Charlotte and the Harlot

📅 Published on April 27, 2022

“Charlotte and the Harlot”

Written by Jeffrey Ebright
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 22 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Tobey glanced around the bar with a drunken agenda clearly reading across his unshaven face.  At this time in the morning, only a few regulars were left in the Painted Quarry Saloon and none of them sober enough to care what burly Tobey had on his mind.  A dry night wind trickled through the screen door. Tobey licked his lips and stared at Kelly the barmaid.  He could feel his beer dick getting stronger the more he contemplated what he’d be doing to Kelly tonight. Yeah, he’d give her a ride tonight, and she’d love it like she always did.  And if she didn’t, it wasn’t his problem.  Tobey knew she’d be spreading her legs tonight – one way or the other.

The odd thing was that Kelly was not unattractive by any means, nor was she a woman who used sex to supplement her self-esteem.  Her upbringing was atypical of a Native American girl with only a few minor bumps on the road of her 20-something year journey.  It just seemed the dice of fate always rolled boxcars or snake-eyes, which made her submissive to whatever the world had heaped on her plate.  She had escaped the desolation offered by the Indian Reservation and traded it for a white trash existence in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

“Kelly!” Tobey growled down the length of the bar, “C’mere!”  By Tobey’s booze-saturated tone, Kelly knew where this night was heading.  She supposed the National Organization for Women would be up in arms if they knew what Tobey McHatchee did to her, but it didn’t matter to Kelly.  Most of those women who cried foul didn’t have kids to feed or a mortgage to maintain, or bruises and bone fractures to avoid from a brutish trucker who wouldn’t take no for an answer.  There was no such thing as rape when Tobey was involved because the county sheriff said so after every investigation.  And Sheriff Ronnie Lee McHatchee was never wrong about these things.

“Tobe,” Kelly tried to sound sincere, “it’s almost 2, darlin’, and I think the coyotes are callin’ you home.”

“Nah,” he half-heartedly waved her off.  “’m fine.  ‘nuther draft an’ a shot o’ Comfort.” Kelly did not offer a rebuttal for the cold dark look in his glassy eyes told her what would happen if she pushed the issue.  Tonight she would be sodomized by the 6’ 2”, 300-pound trucker, and she would not raise a fuss.  She had decided a long time ago that she’d rather suffer minor humiliation behind closed doors than try to explain a broken arm to the emergency room doctor.  She would submit to being the wretched man’s whore and maybe even awaken to a thin fold of twenty-dollar bills on her dresser as payment for her compliance (and possibly to assuage his guilt).

“Comin’ right up, Tobe.”

Kelly trekked back to the Quarry’s infamous “Wall of Whiskey” and pulled down a half-drained fifth of Southern Comfort.  She poured 2 shots of the sickeningly sweet alcohol and hastily choked down one in an expert gulp.  She took a few seconds to let the artificial warmth radiate from her stomach to her extremities before she walked the second shot to Tobey.

Kelly was immediately taken aback as she noticed Tobey was no longer alone at the bar.  Kelly surveyed a petite Native American woman, possibly in her early 20’s, with dark brown hair down the length of her back which held a slight auburn tint.  She was dressed for the chilly Arizona night in jeans, long-sleeved heavy white cotton blouse and practical Dingos.  The stranger was actively engaged with the inebriated trucker as Kelly set a beer mug and shot in front of him.

“Izzat so?”  Tobey turned a drunken chuckle into a belch to which he gave no apology.

“Yes.”  The woman’s voice was pleasant and matter of fact.

He chuckled again as his eyes uncontrollably lolled.  “You hear that, babe?”

“Hear what?”  Kelly looked at the man and could tell his bravado was masking a building rage.

“This sweet little thang jus’ made me a bet that she’d be takin’ you home tonight.  Can y’ believe it?”

“Wha-huh?”  Kelly was truly shocked into speechlessness.  For the first time, Kelly examined the woman, trying to figure out if such a statement could have come from this diminutive woman.

“I believe he misunderstood me,” the stranger addressed Kelly without regard to the fat drunk.  “I told him he could not have you tonight.”

Before Kelly could produce a question to the partially familiar woman, the stranger went into action.  Kelly watched in sheer amazement as the smallish woman hooked Tobey’s stool and jerked it from underneath his dumpy ass. Drunk and diminished, Tobey’s double chin thumped on the heavily lacquered bar as his hands clawed for purchase to prevent his drunk self from hitting the floor.  Unfortunately, this defensive move against gravity left him completely exposed to the stranger’s follow-up.  Amber liquid sailed into the air as the heavy glass mug connected (unbelievably not shattering on contact) with a comical thump between the trucker’s eyes.  Tobey did his best impression of a rotted old oak hitting the dirty wood floors like an overweight bag of wet cement.

“Char?”  Kelly mustered as much certainty as possible.  “Charlotte White Elk?”

“Long time, K.”  She offered a familiar and missed smile.

“Holy fuckin’ shit!” yelped another stewed bar patron across the pool table. “Tobey just got jacked up!”

“And you’re next, Harley, if you don’t mind your business!”  Kelly used her authority voice which quelled the bar back to their complacent stupor.  She turned to Charlotte: “He’s not dead, is he?”

“Not yet.”  She looked at the prone fat man.  “We have time for a drink or two.” Kelly turned over the bar to no one and joined Charlotte at a close table.  From time to time, she would excuse herself for a servicio, then return quickly.

“What brings you to the valley, Char?”

Charlotte absently stroked beads of condensation from her water glass.  “I’m leaving, Kelly.”

“Congrats, baby.  At least one of us is getting out of this godforsaken place.  At least you don’t have to deal with–”  Her words failed as Charlotte unbuttoned her sleeve and displayed a fresh tattoo on her left wrist inlaid with ancient tribal words.  “My God!”

“Yes, the time is at hand, and I must go into the white man’s world.”  She re-buttoned her sleeve.

The memory dam in Kelly’s mind crumbled, and all the thoughts and images she had sequestered in the darkest corner of her brain flooded her consciousness.

Kelly met Charlotte when they were 5 or 6 years old.  Although she remembered Charlotte White Elk had a different first name when they were initially introduced, that name had been lost to memory a long time ago.  The tribes of North America had a 7-day Summer cultural celebration in the Painted Desert of Arizona, where ritual practices were shared between the Native American clans.  Kelly and her family had traveled all the way from Oklahoma to represent the Choctaw nation, as Charlotte had made the trek with her family from Montana to display the traditions of the Siksikawa (more commonly known as Blackfoot).

Charlotte had actually stirred up some controversy as she, in traditional Siksikawa instruction, sang a traditionally masculine song by herself without aid or leading of a male from her tribe.  For most other nations, females singing songs that were considered male-oriented were considered “immodest” and generally shunned.  But there she was, in the midst of the chieftains’ circle, offering her tribute to the Four Winds in a confident pre-pubescent alto voice. Kelly made it a point to introduce herself to this brave little girl.  They became inseparable in the next six days.

As is the custom, the final day was spent with all tribes intermixing age groups and creating specific dances for the sake of unity and sharing.  On the final day of the celebration, both Kelly and Charlotte were chosen for the tribute to the Dream Warriors.

From Apache to Zuni, the Dream Warrior had a place in every Native American mythos.  The Dream Warrior trained against all forms of darkness in the ways of mortal conflict – physically, mentally and spiritually.  Typically male in most legends, Kelly was surprised to learn there had been a few female Dream Warriors lightly scattered through the nations.

“As my brethren often remind me: A people without a history is like the wind over buffalo grass.”  Chief Stillblade, dressed in a resplendent headdress of the Hopi and bathed in the early morning sunlight, which barely crested the majestic painted hills, addressed the two dozen or so children (the majority boys) chosen to participate in the dance.  “And others say: Our first teacher is our own heart. So, children, we gather here to share our hearts and celebrate what has kept our nations from being a forgotten breeze on the summer winds.  We must never forget the traditions that bless and carry us into the future.  Today, you will represent the future of the Dream Warrior.”  The elderly smile that broke across his lined face held many secrets, which Kelly, Charlotte and the rest of the chosen dancers were to learn shortly.

From sunrise to sunset, Chief Stillblade and his five associates tested the physical and emotional limits of their dancers with calisthenics that would test the grueling limits of any armed services enlisted man or woman.  It was almost a trail of sadistic abuse as child after child dropped out from the aggressive heat and physical activity.  By noon only 14 children had survived the rigorous instruction.  The remaining were given time to eat and drink and rest before the next phase.

“I hurt, Char,” Kelly huffed in a cascade of sweat.

“Me too, K.”  Charlotte carefully ingested the meager corn meal, pemmican and water supplies as she stared into the distant colorful desert.

“Wanna quit?”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”  Kelly’s tone was more of a whine than a question.

“Because I don’t.”

“Huh?”

“Grandfather said my path is clear.  This is what I will do.” Charlotte’s voice seemed far off and eerily adult.

“I don’t unnerstand.”

“I don’t either.  But I know I will not quit because I don’t.”

The bird who has eaten cannot fly with the bird that is hungry,” Chief Stillblade chuckled to the girls.  “You must eat, little bird.”  He pushed Kelly’s matted hair from her forehead.

“I dunno,” Kelly’s eyes pleaded to the chief.  “I really hurt.”

Kelly saw a thaw in the tightened eyes of the old man.  “Do not trouble your head – you lose no honor by knowing the limits of yourself.”

“No.”

Both Kelly and Chief Stillblade turned to Charlotte as both were confused and shocked at her words.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.  Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Walk beside me that we may be as one.”

“What did you say, child?”

Charlotte grasped her friend’s hand and held it with gentle firmness.  “You can do this, K. We will do this together.”

“Your wisdom betrays your age, child.  We shall see if your heart can fulfill your boast.” When the “dance practice” resumed, Kelly found a new depth to her determination and matched Charlotte’s fervor move for move.  She became lost in the depressive heat and miserable pain of the day.  With things in perspective, she likened it to the “runner’s high” when all discomfort is left behind in a haze.  They spent the rest of the day choreographing the intricate dance with the use of tribal masks and the soothing rain sticks.  Kelly actually found herself adept with the 4-foot-long hollow stick filled with semi-precious crystals.  Both girls seemed lost in the rhythmic gurgling caused by the sticks as they whirled and twirled about the unlit ceremonial fire.  Neither girl could wait until the sun retreated behind the bluffs to pay homage to the Dream Warrior.

Under the growing blanket of stars above, the remaining eight dancers cleaned up and prepared themselves in their native costumes.  Kelly felt enormous pride that she and Charlotte were the sole representatives of the female contingent in the dance company.  They had sweated and suffered, and their vigilance had paid off in ways she could not even describe to this very day.  Her soul soared.

The ceremonial fire had already been set ablaze as 12-foot spires of flame danced into the night.  Echoes of a hundred drums added a second melody of percussion to the valley, and the very rock seemed to swell and sway to the beat. The beautiful brilliance of many nations gathered in joyous celebration, awaiting the Dance of the Dream Warrior.

Chief Stillblade and the other Elders sat on a thatched platform bedecked in their ceremonial headdresses with ornately decorated spears showing their standing within their respective tribes.  The ceremony began once the chieftains shook off heavy buffalo robes from their shoulders and seated themselves.  The children entered the fire circle stepping forward twice, once back to the hypnotic beat of the drums.  The dance step continued until each child had passed around the fire and in front of the Elders, offering a bowing step of respect.  The next turn was one of the more difficult moves as each child rotated with a skip step as they spun in a slow 360 degrees around the fire.  The children may have lost balance and fallen into the fire if not for the torture they endured earlier in the day.  All dancers executed the complicated and dizzying move with professional skill and impeccable timing.  With the 360 turn made, the dancers planted their feet and thrust their hands to the sky.  The drummers responded by lowering the rhythm as helpers brought each dancer a rain stick and mask, placing the staff in the dancers’ outstretched hands and sliding the masks over their faces.  As arranged previously in the day, the dancers paired off and took a mirrored defensive stance: one dancer representing an evil spirit and the other representing a Dream Warrior.  Kelly (an evil spirit) paired with a boy named Little Crow.  She couldn’t remember which boy was assigned to Charlotte (who was masked as a Dream Warrior).

Once the drums engaged fully again, the mock combat began.  The denouement of the bubbling rain sticks filled the air as good and evil slashed and twirled their weapons.  The choreography was such that an evil spirit would fall in single combat and immediately begin sparring with a victorious warrior.  The defeated would lay still on the sandy ground while the victors clashed and thinned the ranks.  By the crescendo of the dance, one warrior and one evil spirit remained.  Kelly felt extremely proud that she had been chosen as the final demon to combat the final Dream Warrior.  Although she didn’t really like the boy playing the final warrior (James was a little too snotty to everyone, Kelly thought), she played her part well and received many oohs and aahs to her staff-wielding skills.  Kelly even briefly toyed with the idea of knocking out Dream Warrior James; however, she knew an evil spirit winning the dance fight would not be a good omen for any of the watching tribes.  She dutifully followed the plan as James landed a weak-looking blow, and Kelly went down to the ground.  She shook violently on the sand until Dream Warrior James brought the rain stick on the nose of her mask – a little too hard in Kelly’s estimation – and she went still. James lifted his stick to the Elders, which brought the drums’ hypnotic thrum to a dramatic end.

The audience erupted with shrill calls, applause and foot-stomping.  Kelly could see Charlotte out of the corner of her eye.  Charlotte’s mask had slid up her face (probably from hitting the ground), and Kelly could plainly see a beaming smile betraying her supposed death.  Kelly shared her smile but stayed still until the Chief Stillblade called them “to life” again.

Chief Stillblade gestured for the audience to calm themselves.  “My brethren remind me the path of the warrior is covered with an equal amount of tears and blood.  We must always remember some will fall in the service of the Creator, but all that is good and pure will remain if we are vigilant.  Sacrifice and dedication are the weapons of the Dream Warrior.  These eight children have shown a bitter old man that the spirit of the Dream Warrior is not forgotten and will protect our nations against the evil to come.  We shall persevere and flourish!”

“Flourish?  Flourish!?!”  A man obscured in a hooded heavy black buffalo skin stepped up to the thatched platform.  “You dare call this miserable collection of hanger-ons a nation of vigilance?  Your claims are filled with hot air and impotent wishes!”

“Who speaks such intolerance?” Chief Stillblade demanded.

“You’re an old fool leading these blind lambs to the slaughter!  You’re an abomination!  Can you not hear the cries of our forefathers?”  The protestor pointed a slender finger at the Elders.  “All of you are destroying the values my, and your ancestors died preserving!”

“I demand you show yourself!”

“Very well, old fool!” The robe fell away, revealing a moderately-sized man wearing an intricately weaved poncho with a headband created with as much skill.  Gold thread and shells had been tightly weaved into the fabric which depicted a blocky pattern of interlaced snakes.  His skin was as dark as anyone in the audience, and his short hair matched the blackness of his eyes.

“Mapuche Kalki!” one of the Elders exclaimed out of fear more than realization.

“You have no place here, sorcerer!  Begone!”  Chief Stillblade stood his ground.

At this point, the dancers had broken character and were sitting up.  They removed their masks and watched in fascination as the man confronted the council of Elders.  The man reminded her of pictures she had seen concerning tribes in South America, but she couldn’t specifically place the garb.  It was then Kelly noticed Charlotte glaring wildly at the interloper, gripping her rain stick with white knuckles.

“All thunder and no lightning, fools!” the stranger hissed.  “I will show you the meaning of power!”

Kelly couldn’t believe her eyes as the average-size man grew two additional feet.  But the increased height was not the true horror.  As he changed, his muscles expanded into thick rigid chords.  Coarse hair sprouted all over his body as his head metamorphosized into a snarling wolf.  His legs mutated into powerful wolfen stalks, matching the transformation of his hands into hideously sharp talons.  The final change spread from his widened back in the form of ebony black wings, which seemed to blot out the stars as they expanded and fluttered briefly.  Evil had taken form right in front of her face, and she felt herself become smaller and smaller as she prayed the creature before her did not notice her.  She offhandedly noticed James peeing himself and found no humor in the act.

In one deft move, the monster scooped up the closest dancer and unceremoniously removed his head with one bite from its jagged mouth.  With a look of utter satisfaction, the beast tossed the decapitated corpse into the fire and spat the tattered head at the feet of the Elders.

“Where are your warriors now?” the transformed sorcerer challenged.  Most of the audience had become a mass of panic as they fled from the unbelievable creature.  The Elders refused to budge, holding their ceremonial spears in front of them.

Kelly considered her escape for a mere second before she gasped in total terror.  Charlotte quietly rushed the 8-foot-tall abomination and loosed her rain stick square on the beast’s knees.  The stick exploded, showering all left with amethyst fragments that seemed to abandon the shattered staff like passengers from the Titanic.  The wolf/crow beast loosed an uncontrollable howl of pain, then turned its soulless eyes upon the 6-year-old girl.  In the blink of an eye, the creature had lifted Charlotte by the throat to his eye level.

“Is this the best you can do?” the sorcerer laughed.  “A child?  Your people are pathetic and lost!”

It took James bumping into Kelly to break her fear paralysis.  Unfortunately, she had no idea how to help her friend.  It was as if all her intellect had fled along with failed Dream Warrior James.  Little Crow tried the same tactic as Charlotte, but the creature was wise to the move and effortlessly kicked the boy through the bonfire and into the heavy stones used for seating.  Once Kelly heard the sickening wet thud of head against rock, she knew Little Crow would never be getting back up.

“Release her, foul Kalki!”  The old chief tried to look menacing with his ceremonial spear prodding the air in front of the beast.

“Of course I’ll release her – to the next life!”  He opened his great and slobbering maw and brought Charlotte closer for the kill.  Charlotte, close to being strangled into unconsciousness, made a final defensive gesture, vertically jamming the splintered remnant of the rain stick into the creature’s hungry mouth. The hundreds of wood shards from the rain stick had an immediate effect: the beast shrieked, released the oxygen-deprived little girl and clawed the obstruction from its wounded mouth.

“Sorcerer!”  A Shaman who had helped feed Kelly and Charlotte appeared, knife in hand.

Without a word, the beast pulled a large log from the bonfire and hurled it at the Shaman, striking him squarely in the chest and setting him ablaze.  Kelly tried to block the smell of searing flesh and his dying screams as the creature once more advanced on Charlotte.  Kelly ran to the thatched platform, hoping an idea would come to her by the time she got there.

“Now, whelp, you die!”  The beast raised a wicked talon above Charlotte and offered his victim a satisfied smile.

The spear that Kelly tossed at the creature’s feet interrupted the disembowelment of the little girl.  “I’ll fight you!”  Kelly tightened her small hands around the spear she had taken from one of the Elders.  “Or are you chicken?”

The beast picked up the spear and let loose a howl that hurt Kelly’s ears. Knees still nagging, the creature closed in on Kelly.  “Too easy, whore’s child!” he growled.

The transformed sorcerer lunged forward with the spear and quickly discovered this 6-year-old girl was not going to die conveniently.  She parried his sloppy stab and spun around with a deft slash across its furry thigh.  Before the creature could register the pain of the blow, Kelly brought the blade back across the creature’s chest, which created an appreciable horizontal gash that exposed white bone.  The beast howled and blindly swept a talon in Kelly’s direction.  The unplanned move glanced her head and briefly interfered with her equilibrium, causing Kelly to drop squarely on her backside.  The creature leaped for his fallen prey and was greeted with the business end of the spear to the center of his gut.  However, the face which registered shock was Kelly’s as the beast dropped his weapon and slowly pushed toward her on the haft of the spear.

The creature grabbed Kelly’s shoulders, viciously piercing her flesh.  She flailed helplessly for the beast’s discarded spear, yet the weapon taunted her grasp by mere inches.  The hot, foul breath was upon her before she realized the end had come.

“Welcome to your death, Dream Warrior.”  The monster stretched open his jaw, revealing rows of lethal teeth.  Kelly could do nothing but stare at her impending doom until she noticed something else.

In the back of the beast’s mouth appeared a small silver shaft, like a serpent’s tongue coming forward for a taste of her flesh.  The tongue was not a natural appendage, as evidenced by the curdling howl the transformed sorcerer issued. It was then she saw Charlotte on the creature’s back between the beating wings, holding both hands against the thick fur of the back of its neck.  The monster released its grasp on Kelly and began swinging wildly at the little girl who had just plunged a Shaman’s dagger into its throat.  Using an instinct Kelly never knew she possessed, she rolled to the discarded spear.  Showing no hesitation, Kelly thrust the point of the spear through the soft flesh underneath the creature’s jaw and into its upper palette as the beast had managed to shake Charlotte from its back like an annoying fly.

Being six, Kelly’s blow lacked the power to administer the coup de grace, but she continued to grip the spear with all her resolve.  She looked to Charlotte for a moment and saw her friend roll into position.  Kelly realized what Charlotte was up to as Charlotte pulled her legs back to her chest, and Kelly mirrored the action.  The girls struck simultaneously; their little legs, like pistons, thrust forward.  Kelly hit the beast’s injured knees as Charlotte struck the monster’s exposed ankles.  The beast never knew what hit him as the creature lost balance and fell forward.  The spear in its jaw penetrated through the roof of its mouth, continuing through its brain and exiting from the top of its skull in a violent eruption of blood and brain matter.

Kelly rolled away from the impaled creature, and Charlotte was there to offer her a hand up.  Both watched in silence as the abomination reverted to the corpse of the sorcerer.  It was almost comical how the spear kept his dead frame upright as if locked in penitent prayer.

In a sacred ceremony later that evening, both girls were each presented with a grizzly bear claw necklace: the symbol of ultimate respect for a warrior.  The Elders then spoke with their parents about continuing the girls’ training in the way of the Dream Warrior.  Both families agreed Kelly and Charlotte would undergo the training.  And so the girls, separated by distance but never in spirit, started on the path of the Dream Warrior individually.

“You made it.  You’re a real life, honest-to-God Dream Warrior.”  Kelly lifted her glass and pushed away her fresh memories.  “I am so proud of you.”

“What happened, K?”

“I dunno – life, I guess.”  She downed the remaining contents of her glass and thought how much that empty glass represented her life.

“Why did you leave the training?”

“Well, I got pregnant with Emma when I was 15.  Stillblade went ballistic.  I gave him a one-finger salute and packed my shit.”  She shrugged.  “I lived with my mom for a couple years before she contracted AIDS and died.”

“I’m sorry,” Charlotte touched her forearm.

“So am I.  Unfortunately, I never had the time to mourn ‘cause I was already pregnant with Jackie, my second child.  Things just kinda snowballed from there.”

“Do you still have your grizzly necklace?”

“No.  I lost it in the move here.  Kind of a rush job, if you know what I mean.”  She tried to make light of the situation, but there was no hint of optimism in her voice.

Charlotte looked at her, and Kelly saw a struggle pooling in her brown eyes. After a brief silence, Charlotte sighed and spoke: “I talked to Chief Stillblade; the Elders want you back.”

Kelly tried to act like she didn’t hear the last part.  “Stillblade is still alive?  Wow, he must be 100 years old.”

“K, I’m serious.  The nation needs you.”

“I appreciate the gesture, Char.  I got kids now.  The door on that life closed a long time ago.”

“Let me put it this way; if we don’t stop the coming darkness, then it won’t matter.  To be blunt, you and your children will be dead.  Not to mention the world as we know it will end.”

“What the Hell does that mean?”

“The Shamans gathered in the sweat lodge last full moon.  The visions they were shown were…disturbing, to say the least.”

“Spill it, Char.”

“The daemons are organizing.  All of them.”

“Aren’t they always?” Kelly quipped.

“You don’t understand, K. By all of them, I mean every daemon from every pantheon.  Christian, Hindu, Native American, Chinese, African.  All of them.”

“Great Spirit!” the hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention.  “When did this start?”

“No idea.  Maybe months.  Maybe years.  All we know is that they have put aside all territorial disputes and agreed to raze every living creature.  After that, they’ll get back to the business of who has rights to what.”

Kelly fought back the bile churning in her stomach.  The magnitude was unbelievable.  Had it come from anyone else, she would have refused to believe it.  Which led her to the conclusion: “That’s the reason for your visit?  To bring me back into the fold?  Save the world?”

“Yes.”

“What about Emma & Jackie?”

“The nation has the best daycare on the planet, K. And before you say it: No, you’re not too old.  No, you can handle the training.  And yes, you can make a difference.”

“But what if I don’t want that kind of responsibility?”

“When I was at my lowest during training, when I openly commented I should just give up and go home, Chief Stillblade shared an old Crow proverb with me: You already possess everything necessary to become great.  What he didn’t know is that I knew my path was set, and my destiny was unchangeable.  I was just whining.”

“A little whining on occasion never hurts,” Kelly nodded.

“I always wondered if what he told me would have been better shared with you. It’s hard for me to admit this, but you were my model of what a Dream Warrior should be.”

“How’s that?”

“I knew what my destiny was at an early age; that made my future decisions simple.  You, however, chose the path I was on when you could have done anything else and succeeded. When we fought the Kalki I had no fear because I knew you had no fear.”

“You were wrong about that.  I was scared shitless.”

“Am I wrong?  You didn’t hesitate when I jumped the monster.  I acted as I thought you would act.  Although I had promised to be by your side, it was you who came to my aid and saved me.”

“That’s one way to look at it.”

“That is the way I choose to look at it.  I sincerely believe your presence can turn back the darkness and save the world.”

Kelly stared at Charlotte for a long moment before speaking again.  Her question was timid, very much like a child asking: “Will you be there with me?”

“No.”  Charlotte’s tone held more pain than Kelly had ever heard.  “I’m being sent to San Francisco on assignment.  I don’t know how long I’ll be there, and there’s the possibility that this could lead to an extended assignment.”

“I could help; I’m good at the Mata Hari stuff.”

“Elder Proudfoot seems to think this assignment may lead to prophetic fulfillment of notaxe hova’âhane notaxe.”

“Is that Sioux?”

“Cheyenne.  Loosely translated, it means ‘warrior who is no warrior.’”

“What does that mean?”

“I have no idea.  Since the vision was recorded in the 1700s, I suspect it’s a racial slur on the white man.”

The women shared an honest laugh.  It was a rare thing for Kelly these days. She guessed Charlotte had been bereft of laughter for far too long as her uncharacteristic giggle filled the empty bar.

It was all too short-lived as the meaty fist of Tobey the trucker whistled towards Charlotte’s head.  “Fuckin’ bitch!!”

Charlotte rocked backward in her chair and let gravity take the chair to the ground.  In one swift move, she rolled over the back of the chair, landing on her feet.  Since Kelly was not the intended target, she shoved the table away from her and into the raging drunk.  The flimsy table hit Tobey across the upper thighs causing him to trip.  He slammed him into the table top, which shattered the two drinking glasses.  Tobey staggered back, shards of slender glass randomly pincushioning his plump face.

“Settle down, Tobey!” Kelly’s authority voice failed in its tenor.

“Fuck you, Kel!  This bitch is gonna get a proper ass-kickin’!” Tobey rushed at Charlotte like a crazed bull.  Charlotte effortlessly side-stepped the human freight train and used his momentum to send him into the hardwood pool table with an astonishingly heavy crunch.  The table buckled under the weight of its aggressor and folded him in a mess of splintered wood and green felt.

“Looks like that’s coming out of my check,” Kelly nudged Charlotte.  Charlotte didn’t return her smile; she was intently staring at the crumpled heap that was Tobey.

And he was getting back up.

“Something’s not right,” Charlotte began scanning the bar.

“Not…that…easy…bitches!” the trucker looked like he had just survived a head-on collision but showed no end to his rage as he got to his feet.

Charlotte concluded her search on the chalk bell since it was the closest thing. She grabbed the bell by the wooden pole at the top that protruded from the four-pound bell-shaped chunk of chalk.  The solid white bell erupted on the crown of Tobey’s ample forehead sending him to his knees.

“Do you see it?” Kelly exclaimed and shot a finger at the abused trucker.

“Great Spirit!” Charlotte could not believe her eyes.  In the light cloud of dust, she could see another face that seemed to twist and contort underneath Tobey’s face.  And the face beneath was definitely not human.  “Wekufe!”

“No way!” Kelly started to back away, yet her retreat was blocked by the pool cue stand.  She unconsciously grabbed a stick and held it before her.  “Just like the one that possessed that sorcerer when we were kids?”

“Not just like, whelps!  The same!  My revenge is at hand!”  An unholy base tremble flowed from Tobey.  As if looking into a funhouse mirror, Tobey’s form began to ripple and transform as the sorcerer’s body had years prior.

“Not now, not ever,” Kelly tossed a pool cue to Charlotte.

While Kelly went for the back of the metamorphizing man’s knees, Charlotte brought the back haft of her cue across the trucker’s expanding throat.  Both cues snapped against their target simultaneously in a shower of splinters.  Not being 6-year-old girls, the force of both blows instantly took the creature to the ground.  Before the demon had the opportunity to sprout hideous jet-black wings, the women were leaning over the former trucker and abusive bastard.  Without discussion, Charlotte and Kelly buried the remaining portion of the broken cues deep into the eye sockets of the monster.  It gurgled, spat and exhaled the remainder of its life without any vengeful recriminations.

Charlotte immediately ran for the door and peered outside: not a creature was stirring in the parking lot.  Only Charlotte’s rental car and Kelly’s beat-up Jeep Wrangler stared absently back from the gravel lot.  She closed the metal bar door and turned both deadbolts.  As Charlotte walked back to the busted pool table and deceased trucker, she snatched a wooden stir stick off the bar and wound her hair into a makeshift bun.

“What now?” Kelly asked as she tried patting the chalk from her shirt and pants.

Charlotte produced a cell phone from her front pant pocket.  She flipped it open and hit speed dial option #2.  “Hello, it’s me.  We have a situation.”  There was a pause.  “Yes and no.”  There was a long pause.  “It was unavoidable.  We were attacked by a Wekufe demon.  Yes, it’s dead.”  There was an even longer pause.  “Thank you, Elder Spotted Horse.”

“That sounded very Mafia.”

“It is.”  Charlotte offered a smile.  “We have about 20 minutes before the cleaning team gets here.  Call your babysitter and let her know you’re on your way home.  When you get home, let the sitter know how boring tonight was, except you were happy when Tobey left with some woman you’d never seen before.”

“Set the alibi?”

“You got it.”  Charlotte reached behind the bar and grabbed a wet bar towel.  She began wiping her hands.  “Once she’s gone, pack a bag for you and your daughters.  Don’t worry; the Elders will have movers remove the contents of the house tomorrow morning.  In a few days, you’ll be a memory in this town.”

“Should we do anything about this mess?”

“No.  That’s why they’re called the cleaning team, K.” Eighteen minutes later, two sedans pulled up to the bar.  Charlotte let them in and gave them a few quick instructions.  Kelly helped herself to another shot of Southern Comfort to counteract the sudden drop in adrenalin.

“Ready?” Charlotte asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be, Char.”  Kelly grabbed her coat and purse from behind the bar and walked to the door.  She stopped and turned to look at a place and a life that was no longer hers.  She smiled absently before she noticed Charlotte was smiling at her.  Kelly returned the smile and walked away from the bar forever.

Two days later, Kelly found her family welcomed to a small Mescalero community sequestered somewhere in Arizona.  Chief Stillblade, looking more like a shrunken apple-head doll, was there to greet her and her children.

“When will I see Char again?” was Kelly’s first question.

If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.”  He smiled but offered nothing more.

She was escorted to a modest two-bedroom home complete with basic amenities.  Actually, even though it was much smaller than her house in New Mexico, it felt somehow more comfortable.  It felt like a home.

Kelly immediately set to the task of unpacking with a renewed confidence in the future – whatever terror it had to offer.  As she filled the living room closet with coats, she noticed something small and white poking out of the jacket she had last worn at the Painted Quarry Saloon.  It was a folded bar napkin.  When she opened it, she read the message recorded in blue ink, which said:

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.  Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Walk beside me that we may be as one.

Kelly wiped away a tear and knew she would see Charlotte again.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Jeffrey Ebright
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Jeffrey Ebright


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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