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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: No Light to See
By Ann Grover


The red manís face is beaded with sweat and he murmurs incoherently. He is insensible with fever. I trace a cross on his brow with holy water, and he flinches, a sure sign of his unrepentant spirit.

These uncivilized people are stubborn and indolent, superstitious, vraiment, heathenish. They reject our Lord at every turn, feign conversion, then return to their pagan ways.

I burn, like a fire good for corn. Heat, like a rising sun hovers over me, like the golden circle around the face of the white god in the pictures brought by the black-robed priests. Maybe the white god burned with sickness. Did the water cure take away his pestilence? But, the priest says the white god died. Just as we die, more every day, even if we let the priests give us the water cure. Children, warriors, elders die. Now, I die.

Sometimes, I despair of ever reaching the red men, of seeing them renounce their dark ways in the name of Jesus. Every day, I sense a pall of oppression, suspended like a sullen cloud bearing heavy and pummeling rain.

This new world is bleak, barren, and unforgiving. The wind blows relentlessly through the cracks in our crude bark shelter. My robe is frayed and rotten from damp and filth. I must remember my vow of poverty and be content with knowing I am doing the Lordís work, even though I am continuously cold and my stomach gnaws incessantly, craving more than sinewy venison and stringy rabbits.

I see a shadowy smudge on the horizon, and it becomes a billowing storm of sorrow. Perhaps, it is the flames of sickness within me, and I am only dreaming of the ominous black-stained sky, the sullied air, of rivers running empty while forests fall like dry grass, and the whitened bones of our brothers, the fish and animals, are scattered.

The black-robes promise many more men will come across the big sea. Maybe it is better that I should die. I do not wish to see my people become no people in a desolate land.

The Indian writhes with fever and struggles to breathe, his chest hollowing with the effort.

I press my crucifix to his lips. I ask him if he receives Jesus as his Saviour, but he stares at me, with eyes that glitter like obsidian, even now unwilling to confess his obstinate pride.

The powers of darkness bear down, a foreboding weight, as I plead with our Lord for the healing and salvation of the savage. I fear it is hopeless, since he is primitive, steeped in sin, iniquity buried deeply in his impenitent heart.

I have witnessed their conference with the spirits of animals they kill. They come to Mass naked, dirty skins tied to their feet, a single fur draped over their bare shoulders. The women go from lodge to lodge, consorting with any who welcome them at their hearth. They are blind to the vileness of their behaviour. It is abhorrent.

The black-robe whispers in my ear. Accept his god, and I will be healed. A mocking crow, he is, in his flapping dress, saying words that are empty, a noisy cawing in the wind. A clever trickster, offering a bright prize and exchanging it for worthless scraps when we surrender, bowing to the god that cannot be seen, a wasichu, a killing spirit, stealing my people, offending our brothers, disrespecting the land, silencing our voice.

Smoke-that-is-not-tobacco swirls around me, and I gasp. Soon, Iíll join my children beyond the sky. The black-robes also promise life after my body fails, but I do not hear truth in their voices.

The dying Indian gives a guttural sigh, and I fear that, like so many, he is succumbing to the pestilence. Desperately, I anoint him with oil and light the incense, praying continuously. There may yet be a miracle, and he may be cleansed from the remains of his sin. Le Dieu Tout Puissant, help me.

I feel a dark presence, surely the diabolical one. Thereís a strange rustling, churning the air, then a yawning abyss of silence. The savageís breathing ceases.

Finally, peace. The wise and truthful one, the Raven, gathers me high, soaring on ebony wings, toward the sun. Toward the light.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/22/09
Interesting account of different beliefs as one faces death while another ministers.
Loren T. Lowery10/23/09
Thought provoking piece - exactly how far does our faith/beliefs take us. Do we discount others simply because we don't understand their ways and do they discount our for the same reason. Interesting, to say the least. This is very well presented.
Laury Hubrich 10/28/09
This is interesting. Something I've never read or even thought about before.
Jan Ackerson 10/28/09
This made me angry--not at you, but at the priest who couldn't see the dying man as anything but a savage. Tragic!