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SADDLEBAGS, Trunks, and Tombs

by Mia J. Mitchell 2 years ago in fantasy
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Book 1: Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2

Cover art: Mary P. Young


The remnants of the brilliant golden light disappeared into the wind as the lone figure vanished into the moonlit southwestern desert.

The Watcher

I believe that I have been a writer since the day that I was born. What others would consider the “starving artist” life of a writer had become a cherished way of life to me. I never really cared about the money in it, I just had to write. My need to write is like others need to breathe. No matter, I am by no means starving anymore. In the far corner of my flat, the corner I call my office, are a couple of unfinished novels. I have plans on finishing them one day and making the millions I know I will make when they are published. Does that sound arrogant to you? I apologize if it does, but I know my wares and I know how they will fare when I get them out in the market. But for some reason it just has never seemed like the time to cross the road into being a published novelist. The millions would give me nothing that I truly want anyway. I have never missed a meal, my head is covered and my body clothed. So what if the pages full of words aren’t novels yet that can be sold in local bookstores around the country?

Nonetheless they are novels and novellas to me. I have numerous articles that I have written over the years. It is the articles that have kept bread on the table. It is the articles that have kept my life and my art alive, but for the first time my thoughts upon this path falter. Honestly, I am bored. I need something new. A new scene, a new story, something that will set off an explosion in my mind.

My name is Jonathan W. Cole, the “W” standing for “Watcher”. Well, not really, actually that would be ‘Walter’ but I like to refer to myself as a watcher so I scrapped the ‘Walter’. It is actually an explanation of how I write. I watch things. People, trends, ideas, everything and once I have observed it, I write it. Simple as that.

I have lived on SE 13th street in Sellwood, Oregon for most of my adult life, in a one bedroom flat above an antique store. I grew up in sunny Southern California but even before I was a teenager I knew that California was not where I belonged and not where I would stay. My mother told me, not too long ago, that from the very first time my father had brought us to the Pacific North West on a camping trip, when I was 3 years old, that I would tell her that I lived here. She wasn’t happy when she realized I was never coming back to Cali but she wasn’t surprised either.

When I was in my senior year of high school I applied to Oregon State University and got in on a basketball scholarship. You want a laugh? I hate sports but I knew I wasn’t going to get in on a journalism scholarship so I followed the old adage, “Get in where you fit in.” Once I was accepted, I did what I had to do on the court while pulling double majors in literature and journalism. The rest is history. I have considered myself an Oregonian ever since and my bio tells the same story.

Well let me tell you a little about my place, it could be important later. As I mentioned earlier my place only has one bedroom. I haven’t needed more than that so why move? There is a huge picture window in the living area that faces that Willamette River. Never a dull moment I’ll tell you! The only time you can’t see the river well is in the spring. The trees here get so thick with flowers and foliage that you can just glimpse the sun off the surface of the water if you’re looking for it. If you could see through my eyes, you would see that downtown Portland is virtually a stone’s throw away. Portland is definitely the place for the budding and mature artist. As artsy fartsy as it is, (their words, not mine. Don’t believe me? Look it up in a traveler’s guide!), I have decided that it has no appeal to the true artist, but calls to those who choose to pimp their talent in an attempt to get rich quick.

Thankfully there is a place for everyone and Sellwood just happened to be the place for me and my stories. In my world the true artist is the art. The sculptor is the sculpture, the singer is the song. I am a writer, a storyteller. I am the story waiting to be told, the story that only I can tell. My riches are forever at my fingertips should I so choose to reach out and grab them. But my true riches, the ones you can’t see, lie in the telling, not the selling, of the stories.

I know you want to get into this story and are probably tired of my rambling but humor me for just a moment more, it will all come together soon. There came a day that I was standing at the picture window gazing at the fishermen on the riverbanks, just below Oaks Park, knowing that what I have seen, what I have experienced, could change my life forever should it ever leave this room. Yes, I said I needed something a change but damn, nobody would have wanted what I eventually got! No one! This new, unexpected story gnaws inside me, wanting to be told, trying to scratch its way out, but I am unable to let it go, unable to sacrifice my life, such as it is.

The story didn’t see me, as it’s equal. It thought to completely envelope me, to use me to make its entrance into this realm. It never considered my life while it was using me to attempt to bring breath into its own dust filled nostrils. It seeks to take my life. My solemn dinners alone, filled with Greek delicacies and fine wines. My steaming cups of Kona blend coffee in the morning and my snacks of organic melons and gourmet cheeses at night.

My other stories have always been like family to me, but not this one. Though it has tried to feel familiar to me, it has more sought to trick me into freeing it from its dusty prison, a time long forgotten. Oh wretched window!! Why have you cursed my watching eyes and my writer’s heart? Why have you allowed me to be trampled upon? Now that the story is done, my hunger depletes silently each day as I grip the story that once asked, then begged and now demands to be told.

Friends, there is but one chapter left to be penned, the final chapter. I would not want you to believe that it has not been written, for on the contrary it is branded in my existence as I have lived the last chapter, not sat in my home and watched it through the picture window the way in which the rest of the story unfolded itself to me. If I put it on paper the book will take its first breath, but will I still have mine or will it be my last as I have come to know them? The ancient browned letter sits open on my coffee table exactly where it has lain for the past year.

Gentle patrons, I now turn to you, imploring you to examine what has been shown, what has been written. I am putting my life in your hands as you shall soon see. Tonight I will have a glass of wine and maybe even rest my weary eyes while I await your analysis and hopefully your decision, the decision I have pawned off on you, the decision of my fate.

Sincerely yours,

The Watcher

Chapter 1

How had I not known? I’ve always thought very highly of my mental abilities and yet had I known, would I have stopped it from happening? Would I have run out of my apartment as a madman and disappeared into the night? It is said that hindsight is 20/20 but it’s too late now.

Even though I did introduce myself properly, I have since decided that ‘The Watcher’ is the most appropriate name I could introduce myself as. As this year has passed, even to the last chapter, I have done just that, watched. I never interacted, I never spoke, though I swore, that once, the old man looked dead at me. I watched and I wrote, so for now, as far as this writing is concerned, I have given up the name of my birth. If you forget who I am, just remember what I do. Watch.

I live a simple life and have enjoyed it. As you know, I live in a small apartment, I could have afforded more, but why? I’m rambling again, huh? I have a tendency. Anyway, this is all I have known since the day that I took the reins and became the decision maker for my life. Well at least that’s what I thought anyway.

There are numerous windows in my hovel, but in the main room there is one large picture window that stretches from floor to ceiling and actually has the nerve to be framed in beautifully etched cherry wood. I never got around to hanging any more decorative items in the main room as the window itself became a living piece of art, each day changing with the seasons and the whims of others who, unbeknownst to them, became my art.

This very window is what pulled me and has kept me here for the past fifteen years. If I have my way, here is where I will take my last breath, sitting on my overstuffed couch, gazing out of the window that enchants me with every glance.

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always rain in Oregon, but that is the lie that keeps the “sunny” Californians away. Oregon is the most beautiful place in the world, especially in the Portland area that is part of a temperate rain forest. In the spring and fall, you can truly see colors as the Creator meant for them to be seen. It was early spring when I looked at this place and after what should have been a quick glance out of the window, I was moving the few items I owned into the apartment.

Into the bedroom went my super single bed with an olive green bedspread, you know, the kind that hung to the floor, and a small chest of drawers. I had a small three legged table to eat on and a desk for the typewriter, which has since upgraded to a laptop computer. The final piece of furniture was a deep forest green corduroy couch that I sat smack in the middle of the living room directly in front of the picture window. It may seem funny, but over the years I have never purchased a television though I did purchase newer furniture. The view from the picture window was always new and always enough. If I knew then what I know now, I would have thought twice about getting a television and for that matter a DVD player, Tivo and a VCR.

I own a yellow 1967 Chevy Chevette which has rarely left the garage, rain or shine, since the day I first parked it there. Everything I want and need is in walking distance. There is a Starbucks a couple of blocks up 13th street with a florist on the left side the street. I have faithfully made that trip every morning since they first opened their doors ten years ago. There is a New Seasons market about half a mile the other direction. I get all of my organic snacks and the few groceries I do buy from there.

As time has gone by, numerous gourmet restaurants and cafes have popped up, one of my favorite being Elenis Philoxenia, a Greek spot with exquisite food, culture and service. Most of the houses built in Sellwood were built around the 1920’s, and even though we are four miles from downtown Portland, the area has not lost its old time charm, perfect for those who don’t like change. The smell of the fresh bread and rain, as I make my way wherever my feet are taking me that day invigorate and excite my mind. The smell of the Kona blend coffee in the large, light brown cup, prepares me for my day’s work. The mildly musty smell of the antique shop that I live above and occasionally walk through, filled with items from other places and times, imbeds stories into my mind.

As I am surrounded by antique shops, my street being referred to as “Antique Row”, it would be safe to assume that I have a fondness for old items and have, on occasion, picked up an item or two for my apartment. Mr. and Mrs. Lauftenburg, the owners of the antique store below my home and my landlords, will sometimes hold a new item that they think may hold my interest. On the morning that my life was to begin its downward descent into unwelcome turmoil, I happened to be making my way through their shop to see if there was anything new, (old but new), that might catch my eye. ’Once Upon a Time’, the Lauftenburg’s store, was in my opinion, one of the finer antique stores on the row. It was almost uncanny the pieces they would find. Though I did buy from other stores, most of my money was spent here.

The Lauftenburg’s were a charming, old couple, eccentric as all get out, (I’ve got my nerve huh?), but it worked for them and it worked for me. This particular morning, seemingly awakened by the smell of my coffee, Mr. Lauftenburg grinned wide and motioned me towards the counter. I’ll tell you what, if it was the coffee that had him grinning like that, he better make quick plans to go get his own, and I mean quick! I could barely get my morning greeting out before my eyes fell upon the small mahogany box sitting on the counter in front of the grinning old man. Even as I closed the distance between us, I could see the intricate carvings, filled with the dust of what appeared to be an age gone by.

When I reached the counter and got a closer look, I could see the herd of horses carved into the cover. Mr. Lauftenburg smiled and nodded his head, indicating that I should pick it up and take a look. I set my coffee on the counter, now not caring if he picked it up and took a gulp or two! Even with the dirt in the grooves you could feel the richness of it. Oh what a story that played across my fingers, sliding its way to the recesses of my mind! Then again, maybe not, but the piece begged to be mine just as the older man had known it would. We talked for a while about the box while I wrote out my rent check.

After the necessary haggling, Lord knows I hate to haggle, I pulled a nice amount of cash out of my pocket, said my goodbyes and walked the long flight of stairs leading to my apartment. I put my coffee on the kitchen counter, which thankfully Mr. Lauftenburg had not decided to share, sat down on the edge of the couch and looked more closely at my new found treasure. After what seemed like a long time, I decided to take a look inside the box, after that I told myself I would get to the business of cleaning it. While we had been talking, Mr. Lauftenburg had mentioned to me that he and his wife had attended an auction in New Mexico this past weekend. The box had been among some other items that were found at the site of an old post office, evidently not having made their destinations.

As the story goes, as told by the auctioneer, there had been a big shoot out, as was still common in the day, concerning a large amount of money on the postal stage coach. Consequently the rest of the mail that day had been either scattered or destroyed. Supposedly the box in question was one of the scattered items. I thought about the story as I prepared to take top off of the box and take a look inside. I didn’t truly think the box would hold anything but old air, but the box turned out to hold something that was quite dear, or should have been, to someone.

After my initial surprise I carefully removed a yellowed letter with what seemed to be scorched edges and what appeared to be a very old birth certificate, well half of a birth certificate. The only words I could make out on the front of the envelope were: “Mr., Winches, King, Arizona. Well it looked as if Mr. “Winches” hadn’t received his mail. Poor him, lucky me. With the letter still in my hand, I went to the kitchen and retrieved my coffee. After setting the cup on the coffee table, somewhat away from the box, I sunk down into the couch and began to open the letter.

Chapter 2

The edges of the letter tried to crumble in my hands as I gently removed it from the tattered envelope. I was holding in my hands something that was written almost a hundred years ago! It deserved to be handled with the utmost delicacy. I laid the envelope back in the box, slowly unfolded the letter and began to read:

January 29, 1910

Dearest Jackson,

I am hoping that this letter finds you well. It has been nearly a year since your last letter. It is my grandest and most desperate hope that you are still residing in Kingman at the address on your last letter. I have waited patiently and have gone through many trials here, in hopes that you would send for me soon as you had promised so many years ago. My situation has now become dire and it seems the only choice I have is to attempt to make my way to you and hope that your arms still welcome me as they did the night before you left. With that hope in my heart, I send you this letter in the box that you gave me when you first began to court me as a young girl. You gave it to me to hold my dreams, now I send it to you to fulfill my dreams.

I have done everything I can to survive here in Cornish and now have nothing left but the box, my health and the very last blessing ever bestowed upon me. I have made my final arrangements and am set to arrive into Kingman on April 29th of this year. On that day, I bring to you myself and all that I have in hopes that your promise will be fulfilled.

With all my love,


I held the letter in my hand for a few moments, wondering what happened to Martha. Did she make it to Arizona? Was Jackson there to meet her? Did her life have a happy ending or did she come to find that she would be utterly and completely alone, thousands of miles from home? I’ve gotta tell you, I have written fictional stories that didn’t have this kind intrigue behind them! Finally I laid the letter down on the coffee table and made my way back to the kitchen to grab an apple, the whole time my mind twisting with thoughts of Martha and Jackson.

As I walked back towards the couch, tossing the apple in the air and planning to sketch out a story idea about the letter, the picture window went black. Let me tell you, I’m surprised the apple landed in my hand and not on the cold hard wood floor. Even if it had been midnight, the view out of that window had never been pitch black. But it was no later than 9:30 am! I don’t know how long I stood still in my tracks, fear of the unknown running through my veins like ice water. I didn’t know what to expect to see and I didn’t want to expect to see what I couldn’t fathom to expect! I felt cool beads of sweat forming quickly on my brow. My legs found the front edge of my couch and I was braced against it before I realized it.

I stared at the window praying to see the familiar sites of the waterfront, needing to see them. As you can probably guess, that was not to be. The darkness began to swirl, (I really needed that with the nausea already getting worse), until a scene began to form. As the window began to clear, a moving picture began to take the place of the darkness that had stopped my breath just moments before. Panic enveloped me, but my naturally curious mind caused me to be captured by the scene that should not have been in my vision. Though I felt I was surely losing my mind, I was cohesive enough to slide myself onto the couch just before my legs decided to drop me to the floor.

The scene that had cleared into the window appeared to be like a western shoot ‘em up movie. In what appeared to be a small, dusty town, of very few buildings, a stage coach had just pulled to a stop in front of a small building that bore the name “Hobbs Postal Office”. As with a television western, when there is about to be a problem, the few towns people in the area seemed to be moving quickly to whatever cover or building they could find, as far away from the post office as they could possibly get. All that was needed was the music to let you know that the bad guys were there and there was about to be some big problems for the men who were starting to unload the coach.

As the first bags were unloaded from the coach a solid handful of men began to emerge from the settling dust that the stagecoach had stirred up. They weren’t even wearing masks! Guns were drawn just as the three men unloading the coach became aware that they were no longer alone. The look on their faces was realer than I had ever seen on TV I saw true fear just as the first shots rang out.

One of the three went down instantly, one tried to run and one tried to fight. In the midst of it all, bags of mail and boxes seemed to be flying everywhere. The two remaining postal workers were quickly disposed of and the outlaws rummaged through the mess of mail, found what they were looking for and rode off. Before they left, one of the men decided to toss some sort of fire wielding bottle into the postal building as the abused boxes and bags lay scattered on the dirt road, then the scene in the window was gone, just as fast as it had come.

As my mind still reeled in fear and confusion, the river and the waterfront took their rightful places back in my window. I grabbed the closest bottle of scotch I could get my hands on, no glass necessary, and began to drink.

A glance at the clock on the wall told me that I had been in a welcome stupor for about five hours. Five hours didn‘t seem like enough! There was no way that I was ready to be coherent yet! I had slid off of the couch, onto the floor but I didn’t seem to have suffered any damage, as I felt no pain. I could feel the beginnings of fear wrapping its hands around my chest. Lord, don’t let me have a heart attack now. I’m too young to die!! (Laugh if you want to, if it were you, you would be saying the same thing!!).

As I pushed myself back onto the couch, I found myself staring at the window. A middle-aged man with a fishing pole was being led to the waterfront by a large German shepherd, a normal window view for this time of year. The grip of fear loosening its hold on my chest, my eyes drifted to the coffee table. I stared for the longest. This would teach me to impulse buy! There sat the letter and the box, just as I had left them before I had temporarily lost my mind. I didn’t want to touch anything, didn’t want to move. I barely took a breath!

The last thing I wanted was to see the blackness in the window again. Yet the scene that I had witnessed called softly to the right side of my brain and whispered, “Write it down.” I am a writer and as afraid as I was, I found my legs pushing me up off the couch and moving me towards my desk. As my body moved me towards my desk, I did everything in my power to keep my head turned away from the window, the window that I had spent so much time looking out of.

My legs kept moving until they were positioning me in front of my chair and dropping me in front of my laptop. I watched my hands reach forward, turn on the computer and bring up the word processor programs new document, which sat there waiting for me to work magic. I remembered everything I had seen and began to type it all onto the bright white space in front of me. I had not realized that I had been holding my breath until I inhaled deeply after typing the period which followed the last word on the page.


About the author

Mia J. Mitchell

Writing is my breath~ I write in every spare moment I have... blogs, books, short stories... I can't NOT write!



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