Mark von Schlegell


We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable.So did the divine right of kings.
—Ursula K. Leguin, 2015

Mark von Schlegell


Sassacus crouched on a boulder he actually recognized, atop a large outcrop of granite the whites had quarried half away. He looked over the harbor that only days ago had been so full of life that the moving glitter-flashes of schools of alewife occurred like music upon the surface, played out by the predators plowing through. Today though the sun was stronger than ever, ruthlessly pulsing in the hot and unforgiving sky, no life was visible in the murky bay. Enormous pointless canoes, for what purpose he could not fathom, were here and there anchored in the middle of water. Anyone might swim out and steal them.

This part of Menuncatuck’s sacred lands had been described by Shaumpishuh, when the whites tried to corrupt her sway. She had specifically drawn a bow and arrow at the bottom of the document to signify what would happen, if they did not withdraw immediately and in the meantime provide twelve coats, twelve fathoms of wampum, twelve glasses, twelve pairs of shoes, twelve hatchets, twelve knives, twelve hats, twelve porringers, twelve spoons, and two extra English garments for good measure. They had given these things, and never departed, getting everything backwards. And soon enough to exactly here that the last sachem of Sassucus’s band was pursued, apparently long ago. In battle he had never likened Englishmen to mosquitoes, but he found they were not as weak as they appeared. They carried diseases of the mind that could bring the strongest warriors to their knees.

Sassacus was outfit and painted for war, his hairknots finely tied, apparently an anachronism in these strange times of parceled outcrops and artificially fabricated dwellings garishly erected in what had always been mostly marshland and unsettled by any but Menuncatuck’s. The bounty of these parts had been unmatched in all the world. Yet here with the quahog and great oysters gone, these structures showed themselves the anachronism; the shells of dead ideas.

The rifle, lighter and sounder than any musket he had ever held, fit comfortably on the shoulder. It had a glass fixed upon it—a ’scope his Ally had called it. He could look through this telescope and see his target up close, even at night. Yet it was through a wall of blood you gazed.

The morning passed. Comfortably seated, Sassacus pondered over recent events. There were the days here in this world to think of; and there were those from where he‘d been plucked only a moon before. But even then the times of change had come to all this region. A generation had died in entirety before Sassacus had come with the Pequod and mustered the many sachems into a proper resistance. Was he the last who had seen that world? She had said that memory would leave him once the bullet did its work. All relevant portions. She offered a new world. The proof of his innocence would be its entire absence from his timeline.

His mind was still only thawing from the massacre at Missituck, when it had been forced to accept these things. His Ally’s vision of the universal prairies and such arrays of lives laid out like on a belt for the People to tell as they please seemed remote as that old idea of wampum, which only he understood and remembered anyhow.

Nothing more occurred to him along these lines. No sign of Uncas or his henchmen across the bay. Perhaps the Ally was misinformed. Perhaps the stories she had heard told were embellished. Despite her powers of sight and travel, she described herself as behind Sassacus. As his follower.

A whistle rang out against his hips and a sudden living creature stuck to his thigh; it took more time than he expected for the resulting fear to subside.

Sassacus looked at the object in his hand, the cellphone. A message flashed on its screen, one he could not interpret. There followed a picture of a moon. One very like the moon he could see already white against the daylight sky

So they would come at night.

He threw the phone into the salty sea. To make such a thing demanded far more fire than he currently understood. In the context of that burn, repositioning the shiny bone meant re-poisoning. His Ally described herself and others of what she called the surviving People as having wrested control of the timeline at last from the whites, when the latter had all but destroyed themselves. By means of the captured technology great works were newly possible, vistas the enemy had not known existed showed a real future. But the People were still mired in what the enemy had left behind. The wounds were real. Sassacus could see the loss right away. She had no idea what she did not remember. “The great way out is through you. Because we were able to bring you through, we may follow. If you just follow us first.”

Such followers discomfited. Sassacus was different from some sachems in that he had experimented more with his selves, traveled farther within than without. He had served as a quasi man of medicine on his rise. At those times he attempted most, he failed. When he had danced personally around the walls of Fort Saybrook, wearing the clothes of those who died during the fight, he had failed to communicate to the whites the solidarity he was attempting to demonstrate. They read it the very opposite way. So when she showed him that tear in the sky through a scope and called it Jupiter, and when she informed him it was in fact an enormous eyeball able to perceive the Prairies (its south pole the focusing iris)— he purposefully did not follow.

“My own world is long dead,” he had asked. “Why save yours?”

That night when he saw the lanterns and the commotion across the bay, silvered in the moonlight, it was among the creaking songs of frogs whose forebears sang to Sassacus himself.

He lifted the rifle. Shadows carried two canoes into the water. Even without the ’scope the enemy (actually still back in that stream from which he’d crossed), showed stark against the world.

Was the answer good enough to justify the most cowardly of killings?

His ‘scope picked out in red the men in the boats. He was curious to see them. They were not in fact People. Except for one. Sassacus was surprised to discover his heart could hurt again. The faces of Misters Pynchon and stiff old Captain Mason, dead-eyed since Missituk, he expected red-lit against the black, but old Uncle Uncas? Intent as ever on his terrible peculiar ambition? What a generation! Uncas did not understand that the ability to mass 700 warriors at a time depended on those others not on any king or leader.

Would the new sort of ball puncture his old uncle’s handsome forehead? How many had loved those eyes? Those deepest lines! Did he indeed see he had sold away memory of the world in his refusal to give over to the young the torch of history? That zealous refusal to see animated him to even now, when he was presumably dead! He was personally taking the fight to last wigwam.

“There is no other way to escape,” she had answered

No, Sassacus was not Uncas. He lowered the rifle, slung it over his naked shoulder.

Out of the night: the unbelievable. A horned owl appeared in a high and silent glide close over his head, and vanished. Something gleamed in its maw, and fell. It was not hard to perceive half a great eeshaw falling silver close by. The tail end, meat fresh and clean.

Sassacus took strength from this improbably surviving bird. As to the timelines, he would leave himselves alone. Whether or not it was what his Ally demanded no longer mattered. She had given freedom. Yesterday he had seen prints of deer enough to sustain a band. So he was able to escape the timelines entirely, soon presumed to be the merest whim up on the highest stone of that region of Menuncatuk’s sway, the product of a white’s fevered imagining. Less than nothing, really, a passing shadow glimpsed for a moment through this window one sleepless morning, when what was left of all the world was gathering in Hunkpapa Territory near Cannon Ball.

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