Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly supernatural romance story.
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It was time to go back. Honi walked faster, feeling the night’s icy chill biting through his jeans. He cursed himself for forgetting his gloves and stuck his hands deep into his pockets. A loose thread kept getting stuck under his fingernail and he pulled at it with a scowl. His shoulders were hunched and he doubted the wisdom of stomping through the night instead of reading some books in his light-filled heated room.
It was pitch-dark in the park, streetlights and traffic blocked by large trees and bushes. His imagination conjured up ominous noises and movement in the blackness that wasn’t there. A cold breeze blowing down his neck – because he was too stupid to remember a scarf as well as his gloves – added to his growing unease.
Just as he decided to screw his dignity and break into a jog, the night became less impenetrable. Minute by minute, the pale light grew until the lifting fog revealed rocks and trees instead of distorted and hunched over trolls. By the time he left the park and re-entered college grounds, the sun was climbing over the city’s high rises. As he stared, the light suddenly exploded above the last edge of building and blinded him with its intensity.
He blinked his eyes closed and smiled as the light broke through the night’s chill and warmed his skin. As long as the sun rose every morning, everybody living under it would get their do-over, John always said. Until they didn’t, a dark voice inside of Honi whispered. He shook his head at himself. Damn, he was negative this morning. John would kick him with that attitude. The thought made him smile. It had been a long time since John could best him physically. Not that that stopped him verbally abusing him if he felt like it.
Now he was chuckling to himself like a weirdo. Maybe he could call the shaman before class. John always rose early. Checking his phone, Honi blinked. Damn, he needed to get back, grab a bite to eat and get his books ready for class. He had lost track of time while talking to himself. A few minutes later, he was leaving the dorm when his cell phone rang. A quick glance confirmed that John had beaten him to it.
“What’s up?” Honi asked casually as he crossed the square between the dorm buildings.
“Honi, are you okay?” The young man frowned.
“Yes?” he slowly replied, waiting for further explanation. John was silent for a moment.
“Something’s happening in the spirit world. The spirits are agitated and some of the younger kids have had really bad dreams…” Again he hesitated. Honi frowned. It was rare that the shaman was at a loss for words and he seemed even more intense than usual.
“I had some worrying visions myself last night. The spirit world is restless,” John finally continued.
Honi was thinking for a moment. Then he said, “I went spirit-walking last night. It didn’t go well.”
His mentor stayed silent, waiting for the young man to continue. Honi imagined John sitting in his kitchen with the old-fashioned pea-green phone connected to the wall with the spiral cord that always entangled itself. His wife Judy had threatened to cut the damn thing with her kitchen scissors if John didn’t upgrade it. Such a rush of bitter-sweet homesickness hit Honi that he needed to close his eyes for a moment and compose himself.
“I was there as the wolf.” No need to clarify where “there” was. “This girl I told you about? Adi? She was there too. We…,” again he hesitated, “we played. It was peaceful and she wasn’t afraid of me.”
Honi swallowed hard as the memories rose up. “I don’t know what changed but suddenly… Suddenly we were attacked… She was attacked by these things, they looked like birds…”.
Honi’s voice shook as he recalled the shock he felt when he saw the misshapen creature holding Adi’s eyeball in its beak. Even though he knew it wasn’t real, her scream had torn through him and even now, he felt like throwing up. He continued, his words tumbling over each other, “They attacked her and hurt her badly. They blinded her and I tried to help her and I jumped and fought but I had to run! There were too many…,” his voice trailed off again, helplessly.
John was still quiet on the line. Honi waited, then whispered: “John? You still there?” The shaman grunted, then Honi heard a deep inhale. “Yes. I get a feeling that this isn’t good. Something about this girl is provoking the spirit world, and that can’t be good for any of us. I’ve only ever heard of one case like this and it didn’t end well.” Again he stopped and Honi could hear his loud breathing through the phone line.
Then he continued in his slow, measured way, “Many years ago, there was a young man over in Custer County, Weatherford, if I remember correctly. He had terrible nightmares. Every night he was screaming himself awake. Then one day he disappeared and was found dead in the hills. The coroner declared it death through exposure. There wasn’t much left of him. Coyotes had seen to that.
“But just before he disappeared, he started talking about seeing all kinds of animals following him, and that they were hunting him, even into his dreams. Nobody took it seriously. His friends thought he was trying to draw attention after his girlfriend ran out on him.”
Another long moment of silence. “His father asked me to look at the body and I could feel that something wasn’t right. There were wounds on the poor kid that didn’t look like coyote bites. You know, he looked like he had been attacked by lots of different animals, birds, coyotes, snakes.”
Honi held the phone tighter to his ear. “So what, you think this’ll happen to Adi?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t around to talk to the boy then. When I saw his body, it was too late. But I have a feeling that your friend might be in danger. Hang on a second.” John put his receiver down and Honi could hear him talk to somebody. After a moment, he was back on the line:
“I’m really sorry. I’d like to come down and speak to her myself. Unfortunately I’m leaving for South Dakota tomorrow and won’t be back for a week. You need to talk to her, Honi.”
“Talk about what exactly?”
“About what she sees, whether she has nightmares. Find out if she has the gift and tell me.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know her that well…,” Honi trailed off.
“Try. It might not just be her in danger.” And with these cryptic words, the shaman hung up.