Storyglossia Issue 46, August 2011.

The Day of Red Water

by Brad Green


One day, Kills Many Birds discovered a new idea in his mind. The idea was that there should be a third type of day. Now, everyone knew that there were only two types of days, but Kills Many Birds jumped up and down and waved his arms and soon people became excited about the possibility of a third type of day. It wasn't long before the elders gathered in a Long Hut made from birchwood and ash sapling to discuss naming this new day.

The tribe's wisest elder was named Many Suns. Knotted clouds, sun-struck fields, and the bitter contraction of snow were present in the face of Many Suns. His stories were praised throughout the tribe for it was well-known that weather brings wisdom to a man. When the elders suggested that a third type of day be named, Many Suns shook his gray head and said that naming a third day would be unwise. Man has always lived in two days, Many Suns said. A man's brain isn't big enough to conceive of a third. To attempt to name a third day would be against the wishes of Ubabeneli, who sits above the clouds and guides the destiny of all things.

Though he was not an elder, Kills Many Birds had sneaked into the Long Hut and he whispered from his hiding spot in the dark into the ear of an elder that the third day should be The Day of Sleeping with Women. The elder chuckled and repeated the name. Laughter bubbled in the Long Hut, but Many Suns sat near the hot stones, his eyebrows crowding together. Then Kills Many Birds whispered that the spear of Many Suns was no longer straight as it had been with women. A muscle quivered along Many Sun's jaw when he heard this slight and he cried out "All my relatives!" before leaving the Long Hut. The other elders laughed and declared that a third type of day should be called The Day of Sleeping with Women.



Enemies began to gather. Nearby savages coveted the silver fishes and thunderous buffalo found on the tribe's land. One season the enemy of the left would ravage and the next season the enemy of the right would bring their shouts, arrows and knives. Though the tribe had fierce warriors, these unending days of battle wearied the braves. Their hearts grew sodden and slow and they sought out the advice of the elders. When the elders could not come to agreement on how to end the jealous attacks, they coaxed Many Suns into the Long Hut again. After the problem was described to Many Suns, he held out his wrinkled hands. There is no spirit to change the ways of man, Many Suns said. When the other elders heard this, they poured more water on the burning orange stones and felt steam prickle their chests. Though they had been in the Long Hut many days, no elder sang out "All my relatives!" and it was indeed Many Suns who at last raised his tired face and declared that he would seek guidance from Ubabeneli.

But Many Suns was loathe to seek the guidance of such a powerful spirit, for spirits like Ubabeneli often behaved in ways that men could not understand. Many Suns loved his tribe, however, even with their foolishness, and it blackened his belly to see woe in their faces. The tribe continued to suffer attacks from their enemies and after seven days of heat and prayer in the Long Hut, Many Sun's eyebrows relaxed and he smiled. Ubabeneli had given him a vision. Many Suns discussed the vision with the elders and they called the tribe together to present a solution for the attacks.

Outside the Long Hut, Many Suns fanned sweat off his face with an eagle feather. We shall, he said to the tribe, seek a new home where happiness and peace can be found. Our guide to this new land will be a kohta falaya made sacred by Ubabeneli. Many Suns pulled a six-foot long pole of fire-blacked ash from his pack and showed it to the tribe. Stick this sacred pole into the ground at the end of each day's journey, Many Suns instructed. Stand it perfectly straight. When the sun of the day arrives, go see which way the pole leans. The direction that kohta falaya leans is the direction the tribe shall travel that day to reach the land of peace and happiness. Repeat this ritual each day until kohta falaya leans no longer. When that day occurs, we will have reached our new home.

The people were uplifted by these encouraging words and they ate many gourds of pemmican and drank hot black drink from whelk shells while dancing to songs. Many Suns plunged the kohta falaya into the soil and left it standing perfectly straight. After the celebration, the tribe began packing their belongings for the journey the next day. Though there was no evidence that things had indeed changed, Many Sun's optimistic words were enough to vanquish their grief. After the time of the sun of the night, the tribe opened their eyes to every green and moving thing like children the next day. Everyone rushed from their tipis to the center of the camp and they saw that the long pole leaned east. So it was that the tribe set forth. When the enemies on the left and the enemies on the right attacked, those crazed savages found that the fortunate tribe was no longer there.

Oh, it was a magnificent sight to see the tribe released of their blood burden. The old women and men, all the strong braves and fair maidens, each knew with certainty that their life had changed and they walked toward a new land of both happiness and peace. Everyone praised Many Suns for his wisdom and when the elders discovered it had been Kills Many Birds that made the joke about Many Suns, the elders banished him from the Long Hut for life. Many Suns was content to see his tribe happy again.

Even though packs bent their backs, the burden was like air, so lightly did they tread that first day. Their chatter was full of color like spring birds. This was the Day of Song, one of the two names that a day may have. It was during the Day of Song that the white dog came to the tribe.



Always watchful, the white dog scouted ahead. Great trust was placed in this dog and day after day passed without him failing that trust even once. The dog had warned of an encampment of savages and that warning allowed the tribe to alter their path so that battle could be avoided, for each brave was still bone-weary of blood loss.

One day Hangs-Up Grapes, the daughter of Kills Many Birds, was bitten by Sinti, the snake, and she fell ill. Kills Many Birds twisted his hands and pleaded with the medicine men to save his daughter. The medicine men burned coneflower under the skin of a coyote and held the skin over the girl's head so she breathed the smoke. They kneaded a sour poultice of black cohosh over the bite, but the girl continued to wither away in her face while her limbs swelled like logs in water. Kills Many Birds wailed and shook his fists at the sun. He began to say Ubabeneli hated the world and the men in the world. He cursed the sky and water and all the spirits of the air. He declared that he should no longer be named Kills Many Birds, but Laughs No More and Laughs No More is what he was called. On the morning that Hangs-up Grapes began to shake in her want for air, the white dog licked her wound and immediately her throat found breath and she slept. The very next day Hangs-up Grapes was bounding about the camp. Her energy and life gave the tribe new hope and they praised the white dog for its power.

But Laughs No More did not rejoice. He demanded to know why the Great Spirit let his daughter suffer if she could so easily be cured. Many Suns offered his pipe to Laughs No More, but Laughs No More refused and stalked away.



Not once did the tribe question the direction that kohta falaya led them. Not once were they besieged by the blood hungry enemies on the left or the right. This lack of bloodshed in their lives was not enough to satisfy Laughs No More, however. He demanded to know why suffering was permitted at all if it was so easily relieved. He spent each step in bitter complaint. Several others listened to his lament and began to discover themselves footsore as well. Where before their packs seemed full of air, now they felt fat with rock. Their feet became bloody and sore. So it was that portions of the tribe began to fall into unhappiness until one day kohta falaya led the tribe to a marvelous sight.

A magnificent river bubbled with froth and fast-moving water. The elders called camp and the tribe slept next to the river. Water filled their dreams. When the tribe woke, as they had done for all the days of their journey prior, they inspected kohta falaya to see which way that the pole leaned. To the dismay of the tribe, kohta falaya leaned east and pointed across the wide and mad river.

The astonished tribe stared at the water they were supposed to cross. Laughs No More threw down his pack and said he was done following Ubabeneli's crazed path. This is a good spot to stop our travels, he said. There are deer, rabbits, salmon, and berries both sweet and bitter. The khota falaya, Laughs No More said, just leads us into more danger and suffering.

Many Suns pointed his medicine staff across the river. We go where instructed, he said.

The face of Laughs No More turned red as a bear heart. He picked up his spear and killed Many Suns before the other braves could bind him. The elders, shaken by the death of Many Suns, grabbed kohta falaya and told the tribe that they were going to cross the river as Ubabeneli instructed. They would build a pyre on the other side and send Many Suns through the smoke to the spirit world to see Ubabeneli. Anyone that wanted to come should follow or be left behind to their own guidance, the elders said.

Men and women debated. Some, afraid of the wild waters, chose to stay. Others chose to go. The tribe split into two tribes. Those that gave their hearts to the Great Spirit and honored Many Suns set about building rafts to carry them across the river and those that chose to remain laughed and stained their fingers with sweet berries. The rafts were built and loaded with belongings. As a sign of respect, the tribe that was going to cross the river built the finest raft for Many Suns. The tribe regaled this raft with bear teeth and the softest deer hide. The Elders placed Many Suns and the white dog in the raft to be the first to cross the river. Then it was decided that all the elders should be on the raft as Many Suns often said he was not the leader, but merely the one who listened best. So all the elders crowded onto the raft with the body of Many Suns. Three braves pushed the raft into the river. Everyone watched the elders and the white dog bob out into the water. Just as the raft reached the middle of the river, Talks While Walking spied a large log upstream in the river, moving fast.

Talks While Walking yelled, but the elders did not hear with the roar of the water in their ears. The log crashed into the raft, splintering the wood. One of the elders grabbed for the body of Many Suns, but could not hold on in the foaming water. Several braves jumped into the river to rescue the elders and the white dog but the current was too swift. The braves tossed rope and long willow branches into the river, hoping to reach the white dog and the elders, but the river carried them away too swiftly. The tribe watched helplessly as the river bore the bodies of the elders and the white dog away. This was the last that the Indians saw of their guides and their faithful white dog.

Woe shriveled their hearts. For several weeks no brave hunted or fished and soon their supplies dwindled. The tribe that was going to cross changed their mind and rejoined those staying. When they had consumed all the berries, the salmon, rabbits, and deer, several braves volunteered to put aside their grief to hunt. A short while later, Red Cloud, one of the tribe's fiercest warriors, returned breathless and frightened. He spoke of savages beyond the green hills. He held up his bleeding arm to show to that he'd been attacked. The men of the village gathered together but could reach no decision on how to proceed without the direction and guidance of Many Suns and the other elders. Some men wanted to flee, so weary of bloodshed were they. Red Cloud wanted to fight, though his fingers shook saying this. When the men saw Red Cloud's hand shaking, they too grew frightened.

Laughs No More sat outside the Long Hut and told anyone who stepped near that choice was but a cloud, blown by a wind unseen. He spoke in a loud voice telling everyone that Ubabeneli had chosen for them already and Ubabeneli had chosen death and suffering for it was Ubabeneli that made khota falaya lean. Three days later, savages found the camp and set upon the tribe with spears and knives. The savages killed Laughs No More, Hangs-up Grapes, Talks While Walking, and Red Cloud. They killed every brave, each young girl. The savages tossed the blood-wet bodies into the river. They sliced open the bellies of unnamed children as their mothers watched and then scalped the mothers. Trapped as they were by their fear and the fierce water behind them, no one in the fortunate tribe survived.

Two types of days are given to man and the name of the second day is the Day of Red Water.

Copyright©2011 Brad Green

Brad Green lives in North Texas with his wife and three children. His work can be found in Surreal South '11 and elsewhere. He's an assistant editor at PANK magazine and Dirty Noir. He blogs here: