Northern Texas Frontier. 1871.
Gunshots ring out in the darkness. Men yell. Some scream in pain, others from the death of family members.
Alastor Denton bolts up from his cot. A bugle horns blasts out from the other side of his tent. Without thinking, one hand grabs his black Stetson, the other his revolver. He’s an imposing figure. The rugged lines across his unshaven face show his rough lifestyle as a militia member that assists the Texas Rangers. The stress is aging him before his time. The cot creaks almost as loud as his back does as he stands. Is he in his mid-thirties or his sixties?
The flap of the tent parts as Alastor steps out into the commotion of the camp. Members of Captain Bryme’s militia scatter around. Captain Bryme, a thin, lengthy, too clean looking to be doing this type trots by on his horse. He eyes Alastor as he passes. Another group of a dozen men, a rag-tag group, half drunk, stagger past.
Alastor stops one of the men. “What’s happened?” His voice is harsh, almost hoarse.
“They sayin’ the Indian’s shot up Kindvall’s ranch. Stole horses,” the man said.
“It’s the Indian’s that will eat ya!” Another one said as they continue towards the main line of the militia.
Out from the pack of drunkards appears Sonny Bryme – the middle son of the Captain’s. He’s crooked – his hat, his teeth, one eye, his mind. Something has been off about him since birth. He’ll never live up to the politicians, lawyers, educators and smooth talkers like the rest of his family. He’s barely riding the good side of the law being daddy’s ruthless enforcer.
“You better saddle up, we ridin’ out ‘head of the main. Indian’s run off into the badlands. We gonna get’em no question asked,” said Sonny.
“It’s not the Akokisa people. They don’t raid like that. Not on the edge.”
“Kindvall’s line rider’s gone. Dinner I’m told.”
Alastor pulls the black bandana up from his once white shirt. He stares down Sonny as he buttons his black coat. The buttons are the only colorful part of his look – large, shiny silver heart-shaped buttons clasp the coat closed.
“You’s an yer momma’s buttons.” Sonny laughs. “Brings me to tears, boy.”
* * *
Through the darkness, two horses race off into the badlands of the frontier. Alastor leads Sonny. Both in black, both masked by their bandanas, roaming the land like unseen ghosts.
They enter a forest area. The hooves of the horses lightly tap against the ground, tip-toeing through the beaten down trails. Alastor stops his horse. He looks back to Sonny and gestures to hush. Nearby, someone whistles – it’s melodic, enchanting, mesmerizing. They dismount their horses and tie the reins to a tree. Sonny pulls a shotgun from his saddle. Alastor cocks both of his revolvers. They creep towards the whistling sound like they are in a trance and summoned by it. It’s coming from a small clearing up ahead. A campfire burns. As the two move in closer, Alastor spots four men, one whistling. One of the men stands and looks. Alastor can see right away that the men are Indian warriors.
“It’s dem,” Sonny whispered.
“Not who we’re lookin’ for,” Alastor said. “These are Yomani. Let’s get out of here.”
“They are Indians and we are getting dem. I’ll take da left, you take da right. Go on my shot.”
Sonny sneaks out to the left flank of the campsite. Alastor moves to the right. Twigs snap around somewhere in the darkness. Alastor ducks and waits, he’s hidden in the blackness. One of the Indians walks past him.
BOOM! The shotguns fired. An Indian yells out. Sonny yells to the Indians to get down. Alastor arrives at the camp. One of the Indians lays dead, his face blasted off. The other two are kneeling before Sonny. Sonny raises his revolver to the head of the first Indian.
“Don’t do this, Sonny,” Alastor said.
“Where you’s been, boy? These boys puttin’ up a fight not cooperating. Had to take the camp by myself.”
“Put the gun down.”
“They gonna pay. You take ours, we’ll take you’s.”
“These aren’t the ones, Sonny.”
“They all da ones.” Sonny pulls the hammer back on the gun and lifts it to the Indian’s head. “You always tryin’ to save dem. I don’t understand ya. But they ain’t worth savin’ like daddy says.”
Sonny pulls the trigger. The back side of the Indian’s head burst open like a melon. The blood hits Alastor. The second Indian stands to run. Alastor lunges at Sonny but it’s too late, Sonny cocks the gun, aims, fires, the Indian falls dead.
“You’re gonna die for this, Sonny.”
“No sir.” Sonny lifts the gun to Alastor. “I’m the judge, jury and executioner. Ask daddy.”
Alastor fires his gun hitting Sonny in the arm. Sonny fires back – a shot to the shoulder. Alastor staggers back taking another shot to the stomach. He hunches forward then falls to the ground. Sonny places the gun to Alastor’s head.
“Tell yer momma I say hello.” Sonny pulls the trigger. The gun jams. He flips Alastor over. Alastor’s motionless. Blood soaks into the black coat. Sonny reaches for one of the heart-shaped buttons and plucks it from the coat.
“Burn in hell, boy.”
* * *
Sonny sits with Captain Bryme. His arm has been wrapped. He hands the heart-shaped button to the Captain.
“They ambushed us. Out of nowhere. We tried fightin’ back but they out-numbered us. They got Alastor good. I tried savin’ him. Dis is all I could grab. They probably eaten him by now,” Sonny said. “We’s gotta fight this battle for Alastor now.”
“That’s exactly what I want you to tell them. Repeat it again if you have to,” the Captain said. He gives the button back to Sonny. “Are you sure he’s dead?”
“With my own eyes. Do ya think he’d lemme take dis button if he was living?”
The Captain smiles.
* * *
The early morning sun begins to burn through the treeline of the forest. At the edge, four unfilled graves hold the bodies of the three fallen Indian warriors and Alastor. The surviving Indian, Hototo, slits the wrist of the Indian with his face blown off. Hototo has the skin of rough leather, dull eyes that can see what’s to come. His forehead is painted white with four blood red streaks that reach down to his perpetual frown. He guides the blood trickling from the Indians wrist into a small wooden canteen. Hototo buries him while whistling a death song. He does the same to the two remaining Indian warriors – slits the wrist, captures the blood, and whistles.
He turns his attention to the body of Alastor. Slow and steady, he fills his grave with dirt not saying a word. Once the body is covered, he drips the blood from the canteen over Alastor’s grave.
Hototo begins to sing. His voice is beautiful – like a chorus of a hundred coming together in perfect harmony. His eyes glow white like flames as he spins around the grave.
“Through your veins, the spirits fly into you. Towards the sky, the earth, the water, death will live in you. The sacred warriors, their blood, we give to you. Rise, rise, rise,” Hototo sings as he drips more blood over the grave. The dirt trembles. “The change have come over you. They live in you. Warriors fight for you. Spirits in you. You fight for them. Rise, rise, rise.”
The dirt splits. A hand reaches out from the grave.
Hototo whistles to encourage him to rise. Alastor’s hand reaches higher pulling himself from the grave. His skin is pale. He’s weak. He takes in air like he’s never breathed air in before. He stands, his legs wobble, he falls back to the ground.
Hototo pours the blood from the canteen into his hands. He sings the verses again as he swipes the blood across Alastor’s face. Alastor’s eye roll back and blacken. He stands again – stronger and more imposing than ever. The blood from the bullet holes fade to black. His body contorts as it heals itself. His head flips back, mouth widens into a silent scream.
“Take vengeance upon the children for the crimes of their fathers,” Hototo instructs.
“What have you done to me?” Alastor forces out.
“They have chosen you. Roam the land like a spirit ghost. Wear the blood of the dead and they will fight with you. The dead call upon their own. The dead call upon you to stop the evil and return them to the otherworld.”
“You saved me in the forest. You tried to help the others. I know you. We’ve met before. You protect all and the spirits see that.”
“I hear screaming.”
“The village,” Alastor said. He shakes the dirt off the coat then realizes, one of the silver heart-shaped buttons is missing.
“We must hurry,” said Hototo.
“I will get my heart back.”
Alastor lifts the black bandana beneath is blackened eyes. The screams of the dead are masked by the whistle of Hototo. The two set off on horseback towards the Indian village.
Copyright © 2015 E.F. Olsson. All rights reserved.
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