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Authors: Helen Hughes Vick

Tag Against Time

Tag Against Time

TAG
AGAINST
TIME
HELEN HUGHES VICK

Copyright © 1996 by Helen Hughes Vick

All rights reserved
. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information
storage and retrieval systems, without written
permission from the publisher, except by
a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.

Taylor Trade
A Roberts Rinehart Book
A wholly owned subsidiary of
The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200
Lanham, MD 20706

Distributed by National Book Network

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Vick, H. H. (Helen Hughes), date
Tag against time / Helen Hughes Vick.

p.   cm.

Sequel to: Walker's journey home.

Summary: Twelve-year-old Tag struggles with himself and encounters
historical figures and events as he time-travels from the ancient
cliff-dwellers period to the present.

ISBN 978-1-57140-007-9

[1. Time travel--Fiction. 2. Hopi Indians--Fiction. 3. Indians
of North America--Arizona--Fiction. 4. Walnut Canyon National
Monument (Ariz.)--Fiction.] I. Title

PZ7.V63Tag    1996   [Fic]--dc20    95-45371

To my own
Michael T.
and
Lauren Marie

1

The twelve-year-old boy's freckled face was streaked with time. His curly brown hair was matted with the ages. He drew up a gangly leg and reached down to tie his fluorescent shoelaces. His feet felt pinched and cramped in the heavy jogging shoes. He fingered the handwoven yucca sandals that lay next to him, and said to himself, “It's going to be hard to get used to wearing real shoes again.” Tag tucked the sandals next to the leather loincloth on top of the other clothes in the old canvas backpack.

He picked up the small ceramic canteen, shaped like a tortoise shell, rounded on one side, flat on the other. Tag pulled the wooden stopper from the small opening at the top. “Better take a drink now since I don't know how many years it will be till I get another one.” Would the water in the canteen evaporate during time-walking? Tag chuckled. Now that was an interesting thought. What could scientists learn about
A.D
. 1200 from just a few drops of water? He wedged the
stopper back in tight. “Of course, I have plenty to tell them—but will they believe me? Will even my own dad believe me?”

Tag shook his head and laid the canteen on the top of the backpack. Buckling up the pack, he knew that what he had lived through was inconceivable. He hardly believed it himself.

His knees creaked as he got up. Tag shook his long legs to get the pant legs down to where they belonged. The stiff, blue jeans chafed his sun-baked skin. How could he have ever thought that jeans were comfortable? Maybe he'd put his loincloth back on. It was less restrictive than his old clothes or were they his
new
clothes? Tag laughed. Time was relative. He slung the pack onto his shoulder. What would Mom and Dad think if he came home to the nineteen-nineties wearing nothing but a seven-hundred-year-old Sinagua Indian loincloth?

A flash of lightning outside lit up the small cave.

He stooped down and picked up an eight-inch-long, leather-wrapped object from the cave's limestone floor.

Thunder rolled into the cave vibrating the close walls.

Tag unwrapped the soft folds of buckskin. Sweat formed on his forehead as he looked down at the fragile prayer stick. A thin strand of leather tied the two distinctive pieces of wood together. Each piece of wood had a carved face, the left a male, the right a female. The white eagle feathers adorning the ancient images fluttered in the breeze that was drifting into the cave's opening.

How can such a primitive object have such immense power?
Tag wiped the sweat out of his eyes. The carved wood of the paho felt as fragile as fine glass. The feathers looked as though one
strong breath of air would disintegrate them. Yet his future lay within this ancient prayer stick. A chill slithered up Tag's spine and pulled at the tight curls on the back of his neck.

The future
 . . .

Tag looked around the small cave. Standing in the middle, he could almost touch each wall. The cave was only a few feet deep. At five feet, seven inches, Tag had to duck to get inside its low entrance. This small, unremarkable cave was the aperture into time; the ancient paho, the key that opened the passageway into the future.

Lightning lit up the cave for a split second.

The future
 . . .

Clutching the paho, Tag's thoughts flashed to the afternoon when his incredible journey began. That afternoon was now seven-hundred-odd years in the future. Tag closed his eyes. His memories of that day were vivid and clear as his mind relived scaling up the ten-foot-high cliff to the cave. Lightning had been striking all around him. He had just known he was going to get fried at any minute. His heart echoed the roll of thunder as he pulled himself over the top of the cliff. Rain drenched his face.

He scrambled across the narrow stone ledge to the cave's low entrance. Lightning struck a pine tree just to the side of the cave. Tag dove into the cave's dark entrance. An overpowering, blue light surged through the cave. He saw an Indian boy bending over a pile of rocks at the back of the cave, holding something in his hands. The cave exploded with thunder and darkness. In that instant of darkness, his life had changed forever.

Tag remembered regaining his senses and finding Walker, a fifteen-year-old Hopi, in an unconscious heap. He cringed
at the memory of his brassy interrogation of Walker. How could he have been so rude—no, just ignorant of the Hopi ways?

Pushing away the uncomfortable memory, Tag guided his mind to the moment that they had left the cave. He relived the shock of seeing the canyon. Despite the fact he had lived on its rim for five years, the canyon was alien. The once heavily-vegetated canyon was now parched and dry. Even the air felt different; crisper, cleaner—hostile.

“We have walked time—walked back to when the ancient ones lived in this canyon,” said Walker, staring down into the canyon. “I was sent here for a purpose and for some reason time is running out.” They sat on the ledge outside the cave. Walker explained that he came to the cave because of his Uncle's Náat's dying request to, “Do what must be done.” Walker looked over at Tag. “Things could get dangerous. Maybe you should stay here in the cave while I go . . .”

“No way, buddy. I'll just keep tagging along with you. Excuse the pun.”

Tag let the memories of their incredible and dangerous adventure of living with the ancient ones fast-forward in his mind, as the thunder echoed outside the cave. Great Owl, the seer and powerful magician, had given them shelter and spiritual guidance. White Badger, Great Owl's son, gave unquestioning friendship and protection. Tag's stomach growled at the memory of Morning Flower's unusual but tasty meals eaten by Great Owl's fire pit. He smiled at the thought of Flute Maiden's pretty, oval face, and deep, slanted eyes. Did Walker see the love revealed in her eyes?

The memory of four-year-old Small Cub's laughter filled Tag's mind with love and worry. Small Cub had become like
a little brother to him. Could Small Cub survive the sickness that brought swift and certain death to the inhabitants of the canyon?

Please let Small Cub live
, Tag prayed.
Please
 . . .

Gray Wolf's thin, angry face seared through Tag's prayer. “Witches. They are two-hearted witches. Kill them now before they bring death to all of us!” Gray's Wolf's voice screeched through Tag's memory.

Tag's mind jolted back to the cave as his eyes flew open. His scalp tightened. Like turning on a light after a nightmare, a brilliant flash of lightning illuminated the cave. Tag struggled to get control of himself. The holy paho shook in his clenched hand. How had they ever survived Gray Wolf's deadly intentions?

Thunder shook the walls of the cave.

Tag tried to steady the shaking paho. His knees felt like rubber, while his stomach twisted in tight leaden knots. He was safe from Gray Wolf, but would he ever feel truly safe again? What real nightmares did the future hold for him? Tag attempted to swallow the tightness in his throat. Had he made the right decision to try to time-walk back to his own place in time? There was no guarantee he could even get back to the nineteen-nineties. The tightness in Tag's throat moved upward. His chin trembled. Would he ever see Mom and Dad again?
If only Walker were coming with me
, Tag shifted the paho to his other hand. No, Walker's decision to remain behind with the ancient ones was correct. The ancient ones were
his people
, his flesh and blood.

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