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The Songs from Long Road by Byron Wayne Scott - HTML preview

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fledged battle was in progress.

 

The wanderer watched the desperate, determined fighting along the causeways and at the

 

main gates of the city. And though it was mostly native fighting native, he took special note of the Spaniards fighting bravely on their horses, confident in their armor. Musket

 

shot pocked the air. The banner of Castile waved gloriously in the breeze.

 

Blood flowed freely.

 

“Noche Triste, the Night of Sadness, is over,” Mochni lamented. “Moctezuma is dead.

 

Disease has swept Mexico. Cortes has returned for the final time and set siege to the city.

 

It will be only a matter of days now until we see the end of this proud Aztec empire.”

 

Groans and rallying cheers ebbed and flowed as they continued their flight across the

 

water. The rhythms of drums, the blare of horns and conch shells, and firing of musket

 

and cannon intermingled to rake their senses. But when they reached the city proper, the

 

awesome magnificence of the canals and gardens made the wanderer forget about the

 

human carnage taking place outside the gates.

 

“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Mochni shuddered with pride. “These ingenious people

 

reclaimed the land from Lake Texcoco and created the Venice of the New World! In fact,

 

Venice pales in comparison with Tenochtitlan. Just marvel at the accomplishments!

 

Absolutely astounding!”

 

They swept low over a ball court as they neared the ceremonial center, where the

 

wanderer was swept by the grandeur and dwarfed by the immensity of the enormous

 

pyramids and temples. At the same time, he was repulsed by the repugnant odor of dried blood that emanated from the main structure, the Templo Mayor. The stench was strong

 

enough to overwhelm his sense of smell.

 

As they commenced to glide above the residential and market areas toward the sister city,

 

Tlatelolco, the wanderer realized that the parrot was still speaking.

 

“…inspired stone carvings and murals…gardens radiating throughout the island…a

 

paradise…the grand epitome of civilization. The largest city in the world! It was with my

 

advice and influence that they attained such cultural heights, you know…”

 

But the wanderer was not interested in the bird’s commentary, preferring instead to

 

concentrate on his own disturbing thoughts. He knew that the Aztecs had a thriving,

 

vibrant society. They produced tremendous art and architecture; had an understanding of

 

astronomy and a finely honed calendar. To witness it all first hand was deeply satisfying.

 

And yet at the same time it was utterly distressing because this was their end. The whole

 

city was in a spasmodic state of panic. Within a matter of days it would be reduced to

 

rubble and plunder; the women raped; the surviving men crippled by the conquering

 

horde.

 

He felt a penetrating shiver and then found himself back on the mountainside, gazing

 

down upon the valley. Mochni was perched on the limb beside him. “It’s a shame, isn’t it? Such a tragic shame,” the parrot commented sadly. “My proud,

 

powerful empire, my glorious Aztec civilization, over three-hundred years in the making,

 

mind you, brought unmercifully to its knees in a matter of days. Hundreds of thousands

 

of people slaughtered and humiliated, destroyed by a measly one-thousand white men.”

 

The parrot paused to let his words sink in, and then uttered an obscene, traitorous laugh.

 

“Simply delicious, don’t you think?”

 

The comment caught the wanderer by surprise. “I wasn’t thinking that at all!” he

 

stammered. He wondered if Mochni was truly aware of the events that were about to

 

unfold. Or had the parrot deliberately led these people to the brink of disaster, as his

 

callous tone suggested? “Did you know that this point in time was approaching?” the

 

wanderer demanded impetuously.

 

“I grew giddy waiting for the moment,” the bird replied with a sparkle in his eye.

 

The wanderer felt enraged. “In one hundred years this culture will be all but extinct; their

 

spirit crushed! You could have prepared them to meet the challenge and instead you’ve

 

led them to disaster!”

 

“How odd! You attack me and yet defend my followers.” “You filthy traitor,” the wanderer accused. “I detest the loss of cultural diversity as much

 

as environmental diversity.”

 

Mochni spat on the ground. “Don’t give me that self-righteous blather,” he sneered.

 

“With your arrival, I am no longer even needed here. You will do my work for me!”

 

“I did not come with Cortes.”

 

“You truly don’t know yourself, do you?” the parrot countered. “Well, take a look, white

 

boy! You are one of them. Do you hear me? You are a white man! It is your people who

 

are responsible for this holocaust, not me. It’s your people who bring misery, disease, and

 

oppression. Not only will you exterminate the native population, but you’ll crush the very

 

spirit of the Earth in order to attain your cultural domination, the name of your game.

 

“As for you personally, mister man of knowledge, you don’t even know your own name.

 

You have no idea who you are and yet you presume to judge me? Well, look at yourself

 

before you judge anyone else, white boy.”

 

His tirade over, the parrot cocked his head and waited for a reply.

 

Shocked and confused by the scathing accusations, the wanderer remained speechless. “Now you’ve forgotten how to use your tongue as well,” the bird taunted. “Well, I’ve got

 

better things to do than wait for you to regain your senses. I’m sure we’ll meet again. I

 

just hope you’re not so stupid then.”

 

The wanderer watched in stupor as Mochni flapped his wings and flew off, gliding

 

serenely into the valley. Smoke was rising from Tenochtitlan, making viewing hazy.

 

It’s just as well, thought the wanderer. He was in no mood to watch the destruction

 

anyway. The whole situation was appalling.

 

Confused and upset, he turned from the valley panorama and strode towards the pass in

 

the mountains. He was well aware that he had let the distasteful parrot get to him. Still, he

 

couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Mochni was right. Did he share responsibility

 

for the massacre?

 

No! The damn bird was wrong! How could he be responsible for what was happening to

 

the Aztecs, or to any of the other native Americans? He wasn’t even from this time

 

period. He was from the future! How else could he have knowledge of the outcome of the

 

Conquest”

 

Why couldn’t he remember his identity? Distraught, he closed his eyes and clenched his fists, but as he stretched his arms toward

 

the sky, a strong premonition forced him to reopen his eyes and re-examine his

 

surroundings.

 

To his shocking surprise, he found himself balanced precariously on the edge of a

 

smooth, rock ledge. Before him, the cliff fell away for almost a thousand feet. Fighting

 

back his panic, he backed away firmly and methodically.

 

When he reached more comfortable footing, he glanced around and noticed a cluster of

 

rock and adobe houses on top of a protruding mesa spur. There were people in the

 

village, mostly women, who were attending to their daily routines; whitewashing walls,

 

mending clothes, and preparing meals. Children were playing games, chasing one

 

another, or helping with the chores.

 

It was mid-day, bright with a cloudless sky. A warm, steady breeze buffeted his face. It

 

was obvious that he was no longer in the alpine region above Mexico City. The entire

 

scope of the scenery had changed miraculously in the blink of an eye. How was it

 

possible, he wondered? What had he done to accomplish such a feat?

 

A little girl popped up suddenly in front of him, and the questions were chased from his

 

mind. He had been oblivious to her approach and her sudden appearance startled him.

 

She couldn’t have been more than five years old. Except for a simple bead necklace that

 

stood out prominently against her dark body, she was stark naked. She was also very nervous and fidgety. She kept her gaze on him at all times as if she was afraid to break

 

eye contact.

 

He was becoming increasingly hypnotized by her stare. Her eyes were huge and round,

 

dark and deep.

 

“Where am I?” he inquired, attempting to break her spell. “What is this place?”

 

The little girl wouldn’t keep still. She arched her arms high behind her back and then,

 

lifting her knees nearly to her chin, marched around him in an ever tightening circle. And

 

then she dramatically unwound, shouting, “Oraibi, simpleton! Third Mesa! Don’t you

 

know? Aren’t you our friend?”

 

“Yes,” he answered tentatively. “Of course I am.”

 

She eyed him suspiciously and then began to circle around once again, hyperactively

 

bending and contorting her body.

 

“The star has led us to the end of our migrations. The clans have completed their

 

wanderings, and now we wait for the Creator to reveal the outcome of His plan.”

 

As she turned a cartwheel, she came frightfully close to the edge of the mesa. “In the meantime, as you can see, things have gotten pretty ridiculous.”

 

Ridiculous indeed, he thought nervously. Totally outrageous was more like it.

 

“Not me, silly. Everybody else!” she retorted as if she could read his thoughts. “Come on,

 

I’ll show you.”

 

He followed her into the village. His intentions were to be polite and friendly to

 

everybody, but nobody paid him any attention. In fact, as they continued towards the

 

square, it became apparent that nobody could even see him.

 

“See?” the little girl intoned. She continued to squirm and hop about as if she had to

 

relieve herself. “Nobody even sees you! And they all think I’m the crazy one. They all

 

say it, you know. ‘Sparrow of the Broken Ledge is crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy!”

 

She continued her chant until they reached the edge of the ceremonial center, a fairly

 

large area that contained six to eight kivas, seemingly spread haphazardly. Hopi men

 

were lazing about, some clothed in exotic, colorful garb, but most dressed in drab cotton

 

or a mere loin cloth.

 

“Maybe one of these guys is smart enough to see you.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth when the wanderer noticed one of the men

 

notice him. The man’s expression of disbelief was unforgettable. Once he composed

 

himself, and made sure that the visitor was still watching, he strode purposefully towards

 

the edge of the mesa and then tossed some kernels of corn into a pit. He picked up a

 

fifteen foot long pole, ten inches in diameter, as if it weighed nothing at all, and began

 

effortlessly working it up and down in the pit, pulverizing the corn into meal.

 

The wanderer was amazed. It seemed beyond reason that the man could work the tall,

 

cumbersome pole in such an easy manner. The post had to weigh more than the man

 

himself!

 

The other men had joined together in a chant. The corn grinder eventually grew bored

 

and left the pole standing in the hold. He gathered the chanters behind him and then led

 

them past the wanderer in a single file. Each man who passed gave him a quick, furtive

 

glance, making sure to make eye contact.

 

The wanderer followed the line with his gaze. The withering, side winding motion

 

reminded him of a snake. He saw each man dip a hand into a container of whitewash and

 

then continue on to the edge of the mesa. When the last man arrived, a command was

 

given and, in unison, they began to wave their whitewashed hand into the air, as if

 

painting or rubbing an unseen object.

 

Bewildered, the wanderer questioned the little girl. “What are they doing?” “Absolutely nothing,” she responded dryly. “They merely show off for you. There is no

 

purpose to what they do.”

 

“But what do they think they’re doing?” he pressed.

 

She directed his gaze across the valley floor to another mesa two or three miles away. At

 

first glance he noticed nothing out of the ordinary, but as he continued to watch, he saw a

 

whitewash spread slowly but distinctly across the ocher cliff side of the distant ridge.

 

Seeming no less than a miracle, it completely mesmerized him.

 

The little girl was less fascinated.

 

“See what I mean?” she groaned, once again becoming animated. “There is no purpose to

 

what they do. Whitewashing the cliff! The morons! With all this work to do in Oraibi,

 

they have nothing better to do than their cheap, useless magic. They’d be better off if they

 

looked to feeding themselves! Every year now more and more Tasavuh come to steal our

 

maize. They know that, and still they sit around all day like they’re something special.

 

And they call me crazy!”

 

Overcome with despondency, she stopped waving her arms and plopped to the ground in

 

a heap. “Only a one-heart can learn what they learn,” she lamented. “But they lose direction so

 

quickly! They all end up being a two-heart, and then they can’t be trusted. They’ve

 

regressed to spiteful witchcraft, shooting pellets of corn into people to make them sick or

 

die. They’ve tried to do that to me, but I won’t let them!”

 

“Can you walk the sky?” he asked.

 

“Walk the sky? P-tah!” She spat on the ground. “You ask such silly questions. Some of

 

us can. But what good does it do to see Tasavuh coming? There is nothing we can do to

 

prevent it.”

 

A sudden urgency swept over her and she jumped to her feet. “Father says that YOU can

 

renew our purpose, give us new direction that will make our efforts worthwhile. But

 

you’ll refuse to do it!” There was venom in her voice.

 

The wanderer stood immobilized, shocked by her sudden accusation.

 

“What’s wrong with you anyway?” she scoffed as she once again began to circle him in a

 

scrutinizing manner. “It’s as if you can’t remember or something. Is it because you are

 

white? You are, aren’t you? It’s so hard to tell with you fading in and out like that!” She

 

kicked dirt towards him in a spiteful manner. “Who are you anyway?”

 

He stood dumbstruck as her question burned into his soul. Who was he?

 

He didn’t have a clue. And yet he clearly understood most of what he had witnessed. He

 

was now at the Hopi mesas in northern Arizona, probably during the same time that

 

Cortes was crushing the Aztecs. He had not seen any horses in or around the village. But

 

while he could define his present place in the chronological order, he had no recollection

 

of his own personal history. Why? He didn’t know who he was or his purpose in being

 

there. He simply could not remember.

 

Was he white? Mochni had made the same assertion. And while he certainly wasn’t the

 

color of the whitewashed cliff, his skin was lighter than that of the little girl’s. Did it even

 

matter?

 

“Does Mochni appear to you here?” he asked, attempting to change the topic.

 

“The parrot? I have heard of him, but have never seen him. Don’t worry. If he ever comes

 

here, we will not be swayed by that evil spirit’s voice. Everyone here is too lazy.”

 

Sparrow’s pessimism matched his own opinion. Mochni would have no reason to meddle

 

with these people. Why should he? Even the Spaniards would overlook these unassuming

 

clans living in the middle of a barren land. It would be the Hopi’s salvation. He numbly examined his outstretched arms. There was no use denying it. He was indeed

 

a white man.

 

“You aren’t going to help us, are you?” Sparrow admonished, half accusing, half

 

pleading. A tear was in her eye.

 

“There is nothing I can do, little one. Absolutely nothing.” Hell. He couldn’t even

 

remember his own name! How could he hope to help these people?

 

He felt ashamed by his insensitive answer, but he felt that he owed her the truth. Finding

 

nothing more to add, he turned to leave.

 

“Wait! Please don’t go yet!”

 

She fidgeted with her necklace for a moment and then held out a huge paho, a prayer

 

stick that was nearly twice the size of her own little body. He admired the large eagle

 

feather that would carry her prayer/message to the sun.

 

“The prophecy has come true,” she declared. “When our white Friend finally returned, he

 

no longer knew who he was. My prayer is that you get well soon.”

 

And then he felt a tremendous rush of wind, and the little girl was nowhere to be seen.

 

Glancing up, he saw an eagle soaring aloft, on its way to the sun. Saddened and demoralized, the wanderer sat down on the edge of the mesa, oblivious to

 

the surrounding men. He concentrated instead upon the intriguing purple mist that

 

billowed up from the clear desert below. He solemnly awaited its arrival. So here’s the thing. The Aztecs could have crushed the Spaniards as they tried to set foot

 

on the Gulf coast. Instead, Moctezuma pulled a Hamlet and couldn’t make a decision.

 

(Re-read Portents). The Aztecs were a conquering people and demanded tribute from all

 

the people they dominated. Needless to say, all the subjugated Indian groups in Mexico

 

hated the Aztecs. So Cortes conquered Mexico with 500 Spanish soldiers and 500,000

 

Indian allies. He then turned on those allies and brutally subjugated them, too. This was

 

made easier by the fact that European diseases had already halved the population of

 

Mexico, and the people who survived were in a terribly weakened state.

 

In 1540 Fray Marcos led Coronado and his soldiers into New Mexico. They defeated the

 

Zuni at Zuni and then proceeded to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. They were

 

looking for gold; especially the fabled golden cities of Gran Quivira and Cibola. The

 

pueblo Indians caught on fast. “Keep going,” they said as they pointed into the distance. “It’s just over the next rise!” Coronado wandered around the high plains, lost a few

 

horses and drove stakes into the Llano Estacado to find his way back. “Damn,” said the

 

Indians. One hundred years later, the Comanche were the master horsemen of the plains.

 

Would history have been different if the Aztecs had crushed Cortes at the coast? I doubt

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