Telling Tales 54
No One Ever Died
His real name is not Yumni, and if anyone besides the Whirlwind knows what it is, they have yet to say – not even the rulers of the Gold Kingdom know what he used to be called, for he was old when they were still young. In those days, when he himself was young, he did not fly on the air spinning at his feet and he did not harvest the grain and the life of those around him with his flail. He flew on red wings and brought the loves of the lonely together. He was a beloved secret, known by many and shared by few, so that hardly any stories grew up around him and about what he used to be.
Well, long before Koschey was even a dream, no one ever died at all. People fell in love and they fought and they had children and they grew old. Perhaps they even grew sick, but no one died. Eventually, this became a problem. There is only so much space, after all, and the more people there were the less space every person had. Because it was a problem, all of the people came together to discuss what they would do.
“We should die,” they decided, “but only for a little while. We will take turns.”
Coyote disagreed. He said that if people came back, there would really not be so much difference, even if they were taking turns. There would still be more people, always, more and more. No one took Coyote’s side, though, and they built a long house into which their spirits would return after their deaths, when it was their turn to come back. The first group of people lay down, and for a long time after that, everyone was very happy. “There is so much more room,” they said, “this is the perfect solution.” Except for Coyote, he did not say that.
The day came that the next group of people was going to lay down and the first group of people was going to rise, and the Red Bird flew along, leading all of the spirits with him, bringing them back to their bodies that they loved. Coyote shut the door to the long house and greeted Red Bird outside. “Hello, Brother,” he called, “and what are you doing here?”
“I have brought back the spirits of the dead so that they will live again,” Red Bird answered.
Coyote looked very concerned. “Brother, you are mistaken! This is not the place! Everyone has moved from here! You must hurry along to catch them at the river, and then head north!”
Red Bird was very worried, because spirits desiring their bodies are not strong, and there was one, the spirit of a small boy, that was already lagging behind. So Red Bird sang his song and led the spirits on toward the river, and then he turned north and took all the spirits away from him and they were never reunited with their bodies. It was that Coyote – he is the reason we all die now, all except for Koschey. And the tired spirit, the young boy, he was lame in one leg and couldn’t keep up with the music and turned into a blood clot right there on the ground, waiting for the rabbits to find him.
You can imagine Red Bird’s grief and anger. He circled and circled to try and save the spirits, but the best he could do was transport them from the ground to the sky. He is wind and death and he is hunting Coyote.