I wrote the following piece for Alabama: Views and Words, a book that is coming out edited by Frank Uhlig. The book combines photos of Alabama and the written word. The photos were all taken by Uhlig. The writings are from a variety of authors, including yours truly.
The Ho'koklonote'she chuckled as he flew over the deserted street: the empty store front and crumbling wood pillars. He had done this. He had caused the palefaces to flee from the land they’d stolen from his people. He swooped down from the sky and landed next to the wooden wall of the store patched with corrugated metal siding. As he landed, he transformed from owl to dog. Palefaces liked dogs, and it had usually been as a dog he’d tormented those who’d called this street home. The street still retained the heat of the day. The Ho'koklonote'she hated the asphalt that had replaced the forests that had dominated the land when his people dwelt here.
Although why he called the Choctaw his people, Ho'koklonote'she was unsure. Before the coming of the palefaces, Ho'koklonote'she hadn’t considered the Choctaw his. He had nothing in common with any human. As a nature spirit tied to this place, this land belonged to him. While human could come and go, he always remained.
He hadn’t been kind to the Choctaw. It was his nature to play tricks. His favorite trick had been to appear at a hunter’s fire and repeat the hunter’s thoughts. No human liked to hear their thoughts coming from a beast’s mouth, especially when those thoughts were dark. The hunters often went mad and ran from their fire. In the darkness, they would run off cliffs or trip and break their legs. It had been most amusing. He’d never thought he felt any attachment to them until they were forced off these lands.
As the Choctaw left, the Ho'koklonote'she found himself fading. He never dreamed that human belief in him had fueled his power. The Choctaw’s belief had allowed him to torment them, but the palefaces who replaced them did not believe, and the Ho'koklonote'she soon found himself as no more than a shadow.
Ho'koklonote'she snarled as he thought of his weakness during those dark years when he could barely transform from one form to another, and when his voice was so weak, the humans could no longer hear him. He’d nearly burst from rage before he’d discovered how to force them to believe. He’d never bothered a Choctaw child because it hadn’t seemed much of a challenge to scare a child. Unsporting even. But with the palefaces, he’d had to begin with the children because their minds were more open to belief than their elders. He crept into their dreams, and they woke screaming from nightmares. In time, enough children believed that they started to spread the legend of the Hoko dog. Children began to cower behind their parents whenever a dog walked by. He smiled, as he remembered family after family taking their pet to the pound because of the children’s terror.
As more and more children believed, his power grew. It had been a glorious day when he could again tell adults their dark thoughts. It wasn’t long before they were shooting every dog on sight, so he switched to appearing as a cat or a sparrow.
But he’d grown drunk with the power and did his job far too well. The palefaces had fled the land, and soon no more would take the dwellings they vacated.
The town became this empty relic. The rush of power thrilled him, but now, there was no one left to believe. He would fade and become as empty as the town itself.