Book Review – Corridor Nine: A Novel

“Corridor Nine: A Novel”
by Sophie Stocking
Published by Thistledown Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
ISBN: 9781771871815

“Corridor Nine: A Novel”, written by Sophie Stocking and published by Thistledown Press is an exceptional novel that expertly encapsulates the extremes of soul-crushing emotions and outlandish behaviour in a way that is very accurate to the human experience. Even though this novel could be read within a weekend, it packs wallop. At under 200 pages this novel makes no room for literary fluff, every word is a thread that weaves into a beautiful and fantastical yet tender and tragic story of life and loss.

The story follows Bernadette Macomber, who thought that she had all but completely cut ties with her troubled father, Fabian, to begin again and start a family of her own. In the wake of Fabian’s sudden suicide, Bernadette finds herself returning home. All is not over for Fabian, however, as he finds himself in a completely foreign afterlife named Corridor Nine and in the company of an angel/griffin-figure named Bune. As Fabian transverses life-after-life, Bernadette or “Bernie”, is left in the mundane to seek the source of her father’s recent insanity. As the twin narratives consecutively play out, they also intertwine to result in the closure that both Bernie and Fabian so desperately seek.

As mentioned, this novel is a relatively short read but a truly delightfully one. Those with an inkling towards supernatural series will have a seriously good time tearing through this novel while also enjoying more mature tones, narratives, and characters than something like the Harry Potter or Twilight series would have to offer. That is not to say that young readers could not enjoy this novel, either. There is a certain exuberance to this novel that exudes from all its aspects, from the mystery of Corridor Nine and this universes’ afterlife, the fantastical qualities and characteristics of Bune, to the bizarre remnants of Fabian that he left behind. There were very few parts of the novel that it was not apparent that this story was truly a passion project of Stocking’s and it was story that she had been burning to tell. In fact, the cover painting of the novel, also rich and vibrant, is a work of Stocking’s as well. While it is not the most unusual thing in the world to see authors create their own covers, it is rarely executed so well and is honestly a breath of fresh air.

In conclusion, this is a delightfully read for nearly all ages. It perfectly blends the relatable themes of loss, guilt, and conflicting feelings about loved ones with the imagination of the supernatural. This far exceeds the quality that one would expect from a debut novel and I am excited to see how Stocking’s career flourishes as a great Canadian author.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Arrangements

I was 26 years old when the hospital called and told me that my father had finally drunk himself to death. They worded it as a “liver cirrhosis-related rupture” but I knew that it meant the same shit. They had told me that he is still alive but does not have much longer. They asked if I wanted to come in to say goodbye to him before he goes. I said no and hung up my phone.
My father’s routine was the same from the time that I was a child up until his hospitalization, and by extension, his death. He was a heavy equipment operator by trade but had trouble keeping consistent employment as he was pissed drunk most of the time. This fact was never apparent to him, however. He would come home from a shift of running back-ho and plop himself straight onto his battered recliner. After downing a pint and half of Alberta Premium, he would preach his tirades to me, or to anyone within an earshot, about how the immigrants, the faggots, and the Liberals were leeching off of the hard-working man to “go-on and live their lavish lifestyles off of his back!” The man never did have much self-awareness. When he wasn’t sitting on his ass choking down cheap whiskey and Players cigarettes, he kept himself busy by either sneaking off to the bar or slapping my mom around. He never did know that when I was 15 years old I started a job as a night janitor at my high school to help Mom keep up with the bills and the mortgage. I wasn’t given the job legally. It was given to me out of charity, or pity, depending on your point of view. I still thank Mr. Krasinski to this day for setting that up. I was paid under the table to work four three-hour shifts every weeknight aside from Friday and one four-hour shift on Sunday nights. As far as the Canadian Revenue Agency was concerned, my wages were filed under Welding Education Supplies: Miscellaneous. I saved what I could to free myself at 18 but I gave the most of the money I earned to Mom. We had a silent understanding that dad could never know.
I remember the Easter of 1998. After two years of working under Mr. Krasinski, he awarded me with an extra $50 one March Friday night. He expected me to get some beer or maybe take a girl out. Neither of those interested me – instead, I bought my mom a large bouquet of daffodils. They were her favourite flowers and she especially loved having them around at Easter time. I spent the remainder of the money on a tin of Skoal for myself and a bottle of Mr. Clean for the house. The flowers were only perched on the kitchen table for about ten hours. After a drunken squabble based on one of my father’s paranoid delusions that mom was cheating on him, he smacked the vase and flowers on to the floor. I’ve watched the man beat my mother’s face to the point of unrecognizable with his bare hands, I’ve seen my mother struggle to walk for two weeks due to the bruises that he left on her legs with his belt. But never did I see her cry as hard as she did on that day.
My father died the same way that he lived – bloated, miserable, and in the absence of a son that never loved him. When I did arrive at the hospital, the nurse informed me that he hung on for ten hours in the palliative care wing before passing away. I had a hard time suppressing a smile knowing that the son of bitch spent his final hours suffering and alone. 
“So, what now?” 
“Well, now you need to make your arrangements. Did you and your dad have a conversation about his wishes after his death?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good. You know that we legally can’t keep him here for more than twelve hours, right? He will be moved to the hospital morgue for tonight and then to Zens’ Funeral Services first thing tomorrow morning. Will you be okay to continue this process with them? Do you need any time?” The nurse mumbled as she smacked her gum under the buzzing fluorescent lights. Her coffee breath fiercely overpowered the piece of Excel that she started chewing three hours ago.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Alright, hun. Go home. The death certificate and his cremation request have been faxed to them, you can pick him up next week to continue with your arrangements. I’m sorry for your loss.”
Before I could respond, the nurse readjusted her frizzy, red ponytail and marched away from me with as much conviction as someone wearing white
New Balance runners could muster. If I were in the hospital for anyone else, I would have been pissed at how fast I was being pushed out. Instead, I laughed to myself as the nurse stormed off around the corner.
   

When I turned the ignition on my 2003 Honda Civic the next week it barely started. Despite its alternator problems and the fact that I drove across town with the gas-light on, I made it to Zens’. The place was dreadfully drab, even by funeral parlor standards. As I walked in, I was assaulted by the stale stench of formaldehyde and that unmistakable “church-smell.” I walked to the front desk to be met by an overweight woman who was visibly annoyed by my presence. Her eyes were glued to her computer screen and she mindlessly tended to her nails. Her perfume was overwhelming. I think her technique was if she ignored me for long enough that I would go away.
“Excuse me.”
She released an exasperated sigh, “What?”  
“‘What?’ I’m here to pick up my father’s remains and that is all that you have to say to me, ‘what’? Is Mr. Zens here so that I could speak with him?
“Rob’s busy,” the impatient woman snapped, “but if you want to start talking to me politely then maybe I could help you out. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, sugar.”
I was ready to throttle this bitch, but I was more ready to leave this place and all of this behind me. I decided to pick my battles and took a deep breath.
“I am searching for Darren White, Mr. Darren Lee White. He would have been moved from the hospital to here last week. I was told to pick him up at this location. Further arrangments will not be necessary, that has all been taken care of.”
“Lemme take a look for you, gimme a couple minutes. This old computer takes forever to do anything.”
After a few minutes of apathetically searching her files and making various breathy noises, the receptionist had found the file.
“Here he is, Mr. White. Brought in last week and has been cremated. Are you sure that you have your arrangements made? Aside from the cremation request made by him a few weeks ago, there is nothing on his file about funeral arrangements.
“Yes, it has been taken care of. My dad always was a private man, it is no surprise to me that he requested the details on his death be kept close to the chest, too.”
The receptionist gave me a skeptical look but could not be bothered to put in the effort of questioning me. Instead, she lazily mumbled that Robert Zens’ office is through the hall and the second door to the left. I will be able to speak with him when he is ready and will get my father’s remains then.
“Thank you,” I said as I headed towards the hall.
“Yeah.”
Mr. Zens’ office was in a sad state of affairs. The cramped corner office had stacked documents and files scattered everywhere, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the chaos. The desk was littered with newspapers, empty Diet Pepsi cans, and envelopes with PAST DUE stamps on them. One single 60W lightbulb hung over the office and even that was on its last legs. The only positive within the depressing office was a picture of what I had to assume to be Mr. Zens standing with two young girls, probably around ages eight to ten. A tired, middle-aged man wearing an ill-fitting suit entered the office. I extended to shake his hand and he obliged.
“Mr. White, I presume? Thank you for coming in to meet with me.”
“Please, just call me Marcus.”
“Fair enough, Marcus. Your father’s ashes are ready for pick-up. All you need to do is sign a few release forms and you can be on your way. Your father made arrangements with me to be cremated but there’s no indication of any sort of arrangements after that. If I may pry, which church will you be hosting the services at? I can recommend you some good ones in town, depending on your denomination, of course.”
“We’ve made our arrangements. With all due respect, Mr. Zens, this process will be kept between my father and I. Just know that he will get the proper burial that he deserves.”
“Fair enough. Please sign these release forms and you’ll be on your way.” Mr. Zens extracted two forms from the mountain of papers like magic. There was no way in Hell that anyone but him would know where those papers were. As I signed the surprisingly pristine documents he sifted through a series of black boxes in the corner, muttering to himself.
“Ackerman, Rhyhorski, Li, Scott, McCarthy, Verne… ah, here we go, White.”
He hoisted the box onto the desk. It was about the size of a household printer and completely black. The only defining features on the box were the latch to open it and the label on the top, “White, Darren Lee.”
“We’re all set, Marcus. Is there anything else can that we can do for you? Would you like some help carrying this out to your car? Don’t let the fact that its ash fool you, these boxes are heavy.”
“I’ll be fine, thanks.”
“In that case, thank you for choosing Zens’ Funeral Services for taking care of you. I am sorry for your loss.”
“Somebody’s gotta be.” I lifted the box out of the building and into my car.
I drove around with my father in the backseat for a couple of hours, only stopping for gas and a drink at McGee’s, the shitty dive bar that my dad spent most of his time at while he was on this side of the grass. After reaching the end of the second hour, I had found my father’s final resting place. It was on the outskirts of town at a Husky truck stop. I pulled up behind the building, away from the prying eyes of underpaid employees and overtired truckers. I turned my car off and pulled the box containing my father out.
“Well, Dad, someone should probably say a few words. But that person ain’t gonna be me, that’s for fuckin’ sure.”
I peeled the name that he gave to me off of the box, lifted the lid of the dumpster up and slid the box inside. As I drove back home my only regret was that there was a lot of other shit in my car that I should have thrown out while I was there.       

  

 

 
      

Turn My Mind Off

What goes up,
must come down.

What comes around,
goes around.

Fiesty fatigue feasts
on original obligations.
Greedily glued to the game.
Anointed to an apex.

Where are my next steps?

Aren’t I always in motion?
Will day not always become night?
Can I not do anything without reactionary notions?
Can I not get out of light?
I’m going to try my best to not be on,
time to turn my mind off.

What It’s Like to Leave

The damp dirt soothes my soul
as I walk to my Jeep through damp grass,
pouring rain.
Go get gas.
Come back to me.
I choke, tears roll.

I swallow, it’s easier to quickly bail.
The pedal dictates my forced escape
trapped in a mobile, ironic jail.
My journey just now taking shape.

Darkness descends desperately
surly skies sulk
cigar clouds cumulate
enraged emotions ejaculate
belittling bellows balk.

crying, cool, creepy. 

Hands gripped on the wheel
and my heart.
Eyes on the road
never on the goal.
Burning gas and burning time.
Coffee, tea, Swisher Sweets, and the grind. 

    Hello

is so much easier than goodbye.
It doesn’t take a fucking poet to figure out why.
She needs me, I’ll take the pain, accept the crying.
Nothing concerns me, not the eye-rolls not the sighs.

I start my ignition,

to do it all again.  

 

 

I’ll Carry You

When you can’t feel your hands,
when you can’t weather the storm.
I’ll Carry You,
back into familiar lands,
back into the warmth.

When your legs tremble,
when you cannot stand on your own
I’ll Carry You
until your strength assembles
and your name the world fears
and your name the world knows.

Yes, I’ll Carry You
when you’re yellow, when you’re green and when you’re blue.
When you’re healthy, when you’re sick,
when you’re ornery, when you’re ticked,
I’ll Still Carry You,
It starts with an “I Do”.

But much like my gold,
I’ll get spent, I’ll grow old.
I’ll Carry You
with a broken back, one knee
and a smiling face.
Like Depends, my bladder might be a maybe
I’ll Still Carry You

Much like this song,
soon I’ll be gone.
I’ll Still Carry You
when I’m laid to rest,
do not fear, do not fret.
I’ll Carry You
through our daughters and our sons
in my arms, in your love.

I’ll sit with St. Pete,
He’ll lean into me.
He’ll ask, “how did you get through life?”
I’ll say, “If I can bum a smoke and light,
I’ll tell you it’s alright.
You know what? It was kinda easy.
Because I had a great woman,

who carried me.

Large Richard

The bartender gave me his most sorrowful look as I limped to the bar.

He already knew what I wanted but went through the motions, perhaps out of pity, to ask anyway.

“What’ll it be?”

“Two beers.”

“That’s one for you and one for your friend over there?”

“Yeah.”

My hands wrapped tightly around the brews and I trudged back to my booth. I tried to prolong the trip back to him as much as I could stretch it. I wish I could just walk out the door and go home.

“Got the suds?”

“Yeah.”

“Aw, yeah!”

Nearly three-quarters of Richard’s beer was gone in one greedy slurp.

“You’re welcome.”

“About time, man. I was dying over here.”

“How much longer do we have to stick around here for?”

“Until I feel like leaving. That gon’ be a problem?”

I stared at Richard. I stared right through his fat face and into his shriveled soul.

“No.”

“Good,” Richard laughed. “Try to lighten up, would you? You asked me to hang with you, not the other way around. You used to literally drag me here.”

Richard slurped the last of his beer and gave me a “friendly” slap on the back that knocked the wind out of me. He was a large man and becoming less aware of his strength as he continued to feed beers into gullet at my expense. God, I hate this dude.

“Hey, Rich. I think that I’m gonna go hit the dancefloor, see if we can maybe find some women to hang out with tonight for once.”

“You think you’re gonna find a skirt, do you? By all means, then, Casablanca.”

I opened my mouth to correct him but decided against it. What would be the point? I sauntered towards the dancefloor and boldly hung out on the outside of the crowded throng.

As I awkwardly picked the label off of my beer bottle and did my best to stay out of Richard’s sight I could have sworn that I had heard someone speaking to me.

“Hello? I’m speaking to you!”

I recoiled in both the amazement that someone was talking to me at a bar and that someone was the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen.

“Y-yeah?” I sputtered.

“Is that your friend over there? The big guy?”

Of course.

“I know him. Why?”

The instant that my sentence was over my face met a lukewarm and sticky assault. I could taste the lime and cranberry as her cosmopolitan dripped down my face and onto my shirt.

“If you or that pig ever comes near one of my friends again we are pressing charges. Last chance, perverts!”

She stormed off and I was left standing with a drink on my face, no money in my wallet, and alone in a room full of strangers. The only thing that I had was the lesson that I had learned: finding women at the bar scene does not work better if you have a Big Dick.

Eggshells

Why must I tiptoe around dysfunction,

why not trade a lifetime bliss by raising a little Hell?

Why must I obscure my own vision,

and scuttle through the eggshells?

 

Why must I sit, when I know I should stand?

Why must I whisper, wilt and whimper?

Why be a worm, when I must be man?

I lick my wounds, guilt and bitter.

 

I cannot make waves to save Earth,

I must silence justice

and prepare her hearse.

Where is God, and his iron fist?

 

Seated, I stay.

My lips sewn shut.

The wolves lie in wait

Will no one stop their strut?

 

The Hunted

This night was not unlike any other at The Pig Head Tavern- loud, obnoxious, and no place for womenfolk. Tonight’s hunt had been a success and the men were celebrating and cooking their lot. The tavern was between the villages of Noird and Broek, and the villagers who had gathered there were warm with each other’s company in the wee hours of the night. With each passing minute and pouring beer, they seemed to have forgotten all about the petty rivalries that the villagers had carried with them for generations. The sounds of clinking glasses, laughter, and singing replaced the begrudged mumbling that a man would typically hear during an exchange of these villagers.

Amongst the camaraderie were also the Chela folk, farm men from the Southern Fields. By nature, they are more reserved than their more impulsive counterparts in Noird and in Broek. They were hard-working folk and did not like to speak. However, they did have a love of drinking beer and casting lots when the work was done. Tonight’s celebration was a chance for them to break from their harvest, and the usually recluse Chela men could be seen sharing stories and playing dice with the village men.

The iron stove was glowing hot and travelers from miles away could see the lights and sounds of the party through the light snowfall. The world within the tavern was a warm place. The world within one man at the tavern, however, was not. For the skulking figure seated at the bar, the world was a cold place. The Hunter had wished for nothing more than to brood, to be left alone with his thoughts as he withered away. The only thing he wished for more than that was revenge, but he was not even sure of that anymore.

The Hunter’s silent wishes to be left alone were rudely interrupted by an exaggerated pat on the back and laughter that reeked of booze. It had to be none other than Jacob Mann, a local rancher, a drinker, and a notorious welcher. Amongst his faults was loyalty, however. The townsfolk would say that even though he would drink all of your wine, he’d always be there to help you find more. The Hunter had kept predators from Jacob’s flocks in the past, and even though Jacob was late paying him most of the time he had always come through.

Jacob slid up to The Hunter at the bar and withdrew a small wooden pipe from his ragged coat.

“You got any of that Golden Import on you, brother?”

The Hunter replied with a disdained grunt.

“Fair enough,” said the rancher as he conjured a small leather pouch of tobacco and filled his pipe to the brim. After quickly packing it with a match he ignited the bowl and savored his first draw as his pipe bellowed strings of earthy haze.

“You still on about that Wolf, brother?”

The Hunter glared at the rancher, “Yes. I am still ‘on about’ that Wolf.”

Jacob was a small man, but never let the world intimidate him. The full wrath of The Hunter would make most men of the Noird rethink their next words, but not Jacob. He scratched his beard and drew another puff of his pipe, his bowl ablaze with char and smoke.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, lad. You’re as mad as a werewolf about this whole business, and for what? So you can stew here, doin’ nothin’ all day and all night? When was the last time that you even went hunting, Mr. Huntsman?”

The Hunter was annoyed but knew that the rancher had a point.

“I am to depart tomorrow morning. It is time to hunt again.”

Jacob shook his head slowly and tapped his pipe, “I wish the best of luck to you then, brother. If you’re heading up the Mispons, be wary. I lost close to a dozen sheep there a few weeks ago to those sharp peaks.”

He stood up and gave The Hunter a reaffirming smile, he looked upon The Hunter as if he were saying goodbye to an old friend.

“Just remember, lad, I will be here to drink with you when you return. And it’s here you should be drinking with me and celebrating life with the boys, not out moping in the mountain tops over death.” He paused for a moment and put his hand on The Hunter’s shoulder both for reassurance and to regain his balance. His words would have been sagacious had it not been for the drunken hiccuping between every second of them.

“Going after that Wolf isn’t going to bring her back.”

After he had said his piece, the rancher jaunted to a nearby table to play cards and tell embellished stories of his fishing and romantic conquests. The Hunter withdrew his pipe and his Golden Import. He sat at the bar and thought as he smoked. Perhaps the rancher was right. Either way, The Wolf must die.

It was well before dawn when The Hunter arose from his straw bed in The Pig’s Head. After bathing and eating a small breakfast, The Hunter packed his horse with his provisions and his weapons. It was to be an enduring journey but his broadsword given to him by his father and his bow was all that he would need in the Mispons. His plan was to catch The Wolf in his slumber and slay the wretched creature in his sleep. He was a humble man but was given his name for a reason. If anybody could track down the animal and kill it, it was The Hunter.

He rode from the tavern towards the Northwestern Mispon Mountains. According to Wanderers and other huntsmen in the region, it was there that the Wolf had taken up residence in one of the high peaks. He had only come down from his slumber during the winter sporadically to raid cattle caravans or ragdoll hapless travelers. That was to soon come to an end, for The Hunter rode hard and rode fast. He rode through the howling winds of the prairies. He rode with conviction.

After a few days of relentless travel, The Hunter had made it to the HorseEye River just a few miles south of the Mispons. Plains had changed to ridges as him and his horse had changed from tireless warriors to weary campers. He pitched a tent on the Western coast of the HorseEye River where the Great Trade Route crosses the river. As night fell, the roaring of the river and the crackling of the fire put him at ease while he rested with his pipe.

He could not help but think of Mila, and how he had never taken her camping riverside at the mountains. How he was always too busy out on his hunts to make time for her. Being out here in the forest at the steps of the mountains with him would have made her so happy.

Although he was at rest, he was not completely on his laurels. The Hunter was always listening to the Earth and to the winds. Both were bringing a traveler and an ass, the sounds of clanking pans and crunching snow became progressively louder as the traveler approached the campsite. The Hunter had his broadsword cloaked, but was now grasping its hilt.

“State your business,” said The Hunter.

“I’m just passing through. On my way to Shyayn,” replied the traveler, “I saw your flame and thought that I would stop by to let you know that there is a fire ban in effect in the HorseEye District.”

“I do not see what concern that is to me, nor to you.”

The traveler had come to a complete stop at the foot of The Hunter’s camp.

“Well, for starters my boy, you are in HorseEye, you know? If The Riders caught wind of this then you will be subject to prosecution.”

The Hunter clutched his sword harder, “And how will they know?”

“I will put it to you this way. Put out that fire now or I will inform The Riders. They will find you and you will be penalized as they see fit.”

The traveler was now close enough to The Hunter that he could run him through in an instant. No one would ever know. He unclutched his sword and kept it hidden under his cloak.

“It’s getting late, be on your way, traveler. I will put this fire out posthaste. There is no need to get The Riders involved.”

“Thank you for understanding,” replied the traveler. “The Barrier Forest is drier than it has ever been. Not even the snow of the Mispons can protect it from even a single getting way out of hand.”

The Hunter gave the traveler a compliant nod and he was on his way. He disappeared into the darkness as the clanking of his wares became a distant whisper. The Hunter was disappointed that he could not have the warmth of his fire near his tent but knew that reports to The Riders would slow his mission. A man has to pick his battles, and this one was not worth fighting. He snuffed out the flames with a few handfuls of snow and settled in his tent for the night.

It had been a treacherous path up the mountains the next morning. Several hours and a little sleep had passed since The Hunter’s run-in with the traveler. The morning sun could only manage to get momentary peeks in between the thick fog rolling over the mountainside. The Hunter remained undeterred as he trudged through the snow. He had sent his horse home and was now relying on his mocassins to carry him the rest of the way. His sword on his back, his bow around his shoulder and a hunting knife and a lantern on his belt now being the only supplies that he was carrying.

While The Hunter walked he reviewed his plan to slay The Wolf. He knew that for the next few miles he must tread lightly, move slowly and stay low. The Wolf could hear and smell far better than any man could imagine. Legend has it that The Wolf could even ambush approaching prey in his sleep. The Hunter knew that he only has one shot to bring the beast down, and even in its slumber it would not be easy.

The fog was growing thicker but The Hunter pressed on. He could barely see past his feet, but that’s all he needed. Just below him was the first paw print. The Hunter crouched down to inspect the gaping holes in the snow. One print alone was enough to fit a child inside of, and The Hunter knew that many children and other innocent people had met their end under those paws. He followed the tracks diligently for about a mile on the treacherous peaks. With frost on his face and rage in his heart, he continued up the mountainside.

On the rocky cliffs of the Mispons, he had found what he had been looking for. It felt like he had been searching forever, and now that he found it he was not sure that he wanted to go inside. The Wolf’s cave was finally in his sight. It was a dark and curved entrance that almost looked like a twisted perversion of a smile. The Hunter could not help but think that The Wolf took some kind of twisted pleasure in that. The Hunter struck a match, lit up his lantern, and stepped inside.

The interior of the cave somehow seemed colder than the unforgiving peaks of the Mispons. The light of his lantern flickered as he stepped over the bloodstained stones and old bones that cluttered the cave’s floor. For many of his steps, The Hunter could only feel discarded ribcages and limbs under his moccasins. The stench was unbearable. The scents of wet fur, carcasses, and urine forcibly entered his nostrils. It only got worse as he pressed on through the catacombs.

The Hunter had noticed that the bones he was stepping on were parts of complete skeletons, many of them still wearing the clothes or armor that they died in. There was no sign of The Wolf caching gold or weapons, there was not a glimmer of silver to be seen in the caves. Judging by some of the positions that the deceased were in, it seemed that these poor souls died in the cavern. The Ravens had a love of human treasures and are known for stealing all that shines. The Wolf did not. The Wolf detests men above all else, he despises their treasures and their greed. His treasure was suffering. The Wolf would thrash men within an inch of their lives, and drag them to the caves to watch them die. He rarely showed mercy to women and children either, tearing their skin off alive and eating it in front of the men as a cruel way to inflict pain on them. To inflict the cruelty that The Wolf had seen men so easily give out. The wrath of The Wolf was insatiable. He carried it with him since he was just a cub and now knows no other way.

Even though his crimes against nature and The Hunter were unforgivable, The Hunter felt a small sense of pity for The Wolf. The Wolf had lost his way, but so had the men of late. Men were now more concerned with building treasuries and fueling industry than living with dignity and freedom, living as subservient hoarders instead of proud men in living off of nature. There was a time when men protected all on the Earth, and would proudly ride with Wolves for grand hunts and to deliver justice. The Hunter’s Fathers rode with Wolves. Perhaps, if they were in another time, The Hunter and The Wolf would have ridden together.

There was no time to reminisce about the Old Ages now. A flicker of his lantern revealed a large, hirsute mass sprawled across the cavern’s floor. Had it not been for The Hunter’s sharp eye he would not have seen it, for it was as black as night. The Hunter held his breath and quickly sought refuge behind one of the cave’s walls. He crept his head around the stone and focused his light on the creature carefully as not to wake it. He inspected the seemingly lifeless body and knew that this was his chance. This was what he was waiting for. He – well – he and Mila would finally get their revenge. He smothered his lantern and drew in the dank, frosty air through his nose. He stepped around the stone and began to stalk the beast. The hunter had become the hunted. Each step was taken with more caution than the last as he got closer to the sleeping giant. He stepped breathlessly to not crunch bone or kick pebbles. After the longest few yards that he had ever walked were done, he was at the neck of the wolf. It was dark as Hell, but he could see the fur and the curves of his body. The wolf had been in such a slumber that it appeared dead, not making a sound. This was it. The Hunter slowly withdrew his sword from its sheath. His cold hands wrapped around hard leather, the gleam of the blade shone even in the deepest pits of the cave. He lifted the hilt above his head and drove the blade through the fur and into the bone. The wolf did not respond. The Hunter took the opportunity and ran the wolf through several more times. His sword driving deeper and deeper with each strike. The Hunter left his sword in the wolf after piercing it deep as the hilt and dashed back, drawing his knife and readying himself for a fight.

A fight did not come.

“What in Ariel’s name?”

He grasped his sword and withdrew the blade from the fur. After a few seconds of silence, he relit his lantern. The carcass below him was certainly large enough to be The Wolf, and it looked strikingly like The Wolf. However, there was something incomplete about it, as if it were a sum of many parts rather than one body. The Hunter brushed his hand against the coarse fur and lowered it to the ground. The fur had a bottom as if it were a massive rug. The Hunter pulled from the bottom with a long stroke and flipped the rug over to the side, revealing the contents underneath. Laying under the fur were ten or eleven large sheep carcasses, arranged to appear as the bulk of The Wolf. The remainder of the rug was stitched together with another wolf skull, paws, and bear claws. These caves were ancient and powerful, a strong enough wielder could create illusions to convince even the savviest of hunters. The Hunter knew that he was in danger.

“Oh, fu-“.

Before he could finish his words, The Hunter felt the weight of one thousand knives enter his ribcage and his back. He released a bloodcurdling cry as he felt his body lift off the ground and move with impossible speed. It had taken him about ten minutes to get as deep into the Mispons as he was, and now he could see the light of the grinning entryway within a matter of seconds.

The frigid wind slapped him with impossible force as he felt his attacker fling his body weightlessly. He braced himself for a crash landing and hit the snow. The seeping crimson of The Hunter’s wounds was a stark contrast to the pure white blanket of the Mispons. His ears were ringing, but The Hunter could make out the sound of deep, guttural laughter. It had sounded like the Earth itself shaking, and it possibly was. The Hunter lifted his face out of the snow and then his whole body. There he stood in front of The Wolf.

“Well, if it isn’t the mighty hunter? Did you come to show the ‘Big, Bad Wolf’ the meaning of justice? You should have stayed in that rat’s nest near Noird, boy.”

The Hunter stood firm despite the searing pain in his ribs.

“Yeah, after this I will end up doing exactly that. But they needed a few ashtrays and a chamber pot. Thought I’d run up here for your paws and your skull to help them out.”

The Wolf bellowed his unholy laughter, “Is that right? For such a small fellow you do have courage, you do have that. Your words aren’t enough to cut me, Huntsman, and neither will those infantile blades. Men greater than you have tried to fell the Beast of the Mispons, and all have failed.”

To be fair, The Wolf towered over The Hunter. The Wolf stood twofold the size as one of the Grand Bisons of the Chela Plains. The Hunter could not see the entrance to the cave behind The Wolf as he swallowed the area with his massive stature. The Wolf began to circle The Hunter, preparing for an attack.

The Hunter grimaced and put his hand on the garments over his wound. His hand now covered in frozen blood.

“Enjoy this bloodshed, monster. It will be the last that you ever see.”

The Wolf lunged at The Hunter faster than lightning, the Hunter drew his bow and drove two arrows into The Wolf’s neck. The Wolf did not feel them and was instantly within striking range of The Hunter. He was close enough to The Hunter that he could smell The Wolf’s rancid breath, The Hunter evaded the beast’s jaws with a lateral dive. The Wolf snapped his neck back and caught The Hunter’s leg with his mighty jaws. Once again, The Hunter was flung into the snow.

The Wolf laughed so hard that he began to cough.

“You are no different than all of your men-kind. You mistake arrogance for conviction, greed for justice.”

The Hunter rolled to his back and slashed The Wolf across the face with his broadsword. The strike opened a gaping wound in the Beast of the Mispons’ face as he fell back and bellowed, but it also served to anger him. He bared his teeth and snapped them at The Hunter’s shoulder, lifting him off of the ground. The Hunter withdrew his knife and repeatedly stabbed The Wolf behind the ears and in the neck, as the teeth of The Wolf drove deeper into The Hunter’s shoulder. The knife was enough to subdue The Wolf after a dozen strikes and he relinquished. The Hunter had the upper hand for the first time and seized the opportunity, he drove his broadsword into The Wolf’s ribs. The Wolf cried as The Hunter continued to hack at the beast. Each strike gnashed fur, snow, and blood. For the first time since the Wolf was a cub, he was vulnerable. He retreated to the cliffside and laid across the rocky peaks. He was beaten.

The Hunter was breathing heavy and bleeding heavier. He looked down at the mighty creature, now a dying wretch. The Wolf seemed to enjoy watching his prey die, but The Hunter would not give him the satisfaction of partaking in the cruelty that he was expecting. The Hunter began his journey home to let The Wolf’s tyranny become a thing of the past.

But The Wolf had different plans, he smiled through his bloodstained teeth.

“That’s just like you to leave me here to die, Huntsman. You seemed to have no problem doing the same to that wife of yours. What was her name, again? Mila?”

The Hunter stopped dead in his tracks. The sound of her name coming from that degenerate’s mouth made his blood boil. He clenched his fists.

“Yes, that was it,” The Wolf continued, “Mila. Her last words were your name, you know? She begged you to save her. She cried in vain for something that was never strong enough to save her as I snapped her pathetic bones in half.”

The Wolf laughed as he sputtered blood onto the stones. The Hunter was shaking with rage, but The Wolf was as deceitful as he was cruel, The Hunter stood strong to ignore his taunts. He wanted to walk away, but his feet felt as if they were one thousand pounds.

“As a matter of fact, go into my cave before you leave. I left you her spine. She could never be protected with a spineless man, borrow hers so that you can try again with another harlot daughter of a drunkard.”

The Hunter screamed a warcry loud enough to be heard from the Nabi Desert. He pounced at The Wolf with his hunting knife in hand. The Wolf bore his final grin and in an anticipated swoop, he snapped his powerful jaws around The Hunter’s wrist and slid them both into the darkness below.

 

Soapbox Stories Presents – A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online – A Book Review

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”
by Jennifer Wemigwans
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$29.95 ISBN: 9780889775510

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”, written by Jennifer Wemigwans and published by the U of R Press is an outstanding example of how the knowledge dissemination of revolutionary Indigenous research is done correctly. In the field of Indigenous research, technology is hardly discussed, especially in the context of Indigenous sovereignty to language and information. Wemigwans, an Anishnaabekwe woman from the Wikwemikong First Nation, the president of Invert Media, and an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto challenges the reader to change this discourse and begin to evaluate how modern technology can be an invaluable asset to the retention of Traditional Knowledge.

The namesake of the book, the “Digital Bundle”, refers to Wemigwans online project www.FourDirectionsTeachings.com. This website was designed as an online tool to promote the Traditional Knowledge and worldviews of five distinct Indigenous Nations through the teachings of Elders and Traditional Teachers. These five nations include Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq. If you were to go to the website, and I highly recommend that you do, you will find an interactive experience that will educate and inspire people of all ages. The website also contains a plethora of teaching resources and tools to increase its interactivity and keep people of all knowledge levels challenged and engaged. In the book, Wemigwans discusses the Digital Bundle including its inception, the Indigenous context in which it was created, and its implications on Storytelling, Traditional and non-traditional teaching, and decolonizing the internet. The book discusses much more, I am simply scratching the surface of the themes and sheer information discussed within. This is not only because of the vast amount of standard academic research that Wemigwans had utilized for this project, but also due to the significant consultation that Wemigwans had documented from Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Traditional Teachers, Chiefs, artists, activists, and a wide-range of other Indigenous stakeholders with valuable Knowledge and worldviews. Quite frankly, it was very refreshing to read about an Indigenous research project that was both Indigenous-led and upheld Indigenous sovereignty and principles.

The internet is becoming a progressively more censored place. What was once a beacon of hope for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas is becoming riddled with threats to net-neutrality, corporate meddling, and the self-imposed censorships of echo-chambers found both on social media and in the deep pockets of obscure forums. Do Indigenous Ways have a place on the World Wide Web, or is the closing window of opportunity leaving only space for more misinformation and invincibility of Indigenous people? Wemigwans believes in the former, and after picking up a copy of this highly informative book so will you.

 

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

 

 

Gonna

I’m gonna,
you’ll see.
That’s all that I’m gonna,
because gonna is easy.

I don’t need to be bogged down by goals,
I just need a dream,
I don’t need the sum of a whole,
I just need parts of a ream. 

Why can’t the haters appreciate what I’m gonna do?
Why are they so selfish to only care about what I’ve done?
Why can’t they look to the future,
to see my time in the sun?

You’re gonna be sorry that you doubted me,
when I do what I’m gonna do.
I’m gonna be rich, successful, and happy
while you’re gonna be blue

Day-to-day with head in the clouds
as high as I’m gonna be.
While you’re down there on the ground,
planting those tiny little seeds.

Someday, it’s gonna happen.
Someday, my dreams will come true.
Someday, I will.
Someday.