Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
Not every tribe of the first people made their way into the history books. While some of our cousins traded and warred with the white man when he arrived on our shores, some of fell back into the wilderness, far beyond the reach of his colonies. Centuries later, when the sprawl of the big cities pushed too close for comfort, we simply and quietly merged in with the rest of the population. I hear stories that there are still some of us living our native way of life deep within the forests of the northern U.S. and Canada, where the endless timber is still enough to conceal them from even the electric eyes floating in orbit.
I, however, was born to one of the tribes that came in out of the cold on its own about sixty years ago. We are called the Kowayanna (koh-I-ann-a). While my parents were born and raised in urban America, my grandparents were of the last generation to spend enough of their lives in the old ways that the traditions still stayed with them. My grandfather died before I was born, but ever since I was old enough to listen, my grandmother felt that she had a responsibility to keep our tales alive in at least one member of the new generation.
Most of my siblings and cousins did not find much value in my grandmother’s old legends, but I was different. I was my father’s only son, and he had grown up around men still skilled in the arts of tracking, hunting, and survival, and he had learned quite a bit from them. I myself never managed to pick up any of those skills, but I did acquire a deep love of the wilderness and the old ways of life while my sisters were cultivating an interest in malls and afternoon tv.
My grandmother used to sit with me for hours reciting the same tales she had heard growing up; stories about things she said even my siblings were not worthy of being told. Secret things. Ancient things. Things that stood waiting just beyond the limits of your sight when the veil of nightfall rests over your eyes.
There is a part of me that feels like I am betraying her by posting these stories online, but earlier this year she passed away at the age of ninety-three, and I know that most of her old friends from the tribe have done likewise. Soon enough every member of the Kowayanna old enough to have heard these stories in the wild will have departed from this world, and I cannot bear the thought of letting our traditions vanish with them, so I am putting them here for anyone who has the desire to learn of the hidden things beneath this country’s bright, glimmering surface.
Many Americans who are not born of the first people, even those who consider themselves tolerant and progressive, hold the idea in the back of their mind that before the white man’s arrival, this country had been a vast, empty space where no much interesting happened, and that things only started moving when gunpowder and sailboats came on the scene. This is not true. While we were certainly not building skyscrapers or billboards, the America of my ancestor’s was a land that still possessed much of the magic that the planet had when it was young. The God’s would still come down from above and talk to our great warriors. Beings lurked in the hidden caves and forests until night fell upon the land, and then they would emerge to slake their blood-lust on any person foolish enough to wander the dark and wild lands.
I know what you are probably thinking. These are quaint old folktales that have been rightly thrown out alongside witchcraft and human sacrifice, save a few times a year when they come back to life on your movie screen.
The truth is, while the old Gods have long ago departed to their sacred abodes, the beings of darkness let loose in their conflicts are not nearly as interested in returning to the place that spawned them. True, they have become more subtle, striking out only when they are sure that there is no one save the victim to witness their depraved acts, and then vanishing without a trace. Perhaps even they fear the power of modern tanks and atom bombs, or perhaps they are simply more at home in the deep forests that the American sprawl has been slowly advancing over. I cannot say why they act the way they do, I can only tell you that they are out there waiting for any lone wanderer to blindly stumble into their domain.
Think about how many grizzly murders there are where random people turn up horrifically mutilated and no sensible explanation fits. Or look at David Paulides’ work cataloging the numerous unexplained disappearances in America’s national parks. It’s certainly true that there is a great amount of evil in our human family, but how often does the madness needed to be a serial murder mate with the cleverness needed to rack up a serious body count. Typically about once a decade. Compare that to the baffling amount of inexplicably violent crimes that occur every year all over this country.
Fearsome, wicked beings still move about America, and today I will tell you about one of them. When life was first created on this planet, the Gods were careful to craft a delicate balance that allowed all beings to thrive. While death is not a pleasant reality, without it all the natural cycles written into the universe itself would fall to pieces. There would be a surge in population until competition caused the planet’s resources to dry up and misery became the law of the land. In the same way, I’m sure you would all rather have the eyes of eagles and a dog’s sense of smell, but each creature was brought into this world with senses that correspond to the tasks it needs to do, while being otherwise limited so as to stop any one being from becoming too powerful.
However, there was one God who did not follow this code of balance. Where all the other deities sought to create a land where all beings could thrive. Tettomai (teh-toe-my) wanted to possess this world for himself. He cared nothing for order or limits, and crafted beings designed with only his perverse desires in mind. His works did not die of their own accord, but used dark and twisted methods for extending their life for as long as they could continue their cruel feeding methods. Where the life forged by the true divinities draws strength from air and water that flow freely, and when they kill another being, it is only their flesh which nourishes them, Tettomai’s beings draw strength from the very essence of life itself.
One such being is called the Gala (ga-luh). One day Tettomai was wandering through the lands when the noise of a battle suddenly came to his ears. He wandered towards the sound and found himself amidst a great conflict between two tribes, and he was struck by how the screams of terror echoed through the air and then vanished into nothingness. He decided he would craft a creature that could draw nourishment from the wails and laments of humanity.
In order for his creation to better infiltrate the places where humans congregate, he gave it a shape similar to that of a man. However, the Gala does not have skin of flesh and sinew, but of the black ether in Tettomai’s heart. Those who have caught a glimpse of it from afar describe a moving shadow, and this is no mere illusion. The Gala has no love of daylight, but possesses the ability to embed itself into the darkness and move at rapid speed across any surface not touched by the sun’s rays. Hence the creature is usually encountered late at night.
Those lucky few who have survived close encounters with the beast claim that, since it is wholly dependent on its super-accurate sense of hearing, where a normal human being would have eyes, the Gala possesses only empty sockets that seem to go on eternally into the very heart of the night. The creature likewise lacks a nose or tongue, but does have a mouth with multiple rows of needle thin teeth. Given that it does not require normal nourishment, they seem to exist only for use in the creature’s delicate work. The fact that it needs to remain in the often distorted shadows meant that its master had to give it appendages with many more joints than a human’s, and those who have seen the creature move in the open describe full body contortions and strange twists that allow it to sprint through even the tightest of shadows.
As I said before, the creature can embed itself in the darkness. However it must emerge when it is time to strike, so while it seems to only prefer actually attacking after dark, those who know what to look for have seen a twisted figure lying motionless in unlit corners, waiting for true darkness to fall over the land so it can make its move.
Those who think that I am either making this up or that the Gala is just one of many ancient beasts that vanished into the abyss of history, know that it still walks these very lands, and that those who can read its signs can often spot its handiwork.
One such person was my grandmother. Back when she was young, she ran a shop selling your typical “vaguely Indian looking knick knacks” to the kind of people who claim that they aren’t religious, but are very spiritual.
Back in the late 60’s (I’m sure you can guess how much the hippies helped her sales), a young girl of maybe 17 entered the store claiming that she had felt a sense of dread all day and that she was worried about some other girl having placed a curse on her. My grandma was all set to sell her a dream catcher or some other hokey piece of garbage when all of a sudden she caught the briefest vision of an eyeless face within the girl’s shadow.
Not wanting to speak out loud and alert the Gala to her knowledge of its presence, she wrote a note explaining that the girl must confine herself to a brightly lit room after nightfall and not enter any dark, isolated areas for at least a few weeks, so that the creature would get hungry and move on. She then handed the note over with her purchase and told the girl to read it right away in order for the charms to work.
My grandmother did not find out what happened to that girl until years later, when a bunch of subway workers needed access to the old control terminal of an inactive line. They ended up finding six corpses in that room, all of them so mangled as to be unrecognizable. She wouldn’t have even made the connection if she didn’t notice the tasseled jeans and faux leather vest she had seen her wear into the store that day.
Unfortunately for that girl, and the other victims, their choice of clothing meant that the police were not exactly chomping at the bit to launch a full inquiry. The lead detective said it was a bunch of kids who had gotten ahold of some bad acid and ended up getting lost in an abandoned rail tunnel, and then panicked and turned on each other. The coroner of course backed up his claim. Now I’ve done some chemical experimentation myself, and I’ve seen my share of bad trips both firsthand and in friends, but I’ve never seen someone so out of their mind on LSD that they severed their friends jaw off its hinges or drove a railway spike into a woman’s genitals.
While I’ve never had the misfortune of encountering the Gala in person, once you know what to look for you can start to see its work if you pay attention to the news. I remember about three years ago a hiker disappeared without a trace as he made his way down the Appalachian. When he checked into a way-station the day before he vanished, people reported that he seemed agitated, always glancing back over his shoulder like he thought something was behind him. Those safety measures they got on the trail nowadays are really something, because eight hours after that lone hiker was scheduled to arrive at his next checkpoint there was already a team of dogs running down his scent.
Not that it woulda mattered, though. They could have sent out the search teams twenty minutes after he left the trail and they wouldn’t have found shit. About six months later, some scientists tagging birds about eight miles from the trail found a cave that fascinated them for whatever reason. Inside they found our old hiker friend severed from the waist down, his fingers worn to stumps from blindly tearing at the walls.
Authorities blamed that one on bears, but I’ve never heard of a bear leaving that much good meat to rot. For that matter I’ve never heard of one tying a person up with their own entrails either.
At this point you may be wondering if I have any ancient Indian secrets for fending off such a creature. Well I got good news and bad news. The good news is that the Kowayanna do tell a story of one of our own who bested the creature. The bad news is that he didn’t do it by wearing garlic around his neck. With the real evils of this world, there are never any quick fix solutions.
Teakawa (tee-a-cow-a) was an ancient war chieftain of our tribe, and one day he and his men were returning from a raid when they began to catch odd movements in the forest from the corners of their eyes. While a modern military commander sits in comfort well behind his own lines, among the Kowayanna it was understood that those who took command of a war party were expected to put themselves at greater risk than those who followed them. Because Teakawa was indeed of noble spirit, he had the rest of his men march ahead while he stayed behind to draw the creature’s attention.
Now as I said before, the thing about the Gala is, while its sense of hearing puts anything you would see on Animal Planet to shame, the rest of its senses are dead. So, when twilight fell, Teakawa began standing perfectly still.
Now the Gala is a cunning being, and it knew it had been following men for almost a day, and that the one it had been trailing did not simply disappear on the spot. He could also hear the movement of the chieftain’s heart and lungs. However, Teakawa had made sure to calm his mind and focus on producing slow, shallow breaths. This confused the Gala, but it had worked itself into a ravenous hunger in the long pursuit, and it was not about to give up because of the strange behavior of its victim.
The beast ran it’s claws deep into Teakawa’s tendons, but the war chief’s heart and breath gave no indication of being disturbed, and he made no other sound. The Gala began to circle him, tearing open his skin in expectation of the scream it so desperately craved. Teakawa, however, gave no response to the tormenting blows. He stood motionless for an hour as the creature went about its twisted work, all while being perfectly calm and silent. The Gala, thinking that it had unknowingly fallen upon a God or some other great being, fled back into the darkness.
Perhaps you don’t believe any of this. Perhaps you do. Regardless, I hope that if you find yourself walking alone late at night, and begin to see inexplicable movements in the darkness, that you’ll have the same strength of will as my great ancestor when the Gala falls upon you.
CREDIT : Snowblinded