Excerpt for HOKA HEY - Legend of Tala Whitecloud by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Adventures of Zac King


Legend of Tala Whitecloud

Gary Koz Mraz

Published by FIRE & a PRAYER PRESS

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form by any process – electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior written permission of the author.

Tales of the Midnight Writer: HOKA HEY: Legend of Tala Whitecloud - by Gary Koz Mraz

ISBN: 9781726811149 Print Editions

Editors – Christina Fior and Kevin Flores

Special thanks to Keith Ball for his inspiration, Will Barclay, the real Midnight Rider, Julianne Paolella and all the readers and riders who help the Midnight Rider survive his Graveyard Runs.

Printed by Createspace and distributed by Amazon.


Chapter 1: The Shapeshifters

A 3am church bell echoed into the blackened air. White and yellow road lines of microcrystalline reflective paint became vanishing points in the desolate darkness while other roads simply disappeared in disrepair. Signage loomed over passageways like glowing tarot cards foretelling a foreboding future. U.S. Route 91 is as dark and lonely as it gets.

I pushed a thousand-miles on my Harley toward the Roadway Inn at Pocatello, Idaho. As a veteran rider on a 22-hour beat, you know what to do and not to do. Always be prepared for inclement weather and be armed with extra gas, food and water.

Yet there’s something a seasoned rider should never do, which I did at the last gas stop. I had a few beers. The lure of a crisp, cold brew was just too enticing, not to mention the flirtatious bartender whose spicy conversation provided a much-needed distraction from my ominous ride to who-knows-where. Yeah, it took the edge off, but it was the edge I needed to survive riding the dead dark of a moonless night. It’s times like these when fear becomes your best friend, your silent savior as the cold concrete grinds ruthlessly beneath you.

Route 91 in Idaho is not exactly ‘God’s Country.’ In fact, it’s an absolute wasteland. This wasn’t my first time motorcycling all night long. I actually live for it. Yet, I couldn’t wait to get out of this God-forsaken pit of desolation. There were no cars or street lights to signal my progress, only a vague flicker of far-off farmhouses in the void. These empty early hours felt unusually eerie, and I had no choice but to press on.

My gaze fixated on the bike’s headlight tunnel piercing the darkness before me. Trapped in my own sad song; I was alone, not really heading towards anything meaningful, rather away from everything painful. I was a fugitive, running from a string of failed relationships and meaningless encounters.

My name is Zachary King…Zac will do. I’m a moto-journalist who travels the world on two wheels, writing travel features and covering motorcycle-related events. Yet, this story started with the 2017 Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

A high-profile magazine hired me to cover the demonstration. They picked me because I had covered Keystone XL protests in North Dakota in 2015. I covered the Keystone protests because I had covered the Sturgis South Dakota biker rally for years and somebody thought my background was good fit for a story. As far as I was concerned they were wrong, but in need of work, I took the job.

Barreling down Route 91, I encountered a wisp of mist that grew denser as I progressed. Backing off the throttle, I became engulfed in a brisk morning fog. My headlight exposed a spindly ghost-like figure directly in my path. I intended to blow right through it for fun, but instinctively dodged it.

Something in this smoke-like miasma looked shockingly human. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled like an angry porcupine. As I replayed the odd image in my mind, another shape-shifting apparition appeared. I slowed to see if the dew and morning incandescence were brewing another spurious concoction.

Approaching at half the speed, the eerie form revealed in detail, a markedly broken human figure. Rattled, and with my heart racing I twisted the throttle to put space between me and this specter, only to encounter three more aberrations filling the road ahead of me. I downshifted and accelerated, blowing through the twisting mist.

Cresting over a small hill, my headlamp’s beam descended onto the roadway below, illuminating dozens of these ghostly shape shifters all drifting directly toward me. As I charged through them, I saw faces -- they had eerie ancient faces! Panic set in; this midnight ride was taking me headlong into horror.

My headlight revealed a writhing mass of gangly ghosts filling the roadway as far as I could see. Locking up the rear tire, I came to a stop 40-feet away from this god-forsaken army.

Making a U-turn in sheer terror with a massive Harley-Davidson Street Glide on a dark two-lane roadway is agonizing. As the front tire edged the gravel on the opposite side, I had to duck-walk the bike backwards to complete the turn, praying every second I didn’t drop the 800 pounds of metal beneath me. Suddenly a ghostly phantasm was inches from my face.

It was withered; it looked angry and passed ethereally right through my body with an icy chill that froze my bones and temporarily paralyzed me. I hammered the throttle and got the hell away from these abominations as fast as possible. The last town I passed was some 30 miles back and once again, that’s where I was headed. Was I hallucinating? A delusional state when the mind is deprived of sleep and body fatigued, as if dreaming while awake? I’ve read about things such as sensory deprivation in isolation tanks.

Midnight-riding these byways isn’t much different. Roadways are changelings at night, becoming glowing shape-shifters of reflective signs, white lines and trance-shattering drunk bumps.

The hypnotic drone of the road and mesmerizing tunnel of light in total blackness is truly narcotic for someone like myself who has a vivid imagination. I’m a surround-sound-technicolor-3-D dreamer, yet these hallucinations were too damn real.

Oncoming headlights appeared in the distance and I was going to warn these unsuspecting travelers. Flashing my headlight off and on and switching on my emergency blinkers, I pulled over to the side of the road. A large white pickup truck with blinding off-road lights slowed to a stop and rolled down the window.

“Hey, you broke down man?” A young, good-looking farm boy, probably in his late twenties, queried.

“No, no I’m ok, but I thought I should warn you, I uhh, I saw something pretty weird down the road, right down the road. It scared me,” I replied.

“Oh yeah? I’m listening,” he quips. A very attractive girl with jet black hair and big eyes popped her head out his window, I had her attention.

“Well it, it looked like ghosts, lots of ghosts,” I stammered.

“Ha-ha, wow, you been smoking ganja, biker man? I got a beer here if you need to come down,” he chuckles and pulls out a can of beer.

“Look, it scared me, and I just thought I should say something, that’s all.”

I dropped my face shield and started my bike. Farm boy screeched off, waving goodbye with beer in hand having a good laugh.

I’ve got to admit, if I lived here and the roles were reversed, I’d probably do the same thing. I watched his tail lights ebb into the horizon.

This road became an endless ribbon to a vanishing point. The night air was crystal clear, and the sky dome was awash with stars. I turned off the bike and flipped open my visor in complete awe of this majesty, it was absolutely beautiful.

As if in a trance I watched the farm boy’s bright headlights and red taillights as they receded deep into the dark distance like another star a million miles away. Suddenly the truck’s floodlights spun like a flashlight scanning the panorama, then stopped, pointing skyward. Something happened, something bad. The farm boy must have rolled his truck. Shit man. My cell phone had no service and the town was probably half an hour away. I would have to find the police station and it would be hours before anyone got back here. I’m no damn paramedic. I hate the sight of blood. I warned them there was weird shit back there. “It’s their fault,” I rationalized. “Fuck! I can’t do that!” Hitting the ignition, I headed their way.

His floodlights were beacons in the night sky. Approaching, I heard screaming, actually it sounded more like squealing, like a stuck pig. The truck was flipped over and the girl inside the cabin was shrieking frantically. She was flailing around wildly and was surrounded by a miasma of swirling ghosts.

The farm boy was standing outside the truck with his face covered in blood, paralyzed, just staring as ghosts moved towards the girl like a magnet, enveloping her in a pulsing, hazy mass.

Racing over to the truck I tried to yank the door open. It was jammed shut, but the window glass was blown out.

“Get out of there, get the hell out!” I commanded.

Reaching inside the flipped cabin I grabbed her leg and began pulling her out of the truck. The eerie air inside felt like ice water. The moving mass of ectoplasm slowly poured out of the cabin and began surrounding her again. The lights on the truck started blinking, and then went off. Thank God my motorcycle headlight still brightened the blackness.

The girl was panic-stricken and writhing wildly. I knelt over her, holding her head in my hands, looking directly into her eyes and calmly said, “Quiet, its ok. Let’s go, just do exactly as say and we’ll be safe. Do you understand?” She went limp and calmly nodded yes.

“Farm boy, Farm boy, let’s go!” I shouted, waving at him. He wiped the blood out of his eyes, shook off his stupor and sprinted over.

My plan was to get the girl seated in front of me and big Farm Boy on the back seat. As long as nobody panicked, the three of us would get to town. Ignoring the fact that a freezing mass of ectoplasm was surrounding us, I placed her feet on the highway pegs and she curled up over the gas tank. I hopped on and suddenly my headlights went out. The bike was dead, no starter, nothing.

“Farm boy, you push the bike god-damnit and I’ll pop the clutch …but we will need some speed!” I yelled. Farm Boy mustered his Superman-strength and the big Harley began charging. Second gear, I popped the clutch and Street Glide roared to life. Farm Boy jumped on and we were off, heading towards town. The girl was lying over the gas tank with arms folded, tucked in behind the windscreen.

Farm boy was hurt pretty badly…several deep gashes on his head. He was sitting face-down, both hands holding back the blood. What a mess; this whole thing was a big fuckin’ mess.

Chapter 2: A Good Day to Die

Putting distance between us and the shape shifters, I could breathe easy. The cool night air reminded me that the sooner I left this god-forsaken place the better. Rolling into town, Farm Boy tapped my shoulder and pointed left at the light. The desolate streets of this tiny town were haunting. He, again pointed left and sure enough, the local hospital became a welcome site. I pulled the motorcycle so close to the entrance the automatic sensors opened the large sliding glass doors. Helping Farm Boy into the empty hospital lobby I yelled out for a nurse, a doctor, anyone. An old blue-haired lady popped her head out a small window.

“Well lordy,” she blurted “let’s get yawl to the doctor.” She grabbed a phone and immediately a wide-eyed young attendant with a wheelchair whipped around the corner and we got Farm Boy seated.

“Are you ok sir?” he asked me.

“Yes, I’m fine, just help him.” The attendant disappeared down a hallway.

Blue hair turned to me “Was there anyone else involved?”.

“Yes…the girl!”

She was clinging forcefully to the warm motorcycle. Skin tight jeans revealed long, strong legs and her boots locked perfectly onto my highway pegs. Her thick black hair spilled out over the gas tank like a bowl of spaghetti dumped on a kitchen table.

I dashed out and put my hand on her back.

“Miss, miss, we’re at the hospital, we’re safe.” She didn’t move. Gently placing my hand on her back, whispered “Lady, we are safe now.” She clutched the motorcycle with a death grip.

Prying her arms from the gas tank she wrapped them around my neck, dropped her head onto my shoulder and curled into my arms as I slowly lifted her off the motorcycle. Carrying her into the hospital I noticed she was surprisingly light, but her body felt like hard rubber, dense, like an athlete.

“Lady, we’re at a hospital, are you ok?” I queried.

Raising her head, she slowly opened her eyes, peering directly into mine. Only inches away, I was transfixed by her bewitching emerald green eyes. “Yeah, I think I am,” she moaned. I stood staring, hypnotized by one of the most alluring women I had ever seen.

“You can put me down now.”

“Yes, of course.” I complied. Laying her onto the couch, she sat up and shook off the state of shock. A young doctor approached.

“Ok let’s see what we have here…do you have any cuts or broken bones?”

She shook her head no.

“Let’s check you out. Follow me. Your friend is badly bruised and needs a few stitches but will be just fine,” the doctor stated as he escorted her down a corridor.

As I paced the lobby aimlessly; old Blue Hair was staring. Noticing the blood on my hands, she pointed to a bathroom where I could get cleaned up.

I headed to the men’s room; my God, I looked awful. I was beat,

I needed to rest and just close my eyes for a minute. I staggered to the empty lobby, laid down on the couch and fell dead asleep.

“Sir, sir, I need to speak with you, sir. Wake up…”

As I opened my eyes, a sheriff in a big, brown-brimmed hat was staring down on me. He was older, around sixty-ish. His tough, leathered skin bespoke a weathered life.

“I’m sheriff Davis, have you been injured?”

I shook my head no.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

I recounted my experience of finding the overturned truck and bringing both back to the hospital.

“You know you could have caused more damage by moving them, especially transporting the victims on a motorcycle. I appreciate you trying to assist but you should’ve come to town for an ambulance.” The sheriff sternly stated.

“Yeah, look I wasn’t thinking straight, they needed help.”

“Yes, well I want to hear their side of the story, follow me.”

We walked through a corridor and entered a hospital room. Farm Boy was on a bed and the girl was resting in a chair next to him.

The sheriff recognized both of them: Billy Wilder, a local bartender at his family-owned bowling alley; and Jessica James, the local community’s grade-school teacher.

“Are you ok, Jessica?”

She nodded yes.

“Alright Billy, what happened? The doctor said you smelled like alcohol. What were you doing out on Route 91 so late?”

Still stunned by the head wound, he replied groggily “We had a few beers. We were just driving, ya know, just driving.”

“Tell him Billy, tell him!” Jessica snapped.

“Tell me what?” the sheriff responded quizzically.

“Well we, we saw a ghost, Billy responded, actually lots of ghosts; I know it sounds crazy.”

“Rrrright.” The sheriff was not buying it. “You’ve been drinking and wrecked your truck, don’t give me a bullshit story, Billy.”

“You tell him!” Jessica shouted and pointed at me.

“And just who are you?” the sheriff asked.

“My name is Zachary, Zac King, I was trying to make Pocatello for the night and yes, I saw something strange, it scared me. I turned around and started heading back here.”

“He warned us!” Jessica howled. “But we kept going, and then we saw them.”

“And I suppose the ghosts flipped your truck right, Billy?”

“No, I did that,” Jessica moaned. “I panicked, and I grabbed the steering wheel while we were moving…that’s my fault.”

“Ok, ok fine. I don’t really care. You’re both safe and I got a damaged vehicle sitting out on the highway.”

The sheriff grabbed his radio, “Eddie; we got a white Ford pickup truck flipped over somewhere on 91 North about 30 miles out. We need to send a tow truck.”

“Read that, sheriff,” the radio crackled. “I’ll call Walker’s Tow, and sheriff, we’re getting a few calls about power outages in that direction. Old Man Carter says his whole farm is out and he’s got to milk the cows.”

“We’ll call Walkers Tow and then call over to the power station in Shiloh. That’s outside my jurisdiction. I can’t help Carter with that. Get on with it! Over and out.”

“Sheriff, where is Old Man Carters from here?” I asked.

“About 10 miles north, on route 91.” He replied.

Jessica stared anxiously over at me; I could see the panic in her eyes. When the lights went out on the truck, I lost power on my bike when we were in the thick of the shape shifters. They were heading our way.

“Alright, everybody stay-put. I’ll be back, and we’ll get this sorted out.” He asserted as he left the room.

Jessica stood up and began pacing nervously.

“They’re coming here.” She uttered. “You know as well as I do that those things are coming right here, they’re coming for me.”

“We don’t really know that.” I replied. She stormed over staring me down.

“Look, Mr. Zachary King, let’s not bullshit here, you know those hideous spirit-things are moving this direction and you saw as clear as day, they’re after me.”

“This is not what I expected to happen, not tonight,” Billy suddenly blurted. He seemed disoriented.

Jessica sat next to him on the bed. “I know Billy, I know.” Holding his hand warmly. “You just take it easy. You have always been so good to me, I know I’ve been difficult sometimes and I’m sorry.” She kissed him on the cheek. He closed his eyes and sank back into unconsciousness.

The sheriff was talking on his hand-held radio as he entered the hospital room. Blue Haired Lady is with him, watching the events unfold.

“Looks like we’ve got bigger problems right now, I’m losing power and phone service across the county,” he confirmed.

The hospitals power suddenly shut down.

“Goddamnit, just what I needed.” The sheriff snarled. Seconds later the power was restored. “Alright then, they’ve got it back on already.”

Old Blue Hair chimed in: “Actually, it’s still out, we have emergency gas generators in the basement that automatically kick in; you know, for life support and critical hospital functions.”

As the sheriff headed outside the hospital to take a look; Jessica and I followed. It was pitch black. I could hardly see my hand in front of me. The entire town was dark. He pulled out a bright LED flashlight and panned the surrounding perimeter.

“What’s that!?” Jessica cried.

The sheriff pointed the flashlight down Main Street. One could see three blocks away with his powerful flashlight. There was a dense fog filled thin wisps moving like slithering snakes.

“Oh God, they’re coming!” screamed Jessica.

“Jessica, it’s a morning fog. Girl, you’ve been watching too many horror movies,” the sheriff snapped.

“I don’t think so.” She grabbed me tightly as if falling off a cliff. Holding her close, I tried to console her. “I will stay here and protect you no matter what, I promise you.” I comforted.

“What the hell is that?” The sheriff blurted as his flashlight penetrated deep into the murky fog. A shadowy figure emerged from the mist. It was bent over, shuffling and clutching its side.

“That’s a person,” cried Jessica. It shuffled towards the flashlight when suddenly the sheriff recognized him. “Benjamin Teller is that you?”

No response, he keeps coming. The sheriff ran towards the man and he fell into the sheriff’s arms.

“It’s Ben Teller. He’s hurt, let’s get him into the hospital!”

We dragged him into a hospital room. “What happened Ben, can you tell me what happened?” The doctor questioned.

“I’ve been stabbed,” he cussed “with a huge knife, right here in my side.”

The doctor opened his shirt and checked for wounds but saw no visible punctures or cuts anywhere. “Where?” he queried.

Benjamin angrily pointed to an area completely unscathed.

Radio calls were coming in for Sheriff Davis from the town deputies. Injuries, other stabbings and even axe wounds were being reported in record numbers.

Power outages ensued, and vehicles wouldn’t start as the heavy fog blanketed the town.

Jessica and I found Old Blue Hair sitting in the hospital lobby, staring out the large glass window, chain-smoking cigarettes.

“You have no clue where you are, do you son?” she cautioned.

“I’m in an Idaho hospital in some crazy ghost town.”

Blue Hair stared distantly out the large window. “You’re in Preston, Idaho, the place where 500 Native Americans were massacred, men women and children, butchered by the 2nd California Calvary Volunteer Regiment in 1863. They were buried in a massive grave right outside of town, where the baseball field is, well, you know the place Jessica.” She said as she turned to her. “Some of us here in Preston have been plagued by the Bear River Massacre all our lives because our relatives were involved.”

“I actually do know something about this,” I affirmed. “I am writing a story on Standing Rock and this came up in my research.”

“My great grandfather was Colonel Patrick E. Connor, the commander who ordered the killings,” she continued. “I too have lived with great guilt. I’ve stayed in Preston my entire life working at this hospital to reconcile. I can feel the anguish of those women and children, their shrieks of horror haunt my dreams. I always knew there would be a day of reckoning for all those involved. The injured people calling and coming in, I know them all, they’re all relatives of the perpetrators of the massacre.”

We listened silently.

“I also know about you.” She turned to Jessica. “You are the great, great granddaughter of the Shoshone Chief murdered that day. He hid his wife, so she could escape the massacre. She was pregnant with your grandmother. She died in labor when your grandmother was born. There were many who were horrified by what happened here and vowed to protect the survivors at all cost. They cared for your grandmother here in Preston. I met her when I was a child, but the Indian Affairs agents took her away, put her on a reservation and that’s where she had your mother. Your mother was never normal, even as child, the doctors diagnosed her as a schizophrenic.”

“I’ve has so many strange dreams about this,” Jessica admits.

“Her name was Dakota, we brought your mother back here to Preston as we had far better medial facilities. We cared for her here. We raised her, and she lived at the old Preston Hotel for years. She died ten years ago. I am so sorry to be telling you this right now, Jessica, but I feel there’s not much time.”

“Then who is my father?” Jessica questioned.

“A man came to Preston, a very intense, handsome Native American man with thick long black hair.” She replied. “He stayed at the Preston Hotel and met your mother. He signed the hotel registry as Kangee Whitecloud. They would talk and play cards endlessly. Dakota was very beautiful, Jessica, you look just like her.”

“It seemed she was getting better; she was happy, until the accident. Kangee and your mother were sitting on the front porch when Henderson’s Propane Distribution exploded across the street.” She explained.

It was horrific, metal shards shredded everything like a machine gun. I was there, 13 people died that day. Kangee was like a human shield. Your mother didn’t have a scratch, but Kangee died in her arms. She soon went into a dark place. We had to move her to a retirement home for care.”

“Kangee is a Sioux name for Raven, I just taught that in class,” Jessica replied.

Blue Hair continued. “A few weeks later we found out she was pregnant with you. We decided to put you up for adoption and found the lovely couple in Boston you now call your parents. We kept in touch to make sure you were all right. And to protect you, we all made sure you knew nothing of your history. But the day you walked into Preston interviewing as a middle school teacher at the Native American reservation, my God, I knew…we all knew, you must have some unresolved destiny here in Preston. How is it possible that you would come to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere without any knowledge of this?”

“As a teacher I just wanted to help, to help Native American children in need, I just wanted to help.” Jessica broke down in tears.

Blue Hair put her arms around Jessica. “I think you have a great destiny, Jessica. You will greatly help the tribes and the children. I wish I could help protect you now my child, but my time is over. Jessica, your real name is Tala Whitecloud, your mother named you Tala at birth.”

Suddenly a woman charged into the lobby clutching her head, screaming she had been scalped but there were no visible injuries.

The sheriff burst into the lobby from the fog outside as the shape-shifters begin penetrating the walls and windows of the hospital lobby. He forcefully discharged his bullets into the ghostly figures, but how can you kill something that’s already dead?

Blue Hair was completely calm as the shape-shifters changed and fully formed around her. I could clearly see they were Native American. One approached Blue Hair and pulled out a bow and arrow, pointed it directly at her heart and released. The arrow disappeared into her body in a puff of mist with no puncture wound or blood. She gasped, clutching her chest and dropped dead to the floor. Having fulfilled her purpose, she knew, she knew all along, it was a good day to die.

Chapter 3: Sacred Grounds Unearthed

The shape-shifters swiftly converged over Jessica in the hospital lobby. A coalescing mass thickened around her. The entire room was freezing cold. I could see my breath as the interior glass began to frost over. Moving through the apparitions freely, they paid no attention to me whatsoever, I grabbed Jessica’s hand. “What should we do, Jessica?” I urged.

“We need to go to the baseball field, to the burial grounds.” She said with conviction.

I grabbed the sheriff crouching in a corner, and we charged out front. Jessica on the back, I hopped on my bike while the sheriff pushed the bike down an embankment. Popping the clutch, the bike roared to life and we headed out to the sacred burial grounds. The mist followed. Jessica wrapped her arms around my torso and laid her head on my back. Holding tightly, pressing her body close, she was palpably scared. Whatever the outcome, she was clutching to life, to the warmth of human touch. Jessica pointed the way as we rumbled through Preston’s mortal streets.

While parked at the edge of the field, she pulled me close and looked deeply into my eyes. “I guess this is it. You’re not going to leave me no matter what, right?”

“That’s right, Jessica, I promise.” I assured her.

“Then follow me.” Leading me over to the center of a large open field, she became oddly uninhibited, and with wild abandon she tossed off her leather jacket while kicking off her boots and socks. Standing silently, barefoot in the cold dew and darkness, she held her hands high, grasping upward toward the star-soaked sky.

She began howling a strange eerie chant as if possessed. Quietly, at first, then louder and louder until it terrified me.

Ghostly apparitions slowly began to rise from the ground below. I clearly saw them forming human shapes, circling around Jessica. They seemed to be dancing a pulsing type of rhythm as the mists began to fill the open field. A translucent tunnel of light surrounded her and rose skyward. I watched as the mists inside the vortex swirled fiercely as Jessica’s hair blew about wildly. Yet, from my perspective standing outside the hurling light, it was dead quiet.

Inside, Jessica was engulfed in howling winds as if a vacuum was slowly sucking the apparitions skyward. Suddenly, invisible knives slashed away at Jessica like bear claws as her clothing was ripped to shreds. Nothing but a pile of tattered rags lay at her feet, yet her body was completely unscathed. Black and white markings began to appear on her back as if someone/something was painting her naked body. The markings appeared on her breasts, stomach and legs, and finally, a dark broad stroke on her face. The apparitions spun wildly around in a violent tornado and her shredded clothing burst into flames. She was standing inside a blazing circle of fire and ferocious wind. A cacophony enveloped her as drums, Native American chants and howling winds screamed in her ears.

Where I stood, not even a rustle of leaves disturbed the stillness. The ghostly Native American images suddenly became three-dimensional translucent apparitions. I clearly saw the markings on their skin and the clothing they wore. The tornado of fire and wind inside the violent vortex intensified. The raw intensity of this mystic ritual was terrifying. Was she to be sacrificed?

A mist suddenly appeared as the tribal fervor extended toward me. I swiftly became encircled by a vigorous ghost-dance. I heard shouts of the Native American battle cry, “Hoka Hey! Hoka Hey!” This was a common war chant that inspired young Indian warriors into battle. Translated is means: “It’s a good day to die!”

I was transported to another time and place when suddenly, I found myself someone else’s body. With a Winchester rifle in my hands, I stood there, witnessing complete mayhem. The smell of burning villages, burning flesh with sounds of wailing, screams and gunfire seared my senses.

At my feet was a young Native American mother, clutching her screaming child. She was looking directly at me, pleading desperately. I aimed the rifle at her head and pulled the trigger.

Flashing back to the present, I fell to the ground, shaking and vomiting in complete terror by a vision that pierced my soul. Jessica laid her hands on my shoulders and in an instant, the fire and dense fog of ghosts were gone.

“Zac, you are not just a bystander in all this, you too have a history here. You just relived the actions of the relatives on your mother’s side who were here. They were in the 2nd California Calvary Volunteer Regiment and took part in the Bear Creek Massacre. Though far removed from the horrific event, your spirit too was disturbed, and you can’t find peace. You keep moving, running away from an unknown, unsettled history because you are a sensitive, spiritual soul, tormented by this atrocity. Because you have chosen to support me through this experience with a pure heart, you are now free. The spirits have set you free.” Jessica divulged.

The first beam of morning sunlight split the obsidian sky as the morning mist evaporated. I grabbed a multi-colored Mexican blanket from the bike and covered Jessica. We sat silently.

In a post-traumatic trance, I uttered, “What now Jessica?”

“I don’t think I can be Jessica any longer Zac,” she replied. “I am Tala...Tala Whitecloud. I was drawn to Preston for a reason and that mission is now crystal clear. I am supposed to visit each and every Native American tribe in North America.”

Tala told me that during the initiation she had just experienced, she was imparted secret knowledge by her ancestors. She learned about her Native American heritage, both past and present, along with insight into the future of indigenous peoples in North America. Something of great importance was going to happen which would forever change their role in modern times. And Tala was their messenger.

I inquired, “What about Billy, what about your teaching here in Preston?”

“Billy was going to ask me to marry him tonight, I’m sure of it. I didn’t really know what I was going to say, but none of that matters. I have been stripped of my past life and starting right now, I’m traveling an entirely new path. That path includes you Zac, I was shown that. It’s why you came to Preston, our paths have merged and we have work to do. I will teach you, and together we will teach other. These spirits will set many suffering souls free, just like they did for you. We must have no fear; only hope, only truth. We must both keep moving, only this time, on an important mission.”

The morning sun caressed the earth as the caw of a lone raven echoed through the empty field. The cool, damp morning dew was baptismal. I grabbed some clothing from the bike, a pair of my jeans and a T-shirt for Tala.

She dressed, put on her boots and leather jacket. We laughed as the motorcycle’s rear-view mirrors reflected her painted face that only we could see.

Mounting the bike, Tala wanted only to move forward, leaving her past life as Jessica James behind in Preston. We set off for Pocatello for food, gas, and a place to sleep and while restocking for the long journey ahead.

Indian nations, that was our destination: Native American tribal lands throughout America. I didn’t know what lied ahead, but I felt somehow cleansed, lifted of my burdens, filled with a sense of purpose and direction. To what end? Where would this journey take a beautiful, young, Native American woman and scruffy, blond 40-year-old moto-journalist? I don’t know. What I do know is that this was the most incredible day of my life.

A local newscast broke: “There was a county-wide blackout in Preston last night, interrupting power and phone services. A vehicle accident was reported on route 91. A few minor injuries were treated at Preston Hospital. We are sad to report the passing of Audrey Mae Collins, Admissions Manager at Preston Hospital of over 50 years. It’s been determined she died naturally of heart failure.

National news reported: The U.S Government stated that Keystone XL will continue construction with the final 1,179 miles of pipeline. Locally, the U.S Government has rescinded the Native American land grant in Custer County and will begin oil drilling after relocating the tribes.”

Chapter 4: The Conjuring

Pocatello is home to the college town of Idaho State. At the time, 30% of its population were college students. When we arrived, we checked into the Best Western Pocatello Inn, got cleaned up and picked up some basics for Tala. Motorcycle riding strips everything you own down to a saddlebag’s worth of stuff. We headed out for a good dinner at Portneuf Valley Brewing, a lively place filled with college students. It was as if we’d known each other forever, finishing each other’s sentences. We talked for hours on end albeit the annoying interruptions by good looking college boys asking for her phone number. Tala was magnetic.

“I remember watching the movie Koyaanisqatsi,” I explained. “The Hopi word for life out of balance. It made me think about modern American values and how different life must have been for Native Americans. Then I read The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda about the Yaqui Indians and was enthralled. I realized I had no point of reference of Native American culture.”

“Interesting.” Tala responded. “Native Americans weren’t remotely alluded to in ‘Koyaanisquatsi,’ and the books written by Carlos Castaneda are complete fiction, completely made up; there was no Don Juan or any of the magical events he portrayed in his books. He wrote them to get his bachelors and doctorate degrees at UCLA. Sounds to me like you still have no point of reference about Hopi or Yaqui Indians.”

“No shit! I exclaimed “I wonder just how many other tall tales I’ve fallen for.”

“I am a Shoshone Native American, Tala stated reverently. “We view the earth and the world as a living organism, the organism that birthed us as humans, animals and all life everywhere in the universe.”

Completely opposite of Western philosophy.” I added. “Modern Americans seem to believe that the earth and its governing forces are meant to be harnessed according to our personal agendas for our sole benefit, as if we are masters of the universe.”

“Sadly, yes.” Tala responds. “Material success is so glorified as an end goal that any means of accumulating wealth, even at other’s expense, is not only acceptable, its venerated. Completely contrary to the Native American concept of happiness.”

“A life out of balance,” I agreed. “In every possible way; from the food we eat and the drugs we’re prescribed; to the relentless barrage of meaningless electronic media we’re force-fed. I’m dying to learn more about American Indian philosophy and spirituality.”

Tala smiles. “Then it’s a good day to die.”

We quaffed a few beers, discussed life, love and laughed like children. We were caught in that place where the world around us disappeared and time was virtually suspended. Albert Einstein’s analogy for the “Theory of Relativity” aptly described this space-time suspension relative to the world around us: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.” Einstein.

“Our destinies are entwined…Kismet” Tala called it, and then, it was “last call.’

Once we settled back at the hotel Tala jumped in the shower.

She then entered the room, wearing nothing more than a towel. We had booked the only remaining hotel room which had just one king bed. I felt all shades of lucky.

“Zac,” she said demurely. “If we’re going to travel together I need to be completely truthful. I greatly care about you…we’ve become soulfully and spiritually connected through these experiences. We need keep it that way. I’m asking you to be good with that.”

I was staring at the finest example of the female form I’ve ever seen, who was also 14 years my junior. “No problem Tala, I’m good with that.” I said disingenuously.

“Great. We have important work to do together.” She breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ll pick up some pajamas tomorrow.”

I’ve learned more often than not, relationships become complex very fast, often a liability rather than an asset. No question, Tala’s hot; she’s a ‘witch of trouble.’ I told myself, “I can handle this,” but truth was, I was toast. I was good as gone.

Waking at the break of dawn, Tala had a spirit vision which prompted us to travel to Boise, Idaho. Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), were staging a protest at the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), and Native American elders were expected to be present.

“I had a vision also, I told her. “A very vivid dream about you…and it’s a little disturbing.”

“Really? Do tell.” She smiled curiously.

“You were standing in front of a step pyramid; South America perhaps. It was a full moon and the surroundings glowed incandescently.

You were dressed like a queen or princess, wearing a black and white feather headdress, with a colorful flowing robe. Your face and hands were covered with ancient symbols…and there was a man. He had long black hair, a similar long-flowing robe, very kingly. You two looked related.”

“I like this dream.” she envisioned. “Tell me more.”

“I watched as you both ascended the pyramid, but as you climbed the man changed. Slowly he transformed into a black raven. His long robe transformed into huge shiny black wings.

When you both reached the top, he became a normal sized bird sitting in your outstretched hands. Suddenly, the raven screeched, attacked you and scratched out your eyes. That’s when I woke up. My heart was pounding; it was a very vivid dream.”

Tala was silent and turned to gaze out the window. “I have been followed by that raven all my life. I’ve seen him twice since we’ve been together. I’ll be walking down a street, in a city, in the countryside and he will appear. Perched in a tree, on a building ledge, just sitting, watching. I have sat and talked to this bird for hours, and he just watches. I don’t know what your dream means but we need to watch out for each other.” She gave me a hug and we left for Boise, Idaho.

The drone of motorcycling often takes me deep into my inner world, triggering personal insights that are equally prophetic to my dreams. I call this “Helmet Time.” It’s my personal connection to the present moment--a clarity of mind where thoughts are released from the boundaries of conformity as my physical body fights for its life against the forces of nature. The wind hurts, the pipes are loud, the exhaust fumes are noxious, and the seat is uncomfortable.

Bugs and pebbles hit me in the face, and behind each oncoming SUV driver with cellphone in hand lurks the threat of death or injury. That very struggle forces my psyche into an altered state of consciousness. Within Helmet Time’s sphere of present awareness, the connectiveness between all things becomes evident. It’s clear that one choice could impact an entire new chain of like-responses.

Our genetic code, for instance, is simply a record-keeper of our past, present and future, which holds the blueprint from which our destiny unfolds. We’re all part of this synchronized galactic information highway. Who and what synchronizes at precisely the right place and time? Perhaps it’s a matter of choices.

I can tell you, without question, that having met Tala at that moment in time was beyond coincidental. The spirit-magic and synchronicity factors at play were astounding. The universe was laboring to birth an extraordinary inevitability.  

It seemed that the Idaho Department of Land Management had been auctioning off oil and gas leases of state rivers, lands and mineral rights to various drilling companies. Outside the IDL’s main office in Boise, we mingled with participants wielding protest signs in the spirit of solidarity. Communities were devastated by the over-mining of fossil fuels. There were also dozens of Native Americans here because the subject that wasn’t being addressed was the selling of sacred Indian land.

Tala introduced herself to the various Native American tribes that were present. In conversation, she was instructed to visit the Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Headquarters in Owyhee County, and was guided to a small house not far away. An elderly man greeted Tala at the door, spoke with her briefly, then hugged her.

He was crying as if his heart was broken. We entered a sparsely furnished house with an open interior design; one great room. There was a thick smell of sage as shadows danced amidst the candlelight.

It turned out he was the Indian Chief of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe. He and Tala spoke in a strange language they both recognized. Their conversation ensued for some time when suddenly, he bolted up and left the building.

“What’s going on, Tala?” I queried.

“The Shoshone are horrified. Exxon is doing exploratory work, looking for fracking sites and are setting up directly on one of the Shoshone’s most sacred burial grounds right now. They are going to start digging soon.”

“You speak their language?”

“Two days ago, I could hardly speak the French I learned in college, but during my initiation at the Native American burial site, I was given the ability to speak and understand many American-Indian languages and dialects. It’s one way I will be able to bridge the tribal barriers.”

The Chief returned with a dozen other members of the tribe. They pulled out a large table and some chairs; everyone sat down. Tala suggested I have a seat in the corner. When the meeting broke up, we were directed to our lodging for the night and unpacked.

“So, what now?” I asked.

“Well, we're talking Exxon here, a trillion-dollar corporation buying public lands, including sacred Shoshone burial grounds. Zac, you’re from California, do you know how many million-dollar homes are being built directly on Native American burial grounds there? It happens all the time. This time it’s different. This time it’s not going to happen.”

Observing her conversations, it’s become clear that Tala was appointed to be the voice of some new Indian Nation…but Tala vs Exxon? That was a no-win proposition. But hey, I was along for the story and so far, it was damn good one.

The next day Tala once again met with the tribal council. We then headed on my bike toward White Bird, 187 miles north on the I-95. Motorcycling the high deserts of Idaho offered spectacular views. Majestic mountains transformed into supple savannahs, green rolling hills and grasslands. We followed the Bear River to the Nez Perce National Forest.

A remote hard-packed dirt road took us deep into the heart of the staging ground for a new Exxon fracking exploratory site.

Riding into the encampment, Tala directed me to ride past the guard gate and around the barriers into the campsite center. We rumbled dead into the middle of some thirty odd oil workers, unloading trucks as security approached us.

“Hey Buddy,” a workman shouted. You’re not allowed here. Get that thing outta here, now!” Several other burly workers hurried toward our bike. Tala dismounted and squared off.

Tala asserted, “No, it’s you who are not allowed to be here. This is Native American land; this is sacred ground and you need to leave!”

The grizzly oil workers scoffed. “Look sweetheart, we’re going to say this once and then we’ll cart you and your pal out of here.

Oh, and I’ll be hanging onto your motorcycle, right boys?” Another round of laughter.

I was sweatin’ bullets…gonzo journalism was not my forte. I didn’t see how this could end well. I started nervously maneuvering the bike to make a speedy getaway.

“Look sis, we’re not playing games here. We’ve got one day to set up camp, so we’re going to walk you out of here real nice-like and you can take it up with the home office.”

Two of the security guards approached Tala and grabbed her arms and she went completely limp and began singing that eerie wailing song she sang at the field in Preston. Lifting her off the ground, the guards headed towards the main road. Slowly pushing my bike, I nervously followed along when suddenly, an icy chill blew through and I could see mist forming at the edges of the tree lines.

Small wisps of mist began rising from the ground below. Oh shit, here we go again. This time each ghostly apparition directly inhabited the group of the surrounding workers. I saw the guards stop cold. They dropped Tala. They literally froze in their tracks, clenched their fists while involuntarily shaking, then dropped to the ground on their knees. I know what it felt like; to be physically petrified as your bones became ice.

Tala stood up, raised her arms and sang to the sky. She walked over to one the workers, knelt down and laid her hand on him.

“This is sacred burial land.” She proclaimed. “It is not yours to defile. Sacred land carries a powerful purpose, and it comes with a powerful curse if violated. One that is inherited by future generations.”

Tala went to each and every man casting the same spell. She walked into the office trailer and repeated the spell on all trembling personnel in the camp.

“Let’s go Zac, our work is done, for today.”

“What just happened?” I implored.

“Zac, I can’t stop Exxon from exploratory digging and drilling. They just need to stop exploring here, and that they will. Just ride north and find a town for us to stay in for the night.”

It was another 150-mile ride to Lewiston, located on the Washington/Idaho border where we stopped for the night. The next morning Tala made contact with elders at the Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Headquarters. She was ironically informed that the exploratory site was abandoned because of ‘geological anomalies,’ so they moved the workers 30 miles east, out of the Shoshone burial grounds.

“So, this is how it’s gonna go Tala? I chimed in. “I travel around with you and your army of ghosts, so you can freeze people into submission?”

“That’s how it will go when I need it to, Zac. This is not a mission of goodwill or reaching out for pity or sympathy. This is a mission empowered to evoke change. How many American Native American senators, congressmen or politicians can you name? How many Native American CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, newscasters or actors for that matter? Probably none, because there are no senators and there has only been one congressman. Yet the collective geographical area of all Native American reservations represents 2.3% of the area of the entire United States and the total value of these resources are $1.5 trillion.

Another 50 billion is generated annually in national Native American gaming revenues, land and oil leases. There is a reason the Indian nations are kept silent and a reason the government has intentionally split tribal communities.

I lean in…she’s got my attention.

“Now, a hundred years later, who do you think wants access to this land and will stop at nothing to get it? The problem is that that we, as a tribal nation of American Indians, have no socially or politically unifying voice.

Imagine the collective power these tribes could wield if someone represented all tribes. I have been appointed to bring together the entire North American Indian nation to speak with one voice.”

“Ok, I get the point, but how is any of that going change? I challenged. “I guarantee you that Keystone XL, the Dakota Access Pipeline and any other project that Big Oil and the U.S government want to build on Native American land will be completed.”

Tala continued. “The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by President Nixon. It was a fifty-year lease that dissolved Native claims to aboriginal lands which included the Port of Valdez, arguably the most valuable land in America. That lease is about to expire.

Alaska is the critical cornerstone to the Native American renaissance. Imagine the forces that are at play to insure the Indian Nation renew the Port of Valdez lease to the government, and the impact on hundreds of billions of dollars of oil and gas revenue if we don’t. But that’s only a small part of the story.

There is a yet undiscovered new energy source on planet earth that lies beneath that oil. Methane hydrate – “Fire Ice,” it’s called. Scientists don’t yet know that methane hydrate, is an abundant pure energy source; that offers an infinite supply of clean renewable energy.”

“How do you know all of this?” I queried.

“I saw these things in the spirit visions. She revealed. One more thing, right near the world’s largest methane hydrate deposit is the largest vein of gold ore ever found on planet earth, worth trillions.”

I am speechless.

“And Zac, you better get our bike primed to ride to Alaska, because we’ll need to leave in a week. I will be visiting 30 tribes in the Northwest Territories on our way to Prudhoe Bay.”

Chapter 5: The Alcan Highway

Prepping my Harley Street Glide for weeks of rough travel through Canada to Alaska is no simple task. We rode north to the Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson Dealership in Spokane, Washington, where Tala pulled out an American Express Black Card and said to get whatever was needed for the trip. Did the spirits also anoint her with a no-limit credit line? Who am I to ask?! She then booked us for a week in a fully decked-out hotel suite that resembled an apartment, with a huge bedroom, living room office and kitchen.

Well, I had to ask, “Don’t you think this is a bit much Tala? You don’t need to spend this kind of money.”

She asserted, “We need a break and you need to start writing, Zac. You’ve got a great workspace here, a desk and internet. We’ve got a kitchen, washer/dryer and I can lie in bed and watch TV without bothering you. We have a long ride ahead and we both have a lot to do.”

Irrefutable logic. I set up command-central in the living room with my Mac Book Air, camera, battery chargers and Go-Pro Video cameras, and settled in for some serious writing time.

We slept together like lovers, wrapped up in each other’s arms and more often than not, it was hard, (pun intended), to not make sexual advances in the middle of the night. Tala needed security and I helped provide that shelter.

We became very comfortable in this platonic embrace. She eventually stopped wearing her ridiculous Disney Minnie Mouse pajamas to fend me off as we enjoyed the simple pleasure and healing touch of warm skin.

I began experiencing a love I had never known before; of feeling more like her protector…not in a fatherly sort of way, but more as her superhero sidekick.

My Street Glide was decked out with a new set of tires, brakes, new rear shocks, a carburetor rebuild, new battery and tune-up as well as a swanky new seat. Not just any seat, a tour-pack with heated seats, padded headrest, arm rests and a coffee cup holder back there. Harley was ready to roll.

Tala purchased new modular helmets with Bluetooth communication, so we could talk to each other while riding… I preferred solitude on the road but the fact that she could listen to her own music was very appealing. She bought a Harley Davidson leather jacket with protective back, shoulder and elbow armor; leather riding pants with hip and knee armor; gloves and boots. Tala looked like a walking Harley billboard from her socks to her bra. She offered to buy me some gear and I took her up on a warmer jacket with better protection. We both got heated vests and new luggage. I don’t know what the bill was, but I do know it was way above my pay grade. Yes, it was hard not to ask.

The weather was forgiving, the route was all GPS’ed, gas stops were planned, and overnights were arranged. I was looking forward to this ride. I've travelled the world on motorcycles and I had yet to ride to Alaska. The chance to travel on a newly serviced bike with an amazing woman, all the right gear at the perfect time of year…was motorcycling nirvana.

We left early morning and our first overnight stop was Prince George, Canada; 679 miles and fourteen-hours of motorcycling the Cariboo Hwy. Personally, I don’t have a normal eight-hour sleep cycle, so I can easily ride a twenty-hour day.

Tala was uncannily comfortable. With nary a whimper, she settled into the cozy passenger seat, locked the armrests, and fell dead asleep. For the last seven hours of this midnight ride she slept right through a gas stop and chilly night air. I never saw anything like it.

In Prince George, we meet with dozens of Native American tribal leaders. They acquainted us with a grim reality: The struggles and injustices that have plagued Native Canadians for over a century are still prevalent. Families live in overcrowded houses without sewer and water and 60% are on welfare. About 70% of Native Americans have been incarcerated in a correctional center by the age of twenty-five. Suicide among Native Americans is six times the national rate and in fact, exceeds the rates for all other racial and ethnic groups in the world.

From Prince George, we continued northbound on Highway 16. It’s notoriously known as the “Highway of Tears” due to the numerous unsolved murders and disappearances of woman that take place here, the majority of victims being Aboriginal. The Native Women's Association of Canada had information on 582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. This grand expanse, though brimming with beauty, was shadowed by an ominous sense of anguish and despair.

We visited many towns and villages during our long northbound- ride and Tala made countless friends along the way. Her presence was inspirational, and her message was life-changing to these indigenous communities. She represented a renewed hope for the future as a champion of their dreams.

900 miles were behind us in three days with only an eight-hour ride ahead of us to Juneau, the Alaskan capital.

Alaska was magnificent. The unbelievable scenery was what I came to see. Row after row of glacier-draped mountains stretched to the horizon. Pointed peaks reflected in mirrored lakes dyed a bluish hue by the silt of melting ice and snow. Braided rivers twisted through countless U-shaped valleys, gouged out eons ago by advancing glaciers.

The weather Gods were merciful, so we devoured the open roads. Off to our left, two massive bald eagles came into view. They dove low, matched our speed and floated gracefully. They watched us with anticipation as if we, ‘the strange land animals,’ might unexpectedly take flight.

Suddenly, the sun disappeared, and we were shrouded in shadow, a shadow with wings. Tala tapped my shoulder and pointed skyward. An airplane had also dropped to low altitude and was cruising along, matching our land speed, blocking the sun and casting its shadow. I turned in astonishment as I looked back at Tala and saw her standing tall on the passenger floorboards, her arms spread wide. Raven hair blowing in the wind, she began howling like a wolf. As if to acknowledge our parallel paths, the plane dipped its wings in a slow wave goodbye and soared back up to altitude…a moment of sheer magic.

I shifted again into “Helmet Time” and pondered, how do events like this happen? Are we acting in, or are we acted on? Do we actually influence outcomes through our thoughts and actions, or does the enchanter’s wand influence the enchanted?

As a nowist-journalist whose life story is guided by synchronicity, I’ve learned several rules about aligning yourself with coincidences. First, I stopped dividing reality into “us and them,” believers and non-believers. Dualism is an illusion.

Secondly, I don’t let what is seemingly happenstance carelessly pass by.

Finally, I’ve developed my instincts in connection to the unseen worlds, simply by becoming aware of synchronicities.

By the time we hit Juneau, Tala had celebrity status, and was being interviewed by the local TV stations. They called her “The Road Warrior.” I’m thinking to myself, I’m doing all the driving, she’s sleeping back there! But I must admit, the photos of her all leathered up, mounted on a Harley Street Glide do make for great photos and headlines.

Tala began contacting the regional tribes and local tribal leaders. She booked the conference room Gold Belt Hotel. Her plan was to invite tribal leaders to attend a “Gathering of the Tribes.” We’re talking dinner, drinks, the whole enchilada. AmEx Black knows no limits.

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