'Stop your daydreaming, Mister!' Noah shouted down the hall. 'You'll be late for school again!'

Ben slowly emerged from his room, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and sat down at the table.

'Make sure you come straight home from school today,' Noah said. 'I need you to feed and water the horses. I'm going over to the plant to see if they can give me some work. Don't leave the horses and let them get themselves in a state.'
'Okay, Pa,' Ben replied. 'I'll take care of them.'

They ate in silence both of them thinking about the day ahead. Noah sat and ate reckoning his chances of picking up some causal work and Ben fantasized about being a hero in his own made-up adventures.

A horn tooted outside. 'That's the bus,' Ben said as he grabbed his bag and headed to the door.
'Pay attention and do your best,' Noah called out after him. 'That's my boy. I'll be seeing you come dinner time.'

It had been a hard and unforgiving year-full of tragedy and worry. Noah had no steady work, since Grayson's food processing plant was bought out by a big outfit from California. All the locals were let go and replaced by teenagers and Latino itinerants who would work for next to nothing. There was no local union or public outcry to stand against it. There was not much other local work either. Grayson's was one of the few major employers in this part of Southern Idaho. Some folks fled over the border to Nevada and picked up some work at Cactus Pete's Casino in Jackpot, but Noah stayed where he was hoping for better days and refusing to give up on the area. Like the others in his community, he made a stand not to work on the cheap for the California outfit. But times were desperate and he thought he would stop there after the morning shift and see if they might have him back.
'Something is better than nothing,' he reckoned to himself.

Ben sat on the bus next to his best buddy, Carl.

'Hey, Ben! Did you see that thunderstorm last night? My dad said it was something strange. Lightning like great forks in the sky and sometimes shooting out straight down to the ground. Both our horses were stamping and kicking at the stable door. How did your Bess and Willy cope? Zeno was not too bad, but Dad said he'd never seen our Daisy Mae so spooked. My grandma thinks it could be a sign of something.'

'A sign?' Ben asked. 'A sign of what?'
'She didn't say... Did you see it?'
'No, I must have been dreaming,' Ben replied.
'Well, you'll get another chance,' Carl said. 'My dad says he heard they're calling for more big thunderstorms all week.'

Ben had grown progressively more silent and dreamy ever since his mother, Cora, disappeared. That was just over a year ago now. Mom had gone out for a trek in the Magic Valley on Willy, but only Willy returned-panicked and exhausted. The police and some of the neighbors went out looking, but there was not a sign of her. There was an official investigation, but nothing was discovered. Some gossips at the church said that she had run off, but Ben knew that was not so. He believed what Carl's dad, Police Chief Marty, had to say after they had given up the hunt.
'It's like she flat out disappeared off the face of this earth.'

Noah got into his pickup truck late that afternoon and headed over to the plant.
'Time to eat some humble pie, if they'll let me eat it,' he thought to himself.

As he drove along, he thought about Ben and how Cora's disappearance had affected him. His happy boy was no longer happy. He felt like he lost both his wife and part of his son too on that terrible day. Sometimes he would forget and think to ask Cora what to do about Ben or maybe about finding some work, but of course Cora was not there to ask. She was gone and his mind would play tricks on him like she was not. And every single time that mind-trick happened Noah would feel her loss again like it was only yesterday-fresh, raw, and sore.

At school that Thursday afternoon, just before the start of the week-long school holiday, there was a bit of a surprise. After lunch, all the students were called into the assembly room. They sat there giggling and fooling around until Principal Mavis called them to order.

'Today, we have a very special guest,' she announced. 'It is my pleasure to introduce an expert on genuine Native American medicine men. He's from the Shoshone tribe and he's going to talk to you about our local area and its history. Pay attention and welcome our guest, Edwin Greyhawk, Professor of Native American Studies at the State University.'

A tall, thin man ambled onstage. He wore a fringed-leather jacket and faded blue flannel shirt with bolo tie and jeans. His boots were weather-worn and an old battered baseball cap with a bent brim sat snugly over his long and scraggly hair. He did not look like what Ben imagined a genuine medicine man might look like. He looked pretty much like anyone else from the area. But despite the Professor's scruffy and unkempt appearance, he spoke with the fervor of a tub-thumping revivalist.

'Let me ask you a question, young people,' Greyhawk began. 'Does anyone here really know about this special and sacred place where we live?'

He looked around for a response, but there was none forthcoming.

'Then let me tell you that this here part of Idaho is revered by the Shoshone and the ancestors of the Shoshone people. We live in the land where the Great Spirit abides and can be summoned and called upon. Great medicine has been practiced here, since the dawn of my people. This is the land of miracles and healing. This is the land of mystery where all the fallen of my people dwell and where their spirits came to rest.'

Greyhawk dug something out from deep inside his jacket pocket. It was wrapped in soft leather. He held it aloft for all to see.

'I am holding here what is known as a Willing Stone,' he announced as he unwrapped its leather cover. 'It is one of a very few remaining examples now kept at the Shoshone Bannock Museum. They have generously allowed me to borrow this one and show it to you. Local Native American tribes have used one just like this for centuries to summon the spirits of those they have lost. It is a powerful totem used by shamans and medicine men who hold the 'Gift of the Stone' and can summon the spirit it contains. The Willing Stones of our ancestors hold great power for they are connected to the Great Spirit and can call on the Spirit to heal the sick and find what is lost.'

Greyhawk came down from behind the podium to where the students were sitting. He held the Willing Stone atop its leather cover in the palm of his hand.
He walked slowly along the front row holding out the Stone for them to examine it more closely. Carl was sitting next to Ben and when Greyhawk passed by, he glanced at the Willing Stone disinterestedly.

Greyhawk then abruptly stopped. He saw that Ben was staring at the Stone as if transfixed. He looked at Ben, held the Willing Stone out in the palm of his hand, and nodded at him.
'Go ahead, Son,' he said. 'Pick it up.'

The Willing Stone felt warm and smooth in Ben's hands like it had been handled many times and worn flat in the process. He kept running his fingers over the dull green Stone, when suddenly he was gripped in panic. He felt his hand close hard around the Stone. He could not unclench his fingers. His hand was no longer under his control and squeezed the Willing Stone into his fist.

He shook his head as he felt his vision start to blur. Everything kept going in and out of focus more and more rapidly. He shut his eyes for a moment, because he felt his stomach heave. Then he began to shake in convulsions.

When he opened his eyes again, he found himself transported to a place he did not know. He saw himself standing in a colorless valley landscape where everything around him was spinning in and out of perspective. The ridges surrounding the valley moved
swiftly toward him and then just as swiftly away. He stood there in shock briefly and then took a few tentative paces forward, but found it difficult to walk.
His step was uncertain as the ground beneath his feet tilted up and down repeatedly in continuously changing angles. He stopped and blinked to clear his eyes. He looked down and saw the Willing Stone was still in his hand. When he looked back up, there, right in front of him, stood a woman in the swirling landscape. She had her back turned to him.

Ben saw a shadowy figure appear out of nowhere and approach the woman. Behind the shadowy figure, six more shadow-like beings appeared out of spinning columns of dark smoke that had descended from above. The shadowy figure crept nearer and nearer to where Ben and the woman were standing. As he drew closer, Ben caught just a glimpse of him and what he saw filled him with dread. A cruel, heartless, malicious, and white-eyed stare greeted him. The horrific figure was winged, but not with feathers. The wings seemed to be made of a hideous, brownish, papery skin.
Like a moth's or a bat's.

Ben recoiled as the creature lurched at him and tried to snatch the Willing Stone from his hand. He stumbled backward and away from the creature's grasp. He felt so nauseous that he thought he would vomit. All his nerves were tingling in alarm.

The shadowy figure stared menacingly at Ben for a moment and then grabbed the woman by her hair and began to drag her away. Ben put out his hand to help the woman, but could not reach her. He tried to speak, but no sounds emerged. The woman turned to Ben with terror in her eyes as the creature kept pulling her
roughly away. Ben saw her eyes pleading with him to come to her rescue, when suddenly he recognized her.

'No, no, it cannot be,' Ben said to himself. 'No,' he said to himself again while shaking his head. But no matter how much he tried to deny what he was seeing, there was no denying that the terrorized woman standing in front of him was his mother.

Helplessly, Ben watched as the shadowy figure and the six creatures in his service quickly disappeared with her and were gone.

When Ben snapped back from his disturbing vision, he found himself curled up on the floor. He heard himself shouting, 'Mom! Mom!' He looked around in confusion and saw that he was back in the school assembly room. A spasm of pain washed through him. He felt faint. His stomach was in knots. He thought he was going to be sick. The room started spinning. Greyhawk helped him back to his feet. He reached down to reclaim the Willing Stone from Ben's hand, picking it up by its leather cover, and instantly Ben began to feel more like himself again.

Greyhawk looked down at Ben and winked.
'Powerful medicine, Son,' he said mysteriously.

Principal Mavis and a lady from the nurse's office came rushing up to him. Everyone kept asking in frantic concern, 'Are you all right, Ben? Are you okay?'
Carl kept shouting, 'Back off! Give him air!' at everyone. Ben was both embarrassed and confused at the same time.

After Ben's collapse at Greyhawk's talk, the students headed back to class. As Ben and Carl walked along together, Carl said, 'Are you sure you're all right? You scared the bejesus out of me.'

'It was nothing,' Ben replied. 'Maybe I caught some tummy bug or something.'
'Spooky Indian and his mumbo jumbo,' Carl scoffed. 'I bet he really works at the casino in Jackpot.'
'I suspect so,' Ben said still a bit shaken.

When the final bell rang, Ben and Carl went out to wait for the bus and head home.

'Hey, Ben! Want to take the horses out for a spell?' Carl asked.
'Can't,' he answered. 'Chores.'

As Ben and Carl waited together, they saw Greyhawk walking over to an old Chevy Pickup. One of its side panels had rusted through.

'Bet that's still got more horsepower than anything his ancestors rode,' Carl joked. But just as Carl started laughing, Greyhawk turned away from the Chevy and began making his way slowly to where Ben and Carl were waiting. They stared uncomfortably as he made his way over to them. When he reached Ben, he looked down at him mournfully.
'I saw what happened when you touched the Stone, Son,' Greyhawk said. 'You have the Gift of the Stone. I know where you went. I know what you saw. I know where the one you lost is.'

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