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The braves had laid him over the back of his stallion and brought him back to the people. He suffered from a bullet wound in his left shoulder, a hole that was vicious and smelled of infection by the time he was given to the elders and medicine man. For many days and nights, he lay feverish within the tipi, screaming for vengeance against his attackers. “Kachada!” he would say, his throat burning with hatred and shame. The white man had taken his arm from him. Laughing Flute remained attentive by Red Crow’s side, even as she saw the scorn and resentment rise into her husband’s eyes. When he could no longer string his bow, she would string it for him. When he could no longer paint his face or arms, she would assist him. When he could no longer join the hunting parties, she would console him. Their people were dying, weakened by the white man’s bullets, constantly reminded by Red Crow’s dead arm. Seven moons after his return, Red Crow left his band for the sacred mountains to pray and Laughing Flute was left alone. He did not return. War was common for the people not long after. Tribes would come together, they would separate and then come together again. When it seemed no hope was left for their land, thirty-three of the Comanche’s chieftains agreed to meet with the White Man’s government in an effort of reaching peace. These men traveled with their elders, with their families and a few followers for many days. For the Comanche chieftain’s, peace was not resolved when they arrived. The people were separated by the white man, the men forced to leave the women and the children. There was panic amongst the remaining Comanche once the gunfire began. The children were taken from the women as they were herded into the desert, miles from where they had left their men, returned to the White Man and stripped of their heritage. The women shared the same fate as their chieftain’s, violated by the white man, left naked, with bullet holes and slit throats to die in the heat and the harshness of the desert.
Laughing Flute watched as the young girls, the respected mothers were ruined by the White Man’s barbarous and carnal behavior. She screamed as she was touched by many men that were not Red Crow. She was one of the last left alive, vision obscured by the swelling of bruised eyes, nauseous with the taste of blood and semen on her tongue. She prayed to the great mother, to the sacred mountains in her few peaceful moments. Laughing Flute asked for strength, and when she was ravaged again and again, she asked for death. When only one soldier remained to watch over the bodies of the ruined and dying women, she sprung. She bit at the soldier viciously once he’d turned his back on her, and when he’d forced her to the ground, crushing her with his weight, back to her chest, she choked him with the bindings she wore until he had no spirit left.
For many hours, Laughing Flute laid amongst the bodies of her people, wearing the men’s filth and the women’s blood on her skin. Listening to the flies that swarmed and watching the vultures that circled. When night had come, she finally began to move. Disoriented, she walked for many hours beneath the moon, until the sky was bright again and the sun harsh. She ate the leavings of animals with repulsion when they were there to be had; she pricked her fingers and scarred her arms as she tore open cacti for its small bit of water. When she had walked four days and nights, and thought she could walk no longer, she had a vision. A white man watched her in the distance, dressed finely in a dark coat. His skin was haunted and pale, his features smug. She felt humiliation and resentment boil in her blood. She knew now, the hatred that had taken Red Crow away from her. She looked away. She was a proud Comanche woman and she would not ask the white man for help, the Great Mother had sent the trickster, Coyote to test her. And, when she looked back and the man was gone, she was certain she had passed. This gave her strength. She walked for three more days. On the eighth day, she was awoken by the sound of hooves beside her ear. A hand she did not know touched her shoulder. She was frightened, she prayed for the wolf spirit to give her strength. When she looked to the unfamiliar presence, she was greeted by blue eyes, clear and horrible. He spoke at first but she did not listen. In her panic, she descended upon him, pouncing at him like the wild beast she was sure she had become. He fell beneath her with his start, much like the soldier had. He did not have time to fight back. She held him down by his neck with the press of her bruised knee and as he started to pull a gun into his hand, she ripped it from him. Laughing Flute had never held a gun before. It was cold, and heavy. Foreign between her fingers. But, she knew what they could do. They were simple, and before she could be stopped, she pointed its metal tip to the man’s forehead and pulled the pin she had only heard about in horror stories. She recoiled with its sound and force. It had been louder than she had expected, and when she opened her eyes she saw its devastation. The man wore a frozen, startled face, a perfect round hole in his head even though the back and sides had blown out, its contents spilling into the grit and the sand to make a darkly colored paste. She did not release the gun even as she stood up, wiping the brain and blood from her face, her shoulders and breast. She had only heard of white men like the one she had killed. They dressed in black except for white collars, they held symbols that represented hope but only brought hurt and shame. She had heard some say that these men were kind and heard others say they were vicious and unrelenting. Laughing Flute did not feel sorry the longer she watched to body of the man, the longer her eyes roamed his collapsing head. She took his horse and his gun. She took the knife he wore hidden in his vest and cut the bindings that had kept her hands for more than a week. She saw Coyote again that night. He walked with her, as she led the horse, beside her in his fine polished shoes and long, tailed coat. She did not look to him. She moved slowly as if she were alone. She counted the falls of the mare’s hooves. He did not speak to her and she did not acknowledge him. She could not be fooled, and after many hours that she did not speak to him, he melted into the earth. The sun rose soon after. On the ninth night, Coyote appeared for a third time. She had not heard him coming. She awoke violently to a sound she was not prepared for, much as she had awoken to the white man’s priest. A fire she did not build burned brightly, smugly. Across the flames, in the shadow of the moon and the night, she could see Coyote sitting, poking at the embers with a long, dead branch. For a long, still moment she did not move. Laughing Flute sprung up suddenly, kicking sand and dust into the fire. She startled her stolen mare. Coyote stood up and stepped backward, but he was not surprised by her. “I will not be fooled!” She cried to the vision, “I will not be fooled.”
He began to speak to her in the white man’s tongue. She sneered to him, she reached for the gun she had taken from the dead priest and pointed it, though she did not yet pull the trigger. When she did not still her unsteady hand on him, he spoke to her in her own language. Laughing Flute was not surprised. “You will not fool me, trickster,” she swore. Her thumb clumsily pulled back the hammer of the pistol, “I will not take your help. I will find my people and they will help me.” “Your people are very far away,” he spoke smoothly, though the language seemed foreign on his tongue. The vision looked at her with those same clear, horrible blue eyes she had seen many white men look at her with. “I will find them,” she assured to him with her teeth grit. When the vision moved suddenly to remove the hat from its head, she was startled. She shot. Once. Twice. And again. She shot out of fear and out of desperation, until there were no more of the white man’s bullets to expel. The vision lay with its back in the sand, across from her, beyond the dead fire. She took many breaths and held onto the gun. Laughing Flute did not know truly if you could harm a spirit with such violence, but she did not underestimate the evil of the White Man’s weapons. She dipped her head with honor to the fallen Coyote. With slow steps, she rounded the spirit’s make-shift fire pit and knelt beside its fallen form. “Great mother, forgive me,” she begged and began to cry. When she looked down to Coyote, she saw the holes in his fine coat and white shirt. She counted them, but she did not see any blood. This scared Laughing Flute. And when he opened his eyes and rose to his elbows to look at her, it scared her further. “I can’t be hurt by the White Man’s weapons.” He assured her, his voice soft amongst the songs of the night. Laughing Flute watched him, but said nothing. It was odd, seeing a white man say that his own mechanisms could not kill him. This filled her with a great sense of dread and sadness for her people. “I can make it so they cannot hurt you either.” He said to her. She found herself greatly troubled, weakened under the weight of a promise so large. She had survived for so many days, she thought. She was so determined to return to her people, to be strong for the memory of Red Crow. She was ashamed now that she welcomed the offer of death from the spirit. She told herself, that maybe the Great Mother had seen her suffer enough and would welcome her spirit to join the Earth and her ancestors. That perhaps, Red Crow would be waiting for her. When she did not answer for many moments, the man rose up. He offered his hand. Laughing Flute refused him, smacking it away with a sneer. The vision seemed to growl, disrespected. “I offered you a great kindness,” said Coyote. “You offered me cowardice,” snapped Laughing Flute. He was on her then, violently. Consuming her with his weight like the White Man’s soldiers had done and though he didn’t violate her weathered body, he hurt her. He drove fangs sharp as any wolves into her neck and counted her heartbeats. When they had slowed, he pulled himself from her.
“You will certainly die now, if you don’t take any help.” The vision spoke kindly, for the violence he’d just displayed, “Surely, that’s not what you want.” Laughing Flute lay in the sand of the desert, her own blood sticking to her neck and running through her hair. She breathed shallowly and looked to the moon. She thought about the vultures that would come for her and the flies that would lay their eggs in her corpse. “Do you want to die?” The White Man asked her pointedly. There was no more hope now, Laughing Flute knew. She felt weak and shameful. “No,” she breathed with cracked lips. She closed her eyes. She heard the vision grunt, could feel his wince in the earth she lay on. Something warm hit her lips. Laughing Flute had, had her people taken from her. The White Man had taken her pride and her virtue. And now...the White Man took the Sun as well.
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