Ryker’s Island’s prison…
Kingpin, sitting in front of Maya, reviews what happened in their time together. Fisk reminds Maya that he supported and funded her education as a debt of honor towards her father. He also admits that he manipulated her so he could use her as his pawn against his chessboard of enemies. But, Wilson doesn’t blame Maya for taking her anger out on him. He knows that what he did to her, and what he did to her father was purely business. Nothing more. But, he also wants to tell Maya the kicker out of all this. Fisk admits that, in his own way, he grew to really care for Maya.
Maya remains silent. Kingpin corrects that he truly cares for Maya, for as much as it is in his nature to be able to do so. Maya still doesn’t say anything. Fisk admits that he loved Maya like he would love his own daughter. And despite all this, he still loves Maya.
She was nine years old when her father died. She remembers herself standing over her father’s grave, and crying.
Later, reality, at her home…
Maya leaves her foster father without saying a word. While playing on her piano, she believes that there can be no satisfaction in any further external action. She thinks there can be no satisfaction from anything either of them had to say. And yet, she heard something emotionally unsetting in Fisk’s words. She believes Fisk is probably still playing chess. But, she thinks that in her own way, the man was speaking from his heart. And Maya believed him.
But that doesn’t get Matt back to her, nor does it bring her father back. She realizes that doesn’t fix anything. She still feels angry and empty. Her parents, both her father and mother, still live on inside her. Perhaps, the time for blaming is over. The issues she now has aren’t from other people. Maya looks at the self-portraits she made and their nature gets Maya thinking. She wonders if she used all of her own atoms in the right way. She wonders if all of her pigments and brushstrokes have been for the right case. Perhaps her recent actions squandered her gifts on a selfish motivation of her darker emotions.
Maya thinks she needs to deconstruct her bitterness and rebuild it into something else. Something bigger than herself. There are certain heroes in this world, like Daredevil, who act on the helping of others. They act on ideas bigger than themselves. These people take whatever setbacks they are dealt with and turn them into their assets. These modern day heroes and icons remind Maya of the stories and Indian legends she was told when she was younger.
The tribe comes before the individual. There is a harmony. A cycle of actions. Each gesture gives energy to the rest. Maya starts thinking of the old reservation. She’s thinking of its Chief and when he told her that he discovered his path in life in his vision’s quest. So, Maya decides to go back to the reservation for a visit.
It’s a short trip on the map of her memories. The car comes to a halt in a cloud of dust, leaves and possibility. Maya climbs out of the car and steps back in time. She wonders what sound that makes. She takes a long hard and deep breath and inhales the past. It tastes like earth and sunshine and pine needles and nostalgia. Back on the Rez. That’s what her dad called it. An interzone of nations. People from various tribes use it as a pit stop when passing through. They come to get away from what other people call the real world, and they stay a day or a week, or a year or a lifetime, whatever it is to their liking.
Maya drinks in the sights and scents and the sun on her skin. She’s back in the attic of her childhood. She’s in the basement of her memories. She’s in the middle of nowhere. And it feels good to be back home. Maya makes the way to the hut where she would stay with her father when they would visit. It’s the chief’s home, the old medicine man. She sort of expects him to be dead. But the chief is sitting right there on the porch in his old chair. His dogs are different, though, but everything else is the same. The chief and his dogs look at Maya and the sunlight catches half of his face. Maya remembers the chief looking at her like that before.
Maya asks the Chief if he remembers her. She introduces herself as Lincoln’s daughter, who was called Crazy Horse. The chief looks at her funny. Maya mentions that the chief learned her Indian sign language. The Chief still isn’t sure. When Maya adds that she’s the deaf girl, the chief recognizes her. He remembers Maya always asking him questions like, “what is the noise of a dog’s tail wagging?” Maya smiles that sure sounds like her. The chief mentions that he heard Maya did a play about a story her father had told her, and that she called herself Echo.
Maya corrects that the play was named Echo and it was just the newspapers who called her that. The chief understands how that goes, as people call them Indians. While hugging the chief’s dog, Maya seconds his earlier statement, as sometimes you get a weird name which sticks. Whatever the paper called her, the chief knows that Maya has become a storyteller, just like he knew she would. Maya doesn’t believe the chief really said that.
The chief explains that nobody knows how much people are going to understand from a story you tell them, or how much it affects them in the long run. But it gives them food for thought, to help them in the future or to just inspire them. The story can motivate people to find their purpose. He believes that stories are magic. The chief believes that once you breathe life into a story it takes on a life of its own. The story gets passed on, renamed and retold. It becomes its own creature. Sometimes, the chief has discovered, the story will even come back to you. Tell the storyteller things in its own words. And, the story may have grown and evolved in little ways so that more people can understand it than those who the storyteller originally told it to.
Maya asks the chief if he heard what happened to her father. The chief admits he has, and mentions that they held a sweat lodge in Lincoln’s honor and told many stories about him. There was lots of magic. Maya remembers that people used to bring the chief gifts or tobacco when they asked for his help or advice. She hands the chief tobacco, and he thanks her and places it in his pocket. After doing that, he asks Maya to follow him.
In his tipi, the chief asks Maya what kind of help she is looking for. Maya reveals to him that she has acquired certain skills and studied many things. But, she has also destroyed a relationship that she cares about. She needs to focus on her purpose and place in the world. She is hoping that the chief can tell her more things about her father. And, she remembers that he said he went on a thing called a “vision’s quest” to find his purpose in life. The chief realizes that Maya is searching for both the past and the future. He wants Maya to find the now and afterwards, the past and the future will take care of themselves.
First, the chief wants to tell Maya about her father before preparing her for her very own vision quest. Maya wants to know if she can ask something. She can. Maya wants to know what a vision quest is. To prepare Maya for her experience, the chief has her do what he calls a purification ceremony. He tells her she needs to fast. Then stones that have been heated in a fire and brought in. The entrance of the tipi is closed, and hot steam is created by pouring water on the stones nearby.
The chief explains that the heat will make Maya perspire and get rid of the many toxins she carries inside her. The steam that rises from the stones is referred to as the “Breath of Spirit.” In the Lakota language, the name for sweat lodge is “Inipi.” “Ini” means “spirit” and “pi” means “place.” So, its name is “spirit place.” It’s the sacred spot where people can communicate with a higher power.
The chief realizes Maya must be wondering how they communicate with a higher power. He reveals that the secret is humility. He explains that the opening of the doorway they must step through is so small that they must crawl on their hands and knees to be able to enter it. It is sacred in its construction. Prayers are made when they will dig the dirt for the stones. The poles of the tipi don’t come from one place. One comes from here, the other comes from there. Just like the people who enter it. Their backgrounds may be different but, when they come together in the sacred space, they are as one.
When Maya was a little girl, her father took her to a nearby hilltop and introduced her to the elements. First to the four directions. Her father spoke to the Four Directions and asked them to bring balance to her life and to help her find her way in the world. Later, Lincoln touched her tiny feet to this Mother Earth. “Dear Mother Earth,” he said, “one day this child will walk, play and run on you. I will teach her to have respect for you as she grows. Please be there to support her.” Next, Lincoln introduced Maya to the sun, the wind and the water, the fire, the moon and the stars. And he asked them to make her way clear.
Though the chief knows Maya’s father was only there for her for a short amount of time of her young life, he was a good man and taught her many things. She was always loved by him. Even when the white doctors and teachers said Maya was slow and stupid. She was even loved when it was discovered she was deaf. The chief wants Maya to look at her father’s time with her as a blessing, like a gift. She mustn’t look back at his death and think something was taken away from her. The chief warns that, if Maya looks at an emptiness, her world will become empty. If she looks at the blessing, her life will be blessed. This is all the chief can tell Maya about the past and her father.
He reveals that, originally, the vision quest was undertaken for the safety of the tribe. In those days, communion with the spirit world was crucial to success in life, and the vision quest was among the most important rituals. After days of solitude in nature, a vision or spirit might appear to the quester. This generally manifested in the form of a man, woman, animal or bird. Sometimes, these apparitions of guardian spirits transformed from animal to human shape, or assumed other natural forms.
If a vision and communication with the Higher Wisdom was achieved, the spirit would confer the kind of supernatural power best suited to the quester’s needs and mission in life. This may be the medicine for hunting, for healing, for war, or for the role of a shaman or medicine man. The chief decides to tell Maya of an Iroquois legend of a famous vision quest.
A thousand years ago, a boy went forth to become a man. He entered the woods alone, without provisions of any kind. He lit a small fire, and then lay down to fast and dream for three days and nights, hoping to entertain a spiritual visitor called a Manitou. That’s a guide who would teach the boy his future and life work. A great Manitou appeared to the boy on the first night. Into the glow of the boy’s small fire stepped a magnificent and strong young man, clothed all in green and yellow.
The young man signaled to the boy to come wrestle him. The boy wrestled with the Manitou, like Jacob did with the Angel. On the third night, the Manitou finally spoke to the boy. He told the boy to bury him. The boy was then to return throughout the summer to pour water on the spot and tend it. In the fall, the Great Spirit’s gift to the people would appear. Grieving but obedient, the boy did as he was told, and tended the grave. A green shoot sprang from the ground and grew tall as the Manitou used to stand. It bore green wrapped ears of maize, the gift of the Great Spirit to the people. When that boy returned to his tribe, he had brought the secret of growing corn with him. Growing the corn became his role in life, and his gift to his community.
More stories and steam follow. And the drawings on the inside of the tipi seem to begin to move on their own. Maya notices the Chief burning incense around her and waves it about with a feather. He rubs the incense ash in his hands and touches Maya’s face. And with that, she is sent up the mountain and into the woods to sit for four days.
Night turns to dawn, and day turns to night. The wind blows, it starts to rain and, eventually, stops raining. Maya listened to the stories of people being visited by wolf and coyote spirits, even eagle spirits, and she heard words from their dead ancestors in the form of animal or nature Manitous that approached them during their fast. She begins to understand that the vision quest is a way of leaving your old kind of boxed in thinking behind. It is a way of shedding fear and opening yourself up so that you can see the solutions and lessons from nature that are right under a person’s nose. Even though they may not come in the language that they are used to.
Maya thinks of her father. She starts remembering all the animal stories she told her. The lessons that were in the stories. But her father didn’t tell her what the lessons were. He let his daughter figure that out. He always asked Maya if she learned something from the stories. And when she told her father her interpretations, he smiled. He didn’t say if she was right or wrong. He let her see her own lessons in the story, even if they were the ones other people might see.
She falls into something like a dream or a memory. When Maya opens her eyes, there is a rabbit sniffing at her feet. The first thing she thinks of is a children’s book where the girl follows the rabbit into the woods and then she begins to change size and shape. Then she sees a wild dog sniffing her face. It’s hot breath mixes with Maya’s very own. And its wet nose brushes against hers. She just looks at them and appreciates it, until they have sniffed enough and scampers off.
Maya isn’t sure what that meant, but realizes that she’s not afraid. She wonders if she was dealing with the dog spirit, and if it was going to tell her something, or might have a message from her father. The dog looks back at her, cocks his legs to a nearby tree, urinates and walks away. Maya searches the scenery for some kind of code or detail to insight. After a time, her eyes close again.
When she opens her eyes, Maya sees two dogs fighting in front of her! It is the big dog from before and another wild one. It is a vicious fight, probably over territory. The dogs are tearing at each other, going for the throat. They are crashing through trees and bushes. They don’t stop and don’t even seem to get tired. This goes on for a long time until it goes completely dark. When the moon moves over her direction, Maya gets a bit more light. There’s no more sign of the dogs.
But she does notice a pair of wild yellow eyes up on the tree that the dog peed on. Maya eventually realizes she’s staring at an owl. She remembers being told that owls ask questions like “who?” over and over. She wonders if that owl she’s looking at is asking her that very same question right now. She remembers that the chief said that his quests involve asking himself three questions: “who am I?” “what have I become with the who that I am?” and “why am I here?”
Maya wonders if the owl is there to remind her of those questions. She decides that the owl must be and thanks it. Afterwards, the owl flies away. There is a chill in her body that she recognizes as thunder. It starts to rain hard again. She hasn’t seen any wild animals for a while, so she expected it would rain. The wind blows a different way than before, and the trees turn their leaves upside down to catch the water. It’s darker than ever. She starts to think that she won’t be seeing any more animals until the next morning.
She decides that maybe she is to learn something from the rain, but that seems to be abstract. Then the light flashes again and she sees something moving in the distance. Maya become so interested in it that she forgot the thunder would come a second later and its chill catches her off guard. A hot instinctive bit of red fear or surprise jolts through her system.
Suddenly, she hears something. There’s definitely something out there. Something big. And it’s moving right at her. The sky lights up again, and Maya can see its silhouette in the trees. She thinks she can even see its face. The thunder surprises her again and makes her body shake. She tells herself that she will be ready for the thunder next time. Maya strains into the darkness, through the screen of rain and moving trees and blowing leaves.
The silhouette gets closer now. It’s right in front of her. The sky lights up. Maya can see the creature looking at her, and it’s a man shaped in the form of a wolverine…