by David McLeod
The rattling of a cart in the hallway was enough to waken Phillip, who quickly jumped from the bunk in which he and Argon had fallen asleep. Stuffing his legs into the prison denims, he hurried to the door and cracked it open.
"Argon's not yet dressed," he said.
"Lazy bones, both of you, from the look of your hair," Sergeant Kimmel said. "Here, you take the cart through the door. Call me when you're finished."
"Fortiamus," Phillip said, when breakfast had been eaten and cleared. "And puer fortiamus. What are they?"
Explanation took all morning. Both Phillip and Argon struggled to understand both new concepts and new words. Phillip wrote frantically, capturing words whether he could determine meaning or not. He was nearly ready to throw in the towel when he had his second epiphany.
Magic. Shit. He's talking about magic. Real magic, like what the Shaman does. Stuff that doesn't fit into what the Hispanglos call science. Only, where Argon comes from, everyone does it.
Now sure of the path to take, Phillip quizzed Argon carefully. It was 1:00 in the afternoon before Phillip put down his pen. "Come on, Argon, let's have lunch."
After lunch and basketball, Phillip reviewed with Argon what they had talked about that morning. He crossed out words and wrote new ones, striving for clarity and understanding.
Argon's world is infused with? Imbued with? Full of, anyway, some kind of power. Adults can capture that power and use it to do work. And other things, like healing. Boys can capture the power but have to share it, give it to another boy who then can use it. However, some boys can capture power and use it themselves. Hmmm. Sounds like two forms or kinds of power. Like electricity and magnetism, maybe. One works one way, and one works another way, but they're related. And it can't be seen. No wonder he thinks of it as magic. If you can't see the cause and effect, you'd think it was magic, too.
"How did you come here?" Phillip asked.
"Through a door, a gate, between worlds," Argon answered.
"Why did you come here?" Phillip asked.
"I was pulled, or pushed, I do not know which," Argon answered.
"Do you want to return?"
Argon's "yes" was very emphatic.
"You all the time move your fingers," Phillip said. "I thought you were nervous, and then I thought it was ritual, but it's neither. You're trying to capture fortiamus."
"Yes, I try to gather power—fortiamus." Argon had said. "I want to try to make a door to take me home. That's what I was doing when the gate opened."
"You were trying to open a gate?"
"No!" Argon replied. "I was only trying to gather fortiamus. It was something I was just learning to do. I do not know how to open a door. I just hoped if I could gather power it might—"
"How can you go home?" Phillip asked.
"I do not know," Argon said.
"You said you found no power, here," Phillip said.
"Yes," Argon said. His face wrinkled and he fought off tears. "There is none, here."
"Perhaps there is," Phillip said. "You said that power was stronger some places and weaker in others. What if this is one of the weak places, and I know a strong place?"
"How could you—" Argon began.
"The kiva of my lodge," Phillip said. "It is our place of power. And, in each kiva is a sipapu, an entry into another world. Today, the sipapu is only a hole a few inches deep, but once it was the door through which our people came into this world!"
Argon pressed Phillip for details, but "I may already have said too much." Phillip was abashed. By custom, the Origin Story was never written down and was told only to the initiated. On the other hand, every Hispanglo tourist who ever visited the reservation learned that the sipapu was a door to other worlds. The tourists went home chuckling at the superstitions of these primitive people. Then went back to their Catholic churches and worshiped the gods and demigods they had created out of their own superstitions from their own primitive past.
"But, I will take you to one who can tell you," Phillip decided.
"I am not free to leave this place," Argon said. "I know it to be a prison. How will we get to this kiva of yours?"
"MacComb—the man who brought you here—told me that the locks had been removed. I checked the lock on the fence around the basketball court. It's just a shell; the door's held closed only by a latch. We can leave that way." Argon looked puzzled. He probably understood about one word in five of that, but I cannot take the time to explain, Phillip thought. He ripped out pages from his notebook, the ones on which he'd written his notes about Argon's language. He folded up the piece of paper with their names and the Lodge symbols. All these he stuffed in his coat pockets. He stuck his personal journal in the waistband of his blue jeans, and pulled his shirttail over it. He grabbed a denim jacket from the locker, turned it inside out, hiding the bright yellow STATE PRISONER lettering, and urged Argon to put it on.
"I don't like leaving my book bag, but I don't know another way. Maybe I can send for it, later." Phillip did not add that he'd probably be in jail, later. Wonder what the charge will be? Aiding and abetting the escape of an alien?
"Kimmel, where are the boys?" Trooper MacComb demanded of the desk sergeant.
"What do you mean? Aren't they in the day room? How about the basketball court?" she replied.
"No. Neither. I shouldn't have told Phillip about the locks." MacComb groaned. "And that all the cameras had been taken from the CCTV boxes."
"I shouldn't have let them on the basketball court," Kimmel said. "I'm in deep shit, huh?"
"No, Kimmel," MacComb said, "We're in deep shit. I won't leave you out on a limb."
"We can't go to my home," Phillip said. "The state police will contact the Athabascan police and they'll look there, first. I have few friends, and they are known. I dare not endanger my uncle. I guess I didn't think very far ahead—"
Argon took Phillip's hand. "You have led me well. We are away from the prison; we have food—but I do not like this bologna—and water. We will find a place to hide, perhaps to sleep, and then you will know what to do." Before leaving, the boys had stuffed their pockets with cheese, bread, cold cuts, and the refilled bottles of water from Phillip's book bag. They had then walked casually onto the basketball court, through the latched gate, and into the sagebrush of the desert. In less than an hour, they had crossed into the Athabascan Nation, marked only by signs at quarter-mile intervals. Most of the signs were faded, and all bore bullet holes.
Philip squeezed the smaller boy's hand. Am I getting a crush on him? Do I like having someone younger being dependent on me? Is that why I took him from the police post? Shit, shit, shit. Am I doing the right thing? Is all this on the level? He pushed these doubts away. "Come on. Johnny Two-Horses is in Pueblo; his place will be empty."