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Travelling the Low Pass
by Larry Blazek

The pavement winds over the highest of the hills once considered sacred, but the roughnecks still walk the low pass where natives once tread. The low pass circumnavigated the highest of the hills and wound through underpopulated woodlands and forded small, rapid streams.

In following the path of his heart, a brunja came to the low pass. The first time that he negotiated it he impossibly drove an old tractor. Since that time, he had negotiated the pass several times and observed as a people with a strange brand of false righteousness settled the area. Once he came to that place during a time of much turmoil; someone seemed to be after him. "What should I do?" he asked his spirit guide.

"Pretend to hide in this old barn.You must let them capture you."

He climbed into the loft. Soon he was found and led away. He was kept in a room of an old clapboard house with others who had been rounded up. The captives had their wrists bound with leather cords but the cord kept falling off of the brunja.The guard in charge of the captives saw this when he came to lead the prisoners to the kangaroo court.

"All prisoners must be bound," the guard said almost apologetically as he replaced the binding.

The brunja smiled apologetically but the bindings soon worked their way loose again. The brunja listened in silence as one helpless person after another was unjustly accused and sentenced by the judge, a self-righteous hag, to a variety of cruel punisments. Most notably was a weeping woman who was punished by seeing her mother drowned in a portrait slowly filling with oil.

The time came, at last, to try the brunja. The charges brought against him were mostly false.

"I am chiefly guilty of defending myself," he at last uttered in his defense.

"Take the prisoner away!" the hag screeched. A young bearded man moved to obey; others brandished guns menacingly. The brunja hardly seemed to move, but the young man was laid out upon the floor with a profusely bleeding nose. Then the captors all seemed frozen in place. The brunja gestured to the prisoners and they made a hasty exit.

"My mother!" cried a weeping woman; the brunja looked at the painting that was filling with oil.

"It is but an illusion," the brunja uttered; he carefully selected a place in the wall below the painting and attacked it with his feet and fists. The flimsy plasterboard gave way into a small dark room. The woman's mother crawled out through the hole.

He collected hot coals in a steel bucket from the wood stove then left the house. Some of these he tossed upon the roof with the aid of a stick. Some he bound to stones with the leather thongs that were used to tie the captives and threw them through the windows. The rest he poured into the woodpile in front of the house. He strode back to the trail through the low pass. He came to a red barn; he heard weeping. He entered and found that a portion of the barn was partitioned into an outhouse. The door was open; a young woman was sitting inside. She glanced up in alarm, tears streaking her face.

"Are my tasks never done?" the brunja uttered, then laughed.