The next day, I found myself in the passenger side of a dingy pick-up truck as we casually drove through various dirt roads. My guide, Dichali, gave me information on the various areas and houses that we passed. There was some ramshackle housing that I was sadly informed were homes.
“We are independent from the US, so there is no direct government support for us. Many of us resort to trades passed down from our family for support and help for our community. As you may know, it is not typical for tribes to give tours, but we need the money so we’ll take what we can get. Besides, I like to talk.” He chuckled. “It’s sort of in my name.”
He noticed the sad look on my face.
“It may not seem like much, but we have each other. Most of us are happy, despite how things may appear.”
“Yeah....I just...never realized what it looked like on a reservation. You see it in movies but, it’s different in real life.”
“Hollywood rarely shows reality, especially if its harsh. They glorify drugs and alcohol, which is a big problem in real life. You may already know this, but as I’ve seen on these tours no two people have the same understanding of things. We do have electricity, although not all choose to use it. Everyone is different in how modern they choose to live. We do not judge as long as they obey the tribal law. But if any do not wish to abide, they are free to leave.”
“It’s beautiful here. I can’t imagine growing up here and wanting to leave.”
“Thank you. Our code here is not so difficult. Mostly our laws revolve around respect of others, yourself, and the land. Those who leave do so because they want an ‘American’ lifestyle or they want to partake in things we don’t approve of.”
“So I’m going to address what you call the elephant in the room ...you are obviously not born of pale blood. And you look as if you’re from our tribe. Is that the reason you sought us out?”
“Were you told that you’re Algonquin?”
“Yes. But from my understanding, it means I could be from multiple locations because Algonquin are linked by their language and not region.”
“That is very true. We are a united nation, but the Algonquin is made up of many smaller tribes. So you traveled all the way to explore your roots?”
“Not at first. I came up here because of the findings from the plane crash. My brother was one of the passengers.”
“I am sorry to hear that.”
“It’s alright. It was a year ago. When I heard they found something I felt compelled to come up here and see if I could find anything out for myself. But deep down, I think when I realized that there was an Algonquin tribe nearby it made me sure that I wanted to be here. Unfortunately, I’ve distanced myself from my heritage.”
I waited to hear a chastisement from him.
“That is understandable. Americans do not like what they don’t understand or know. You felt like an outsider did you not?”
“We will never be fully accepted, but we persevere nonetheless. It is better that you find your way back to us, than to grow up here and leave. Many who leave never come back.”
“Well, I hope to learn as much about our people as I can. I feel this will be a great learning experience.”
“Would you like to meet our tribal leader? I know it’s not very customary, but I think you would benefit from meeting him.”
“Yes, that would be great!”
“Alright then, let’s go.”
Twenty minutes later, I was able to meet many members of the tribe and began to get a sense that I was coming home for the first time. While a bit hesitant, everyone greeted me well.
After we were done conversing, Dichali began walking me back to the truck.
“Just so you know, it is actually very rare that an outsider be allowed to meet any of the elders. That is why I had to leave you in the truck at first so I could get their permission. We value our heritage and if letting you speak with them helped you identify with us, they were inclined to help.′
“Thank you, Dichali. It really means a lot.”
Just then, we passed one house that was plainly different from the others. Many adornments had a mystical look about them, and I couldn’t help but to admire it.
“That is the dwelling of our medicine man, Wicasa. He not only has much knowledge of healing, but also of all our beliefs that modern Americans would call legends. He is also a tribe leader, but he did not agree to meet with you. Perhaps another time if you’re staying here longer.′
“I’ll probably be around for another four days, or until they find out anything interesting enough about the crash.”
“Very well. Leave me your number and I can let you know if he changes his mind. He is a very interesting man to speak with on our beliefs.”
We continued on, conversing about the day’s events until we came to the truck. To our surprise, a tall man wearing clothes of animal hide was waiting for us. As we approached, he gave me a grave look that was accentuated by the worn lines in his face. He gave off the impression of a wise and hardened man.
Dichali motioned for me to stop.
“It’s Wicasa. Wait here. He’s very wary of strangers.” He walked over to the medicine man and they moved twenty feet further from me and began speaking in another language with their backs turned. Was I in some kind of trouble?
From their intonation, it wasn’t a friendly conversation.
After their discussion, they both approached me.
“Wicasa does not know English so I will interpret for him. He is concerned that you are attached to something very bad. Evil, even.”
“What do you mean?”
“We believe that the physical world is bound together with a spiritual realm. Wicasa can see connections between the two. He says that he can see the link between you and your brother, and he has been possessed by an evil spirit.”
“That’s ludicrous, you know that he’s...”
“No, he is quite alive. You know the man that disappeared recently?”
“It is the wind spirit, also known as the W-E-N-D-I-G-O.” He spelled it out slow and carefully.
“Oh, the Wen...”
“Do not speak its name! Doing so only draws it closer.”
“What about it?”
“Ever since the plane crashed, the wind spirit has claimed another body.”
“But, they’re just legends, aren’t they?” I said, inbetween a question and a statement. It was pretty strange that I had those dreams since I came here, even before I read the book on the wendigo.
“This one is quite true. Akecheta has seen the creature himself.”
“Who is that?”
“He is our best hunter and warrior. Very reliable, very honest man. He has no reason to lie.”
“So what is Wicasa wanting me to do with this information, exactly?”
The tribesmen spoke among themselves for a moment, seeming to come to an understanding. Dichali hesitated, as if weighing whether he would say it or not.
“He wants...he wants you to help us kill it.”
“He wants me to what?" I repeated back, unable to believe what I was hearing. “Why would I be the one?”
“Because, Chogan, he is your brother.”
“Okay hold on...hold on. Let me get this straight. Because my brother is now a monster, he’s my responsibility? This sounds crazy.”
“We’re not saying he’s your responsibility. Since he is your brother, you have more power against it. Your blood is your bond, and so you can hurt it more than anyone else can.”
“No, no, this is insane. Take me out of here.”
“Chogan, you can save lives by helping us.”
“I don’t even know if any of what you’re saying is real!”
I knew that this what they truly believed, but saying my deceased brother was a monster? “I want to go back right now.”
Dichali spoke to Wicasa for another moment, and he led me back to the truck. I spent an uncomfortable ride back to the town square, our eyes never crossing. Part of me felt bad, because I knew they didn’t mean any offense but the whole situation was insane.
As I began to jump out of the truck, I stopped at the sound of Dichali’s voice.
“Hold on for another moment.” I stared back with pure comtempt. “Please.”
I nodded my head and waited as he wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me.
“If you change your mind.” After this, he sped off.
Scrawled on the paper was his phone number. Even after as mad as I got, they still thought I’d consider. Entering my cabin, I slowly mulled over all the events that had taken place in the last couple of days.
Could there actually be anything to the legend? Or was my subconscious steeped in legends?
The remainder of my day went by in a haze and before I knew it, I was asleep.
I looked down onto a meadow, then glanced all around me. Not seeing anything, I sniffed the air and soon found a wondrous scent. Belly aching, I silently jumped through tree after tree. The scent was making me drool on myself as I began my hunt.
Soon, I found it.
A lone deer was foraging in the woods, completely and totally unaware of my presence. My scent was too high up to be detected. The smell of its flesh was intoxicating me, and I couldn’t even bother to toy with it.
In mere seconds, I lunged down from the trees on to the deer. It tried to cry out, but I ripped its throat before it had the chance. The taste of its meat on my black-spotted tongue was euphoric. I shuddered at the sensation of the food going down my throat and eventually into my belly. As always, I wanted to savor it so badly. But my hunger...oh my furious hunger never granted me this pleasure.
In ten minutes time, I had devoured nearly all of the deer. For sport, I used its bones to decorate the tops of the tree limbs. It was only a shame the humans were never too far up to see my handiwork.
After a half hour or so, my stomach gurgled again. The hunger...it was back. I winced inwardly at the unpleasantness. This had gone on for as long as I...how long had I been like this? The harder I tried to think about it, the more it slipped away.
Soon, the hunger was taking over me, pushing me to find more to eat. It was never enough. No matter how much I ate, I always felt so very empty.
Within a couple of hours searching, I came across a small house. I could smell the scent of a man, and the craving began to drive me mad. I crawled around the outside of the house, listening and smelling. Wondering how it would taste when I ripped him apart. The lights began to go out in the rooms, one by one. It was only by the bedroom now.
There was a perfectly placed tree near the bedroom, and I called in a sad woman’s voice, “Help! Please, somebody!”
Just as expected, I saw the window open and the man stuck his head out. He looked perplexed, and I had to contain my laughter at his ignorance. The height of the tree gave me just the right acoustics to confuse him.
“Help, please!” I said again.
In a couple of minutes, the man was outside and looking around as if to figure out the source of my call. Not making a solitary sound, I bounded from one tree to another and called out again in a perfect imitation of a human.
“Someone please, I’m hurt!”
The fool perked up and came trudging over in the snow, calling out to the would-be victim. Once he was far enough into the trees, I jumped down and hid from his view.
“Please, sir!” I called, trying my best not to burst into laughter.
I could hear his steps coming closer and closer until...
His shriek at the sight of me was all too satisfying. He fell back into the snow, dropping his gun and freezing in absolute terror.
“W-W-wendigo...” The man whispered.
I cackled in sheer delight and crouched over him, inhaling the scent one last time.
“Now you’re going to help me eat...”
I opened my mouth and began to bite down into his tasty flesh...
The vivid imagery and details of the dream haunted me as i came to, feeling like I was the actual perpetrator for a certain time. What bothered me the most was the familiarity of the man...I knew him from somewhere. I decided to get out and grab some breakfast while I mulled over everything.
It didn’t take long to learn that something horrible had happened the night before. Apparently Charlie was killed by an animal, and was completely ripped apart.
“Charlie...oh God.” I thought as the image of his face flashed back into my mind. He was the man in my dream, I was sure of it. Everything about this whole experience was so surreal, but there was no denying that any of it happened. Maybe there really was something to this wendigo legend, if it was even a legend anymore...
After eating my breakfast, I went back to my cabin and stared at Dichali’s number. My hand started to dial the numbers, but instead I put the phone back on the coffee table before I finished.
“This is crazy,” I said aloud to myself. “Hunting for imaginary monsters?”
Then, I jumped as my phone rang to life.
“H-hello?” I said in a meek tone.