Night Spirit

In his native Lakota tongue, Jimmy’s last name ‘Tatonka’ meant ‘buffalo,’ but no one on the Rez ever called him that – at least not since the Kevin Costner movie ‘Dances with Wolves.’ Every time he turned around, someone called him ‘Dances with Wolves,’ or ‘Sung’manitu Tanka Ob Waci.’

Fortunately for Jimmy, no one but his family knew how close to right they were, because Jimmy Tatonka had a secret, one he hid. Jimmy was a shape-shifter, imbued withe the spirit of the wolf, Sung’manitu, and had the tribe learned of this, he would’ve been shunned, hunted down and killed.

While most native mythology held shape-shifters as evil-doers, their were those few who, upon learning of their gift, decided to use it for good. To that end, Jimmy wanted to become the world’s best Native American Superhero, ‘Night Spirit.’

At one time the Lakota a had superhero, ‘Wicasa Wakan,’ the Sacred Man . Shortly after Joshua Brand, whose day job was as a U.S.  Fish and Wildlife agent, took the name ‘Stalking Wolf,’  some guy named Mike Grell outed him and ‘Stalking Wolf’ disappeared.

After college, Jimmy Tatonka moved to the nearest large city, where he quickly found work, and settling down in a nearby apartment. During the day, he labored for the city’s health department collating water, air and soil samples, and at night he wandered the back alleys seeking law-breakers.

One night, Jimmy finally got his chance. However, he quickly learned that crime-fighting wasn’t as easy as he’d been led to  believe as he found himself boxed into a dead-end ally.

The mistake was his and he knew it, so now he had no choice to fight for his survival and that meant breaking the cardinal super-hero rule of no killing. “Bats would be disgusted — but then the Batman would’ve never put himself in this situation.”

Hunkered down, the man blended with the shadows and shifted into his alter-ego. They had chased a man into the ally – not a wild animal – and Jimmy hoped he’d be able to use the advantage of surprise to get out of this predicament.

There, ‘Night Spirit’ waited for the criminal element to approach. But they were slow in coming and then they did not come at all.

Quietly, ‘Night Spirit’ moved along the wall, making certain to stay tucked inside the shadows. His foot falls remained silent as he tread his way towards the vacant street from which he’d recently ran.

“Strange — where’d they go?” He took notice of the utility truck parked half-way up the street, facing the wrong direction, headlights on.

Without warning, a loop shot over his head and around his neck. ‘Night Spirit’ found himself locked in a life-or-death struggle, unable to get away.

He put up a fight, hoping to getting free, but the more he struggled, the tighter the loop became and soon, ‘Night Spirit’ could neither breath nor hold on to consciousness. The next thing he knew, he awoke in a cage, laying on a cold cement floor in his human-form.

The dog-pound’s lone female attendant screamed in surprised at the sight of the naked man in the kennel. She ran to call her supervisor, who called the police.

It was a cigar-chewing detective in a long, thread-bare raincoat who, with the promise of finding the ‘asshole that committed such an unprecedented hate-crime against an Injun,’ released Jimmy from his would-be prison. After several hours of interviews, an unknown number of photographs and a jarring medical exam, Jimmy was given a ride home.

After closing the door behind himself, all Jimmy Tatonka could think was, “What a fucked up beginning for a super-hero.”

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Published by

Tom Darby

Former radio personality and newspaper reporter

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