Spirits at the lake gathered around the young girl, there were four of them. Two of them were her life-long guardians, one was a friend from Lyric’s childhood, and the other seemed simply tired of roaming around the lake. The spirits looked as they had in their lives upon earth, yet were immortal. Living people could not see them, they could only be heard subconsciously or their presence could be sensed. Spirits cast no shadows. They looked as though composed of wind and drew no real breath, but were mere lightened shadow beings of the higher world in human form and clothing. They spoke the language of the spirits, which besides them, medicine men and medicine women can understand. They were wakan, holy. All but one of them had been tied to Lyric’s life since the beginning of her current days on earth, and the two guardians had been linked to her spirit for time unknown. The fourth spirit remained unacknowledged.
Her guardians were both male spirits. They both came from the Pte, servants who attended the Gods in the underworld feast that resulted in a separation of night and day. Lyric was then called “Ite,” to remind the people of beauty and the link between it and the frailty of human will.
One of these guardians was a husband of hers from countless lives before, when their people first hunted the buffalo. He guarded and guided her current life, influencing wisdom upon her in times of greatest need. The husband had not wanted to go to earth when Tokahe, or the first man, had brought back the news that there was life outside the earth. It was for the satisfaction of seeing his wife happy that the husband had left the earthen world, crawled through the sacred breathing hole entrance, and joined six other families to begin life upon earth. He had not regretted leaving the confines of the inner earth. He would have followed her anywhere. But after that one life on earth, the husband had not wanted to go back again, he felt he had completed his purpose there, and now kept an eye out for Lyric from the sky, remaining intricately linked to her mortal being each time she ventured back upon the earth.
Lyric had met him each time after her consecutive lives. He always pleaded and reasoned with the supreme spirits to force her to stay with him, but Lyric held fast to earth, like there was no other place she could belong—despite the fact that each time she went back, she was reborn and had to learn many things again. The husband lamented. Lyric’s spirit had tried two deaths before to find him in the higher world, never finding him, and worrying about her people below, that they would suffer too much without her. The husband could only discern that that bond with the people on earth came from having been of the first people. The only solace he had for not living with Lyric in the higher world was to remain linked to her life, to guide her, to love her from the eternal distance of the transparent border between life and death.
This guardian spirit was named “Moves the Camp,” but in their life together, Lyric had simply called him “Man.” Man touched Lyric’s eyebrow, brushing it with his ethereal fingers and letting his hand turn to its backside as he delicately moved it across the small crease in her forehead. He summoned the other spirits to help him lift her mortal body and pull it away from the edge of the cliff. Her body slumped, molding her covered flesh against Man’s shoulders and chest, separated elements of space and time. He held her securely, strongly, as his well-developed muscles pulled against his shadowed and faded frame. The other spirits were silent, walking directly beside Man in total seriousness and concentration. Lyric’s head rested on Man’s shoulder, her legs draped over the arm that held her knees to his waist. He walked to a nearby tree and gently lowered Lyric down, the other spirits kneeling as Man did, placing Lyric on the ground. He slipped his arm from beneath her knee, bringing it up to her upper body, supporting her, ever careful, as though she would break. He kept his arm behind her head until he met the other guardian’s eye and nod to release Lyric and regretfully, he took his arm from behind her neck, cupping her head in his hand, and slowly lowered the rest of her body to the ground. Man could only touch and carry her this way when the other spirits lent some of their power. He looked at Lyric; she seemed more peaceful. He then motioned for the other spirits to give him a moment alone, and the others respectfully retreated and backed away.
He wore what he had worn on their wedding day. He always did, as being a spirit, only other spirits could see him and nothing decayed, eroded, or wore – including clothing. All spirits wore clothing to remain modest when they appeared as spirit humans. His face was lean, long, and his cheekbones were strong, but not drawn out. He had long black hair that hung down the center of his back and off his shoulders. His body was lean, and though he had died as an old man beside his wife, he chose to appear as he did at the age of thirty-five. His muscles were well developed. Any wrinkles he had acquired were smoothed away by his immortality; even the creases on his fingers were barely visible.
His shirt was decorated with two porcupine-quilled bands running the length of his arm and two matching, quill bands over his shoulders in red. The quillwork displayed geographical designs, including a red forking zigzag. The bands exhibited shapes, intrinsically fashioned for each pattern to blend in with the next. The shirt had small tufts of hair running the length of his arms, fastened by small metal cones and quillwork around the base of their attachment. He wore buckskin trousers, quillwork running down each length of his leg, and a breechcloth of a lighter tanned hide. A decorated pipe bag hung at his side. Man adorned himself with earrings made of dentalium shells and a quill necklace identifying him as an Akicita society member. His legs were clad with plain, dark-tanned leather leggings and moccasins. Each piece of his wardrobe matched another. If the bridge of time allowed the colors of his outfit to represent themselves fully, Man would be a sight to revere. Though most spirits did not care what they wore in death, Man always wore what his wife had sewed by her own hands before their wedding day.
He knelt beside Lyric. He wished with all his heart and power that he could wake her from her drunken sleep and talk with her just one time. He knew the only way to communicate with her was when she was dreaming, outside the limits of her own consciousness, making all things immortal, mysterious, and unexplainable a possible reality.
Man whispered, “Wife, please do not give up. I have seen you be so strong. You make my heart cry when you ask our father in the higher world to take what you have always fought and petitioned for – life… to return to this earth for the sake of our people.”
Man truly wanted to cry. Many think that after death, there are no feelings of sadness. But Man felt sad as he watched his lover, his wife, the woman he cared for since the beginning of time, fail to understand that men would never be the purpose of her life on earth. She could not understand that there was only one true love and it belonged between the two of them. Lyric would have to accept her station in the higher world after death to fully realize that love once again. Man had watched her through countless lives, searching for love, never finding it completely, unable to carry the knowledge that she already had met that one love generations before.
He touched her neck softly, tracing the marks that Henry left on her light brown skin. They were imprinted, red fingerprints of rage. He could see the scratches on the right side; small, vertical, where Henry’s nails had slid when trying to keep Lyric pinned on the floor earlier that night. The other side was where he could trace the imprint of Henry’s fingers. Man gently caressed these marks and prayed over Lyric’s body. He spoke in the language of the spirits as he prayed over his love’s body – laying there, drunk, abused, hurt, neglected, and regretfully to Man at the time… mortal. Man finished praying and held his braids as he gently reached over and tried to kiss Lyric’s neck. With one more look, he rose from the ground, held his hands to the sky and said in the language the supernatural could understand and hear, “Wakan Tanka, please help this girl.”