Subterrestrial by Michael McBride Read Free Book Online

Book: Subterrestrial by Michael McBride Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael McBride
little bungalow in Yuma, Arizona, with an iced tea in one hand and a joint in the other, reveling in the sensation of the desert sun on his skin. The glaucoma wasn’t nearly as bad as it was before the surgery, but he’d lived with it long enough to know how to fake it, at least well enough to keep the disability checks coming and maintain his membership at Club Medical Marijuana. He’d felt guilty about it for a while, at least until the economy tanked and pretty much everyone he knew lost their jobs and began suckling from the government teat. Besides, nearly going blind in his mid-thirties wasn’t half as unfair as being terminated from his teaching position because of it. Granted, the HR people at Northern Arizona University hadn’t come right out and said it, but he’d been able to see their faces well enough to recognize that they’d been coached through the process of his dismissal by the school’s legal counsel, who were undoubtedly listening on the other end of the speaker phone, the light from which even a blind man could plainly see. Not that it mattered so much anymore. He’d found a way to let go of the hard feelings and move on with his life, which he could now devote to his research.
    In his previous life, he’d taught sociocultural anthropology to kids who found his culture exotic and fascinating. It was a surreal experience teaching about the Native American peoples as though their history were separate from that of the United States. He didn’t think of the stories passed down through the generations as folklore, nor did he see the travails of his lineage as some sort of mythology. There’d been times when he was lecturing his classes that he felt like a big phony, a caricature dancing for their amusement. They found the oral traditions of the Hopi and Zuni, even his native Navajo, laughable. With their narrow worldviews, they couldn’t accept the idea that myths were firmly rooted in fact. They couldn’t see what he was trying to teach them with their eyes glued to their iPhones and iPads, even though it was staring them right in the face.
    It was this almost casual diminishment of what he thought of as his life’s work that contributed to him spending more time in the field trying to figure out if by some slim chance that it was he who was actually wrong, that the stories his grandmother had made him memorize as a boy were merely fabrications sewn from generations of resentment and despair. So he’d set out to discover the truth, which was hidden in the most remote locations across the continent, from the red sands of the Sonoran Desert to the burial mounds of Virginia and the Rocky Mountains from Alberta to Alamosa.
    The vast majority of tribes had committed their history to record in the form of pictograms painted on cave walls and petroglyphs carved directly into the stone. It was a history in pictures meant to accompany the oral traditions passed down through their bloodlines, like illustrations for a children’s book. There were stories of good times and bad, of the triumph of victory and the heartbreak of loss, of times of bounty and famine, of celebration and death, and of gods and monsters. And while few tribes lived together in harmony, all of their tales were essentially the same, especially when it came to the stories of their creation.
    He’d expected to find legends of birth from chaos, like the Sumerians and Babylonians, or ex nihilo —out of nothing—like the major modern monotheistic religions. Instead, he’d found a strange commonality that defied coincidence. Theirs was a shared origin of emergence, of dwelling in the deep darkness inside the earth before crawling out into the daylight. He’d compared hundreds of primitive drawings and carvings and sought out the corresponding oral traditions from those who could still sing them and found fewer contradictions among stories told by senile old women than there were in the Good Book. So few, in fact, that he’d been

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