They say you can smell your competition, doesn’t matter if it’s a covenant or a coven.
If you’re hungry enough, you can smell food through a brick wall.
Lee held out arms, slapping his hands together like a circus seal.
His wife, Karen, had told him that if he made Bai his traveling dance partner, then Karen considered it grounds for a divorce.
Lee looked at himself in the mirror as he practiced his dance turns.
Who was he, really?
He had taken up dancing two years ago because Karen wanted to go somewhere for their 25th wedding anniversary and look like smooth ballroom dancers, putting their dance lessons to use on their Alaskan holiday.
When they went to a regional dance competition in New Orleans a couple of months ago, they noticed that a large number of the dancers were young enough to be their children, if not their grandchildren.
Who was Lee?
He loved the infinite possibilities of living while managing the limited expectations that came with being married to a woman he had shared most of his life with, a woman not prone to taking risks — she had not wanted to see Lee jump out of an airplane, she didn’t even want to look at the Milky Way Galaxy while parked in the middle lane of a small suburban street.
What was preserving the illusion of safety for his wife worth to Lee’s mental health?
It was easy to pretend to be a lone, independent cowboy when surrounded by friends and family.
Where was his reality located?
Lee’s imagination was full of dark oaths sworn in secrecy, training assassins to weed out the deadwood, killing for purpose, pleasure or both, maiming for fun, creating pain and chaos for the sake of business associates; forcing families into starvation just to say we can.
But it wasn’t just his imagination at work.
He created false walls, barriers of plausible deniability that allowed him to give the highly moral/ethical childhood training a safe place to thrive in his thoughts, showing his family that he was preserving their heritage guilt-free.
Aliens creeped and crawled, slipped and slid through his thoughts without boundaries, using Earth as a playground and feed lot.
The sets of states of energy that comprised the visible universe were such temporary illusions that Lee often was bored trying to explain once again to the illusions around him their place in the greater “universe” that was currently invisible to all instrumentation that had been imagined/theorized/conceived, invented and built.
Yet, Lee had found no way to sit idly by when the universe as he knew it kept changing.
One look in the mirror, compared to the photographs of Lee at a younger age, convinced Lee he was doing anything but sitting idly by — the concepts of entropy and chaos were clearly visible.
Lee cocked his head from side-to-side, feeling the popping sounds within his spine.
Who was he?
He was no natural dancer, having little in the way of converting his imagination into physical actions that overcame his stiff joints and aching nerve connections. He could flail around but training his flails into consistent movement exercised his brain in ways that were mentally painful, pushing past the noise and chaos that flooded his thoughts constantly.
Teaching an old horse, breaking it in without breaking its spirit, in other words.
Lee felt a twinge between his shoulder blades.
It was time.
Lee sat down on the floor, his legs straight out in front of him, his back propped up against the dance mirror.
Although Lee believed in the sanctity of science, he had developed a second sense, thanks to the elderly lady who visited him as an infant, almost a toddler, when he could hardly speak his own internally-forming language, let alone that of his parents or the wide old woman.
Lee was married to his wife but he was connected to the curved spacetime of the universe that existed outside of explanation.
A voice spoke to him, a low, gravely voice, ancient but ageless.
“We are what you call the ‘mound builders.'”
Lee looked straight ahead and nodded as if the speaker was sitting in front of him.
“Our spirits are your spirits. We are one people.”
Lee nodded again.
“Your ways were not our ways but all ways belong to every one of us.”
“We know you. You and I have not spoken but I know you. Your spirit is strong.”
Lee smiled. “Yes. I know.”
“You are here because the spirits called you here.”
Lee felt his heart skip a beat.
“The spirits have plans for you.”
The pain in Lee’s back subsided.
“Your people say, ‘Resistance is futile.’ We say you cannot escape your destiny.”
Lee swallowed, his throat dry.
“There are others who will travel with you to St. Louis. Their spirits, too, are strong.”
Lee nodded again.
“In your travels, you will meet a man. You will not speak but you will talk to each other like brothers.”
Lee leaned his head back against the cool mirror, looking up at the air duct in the ceiling tiles.
“The female spirit in you will meet a sister. We remind you, she is not like your earthly sister. She is a sister spirit.”
Lee arched his eyebrows, unsure of the voice’s meaning.
“Our earthly brothers long fought the white man’s way, thinking the European was ruinous, a destroyer, taking from the land more than he gave back. In spirit we see that the universe is bigger than this planet. Our message to our brothers and sisters, our message to you, has changed.”
Lee closed his eyes, waiting to hear the message.
He opened his eyes again, unaware of the time change, not knowing that an hour had passed as he entered a trance state, communicating directly with the mound builder’s spirit without words, sixty minutes to the second of a deep conversation about what Lee was going to do in preparation for his trip to St. Louis, turning his internal eye toward a bigger goal, clearing his thoughts of present-day storylines and focusing on an eternal message he would receive and pass on to other strong spirits during their ritual dances over three and a half days in the Gateway to the West.
The pain in Lee’s body was gone, his muscles no longer tense, his worries behind him.
His old thought patterns had shifted. The story was not about dancing, wives, marriage status or planned assassinations.
A spirit brother of Geronimo had spoken to Lee in a language he did not know but fully understood.
In his thoughts, too, were Helen Keller, Charles Lindbergh, Henri Poincaré, and Scott Joplin.
The future is the past retold.
Lee looked forward to hearing from his brother spirit again.