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Excerpt from Songs of the Dead

Nika Is Dreaming (p. 146)

From chapter "Thunder"

Nika is dreaming. She’s dreaming of nights and days and the sounds of a stream. In her dream she feels the breath of willows on her cheeks and inside her bones. She feels ponderosa pine roots pulsing beneath the ground, and she feels the ground itself breathing its way into her. She no longer cares or even notices how long these breaths last. She merely takes each one in and lets it back out.

She feels herself settling deeper into the spot where she lies, like a cat on a lap, like a river in a canyon, like being in bed after a hard day of playing when she was young.

Nika is dreaming, and sometimes she sees other people, people she doesn’t recognize. They walk like ghosts, and sometimes notice her. Most often they don’t.

Nika is dreaming, and sometimes her dreams are filled with yearning, yearning for her mother and father, and yearning also for other things she has never known, yearning for things she cannot yet name, and does not know if she ever will.

Nika is dreaming, and she’s filled with yearning. She’s dreaming of fish longer than her arm and bigger than her thighs, and they’re swimming shoulder to shoulder in a stream. She’s dreaming of grizzly bears walking humpbacked along the bank. She’s dreaming of the weight of ancient trees pressing down on her chest, and she’s dreaming of fire and rain and snow and willows and more birds singing than she ever imagined existed. The songs fill her rib cage and leak out of her throat, and sometimes she cannot hear her own voice over the songs of the birds, the bears, the salmon, and the trees.
Nika is dreaming.