Second-year university student Edie Whitecrow gobbles up each course on Indigenous studies. If only she could experience the lives of her Anishinaabe ancestors instead of reading about them. On her way to a Halloween party decked out as a historical Ojibway maiden, she spies a corn maze in a spot known to be barren.
A scarecrow figure beckons Edie to enter with the enticing offer of making her biggest wish come true. She jumps at the chance and finds herself in the past, face to face with the man who haunts her dreams—the handsome brave Thunder Bear. He claims he’s spent twelve years waiting for Gitche Manidoo to send her to him.
Life in the eighteenth century isn’t what Edie romanticized about, though. When her conscience is tested, she must choose between the modern day or the world of her descendants—where the man she was born for resides.
When Grandmother Moon was full, Ojibway women honored Her through an elaborate or simple ceremony, asking the great lady who governed the water and the female cycle for guidance and new energy—what Edie had done with Koko before she’d left for the Halloween party this evening.
The luminescent orb had shone in the windshield from Edie’s home reserve to Highway Six-Twenty-One. Maybe Grandmother Moon was trying to say something, because She was a constant presence on the drive.
Edie cranked the car stereo. The music blasted through the speakers. There was something mystical, even spooky about The Cult, an older rock group Mom still listened to. Just as the moon seemed to speak to Edie, so did the music with its magical guitar and the singer’s baritone wail, the reason why she’d ripped all of the band’s CDs into digital format.
Straight and odd long curves saturated the highway leading to the Indian Reserve where the Halloween party was taking place. Right now, she was on the straight stretch. The dips in the road were as gentle as being rocked in a cradleboard, or moss bag, as Koko liked to call a tiginaaganan.
Edie’s friends had urged her to attend the party. They’d exclaimed she had to meet the most fab guy ever produced by the First Nations communities, so she’d made the jaunt from Winnipeg for the weekend.
As for her trip, it wasn’t about meeting a new guy. It was about having another chance to don what her female Ojibway ancestors once wore.
She couldn’t resist rubbing the doeskin material of the dress Koko had sewn for the occasion with matching moccasins. The fringes on the skirt were like tickling feathers brushing Edie’s calves.
Each time she drove from Manitoba into Ontario, the steep hills, massive rock cuts, and endless lakes of the northwest were welcoming open arms, as if a whistling wind breezing through the trees was bidding her hello to a special place where she belonged, instead of on the prairies where she attended university.
Plus, the drive from school was only three and a half hours from the Rainy River area where she’d grown up.
Tonight, all was still. Even quiet.
One headlight, probably from a motorcycle, appeared behind her. The weather was unusually warm for the end of October, but driving a bike at this time of the year was rather brave.
Edie adjusted her rearview mirror to block out the light, although the driver used his low beam. She also slowed to let him safely pass. Maybe he was a partygoer, making his way to the Halloween bash. Or he could’ve crossed the international bridge in Rainy River, an American coming from Baudette. Or he could be a Canadian approaching from the town of Fort Frances.
The engine of the bike didn’t possess the distinct sound of a Harley Davidson, nor did the sporting and athletic roar resemble the high squeal of the Asian-made racing machines. Whatever he drove was loud enough to cut into her music.
He was by her side. She stole a quick peek out the side window at a helmeted silhouette of black.
He also turned his head.
Déjà vu was a hidden being lurking in the backseat, its claws settling on Edie’s shoulders. For a moment, her heart stood still. The haunting dream since she was but a child unfurled through her brain—a strong hand possessing long fingers stretching to reach hers, and a man’s black, narrow eyes staring through the mist.
Edie swatted the air, shooing away the crazy thought. The guy on the motorcycle was simply passing her on the highway. But his continuous attention opened up a discomforting twitch at the back of her neck.
With a tilt of his helmet, he whizzed past her. The bike slid from the left lane and into the right. He was moving so fast that his taillight quickly vanished into the night. The man had better slow down. In the fall, deer tended to pop up out of nowhere.
Edie sank further in her seat and tapped her nail on the steering wheel. He couldn’t be a partygoer. From what she’d spied, there’d been no costume draping his masculine silhouette. Or maybe he was the man hidden in the mist, stretching his hand to hers, giving her a glimpse of his long nose, thin lips, and razor-cutting cheekbones.
Get real. If Mom snuck into your thoughts, for the bazillionth time she’d tell you to get out of your imagination and quit thinking about the old days.
She bounced her left foot in beat to the song. Maybe Mom was right. Edie’s obsession with their ancestors must stop. Fat chance of that happening, because her BA major was Indigenous Studies. Plus, what was wrong about wishing for a life amongst her relations from long ago?
The corner of her eye caught the moonlight shining down on a…corn maze.
The land to her right, as far as she knew, was barren. A simple field. She turned her head and lowered the volume on the stereo. For goodness sake, she was staring at a corn maze. How amazing. Mandaamin was sacred to her people and what they served for the fall feast held every late September.
She’d never seen an actual maze before. Farmers didn’t go out of their way to create elaborate labyrinths in the Rainy River Valley. Instead, they planted in straight rows.
She had to check this out.
Edie pulled over. Much to her delight, she didn’t have to park on the side of the road, because grass trampled into black velvet earth led down to the maze. She guided her car along the smooth surface.
How could this have happened? She squinted. Even weirder, the brown husks were dead.
A scarecrow stood sentry at the entrance.
Her phone blipped. She swiped the cell from her purse and checked the text message.