Published on Friday, September 24, 2010
By Connley Landers
They were specks two hundred feet below. As a winged shadow sailed across the carnage, two bodies on the ground still moved. Not time yet. The buzzard landed in the top of a tall loblolly pine that grew from a sandstone ridge. He could wait until all movement stopped. He was good at waiting. The warm wind moved down the canyon and murmured through the trees.
On the ground there were also bodies that were not moving, a half dozen total. Flies buzzed around Comanche warriors and men in blue uniforms. Somehow flies knew to avoid Captain Boyd, and the Indian, Tamac. Maybe they sensed the two could still slap. Or maybe it was Tamac's animal totem-spirit, the horned lizard, that they felt, and it worried them. Horned lizard tongues were bad medicine for flies. It wasn't the arrow sticking out of the Captain's chest, because all the Bluecoats had that. And it wasn't the blood pooled around Tamac that came from a hole in his stomach: the work of a Winchester's bullet.
The Captain crawled to his horse, which lay unmoving, on its side. When he drew his legs under him for a last push to the horse, the arrow wound hissed and blood-speckled the tan arrow, from its shaft to its hawk feather, fletching. He leaned his back against the saddle and the animal that had almost been a part of him for three years. He wanted to say goodbye to the sorrel filly that had served him so well. The Indian was already there lying on his back where he fell after Boyd shot him. Tamac had killed the horse.
"You dead?" Tamac asked.
Boyd was startled by the voice. He thought he was alone. The Indian's head was turned toward Boyd, and he could see the Indian watch, as he slowly dragged himself closer. The crawl had taken most of his strength. He was only five feet from his fallen enemy and couldn't do a thing about it. Tamac's eyes moved - nothing else, now.
Boyd was getting weaker. He followed Tamac's eyes to the buzzards in the trees. There were three more in the tree. Death drew a crowd that day.
"Not quite yet, but soon," he said.
"Tamac is dead."
"Yeah, gut wound like that. Might be hours. Sorry. I was aiming for your heart." Boyd noticed the Indian watching him touch the horse.
"It was a good horse?"
"The best I ever had."
Tamac's head nodded weakly and a faint smile moved his lips. "Wanted to steal the horse, kill you. Sorry." Tamac's eyes closed for a moment, and then he started to sing. "Hey ya, ya ya hey, ya oh ho, ya ya hey..."
"Death song honors horse."
"Oh." Boyd made a strained face as he reached for the canteen on the saddle. He could just raise it to his lips. The effort used the last of his strength. The chant continued. The Captain listened and wondered what the words meant. Maybe his horse could understand it. The chanting stopped. He saw the pool of blood around Tamac.
"Want a drink?" Boyd asked.
The Indian's eyes were open. A fly crawled over one. Tamac was still. Boyd closed his eyes and thought of who would miss Tamac. An image came to him of a strong, young Indian woman with a baby suckling at her breast. She was looking to the horizon where she'd last seen him and chewing moccasin leather to make it soft for Tamac.
Boyd was quiet for a moment then whispered, "Hey ya, ya ya hey, ya oh ho, ya ya hey..." The canteen fell over, and the spilled water flowed toward Tamac and joined his blood.
The buzzards waited in the tree as the sun set and the loblolly's shadow shrouded the Captain. The flies landed on him when he stopped breathing. Then it was the buzzards' turn to take to the air and join the crowd. The warm wind moved down the canyon, and the flies and buzzards ignored the murmur through the trees. They had heard it before. It whispered, "Hey ya, ya ya hey, ya oh ho, ya ya hey..."
Connley (Lee) Landers suffered a skeet shooting head injury and lost his cerebellum. Afterward, he wrote and won an award for his novel, Catethics, which proves he'd overthought previous work. Using only his medulla oblongata, he's had stories published in Rope and Wire Magazine, Darkest Before the Dawn, The Horror-Zine, Houston Literary Review, Metazen, Static Movement, Perceptions, Nexus, and Slushpile. Lee is looking for representation for his story collection, novel and his new memoir, Gray Matter, Don't Matter. He can be reached with simple, large print words via his email address.