Lurking in the caves of eastern New Mexico, Falke, a thousand-year-old vampire, chooses his next bride: Melissa Roanhorse, an Albuquerque teenager. To regain his granddaughter’s life, Michael Roanhorse, an old Navajo sheepherder wise to the power of myth, must outwit the vampire and his loyal coven. So begins A.A. Carr’s Eye Killers, a novel that combines the Eastern European legend of the vampire with the Navajo tale of the monster slayer.
The songs of Michael Roanhorse’s childhood include potent chants passed down through his grandmother, who sang to him of Changing Woman and her Warrior Twins, Monster Slayer and Child of the Water. But Michael’s spiritual strength and his memory have waned with the years. Who is left to help reunite him with his family and his family with their heritage?
Michael enlists Diana Logan, Melissa’s young English teacher, to wrestle Melissa from the vampire. But to conquer Falke they must also overpower his coven: Elizabeth, captured by Falke in the 1850s during her family’s journey along the Santa Fe Trail, and Hanna, once a prostitute in Old Albuquerque, who aspires to supplant Falke’s vampire reign.
Michael must invoke ancient traditions to bring Melissa home. The elders undertake to teach Diana, but her Irish-American heritage has not prepared her for a fight against shape-shifting vampires who have lived-and murdered-for centuries.
In Eye Killers, Carr delivers an imaginative clash of cultures-both a suspenseful thriller and a valid rendering of Navajo and Pueblo tribal life in contemporary New Mexico. His inventiveness, expressed through melodic prose and layers of fine storytelling, weaves new legends of the American Southwest.
|Publisher:||University of Oklahoma Press|
|Series:||American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series , #13|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
A. A. Carr, producer and director of Prairie Dog Films, is Navajo and Laguna Pueblo. Eye Killers is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
By A. A. Carr
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESSCopyright © 1995 A. A. Carr
All rights reserved.
Michael Roanhorse felt the October winds eating at his body, removing whole chunks from his legs, mind, and heart, carrying them in clouds to the domain of old man Moon-bearer. Stars flew in a black water sky, whirling shapes that reminded Michael of the ancient Navajo stories told only after the first snowfall. The living stories his granddaughter, Melissa, should be learning and keeping secure in her heart.
From a tin cup, the lean old man sipped a bitter Mormon tea cut with sprinkles of juniper leaves. He ignored Mount Taylor, which held up one corner of the starry horizon twenty miles away. A wind blown from the dead volcano rattled the locust tree next to him, and the loose fence surrounding his dead wife's garden sighed. He had been meaning to tighten the fence wires for the last twenty-six years—Margaret had quietly scolded him about the undone task all that time. How could he have explained (without Margaret thinking him just lazy) that the sagging fence was a breathing part of their home, like their neighbor animals—the badgers, bullsnakes, coyotes—that to fix the chicken-wire fence would be like ripping out the locust tree from the ground? Michael studied the moon.
"You know about me, too, the way Margaret used to. I'm just a dreaming old man."
Blue-edged mountain brome whispered around his feet. When the wind changed direction, he could hear the groans and shuffling of the sheep in the corral. The old collie beside him huffed at a passing insect.
"Help me to remember my grandmother's stories, old man," he said to the moon. "Come down and sit with me and Lee."
He began to recite a part of a chant that came to him:
From my walk may the pollen of yellow evening light teach me;
From my chest may the pollen of dawn teach me;
From the soles of my feet may the pollen of little whirlwind teach me;
From my head with sky, moon, rainbow, yellowbird pollen, may I be taught;
With earth's little whirlwind teaching the tip of my tongue....
He couldn't remember the rest of the song, couldn't remember who had first spoken those words. And to whom.
He tasted the Mormon tea. Forty miles to the east, an orange cloud hovered above Albuquerque, and running in parallel strands straight into the city's heart were the twin lanes of I-40, another veteran of the desert. On grandfather freeway's back rode moonlit cars like bugs with lighted eyes. Michael felt droplets of moisture settle onto his face, misting the back of his hand. Snow was coming. His stomach felt warm, and for a little while he forgot the pain of his arthritis.
His brain wheeled and creaked like the windmill a half mile below the sheepcamp, pumping up clear gushes of memory. A powerful afternoon rain drummed across sandy plains, sparkled on yucca and bright sunflowers, streamed into the wash in reddish brown streaks. Rivulets of water seeped under his collar. Had it been Sarah or Melissa who had stood with him, bundled in a bulky coat, dancing about gingerly to avoid the tiny streamlets under her boots?
"But I want to see the antelope, Grandpa," the child had said; not Sarah, then. Melissa. "I want to see them dance in the rain."
"Shh, shi'yazhi, my little one. You must learn to stand still, learn to be quiet, or they'll all get scared and run away:"
"I won't scare them!" the girl had pleaded into the rain. "Please make them come."
The rain had softened. Sunlight shifted through golden clouds, stirring up a warm breeze. Michael took off his hat and swatted it against his jeans.
"Maybe they're sitting along the mesa tops, watching us and laughing because we're standing in the rain. What do you think?"
"If they are, I'm going to kick their butts!"
"Why don't we trick them, then. You and I. See, there's your mother shouting at us to come inside. Let us turn into antelope and run as fast as we can. Then the antelope will stop laughing at us when they see how fast we can run. Faster than they can, I bet."
"Faster than hummingbirds!"
Needlelike pain shot through Michael's fingers, threw him out of memory. His rheumatoid arthritis had not yet tortured him when he had become an antelope with his granddaughter and raced in the rain.
Where was Melissa now? And where was Sarah tonight? Alone somewhere like her father, maybe, trying to remember the same stories and songs?
Michael had given Sarah some of the old knowledge his grandmother, Nanibaa', had left him, hoping she would pass it on to Melissa. Only a tiny portion of those powerful Navajo songs and stories was left here on earth, if he could believe what Nanibaa' had told him before she died. And those few elders who held the remaining wisdom and stories and knowledge in their hearts were dying like butterflies in a freak spring frost.
Bitter knowledge. But the songs had been good. And useless old man that he was, he couldn't remember one song to save his life. Coyote came in many forms and old age was one of them; a creature nibbling greedily at Michael's memories, storing them away as winter fat, stealing them for his own children, or saving them for the next world above this one-the sixth world.
Michael took a last sip from his tin cup. First Warrior. First To Hurl Anger. Hunter of Memories. Good Navajo names for Coyote. If that's the way of it, Grandfather Coyote, then take my soul and heart—maybe make something beautiful out of them. For your children.
Wind answered with a terrific gust that blew sand into Michael's eyes, stung his exposed skin.CHAPTER 2
"Melissa, stay home with Mama." The overflowing clump of flesh spoke from the couch. "I need you to rub my back for me."
Melissa Roanhorse silently packed notebooks into a blue backpack. Wavy hair kept tickling her eyes. She felt small and isolated in a too-large mountain jacket, a gift from her father who hadn't bothered to get the size right: the cuffs kept swallowing her fingers. Trinomial squares trilled in her brain. Algebra 1, English Grammar, spiral notebooks decorated with hand-drawn hearts and phone numbers disappeared into the pack's stained mouth. She frowned at the hearts. I'm such a baby. A stupid kid. Melissa glared at her mother—I hate you, too, mama.
"It's your kidneys pushing against your spine, Sarah. Doctor Collins told you to stop drinking so much."
"What a mouth! Calling your mother by name."
Blood pounded in Melissa's hands. The only light in the living room came from a twenty-gallon aquarium sitting on the bar counter. Silvery points darted inside glowing water—neon tetras. A gift from one of Sarah's stupid boyfriends. Why such useless gifts all the time! Melissa lifted her pack by its straps, pushed the bar stool under the counter with her hip.
"Shut up, Mom," she said. "Don't talk to me."
"Where are you going?" Swollen, glittering eyes stared from the coldest part of the room. "Stop it now, or I'll call the police and report you ... a runaway." Sarah became vague and sulky. "My little girl, comfort me some. Hold me."
Melissa's throat tightened. She had to swallow several times before she could speak. "I'm going to Donuts, Inc. I can't study in this place."
"Get back here!" Sarah screeched. "Who are you fucking, tramp?"
"The varsity football team. None of your damn business!"
"One of these days, girl, you'll get yourself fucked up and pregnant. Just like I did."
Melissa raised her fist and watched her own shadow flowing across the faded carpet, across the cheap coffee table, falling onto the drunken woman. Sarah's teeth gritted.
"Stay away from me, bitch," Sarah whispered.
Melissa stood over her mother. Burning muscles jerked in her arms. She wanted to smash Sarah's bloated face, see the features run like mud. She threw her words like stones. "I have an algebra test tomorrow. I'm going to study."
Melissa retreated to the aquarium. The water's aquamarine glow made her think of ice floes and arctic waters. She thought of the hammer in one of the kitchen drawers, imagined its weight in her hand, the steel head turning as if alive, arcing for its target, striking, breaking glass clunking inward, streams of smelly water splashing, drenching her pink blouse and jeans and new jacket; all of her neon tetras strangling on the floor, including the fat one who had eaten most of the smaller ones, and her favorite, Charley, dying too.
She heaved the backpack onto her shoulder and picked up the fish food container from a china bowl shaped like a turtle. She felt suspended in water inside her bulky new jacket.
"I already fed the fish tonight, Sarah," she said. "I'm taking the fish food so you won't forget and feed them again."
Unlike Sarah, she knew all about neon tetras. They would eat and eat and eat until, without warning, their stomachs would pop open like those toy champagne bottles you got for New Year's Eve. POP! Melissa flared her fingers. A fish killed by bulimia. The fish guts were as colorful as the confetti, too. In water, though, the tetras died silently.
Ignoring her mother's weeping, Melissa hurried out of the apartment, careful not to slam the door behind her.
The wind twisted Melissa's hair into crazy tangles which she'd have to brush out later, not something to look forward to. Headlight beams swept by. Her boots echoed along the streets, and the rush of traffic joined with the chatter of leaves blown along the sidewalk. A sound of mourning for dead fish with ruptured stomachs. For murdered mothers.
Cold, invisible fingers massaged her cheeks and neck, and she opened her jacket to give them access to the rest of her body. A chain-link fence rattled beside her, and swings squealed in the Manzanita Elementary playground, where she had once found comfort playing alone. She remembered swinging inside a glass cube while all the other children—clothes as bright as candy and flashing light-colored eyes—ran closing, frightening circles around her.
Not so very long ago. Well, seven years anyway.
She wondered if the spirits of murdered people ever played on swings, imagined the wind pushing at vaporous backs, inciting shrieks of hollow laughter. Melissa was chilled by the thought. Her Navajo grandpa would have scolded her for thinking about such things—about the dead.
Funny old sheepherder. Besides, she thought, I'm only a little bit Navajo, not really noticeable at all. What does all that bullshit magic matter to me?
A sly step, out of place with the chuckle of leaves, stopped her. Instead of searching for the source of the noise, Melissa looked up to the sky. Belligerent stars, as pointed and crudely shaped as the ones in a child's drawing, pierced sponge cake clouds. Their light gleamed on cars and dribbled down a streetlamp's metal trunk. Glancing around then, Melissa couldn't make out anything definite. Too many dark places.
She played with her choices of staying under this streetlamp or running to the cluster of lamps further down the block. There, the street was brighter and more cars were passing. She dug inside her backpack for the knife she had bought several months before.
Nothing will happen to me if I'm carrying one of these babies, she had said to Veronica and Sandie, her two best friends, as they flew through the Coronado shopping mall. Why waste money on one? Sandie had asked, running ahead, dodging old people. Sandie wasn't too smart, had to have things explained to her. But Melissa hadn't been able to explain herself. She just knew it was extremely urgent that she buy one. The three of them had rushed to the bathrooms on the lowest floor of the mall, the probing fluorescent tubes making Melissa feel either guilty or excited or completely psycho.
"Maybe we should get in a stall," she said to Sandie.
"Why?" Veronica asked, grabbing for the box. "It's only a knife"
"Yes, but it's not a toy," Melissa scolded.
Veronica and Sandie groaned.
"Okay, okay!" Veronica twisted her red hair around her little finger. "We get in a stall to make you happy, Mel. I just hope no one comes in and catches us"
"Yeah!" Sandie grinned. "They might think we're a group of lesbos having a good time."
"Girl, you're gross," Melissa said.
"Yes, and totally behind the times," Veronica added.
"Wait till you get to college," Veronica said, tapping Sandie's head (later, Melissa had told Veronica how she could've sworn she heard an echo). "You'll see."
"I don't want to go to college if I'm going to see that."
"Just shut up!" Melissa had been getting super-pissed with all of them standing in a public restroom, bickering like idiots. "Let's see this thing and get out of here."
Nudging them into a stall, Melissa uncovered the narrow, coffinlike box and unfolded the white wrapping. Revealed, the blade shivered under the light.
"Surgical steel," Sandie whispered.
They had all crowded in on the little knife as if it were the baby Jesus in his manger.
"Are you lost, young lady?" A voice rang above the roaring elm trees.
Melissa screamed and dropped her pack. She ran to the fence, gripping onto steel links and pulling herself along them until she was outside the streetlamp's cone of light.
The contradictory wind had torn the man's voice apart, making it too soft and too loud. He knelt in the blue glare of the streetlamp and began picking up her scattered possessions. His long coat rasped against the concrete, and his blond hair shimmered across his back like a waterfall.
"This will perhaps make you feel secure." Something skittered on the sidewalk, plunked into water standing in the gutter. Melissa kept her eyes on the kneeling man and bent to retrieve the object. Her fingers searched among slick fragments of ice and pulled the knife out of the freezing water.
"Now I should be frightened of you." The man's friendly voice sliced neatly through the swirling air. He stood, holding out Melissa's backpack to her.
Melissa's heart tried to wrench itself out of her chest. She unsnapped the sheath and shook the knife from it. Say something, idiot! Don't give him the satisfaction of thinking you're afraid of him.
"Don't ever do that again!" she screamed.
The man spread his hands and smiled. Melissa's pack looked tiny dangling from his white fingertips. "You looked unhappy standing beneath the electric light."
"I wasn't! I mean, I'm not."
"Confidence holds a true weapon. Shall I return your satchel? Or will you retrieve it from me?"
His accent was strange. Melissa shook her head. "Just leave it there. I'll get it in the morning."
"Come. Test my mettle. You might trust me enough to share a repast. Hot drink!"
Taste his metal? Melissa gripped her knife tighter. "No, thanks. Just leave, okay?"
The man waited. White light fell on his shoulders like snow. He whispered something.
Did I notice his eyes? Melissa almost saw the shape of the question before it was blown apart by the ripping breeze.
How blue they were, like an open sky—nothing to be frightened of there.
Melissa shook her head, trying to rid herself of a fog of helplessness enveloping her. Her father's eyes were blue.
All sound died away, which was odd because the trees and the few leaves on their branches weaved about wildly as if they were trying to get her attention. Melissa gazed up, thinking she might hear the stars' passage through the frozen sky if she only tried hard enough....
Her knife was plucked from her fingers. Melissa watched distantly as the man resheathed her weapon.
"This is too fiercesome for so delicate a girl," he said as he slipped it into his pocket. "What is your name?"
Melissa couldn't see the man's expression under the whirling shadows. He was so tall! She told him her name.
"Melissa." He nodded slowly. "I am sure that is not all of it, but there is time. In honor of your trust, I will give you my name: Falke."
"Fall-kah ...," Melissa repeated.
She saw the man now, as parts of him were revealed. Muscular, pale throat. Liquid, ocean-blue eyes, their black pupils dilating.
He spoke a name, and Melissa saw at once mirrory blade-like waves, pale sand, weaving anemones.
Falke took her arm in his and walked her away from the light. Strange voices hummed around Melissa, above her head, beneath her stumbling boots. She felt Falke's arm tighten around her, still gentle. The stars descended from the sky and whispered warnings to her.
But why should they?
Melissa gazed at the blond man, saw his kind, handsome profile. The street vanished, and a river opened up beside them. The sidewalk changed to grass. The streetlamps became silent trees.
Excerpted from Eye Killers by A. A. Carr. Copyright © 1995 A. A. Carr. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
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