I’m in the Badlands.
The legitimate Badlands, just outside of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
I’ve been granted an interview with a Heyoka – a sacred clown of the Lakota tribe.
I came here because children kept appearing in the Pine Ridge Reservation. At least fifty children have appeared wandering the streets, crying for their mothers and begging for food. No one knows where they came from, who they belong to…
Children of all races, ages, genders, some with puppies, one with a Raggedy Anne doll that might have been new 40 years ago.
The people blame the Heyoka. It’s a test from the Thunder Beings they say.
There’s a crack of thunder and two more children are seen walking up American Horse Creek Rd. They point at me, yelling.
!uoy rof gniksa s’eH !uoy ees ot stnaw nwolc eht !uoy ees to stnaw nwolc ehT
The clown was asking for me.
The children pushed me towards a truck. The front seat taken up by a gas can and a dog. I had to climb in the back.
We rumbled down dirt roads towards the mountains. The driver kept yelling things to me, trying to explain against the wind what the clown wanted, why he wanted to talk to me, why he’s sending the children.
He’s bringing little ghosts to us. All the children that were and should have been and could have been.
The rain started to come down and I hid my head under my jacket and rode the rest of the way in wet darkness.
The car stopped and I heard laughing.
“It’s so hot out here!” A naked man, painted in black and white stripes explained. “I’m dying of thirst!” Then he set about laughing, and the truck left me behind.
I asked him why he was punishing the Pine Ridge Reservation. He stopped, and looked at me with serious, yellowing eyes.
Why? Why is a good question. But it’s not just the Badlands or the Reservation or the Lakota. Why, you ask? I ask why, too! We are not pleased with the world. We thunder and strike lightning and rain and it all falls on a dead Earth. An oblivious Earth. Why, indeed. Everyone is so connected to their technology, oogling their phones, that the Earth is just falling to pieces. The children are the worst! They can’t go without cartoons are computers. Each generation needs to look after and teach the next one. Make the Earth a better place. We used to know that. Technology has made us forgetful.
I watched him dance and call up children from the brush and send them on their way. He gave them wooden toys, happy pets and ushered them down the road. A backwards Pied Piper, bringing strange children home. Laughing through tears all the way.