Once again, he was a fresh-faced teen soldier from Waco, Texas, gut-shot by a fragmentation grenade while on maneuvers in Laos. Somehow, he had managed to crawl inside the protective cover of a dark cave. The rest of the men in his unit were nowhere to be seen. He could hear someone softly whistling like the wind as he struggled to focus through the mind-wrenching pain. Kneeling near him was a decrepit Oriental man stirring some sweet-smelling mixture over a small fire. The old man looked up from his cooking pot and his eyes twinkled like crystals. He smiled devilishly and licked the edges of his long, white mustache.
"You are almost dead, warrior boy. Would you like to live again?"
B.T. felt a rush of intense nausea roll over him like an ocean breaker. "Who are you? Are you a doctor?"
The old man cackled with amusement as he waved a large, black feather back and forth in front of his face like a fan. "A doctor could not save you. You are beyond that now."
"Well, what are you, then?" asked B.T. as he felt his insides oozing from the hole in his chest. He gagged as he covered his chest with his hands and began to sob.
"I am a spirit-catcher. I can give you back your life."
"How can you do that?"
The old man looked skyward and seemed to consider his words very carefully. "I know the Ritual of the Feathers and the Fur, a powerful secret in hands of one unafraid to use it. The Gods will blow the fire back into your soul and make you one of their very own."
"What do I have to do?"
The shaman smiled and pointed the feather at the wounded soldier. "Live, my young stranger, and I will do the rest. You need to drink some of this opium tea." He began feeding B.T. the bubbling brew. "We will need a fire ring to signify the Dragon eating its tail." He carefully laid the stones next to one another on the floor of the cave. "Next, we will need the tail feather of a scavenger bird. I like to use the vulture because he's so damn ugly." The old man giggled like a child as he dropped the feather into the circle of stone. "And the wing feather from a bird of prey. You're going to need a lot of power, so I think we will use a sea eagle. They are very, very strong."
The old Asian brushed the feather across B.T.'s forehead and then let it fall into the circle. From a leather sheath on his hip, he pulled a long, shiny hunting knife. "And now, I'll need some of your hair."
The next thing B.T. clearly remembered was waking up in a base hospital in Saigon. The doctor told him he was one lucky S.O.B. to be alive. He had been found by a group of Hmong tribesmen who had carried him back to the American lines near the DMZ. From there he had been choppered south to Saigon. No one knew anything about a little old sorcerer in a cave.
Several months later, B.T. returned to the scene of the ambush, but he never found the cave and the locals claimed to know nothing of an elderly medicine man who caught souls. The trail was a dead-end, as if the events which he so vividly recalled had happened in another life.
B.T.'s search did not end there. He became a student of Laotian religions, and he discovered that some Asian people believed that the spirits of the dead went right on living. These spirits were the messengers of the Gods, and they could be found in rocks, in trees, and often in birds. There were animistic cultures all over the earth who believed in the eternal nature of the spirit world. On the Horn of Africa, along the Amazon River in Brazil, atop the mesas of the American Southwest, there lived countless people who believed that life was an eternal circle.
B.T. developed his own personal variation of the Ritual of the Feathers and the Fur, one which fit the odd particulars of his strange existence. Professor Ken Jarvis was just another in a long list of losers and winners. The dragon was always hungry.
As he returned from the heroin fog, he stared out at the rising sun, and the powerful rush of godhead coursed through him like some magical elixir. He had done it again! All was right with the world, the harmony restored. Ken Jarvis’ spirit would now live forever with the gods, just like the two Paiutes he had slain, and whose spirits he had captured from within the kiva in his home.
B.T. stepped out of the cave and into the warmth of the sun. The morning stillness was suddenly broken by the sound of Otis urgently yelling B.T.'s name across the echoing expanse of Pinnacle Ridge. B.T. quickly shouldered his day pack and took off on the dead run toward the Big Boy Pueblo.