Black Petals Issue #99, Spring, 2022

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Editor's Page
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Are You Full? Fiction by James Kompany
Bunker-Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Buy Here, Pay Here-Fiction by Kim Bonner
The Church of the Coyotes Who Would be Wolves-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Elm Mills-Fiction by Mack Severns
Hearts in the Gutter-Fiction by Lamont Turner
Midnight Espresso-Fiction by David Starobin
Spider Bite-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Test Tube Babies-Fiction by Kilmo
Witches' Jubilee-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Biter: A Love Story-Flash Fiction by Harris Coverley
New Mail-Flash Fiction by Eddie D. Moore
Reasons Not to Wake Up a Sleeping Beggar in the Morning-Flash Fiction by Marcelo Medone
While I was Frozen-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
Woodshop for Werewolves-Flash Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Bruja-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
First Light-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Soul Music-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Stalker-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Zombies in Space-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Bleeding Senses-Poem by Jess Boaden
I'd Like to Speak to the Manager-Poem by Carl E. Reed
The Woods (Behind My House)-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Nocturnal Mode-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When I Find You-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ethereal-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Fall-Poem by Mike Edele
Death-Poem by Mike Edele
Where Will You Be-Poem by Mike Edele
Giant Cockroach-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Allegewi-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Tokoloshe-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Ghoul-Poem by Richard Stevenson

Roy Dorman: The Church of the Coyotes Who Would be Wolves

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Art by Hillary Lyon 2022

THE CHURCH OF THE COYOTES WHO WOULD BE WOLVES

By Roy Dorman

    

     The old, cold Catholic church is just three blocks in distance from the new, warm Catholic church, but they are one hundred and sixty-two years apart in age. 

     And far apart in other ways too.

     The old church had been built of off-white limestone from local farm quarries, and has steeples on each end of its roof, the steeple in front being twice as tall as the one in back. The one in front also has a small belfry with a copper bell, and a cross on the tip of it. The steeple in the back is bare. Most likely an architect’s afterthought.

     The new church is of the rambling architecture popular with the mega-churches that have sprung up across the country over the last twenty years. It’s made of red brick. While the old church has hard wooden pews and thinly padded kneelers the faithful used for years, the new church’s kneelers and bleacher-type seats have plush padding.

     But this story isn’t about the new church or its parishioners.

     This story is about the old church and its current squatter parishioners.

     And the god who reigns over them. Their god is a wendigo.

***

     Let’s talk about wolves. And coyotes. And wendigos.

     There are very few wolves in the south-central region of the state of Wisconsin. Most of Wisconsin’s wolves reside in the woods in the northern parts of the state. And there aren’t many of them.

     But coyotes have made a comeback even in the lower half of the state, sometimes showing up in fancy gated community developments. 

     And small rural villages, such as where our story takes place.

     Will there be wolves in this story? No, but there’ll be wannabe wolves.

     You’d probably rather have the story be about wolves. Everybody likes to have a wolf in a story. There’ve already been plenty of stories about wolves. This one is about coyotes. And a wendigo.

***

     Both the front and back doors of the old church have been locked now for the last three years. During the first six months after it was abandoned by its flock, the janitor for the new church had checked on it daily, going in and making sure all was secure. 

     Eventually, after never finding anything amiss, the evening patrol became just a stroll around the outside of the building once or twice a week. Now, it was once or twice a month.

     There’d never been plumbing in the building, so there were no pipes to freeze. And the old coal furnace had been only fired up on winter Sunday mornings, or for a winter wedding or funeral if one were to occur during the week.

     Bushes and shrubs bordering the building have been allowed to grow thick and wild. There’s been no attempt at trimming, and they’re now flush with the building and with each other.

     Behind one of these bushes in the back of the building, a basement window pane’s been broken.

     It wasn’t kids. It was coyotes.

     Coyotes who would be wolves. Coyotes who serve a wendigo.

***

     Most of the broken glass has been worn away from the framework of the basement window pane. On some of the jagged edges there are pieces of fur and dried blood from the comings and goings of the coyotes. 

     There’s one dead coyote near the window, up close to the building. It’s a casualty of the overzealousness of the religious fervor of the coyotes. When it’s time for the service, there can be pushing and shoving, snarling and biting, to gain admittance through that small entrance.

     It’s not that there isn’t enough good seating in the old church, it’s that sometimes the dominance games played by coyotes gets out of hand.

***

     Cassandra Who Walks With Coyotes is not your common garden variety First Nation wendigo. 

     Cassandra became a wendigo during a terrible winter about two hundred years ago. Her people, the Ho-Chunk Tribe, lived in the Midwest of the United States, mainly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Cassandra’s own family resided on the isthmus area that is now the city of Madison, Wisconsin.

     No one knows what causes a person to be overcome by the spirit called a wendigo, but often it seems to have occurred during times of famine and extreme cold. Food shortages brought on by a cold winter were common in the northern United States and Canada with First Nation tribes. The spirit of a wendigo convinces a person that eating their family and neighbors is the way to survive. And following this advice, that person may or may not become a wendigo.

     Cassandra’s been inhabiting the basement of the old church for six months. Before that, she was in a type of suspended animation in a cave in the Driftless Area of Southwestern Wisconsin. She’d rested in that cave for over eighty years. 

     Being a spirit, she has few corporal needs. She doesn’t need to eat, drink, or sleep. 

     But a wendigo spirit has some physical attributes. Wendigos can be seen and they can speak aloud. They have a distinctive obnoxious odor. They can leave footprints in soft earth of fresh snow.

     Wendigos are extremely cold. And that cold can kill.

     Also, when not in hibernation, they need an outlet for their perverse, all-consuming anger.

     Wendigo Cassandra relishes the irony of living in the basement of the old church. As a child, she’d endured a forced education in a government reservation school run by Catholic nuns. The nuns were brutal in driving out the Native American culture from their students.

     When she became a wendigo, some of her first victims were the nuns who’d taught at the school she’d attended. She didn’t transform them into wendigos. 

     She destroyed them body and spirit.

     When her coyote disciples brought mice, rats, sparrows, and roadkill to the basement as offerings, she converted that bounty to rabbits, squirrels, chickens, and other freshly dead animals for them.

     She’d learned the loaves and fishes concept at the reservation school. More delicious irony.

***

     Eddie Connors almost always went along with whatever new idea Corrine Derry came up with.

     But this time he was balking.

     “Break into a church? Nope. No way.”

     “Aw, come on,” said Corrine. “It’s not being used anymore. We could pretend it’s our own little house.”

     The two were seniors in high school and planned to run away together after graduation.

     Eddie was fine with the running away part. He thought it would be an adventure. But setting up house in the old church didn’t seem like it would all that much fun.

     Kind of creepy.

     “Yer chicken, right?” said Corrine. “Scared you’ll get struck down by a lightning bolt, aren’t ya.”

     “Nah, I ain’t scared,” said Eddie. “It just doesn’t seem like something worth gettin’ caught over. We’ve only got two months until we can blow this pop stand.”

     “Well, I’m goin’ in and checkin’ the place out,” Corrine said, walking away from Eddie. “Come on or don’t.”

     Eddie sighed. “All right, but we don’t break anything and we don’t steal nothin’ either.”

     “Geez, Louise, what a wimp.”

     Corrine tried both the front doors and a side door. Locked.

     “Artie Jones has his hands full at being head janitor at the new church,” said     Corrine. “I heard our neighbor, Mrs. Barton, tell my mom he never even goes inside anymore. Let’s see if any of the basement windows are unlocked.”

     “Remember, no breaking,” said Eddie.

     It was tough even finding the windows with the bushes being so overgrown, but they managed. The third window they came to was the one with the broken pane.

     “There, see, already broken,” said Corrine. “I’ll just reach in and unlock —”

     “What’s that?” said Eddie.

     “What’s what?” asked Corrine.

     “That. It looks like a dead dog.”

     “Yeah, so? A dead dog in the bushes. Come on, let’s go in.”

     “There’s blood on those shards of glass,” said Eddie.

     “You really are lookin’ for reasons not to go in, aren’t ya?”

     “I was just sayin’ —”

     Corrine unlatched the window, dropped to her stomach, and went in feet first. The window was only about six feet from the floor, so there wasn’t much of a drop.

     “Come on, Eddie. Get yer butt in here before somebody sees ya.”

     Eddie went through the window and landed next to Corrine.

     “How do we get back out?” he asked.

     “How do we get back out?” Corrine said in a whiney voice mimicking him. “We just got in. Relax. We can find a chair or table to stand on later. Come on, let’s go upstairs —”

     “What’s that smell?” said Eddie. “Gross.”

     “Probably another dead animal,” said Corrine. “Came in the broken window and couldn’t get out. Probably starved.”

     “Like what’ll happen to us.”

     “You just had a burger, some fries, and a shake, Eddie. I’m sure you won’t starve in the next hour. Come on.”

     From an adjacent room, what started out as a low chuckle rose to a hysterical howling laugh.

     “Oh, my god,” said Eddie. “What was that?”

     Before Corrine answer, a coyote came through the window head-first. It landed on its feet and had a bird in its mouth. 

     The coyote eyed the two warily and growled around the mouthful of bird.

     A sharp whistle came from the other room of the basement. From where the laughter had come.

     The coyote immediately lost interest in Eddie and Corrine and left them standing there.

     “Let’s get the hell outta —”

     Before Eddie could finish that thought, another coyote came through the window. It was followed by two more. And then another.

     All of them were carrying dead animals in their mouths, and none of these new ones gave the two more than a glance before moving on to the other room.

     “We’re in some deep shit here,” Eddie moaned.

     Corrine was already looking for something to climb on to help them get back out of the window.

     “Over there,” she whispered. “Help me pull that desk over under the window.”

     “Don’t touch anything in my house!” came a voice from the other room. “Come in here and join the service!  Now!”

     Eddie and Corrine’s feet were moving toward the room before their minds had even registered the command.

     Eddie grabbed Corrine’s hand as they passed into the other room. There were five coyotes crouched in front of the eight-foot tall wendigo that had both a head and a body, but neither of those resembled any head or body Eddie or Corrine had ever seen.

     The wendigo’s head was huge and misshapen. She was covered in a dark purple skin-like surface and running sores covered her face. Her body was wide at the shoulders, like a wrestler’s, but it then tapered off to thinness until you got to the feet. They were more like hooves than feet or paws. And they were gigantic.

     She wore a loosely fitting cloak-like garment that looked to be made of deerskin.

     The coyotes hadn’t looked up when Eddie and Corrine entered. On their stomachs, their heads were on their paws in front of them as if in prayer. Their offerings lay in front of them at the feet of the wendigo.

     “You broke into a church,” said the wendigo in a guttural tone. “As did I and my followers. We may be the same, you and I.”

     “I don’t think I could ever be the same as you,” muttered Corrine.

     Eddie elbowed her. “You tryin’ to get us killed?” he hissed.

     The wendigo threw back her head and laughed that terrible laugh the two kids had heard earlier. It was even scarier up close.

     “You will be as me, or you will be as those scattered offerings at my feet. Whichever your choice, you are mine.” 

     The wendigo’s penetrating stare held Eddie and Corrine in place. “Come!  Kneel before me!”

     Woodenly, Eddie walked over to the wendigo and knelt in front of her. Corrine walked over, but stood in front of her with her hands on her hips.

    Wendigo Cassandra stepped in front of Eddie and pulled him under her robe.

     “Ohhh! It’s cold,” Eddie wailed. “It’s soooo cold!”

     The wendigo backed up, releasing Eddie from beneath her cape, and he tumbled to the floor. His face was blue with a frozen rictus scream on it.

     Corrine bolted for the other room. The coyotes looked to Wendigo Cassandra for orders.

     “Let her go. The seed’s been planted. We’ll give it time to grow, and then I’ll harvest her.”

     Adrenaline surging, Corrine pulled herself up and through the window. She ran as fast as she could until she reached her front porch steps. Taking a minute, she composed herself before going in to meet her mother.

     “Your blouse is dirty, Corrine. You’re such a tomboy. I don’t get what Eddie sees in you,”

     “Yeah, whatever,” said Corrine. “I’m goin’ up to my room.”

***

     When Eddie’s mom called the next afternoon, Corrine told her she hadn’t seen Eddie since the day before at school.

     When the police stopped over two days later, Corrine told them what they’d already found out from Eddie and Corrine’s friends; that the two were planning on taking off together after graduation.

     “Maybe he just decided to leave early,” Corrine told them with a casual shrug.

     A week after that, the investigation found its way to the church basement. Though the one pane was still broken, the window had been locked again. And there was no sign that anybody or anything had been in the basement.

     It was beginning to look to the authorities that Corrine may’ve been right. Eddie had left early.

***

     Eight months later, a little into a bitter Wisconsin January, Corrine called upstairs to her mother.

     “Mom, you up there? I’m hungry. You gonna make dinner?”

     “I’m on the phone with your Uncle Albert up in Ottawa. I’ll throw something together when I’m done talking.”

     Corrine’s dog, Daisey, a yellow lab, looked up at her. Though she couldn’t determine colors, she thought her eyes had changed. They were darker in color and seemed less friendly.

     Hearing the name Uncle Albert had been what had caused Corrine’s eyes to change from pale blue to bright red. When she was five or six, he’d visited for a week, and more than once she had awoken to find him sitting on her bed stroking her hair.

     Not knowing why she knew to do this, Corrine got up from the couch and walked out of the house without a coat. By a hedge across the lawn stood Cassandra Wendigo and the five coyotes.

     “You ready, Corrine? We can go anywhere you like. Anyplace you’d like to go?”

     “Ottawa,” she said. “I wanna go to Ottawa.”

     Cassandra Wendigo wrapped Corrine in her cloak and leaped into the sky. They were soon flying through the winter air at a fantastic rate of speed.

     “It’s cold,” said Corrine.

     “Yes,” answered Cassandra Wendigo. “Lovely, isn’t it?”

     “It is,” said Corrine.

     The coyotes watched the sky for a bit and then took off. They were now different from other coyotes. Bigger, stronger, cannier. 

     Though they were still coyotes, in their minds they would be wolves.

THE END




Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #90’s “The Return of the Ferryman” (+ BP #89’s “Orphans at the Dark Door”; BP #88’s “Blood on the Riviera”; BP #87’s “The Sepia Photograph”;  BP #86’s “New Orleans Take-Out” & “Not This Time”; BP #85’s “Door County Getaway” & “The Gift”; BP #84’s “Goodbye to Nowhere Land” & “Nobody Should Be at 1610 Maple St.”; BP #83’s “Door #2”; BP #82’s “A Nowhere Friend” & “Foundling”; BP #81’s “Nowhere Man in Nowhere Land” & “The Box with Pearl Inlay”; BP #80’s “Andrew’s War” & “Down at the Hardware Store”; BP #79’s “Cellmates” & “Get Some Shelter”; BP #78’s “All Is as It Should Be”; BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew”; BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley”; BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…”; BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others”; BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower”; BP #72’s “The Beach House”; BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites”; BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love”; and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.



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