I returned today to my room at the Opa Lodge. This decision may be rash. Denise certainly thinks so.
I certainly do. He informed me of this idea by phone, if that tells you anything about how hare-brained even he thinks it is. Talk some sense into the man, Chief. Get him out of there before it’s too late.
But after my conversation yesterday with Heyoka, I believe this to be the best means possible of smoking out the Sad Man. This is the portion of that interrogation I’ve kept hidden from the Somnambulists, for reasons that I believe Denise has already made clear: some of the subjects broached there were things I am sworn not to reveal, even to you. If I thought these things posed some kind of threat, I would break my word in a heartbeat. But in our zeal to know everything, we sometimes delve too deep. Secrets and lies, sir. Secrets and lies. It’s the currency we deal in. But sometimes we must allow ourselves to trust. And unless you intend to bring me up on charges, that’s all I have to say on the matter. Though I’m sure the Somnambulists will have their say, as well.
[Review Complaint #23594-Q, pertaining to violation of Field Code 821: Mental Hygiene and Security Maintenance Code 51: In the Event of Somnambulist Intervention. The Agent has committed an unprecedented breach of protocol, and must be corrected for proper functioning of Agency operations.]
At any rate. One thing struck me particularly in Heyoka’s story about the snakes coming to Pannawau: there was a missing date. He said that they came 40, 60, 200 years ago. Well, 40 years ago was the Yig Incident. And 200 years ago was The Year Without a Summer. But what about 60 years ago? What happened then?
I was doubly curious, because that would put it roughly around the time that Jase Peterson’s grandfather and his friends earned the right to hunt Alo land. This was the deal that was done in exchange for “services rendered,” if you’ll recall, and that vague description has been sticking in my mind ever since. Someone obviously had something to hide. But what?
Heyoka’s response intrigued me even more:
Mm. Sixty years ago. Did I say that? Funny. I thought that was just… But, no. No, it was the snakes then, too, I suppose. Or it was now, anyway…
That one was all about the tunnels. The Holy Paths. The snakes took the Seer’s Path when the reservation boundaries were drawn. It was the only one far enough away from [the Mountain], and they made sure they owned it once the parcels were drawn up. It’s a snake pit now.
But the Liar’s Path… You know the Liar’s Path, White Devil. You scared the children there. But what the snakes did there was much worse. They found the Forest Door at the far end of the Path, and they went in. Found the nests. And in the nests, the eggs.
Terrible, terrible. A generation of owls, lost. We failed them, then. Didn’t carry the Holy Burden as we should. The snakes might have over-run the Path entirely, and infested [the Mountain] if the white men hadn’t intervened. Poachers, can you believe it? Enemies to allies, in the blink of an eye. They were out hunting our land when they heard the cries coming from below, and went in. Found the snakes at their horrible work, and ran them out. All but one. The youngest of them, snake and not-yet-snake, a boy trying to become a man, the slime of an egg still staining his chin as he violated an owl in its nest.
Him, they shot. It was the only way to stop him, they said. Such was the power of his lust. They dragged him out with them, only to meet the Rangers at the Forest Door. Better late than never, eh Cheveyo? But the Rangers, they brought the boy-man-snake to us, and we extracted promises from him. Binding promises. Promises never to return. This was better than killing him, we thought. Easier. Didn’t get white law involved. And it would have. That’s the way with the snakes. So we bound him to his vows, and were rid of him. He left Pannawau not long after, and we thought we’d seen the last of him.
Not so much the poachers. They had seen things best kept secret, and done things worthy of reward. Tahki was the one who cut the deal. Always cutting deals, that one. It’s how he came to run the Opa Lodge. But back then, he was one of us. Young. Brash. Good with the white men. Good with the owls, too. They might still listen to him, if he came out to talk…
The young snake, I assume, was Oscar Melmoth. He would have been coming of age around the time this happened, and he left town not long after to begin his long journey of self-transformation.
But this Tahki… He apparently means David Tahki, manager of the Opa Lodge. He gave up a career as a spiritual leader, Cheveyo tells me, to manage the Lodge’s affairs on behalf of the Alo Council. He’s also the great-grandfather of Daniel Tahki, the first Alo victim of the Black Mirror Brute.
If there’s a better candidate to be the Sad Man, I don’t see him. And if there’s a better way to draw him out than by going back into his place of power, I don’t see that, either. Denise thinks
I think he’s crazy. The visions he was having in that place nearly broke his brain! And now he’s going back in there, having killed one of these holy owl things, knowing that they’re going to be gunning for him! And what’s he planning to do? SLEEP!
it’s a bad idea. But I’m stronger now than I was when I stayed here the first time, and I know better what to expect. I’ll be walking in the dream, and in the dream I’ll confront the Sad Man in his own den. I can do this, sir. I stared him down when he was possessing Possum Reynolds, and he flinched. He’s scared, and that’s something I can use.
Besides, it’s too late to stop me. I’m in bed right now, and will be asleep before you can order me out. So wish me luck, sir. And pleasant dreams.
– Agent X-23, signing off.