Short Story Excerpt—“Sour”

Wawetseka deftly skinned the last of the rabbits with her stone knife, cleaning each before cutting them up and placing them in the clay pot.  Sokw watched in fascination.  She could never follow her motions accurately, and Wawetseka refused to slow down for her daughter, claiming it was “her responsibility to learn.”

“Why do the little people follow me, Mother?”  She kept her eyes on Mother’s hands and knife as she spoke.

Wawetseka rolled her eyes and sighed.  “It’s been said they sometimes follow the lame and slow-witted for sport or amusement,” she said.

Sokw shook her head and said, “I haven’t seen them laughing at me.”

Mother stopped her motions and sighed again, “You wouldn’t, Sokw.  They do not reveal their emotions to children.”  Wawetseka finished the last of the rabbits and set her knife aside.  She took Sokw’s chin in her hand, and said, “You would be wise to avoid them.”

“Yes, mother,” she said, pulling away.  It was difficult to avoid them, though.  They followed her everywhere, and she felt them watching her even as she slept, invading her dreams and leading her south into places she should not go alone.  Father said there were worse things than bears or wolves in the south.  That was where the Yakwawiak lived, and those giants ate children by the handful.  He always smiled when he said that, though.

Still, the pukwudgie were trying to tell her something, and she felt it was her fault she couldn’t hear them.  Days later, she woke to find the blood between her legs.  The air around her sleeping mat glowed with the combined light of dozens of little people, and her head was filled with voices.  Blood, grandmother once told her, carried strong magic, and the blood of womanhood held the greatest of all.

The gathering of pukwudgie spoke of great danger not only to the south, but all around.  North, they said.  You must move your people north.


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