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Peter Morgan

By Les Baker


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Flocks of black birds fly north for winter

                   as the small boy plays in his water filled sandbox.

The old man laughs, sitting in October’s cornfield,

                   sewing quilts against unknown storms.

Corn stalks, dried with season, rustled by chilled winds,

                   rattle as dry bones of the field,

And the old woman’s faucet, from deep blue eyes,

                   Fills the boy’s sandbox.

The silos are filled only with dreams,

                   the bins are bulging with air,

While those chilled winds incessantly blow from the south

                   as the old man, cackling toothlessly, continues to quilt.


Chapter 1


Peter Morgan was not much of a man.  Certainly not a Midwesterner man.  He could not hit a nail on the head and he hated sports.  He neither played, nor watched any of the coveted ball games.  To make matters worse Peter even hated to hunt.  Rumor had it he could not tell the barrel from the butt end of a rifle. 

Or as Paul Sturgeon, his best friend, often reminded him:  “Peter, you are the butt end!”



This, of course, never bothered Peter because Paul was a real man.  And Paul, being a real man, knew what life was all about.  After all Paul was Indian:  Muncie Mohecan.  His dad still lived on the reservation in upper Wisconsin where Paul would often visit to hunt, fish, drink, and do all those important things that young men, except Peter, are supposed to do.  All those things that Peter never seemed able to do right.  Or as Paul would say: 


“You got the wrong perspective, man.”


“What’s ‘ya mean:  Wrong perspective?”


“You need to get right with the spirit.  The right spirit of the thing.”


“What’s ‘ya mean?  What right spirit?”


“Listen, Butthead!  Look at nature.  See the flowers, and the trees, and the birds?”

“Yea.  So?”


“How do you think they survive without intelligence?”


“Cause they evolved?”


“Listen Buttface, they survive because they are within the Stream of Life.  All existence, even the rocks and the very air you breathe are within the Great Stream of Life.  The Great Spirit keeps all things within harmony: One with the other.  Only man is the exception.  He has the freedom to deviate from this harmony.”


“That’s why we have all the problems we have?”


“Finally you begin to see the light, Buttbrain!  The Great Spirit is the light.  He is a Great Light provided to us for our journey on the path.  He is the path.  He is the Guide on the path.  We are within him and he is within us.  One and the same.”


Peter never really understood all of what Paul was saying, but it sounded so much like poetry that it had to be true.  Besides, Paul had the ancient teachings of the Followers of the Light.  The great medicine men through out the ages had taught the Followers of the Light.  And Paul was a Follower of the Light.


What Peter really admired about Paul, though, was the way Paul backed up what he said with his own life’s  actions.  Paul was different; a different breed of man.  Everyone knew that.  Paul could track a deer by moonlight and come back with an eight point buck slung over his shoulder,  bow and arrows in the other hand. 

Yes, there were many things Paul was better at then Peter.  That was why Peter was determined to set out for the Wisconsin woods just south of Waldo.  It was time to become a man.


It was time to be like Paul...


“Buttface, when I was twelve years old my father took me deep into the woods.  We drove in his old pickup, for what seemed hours, until we reached the center of the Reservation.  No one except The People are allowed to go to the Center, then only with permission from the Council.  And then only for very special reasons.  Anyway, after we reached the Center, my dad dug a huge hole.  Inside that hole he built a fire.”


Peter had heard this story before.  It had always fascinated him.  This time was no different.


“My dad kept that fire burning all day.  The coals were so hot that eventually we were placing whole logs on the fire.  Big oak logs the size of a man’s thigh.  And they burned so hot there was no smoke.”


This was the part of the story Peter really enjoyed.  He had become frightened the first time Paul told it.  Now, after so many retellings of the tale, he was immune to the fear.


“A little before dusk my dad cut down some young pine trees, stripped of the limbs and formed a skeleton for a Spirit Lodge.  He told me to go get the hides out of the back of the pickup and spread them over the pine skeleton.”


Here it was thought Paul.  “This is the good part!” 


“Shut up and listen!  I’m trying to teach you something here, Buttbreath!”




“Anyway, once my dad finished the Spirit Lodge he motioned me to go inside.  I crawled in.  My dad told me not to return home until I journeyed to my Center.  Until I was a man.  And he left me there.”


Paul used to choke-up on this next part.  Even though he always denied it, Peter knew Paul had been afraid.  Any twelve year old boy would be afraid if his father left him alone in the woods.


“That was the best day of my life.  My dad left and drove back home.  There I was: Alone.  No food.  Only a knife my dad had left for me.  And the river a half mile away.”


“Yea, I bet you were afraid!”


“Listen Buttmouth: You want to see scared.”  Paul slowly raised his fist to Peter’s eye level.  “I’ll show you scared!”


“Sorry Paul.  I guess I meant I’m scared just hearing you tell the story!”


“Yea, well you ain’t Muncie Mohecan like I am!”


Paul nodded in agreement.


“Well, after seven days I finally made it back home.  I spent three days in the Spirit Lodge before I had my vision.”


“What was your vision Paul?” 


Peter knew Paul would not tell him.  To tell anyone would be to give that person your personal medicine.  Peter was not sure, but sometimes he wondered how Paul could stay in the Spirit Lodge for three days without food or water.  The heat must have been very intense, but he was not about to ask that to Paul!


“Listen Butt’s Butt, you know I can’t tell you.  What?  You trying to rob me of my power?”


“Sorry Paul.  I forgot.”


“Yea, right!  Anyway, then I walked home.  I’ve never returned to the Center Woods since.  When I’m ready to die I’ll return and rebuild my Spirit Lodge.  Then I’ll sit and wait for the Great Spirit to come and take my spirit.”


“So you think I should do that?”


“Only if you want to be a man.”


So Peter read all he could, in a weeks time, on holy things.  Packed his camping gear into his car and set out to find some spirit.  Any spirit.  He set out alone.  Just like those young Indian boys would do. Searching for that special medicine spirit that would make him a man. 


It seemed that Peter was obsessed with those young Native American boys.  What a life!  Going off, after fasting for days, with nothing but a burning desire.  Searching for their vision.  Not returning until the Great Spirit had granted them their own shaman to guide them into manhood’s mysterious realms.


“Yea!  I’m about to do the same!  I’m about to become a man.”  


He had read a couple of books on New Age Mysticism and mystical experiences: 

“Now that I’m an expert on being a mystic its time to embark on my own Soul Journey.” 


This was a day Peter would never forget.  It was to be a day forever etched, like acid on glass, onto his memory.  It was the day of his great journey. 


And never again would he be the same.    


Providing himself with the necessary essentials for his quest:  Two tents, one for the supplies and one for sleeping; three coolers, one packed with assorted meats, the other two with soda; three large plastic containers full of dry goods of cereal, cookies, vegetables, coffee, etc.  Just the basics.


The campsite was an hour out of Milwaukee:  Peter’s hometown.  It was an old religious place.  Some Lutherans had bought the land, built a campground, even a lake.  Then just like a bunch of stupid Christians, they let the place run down.  By the time Peter arrived on the scene the Camp had been abandoned for many years.


Peter had been at the Camp many times before, though always with Paul.  He could not remember anytime that they had not been together.  He could not remember a time when Paul had not known about the Camp:  Run down, no water, no electricity, but best of all, no people.  It seemed that Peter and Paul were the only two persons alive when they were at the Camp.  And now it would be like Peter was the only person in existence.


The sole survivor of the human race.   


Soon to become a very lonely young man.


Racing up the old washed out road, Peter barely glanced at the Old Chalet where Paul had to rescue him last year after he fell half way through the upstairs floor.  With one leg dangling free in the air below him and the other pinned under his hips Peter was a sorry sight.  As Paul was quick to remind him just before pulling him to safety:


“Hey, Butt Head!  See why the girls avoid you?”


Peter had laughed then.  He was not laughing now.  Intent on the road he tried to block those memories from his thoughts.


“Remember what the great White Witches teach!  Envision the white light.  This is no time to invoke negative vibrations.”



Peter had always been fascinated with the power of the occult.  Now that he knew more about it, and had the time to devout to it he would soon become a master.  He already had plans to develop his own web page when he returned home.  Maybe begin his own cultic gathering.  Maybe move his group out to Arizona.  Somewhere in the desert where no one would bother them. 


“This is no time to think of past failures.  The future is made up only of present nows as they are projected within the focus of tomorrow.”


Peter, white knuckled, clutched the steering wheel and began to shout:


“Think good thoughts!  No negative projections!”


Not now.  Peter did not need those old negative feelings to haunt him.  Not while setting out for purification.  Not while setting out to find his personal talisman. 

So intent on his good thought mantra, Peter almost failed to navigate the fork in the old dirt road.  Pulling hard on the wheel he veered left, raced past the dried out lake, around another curve and just missed the Tamarack trees as he roared through the camp site. 


Peter was just beginning to alert his somewhat sluggish neurons of to give the command to move his foot from the gas pedal to the break when he saw where the shelter used to stand.  That was before Paul burned it down. 


“Funny how that memory just popped into my head.”


Peter had little time to reflect on such thoughts.  Slamming his foot on the brakes the car skidded to a stop beside the burnt ruins.  Those ruins, once a latrine and open air church shelter were little more than a hole in the ground.  A hole that Peter’s car had barely avoided.


Peter hardly noticed.  As he began to make camp he was again deep in thought.  The sight of those ruins stirred old memories that if given a choice, Peter would have left buried deep within the void where old memories are laid to rest.



Paul had always enjoyed burning things.  Peter enjoyed watching.  For Peter it was a rush of power watching Paul do brave things.  Things that Peter was too much the coward to do on his own.  That was what it was like two years ago when Paul had ripped the old cross off the wall of the shelter and stuck it in the ground.  Peter had grabbed some kerosene lighter fuel and doused the cross until the old wood could soak up no more, allowing oil to run on the ground. 


When Paul saw the oil soaking into the ground he became very angry.


“Hey, Spastic Buttman!  What are you doing?”


Peter just beginning to relax had tensed.


“What Paul?”


“The ground, Buttbreath.  The ground.  Its sacred, man.  Look at what you’ve done.  You’ve desecrated it.  The Great Spirit will be displeased.  We need to make atonement for you.”


“What, Paul?  How?  What should I do?”


“Nothing now, Buttbrain.  I’ll take care of it come night.  That’s when the spirits call for blood.”     


When night came Paul lit the fluid soaked wood and began to whoop and dance around and around.  He motioned for Peter to join him.  This was the Atonement Ceremony!   


Peter had just set the last tent peg in place  when he remembered that night.  With a shake of his head he paused.  He had almost forgotten.  He had wanted to forget that night.  That was the night that the rage and the anger had boiled out.  It was not planned.  It just happened.  It was like the night’s darkness had pointed an accusing finger at him and screamed:




The spirits swirled around like mist and smoke.  The Darkness had come alive inside them and taken on a will of its own.


Paul disappeared.  He soon returned with a young doe slung over his shoulders.  She was still alive. Both boys tied her legs together and hung her by her feet from a rope tied between two of the Tamaracks not far from the shelter.       Peter remembered that night as if it was a video replaying on his retinas.  



The fire had burned bright.  First just the cross, then with a maddened frenzy Paul had ripped boards from the frame work of the old shelter.  A frame that had stood for more years then either boy had taken breath on the earth.  The dry boards had burned fast and bright.  Before night’s end Paul had exhausted the supply of wood he could rip away from the old structure with his bare hands. 


After one last failed attempt at pulling a particularly stubborn board loose, Paul had suddenly stopped.  Looking at the old structure he screamed and began to pound the board with his fists.  That had scared Peter, but not as much as when Paul suddenly stopped and smiled at the building.


“Well, you do think you’re tougher than I am don’t you?”


That was when Paul slowly turned with a smile and  poured the remaining fuel onto the half removed board and torched the remains of the shelter. 


Then they squatted on their heels and watched the devils within the flames devour what once had been sacred. 


And the doe.  She was as still as the night.  The boys  watched as her eyes widened in fear.  Her eyes were so round Peter thought her pupils would pop out.  How she trembled.  She shook so hard that even without the ropes cutting into her legs she would not have been able to run.  She was beyond fear.  She was terror.


The boys panted.  The boys watched.


Peter was panting now, two years later, as he recalled the events of that night.  It had been a clear night.  There was a bright harvest moon hanging low over the fields.  And there in the center was his doe.  He could still smell her scent.  He could still taste her fear.


Continuing to replay that night, Peter remembered that Paul had slowly stood up. 


It was just like slow motion.  Peter could still see Paul walk over, draw his knife, and begin to carve out her hind quarters.  She was still alive. 


Peter’s mouth was dry remembering. 



First her form went stiff when the knife entered with what must have been searing, intense pain.  Then as Paul buried his face in the fresh carved wound, she slowly went limp.  Her eyes still wide.  Her sides no longer laboring with pain.  She finally died. 


Peter had then walked over and reaching his hands into her gaping wound began to stuff raw meat savagely into his mouth.  It was primitive.  It was sacred.  Paul had cleansed Peter from his sin.            


And they danced.  And they eat.  And they danced until dawn.


Peter shrugged the memory away.


“Atonement and Passage.  Just a rite of passage.  That’s all it was.”


But Peter began to shake.  He thought of the hunter and the hunted.  Then he had been with Paul.  That had made him strong.  Then there had been nothing wrong with what they had done.  Now he felt like the hunted.  Who was the hunter?   


Blood must be shed for atonement.  Even the white man’s god says that. ”  Paul had reminded Peter the next day.  “Better an animal then a human being.”       Peter had secretly wished it had been a girl. 


Neither boy had ever talked about that night.  Peter had blocked the entire incident from his memory until this night.  Neither boy ever went camping again.  Until today.


Now with the fire blazing, looking out into the moonless night, Peter shivered.  There lingered a coldness that no wood fire could toast away.


Peter prepared his dinner.  One eye on the food, the other on the darkness.  Night sounds began to haunt his mind.  And he was afraid.


The evening started well.  He prepared and ate a fantastic dinner.  It is not everyday one has prime rib over a camp fire.  After dinner with the camp cleaned, extra logs on the fire and lantern lit Paul went into the tent to get his notebook.  To begin the journal of his memorable Manhood Event.


If his expectations were fulfilled, publishers across the country would be fighting to publish his journal: Peter Morgan, expert lecturer, enlightened spiritualist, New Age Minister. 


“Yea, pass the plate and put the offering in the bank.  What a life!”


That’s when Paul realized he had forgotten his guides:  The books on Astral Projection and New Age Mysticism. 


“My whole trip is ruined.  I can’t do this without guidance!”


Looking up to the heavens, raising one clenched fist, he screamed:


“Not this time!  Nothing’s going to stop me from what is mine!”


After all, it was his idea.  His masterpiece:  Go out into nature, have a mystical experience, write it down, get it published, then become a leader in mysticism and become rich.


Now it was ruined.  Every time he had a good idea someone, or something ruined it. 


“And this time is no different!”


But this time was different.  His plans were to change.  This night would only be a foretaste of events yet to come.


Standing by a waning fire, berating himself for stupidity, suddenly a thought, more an image of the back seat of his car, entered unbidden into his mind.


“Of course!  The back seat of the car.”


Peter had deliberately parked a good stone’s throw and a half away from camp.  He had not wanted anything from a decadent society to corrupt this sacred quest into manhood.  He always threw things into the back seat.  Walking towards his car Peter remembered the trouble his habit of using the back seat as a garbage dumpster had caused him in the past.


Smiling he thought of Rose Lee Thompkins.  That is Rose Lee Thompkins and the backseat of his car.  She had been the talk of the school.  Only a freshman, but what a beauty.  Red hair to her hips: And what hips!  He had been building up the courage to ask her out for months when she walked up to him one day in the school lunchroom and asked him for a date.  A real date.



He had wanted this to be the best date ever.  Let all the jocks hear about his exploits for a change.  Let Rose Lee be so swooned over Peter Morgan that everyone would know what a man he was.  As it turned out this would be the only date Peter would go on during his entire senior year. 


He had done everything right that night.  Took her to her favorite junk food restaurant, took her to the movie of her choice, and even treated her to some homemade wine.  She was not exactly drunk, but she was in a happy enough state of being to let herself be convinced to slip into the back seat of his car. 


Opening her car door, just like the gentleman he was not planning to be, opening the back door, slipping his arm around her waist, he was stopped only by the sound of her retching in disgust. 


There was so much trash covering the back seat and floor that Rose Lee took one look and threw up the hotdog, fries, and homemade wine he had provided earlier that evening.  Then to make matters worse, she had regurgitated her weenies all over him.  For the entire winter Peter was forced to drive with his windows opened.  Whenever he closed his windows and cranked up the heat he could smell roasted vomit with hotdogs on the side.   


Then to destroy any hope of recouping his manliness, the next Monday, everyone in school came up to Peter with fingers pinching their noses asking for a ride in his back seat.


The only good thing that came out of the trash was no one accused him when Rose Lee became pregnant by schools end.  Judd Taylor was the boy who finally paid for her abortion.  He worked all that summer to pay his parent’s back the cost, too.  He later graduated from college and became a Priest.


The back seat.  That must be where his books were hiding.  Excited, he began to run.  Flinging open the back door he throw old wrappers aside, discarded an old half eaten, moldy sandwich, threw empty beer cans to the ground.  No books.


“I bet I left them home.”


Tears began to cloud his vision.  He kicked his car door shut and slumped against the side of the car. 


That’s when Peter’s life began to change. 


It was as if there was a slumbering force out there, some type of energy, waiting for him.  Beckoning.  Calling his name. 



Within the oak trees he saw a shape, or perhaps a non-shape, a diaphanous mist, whispering his name.


Wiping his eyes, blinking, he looked again:  It was gone.  Running back to camp, his pounding heart convinced him this was not a reflection of light from his tears.   


The hunter felt the terror of the prey.


Peter tore open all his boxes and bags.  He lit every lantern and flashlight he had.  Piling log after log on the fire, every so often stealing a glance towards the oaks, Peter expected to see a specter steal towards him. 




Still not totally convinced it had been nothing more than firelight reflected in his eyes, Peter retired.  As soon as he climbed into his sleeping bag and closed his eyes the instant replay began again.  Over and over, whenever he dared to close his eyes there it was.  Or wasn’t.  That same blackness.  Like an empty void.  Like a nemesis, a vast nothingness.  It was, but it was not. 


Like seeing something out of the corner of your eye, but when you try to focus your attention on the object of your attention it disappears.  Closing his eyes he saw, or almost saw, emptiness personified.  A personification he could only almost see and seeing would not be able to explain to anyone else.  That is if anyone had lived within five miles of his camp.  Which they did not. 


“What a sobering thought.  If I screamed, right now, at the top of my lungs, begging for help, no one would hear me.”


Was the darkness just his imagination?  Just the inside of his eyelids playing tricks with the firelight? 


This darkness seemed different.  He knew that if he could find the courage to look through the tent flap he would see the darkness lingering beside the fire.  He also knew that the light from the fire was dimmed, being absorbed into that blackness. 



If he had had the courage to point his flashlight toward this darkness it would not have disappeared the way a shadow should dissipate when a beam of light cuts into it.  This shadow refused to give way to the light.  A strange darkness, at once foreboding, yet at the same instant impelling.  He named it:  Darkness. 

Was this only a backdrop of his own mind? A mirror of his inner psyche?  Or was he seeing something with his mind’s eye he had never seen before?  Had the stillness of the night given him spiritual vision?  Was this the Great Spirit?  If so why was he so afraid?


No, this was not what Peter Morgan had expected.


He had ventured into nature to find truth.  To find manhood.  Not to be reduced to a spineless mass of blubbering protoplasm.


Nature.  Supposedly the Ultimate Mother.  She nurtures and protects her children. 


Nature.  Where Merlin the Great began.  The source of the Crystal Cave and powers enough to make the greatest of all sorcerers. 


Nature.  The power within trees and grass.  Where ancient Druids gathered collective powers to harness and direct the forces of the world...


“Why am I so afraid?”


Nature the Ultimate Power, the Ultimate Mother.


“But why am I so afraid of that Darkness.  So afraid, yet so awed, by the vision.”   

Deciding it best to turn in early, hoping not to wake until the light of day, Peter enjoyed only fitful sleep.  The sleep of a mind filled with unwanted memories.  Lanterns burning bright, flashlights embraced close to his breast, he would be grateful for the mornings dawning light.


Or so he thought...











The Building


The building stood as if with firm foundation

But within,

Beneath smooth painted walls,

Joists crumpling to dust.

So the parent took the daughter to the grandparent's house

Where both were met with rejection.

The grandmother too busy pushing her van (the camper attached),

The parent too busy changing wet socks to care,

The daughter too innocent to know,

Will never care.



Chapter 2    


Peter was awake, dressed, and standing in front of a roaring fire before first light.  This trip, this search for manhood, had not begun the way he had expected.  Night terrors, resurrected memories of the Doe, fitful sleep, and waking before dawn had left him with a dampened spirit.


Peter did not want to remember the terror of last night.  He did not want to remember that whenever he closed his eyes the vision would begin to unfold.  When he opened his eyes in fear the Darkness vanished.  It was like a class B horror show.  He knew it could not be real.  Yet he knew it was real. 


Sometime during the night Peter had awakened with such pain in his bladder that nothing could stop him from going outside to relieve himself.  As he stumbled to through the tent opening the force begin to take shape.  At first Peter was uncertain if the shape was lingering sleep or real.  If he concentrated on whatever it was and tried to visualize its shape, it simply disappeared. 


“Just like when I try to remember something I can’t remember.  I know it’s there, but I can’t grasp it.”


No, this was not what he had expected.  His hands still trembled in the predawn light as he reached out to place more wood on the fire, remembering what Paul always said about fire:


“Remember, fire is a living thing.  It eats, it breathes, and it will die if not nurtured.”



“C’mon Paul!  Alive?  How is a fire alive?  Where’s its lungs to breathe?”  Peter laughed when Paul had first told him the mystery of the fire.


“Buttmouth Fool!  You mock what you do not understand.  I honor what I know!”  Paul had been offended.  Paul was offended anytime anyone questioned his mystical knowledge.  His Indian Heritage.


“If you pour water on a fire it drowns.  If your bury fire under ground it suffocates.  If you do not give fire wood to devour it will starves.  If I hold your head under water you drown.  If I bury you alive you die.  If I withhold your food you starve.”


Peter shook his head trying to shake these memories away. 


“Enough of mysticism.  Paul must be right.  I fear what I don’t understand.  I just can’t think right now.” 


Morning had broken.  The world began to appear shrouded in dew soaked half shadows.  The early morning stillness played loud and raw upon Peter’s senses.  Every sound magnified and exploded in his mind.  His labored breaths were crisp and fast.  Memories of the past, his past, continued to haunt the innermost recesses of his mind. 


So it was no surprise that Peter screamed in terror when a young doe crashed through the underbrush of the woods, dashed across the clearing, disappearing into the Tamarack’s off to the right of camp.  For many moments Peter stood, as a statue molded out of past pains mixed with today’s memories, unable to move. 


Unable to run.  He was afraid.


Who the Hunter?  Who the victim?


Slowly the morning continued to waken from the night.  As the sun rose in its fullness, a testimony of life, clarity of perspective also reawakened.  Just as if a spell was cast upon the horizon Peter slowly rose out of his terror filled stupor. 

And began to laugh.  He laughed until tears began to roll down his cheeks.  He laughed until those tears turned into rage, then embarrassment.  Quickly looking about to assure himself that he was alone Peter reached inside the tent and threw the urine soaked underwear of last night into the fire.


With aroma of steamed urine filling Peter’s nostrils last night’s fears became no more than dim memories buried in shallow graves.  Graves flooded with salted rain drops and all too willing to give up their secrets. 


He continued to laugh.  Not that infectious laugh that once one person begins, everyone who hears joins in with merry mirth, not sure why, but unable to refrain from joining into the joyous laughter.  No, this was a haunted laugh.  The laugh of emotions suppressed, suddenly escaped.  A laugh that elicits concerned stares, knowing looks, and whispers behind one’s back.  Relief, but only the relief of a sharp edged pain blunted for a very short time.


“Breakfast.  That’s what the deer was looking for! Breakfast.”


Peter expressed this revelation to the world, as if he was the first to discover the mystery of deer and early dawn hours.


“That’s a good idea.  Breakfast.  Just what a man on a quest needs to build his spirits.”


Peter was not sure who he was talking to.  He only knew verbalizing his thoughts made him feel less alone.


“I bet the Indian boys talked to themselves, too!”


Breakfast finished, Peter straightened the camp:  Burning paper plates, emptying grease into the fire, letting pans burn themselves clean.


“Now time to explore.”


Peter nervously glanced towards the stand of Tamaracks to the right of camp. 

“Those are only trees.  No need to look in there.”


The gentle sway of branches and the rustle of the leaves of great oaks seemed to agree.


“Over here.  Come over here.”


The woods to Peter’s left whispered, beckoning him with sun filtered shadows and a warm breeze.  Peter responded.



“Over there.  That’s a good place to start!”


And so Peter Morgan’s new life began.  


Starting towards those woods his path led directly across the clearing where the Doe had hung.  Nothing remained of that night except some charred ruins of the shelter.  The clearing had reclaimed its own.  The grass had grown, healing the scar left by  the flames; healing the scar of fresh blood falling to the ground.  Atonement heals hidden scars.


The sun was half way to its zenith by the time Peter reached the ruins.  He looked ahead to the woods and paused.  Something urged him onward, towards those trees.  Something else pulled his attention towards the ruins. 


Years later Peter will tell any who would listen that at that moment his life truly teetered on the precipice.  This was indeed a fork in the path of Life.  He will also tell any who care to hear that he is not sure what would have happened if he had chosen to explore the woods first.  He is not sure if his life would have been different if he had not decided to first explore those all but burned remains of the shelter.  Would there have been a second, maybe even a third, chance?  He will tell anyone listening that he is glad not to have to find that out.


But now Peter kicked at the ruins.  And his life began to change forever.  The debris he kicked fell with an echo.  As if there was space under the shelter.  But that could not be.  Paul had explored this whole area sometime before burning the shelter and said the shelter was nothing but a falling down Christian’s excuse for truth.  And he had forbidden Peter to go inside: The roof was unsafe. 

Originally the shelter had no walls.  Its function was to serve as an open air service area.  An area where in the event of rain, or blaring sun, the service could continue.


By the time the boys had discovered the Camp and begun to explore its hidden mysteries, the shelter was already in the last stages of decay.  Large holes in the roof, caused by the freezing and thawing of the spring snows, the chipmunks searching for shelter chewing on whatever they found, and the occasional falling limb had left the shelter as little more than a shadow of what it once was.



Peter had been the first to discover the shelter.  He and Paul had passed the shelter’s clearing where it had stood snuggled behind large oak trees and smaller standing pines several times without noticing the structure.  Then one time when Paul had sent Peter out to find firewood, it seemed that Peter was always the one sent for wood, he discovered the shelter.  Peter excitedly ran back to the camp to tell Paul.


“Paul, guess what I found?”


Paul had stopped reaching for the last of the venison cooking over the fire and asked with a half smirk:


“And what did Peter find?  A dead skunk in the middle of the path?”


Peter paused only long enough to make a mental note of how silly Paul looked just then, half squatting, half reaching for the last of the venison before happily gushing out his find:


“There’s a building over there.  We must have passed it a hundred times before!  I guess even your Indian eyes couldn’t see through the oak trees, huh?”


Paul did not react the way Peter expected.  He slowly continued to reach for the venison, ate the last of the meat, and replied:


“While you were out not collecting firewood  you missed dinner.  The meat is all gone.  You’ll have to eat cereal.”


“Yea, but how about that building?”


Paul slowly stood and turning towards the direction Peter was pointing replied:


“Where exactly is this building you imagine you discovered?”


“C’mon.  I’ll show ya!”  And Peter began to run.


“Wait!”  Paul yelled.  “Just tell me.  Where is this supposed building?”


“Over there!  Remember the old oak tree with all the pine trees around it.  Right behind there.  C’mon I’ll show ya!”


Again Peter began to run off towards his find.  Again Paul yelled, no this time he screamed.





Peter stopped and stood very still.  He was not sure what to do.  Paul looked mad.  Paul also looked very mean.  And Peter, very afraid, stood very still, eyes wide, panting.


“Have you already looked into this building?”


Peter only shook his head.  His mouth too dry to do anymore than mouth the word.




“Good.  You stay here and try to find something to eat.  I’ll go and make sure its safe.”


Peter could do nothing but stare at Paul’s back as Paul disappeared through the woods.  Peter could not remember how long he waited.  After what seem longer than eternity Peter did the unthinkable.  He took some of the meat and cooked it over their fire.  He knew he should not do this.  Paul had always warned him that meat, especially venison, was sacred.


The first time Paul had warned him about the meat Peter had gone to the cooler and had reached in to take out a venison steak.


“Hey Paul, want one?”


Paul had appeared deeply hurt.


“What are you doing?  Don’t take that!”


“Why not?”


“You offend my People and you offend the deer, but mostly because you offend the Great Spirit!”




“When an Indian kills a deer, or any living thing, it kills for food and clothing. 

When the white man kills its for sport and fun.”



“So?  Is that wrong?”


“Yes that’s wrong!  The Great Spirit will not forgive your murdering his children. 

We are all children of Nature, our mother.  Just as we are all children of the Great Spirit, our father.  The trees, the rocks, the grass, the animals.  All are our brothers and sisters.”


“So, why not be a vegetarian?”


“Listen Buttbrain, even the grass and vegetables are alive with the Great Spirit. 

All things in existence are related.  Even you!”


“So then there is no difference in eatin’ a banana and eatin’ a deer?”


“I think Buttbreath is starting to get the point.  Whatever you take as a tool, or as food, you must give Nature and the Great Spirit thanks by thanking your relative for giving up its life for you.”




“When I killed this deer I didn’t just gut and butcher it in the field.  First I thanked my sister for giving her life for my use.  Then I buried the parts I did not need so that she could return to Nature.”


“So why are you telling me this?”


“Because if you ever irreverently reach for another piece of my sister, the deer, I’ll break your hand!”


Peter had never, until that day, ever reached for any meat without Paul’s permission. 


By the time Paul returned Peter had finished eating the venison steak.  It had not tasted as good as when Paul grilled them over the fire.  Peter’s had tasted tough and overcooked.  Paul’s always melted in his mouth, moist and tender.  But it had given Peter greater satisfaction then any action had in a very long time.



“Well Buttbrain, what have you been doing while I was wasting my time exploring your useless discovery?”


“What‘cha mean useless discovery?”


“Did you already forget what you found?  I wish I could!  Nothing but an old, and very unsafe, roof held in place by old rotting braces.”


“Well, did ya’ find anything?”


“Nothing.  And you stay away from there.  I don’t want to have to dig you out!”


They had never gone near the shelter after that.  At least not until the night of the Doe.  Now Peter was digging in the ashes and uncovering a sub floor of sorts.  There were stairs and a concrete floor.


Peter continued to dig out the room until, hands black with ash, he found an old wooden box.  It was empty except for one partially burned, battered book.


“O.K.  Some lost manuscript from the ancients!  That’s why the Life Force caused me to forget my other books.  I was destined to find this!”


Clutching the wooden box to his breast, Peter half ran, half stumbled back to camp.  Hurriedly washing his hands, drying them on his pants, he opened the book.


And was disappointed. 


“Just an old bible.  Nothing interesting.  What a waste.”


Then a thought entered his mind of an ancient old man, perhaps a Druid, placing the book in its box and hiding it under the stairs.


As soon as that thought entered, another pushed it away.  Images of nasty Christian’s yelling and condemning him when he was eleven.  Actually it was his father the Christian’s were arguing with.



Peter’s father was an agnostic.  He was proud of the fact and often would invite religious types into the home to discuss religious beliefs.  Invariably Mr. Morgan would lead the conversation in a direction of doom for his guests.  Mr. Morgan would pretend to be interested, almost ready to drop to his knees and be repentant, then he would stop and ask the question: Where did the other people come from that Cain was afraid of?  Invariably those Christian fools would be unable to answer.  Just as invariably Mr. Morgan would look hurt and turn away.

After the Christian fools had made a hasty retreat, Mr. Morgan would turn to his son and laugh, clapping his hands and reminding Peter that all Christians are fools.


That is until that one time.  It was the last time Mr. Morgan had ever allowed any Christian to enter the family home.  A Lutheran Evangelist came knocking and Mr. Morgan, feigning interest had lead this sucker on, until the question.  Mr. Morgan had always told Peter that if one Christian could give him a solid answer he would start taking them all to church.  He had also always assured Peter not to worry.  “It ani’t about to happen!”


When his dad sprung the question that Evangelist did not even pause for a breath!


“Sir, there may appear to be many contradictions in the Word.  I assure you there are not!  I have read the Word in Greek and Hebrew, as well as English and find no contradictions.”


“Well, where do all those people come from?”


“It is obvious that you have read the Bible a little?”


“Yea, so?”


“It is also obvious that you pride yourself in being the intellectual type?”


“Yea, I can hold my own with any Fundie if that’s what you mean?”


Standing up, the Evangelist replied: “You stated earlier that if you found no contradictions in the scriptures you would go to service.  Well sir, Cain was afraid of his own brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces.”


At this point the man walked Mr. Morgan through the scriptures showing him where to find answers to most of the obvious questions that people claim are contradictions.


Finally the Evangelist stopped, put his coat back on and left.  His last remark to Mr. Morgan was: “See you Sunday!”



Mr. Morgan never went.  Mr. Morgan never allowed another Christian into his home.  Peter never had the nerve to ask his father why. 

Thinking back now, holding this battered bible in his hands, Peter thought that the Evangelist was the only Christian who had been confident in what he said.  And unlike how Peter had always remembered this incident before, now something reminded him that the evangelist did not rant and rave that day yelling hell and brimstone.  Not the way his father had always repeated the encounter.


A sudden noise in the oaks startled Peter.  He almost dropped the book in the fire.  Looking up Peter saw a young doe leap out of the underbrush and pause in the clearing.  She turned her head towards Peter and stared.  Those same eyes! 


Then a clap of thunder, so loud Peter swearing his heart missed a number of beats, jumped and ran for his tent.  Stopping he looked back for the doe.  She had disappeared. 


But the storm was almost upon Peter Morgan. 



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