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Survival of the Coyote

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Writing has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts. However, for the past couple years it has been a luxury I simply couldn't afford. Yet here I sit, alone, far from home and all I want to do is write about what has happened to my life because I fear this may be the very last chance I will ever get to tell my story. My name is John Lawrence. As of writing this I just recently turned twenty years old. I have been homeless now for four years now.

When I was seventeen my parents kicked me out of my home and onto the streets. They could not understand me, they called me “sinful” and disowned me. I would later learn that they told others I ran away from home so they could avoid any consequences of their abandonment. In a way I did, I left town on a bus with what little money I had on me. That first night I slept at a bus station for what could only be a few hours. My mind and body racing from the confrontation.

My life slowly became one of survival. I used to think about the future, but now it is only a matter of making it one day at a time. I had no phone, no contacts. I was on my own. Shelters helped at first. I met people there, people who showed me how to survive. Where to find food and when, where to find shelter, how to beg. There was no longer any room for pride. I saw the best and worst of people. I met men that would give all they have, or give away as much food as they could spare. I’ve seen people who would attack other homeless while filming it on a phone, laughing. I saw a man give up and take his own life. I do not have enough paper to write everything I saw from the outside of humanity’s society. To many, I became invisible.

After I turned eighteen things only became harder for me. I was no longer a priority for shelters and I slept on the streets more than ever before. Begging became harder as well. The more I withered and became dirty the less people would spare anything to me, despite the even greater need. That is when I met Frank. Frank was "Frank," no last name, claiming he had no family that would share one with him. He taught me the art of train hopping. The east was too cold, but he claimed the west was more welcoming, warmer, and easier to survive all around. While he was certainly exaggerating I agreed to travel with him.

Frank was an interesting man. He spoke of the great American tradition of train hopping like a Knight speaking of his family’s deeds. He taught “Never say you don’t want to die, but rather say you want to live.” However he never lived the words himself. He had done things to survive that he was not proud of and you could see the toll that it had taken on the man. He drank himself stupid when he could find alcohol. As such, we were not always together, but we always agreed to meet up before hopping a train to the next town.

Life seemed to move on the same way for some time. We would hop on a train and split up at the next town. We looked for food, shelter, money and Frank looked for his “medication.” Frank was not entirely wrong, things were a little more easy going out west. We never stayed in one place for too long, a week or so at most. We arranged places and times to meet ahead of time in case we were chased off or ran into trouble. I felt like I was some sort of secret agent. Infiltrating each town undercover. It was exciting in a way, it at least kept my mind off other troubles.

In small towns and good weather it was safer to sleep in wooded areas away from people. We were in a small wooded area just outside town that night. Frank had already set up a makeshift campsite by the time I arrived. The sun was already down and I was afraid I would have to find a place to sleep without him until I nearly tripped over his camp. The camp was nothing but a small clearing on flat ground. A fire was a bad idea but a couple of old worn sleeping bags on top of some cardboard felt like heaven. Frank used an old metal flashlight when needed. I set down my worn old backpack and we talked for a while and shared a bit of food, until a stray dog startled us. A mutt with a bit of pit bull in him. Begging for food, I threw a bit of old jerky his way and he just grabbed it and ran off. Frank shook his head but did not say anything.

When I awoke in the middle of the night my entire world changed. A large black coyote had wandered into camp. I tried to jump out of my sleeping bag to scare it off but the moment I started to move it locked eyes with me. I was paralyzed. No noise would escape my mouth while Frank slept on the ground unaware of the danger. Then the animal started to change right before me. It began to walk on two legs as it took the shape of a man. He/it wore a mask made out of the tanned face of a coyote, not unlike the coyote he just changed shape from. The mask was missing the coyote’s lower jaw and exposed his emotionless mouth. He looked out the eyes of the coyote skin scanning the surroundings.

It stalked closer to Frank, slowly, like an animal closing in for the kill. I tried to jump to my feet but the moment I started to move it locked eyes with me again. All strength suddenly left me and I was paralyzed. Helpless only to watch what came next. With one swift motion he put his hand over Frank’s eyes. I watched in morbid anticipation for what would happen. After long seconds of nothing Frank started to convulse in pain. Blood dripped out of his nose before all movement stopped. The Coyote man then removed his hand to reveal Frank’s lifeless eyes. His body laid still on the ground.

I was his next target. My heart raced, my face turned white in terror. He stalked towards me with a grin. His eyes seemed to glow inside the mask. I struggled in vain as he put a hand over my eyes like he did with Frank. My world turned black. I could feel my mind, my consciousness being pulled away. It felt as if I was falling into a void of blackness. Then I saw something, a face in the darkness. A mass of blackness that I struggle to describe. It seemed to grin as I was pulled towards in.

Suddenly I was snapped back to reality with the sounds of barking. The dog from before. It came back and was barking and growling fiercely, surprising both me and my attacker. With the sudden realization I could move, I slapped my attacker's hand away and threw my weight on him as I got to my feet. As he fell backwards I ran. I turned my mind off and let instinct take over running faster than I ever had before. I collapsed under a bridge some distance away, completely exhausted.

I dreamed of dark things that night. Looking out the eyes of a wolf mask I saw human bones harvested out of red flesh. Then I saw a scene that seemed ages ago of a native American dancing and singing to something in a fire. The scene transformed into another setting of an old stone room filled with markings made with blood as a European man spoke Latin. Again I saw the same blackness as before. I saw the face again, made of black smoke and clearly grinning. The scene changed once again. This time I was standing in front of a fireplace in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. Across from the fire sat the man with a coyote face. However this time it was no mask, but a part of his body. He spoke to me in a deep voice, his words echoing as he did. “You have been traveling a place you have not been meant to visit,” he said as he motioned for me to take a seat. I stood and asked back “What are you?” He smiled, “I am many things: Mage, Warlock, Alchemist, Witch, Skinwalker. I appropriate spells of power from many cultures as it matters not the origin of the spell but rather if my master will empower it. Many such cultures have reached him before, intentional or not.”

I was a bit shocked at his honesty before he told me, “A better question is who are you?” Before I could reply he answered his own question. “A blundered sacrifice, whose soul has been stretched between another world and the world you consider your own. Your soul will rip if such a situation remains.” With a grand wave of his hand I was flung backwards, falling until I awoke in a shock under the bridge I spent the night.

I was cold, wet, and dirty. Everything I owned was back where it all happened. I decided to go back, not just for the supplies but also for my own sanity. What I found shocked me. The dog, the one that saved my own life, was chewing on the corpse of my old friend. He growled at me as I approached, but after a loud scream from me he relented his meal. Only a bloody mess lay where my friend once did. I grabbed my belongings and Frank’s flashlight. I wanted to call the police or anyone and tell them what happened and where the Frank’s remains were. I searched for a payphone before I had to give up. I threw up in an alleyway. I felt weak and tired. The world was spinning.

I dreamed again of the man in the coyote face. He sat again at a campfire, chewing on raw meat. He looked at me, the meat vanishing. “The laws of this world are different from the one you're used too. You have two fates ahead of you boy. You do nothing and let your soul be ripped apart, you will find your body will quickly follow; or you let me complete my spell and give your soul to my master. I assure you this fate will be less painful. If you wish to give yourself up, or perhaps simply seek revenge before you die, find me in the center of the fire break in the very woods we first met at the witching hour."

I awoke weak and groggy. I could feel something was wrong with me. My instincts told me that the Coyote Man was telling me the truth. I would die soon if nothing was changed. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of dollar bills and some change. All the money I had, gained from begging. I found a pharmacy/convenience type store. I bought a handful of candy, a pen and a notepad. While sucking on sugary sweets I started to write this journal. Like a warrior of old meditating before battle, this was my way to mentally prepare. I had to face him again.

I made my way to the firebreak early, while the sun was still up. I did not know what to expect, would he kill me without saying a word? Or would he sit and talk to me like in my dreams? I felt a strong pull on my mind and my eyes began to haze before I was forced to take a seat on the ground. Once again I saw old worshipers of the face in the dark. A man in primitive clothing yelled at the darkness before being swallowed by it. Then I saw another world, a world full of sand and a dark blue sky that kept the land in an eternal twilight. It felt alien and cold. Was this where the face lives? Where my soul is being forced?

I awoke to see the tanned coyote mask staring down on me. He was already over top of me bending down to meet my face near his, stars rested in the sky. I was out for some time. I could not move, all I could do was look into the eyes of my foe standing over me. His brown eyes looking out of the mask reminded me that he was human. In my dreams he seemed more than a man, but in reality he was just that, powerful but human. I summoned all my will to move, I tried to will every cell in my body to fight and win. I did not want to die, I wanted to live. As if to answer my will to fight I saw in my mind the dark figure grinning at me. With that I was free. What I could see of the face under the coyote skin changed to shock. Before he could understand why I could move I felt around the ground for a weapon finding the heavy metal flashlight I swung it like a club at my would be hunter. With a thud I hit him aside the head and he fell sideways. My hands stung with the impact and my blood rushed with adrenaline. I did not hesitate and found my way to my feet and hit him again. This time, knocking off his mask, I could see the face of a man. He screamed at me angrily as he tried to attack back. One last time, I hit him in the head with the flashlight. This time he went limp.

He lay dead on the ground, blood pooling under his head. I had won, but not wholly by my own power. That thing he called master let me win. I watched as the puddle of blood grew. I could feel myself getting weaker once again. At first I felt content to die having defeated the one that started all this. However my mind turned to panic. I did not want to die. Once again I started to lose consciousness. I was afraid I would not wake back up this time. Before my eyes closed I frantically looked around for something, anything to aid me but it was pointless.

For a moment everything was black but then knowledge filled my head. I saw visions of a spell. A magic to reunite my body and soul. My eyes opened with a jolt of new energy and I started working. Taking the blood of the man who tried to destroy my soul I created symbols in the dirt. Old symbols, of which I did not know the true meaning of. I only needed to add my own blood and the spell was complete. As soon as I finished my vision faded once more but only for a moment. In that moment the world around me had changed. I was in the land of sand and a dark blue sky just like my visions. However this was far more real. There was a lack of wind that gave the world an odd sensation. In my immediate position I saw my belongings, this journal, and the corpse of the man I killed. My spell had worked, my soul and body were reunited, however it seems my body traveled to where my soul was being pulled and not the other way around.

I sat for a long time in this world. There are no stars or sun to mark the time. Soon I will travel on and look for a way to survive. This may be the world where the master whose magic allowed all of this lives, but I’ve run out of fear and am still pushed to live. I still remember the words of my friend. “Never say you don’t want to die, but rather say you want to live.” Am leaving these last few pages of the journal here. Perhaps as a message for any who enters this world in the same place I did, or perhaps I just feel the need to move on. They may even find a way back before I do.

-John Lawrence

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