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Indian Boy

by James W. Lawrence 12 months ago in humanity

An Immigration Short Story

From South America - Refugees Among Aliens

At first it had seemed not a bad thing, to pass the trucks of bleating cattle, frightened sheep, squealing pigs and feel just the same as a herd of animals caught in transport. They themselves like the beasts were so many in the back of the wooded bed with the tattered canvas that it necessitated standing. Regardless, the little boy had smiled at them in their metal carts, knowing not their destination as livestock was one of processing, slaughter. Nothing made any difference; amidst the secure, peculiar retreat he had felt no reason to lack for happiness. Colder at night and during the dry heat of day the spring air tasted crisp, sweetly even despite the dusty, dirty swirl of rattling flatbed. On his face, wind flew hard and consistent always, fluttering in through the flaps, and when it came in wet he’d known it must be raining. None of that former condition then had ever seemed perturbing or disturbing, congestion of so many strangers of little consequence compared to troubles of the old country.

Back in their village father had been a healer and mother a specialist in herbal medicine. Grandfather, a community elder, was the first in their family to die of the dengue fever. Grandmother, the matriarch, from time to time she had spoken wise words and told her grandsons things of import. Once, he remembered her saying that real heroes never cast themselves on marble thrones or in ivory towers. That was what he thought of now, the young boy that the group called Niño Indio, his mind racing under bombardment in recollection of their cross-country journey. Seeing many things, like the visions of the shamans, also those that they helped, the ill-prepared and unsuspecting hurled on the spiritual path.

He knew his name yet was not there anymore; he did not feel himself, nor sensate his own presence and power that grandmother taught. It were now as if he, the boy from before, had ceased to exist. Life had become separated by glass panes, he could only watch engulfed in dark from behind his head, bodily detached, movements robotic. What he saw, the sights that swirled in the tunnel of his vision, there was great fear yet a funny feeling too.

Back home in a community building there had been a small box-shaped monitor that showed moving images. Any footage was solely black and white, the content not of real-life although people pretending at it, then always an invisible audience laughing. He thought that, for the flash of things he saw presently, what he saw and how he felt, he viewed them in a similar manner. Though these only he could spectate, borne from his mind for none other privy than him to see. Numbed, he thought of pretty people playing at their little lives, chattering voices, the false laughter, courtliness, warm hugs and gentle wrap-ups.

His reflection greeted him grimly in the murky water; gaunt skull, frail hair, blistered lips, skin with sunburns and scabs, mirthless eyes; did he ever exist – was he actually nothing?

Waking terror shot through him again, surge after surge pulsating beyond his brow. Detainment perhaps would have been an easier solution; they might’ve been lucky and counted among those given asylum rather than ones forced into deportation. Freedom and safety had seemed so assured in recent days, had given away to what he knew not ever, in truth, beforehand: anguish. He’d felt ere never such pain as this, nor understood the morbid depths that it could reach on its descent. Niño Indio was learning through graveness. In fact, had already learned much; byway of sight, hearing, scent, far ahead and besides anything felt. Learning already he had done, was well underway, this a new world the boy was caught experiencing.

He knew now especially firsthand how it was to become afraid of one’s own psyche. Like an unsure cliffside assailed by torrential downpour, dirt and rocks fermented and spilling out. Torrents of mud cascading into a landslide, freefall of the debris-lodgings of a tangled mind. He recognized the potential for macabre in the nature of reality’s grislier side, hungry earthworms wriggling their way via squelches and penetrating upward, and realizing this crumbling hillside to be his very mind – searing doses of fear like injected shots perpetuating, dousing and he saw it again saw exactly how it’d happened, thus it started to reel like film in his self-home theatre:

One man falling off trailer after truck hitch became unhinged and another hit in collateral collision attempting to help first man the rest keep going days on end day after day pushing through heat and hunger and thirst not knowing when reprieve but always forgetting always forgetting what they saw which was done forever gone what happened was over no need to carry it forward look ahead not back stop obsessing let it go. Weeks go by life improves long nights exposed to elements sleepless in deserts yips of coyotes listening by fires scarce provisions rationing big brother always watching protecting not allowing three little brothers out of sight by light of sun or moon eventually more towns cities villages all paths endured provisions given and occasionally too shelter death no longer afeared still long road to go.

Big city very close border not far they made it begging and fending necessary stones of weight lost always thirsty and starving tired with nowhere to rest so close exhausted famished internal drought not giving up seeking compadres inquiring for food and drink most ignoring or shoving off caught up in money schemes scamming and hustling personal gain group split up brothers and Gonzalez taken astray from square of arcade down alley strangers’ promises offering supplies pretense of leading them to supposed store for provision. Abrupt halt in alley older brothers pushed against stone wall men paw at them like wolves do prey though not seeking assurance of death rather insurance in items of value finding nothing disorientated delirious quick debacle men shove brothers protest visceral frenzy motions frenetic Gonzalez warned aside by trio of the men stays away silent and still three men swiftly taking off running along street soon gone brothers eldest slouching down against and then red and bloody and little brothers realizing and Gonzalez staring unseeing and brothers holding each other and two sobbing two drifting and shouts torment and youngest brother not understanding not seeing but visualizing catastrophe and Gonzalez pacing frantic mayhem and others vis-à-vis arcade coming to aid of four indigenous brothers two despoiled dying two irreparably fractured and all not really real but dream blurry not believing yet really happening currently seeing like still there.

Niño Indio’s mind refused to stop, shock unbearable and breath wrenched from his lungs, he jolted up and wheezed himself wretched until he’d known he wasn’t dying. Less than an hour ago the bathtub in the warehouse had been full of dirty water and debris, and now he had added his own filth along with the blood of two dead older brothers. In entirety the warehouse was crumbling and far beyond repair, years of natural disintegration due to abandonment bleeding through its internal structure. He got up from the water, clambering out of the ceramic tub and regained the support of two wobbly legs. His clothes soaking, they dripped all over the abraded uncleaned floors as he made his way from the dilapidated upstairs apartment, throughout the broken walls and corridors back down the stairs to the main floor.

Everyone else was in the cradle of a busted atrium that used to serve as the primary labour station. A bluish staticky haze, like the snowfall in the mountains further shrouded the darkness of night cast inside, streetlight dimly illuming through a series of empty frames above. Niño Indio gazed the false snowdrift as he entered the place, visage of traumatic blackhole eyes staring upon his approach with careful concentration.

Despite the countenances appearing judgmental he rationalized their surprise at seeing him here drenched as was and assumed that still they ruminated on his oldest brothers like he did, not having managed to compartmentalize that most recent tragic happenstance. Eleven there were left of the original group, a caravan organized by a larger party that configured smaller migratory bodies for better coherence. Of their circumstances the little boy knew only that which his brothers had told him, what was not much, and to the extent he had been able to discern the discussions of the domestic participants with a limited understanding of the immigrant tongue they spoke in. Grandfather and various elders back home made sure that their youth were instructed in the basics, in the case it (Spanish) could be useful in life, and he now was grateful for that wisdom during the past weeks of their shapeshifting voyage.

His last living brother was curled in a corner faced towards the wall, of an age soon to be a teenager. This way he had been when the younger boy wandered off, finding the filthy bathtub in the gloom. He remembered now when hiding in the jungle, before they had fled north, and the trees lit like torches in an inferno caused by the combustible matches they dropped from the sky. Exploding fires that slowly burned away the familial homes and community, and then word that the foreign military with their guns had taken presence deeper in the rainforest. In mind’s eyes back at the border encampment, again entreating themselves to covert pupils who had inserted their will into governmentally legitimate refugee operations; eldest brother demonstrating with both hands the planes, bombs and conflagration consuming their homeland.

The little boy sat on the ground near brother, in the center of an open-concept threshold. The older boy did not stir, and all the other eyes were off Niño Indio save those of one of the Mexican counterparts of the group from Chiapas: Gonzalez. It was time to try to sleep, pretend that anything was alright for now, force out the world and all its immutable sound.

Sleep was not to come hence his mind were broken; stuck in the places that they had left, which each had brought with them forthwith just the same. The noises of the city, its sirens and traffic blared out in choruses of unrelenting pandemonium. Gonzalez was seated across from the boy, staring down at him blankly, misty-eyed. Such mere passing of hours had ruined him rest of the way, yet the boy knew he’d not turned desolate in the same as himself and brother. Wetback the men who stabbed his brothers called this tearful man; his contorted facial expression was a painful wince, avoiding eye-contact he mussed the boy’s hair, tears streaming from bloodshot, bleary eyes, offering a couple helpings of saltine crackers to both boy and brother.

Gonzalez stalked back to his corner, spectral as a billowing ghost. Niño Indio felt sorry for hating the man, eyeing his step and even felt pity. He resolved to not entertain more thoughts about killing him, with the switchblade-knife he knew that he had. Brother moved not except to the degree that baby brother surmised he was eating, and somewhere closed inside a faint murmur dinned of the little boy’s heart. The boy knew now that he was going to survive. He was not to die although mental did shatter, and there would be healing work to be undertaken. Life would presumably return, someday, and in the spaces that he could still breathe, there sooner than later. He was not dying, save for the part that had. Unmade, a non-person, soul misses the seams, still breathing.

Everyone was asleep, slumbering sound as rats beneath crawlspace floorboards. Sleeplessly he lay and watched the artifice snow flicker out, down from up above. Sleepiness threatened to overcome alertness, the resounding austerity of trauma that trumpeted his awakened state. Eyelids grew heavier and the buzzing intensity in bones and blood, of the crawling in the skin and mind, waned with the paling moonlight.

By the morning he had slept without sleeping, a sort of being dissociatively adrift. Of the group, the four remaining adults conferred excitedly in the middle of the floor. Food supplies and final instructions had been expected at the crack of dawn, and the arrival of such had incidentally been delayed or corrupted. All of the children were in groans, sallow faces and dark eyes accentuating weary lips, mouths and the hollow growls of famished bellies. Brother was sitting up against the wall, watching the process of deliberating parents with aloof, listless detachment, nor yet a spoken sound.

With a fruitless passing of the afternoon, it was then unanimously felt that the relief anticipated was no longer to come. Later towards midday there only was one of the caravan’s adults remaining in the warehouse; he sat defeatedly in the heart of the atrium where prior their discourse had ensued, his countenance hysteric. Occasionally one of the youngest would approach him with some question, he’d assuaged whatever curiosity, patting their little hands and beckon them off again. Once they had gone, without exception, he would bury his haggard face deep in both callused hands, sobbing silently until regaining a sense of composure.

Nino Indio remembered the harshness of the men who killed his brothers, a brooding nightmare that began to unfold beyond the mind’s damage-control factor. The voices and tones and their primitive, inhuman rage stained on sun-damaged faces. Indios Negros, repeated, the fatal denomination they had smeared into their dying faces like venom. Grandmother, grandfather and mother and father as well had instructed their family with the due-diligent knowledge of xenophobia. As it were sometimes those foreign whom came, conquered felt that it was their right to decimate those who had lived with the land longer. The little boy did not understand the logic behind this belief, intuitively felt that it was fraudulent, although he had already begun to know hatred. Those men in the alley had felt it for them, then he had towards the Mexican man, Gonzalez, for doing nothing while their brothers were murdered. And this hatred, fueled by the poison now affecting both feeling and thinking from inside his own brain, which had gotten into his heart too, was like a blackness that knew no bounds nor reason. Stark contrast to the beauty his eyes used to see regularly, and if their hatred was like that, coming from a place in the dark where the weeds had overgrown the flowerbeds, and in eventuality the entire home, and if everything that they looked out on of perception was from this perspective of brokenness deep within themselves, then indeed he even understood the origins of such hatred. Later in that evening, before dusk the hunger pangs became so intense the boy forgot his woe and worry; older brothers, starvation, thirst, Gonzalez, brother, fear, fog, fuzziness, madness, and for the time since passed out, thus barring all unconscious attempts at reprobation.

He awoke in a cool blue light within the warehouse during sunset, at the sounds of a commotion. Quickly he realized the other adults had returned, learning that they had brought aid with them. There were a small group of food-service workers in white aprons carrying ample plastic bags, and among them a pot-bellied chef with unique gown and toque and a woman not at all dressed as a servant. They dispersed the droopy bags around the room, each filled with food wrapped in tinfoil and plastic bottles of water, seeming very happy to have done so.

Everyone was left alone to eat, the children of the caravan rejoicing with their parents, save for Nino Indio and his brother. As soon as they started on the savoury Mexican cuisine, the woman and the man ellipsed closer like two orbital moons. Their eyes were fixated, coming closer the boy could see the intimacy etched in both faces. She was tall and muscular with a strong, maternal gravity and feminine power; wearing a raglan with black sleeves, jeans and stilettos; certainly she was greatly different than mother, yet the little boy felt immensely drawn to her. Chef, who was her husband, had a warm, circular face with handsome features that pronounced kindness.

The beautiful woman coddled him closely where he sat, feeling more like an alien creature than ever. She messed his hair and then placed a hand on brother’s shoulder, where he lay facing the wall, and rubbed along the arm tenderly. Nino Indio knew that they meant to transfer nothing except for comfort and love, and that their parents and family would approve. They began to simply, sweetly speak to them in a modified version of Spanish, which the boys comprehended quite well. Just so.

Where in the jungle did they come from? How old were they? What were their names, the names of their brothers and parents? Did they know where they were going? How badly did they feel? Were they sure that they were well enough? Was it too late now for them to turn back, in return to Guatemala? What was it they expected to find crossing into the United States? What exactly was it? The same now? Maybe they wouldn’t mind going with them instead?

The affectionate would-be surrogates accepted that it was their intention to stay with the caravan. Nonetheless, they were planning to come back in the morning with more food and supplies. Goodbye, and goodnight young ones, eat up and drink plenty. Woman kissed them both on the brow and chef stroked the tops of their heads, offering up a grand smile. They collected the group of their employees, spoke briefly with the caravan’s adults, hugging all around in a crazed frenzy of desperate gratitude for their goodness, and were off.

After they were done eating the boy was ready to sleep again. He was surprised to notice that many other children were already asleep, and brother too, although no longer facing the wall. He settled in, not content but no longer fighting the storm, in fact grasping its eye. In acceptance of the course that it would inevitably take him on, prepared to nestle into the gravitas of mind’s tornado-sandstorm-hurricane, lest he’d never be ready to step out into the calm that awaits.

Grandmother used to say that while the body died, there is a deeper part of us that operates through the mortal form. Without which we could not exist, the essence that we really are. He pictured her gently caressing the torso, working both hands in a circle around the abdomen. This is where our soul resides. We are all set to die one day, leaving every body in our possession, life-in and life-out, that we are given from grace, behind us truly. If we paint a positive past with pastel colours we then miss the greater point, that pain is equal to pleasure, and to reconcile ourselves fully we must know this. We must live it, each day.

The morning was cold, clear and the boy woke with a ghost of feeling rested. Shade was cast within the crumbling cement walls, the sun still rising. Songbirds tweeted pleasantly somewhere outside. Everyone else was still deeply within the embrace of sleep. There was not yet anything of importance to attend to. Nothing had happened.

The End


James W. Lawrence

Young writer, filmmaker and university grad from central Canada. Minor success to date w/ publication, festival circuits. Intent is to share works pertaining inner wisdom of my soul as well as long and short form works of creative fiction.

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