Captain Deramo moved slowly as he woke. He hurt everywhere. He was unclear as to why the ship had stopped her motion, but so grateful to feel a lightness in his being. He knew he had been attacked by a sea creature with a knife and was in Heaven; he was filled with praise in his heart. He formed the words for the prayer of Ascension into Grace then realized he was raising his arms toward the sky. If he was in Heaven, wouldn’t he already be in the clouds? His eyes flew open at the sudden vision of the Dark Water Ghost before him. Terror filled him as he grabbed for his missing crucifix. He was in purgatory or perhaps hell for the sins he had committed.
The Dark Water Ghost looked directly into Deramo’s eyes, slowly moving his head from side to side, pulling his lips thin, opening his hands to return the silver amulet to show peace.
“O a di?” he tried to imitate Deramo’s last phrase holding the ornament toward him. He tapped his tortoise shell “Yuta.” He tapped the man-child’s chest lightly, asking his name. Deramo shook his head. Where was he? Didn’t angels in Heaven wear white cloaks?
Yuta felt paternal toward the simple man-child. He opened his face again, very careful not to show any of his front teeth in case White Faces perceived baring of the teeth as a threat, like a growling wolf. He couldn’t expect this sick, young Being to understand so quickly. Again, as if he was talking to a child. “O a dio. Hoo. Yuta!”
Deramo held to a slim, fleeting hope that he had somehow survived the ominous ocean voyage. He swallowed his words, “Hoo. Deramo.” He tapped his own chest and slowly grasped his crucifix from the warm, opened palm.
Yuta was filled with the joy of the birth of his First Son. He broadened his face, touched both hands of the man-child, “Hoo. Reamo!”
“Reamo. Reamo! Eat?” giving him borage and willow tea, along with the bear berry and rice porridge that had simmered through the night. He signed, hands to mouth, nodding at Deramo. The youth seemed terribly slow to comprehend his own name and basic communication. Deramo took the food, watching to make sure that he was not being poisoned or tricked. After months of eating mussels, sucking fish, and rats, the food he was offered had tantalizing aroma.
He took it with great gusto, but was slowed by the hand of Yuta. “Go slowly, young one,” Yuta signaled with his eyes and hands as he spoke. “Many days will pass before you can eat as you once did.”
Deramo’s eyes filled, he looked up to the Heavens, raising his birch bowl, “My Lord and Savior, I thank you for your bountiful grace,” as he bowed his head in prayer.
Yuta recited his own eating prayer. “Great Spirit, give to me your guidance again while I raise another child from the hands of Earth Mother.”
Suddenly the Earth shook around them, the stew sloshed from their bowls. Yuta felt the forces of the Spirits shift wildly. He wondered if the Turtle that held the Earth had become dizzy, for the immense spruce trees snapped and spun. Were handfuls of berries and grains offered and accepted from one tribe to another an offense to Forest Spirits? Had an exchange of names and prayers to the Heavens altered movements of the Earth? The two men gripped hands firmly in the terror of the earthquake, seeking comfort as any two strangers might. Covering their faces as branches swirled past. As the earth and ice cracked and crashed, Yuta thought he heard voices of his Ancestors whispering. “This meeting of two Peoples changes the spirals of time to new customs among Humans.”
Green eyes stared into brown eyes over a warm fire and porridge far after the shuddering of the earth ceased and the stars realigned into their familiar pattern.