Katherine awoke with a start from deep in a very strange dream whose content evaporated almost immediately upon opening her eyes. Residual sensations of arousal faded out of her body nearly as fast. What had her dream been about? Why was she on the downside of arousal, or was it the upside? Why could she not remember anything about a dream intense enough to cause these feelings in her body? And why was she smelling smoke? SMOKE!? screamed her brain – and she bolted out of bed trying to follow her nose and find the source.
It did not take long for her to check the extent of her tiny apartment to confirm no fire and no smoke. Not only no smoke but the smell evaporated quickly just like the dream when she left the bedroom. She even stepped out into the hallway of her apartment’s front door to confirm for certain the possibility of fire in another part of the building. No smoke there either. As she preferred to be called, Kat turned and returned to her apartment, leaning her back into the door to close it softly. What was going on? Mysterious dream. Mysterious arousal. Mysterious sensory overload smelling smoke. Her mind searched for answers and found none.
She glanced at the digital clock on the microwave and noticed the time – 3:34 AM – and plopped into her recliner, cranked the footrest out, and pushed the chair cushion to lie back and ponder what had just happened. She breathed out slowly and relaxed from her fire-fighting adrenaline rush. Pondering did not last very long as sleep reclaimed her almost immediately.
When dawn broke, Kat awoke finding herself in the recliner with less than sketchy recall as to why she had not awoken in her bed. The early morning panic and bizarreness of an unexplainable dream scenario…and the distinctive whiff of smoke…did not answer any firm questions and she barely remembered that much. She abandoned attempts to figure anything out and decided instead to shower and get ready for work.
Her brain refused to ignore the events of the night before and held fast to two facts that were anything close to solid; she had felt the teasing sensations of arousal upon waking, and she immediately smelled smoke. Those were the facts. As she shampooed her hair, she tried to place the smoke smell. It kind of reminded her of the fireplace at her parent’s home or maybe it had been like a campfire. It did smell like a wood fire regardless of what, where, or how it flooded her senses, she smelled it distinctively. Working in the conditioner she decided it made no sense to worry about it.
Later that morning at work, her project team met first thing and Kat found herself hard-pressed to concentrate on the progress briefing. Her role had shifted to limited participation now that her deliverables were complete. Being there seemed more like a courtesy than necessity actually, but they were a team after all. She stifled a yawn and looked through a flip chart graphic being explained to someplace miles beyond it. The meeting lasted almost an hour and upon ending, Kat got up to head back to her cubical. Before she left the conference room her boss called out for her to hang around a minute and proceeded to question her distracted demeanor.
“Kat, are you okay? You looked like you were a hundred miles away during the meeting.” Cassy, her boss, and the project lead asked.
Kat turned and replied, “Oh, Cassy, yeah, I’m okay. I was a little distracted by…umm…” she hesitated to decide how to explain what had happened earlier that morning.
“Okay, out with it. Distracted by what? Or should I say WHO?” prompted Cassy. “C’mon, let’s go down to the cafeteria and grab a coffee.”
Cassy was not only her boss but also a good friend who had earned enough of Kat’s trust to share things like this with only her closest friends.
“That sounds good,” replied Kat. “Maybe that will lift this fog I’m in.”
They chatted over coffee and split a bagel with crème cheese. There was not that much to talk about from the two fragments Kat could share. Cassy leaned in thoughtfully and listened.
“Smoke?” asked Cassy. “Like a cigarette or cigar smoke?”
Kat shook her head, “No, more like a wood fire you’d smell at a campground or in a fireplace. Hah, maybe it was me on fire and…” She paused falling into thoughtful silence and slowly shook her head.
Cassy reached over the placed her hand over Kat’s. “Yeah, there is that possibility, my friend. You’ve been working a lot of weeks straight without a break. You are truly burning brain cells. I don’t know what flaming brain cells smell like but you’re burning your share. This project is coming to a close and your deliverables are complete. Why don’t you take a few days PTO before you lose them altogether?”
Kat breathed out like she had been holding her breath. “I think you’re right, Cassy. It’s time to enjoy some downtime, some me time. I’ve actually been thinking about heading out to Phoenix to visit my sister.”
Cassy smiled and agreed, “There you go. That’s a quick flight from DFW, so go for it.”
“No planes for me. I want real quality downtime behind the wheel of the limo,” grinned Kat.
The limo, as she referred to her car, turned out to be a completely renovated 1968 Chrysler Imperial gifted to her by her grandfather. The vehicle was a beast; jet black; suicide doors; lots of chrome; real metal; and really poor gas mileage. The car looked like it should lead a parade ferrying a dignitary to a special event at the UN or something equally presidential. The only things missing were the little flags mounted on the front fenders. She loved that car, and it made her feel safe from anything that might befall her on the open road. The car served as her personal limo, but in reality, it was a tank.
Cassy laughed, “To each her own! I’d fly before driving through the desert in August in a tank…sorry…a limo.”
They both laughed, and Kat felt remarkably better knowing her boss had suggested some time off. It was indeed time to get off the hamster wheel of work.
* * *
Kat wasted no time and reached out to her sister Maddie. Madeline was the younger of the two by a couple of years but with them being 35 and 33 age really did not make that much difference beyond the ranks of big and little sister. The call from Kat pleasantly surprised Maddie and they fell into easy conversation.
“It’s funny you called, Kat because I was just thinking about you. It’s been way too long. We’re overdue to see each other and go someplace Mexican…oh…yes and have too much tequila.”
“Agreed!” said Kat quickly,” That’s exactly what we need. You know how much I miss seeing you on all fours barking at the moon.”
“Hey now! True, I was on all fours, but I was on the ground looking for my sunglasses…and was NOT barking, I was cursing. Better get your accusations straight big sister. Plus, there was no moon that night. You ARE mistaken.”
Plans were made to meet in Phoenix in a couple of days after they swapped a few more false accusations and embarrassing moments. Kat explained her need for the therapeutic value of drive time and would be arriving in the limo. Maddie approved; she loved that car as much as Kat. Both looked forward to seeing each other and said their goodbyes.
* * *
Two days later Kat pulled out of the apartment complex locked and loaded for a good visit with her sister. Temperatures were already high and pushing 90 degrees and it was only 7:00 AM, but the limo’s air conditioning pumped a nice chill into the cabin of the vehicle. She navigated south to Interstate 20 and pointed her ride westward; fifteen-plus hours later she should roll into Phoenix.
After five hours of driving in what seemed like an absolutely straight line, the scenery evolved from partially green to a gritty, mostly dusty khaki dotted with the occasional armadillo that failed to cross the road safely. Kat needed to pee and thought picking up a cold glass of iced tea would be perfect. The next exit had a sign showing both gas and food were available, and she decided to stop. At the bottom of the ramp, she began to question her judgment because the only gas station doubled as the only food source and looked ancient and weather-beaten. The sign out front showed a green dinosaur over a faded Sinclair script underneath. She remembered these stations from her youth and felt like this one must have fallen through a crack in time. She pulled into the parking lot and began to relax after seeing a sign in the window, Ice Cold Drinks. All was good and she threw the limo into park and switched off the ignition.
Upon stepping out of the car, a young native American kid, maybe fourteen or so, dashed up to her and asked, “Can I fill ‘er up, lady?”
Wow! she thought, full service too. “Yes please, just top ‘er off, sir!” speaking pleasantly to him and embracing his energetic speech.
“Check ‘er oil too?” he asked.
She nodded, “Why yes, check ‘er oil too. Thank you! Say do you think I could get a cold glass of iced tea inside?”
“Oh yes, ma’am! My granny can fix you up just fine…coldest iced tea in Texas.”
Kat grinned, “Well it can’t get any better than that now can it?”
“No ma’am. You go on inside and I’ll take good care of your ride,” he prompted.
As she turned toward the building, she noticed again that the place suffered from an overdose of west Texas weather. The sun-bleached paint peeled in many places, and a small welcome sign hung over the door from a couple of short chains, squeaking in the gentle breeze. The front door was a battered wooden screen from another era. Kat wondered if there was ever a time of year in this climate that a screen door by itself would serve a purpose. The old door squeaked as she pulled it open to grab the knob on the interior door. When she pushed into the room beyond the interior clearly served as a small diner. It was dark compared to the blazing sun outside, so she hesitated and stood for a few seconds to let her eyes adjust.
A small voice came from behind a short counter with three stools lined up in front. “Oh good! You are here now. Come in, dear! I have some nice cold iced tea for you.”
Kat’s brain kicked in, What? Wait WHAT? I am HERE now? Have some iced tea? I did not even ask for tea. I never said a word. What the hell is going on?
Kat stood there dumbfounded, slack-jawed, and stammered, “How did you know I was coming…how did…”
Her eyes now fully adjusted to the lower light Kat could clearly see a shriveled old native American woman standing behind the counter smiling at her and gesturing to one of the stools. Her face was kind and framed with deep lines from hard living, years of hard work, an unforgiving sun, dry winds, and general west Texas exposure.
“It’s okay dear, Big Crow with Little Feet told us you were coming today. You have the spirit of…”
“WHAT?” demanded Kat, “Big Crow with…WHAT?” she repeated, “What’s going on?”
“You have been expected for many years,” the old woman continued. “We are so happy it is now time.”
“EXPECTED?” she exploded. “Time for WHAT?”
Kate was beyond flustered and stumbled into a protest, “Look, I’ve never been here before and there’s no way you’ve been waiting on my arrival on this exact day. Explain THAT to me. This is crazy and a very big mistake has been made.”
The old woman quietly stepped from behind the counter and held out an icy glass of tea. “Please dear, enjoy the tea. Have a seat, and I will explain to you why this is no mistake.”
Kat hesitated before accepting the glass of tea. It took her several more seconds to sit down on the first stool. She could not wrap her head around any of this and part of her considered bailing out the door and hitting the road without the coldest tea in Texas. The best thing about this place would be leaving it with many miles between them.
The old woman slowly walked over and perched on the stool next to Kat. She lightly touched Kat’s forearm sitting close enough for her deep brown eyes to make a connection. In that moment it seemed impossible to break away from her gaze and yet her eyes did not draw any fear or apprehension into Kat. She slowly began to relax her shoulders and brought the tea to her lips. It truly could have been the coldest iced tea in Texas.
“I am Desert Wind Song,” she began softly, “and carry the blood and spirit of the Pueblo from many years ago. You are safe here, and no harm will come to you.” She smiled and tilted her head. “And you are called…?”
For some reason, this old woman had completely disarmed Kat’s concerns and replaced apprehension with a comfortable warmth. Kat returned her smile and said, “I’m Katherine McLeod…but I go by Kat.”
“Kat is who you are, dear, but there is another here with you.” The old woman said softly.
“No,” said Kat, “I’m here alone. I’m driving out to Phoenix to visit my sister for a few days. I only stopped here to top off my gas tank and enjoy a cold drink.”
“All of what you say is true, dear, but there is something more I must share with you that you do not know,” she said, her eyes gleaming like welcoming dark pools of truth and she continued to speak. “You are Duwit chonah mowna toarna jawneek beneellat.”
Kat rocked back and stared at her in shock. “I’m WHAT?”
“You are the honored one. Big Crow with Little Feet spoke of you as the honored one who would come here this day.”
“What do you mean honored? What…I don’t understand what you…” Kat sputtered.
“You are honored to have the companion spirit of an ancient Puye princess in you,” the old woman explained.
That news flash took Kat by total surprise, and she put down the iced tea with a little more force than she intended and began to rise. Halfway off the stool, her legs gave out and she collapsed to the floor. Her breath burst from her chest replaced immediately with a jerking inhalation chased by a surging sense of arousal and the smell of something burning. The sensations flooded rapidly, and it felt like her body no longer belonged to her. Waves of pleasure swept through like a wildfire blown by a fierce wind. In an instant everything peaked, and she plunged over the edge of what little control she had left and thrashed into a raging sexual climax having never laid a hand anywhere on herself.
Kat lay gasping on the floor and fought to speak. “What…the…hell…just…happened? Something swept through me and just…just…” She smelled it again…wildfire, yes…the smell of smoke filled her senses. The old woman just smiled down at her and once again said, “Duwit chonah mowna toarna jawneek beneellat. The spirit of the princess is strong in you, and she longs to find her soulmate Eagle Shadow.”
“Hang on, soulmate…who…Eagle what?” Kat shook her head in disbelief still struggling with the aftereffects of an intense, intimate sensory overload. She struggled to sit up but remained on the floor as the old woman continued the story.
“The legend of Eagle Shadow is many many years old. He was to marry the princess but died during the hunt in preparation for the wedding feast. He died accidentally, and they never married. The princess died of a broken heart and committed the sin of taking her own life. Legend says both were doomed, both were destined to wander through time until they found each other in the afterlife. You are here now with her spirit to make their journey complete.”
“Ahh, no! That’s a sad sad tale, but it has nothing to do with me,” huffed Kat. She slowly stood on wobbly legs and took an unsteady step toward the door. “I think I’ve heard enough of your spirit fairy tale. I have to go. Thank you for the tea, it was wonderful, but I’m done with this nonsense.”
The old woman began, “Dear, you will soon meet Big Crow with…”
“I think not,” retorted Kat, “Your Big Crow will not meet me…no…I will not be meeting any more of your kindred spirits. In fact, I am so very much OUT of here.”
Kat whipped open the door and strode briskly through it pulling it closed behind her with a bang leaving Desert Wind Song still seated on the stool next to where Kat had been seated. The screen door creaked that sound only a spring-drawn screen door can make as it swung wide and then snapped shut.
“Got ‘er ready for you, lady. She’s in good shape. She only took $15 worth of gas and should treat you just fine,” the young boy gave a quick recap on his work.
Kat dug a twenty-dollar bill out of her wallet and handed it to the kid. “Thank you so much.”
He asked, “How was the tea?”
“Coldest I’ve ever tasted. Probably the coldest in Texas” she replied forcing a smile onto her face that did not come easily.
The kid’s face glowed with pride, and he lifted a hand to wave goodbye. “Good luck with Big Crow…”
Kat never heard the rest of his words as she slammed the door, cranked the engine, and peeled away from the most bizarre experience she had encountered in her life. Puye princess my ass, she thought as she flew up the entrance ramp to get back on I-20 west.
* * *
Several hours later I-20 fed into I-10 on the way to El Paso. Even starting in Dallas, the drive across Texas would take almost all day but with enough iced tea she knew things would be fine. Fine, she thought, fine if all this Native American spirit crap would just leave her head alone.
As she continued westward, her head would not cooperate, and her body still tingled from the experience that swept through her while sprawled on the floor of the diner. That is when it hit her. The residual sensations were the same ones she experienced back in her apartment after that unknown dream. In the dream, she never recalled coming down off anything orgasmic but the sensations at this point were similar. Then her thoughts changed, had she been coming down, or had she been just entering that sensory state when she jerked awake? Too much to consider; too much unknown; too much distraction; but she knew for a fact she did not carry the spirit of anyone or anything with or inside of her on this trip.
Four hours later in the middle of the afternoon, she needed to recycle some of the coldest iced tea in Texas and find someplace to grab a refill. The next exit outside of El Paso displayed a Hardee’s sign high in the air, and she knew from experience they had at least the second-coldest iced tea in Texas. Kat pulled into the parking lot and circled around the lot to park on the shady side of the building. The air conditioning inside felt so good she paused at the door before heading to the restrooms. With a giant cup full of iced tea in hand, she once again paused at the door before stepping back out into the furnace-fired heat of mid-afternoon Texas.
The heat blasted her when she pushed through the door to the parking lot. Taking a quick sip from her straw, she hung a left to walk to the limo. She stopped short when she saw a man leaning on the hood of her car. He appeared old and stood tall in a dusty black overcoat and an equally dusty top hat. The hat had a corner crushed slightly and it topped off his long gray hair, both clothing and man had seen better years. In that instant her nose picked up the scent of a wood fire. She froze and looked around for signs of fire or smoke and found none. Her eyes riveted back to the old man. She thought to herself who the hell wears an overcoat when it has to be 100 degrees or more.
“Excuse me, sir,” she addressed him scoldingly, “you’re leaning on my car.”
“I know,” he replied softly, “and a very nice car it is, Katherine.”
She nearly dropped her tea. “How do you know my…who the hell are YOU?” she barked in rapidly growing anger.
He straightened to his full height of well over six feet and spoke again in a soft voice, “Duwit chonah mowna toarna jawneek beneellat.”
“Oh hell no…” she began.
“I am Big Crow…he started to say.
Kat cut him off rudely. “Yeah, yeah I know…with Little Feet.”
He smiled disarmingly and continued, “We have a journey to complete.”
She fired back, “Oh hell no WE don’t! No, no, I have a journey to complete and it does not involve you or some nomadic spirit princess. Nope, not even. I’m going to Phoenix just as soon as I get back in my car.”
He said nothing but his gaze held her fast with as much energy as if he had physically grabbed her about the shoulders. “You will continue to Phoenix, but we have a stop along the way to reconnect Shadow Eagle with his princess bride whose spirit resides in you.”
“No, Big Crow buddy, WE don’t have any spirit baggage in or on me, and WE aren’t going anywhere together,” Kat explained with more conviction than she felt.
He continued to look at her and she could not pull her eyes away. She could not take a single step toward the driver’s side door. “We need to leave now.” he stated finally.
Like she had been drugged or hypnotized or both, Kat replied with an air of complete compliance, “Yes, we need to leave now.”
* * *
With no further resistance, she slipped behind the wheel. Big Crow with Little Feet slid into the back seat slouching down so his top hat remained atop his head. Without another word she pulled out of the parking lot and turned toward the I-25 junction off I-10 heading north toward Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Kat felt like she had to be under some sort of spell because she could not muster any resistance to his driving directions. Take this exit, turn here, turn there; total compliance seemed to pour out of her, and that went against everything she knew about herself. He gave her instructions as to what she needed to do to facilitate the joining of two lost spirits. It seemed a mystery where she had become an unwitting and unwilling participant with no power to say no. She was out of control; Kat did not like being out of control, and she especially did not like the inability to regain control.
After one final instruction, she pulled into a parking lot off of Indian Service Road 611 where she saw the massive Puye cliff dwellings where the Pueblo Indians lived centuries ago. Kat turned in her seat to ask Big Crow with Little Feet a question and the back seat was empty. He was no longer there. Vanished. He was simply gone. She had been watching him in the rearview mirror but never saw him exit. He was just gone. Despite his absence, she still felt his psychic pull to complete her mission, so she got out of the car and began to walk zombie-like toward the ruins. A late afternoon sun neared the horizon, all scheduled tours no longer operated, so she walked right up to the base of the ruins and began to climb.
Big Crow with Little Feet told her what path to take to ascend through the ruins and reach the top of the mesa. Steps had been cut into the stone and she walked and climbed as though trapped in a trance-like state. When she reached the top of the mesa breathing came hard and she bent at the waist to catch her breath. The only thing she caught was a shadow that slid over her causing her to look up in time to see a huge eagle soaring on the evening thermals. The eagle screamed like eagles do and passed over her again and again from far above. That is the moment she began to feel the heat of arousal build within her. The intensity increased and she felt her breath catch in her throat.
The eagle banked hard and swooped downward toward where she stood at the edge of the mesa. Huge wings stretched out to slow its descent as it glided toward her, flapping hard pushing against the air, tail feathers flaring out to slow his approach. Kat stood frozen and pinched her eyes shut. She waited for the impact of the huge bird. She could not move. She could not breathe. She could not scream. Feet remained rooted despite the compelling desire to run and hide.
Her eyes suddenly opened when she heard a deep voice speak, “Duwit chonah beneellat.”
The eagle was not in front of her; a man had taken its place; a very naked and very aroused man who spread his arms to embrace her. His eyes were black pools that pulled at her. Long black hair whipped across his face in the evening breeze. His chest was broad and very strong. Her eyes locked onto a large dream catcher pendant hanging from a leather cord around his neck. Panic set in and rose in her throat.
Kat tried again to scream but instead found herself levitating into the air, quite naked herself, and settling into his arms, legs encircling his hips to make the most intimate of connections. Her body shuddered in that instant within the grips of a cosmic climax. He held her tightly and they vibrated together riding wave after wave of ecstasy. He threw his head skyward and began to lean back slightly with her still trapped in his embrace. He stood on the very edge of the mesa and leaned farther back. Leaning beyond the point of balancing on the edge, they fell prey to gravity and plunged locked in their embrace toward the rocky ground at the base of the cliff.
Kat heard sharp cracking sounds. Were those the sounds of her own bones breaking as she experienced death? How could she hear if she was dead? Once again, the cracking sounds pierced her ears several more times. Like emerging from a dream, her eyes opened to intense white light. Was this heaven? Was she really dead? Why was there no pain?
“Ma’am are you alright? Ma’am, talk to me. Are you okay?” asked a worried Park Ranger urgently. He pointed the flashlight away from her eyes when she turned her head to face him.
“I’m…think I’m…I’m okay…I think,” she replied groggily, “I must have fallen asleep.”
“That’s fine, ma’am but you cannot overnight here in the park,” he informed her.
“Ahh okay. What time is it, officer? she asked.
He answered, “Nearly ten o’clock. You have to move out of here, or I’ll have to write a citation.”
Then his radio chirped, and he received a call to leave immediately for another emergency. “It’s your lucky day, I have to leave right now, ma’am, and so do you. Are you okay to drive?”
“Yes…yes, I am. Thank you for waking me up. I will leave right behind you,” she assured him.
He climbed back into his jeep, turned on the flashing light bar, and flew from the parking lot. Kat fired up the limo after a few minutes and headed out onto the service road. Kat’s last recollection struck her like a runaway train; she had been naked – totally naked. Totally naked and in the arms of a man equally naked and inside of her. But how did she get back…now she sat behind the wheel with her clothes on. How could this be? Her hand absently moved to her chest, and she flinched away when she felt something hairy. It was not something hairy, it was a feather attached to a dream catcher on a leather cord around her neck. She sucked in her breath and jerked the steering wheel toward the edge of the road and jammed on the brakes sliding to a stop. A dust cloud enveloped the car sweeping in front of the headlights. She needed to think. How could this be? How did…? Who had…? No answers came to her questions.
She could barely breathe and struggled to make sense of what had taken place. Did it take place? How much of what might have happened really did happen? Where did the dream catcher come from? Had she completed her mission to reconnect two ancient lovers lost in the ether? She shook her head in a futile attempt to clear her thoughts and climbed out of the car. She looked up into the heavens scanning a blazing blanket of stars, drew in a deep breath, clutched the dream catcher in her hand, and unleashed the scream that only eagles scream.