Living in Arizona, reservations were commonplace for everyone living in the area. Since the government-sanctioned them and gambling within them, me and my friends have been sneaking into them ever since. Seeing that we were part of the religious community, gambling was forbidden as was staying out late sneaking onto the reservation.
According to my parents, the Indians were savages that could only be placated with the devil’s activities such as gambling. Obviously, they were of the same opinion as to the government. Advocating and dehumanizing the communities within. In return, the government rewarded them with funds that basically rebuilt the church from the ground up. They presented them with a big fat check my parents held in front of the church with their gleaming smiles, patronizing the people they were persecuting.
That same picture hangs above my couch in my living room right now. It disgusts me every time I look at it. I even came in one night with too many bottles in and threw up upon looking at my father's smug grin.
See, I was the pastor's kid, but was never proud of it. As is every one that had had to suffer the same position deemed from birth. My father came from a long line of Bible thumpers. I was not. Me and my friends would get drunk, party at all hours of the night, sneak into casinos. If there was bad news, we were probably afoot.
Of course, my father never approved. I would be punished by being locked up in my room until I read the New Testament. Or locked in the church to recite scripture and, “pray my sins away.” It never worked, but neither did religion for me. What’s the point in praying to an invisible, omnipresent,” righteous god.” Always looking to torch me if I do wrong.
I got torched that night. Instead of it consuming me, it only heated the wax for my dab pen to suck up. My friend always came equipped with a blowtorch that we used on the way to the reservation in my friend's SUV he stole from his Mom. After my friend Bobby heated the pen, I went right to inhale poison. I felt as if my lungs were heating, getting redder, and expanding my second. However, this was only an illusion, as was the rest of the night.
After inhaling the smoke, I almost coughed one of my lungs up. Of course, all my friends jeered in response, but it was no matter. I was in paradise…
So much so, life no longer felt real. I sat up and demanded.
“Yo Jack, roll down the sunroof!”
He looked back at me with a confused look, his brow furrowed and eyebrows raised.
“Pssh, it’s your funeral man.”
He pressed down on a button on the side console, and the sunroof slid back. The harsh winds poured into the car. Bobby crossed his arms and rubbed them.
“Hey man, whatever you’re going to do. Make it quick.”
I got up with a painful moan.
Once my feet were planted firmly on the ground and my head hanging in the wind. I felt as if I was the captain of a pirate ship, sailing across the open seas.
” Woooh! “
The violent winds pushed against my face, moving my flesh. It was no matter. I felt more alive than ever before. My eyes watered and before I knew it, another head popped up alongside me. After letting out smoke, eyes redder than the devil himself. He screamed out.
” Woooh, hell yeah man!”
He dipped his head back in, taking a hit of his vape pen, and just like that, I was alone again.
I squinted my blurred eyes to see the casino in the distance. I shielded my eyes before yelling out.
“Look y'all, we're close!”
Immediately after, I heard a mechanical sound and looked down to see the sunroof was slowly crawling back into place. Threatening to chop off my head.
Before I could finish my sentence, I dipped my head back into the car, the sunroof closing overhead. My friends laughing all around me.
“What the hell, man?!”
Jack looked back, his curly hair in his eyes.
“What? It was funny.”
“No, it wasn't man. You almost chopped my head clean off.”
He turned around to the open road ahead.
“Stop being such a baby. You're fine.”
I sat back down in my seat in a humph. Crossing my arms.
“Yeah? Well, a couple of seconds later, I wouldn't be. Then you would be left to explain to the pastor why you were holding his kid's severed head in your hands.
Jack looked back again.
“Look man your fi...”
Jack whipped his head around goes see something in the road. Reflective eyes staring into the headlights like a deer in the headlights.
He swerved off to the side, pushing me into Bobby's shoulder. The dark creature vanished into the shadows on the right.
“What the hell bro!?”
Jack pushed back his curly hair.
“Look I'm sorry, man.”
I do the same and shout out.
“Are you drunk! You could have killed us all!”
Jack looks back.
“No man, I only had one drink before we left.”
“Get out of the car.”
“Why? We're fine.”
I demand even louder.
“Get out of the car, now!”
He puts up his hands as if being arrested.
“Jesus man, okay.”
Jack opens the door, and it responds with a resounding beeping sound. I do the same and meet him alongside the passenger side door. As he passes by me, I grab his arm.
“What was that about?”
“Get off me, man!”
He tears away his arm and pushes back his hair again.
“I saw something.”
I pass by him and look to the right side. I look to either side, then turn to him with my arms raised.
“What man? I don't see shit but the road ahead of us.”
Jack points towards the bushes on the right side.
“Look, there was something big. I don't know a deer or something. It disappeared into those bushes. Now get off my ass.”
He gets into the car, slamming the door shut behind him. Bobby puffs out some smoke then holds out the tray and pen.
I stare into the bushes some more before returning to the driver's seat. Just then, two glimmering eyes appear between the thorns. I run to the driver's side door that is ajar. Getting in and slamming the door so hard the car shakes two and fro. Before attempting to catch my breath. I feel eyes burning on my right side. I look to see Tony staring at me with a look of concern.
“What was that?”
I fasten my seat belt.
” I don’t know man.”
I shift the car into drive and continue on to the Casino on the right, lighting up the night.
As I pull up, my headlights fall on a multitude of Native Americans making their way into their bright coven.
“Alright, now that we’ve established Jack can’t drive us home.”
I pause for a moment.
”Anyway, who’s driving.”
Bobby lets out another pillar of smoke.
“Not me, man. I’m geeking.”
I roll my eyes. Then pause again… nose goes.
Everyone rushes to press on their noses except Bobby, who touches his eye instead.
I lower my hand and they follow suit.
”Well, since Bobby obviously can’t drive. Tony, you were the slowest.”
”Oh, come on, man.”
I get out of the car and the rest do the same. We slam the doors shut all at once and they follow me as I walk towards the doors.
As we are approaching the Casino I hear from behind me.
“Hey guys, look.”
We all turn, almost in sync, to see Jack doing his best Indian walk with his legs wide and eyes dazed.
“That’s not cool, man.”
Tony says as he shakes his head. I roll my eyes again and continue on.
As we enter the Casino, we are almost blinded by the lights. It was paradise. Rows of slot machines, roulette tables galore, and best of all, the poker tables off to the side. The blaring music and noise almost made us go deaf and reminded me of my first concert.
Indians were everywhere. In fact, we were the only underage white boys for miles. As we continued on, two burly Native Americans halted us. I look up to the bright lights above us veil him. Making him look like some Angel warrior. I shield my eyes before saying.
“Look, man, we’re just trying to go to the buffet in the back.
“No, I.Ds, no entry.”
My eyes finally adjust to the light and I let down each arm.
“Come on, man. We’ve been traveling for miles and just want something to eat.”
The man unfolds one arm, pointing out back.
“There’s a couple of dumpsters out back. Maybe you Wašíčus could have what the buffet dumps out after their shifts. Seems fitting. I mean, you didn't give us much more than that while you were having “Thanksgiving” dinner at the table or whatever.”
I look at the back doors to see three Native Americans standing by it. One opens the door and they pool in. The last one in looks back, squinting his re-adjusting eyes before he slams the door shut.
“You know what. Garbage food sounds delightful.”
“Oh, come on, man.”
“What the hell.”
“We can do better than that.”
I turn to them all and wink.
I turn back to see the man uncross his arms.
“Okay, but no funny business. Last thing we need is a couple of white boys driving us out of our land... Again.”
“Please, you can escort us.”
“I plan to.”
We follow the Native Americans to the back door. Some of them escaped through. Most likely with their winnings weighing down their pockets.
The talkative one opens the door and the howling wind pours in.
As I walk through the door with my crew, I look back and say.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
He slams the door shut behind us with a glare. I look at the trash then at candles in the distance.
“Do you realize what you just did to us? Or are you too high?”
I head towards them.
“You mean what I did for us.”
As I head off, they whisper amongst themselves.
“Yep, he's delusional.”
They follow and we seem to travel for hours before we catch up to the Native Americans atop the hill.
By the time we reach the top, they had already set up camp around a small makeshift campfire. One is humming bassy notes with his eyes closed while one is preparing a hookah. The final one stares at us in our approach.
“Who goes there?”
“Just u, us... Sir.”
I bury my hand in my pockets and try to keep my approach casual. I stand before them with my crew crossing their arms behind me.
“What do you want? Can't you see we're busy?”
“I know, I'm sorry, sir. We were just looking to join you.”
His eyebrow cocks.
“We’ve never celebrated life with a couple of white boys before.”
“I know that. I promise we're fun. We even have weed. Bobby, show him the weed.”
As Bobby franticly searches for his dime bag, they break out in deep belly laughter.
“We have no use for gringo weed. We smoke hookah. Ever try?”
I sit down on the log across from him.
“Um, no, sir.”
“Give him a... What do the white boys say? A hit!”
The fat one loading the hookah brings it over to me and sets it in my lap.
“Oh no I couldn't. We just smoked before this and...”
“Take a hit or leave.”
“Um... Well, here goes nothing.”
Bobby pops up behind me and grabs my shoulder.
“Dude, don't hold it in. It's way stronger than weed.”
“Let him. After all, you wanted to have fun, right?”
I look to their leader than the hookah. I place my lips on the pipe and inhale. I let out a cloud of smoke and cough for a straight minute. They all laugh, including my friends. The smoke appears to be green in appearance, but I know my eyes deceive me.
“So, how was it?”
I finally stop coughing and wheezing. It was great. Best hit I've ever had.
“Why don't you let your friends try. I pass it off to Bobby, who does not struggle at all. Who passes it off to the rest until we are all resting on the same log, on the verge of passing out. The fire covers the chief's face as he says.
My eyes grow heavier and heavier. Just as I am about to pass out, something from behind grabs my shoulder. I turn, halfway expecting to see Bobby. Instead, I see a man in a tribal devil mask.
I fall off the log and they laugh again while my friends sit there, stupidifed. The man in the mask dances around the fire and the fat man produces a drum kit he beats on. The boys watch in a daze as he dances around the fire. Instead of seeing the devil himself, tromping abou t.
I get back in my seat as the masked man continues to encircle the fire.
“Do you want to hear a tale?”
Bobby says, “not really man. I'm vibing as of now.”
“Well... If you want to stay.”
I rise to my feet.
“Actually, I think we'll be on our way.”
As I walk away, I turn to see no one following me. I puff, then go back to my seat and cross my arms.
The man raises up a finger gun.
A gunshot rings throughout the canyon surrounding us in my head, and I look all around us. My friends follow suit. I turn to the man who had taken on the appearance of a fiendish spirit.
“Have you ever heard about skin walkers?”
“No, what the hell is that? Some sort of zombie.”
They laugh once more.
“No, you white boys are so funny.”
“I told you we're fun.”
“Hmph, we'll see about that.... Anyway, skinwalkers are witches who can morph into any common creature. We know it as “yee naaldlooshii “in Navajo culture. It is very dangerous, and there are places that the powers of both good and evil can be possessed. In fact, we stand in an area such as that now.”
“Yeah, yeah, we've heard this story before.”
“Not like this you haven't.”
He stares into Jack’s soul, as does the masked man, who stops his romp and takes off the mask. He sits aside the chief, setting his mask beside him. Jack gulps.
“As I was saying, medicine men use this power to heal, but there are those with other intentions.”
“Malicious ones. Skinwalkers can cause pain and misfortune if used in vain. We know this form of witchcraft as, “witchery way.” To perform this, a corpse must be used.”
I look to my side to see Jack has vanished. I look to my side to see him creeping up on the masked man. I wave my hand over my throat whispering, “don't.”
Of course, he pays me no mind and snatches up the mask, anyway.
“Hey guys, look at me. I'm a skinwalker. Dumpty doopty doo. Look at me I'm so scary.”
He shrills in Bobby's face, and he falls back. Johnny romps around the fire, pumping his arms out like a fifties jig.
“Da da da, da da.”
He puts an L, on his forehead.
The chief yells so loudly it echoes throughout the canyon and puts out the fire. Jack takes off the mask and puts it down.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
The chief glares at him, then looks at us.
“How bout you all. I bet you're famished.”
“I could eat.”
“I bet. In fact, I would presume you boys have what you call the munchies. That's why I brought this.”
He presents a loaf of bread he takes from. Passing each slice to his side until everyone had one. He looks up from his slice through the fire and says.
“Now, I won't bore you with a prayer. Eat.”
I knew the bread was poisoned, so I tore off a piece and threw it to the side while they ate and prayed with their eyes closed.
The chief concludes the prayer and opens his eyes to stare at me. With a glare, he says.
“I said... Eat.”
I hesitantly take a bite I spit out when he looks at my friends. He looks back to me and places his bread to the side, as do the other Native Americans. Jack finishes his slice and sucks on his fingers.
“Mmm, mmm, mmm. That hit the spot.”
Bobby finishes his.
“Yeah man, I needed that.”
The chief puts on a wicked grin.
“More than you know.”
Suddenly, Jack passes out.
Bobby stands up.
“Hey man, what gives?”
He passes out, almost tumbling into the fire pit. Tony passes out and I fake doing the same. He laughs a deep belly laugh and I close my heavy eyes.
I wake to see the fire is lit once more with Jacks' corpse hanging over it, tied to a stick.
Just then, I hear a deep rumbling in the distance. Yellow eyes arise from out of the darkness. I see the creature come towards us and flail my arms around. However, I am tied to a cross. As are Tony and Bobby.
I look back to the yellow eyes, and out from the bushes leaps a grey wolf. It slowly approaches me.
Then I hear a bone-cracking sound and its arms and legs grow and morph into arms and legs. Then it rises to its feet, its chest morphing into that of a man's. Its face is the last to turn, but when it does, it becomes the face of a bald man with a wolf's headdress and pitch-black eyes. It snarls, rearing its razor-sharp teeth.
It approaches Bobby and eats him alive.
After it consumes most of Bobby, it approaches Tony, who wakes to see it starting at him.
It snarls and drools pour out of its mouth. Then it opens its jaws wide and takes a bite of him. Tearing off a piece before it consumed him whole. As it fed, I untied one hand and undid the rest. But before I could finish, it approached me.
“I'm sorry, look we never meant to misappropriate your culture. I'm sorry about Jack. He's a dumbass who's high and doesn't know any better.”
It snarls as I continue to beg.
“And I'm sorry for all Native Americans for what we did. It wasn't right. So if you have to eat me to prove that. Do it! Did you hear me? Do it... ah! Ahhh!”
The beast consumed me until I was no more...