, are you saying I know how to live the way we are going to try?”

“Yes, not only that but much, much more. The only thing you truly have to learn is how to listen, how to let go, how to let the old ones show you and guide you to become what the Allfather has declared that you should be. The choice is yours of course, He would never force you to become this person but just know, a lot of people are trusting that you will. You owe no one anything in this world but every action you make rings thru time. He might not always chose the easiest path for you but it is the path that needs to be taken. If you learn, you can listen and hear the old ones talk to you, guide you.”

“Philo, I think hearing voices would maybe make me thing I was loosing my mind!” I responded.

He laughed long and hard. “No, not actual voices but with something different, something not of this world, you will know when it starts to happen, you will feel a little electric buzz maybe, maybe you will feel like your thoughts keep focusing on a certain point, it varies but you will know what to watch for the more it starts to happen. Just let go of your ego and learn to hear, learn to heed their words and you will be fine.”

“If you say so Philo, it all seems a little weird sounding to me right now.” I replied.

“Look John, I know for a fact you’ve had the two ravens come to you. Their names are Munnin and Huginn, memory and thought. They not only report to the Allfather but they also can speak to you, not in a way that you think but in a way that you know. Let me give you and example. I know you remember it but let me explain it for you. Do you remember when you had a rough time in your life so you walked out into the woods to sit and think about what to do, do you remember that feeling of being helpless and at the crossroads of being at your wits end?”

“Yes, Philo I remember. I also remember the two ravens that came that day and sat there with me.” I replied.

“Good, remember how they flew down and just walked around you, looking at you, blinking with those eyelids that looked silver? Remember how you talked to them and told them your problems? Remember how they seemed to bring you peace and thoughts came into your mind about what to do and what would happen next?”

“Yeah I remember all that and much more. I always wondered why those two birds seemed so relaxed and friendly. I often wondered if they happened to be escaped pets.”

“Pets, no, friends, yes. You’ve seen them many times since then but you just brushed it off. From now on, let all that you think you know go and learn. When they come, talk and listen. Promise me this.”

“I promise.” I replied.

My mind drifted back to the tingling coming into my finger tips from the short axe layer across my lap. I didn’t say it out loud but I spoke to the axe like it was alive.

“I hear you friend, I will listen when the time comes, you guide and I will follow.” No sooner than I thought this, the tingling feeling faded and I smiled.

I looked back down the valley and could see Rory and Vanessa now. I decided it was time to knock for Culsit to come in and for us to decide on a place to camp and wait for Jager to arrive. I stood and reverse the axe and swung twice against a solid oak that grew by the boulder I was perched on. Almost instantly, his knocks came echoing back with mine and I turned to see Rory and Vanessa look to where I was standing now.

I held the axe and climbed down to meet them and move to a cave I had noticed and had kept my eye on.

“John, you made me jump in my skin with those knocks. I was tracking you, we would have found you without all that.” Vanessa said as she walked up to me.

“It was for Culsit not us.” Rory replied.

She just looked surprised as I smiled and turned my gaze to where I new Culsit was coming from. I couldn’t see him, I couldn’t hear him but I could feel him coming, if that made sense. I knew now how Culsit knew Jager was coming. I guess I just couldn’t feel that far out yet.

Just a few minutes later, sure enough Culsit came out exactly where I knew he would, grinning as I knew he would be. He walked up and nodded and without a word passing between is we both turned towards where the cave was and made our way there.

As I stood there scanning the entrance for any sign of activity I saw none. I am sure Culsit did the same thing but he had more practice and he just walked in. I stood there waiting. Again, I don’t know how to explain it but I knew that’s what he wanted for us to do. After several minutes he came out.

“It is good, just a cup in the rock. Solid back wall with a floor that is about three feet up. It would be a good place to stay for a few days, maybe more with some improvements. First we need wood for a fire, dry wood most of all. You three spread out and gather that while I bring some stones in for a fire pit and then you and I will go catch dinner.” Culsit said and walked off.

“Well, let’s stay in sight of each other for now and do what he said.” I said then we went about the task of dropping dead trees and finding what we could. For over an hour, by that time we had what I would call at least a chord of wood piled and split against one of the side walls of the cave. Culsit had moved about eight huge stones in to make a pit for the fire. He had dug down and lined the hole with smaller stones he then ringed it with the larger ones. I guess he knew what I was thinking and just explained it without me even asking.

“We dig the fire pit deep and line it with stones for two reasons. One it focuses the light from the fire straight up, making it very hard to see from a distance and second so that the rocks retain the heat. If you look at the large stone the all slope inward to the pit, creating an overhang almost over the fire. Then he pointed out in several places where he had buried hollow logs to create an air flow into the bottom of the pit.” He pointed out each rock and the shape that he had obviously chosen on purpose. I realized then that this type of fire-pit would be and afterburner fire, it would burn even the smoke as it became super heated. I never thought he would have known of that but then again, I was realizing that when it came to this technology I was the dumb one not him.

“If my people had been here before, this would have been left for the next one to use.” Culsit said with a look of satisfaction that he knew I understood.

I stood and asked if Vanessa and Rory could get a fire started while Culsit and I went to find dinner. Culsit stressed to build it small first and slowly build it until there was very little flames and more glowing coals than anything.

As they started to set to work Culsit and I made our way to the top of the ridge and stopped just below the top. Culsit leaned over and explained that we would take one of the deer that would come in to feed on the oak flat above. He went further to explain since we wasn’t starving I would be the one to hunt while he watched.

“I don’t know how to do this Culsit!” I hissed.

“Sure you do little brother. Sneak up on them like we have been practicing with each other all this time. It’s the same thing. When you’re close, strike with you axe quickly and we eat.” He said grinning in the fading light.

As darkness creeped in he nodded and pointed to the deer as we watched them walk under the oaks feeding. I moved on all fours just like I had a hundred times since the time with Jager. All the lessons I had been shown seemed to make sense now. Dark as it was, I could see, not like it was daylight but close enough. I crept up on the doe closest to me and I could feel my heart beating so loud I was afraid she would hear it but she didn’t seem to know I was there. I glanced back at where Culsit was and I could just barely make out the top of his eyes peeking over a fallen log. It amazed me something so large could hide behind something so small compared to him.

I turned my focus back to the deer and moved to within a few feet. I took my axe and struck swiftly. It was over before it even started. As the other deer bound off, confused as to what just happened I just kneeled there thanking the deer for the sacrifice she had made.

“Exactly little brother! We do think her.” Culsit said right beside me.

I was so focused on the deer that I didn’t notice him come up beside me.

“Do you thanks but never lose your focus out here little brother. What if I wasn’t here to watch you back? Always learn to do these things at the same time.” Culsit said and I just nodded knowing he was right.

Over the next few minutes he showed me how to dress the deer so we could get back to the cave. He showed me the parts we would eat tonight and explained how we would go down to the stream while it cooked and gather some willow branched to make racks to dry the rest to keep for later. He explained this way, nothing would be waisted, each item from the deer had a use and he would show me step by step what to do.

As we returned to the cave, I handed Vanessa and Rory the meat we would eat for dinner as Culsit Hung the rest high outside the entrance. I started helping get the meat roasting which reminded me just how hungry I was as Culsit slipped off to gather the willow.

I had just got the meat hanging over the pit to roast when I heard Rory shushing something off. I turned to see two Ravens sitting in the entrance, not coming in but just standing there. Vanessa and I both at the same time exclaimed to stop! Don’t scare them away, of course I doubt you could if you wanted. I reached over and sliced to pieces off the meat that was cooking and walked over to them.

“Here friends, eat and come in and warm yourselves.” I said.

They did exactly that, acting like two little humans more than birds. I glanced at Rory and he looked surprised and puzzled. Vanessa looked like this was a normal thing which gave me thoughts of questions I needed to ask her about who she really was. As I was thinking on these things, Culsit came walking in and exclaimed in a language I didn’t know but he dropped the willow and walked over and started talking to the two ravens just as he would me. That was surprising enough but I fell off the rock I was sitting on when the two ravens started to talk back. Yes, talked, I couldn’t understand the words but as I picked myself up to sit on my rock again I glanced at Vanessa. She was nodding and smiling. She knew what the three was saying! She looked over at me staring at her and while still smiling, she pointed at me and said some words I didn’t understand but Culsit and the two ravens did because they all turned and started laughing at me. Ravens laughing, I wondered for sure what I had gotten myself into now.

If you liked this chapter, you might want to head over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of “The Enemy”. The exciting first book in this series so you can see how our friends got to this table looking to their futures.

Coming Home Chapters One and Two

Chapter One

Glancing around the room reminded me of a scene from a movie.  Imagine if you took a classic Viking movie and gave it a modern twist, that’s what I was sitting here staring around at. I had food enough to feed ten of me, enough beer that I don’t think even Culsit could drink it all and as usual the laughter and rough behavior was a bit more than just shocking to me. I’ll admit, since if you’re reading this story now it doesn’t matter anyway, that I was still devastated from the thought that Rory had turned on us. I just couldn’t believe that, there had to be more to the story than mere betrayal. As my mind moved over all these things like one giant train of thought roaring through my head, I sat staring across the room at Culsit, it seemed he had found a bucket and was using it as a beer mug, all I could do was laugh.

I shifted back to my plate when I noticed someone moving towards me from over my shoulder. I didn’t give much thought to it but after being in what I had been in, my brain just seemed to track his approach wether I wanted it to or not. Have you ever had that feeling when you know things are just going too good, it’s not dread, more of a gnawing at your soul that tells you to buckle up, the ride is about to get going and make sure you keep your arms inside at all times. Well, that’s the feeling I was getting. I reached down and felt for my pistol slyly under my jacket, she waited there for me to call on her to do my bidding. I shook my head and took another bite of roast, reminding myself I was safe here, Philo had called these people my true family and friends. I was just having a hard time turning off the fight or flight mode my body had become used to running on constantly.

As the mountain of a man came to stand beside me, I just turned my head to look at him and sat up a little straighter just in case.

“You must be this John we have all heard about?” He said while looking down at me. The sneer on his face and the way he let the words ooze out seemed more like a threat than a question but again I tried to look at it different since I was still wired.

“Yes, sir, and you are?” I asked between bites not looking at him anymore as I took another bite.

“Me? Thats not as important as who I am.”

“Yeah? Who might that be?” I replied as I turned back toward him.

“I’m the one that’s going to show all these people they are wrong. No-one is more deserving of being called the destroyer than me! Look at you! You’re small, middle aged and frankly useless in my eyes.”

As he spoke these words I knew this wasn’t one of those times like when I first met Jager with Culsit so long ago it seemed. This guy seemed really hostile towards me just because of what people seemed to be saying about me. My mind decided in a flash that I would ask one question, just one and if he answered wrong I knew which way this had to go.

“Is that right?” I asked while trying not to let my body look tense.

“Thats right little man!” The words came out of him with real hate in them.

Wrong answer I thought, enough was enough. I let go of my body and let pure instinct and adrenaline fueled reflex just take over. He had at least a foot of height on me and probably one hundred pounds in weight but my mind had already decided on a route to take and it was time to cut fence, and sort this problem out real quick.

Before I even realized what I was doing, I slammed the large glass mug I was drinking out of into the side of his right knee. I was on my feet and jabbing my fist into his throat as I moved in closer knocking him off balance making him fall backwards to the floor. I didn’t even realize how it happened but the next thing I knew I was staring into his wide eyes across the top of my pistols slide with my foot holding him to the floor on his neck.

“Now, Mister ‘my names not important,’ I know you’re struggling too breath right now so let me properly introduce myself.” I said calmly, surprisingly.

“I am the one that’s about to fix your breathing problem permanently, I am also the one that will not tolerate disrespect.” I smiled, fully determined to finish this little dance right now.

As my finger started to squeeze the three pounds that would end this, I heard my name yelled over my shoulder. It caused my finger to stop, I just stood looking down at the horror in his eyes as he realized I wasn’t joking about what was about to happen.

“What?” I yelled without turning my head from the focus I held on his eyes laying there on the floor.

“John! Stop, this is not you!” I recognized the voice. My anger rose and my finger began to move again.

“Don’t! I’m the one you’re angry at but let me explain!” This time it was Rory’s voice. He was right, it was him I was angry at, maybe this bullet should be used against him I thought. I pushed harder with my foot on the guy on the floor’s neck and in an instance swung the pistol around to the door that Rory’s voice was coming from. The whole time my finger hovered on the trigger right on the breaking point. In my mind it, I was determined as soon as the sights aligned on Rory, this chapter of his life was going to end at 1200 feet per second.

As I followed the front sight, it settled right on Venessa’s forehead! She was standing in front of Rory! In an instance my finger came off the trigger and I pointed the pistol to the ceiling.

“Move Vanessa, you don’t understand what’s going on here!” I pleaded.

“No John, you don’t understand, just relax and let us come over and explain what you thought you saw.” She looked into what seemed to be my very soul with those piecing blue eyes with the breeze from the door moving her blonde hair in waves. My body seemed to be riding on a roller coaster ride for sure, it was bouncing from one emotion to the next and to be honest right at this very moment I didn’t know who to shoot. What I did know that sometimes you see images that burn themselves into your mind so deeply that you just know way deep down that you will carry them in this world and the next.

“No, I don’t understand! Tell you what, let me shoot this idiot and we can talk!” I said as I swung the pistol back towards the poor terrified guy on the floor.

As my finger moved back to the trigger and started the squeeze, that big half drunk idiot had done it again. His face was inches from mine. Teeth grinning from ear to ear, smelling like a cross between a skunk and a beer can.

“You sure you want to do this here little brother?” Culsit asked as he pointed to the guy on the floor.

I turned my head to look at him, huge grin and all.

“Well, Culsit, yeah I am sure but it seems like everyone is all set against me smoking this idiot!” I said with exacerbation moving into my voice.

“Look at him little brother, this close your going to get your boots dirty! Just not worth it is it?” I held Culsit vision for a minute and found his smile was infectious. I mean think about it, here I stand, threatening it seems, everyone that moves with a pistol and he’s just bending over me grinning from ear to ear. I started to smile myself, maybe he’s right.

“I guess you just got lucky.” I said to the idiot on the floor with a smile coming on my face. “Never judge someones danger by their looks my friend!”, I said as I threw my gun down on the table and removed my foot from his neck. I turned to sit back in my seat as Culsit roared out a laugh and slapped me on my back as usual.

“Good choice little brother, good choice! I’ll get us new mugs.” He said as his voice trailed off to do exactly that.

“You good?” I asked as I looked down and offered my hand to help the idiot up off the floor. He took my hand still coughing and eased up to his knee. I ignored him then and turned my attention to Vanessa and Rory walking towards me. My eyes focused on hers now.

As they sat down, the idiot still kneeled there on one knee, choking to get his breath back. I didn’t give him even another glance after that. I just looked back up and watched as Vanessa and Rory sat down, her right beside me and Rory took a spot right across from me,

“John, just listen to him talk, you’ll understand, it wasn’t what it seemed like.” Vanessa said as she grabbed my hands on the table. I’m not for sure if she did that our of concern or out of fear I might shoot him anyway.

“Fine, but it best be really good Rory!” I said while staring straight at him.

“It is John, I had to do it, Vanessa and I are the only ones to make it out alive. I saw Doc go down myself. Jim, the others, they took the path that the Bigfoot you killed up in Washington did, they went to work with the enemy, hoping for a good spot in the new world when ours is destroyed. I listened to the speech and knew the only chance any of us had where to just go along with it and hope for the best. I got Vanessa on board by telling her that you had joined the enemy. It crushed her but it was the only chance I had to make her want to see you captured or killed.” He stopped and we glanced at her as a tear rolled down her cheek and she squeezed my hands a little tighter.

“How do I know any of this is the truth Rory? I saw you firing right at me, that bullet that was aimed right at my head would have killed me had Philo not shown up!” I yelled.

“I get it John.” Rory said holding up a palm. “ I saw the flash of Philo coming and decided to risk making it look like I was really trying to kill you until I could be rescued!”

“I shot at you also John, but you know I was missing on purpose, you’ve seen me shoot!” Vanessa said with a smile and the tear still on her cheek. I whipped my head around, stunned, I never saw her there.

“You! You where there?” I asked.

“Yes, but I am as good as you and Culsit at not being seen.” She said with a laugh and Culsit sat down placing four mugs on the table, grinning from ear to ear.

“What are you grinning at?” I took the mug and asked.

“Its good to all be sitting at the same table again little brother! I knew these two couldn’t have turned against us.” Culsit said as he practically emptied the mug with one gulp.

“You saw her there?” I asked pointing at her with my voice rising.

“Yes, but I didn’t tell you.” Culsit just kept on grinning with foam stuck at the sides of his huge mouth.

I wanted to smack the fur bag again right now.

“This is all fine and sounds good Rory but how could so many at home be converted over to the enemies without anyone noticing?” I asked because it just didn’t make sense.

“John, you’ve been home, what? Two days in the last few months? How would you have known? Rory has been gone just as much and everyone steers away from me most of the time anyway. Don’t you think we would have got out or warned others sooner if we could?” Vanessa said in the most serious tone I had ever heard her use.

“But Jim, how long do you think he has turned? I mean I fought with him in the same whole the night we got shelled. I trusted my life to him, I just can’t come to grips with it. Are you sure he just isn’t going along to escape?” I asked, pleaded really.

“No John, I watched him shoot Doc face to face myself. He wasn’t pretending.” Rory said with sadness creeping into his voice.

I just couldn’t get my mind around how fast things had changed. Out of all those I had lived for months and months with the remnants sat at this table and I looked over to my team at the next table over, drinking and eating like there was no tomorrow. Well, who knew if there would be. This was it, us and the guys from Delta team. I just hung my head and shook it. How could this be?

I looked up at Rory, I could tell by the look on his face that he was praying I would listen to him and most of all believe him.

“We good John? You forgive me?” Rory asked as he extended his hand across the table.

I sat there, thinking for a minute, looking at his hand. The more I thought on it, the more I thought about how he looked when he mentioned Doc being killed in cold blood, I knew he was telling the truth.

“Nothing to forgive, you did what you had to and I am glad you guys did!” I said as I shook his hand with my right and squeezed Vanessa’s with my left. 

Up to this point I forgot about the idiot I just knocked to the floor but he just stood there by the table looking down.

“Again, I’m John of course and you are?” I asked as we all turned to look at him just standing there.

“Lars, my name is Lars. I am the leader of what is known as the Bear group of warriors. I apologize for the rudeness but you just didn’t look all that dangerous to me, much less the one that has been foretold that will lead this fight.” Lars said as he looked at me with a smile starting.

“Well, Lars, it is nice to meet you, and no hard feelings from me but of course I am not the one that took a beating.”

“No hard feelings, John, it’s an honor.” He said as I shook his hand.

Rory and Culsit busted out laughing so hard that I thought they would both choke.

“What do you two find so funny?” I asked as Lars looked on with curiosity.

“Lars, you get dumber and dumber every year, I told you about your Great-Great grandfather remember. This is John, it was his Great grandfather! You just got your ass handed to you by your on kin!” Rory laughed even harder.

“What!” Lars and I both exclaimed at the same time.

“Yup, it is true, I was friends with him when he worked for the CCC after the war. We spent many days looking for and fighting the enemy.” Culsit said with a sip.

“You knew him also? Is there no-one you haven’t known?” I asked.

“He’s known a lot of our family John. Culsit, did you ever tell him how you protected our people when we first came to the mountains on the Tennessee River?” Rory asked.

“Nope, hadn’t got around to it. I’ll tell him someday.” Culsit grinned.

“I sat for hours with great grandaddy and he never mentioned any of this to me?” I said in wonder more to myself than anyone else.

“Well, did you expect him to tell a kid that there really was monsters in the woods and the dark? That he fought all his life for all of our freedom all the while taking no credit nor asking for any honer from it?” Rory asked.

“But he had a family, kids, all of that. How did he live this life and do all that?” Lars asked.

“Well, Lars, it was different back then. Look at your family for example. John has never heard of you yet you’re not that far apart. I suppose it’s possible we might have to go back to fighting more like granddad did than the military structure we have been using. I mean we have lost a lot of our support we had before. We just might have to live like that again.” Rory said as he looked down at the table. We all got quiet as we sat there and the only thing that broke me out of my thoughts was the squeeze of Vanessa’s hand.

“I could think of worse ways to live compared to what we have been doing.” I finally said as I looked around.

“Well, what do you think about it Culsit, we seem to be losing and we don’t have the numbers left to keep fighting the way we have been?” Rory asked Culsit.

“Look, all of you are going to have to look at how my people do this, we have done it this way for generations. We live our lives, we stay hidden, yet we are some of the fiercest fighters you have.” Culsit said as he stood to go fill his mug again.

“Well, that’s great then!” I said sarcastically. “What are we doing here? Wherever this is.” I asked.

“We are here to get our plan together, gear up and set it in motion. As far as where we are, it’s Greenland.” Rory said as he looked at the grin on Lars face.

I thought on this and it made sense, Greenland, midway for those fighting but it would never work for us, not the way we fight and the areas we knew. No, our only choice was to go back home and take the fight guerrilla style. I’ll admit, the part about going back to living like great grandpa did sound good to me. Having a place to stay and what appeared to be a normal life, which of course it really wasn’t, but at least it would sort of look like that. Besides, as I stared at the smooth skin on Vanessa’s hand, I thought it could be worse. I could be stuck for weeks at a time in a muddy, wet and cold wood sleeping next to Culsit. I just turned and grinned at him as he sat down again. He grinned back at me with that big stupid smile. It was a good thing he couldn’t read my mind because I grinned even bigger thinking how much fun that wouldn’t be. It was now, for the first time since I about killed Lars that I realized the laughter was just as loud now as it was when I first came in here. I guess violence, be it Outside or inside, was just another fact of life here, I didn’t want that for a life.

I sat there nursing my mug, glancing at Vanessa as I did every now and again. I wondered if we went with this plan, if she was thinking like I was right now. Would it be possible to go home and ‘play house’ during the day with her all the while at night her and I could go out and raise a little trouble. Rory for a neighbor? Culsit for a scarecrow? I just burst out laughing and turned to look at Culsit.

“You ever been a scarecrow Culsit?” I looked at him laughing, everybody else just looked at me like I was crazy.

“Scarecrow? No, No cant think of a time.” He sat there and I swear I think he really was thinking about if he had done something like that before. “Well, that’s not exactly true. One time I snuck into a field to borrow some watermelons one night and I had to stand there like a scarecrow for a good while when the farmer came our to see what his dogs barked at.” He finished as serious as could be. I laughed even harder.

“How about you?” I turned to Vanessa. “You make good biscuits?” I snorted this time as I laughed.

“Yeah I do!” She said as she squeezed my hand until it started to hurt. “I can also set broken bones! Of course that’s usually because I broke them in the first place.” She said with a voice like she was the sweetest thing on earth. I knew better.

I just looked across the table at Rory and nodded my head. We both knew what had to be done, now it was just a matter of getting things in order to get moving with it.

Chapter Two

The next morning after sleeping a good night for the first time in a long time, I awoke to the sound of Culsit knocking on the door with a growl. Well, I guess knock is not the word, pounding? No, that doesn’t describe it either, a battering, that would cover it. I thought about ignoring it but I knew he would just beat the door down or the wall, maybe both, either way I was getting up.

“What?” I yelled as I yanked the door open. 

To my surprise there was nothing there! Why half way beat the door down and walk off. Sometimes I think that giant bag of fur had lost his mind. I looked both ways into the mist of the morning but I saw nothing. Not even a swirl from him walking off. I might just smack him this time. I closed the door and turned to walk back and get dressed for the day but the dull light from the dawn in the mist outside still made the inside of my cabin seem pitch black. Yup, I was going to smack him for sure for this. Knowing him, he probably just woke me up then went back to sleep himself. 

I stumbled back towards my bed and found the table beside it. I felt for the candle there and patted around on the table for the matches. All the while, thinking about just smacking the hair right off his head when I saw him again. I struck the match and to my horror, not more than inches from the flame was his big ugly grin. I fell back and dropped the match and the room turned to totally inky darkness again. I would have yelled but my breath was stuck in my lungs but my mind was on definitely smacking Culsit for this one.

His roaring laugh echoed off the walls. 

“You jackass! I just about passed out!” I yelled.

“Come on little brother, no time to sleep. We have to get our things together. It’s time to get things rolling to get back home.” Was all he said as he strolled out the door like nothing happened.

I followed him a few minutes later, back to the long house we first ate in last night. It wasn’t as crowded and was definitely quite. No wonder, I know Culsit drank the mead by the barrel yet it didn’t seem to have any effect on him. Ducking in the door, it looked much as it had the night before. Breakfast was being served and to be honest they all looked like nothing had ever happened. I guess for these guys it was a normal morning but for me it was almost like a dream.

Vanessa flagged me over to a set of long table our group had taken over and I went and sat down. No sooner than I had done so and Culsit literally dropped a plate of food on the table in front of me and slammed a mug down with it.

“I can’t eat all of this you big ape!” I exclaimed looking at the pancakes and bacon piled on the plate. He just sneered his teeth at me and started eating so I did the same. The shock came when I reached for the mug, it was mead!

“I can’t drink this with breakfast!” He sneered again and reached over and downed the mug.

“Now you don’t have too little brother.” He grinned with mead dripping in his hair, what a jerk.

“If you two can stop holding hands, we need to get our heads together with what we need. Philo says he can jump four of us today but after that he has to go do some of the AllFathers business somewhere else and won’t be able to help for a while.” Rory said as he looked between me and Culsit.

“We can’t just fly and jump?” I asked.

“Well, John, no we can’t. First we don’t have any aircraft and even if we did, we don’t have the fuel to go that far anyway. Now these guys said they will supply us the best they can but we need to put out heads together to come up with a list of things we can carry on us to get started back home.” Rory said as he ate.

“Just give me an M4 and about 500 rounds and I’m good.”  I explained.

“No John, they don’t have it. The only rounds we have are what we brought in and that’s it.”

“I didn’t have any left when I came in. Thats why I threw my pistol on the table last night. I was bluffing, I didn’t have a round if I needed it.” I exclaimed.

“Dumb, little brother, dumb. What if I wasn’t there to save you?” Culsit said.

“Save me! You didn’t do anything!”

“Didn’t I?” He said as he grinned.

“Enough you two, Culsit, you are the goto guy about this. What do we need?” Rory asked.

“Just your clothes really if you’re going to learn from me to fight the way my people do. But I guess to be safe, if we can’t get ammo for you, which I think is a good thing. You see my people survived by not making noise. We learned to use fires with little smoke. We learned to live off of the land. Then we need to look at some knives, rope, and a good axe.”

“Knives and Axes, have you lost your mind?” I asked looking around.

“No choice John, things are going down hill fast and we are just going to have to learn from Culsit. I know you spent time with them learning all you could but you have been the first man they allowed to do that. Now it’s up to you and Culsit to teach us.” Rory replied.

I understood his point and the more I sat there eating and thinking about it, I realized he was right. I had learned a lot from Culsit and Jager. I could move like a ghost in the forest and by the time you realized I was next to you, it was too late. So I started thinking over what I would want to take with me. It had to be just what I could carry for some reason. I would have to asked Philo sometime why he couldn’t jump us there with a whole crate of stuff. However, if he said with just what we could carry then that’s what it had to be.

After breakfast Lars, came and took us to there supply room. I picked out a couple of knives of various kinds and two axes. A large one and a hatchet, and a stainless steel pot and cup. I shoved all this into my pack I had arrived with. It had lots of room because the radio I dropped, it didn’t work anyway. I kept one ammo can to keep my things in I didn’t want to get wet. I looked at it all spread out there as I got ready to pack it again and to be honest it looked pitiful compared to what I had been using. No night vision, no radio’s, no ammo, it was just a little depressing to think how fast things have changed.

Culsit made his rounds as we packed to inspect what we had each chosen. He added some things, I couldn’t see what to Vanessa’s pack and threw out a few things Rory packed but left my alone. With a nod he stood up from looking at my stuff and said it was time to get Philo and go. I just nodded back and shouldered my pack.

As we four walked up to Philo talking to Lars and his group he turned and asked if it was time.

Rory nodded and Lars stepped forward and offered his hand.

“John, I can’t say I understand it, but Philo tells me you are the one which means this is not goodbye but more of I’ll see you soon. I don’t know how but I trust what he says. Stay safe and if I don’t meet you again until Valhalla then just know the first thing I’m going to do is punch you in the face!” He grinned then wrapped me in a bear hug.

“Thanks for the heads up. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” I struggled to breath as he let me go. I looked around and the whole camp was gathered. I looked to the guys of Delta team that was staying here to fight and couldn’t find the words. They seemed to be thinking the same thing and just one by one gave me and Culsit a thumbs up.

As I stood there, trying to think of something to say, Philo just announced it was time and reached for me. With the same sickening and disorienting snap I was standing on a ridge covered in Oaks back home. I shook my head and glanced around at the others. Rory and Vanessa appeared shaken as I did but Culsit looked like nothing at all had happened.

“Here you are John, look to the Ravens for signs from the AllFather and myself. It could be awhile before I get back here.” Philo said as he stepped back getting ready to leave.

I looked over his shoulder as the sun started to climb over a ridge to the East. “Philo, when can we expect you and how am I supposed to know by a bird what’s going on?” I asked.

“I don’t have a clue John and these aren’t just ordinary birds. You will know when you see the two Ravens. You will also know what they have to say. Culsit will show you if you have trouble.” And with those words he snapped to where I don’t know.

I just stood listening to the woods, the birds, squirrels, the sound of the breeze in the leaves. The smell of the forest floor, plants, it was amazing how fast, in just a snap of the fingers really, all that I had learned from Jager and Culsit just seemed to turn on.

I looked back just in time to see Culsit ease low over the ridge to look around. I knew what he was doing and I knew he wanted me to look to the ridge towards the East. “Stay tight you two, we will be back in a minute.” I said, but before they could say a word, just like Culsit, without a sound I had moved over the ridge and was out of sight.

I moved just like I had learned. Each animal and tree seemed to speak to me. It all seemed normal but still I took my time and listened. I was just looking for anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t this up and down the ridge and after finding everything as it should I moved back to Rory and Vanessa and found Culsit sitting there with them waiting on me.

“Jager is coming John.” Culsit said while chewing on a sassafras root he had found.

“When?” I asked.

“About two days out, according to what I could see. I think he knew we was coming here so my opinion is we find somewhere to make a shelter and wait on him.” Culsit replied.

“Agreed,  I doubt Philo dropped us here by accident. I say we move farther up this draw and get settled in and wait.” I said as I looked to Rory and Vanessa.

“Sounds like a plan.” Vanessa said as Rory just nodded.

It was just then that it struck me. Culsit and I had taken over how we did things. It seemed strange as I thought it but just as fast as the thought crossed my mind it left because I knew, in the forest, I was just a furless Bigfoot, nothing more nothing less. I chuckled as I walked past Culsit and smacked his forehead as I passed by, heading up the ridge to find a camp.

If you liked this chapter, you might want to head over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of “The Enemy”. The exciting first book in this series so you can see how our friends got to this table looking to their futures.

The Swing

With todays pace of life, I often stop when I’m checking off the list of things I have to get done this day and think back to a place when time for me was marked at a slower run, more of a mossie. I think sometimes I miss the point of life, running the race to get the newest this, or the best that, I just let all the good stuff slip away like water past my fingers. I think back and the memories I have that I can recall are all of people. People we spend time with, that is the race we should be running. Measuring time in moments, days even, not by seconds or minutes. 

I think when I have left this world for the next, people will not remember me for the “stuff” I had but by what I did and I don’t mean for a living, I mean my day to day, who I really was kind of “did”.  Sadly, It took until I was almost fifty to figure out life is ran on the pace I decide, not the measure of time others expect of me.

I learned long ago when I was just a kid that the pace life should be measured in is best taken from a swing that hung from a limb under a giant oak tree. Each day was the same, not boring, not dull but as I think back now, is how life should be for all of us. I can still see the front of the house, with our backs to a ditch and an old dirt road, the garden around the side of the house, chickens strutting around the yard like they owned the place and an old dog lazier than I was laying at our feet. Life was good then, it can be now if we go back and slow down just a little.

I followed him around from breakfast until bedtime, asked questions that made him laugh until he coughed, learned to whittle, learned to sit in the yard with my leg thrown over the other knee, leaning on an elbow the rested on that knee and looking like I was really thinking about something, a true old timer. Some say he didn’t talk much but he talked with me, for hours on end. Stories of hard work, hard times and the way of life that even then was slipping into the pages of history books.

He was old, well to me he was, I was ten and he was in his seventies so yeah, for me he was ancient. He was short and sinewy with a head of white hair and skin that looked like saddle leather. His daily dress code was overalls with a white long sleeve shirt and a hat. Well, except for Sunday, and then he put a dress coat over a newer pair of overalls that was still new enough to be a shade of dark blue, that made it formal!

I called him ‘Old Pa,’ I mean literally that and contrary to todays sensitive crowd, it was no offense, he was old compared to me! We started our day getting up hearing ‘Old Ma’ cooking, yes we all called her that but she gets her own story sometime. At the table it was the same everyday, no cereal out of a box, no microwave breakfast. Nope, home made biscuits, gravy, fat back, eggs and coffee. Funny thing was, Old Ma didn’t want me to drink coffee, I was too young. That still makes me laugh but Old Pa would get a cup and just grunt as we poured it out of a percolator off the stove for me. Yes, kids, this was way before the Keurig days. Sometimes when she complained about the coffee I would hear how he was drawing a cross cut saw all day long when he was my age so he didn’t think the coffee would cause to much damage. Now, if he actually did cut timber at ten, I didn’t doubt. She never contradicted him, all she would do was say, “Shhh,” in a hissing way and go about her business. Anyway, the breakfast was always the same, always the same time but with a new conversation each day.  It could be about what had to be done that day, what the weather looked like it would do or a story about when he was a kid, it was the same for him then as it was now except for the stove burning wood and all about how he had to split it that morning before sunrise so breakfast could be cooked. I always sat and listened, wondering, what would this day bring, what work was to be done and best of all, what stories could I get him to tell me. 

Now it may sound sexist today but when the eating was done, we left the table for her to clear and clean and off to “work” we went, if you could call it work. If that sounds bad it wasn’t, she would probably chase you off if you tried to help. She liked it that way, we liked it that way, but sometimes I think she did it to get us out of her hair.

We would grab our hats and head out the door. He had the addition of grabbing a walking cane which I didn’t need but I’d usually would have a stick on the porch so I could lean on it like he did so I could look at the garden or chickens and seem like I was deep in thought like he seemed to be. Looking back, with a laugh, he probably wasn’t deep in thought, he probably was thinking of a prank to pull on me. For example, I’ve looked for row (as in the garden) straighteners. I’ve searched the woods for the rooster twin brother( he only have one rooster in case you wondered). I’ve sat and watched for the tomatoes to turn ripe. I’ve searched for the rare and treasure oak cones, apparently they look like a pine cone but come from the rarest of oak trees. Strange but I never found one. I laugh now every time I see a stray pine cone that a storm has blown under my oak tree. I’m sure all the “chores” was to get me to stop asking questions but guess what, it didn’t work. Then again, practical jokes and pranks seemed to be a hobby of his, so it could have been just for his sheer amusement.

I learned how to fish in the yard. Down here we have these grubs, alien looking things really, that have holes in the ground about the size of a drinking straw. You find a long piece of grass and poke it into that hole and jig it slowly up and down. When he grabs it and tries to push it out, you pull up and yank him out of his den. Thats, how you yard fish. Funny, as I work in my yard today, I see these holes and I’ll not lie, I’ve been known to snap me off a grass pole and see what’s biting. I chuckle now just thinking about it.

After the chickens got feed and set free in the yard and the garden was inspected it was time to sit under that tree in the swing. He’d chew tobacco and roll his own smokes and tell me stories for hours on end. I’d ask about something and he’d either show me about it or tell me a story about it.

I learned about logging with a cross cut saw and mules. How life before electricity was lived. How to tell the weather and the seasons by watching the animals, plants, and even insects. As I write this I look over now at a pocket watch he gave me all those years ago, nothing fancy, it still winds up and keeps time. I don’t carry it anymore but it lays on my table beside me to keep me in mind of a simpler time for me. I remember him saying he didn’t need to know what time it was, he could see if it was day or night perfectly fine himself. To be honest I rarely saw him look at it.

I still remember how nothing seemed to bother him. I’m not saying you couldn’t make him mad, it took a lot and if you did, it was best to just run. He seemed to take everything with a grain of salt. He’d tell me of his dad and grandaddy and how life was different then. Always though, he would tell it like it truly was different but to him in a good way. I wonder if maybe someday if I’m still here for my great grandkids if my stories might need to be copied from him. I mean come on, it sounds way cooler to talk about logging on a mountain with mules than my stories of working on computers.

He’d talk to me about meeting Old Ma and loving her and frankly that grossed me out at ten, besides, old people didn’t need love or worse a kiss. Now, that’s funny but that’s how I saw it at ten.

They both had their jobs in life and they did it day after day and I never heard a complaint except one time. Old Pa and I was sitting in the swing hung under the tree as usual as it got close to lunch time, when Old Ma came on the porch to ask us what we wanted for lunch. Now understand, I don’t know why she asked, it was the same thing everyday, pinto beans and cornbread, fried potatoes and some vegetables from the garden. Anyway, she asked and all he replied was;

’Thats what they said down at the mill too but they just kept on grinding.’

She asked a few times and he said the same thing. The last time she got so mad and said we could make our own lunch, she wasn’t cooking and slammed the door!

Now, to be honest I was really worried, I couldn’t cook and I doubt he could either, but Old Pa said not to worry, we’d get lunch. I guess he knew after all these years it was almost done anyway. I didn’t know that, but he did. Sure enough at noon we got up and walked into the house and ate the same lunch just like normal.

After lunch it was back to the shade tree and the swing, it was hot anyway, best just swing for a while and relax. We’d swing the afternoon away, him chewing and smoking while telling me of the day he saw this, or the day that happened, all the while with me studying every move he made. The way he sat, talked, made gestures. I’d hear of a time when “time” was measured differently, a time when bad winters or stormy springs marked it. A time when the corn was good and the trees big enough that one would pay a days wage at the saw mill. 

As the sun dipped, it was time to put the chickens up and head into the house. Dinner was leftovers from lunch. Time for a bath and pack me to bed because usually I was so worn out that by eight, I was falling asleep sitting up. Knowing that when you woke up, it was a repeat of the day before. Really, though, that was a good thing. The day might run the same but the stories would be different.

Sure enough, the next day would start the same, the only excitement might be the weather but barring tornados we would end up eventually back in that swing. When the stories ran out for a while we might sit for hours at a time without a word being spoken but that was ok. We both knew it was just like it was supposed to be.

A tale of a Bigfoot named Culsit

The sound of water dripping and the smell of wood smoke rose to meet his nose as the sun peaked thru the entrance of the cave he had chosen to rest in after all his work from last night. With a stretch and a yawn he stepped to the entrance to greet the sun rising and look out over the river and mountains to the East. Thirst and hunger seemed to be the first order of the day as he stood there taking deep breaths of the morning air.

His father Wahnehe had sent him in to the big rivers valley, the locals called it the Tennessee, to check on the movement of Buffalo and inform the local peoples about a family of settlers moving into their territory. More and More of the settlers from Europe seemed to be trying to move into this land to make a life for themselves after the war was won.  He had seen this play out before farther North and to the East. The two people with different cultures tried to mix, some adapted and sort of mixed their ways of living off the land and others seemed hell bent on changing not only the land but its people to conform to the old ways they brought from their homelands to here. It never worked. Those that adapted survived. Those that didn’t died from disease, hunger or war.

It was a shame really, he thought as he just continued to look off the mountain at the river snaking by below, green water with a silver shine from the sun, slowly moving past. So much here for everyone, a balance that had been kept by his people long before any humans had stepped foot on this land. He wondered why a people who thought they where smarter than his kind could be so ignorant. He stepped out and figured it was enough thinking on future problems and decided to work on his current problem and that was the hunger that was churning in his stomach.

He knew he could take a deer, maybe some squirrels but he also knew the Creeks hunting camp was just below him and since he needed to speak with them anyway, he might as well take advantage of their hospitality and treat himself to some of their corn mash and deer meat that he could clearly smell coming on the wind with the smoke.

As he slowly made his way down the mountain to the camp that these people had used for generations to prepare for the Buffalo crossing the river near here, he did his usual way of walking into a camp. He paused just out of sight and looked around for a stout limb that had fallen in the early fall storms. He grabbed one that was about the size of his arm, which put it about six feet long and as big around as a human leg. With a strong swing, he smacked the giant red oak in front of him four times with a rhythmic swing.

He stood waiting as the echo faded away and smiled to himself as he heard the rustling in the camp just below him to his announcement of his presence. Of course he really wasn’t asking if he could walk in, after all this was his land and his fathers and his fathers before him. He thought for a minute to how old his Grandfather would be this year, he counted for a minute and thought it was about 640 summers this year. Yeah 640, because his dad just passed 320 summers even though He himself was only 60. Just a kid really, but at 8 feet and over 600 pounds, he was a big kid as he chuckled to himself. After giving those below a few minutes to prepare he made his way into the camp.

“Culsit my friend! Just in time to eat as usual!” The young hunter, whom he had known since he watched him come into this world twenty winters ago, ran up and greeted him.

“Swimming Duck! You runt, how are you little friend?” Culsit grinned.

“Good! We are just waiting on the Buffalo to come and start crossing.”

“Well, maybe another few days and they should be here. I passed them on my way down from Kentucky. Its a strong herd this fall, it looks like you will be able to feed yourselves for a long time.” Culsit replied as he sat down by the main fire and waited to eat.

“Well, with you coming and eating all our food in one sitting, I hope so!” Swimming Duck said with a laugh as he settled down next to Culsit to eat.

Culsit thought how strange it was that these people showed little fear of him and most counted him as a friend while a lot of the settlers that where moving in, thought of him as a monster and shot at him every chance they got. It actually made him chuckle, like they had a chance to hit him when they only saw him when he wanted them to. If they knew how many times he had crawled to within just feet of them while they worked to clear trees, they would realize he meant no harm and frankly would gladly help them survive in this new land. Oh well maybe with time they would come to see his people as harmless to them and actually stop trying to kill them.

“What brings you down to see us Culsit?” Duck asked as they ate.

“I’ve been sent to watch over a settler family that has plans to settle on the mountain above us to protect them because someone that will come from their line will have a lot to do in the future.” Culsit said between bites.

“You know, that might be a problem if they just take some of our land near our hunting grounds right?” Others around the fire mumbled about how they wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Culsit stopped eating and sat the bowl down and stood up.

“Listen, and listen carefully.” He said as he slowly looked down on all the men gathered around the fire with him. “You live here because my people allowed you to move here a long time ago. Don’t forget this. The same as we showed you kindness and the ways of the land in this area, you will do the same with this family. I will mark the boundaries of the land my Father has granted them with our usual tree falls and broken tree boundary marks. You will respect it or our friendship will not be on good standing if you don’t.” He finished in a calm voice all the while scanning from man to man to make sure they understood the importance of what he said.

“This family your father favors, you say someone comes from their line that is a great man, why? Why should we care when we have problems of our own right now, not in the future? The settlers to the North have already killed almost all the Elk off and the Buffalo herds get smaller and smaller every winter.” Duck replied.

Culsit sat back down and picked up his bowl again. He thought a minute before he decided how to answer. These men where his friends and he needed them to understand how important this was.

“Look Duck, I see what you are saying but  you know my people see and know things that others don’t right?”

“Of course Culsit, there’s no denying that.” Duck said in earnest.

“Well, the warriors that will come from these people carries the warriors spirit from the GrandFather himself. One that will come will help put an end to the Ulunsutti forever.”

“This great warrior that is coming will actually defeat the snake people?” Everyone basically said at the same time around the fire.

“Yes, he will, not easily but he will with my help of course!” Culsit said with a laugh.

“How?” Duck asked.

“Duck, do your people know my ways? Can you move in the forest and night like I can?” Culsit asked in all seriousness.

“Well, no, how could we.”

“He will Duck! He will not only have the ability but he will be the only human we ever let truly learn from us and walk among us with respect and fear. Before you ask why, it is because of the gift  that Grandfather is going to give him that will allow him to truly move like us. Think like us.” Culsit answered.

“When, will I have enough summers to see him?” Duck asked with excitement.

“No Duck you won’t but your descendants will. He will be the only human I call brother.”

“Brother! A real brother! I can’t believe it.” Duck exclaimed along with the others sitting around.

“Its the truth, until then help this family. You’ll find they learn quick and will be good friends to your people, but mark my words. A worse enemy you couldn’t have. They fought alongside my father to free this land from the Redcoats. Don’t think they don’t know how to survive.” Culsit answered. As he looked at all the warriors seated around the fire, he knew they all understood what he was trying to say and that they would indeed spread the work quickly. His job here was finished.

“I knew you would understand, spread the word, and welcome them in the spring.” Culsit said as he stood and placed the bowl near the fire.

“Off already my friend?” Duck asked.

“Yeah, I think I will slip down to the river and have a dip before it get to cold for even me.” Culsit said with a grin as he started walking into the trees again.

“I hope so! It was hard to eat with that wet dog smell siting right next to me.” Duck called after him.

Culsit just growled and within a few steps melted into the forest without a trace.