(‘Scent’ Excerpt Chapter 2)
4th September 2084
Uncle Jack’s funeral was held in the traditional period three days after a Lokoti’s death. Dad drove Mum and I down to the Holy Grounds, by the river just off to the side of the community centre. There, the rest of the tribe had convened where I saw the typical scene of a Lokoti funeral. In the grassy glade before the three Sacred Totem Poles sat a large, rectangular, wooden funeral pyre.
The council of nine Tribal Elders which included Grandpa, were dressed in the traditional way. They were wearing old suede clothing with face paint, of the Lokoti Wolf claw mark going down the side of their faces. Dressed as such, they led the funeral chant to a drum beat.
Uncle Jack’s family stood at the front of the crowd, as everyone stood in a semi-circle about the pyre. Four members of the Lokoti Werewolf pack, carried Uncle Jack’s body up to the pyre on a stretcher made from two branches with a large, leather pelt in the middle. We couldn’t see Uncle Jack’s body though, as it was wrapped in the woven, funeral shroud.
The funeral was held at sunset of the third day of death, because of spiritual reasons. It had to be exactly in this period, to guide the deceased’s spirit into the next life. The funeral ceremony could go for an hour, but the body would burn all night. Then in the morning, the deceased’s ashes were sprinkled into the river. The river was very important to my people, as it was vast and interconnected to the other major rivers in Alaska. Eventually, it made its way to the Bering Sea and then the Pacific Ocean. But the river wasn’t just vital to geography, but it was seen to represent the ongoing nature of life, in relation to our beliefs.
The Circulate which was once made up of Circulators and Calculators, believed that the timeline is the surface of the space time continuum. Those that have special gifts and have been trained like Circulators, Calculators or those with ESP, can ‘see’ what was ahead in the timeline. Another belief the Circulate and the Lokoti had in common, was reincarnation. By sprinkling the deceased’s ashes into the river, it was the metaphor of returning the person’s spirit into the timeline so that they can be reborn, further down stream in another era.
I watched the four carefully place the body on top of the pyre. Then Grandpa lit the wood with a fiery torch that he was holding. I looked away when the flames approached the body, before it was completely engulfed in heat. As the body burned, the nine Tribal Elders stood in between the pyre and the three Sacred Totem Poles, continued to sing the Lokoti funeral chant to the beat of the drum.
I couldn’t watch the body catch on fire, I just couldn’t. Even if it was wrapped in the woven funeral shroud, it seriously creeped me out! As I looked away, my eyes fell upon the people standing up the front of the crowd, just across. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking, but I was staring blankly ahead. I could have been gazing upon Julius Caesar, without even noticing.
Just as my blurred vision started to come into focus, I realized that I was staring at Declan. My worst enemy was staring right back, which gave me a jolt in surprise. I was looking directly into his bright blue eyes which made me embarrassedly look away.
Frickin’ hell, if he wasn’t the worst person in the world I could have been staring at? Attila the Hun would have come a close second. But when I had to look away from the pyre again, I found myself gazing his way once more.
Declan was still staring in my direction, or was he glaring? He was wearing his traditional scowl with his hands shoved deep into his jeans pockets, as he stood beside his mother and brother. He didn’t look away either. Declan didn’t seem to care if anybody noticed who he was looking at or scowling at, rather.
Isn’t this just great? So far my only two options are to stare at a dead guy on fire, or the rudest boy in the tribe. I gave up on looking at either, as I closed my eyes and turned to bury my face into my father’s arm. I think Dad must have thought I was overwrought with grief, as he next kissed the top of my head and squeezed my hand tighter.
As the Tribal Elders sang, I used this opportunity of self-imposed privacy to think about Uncle Jack. I remember him coming to my house a couple of times, to talk about pack business with my father. The two would leave the house and go stand at the end of the driveway to talk privately. Sometimes Uncle Ian as well as Ian’s younger brother Grant, would be with them for these conversations since they were members of the pack too.
I remembered how Uncle Jack was devoted to his wife and family just as all of the Lokoti Werewolves were. Uncle Jack and his wife were something like 70 years old; but because he was a Werewolf he aged slower than his human mate. It looked kind of funny seeing them together about the community, at how this man who appeared in his forties held hands with an elderly woman, or even when they kissed. As was customary with Lokoti Werewolves and their ‘mate for life’ policy; they in no way looked on their wives with any less love. When their mates died of old age, they mourned them deeply. It became the custom that Lokoti Werewolves didn’t take another mate after the death of their first.
Opening my eyes again, I looked on the elderly Aunt Meg who was being comforted by her grown children. Poor Aunt Meg, I guess she and Uncle Jack had always expected that he would outlive her. As I looked on his surviving family, I started to realize something else… What was usually the way, the eldest son’s Lokoti Werewolf gene would be activated upon the death of their father or grandfather. But the typical age bracket for a change to take place was between 10 – 25 years old. Uncle Jack’s son was 30 years old, so he was too old for the change and his son whom was 9 years old was too young.
Hmm, I wondered who else could be activated instead? I guess I’d find out on the next full moon, when a human Lokoti changed to become the fifteenth member of the pack. As my eyes started to scan the other male members of the tribe between 10 – 25 years old my gaze met Declan’s once more.
He was still glaring at me for some strange reason. It was seriously starting to make me feel VERY uncomfortable. I shot a scowl back his way, before I concentrated on staring at the tips of the flames, as they danced in the evening sky.