Wordcarpenter Books
Red Mantle

Chapter Nine

The Hummingbird


It was still bright outside, especially after the darkness of the cave. The air was fresh and perfumed with the dew of photosynthesis and rain, an air medicine for the lungs and soul, a healthy environment far apart from the sullied water tables of the majority of well owners in North America. A wildlife sanctuary sound took us into our own thoughts.

"Are there other sites of importance around here do you know?"

"If there is a relic of some sort in the geo point then it will be in a place where there is an element of reverence: a holy place with the holy vibe; a knoll where a church could be built.

Arrow took out is pipe and smoke some of his tobacco, a strange mixture that had a different aroma, like a cheroot. From his pocket he handed Harry and me some of his dark corn biscuit. That too had a strange taste that tickled the upper part of my palate, like sometimes a banana does to me when I eat it. Maybe Arrow really was a medicine man. Maybe plants were his color palette and he had the ability to match nutrients available in Nature to his diet using flour, a pot and some salt. The soil had built up over the millennia so there was enough to grow corn or any other vegetable.

He took out two balls of bread and held them up in his hand.

"These are ripe rye pieces that you take if you find yourself wanting for energy or in an emergency. I give them to you now only because I can. Keep them in your pockets and take comfort that you have them." He sat back and pondered. "I just missed the Prozac Generation so I go au naturale for my medication. It's the best way. The side effect of a pill is scary. Too many zombies in the grid, thousands of them numb and falling forward through life with half-closed eyes. Cities are too big now, too much fear, too many blood tests, too many laws, too much cost, overwhelming numbers of people in one spot, mass pollution, tampered water supply, so people numb themselves to get through a day. Too much stimuli. Sitting in a bus, so many strangers, the subway and again strangers in tight places, and elevators. Too much claustrophobia for me. Gets me icky. I thirst for the simplicity of the forest. It makes sense to me. Things are in balance here. The animals sound better than cars and horns and streetcars."

I remember Harry had flushed cheeks, as if something had happened. It might have been his words or it might be the ripe rye piece in his breast pocket He got something from just having it. And I know pills and needles and stuff like that - manmade cocktails - scared him so the world of plants and soups was something that interested him. The chances that we met Arrow who happened to have skills in botany was a stroke of fate.

"The Sandhill cranes are the best sound up here. Loud as car horns but musical; nature versus man."

"That's very Alan Quartermain of you." Harry blushed more.

"So what's in that biscuit you gave us? It made the top of my mouth tingle."

"That was the active ingredient in bear root, why bear eat before they hibernate. It's relaxes you. Like a relaxing agent that doesn't make you sleepy. In fact they are some ground coffee beans in there too so the caffeine offers some added wind. Here." He took out more of the biscuit with caffeine and bear root. "Here, take some for your own stash. Trust me I have lots." Again the blush hit Harry's cheek, the Alan Quartermain getting his wings. We put it in our breast pockets and that was when the hummingbird came by. The loud fluttering was like a language; the angled flight paths of their nectar gathering were superior to any other species. Precision. This red-breasted hummingbird just stopped in front of us and look at each of us in order, the buzz of its wings forming a high-pitched harmonic patter, becoming sharper when it darted and stopped, and darted and stopped and looked. But when it just remained there with none of us moving, the bird had become part of the pack, sharing a moment, a casual word while picking up milk.

"But what-"

"That's the question," said Harry.

When the three of us looked at the hummingbird it took three movements over toward where they had seen the Indians earlier. That the bird was indicating to us that we were to go across the stream to the small opening to the west.

"Did you see that?" I nodded and Arrow still stared at the bird in front of us. Then he said: "Okay, we will follow you Red-breasted hummingbird. Lead the way." And with that the three of us left the cave with the rock paintings.

"Are we?"



"Yep. Due west. Hummingbird better have some salt is all I can say."

"Some serious salt," added my twin.

"Better show some see-me-through is all I can say." My father's words coming out of my mouth.

I couldn't see the hummingbird but I could hear it flutter: that distinct sound of the wings flapping at a high speed, a severe crisp sound when it moves, but with its small body one can hardly see them fly past. Just the flutter.

Harry and I filled up out water bottles when we passed the stream, Arrow choosing to keep walking, never stopping once for us. I suppose this was what he did: communicate with the animal world. But what was this little bird showing us?

I found myself last of the three of us so I fought to catch up. Then for a moment I thought the whole thing was ridiculous - following a bird. 




Sometimes when you come to a spot in the forest there's a vibe, like there is still history there. When we came to this camp area I got that feeling - that there had been an event here. The worn rock beside the forest bespoke of past nights. Arrow walked over the area in deep thought, rubbing his beard, and the dogs ran around smelling past scents still emanating from the earth. The hummingbird appeared for a moment, fluttered once one way and then the other, stopped and looked at us for a few seconds, and then left the way we had come from.

Sunrays poked through a cluster of clouds making lines in the sky overhead shining directly on this knoll. Someone had arranged rocks for a fire but other than that there was just a feeling of a past settlement now lost to our eye but not our sixth sense. Branches of an old tree drooped to the ground making a natural lean-to and protection from the wind. When I stood with Mosquito under that tree I noticed a large cluster of stones as if arranged by the hand of man. Harry noticed it at the same time and we both went to it. One stone was lying on top of a natural rocky outcropping. The nearby tree was dead but had an image of a bear carved into the trunk. When I looked at the rocks again I noticed the precise nature of the parallel stone lying horizontally.

"What do you-"

"Some sort of ancient temple or what-do-you-call-those-things?"


"Yes, grotto! A mini altar of sorts. What-"


"Could be."




"In some sort of protective device."

"No. Very unlikely."

"But the hummingbird," said Harry.

"True. But why hasn't anyone noticed it before?"

"I'm sure people have but not with the knowledge we have."

"Very few have it, yes."

"But how can one pry a stone like that?"

Arrow stepped forward with his hand in his beard.

"There is a method to leverage a stone like that, with a branch and some strong arms. Let's try." And so we did. Arrow was the one who found the cedar branch and a stone to use as a jack to use the bottom part of a bent branch to move the stone and then to muscle it a few inches every time until we had the stone fall down. Behind it was a cavity. I felt fear to put my hand in there but Harry wasn't, so he went forward and used his small hand to reach way under the rock cavern into the void clasping at what lay there.




"Okay." He grimaced and sweated and twisted his arm to an awkward angle, holding it like that for a moment.

"Find anything in there?"

"I think there's a...a...some sort of corner shape...unless..."

"Could be a..."

"Could be."

"Can you-"

"No. I can't."

"But can't you-"



"Because it's stuck or something...unless..."






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