<- "Sibling Rivalry"   Up: Transformation Contest 2, Category 1  "Untitled" ->

Skinwalker: Brothers in Arms

by Mike Nelson

Well, I hope I'm doind this right. I started on this subject with a completely different story-but right now I'm on Page seventy five of that one, and still counting-looks like I got yet another novel in the works-Thanks alot Phaedrus<gr>

Anyway-This will actually be the first in a series of tales of Skinwalkers-a great myth here on the Navajo Reservation. Hope you enjoy this!

Mike Nelson

They say that a long time ago, before the Long Walk, but after the time of First Man and First Woman, there lived a Son in the Chuska Mountains near what is now Crystal New Mexico. This son was born for the Running Water Clan, and to the Burning Corn Clan, but his parents died when he was young but before he was a man. He did not go through the Rite of Passage or be blessed by a Há'tali'í.

This son didn't have many friends, and his family wanted nothing to do with him because he liked a certain plant that makes you feel dizzy and weak. The son found solace with this plant, and said it made him walk in the spirit world. As Navajo we use different types of plants for vision quests, but only under the observation of a Há'tali'í or Medicine Man. To use these plants without observation can cause soul sickness, and mind sickness so the Son's family did little to encourage the man further. They never visited, and he rarely spoke to them.

The man's hogan also fell into disrepair, his roof leaked and bugs invaded his sheepskin, yet the man didn't care; he walked in the spirit world and thought nothing could hurt him.

One night as this man walked with the Spirits, he came upon Coyote. "You are so clever and swift Coyote", the Man said," I wish I could be just like you." And Coyote replied, "you wouldn't want to be like me, everyone hates and fears me. They throw corn pollen on my tracks and avoid me whenever I walk into a room. I always lose my friends and no one ever trusts me."

"That's ok with me, no one likes me either, and my family doesn't care." The man replied, "but at least you run swiftly, can attack, can kill with your teeth. You're always warm in the winter, and I like the color of your coat."

So Coyote looked at the man and said, "So you really want to be like me? Go without food or water for five days. Many times I have had to fast for even longer than that. If you can do that you will be more like me."

So the Son went home and fasted. He didn't eat or drink anything for five days, just smoked the special plant, and sat in his hogan and let the bugs from his sheepskin bite his flesh. To satisfy his hunger and thirst pains, he chewed pine pitch.

On the sixth day, he went back to the Spirit World and found Coyote once again. "I haven't eaten for five days," the man said. "And drink?" Coyote asked. "None." The man said, "I just chewed pine pitch the entire time."

Coyote thought to himself. If this Son really wants to be like me, I wonder how far he will go? "Go back to the land of Men, and find everything the Dine' hates. Talk to Snake, and Owl, and touch the flesh of a corpse. If you do not get sick, and can embrace these things you will be more like me, because I often have to eat dead flesh, and talk to all the creatures of the night and make them my friends."

The man returned to the Living world and found the things we Navajo hate. He went to a grave yard and dug up a corpse, and laid with the corpse all night long, tasting it to make sure he did not become sick. He found a bullsnake writhing through the grass and he held it, and brought it back to his hogan to live with him. He found a screech owl and captured it to train to help him hunt when he became like Coyote. The last thing he did was to find a coyote, which he killed, and skinned.

Wearing the skin of the coyote, he went back to the spirit world, and found the god Coyote. "I have done all these things you said, I have lain with a corpse all night, even tasting its flesh. I have brought a bullsnake home with me to be my companion. I have trained an owl to hunt with me, and I have even skinned a coyote, so I can look more like you."

Coyote looked at the man with the skin hanging over him in ragged drapes. He thought, I bet this man would do anything to be like me, I bet he would go to any length to be more like Coyote. Coyote felt inspired by this man, never had He been respected by a man! But there lay one final test.

"I do not run with my family, I do not care for my family, I have even killed different people in my family for my own gain." Coyote said. "Your last test must be to kill a member of you own immediate family to prove your loyalty to me. I shall allow you to take my form one time for the Act. Once you have done that, I will make you into my own image at your desire."

The Son looked at Coyote. "Kill a member of my own family?" He said. Coyote nodded. "This is a hard request you ask of me. I had hopes of one day being reunited with them."

"Nevertheless, that is your final test," Said Coyote. "And remember, I am Coyote, I never get caught."

The man went back to the land of men. How would he kill a member of his family? He asked himself, who should it be?

He thought of all the family members still left alive. The Son had a brother who lived near what is now Window Rock, and a sister who lived near the San Francisco Peaks far to the West. Each disliked the Son, yet it seemed the brother disliked him the least.

I must kill my sister. The Son thought finally. And so he did.

When the sister was dead and in the ground, the Son dug him up and got his arm. Then he burned the arm, and collected the dust leftover to take into the Spirit World as proof.

"I have killed my brother," the Son said when he found Coyote. "Here is Proof."

Coyote took the small bag of powder and smelled it.

"This was indeed your brother," Coyote said. "And now you shall have your reward. Coyote raised his arms above his head, and pointed down at the man. Lightning flowed into the man as Coyote said these words:

"You have completed your mission, fulfilled your end of the bargain. Now I give you the Heart of Coyote, the Body of Man, and the Mind of Animal. You shall be able to walk with men during the day, and with animals at night. Owl, Raven, Hawk, and Snake are your only friends now, and with them; their forms. You shall be my voice among the land of the Living, my force will enter you body.

I shall name you. . .SkinWalker."

And from that day forth, no one knows what became of the Son, for he was no longer Diné.


"Holy Christ!" Jason yelled, sitting bolt upright in bed. The dream faded, scattered scraps of memory impossible to piece together. It always happened that way, and the nightmares had been more and more frequent of late.

He grabbed a pack of Marlboros from his nightstand, lit one, and inhaled deeply. The smoke gently lifted him out of the deep recess of unconsciousness. The glowing tip of his cigarette gave welcome relief in the darkness of his room.

A knock. "Hey bro, you ok?" Mike's voice sounded from his door.

"Yeah. just had a bad dream. Come on in." He wanted someone with him right now, though he would never say that aloud. Mike could be a dick, but he was the only brother he had.

"Some giant pussy eating you in your sleep man?" Mike asked as he sat on the edge of the bed, nodding his head for a smoke.

Jason tossed his younger brother the pack. "Naw-something different."

"It's lucky Auntie didn't hear you, she'd have a medicine man over her real quick, Mike laughed. "You remember the time I started sleepwalking?"

Jason grinned. "Yeah, you took a piss in the bathtub! Got us out of bathing for a week until Mom had old man Bitsui bless us with that corn pollen shit."

"At least I didn't wet the bed, fucker." Mike replied.

"Hey that only happened one time, when I was six, and you were five. I had a fuckin' infection to boot, pecker head."

They both laughed. Jason got up and looked out the small window. The wind was blowing again, the large Russian olive outside his window swayed, limbs flailing the sky as if in terror. He took a long drag on his cigarette, and glanced at the driveway. No sign of his Aunt's car.

"What do you remember about Mom?" Mike asked behind him, in a quiet voice.

Jason closed his eyes, thinking of their past. "In the movies, I'd get to say 'she was beautiful and had a great laugh' or some shit like that. But Mom wasn't like that. He turned from the window to face his brother. His glowing ember marked his position.

"She was fat, and loud, and she drank too much . . ."

"I know all that-I can remember her too. I just wanted to know what she was like before-"

"Before she became a Skinwalker?" Jason replied.


Jason thought. He didn't remember much of his mother, especially before she started making her nightly 'errands.' He remembered she had worked somewhere, some office. He could remember Dad bringing them to her work, dropping them off, and staying with her until she left for the night. She had bitched at them incessantly, not letting them play with toys, slapping them when they talked, or fucked around too much. They'd been kids, they got bored!

"I think she worked for Navajo Housing Authority as a secretary." He replied. He sucked on his cigarette again.

"Oh." Mike fell silent. He got up and stood next to the window, looking out. "Where do you think she is now?"

Jason knew exactly where she was, but Mike could never know. "Out there somewhere." Jason replied.

"You think we'll ever see her again?"

"Naw. " Jason said. "They live back in those caves near Navajo mountain."

Mike was quiet for a long time. Jason lit another cigarette, and sat back down on the bed.

"You falling asleep?" Jason asked, looking at the glowing ember where his brother sat.

"No." Mike sighed. "I'm just thinking of Mom and Dad. I can't understand why they left us, why they don't see us anymore. I mean, Auntie is Ok, she gets those welfare checks and food stamps. But man, I hate school. Those fuckin teachers don't give a damn whether I live or die. Mr. Franklin suspended me yesterday, and I don't want to go back."

Jason nodded in the darkness. "Yeah. I know what you mean." He thought of his own experience at the high school before dropping out, but he didn't want Mike to choose the same path. "Listen man, you got to go to school. Our family is fucked, severe. You're the only one that has a chance. You got to stick it out, get a real job. Not like me, flippin fuckin burgers at McD's." There was so much more to tell him, so much he wanted to say. But he couldn't.

"I don't know man." Mike replied. "I really miss Mom, I been thinkin about Joining."

Jason's head shot up. "No! You don't know what you're saying!" He whispered urgently.

Mike couldn't join! When Mom had left, she had used their little sister as the Entry. And Dad . . .well, there was no one left, except--.

"I do know what I'm saying." Mike replied. A sound. Deep and guttural. Almost a growl. Jason looked to where Mike was sitting-

Two glowing coals marked his position. Against the subtle light of the window Jason could see the outline of his brother's form slowly changing, hunching forward, arms flowing into forelegs, face pushing into a snout. The sound of the growl had grown deeper, the throat no longer human. Mike seemed to gain height somehow, and Jason suddenly realized it was standing.

He couldn't allow this. "No, you _really_ don't know what your saying." And Jason released the Power. The change raced through his body, pelvis shifting, forelegs bending, hair flying across his face and body. His muzzle shot out, and he could feel his teeth lengthen and sharpen. His own growl became a roar.

Two enormous Wolves confronted each other, one much larger than the second. The second leaped towards the first, aiming for its throat. Jaws clamped on throat, squeezing.

The larger thrashed, throwing the smaller wolf about the room in an effort to dislodge it. They flailed against the bed post, into the wall, breaking the lamp and furniture within the room. The bedpost snapped like dry kindling.

The larger wolf howled as he felt his throat rip, blood spilled from the wound and washed over the smaller Wolf. It splashed on dingy white walls.

In a last effort, Jason brought the smaller Wolf crashing down on the broken bedpost, severing its spine.

Hair retracted into pores, claws into fingernails, snouts into the two dying faces of brothers.

The silence of the room was punctuated by gasps.

"I'm sorry man." Mike said, laying in a twisted pile against Jason's chest. "I just wanted to be with Mom again, and we have . . ."

" . . .No more next of kin. I know." Jason finished, as he felt his last ounces of life slip away. "Guess we'll be seeing Dad now."

"Guess so." Mike finished, and died.

Jason looked at his little brother curled against his chest. He remembered many times when the two of them ran through the desert, hot on the trail of a lizard, or playing war.

He thought of his mother, how she had done the same to his baby sister and lived to run with the Pack.

The Pack. Of which he had been a member for a year now. He remembered his father, the look of surprise on his face when he had ripped out his throat.

She had forced him to continue to live among men, and take care of his brother. She had hopes of him breaking free of the Skinwalker curse, making something of his life.

His eyesight grew dim, his breathing slowed.

At least the nightmares would stop.

Copyright 1997: espaught <espaught@rocketmail.com> . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first. Thank you

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