The War of Summer's Ending

Chapter 9: The Medicine-Man's Tale

Place: The Seminole Reservation
Time: About ten years ago.

When Ezekiel was in his middle-teens, he was an angry young man, upset with what he saw as the tribe’s “backwards” ways, and eager to leave the Rez for good as soon as he came of age. His father, Chief Joseph Longfeather, asked his eldest brother, Black Rabbit, to give the boy lessons in the history and culture of their tribe, to make him see there was something of value in the old ways. As part of this training, Black Rabbit took Ezekiel into the Everglades when he turned sixteen, to guide him on a vision-quest.

They paddled their dugout canoe deep into the most distant and secluded portions of the swamps, set up camp in one of the dry hummocks, and began to fast. For three days they waited, while fasting and chanting. On the third night, Black Rabbit threw some of his medicine-herbs on the fire, and began a new chant. The youth and the old man felt themselves leave their bodies, and begin a journey into the spirit-world.

In the wee hours of the following morning, Black Rabbit returned to the Reservation with Ezekiel’s bloody, unconscious body lying in the bottom of their dugout canoe. The boy appeared to be dreaming fitfully, crying out at times, but he could not be awakened. His body was covered in dozens of bites and scratches, but none of the teeth-marks belonged to any animals with which the Seminoles were familiar.

Black Rabbit said little of the actual cause of the incident, save that they “must’ve gone fishing in the deep end of the pond.” Despite the fact that the old man blamed himself for whatever happened, no foul play was suspected, and life went on in the Rez much as it always had. But from that point onward, Ezekiel became increasingly antisocial and withdrawn. He did not leave the reservation, as his father feared he might, but he lived a life of such seclusion that he might as well have left. He remained in seclusion, only coming into town once a month for supplies, until a few months ago, when he stopped coming into town altogether.

Once Black Rabbit had concluded his tale, he told them the location of Ezekiel’s lonely shack out in the ’Glades, and told them wished them good luck, whatever they chose to do.