Purification Ceremonyby Mark T. Sullivan, Sullivan
At a young age in the Maine woods, at the side of her father and great-uncle, a Micmac puoin, Diana Jackman learned to move freely in the wilderness, to sense a world invisible to most. A natural tracker from a long line of shamans, healers and hunters - an environmental software writer, estranged wife and mother - she has been taught by betrayal and loss to guard her… See more details below
At a young age in the Maine woods, at the side of her father and great-uncle, a Micmac puoin, Diana Jackman learned to move freely in the wilderness, to sense a world invisible to most. A natural tracker from a long line of shamans, healers and hunters - an environmental software writer, estranged wife and mother - she has been taught by betrayal and loss to guard her feelings behind a wall of half-truths and silence. It has cost her many things: her family, her happiness, her peace. And it has brought her to a beautiful, frozen place of magic...and death. Eight hunters have gathered on a vast, isolated estate in northern British Columbia, to track record book white tail deer at the snow-covered confluence of the Sticks and the Dream rivers. Diana Jackman is among them - drawn by the hunt and the ancient Power of her father's people. But someone else is watching the hunting party - an insane and violent force of nature, hiding in the blinding whiteness of the Canadian winter. And now the hunters themselves have become the game. One by one, they are being stalked, slaughtered and gutted like the animals they, themselves, are stalking. The killer is quick, relentless, frighteningly efficient. For the first time in her life, Diana Jackman will know what it is to be prey - but she must fight the instinct to flee. To survive, she will have to rely on her father's teachings, and set out alone to hunt the hunter.
James Metcalfe's thousand-square-mile spread on the border of Alberta and British Columbia is the best-stocked site for trophy deer hunting on the face of the earth. Now that Metcalfe's dead, his estate's been opened to hunting parties. The first party (each member has paid a fee of $7,000 for a week's hunt) includes three childhood buddies from Pennsylvania; a Nashville gun-store owner who hunts with bow and arrow; a Texas millionaire and his latest trophy wife; a knee-jerk liberal magazine writer planning an anti-hunting exposé; and Diana Jackman (a.k.a. Little Crow), a partNative American software writer who's going back to the woods in a desperate attempt to silence the demons from her troubled past. Diana's had no peace since her long-estranged father died; his death revealed his existence to her shocked husband for the first time. Now her decision to splurge on the Metcalfe junket has put her marriage on the rocks. But the real danger lies ahead, with an implacable spirit who seems bent on destroying the inaugural party by stalking and murdering them. Does James Metcalfe walk again (if he ever really died), or is the killer his nasty son Ronny? Is the motive a simple hatred of hunting, or does the killer have something personal against this particular party? And how can Diana defeat an adversary who seems to have the finely-honed senses and killer instincts of a wolf?
Deliverance meets And Then There Were None, with a cast out of Gilligan's Island. Sullivan (Hard News, 1995, etc.) handles the hunter-hunted scenario with a slickness seasoned with mingled aromas of peyote, animal musk, and testosterone. Shorn of the heavy-going mystical ruminations that are bound to be cut, the inevitable movie should be a first-rate actioner.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.21(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
He sat next to me and watched the fire as he packed the pipe bowl. "This is a different mixture, Little Crow," he announced, taking a burning stick from the fire and applying it to the bowl. "No visions. But all your senses will become razor-sharp, like a mirror reflectingperfectly all that is around you. The breath of the wolf,the hunting smoke."
I knew from past experience there was no fighting him, so I took the stem in my mouth and drew in a deep inhalation of the concoction. Inside, the smoke expanded and pressed hot against my lungs. I coughed and hacked andteared, but took a second drag of it at his command. As he had predicted, there were none of the overpowering sensations I'd experienced earlier in the day, but the smoke had an almost immediate effect: my ears, eyes, nose, tongue and skin hummed. I could smell the river beyond the fire, and the poplar saplings on the island beyond that. I could see the shapes of the trees out in what had been darkness. And, then, to the west, I could hear the faint howling of wolves.
He seemed to hear it,too, for he stood and crossed straight to his backpack. He brought out two more sacs of the deer blood. He bit at one with his teeth, then dripped some of it on the deer hide that covered my lap and continued dripping it in a diagonal line to a point about forty feet beyond the fire ring. He did the same thing in a second direction with the other sac. He threw the sacs into the fire, then hoisted the pack on his shoulder, picked up his bow and tied his quiver to his hip and leg. Even from 20 feet away I could hear his breath, shallow and quick now, the kind of breath you get when you have sighted game you wish to take.
"Yousaid you would not kill me."
"And I will not," he answered, jerking his head west toward the Sticks River. "They will. They are my allies. They come every night and I feed them deer meat. Now they will feed on you, a sacrifice to my allies."
I struggled against the lashes. "You are crazy.She would think so too!"
Two huge strides and he was before me, his knife raised over my head. I bowed, awaiting the inevitable, preferring it to the prospect of the wolf pack.
Instead, he knelt and said earnestly, as if he had to make me understand, as if I was the only one capable of understanding. "She loves me for what I am doing.For us the hunt was a divine ritual, a way of meeting God through the pattern of life and death that makes up this life. I am making the ritual clean again. As it was before her loss."
"No, you're making it evil."
His expression hardened. "You don't see, then, do you?"
"I see a man gone mad from his wounds."
"Well, so be it," he grunted. He stood. "I misjudged you. They are coming now. I must go the camp of my enemy to complete the purification ceremony."
And then he was a form flowing into the shadow world beyond fire and gone. The flames, leaping and sawing at the night sky just minutes ago, had waned, leaving just a crackling fire. Within minutes it would linger to embers. I twisted my arms and legs against the knots he had tied. But all I achieved was a dislodging of the deer robe from my shoulders: it sloughedoff and settled around my waist. I gazed down at the ivory-and-black quills so tightly woven on the surface of my pouch and I wanted to cry.
The wind picked up and clawed at my breasts like icy, sharp fingernails. I looked down at them in the firelight and was overcome with the vision of those late nights at home in Boston when I held my babies and felt them draw milk from me; and all had been right and good and possible. I closed my eyes and let that sensation calm me for a few precious moments.
I heard the first one padding toward me from my left. She traversed the drifts like coiled force, panting and lolling her tongue in anticipation. The thick hollow hairs of her winter coat caressed the willow whips along the riverbank. I smelled the blood he had dripped on me and the snow and the different, almost copper smell of the dried blood around the wolf's muzzle from an earlier hunt. She did not come in close enough for me to see her at first. She waited until five others had joined her.
A chunk of wood on the fire burned through and collapsed and the circle of light diminished. I sensed her advance, the others fanning our behind her. The clouds broke and the moon shone through, bathing the crescent of land around me in a pale light.
Two of the wolves growled and nosed the blood trail to my right. The other three sat on stumps about 40 yards away, their topaz eyes reflecting the dying flames that offered my only protection.
Copyright 1997 by Mark T. Sullivan
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >