I met the Ancestors tonight, saw them rise up full with power.
I felt so small. I had walked through dust devils, congratulated myself for my bravery. Now, seeing the Ancestors’ proud march, I realized those devils had just been flirtations, caprices, a flick of the wrist –
We were driven from the playa in the mid-afternoon, forced to leave by a massive bloom of dust that infiltrated every crack and cut off our vision in every direction except out. We left obediently, and I saw black clouds looming over the mountains, and the wind turned cold, cold.
In town, trees began to whip and scold, tossing leaves and branches into the road. Rain flew in bunches at the tired dust, beating it into submission. I, for one reason or another, soon found myself speeding along the highway overlooking the playa. I think maybe they were calling to me: I had just written of them, misnamed them, appointed their title to mere dust devils. Insulted their pride, and they wanted to humble me.
Driving along beside that great procession, I felt tiny, miniscule. The road seemed to buck beneath me, the ground tossing with laughter. The air crackled with excitement and joy; the horizon brimmed with lightning. The clouds broke. The wind had reversed its direction. The Ancestors were marching to reclaim the playa.
Kingly regal, leading the procession, a great plume of dust rose hundreds of feet in the air. He did not twist or turn; he simply forged ahead from out of the deep playa, leading an offensive on the defenseless town of Gerlach. His feet were brown where they drew from the soil; his hair was white and wavy, flicking long trails upward into the sky. Behind him streamed hundreds of his subjects, servants, nobles, all with arms reaching upward to throw the earth into the sky. Along the edges of the procession, mischievous devils hovered along the highway, skipped along streambeds, danced from dune to dune, swirling in the sage and jumping to disappear in the air. As my car approached, they ducked away into the turmoil, tails whipping behind.
The moon rose, low and yellow over the mountain, and the clouds reached down with the last of the sunlight to catch the dust from the Ancestors’ arms. The sky turned a livid pink. Behind me, one last flicker of lightning –
and then, a rainbow as bright as neon flashed from horizon to horizon. The clouds curdled and melted away behind the mountains’ sharp edges. The Ancestors had finished their march, leaving a wall of white dust to protect their city. Gerlach lay squalid, flattened, humbled in their wake. And I, smaller than a bug, thought of the dust I clean from my skin, nose, ears, hair. The earth I have shoveled and raked, written my name in. One month from now, the playa will show no sign that I was ever here. It will have no memory of me.
I, however, will not forget.