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SADDLEBAGS, Trunks, and Tombs

by Mia J. Mitchell 2 years ago in fantasy
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Chapt. 6-7-8

Cover Art: Mary P. Young, copyright 2016 to Mia Multiplied inc.

Chapter 6


As he struggled to sit up, he was again amazed that he felt no pain. He was most certain that he had been shot four to five times, yet here he was, pain free and strangely rested. He tried to shield his eyes from the blazing sun of the high noon, though it seemed the sun was not only above him but all around him. It was at that very moment that ‘Old Jack” jumped to his feet. Something was wrong, very wrong, with his hands. Not moments ago, his hands had been soft and cream colored, with the small size and velvety feel of the eastern gentleman, which of course he was.

With the exception of a little train robbing and gun slinging, he had never lost the softness of his breeding. It was how he ended up with the name ‘Old Jack’ in the first place, because it was so opposite of the soft, youthful looks he had maintained over the few years he had been here. Now, as he held his hand in front of him, something had definitely changed. Hands that had moments ago been cream colored and callus free were tanned dark brown and wrinkled like bad leather, almost as if he had aged!

For some reason he thought of Martha, the young wife he had left back in Cornish. His wanderlust proving to hold his heart more than the woman he had given his name. Old Jack looked around, the confusion settled like a boulder in the pit of his stomach. Where was he? The veil that covered his mind was black and thick. This could not be, was not, the same place he had just been.

The buildings were different, the buggies were faster and missing the horses. Even the air was different. It felt like Kingman, but yet... Wait, something familiar?? The Hotel Brunswick across the road, it was still there but it too seemed out of place, out of its time. Had he died after all? What about Martha? Was this some sort of purgatory? If so, he quickly decided he would rather go straight to hell.

As he continued to look around he noticed a set of saddlebags not too far from where he stood, saddlebags that reminded him of the ones he had brought out west with him. As he reached over to pick them up, realization hit like a bolt of lightning. His knees began to buckle even before he spotted the crumbled note on top of the bags. The note held one word: “Walk.”

Jackson would feel what it meant long before he would ever accept it. He was being given a chance. A chance to make amends. Old Jack didn’t want a chance. All he wanted at the very moment was the darkness and loss of consciousness that was death. Even as he began to think these thoughts a blinding white column of light began to shine in the distance, seeming to reach from the ground straight into the heavens above. Detesting his current compulsion, he picked up the ancient saddlebags, slung them over his shoulders and began to walk.

Chapter 7

The Watcher:

I vaguely remembered the previous night. I had meant to read the letter again but as I reached for it I had become filled with a dread so deep that I had snatched my hand away as if the letter were a rattlesnake. Later, as the year moved on, I would recall feeling as if the bite of the rattler would have been like the caress of a woman compared to what would become of my life.

My neck and back were stiff from falling asleep sitting straight up on the couch. I slowly stood up and stretched long and hard, hoping to stretch the stiffness away, and began to make my way to the small bathroom in the back of the flat. On my way in, I grabbed a pair of my older, more worn Levi 501 button flies, a navy blue polo shirt and a couple of towels, dropped them on the sink and made my way into the steaming shower.

I stayed in the shower longer than was my normal, almost aware of the wrinkling of my skin. I truly believe that I was trying to wash away the last two days of my life. It didn’t work. I turned off the water and stepped into the steamy, cool air of the bathroom. I started to dry off and get dressed. As I was slipping on my jeans, somehow I knew. My life had changed last night. I cleared the condensation from the center of the bathroom window and pushed my, as my mother would say, too long, unkempt, deep brown hair, out of my face. I was just beginning to brush my teeth when I was caught off guard.

For a moment, the dark blue eyes staring back at me were not my own. It was him! I shook my head as if it would truly clear my mind, and the vision of the gunslinger disappeared. Not here too! Setting my toothbrush down on the sink I continued to stare at my own reflection wondering what was next. Though I was planning to go through my normal daily motions in my heart I knew that everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again.

As I was padding into the living room the phone began to ring. Wrapping the towel around my neck, I picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Hey, it’s me. What’s going on? Have you had your morning coffee yet?” It was my agent, Ken, on the other end of the line.

Ken Fountain was a man whose name definitely fit him. He was a fountain of conversation, a fountain of life and a fountain of ideas on ways for me to keep making us money. I’ll tell you what, I ain’t mad at him. Neither of us were out in the cold or starving. “Hey Ken, I was just on my way out the door,” I said, still trying to sound normal. “What’s up?” “You are, from the word on the street, my man! Look, I know you have your novels that are collecting dust in the corner, but I just finished reading the reviews on the last article you wrote for the Oregonian. You’ve got my phone ringing off the hook! It looks like you’re the hottest coal in the fire right now! I’ve gotten messages on my answering machine requesting you and your magic pen!!"

"Look, go ahead and do what you do to get your morning going and give me a buzz when you’re ready to make another dollar or two.” “Alright, Fountain, give me a few and I’ll get back with you. Later man, and thanks.” I hung up the phone, pulled my shirt on over my still wet hair and slipped my mildly damp feet into the Birkenstocks that sat next to the front door. That call would have normally sent me over the edge, over the edge for a type B personality anyway. This was huge!! It was the call that every freelance writer desired but very few ever got. I had tried to resonate with the excitement I should have been feeling but my mind was where it was at and nothing in my normal world could touch that right now. For those of you who may be wondering, yeah, it’s all about me right now. I really need my coffee!

After grabbing the keys off the counter, I slipped out the door and down the back staircase that led outside. I just couldn’t deal with my landlords this morning. I could barely deal with myself! I made my way to the coffee house, got my coffee, a pineapple danish and a copy of the Oregonian and made my way back home. As soon as I was in the door, I put the danish and my keys on the counter and tossed the paper on the coffee table. This ended up being one of my final “normal” acts for the next year.

So much for being a creature of habit. My mother would be pleased. She had always alluded to the fact that though I was an easy child she wished she saw the spirit in me that she had seen in my brothers and my father. If she only knew or if she had only taken the time to figure it out, she would have realized that what my father and brothers had shown on the outside was housed inside of me. To this day I don’t believe she has read one piece that I have written. Oh well, as I was saying, there would be no more normal days for me until the story in the window visions was finished with me.

It would turn out that it was a good thing I had purchased the newspaper, which consequently remained unread. It would be the only thing to let me know exactly how much time had passed from the bewitchment of the window to the completion of the novel. It would let me know exactly how much of my life I had lost to the story.

I called Ken after chugging down half of my coffee. He ran down the list of offers we had received as I stared out at the boats on the Willamette. There was an offer from the National Geographic that sounded promising. Ken and I ended up choosing six of the ten offers for me to focus on and I began to gather up my pencils and paper to get started.

Pushing the window into the back of my mind, I sat down at the computer and began to do the research needed for the first article having to do with the indigenous peoples of Japan and their plight to survive while maintaining their way of life. Strangely, I was beginning to know the feeling. You never know, until it is threatened, what you will do to preserve your life and what you know it to be.

Chapter 8

The article was damn near complete! I said I was a writer and this is what I do, but Wow!! The words flowed so flawlessly as if I had lived it myself. If I hadn’t been the one writing it, I would have been impressed with the author! I have never finished a feature length article in less than five days, much less under one!

I worked until the sun went down and put the finishing touches on the article just as the rigatoni I had ordered from the Italian place down the street was delivered to my door. Normally they won’t deliver alcohol but the owner had sent over a bottle of my favorite red dinner wine to go with my meal. Being a creature of habit has its privileges! The aromas that drifted from the brown paper bags was wonderful! The smell of the red sauce on the pasta and the garlic and butter on the bread had my mouth watering.

My stomach clenched in knowing hunger as I sat in the kitchen and began to tear into the bags sitting on the table. Not to long after I had completed my meal, legs stretched and feet crossed under the table, I clasped my hands behind my head and began thinking about the fat check I was about to receive for one day’s worth of work. I had a couple of finishing touches to add to the end of the article, but other than that, it was already money in the bank!

Reaching for the phone to call Ken, I felt a slight change in the air behind me. I didn’t want to know what I already knew. The left side of my brain wasn’t curious at all. It wanted me to close my eyes and run blindly out of the apartment and never look back! The left side lost out. I slowly got up from the table, my glass of wine gripped in my hand, turned and began to walk towards the couch with my eyes fixed on the floor.

I realized I wasn’t ready. I didn’t really want to see the view in that window disappear into a black, swirling hole. I have to laugh now for as much as my left brain wanted out, my right brain had me heading to the desk to grab some pencils and paper. Can you believe it? I sunk down into the couch, purposefully, took a large gulp of wine and lifted my head and eyes to the pictures forming in front of me.

I waited for the nausea that I had felt last night. It didn’t come. I realize now that there was nothing that could happen that would cause me to miss one second of the story that had begun to unfold. The picture cleared into a quiet high noon desert. I could hear cars in the distance and what I was seeing had the feel of present times. Again, as I did last night, I looked around and the picture turned to where I looked. There were new buildings surrounding older, maybe refurbished, buildings.

I began to write with a quickness as I wanted to describe the buildings but the buildings began to fade as if the little I had seen was enough. The picture turned me back to the desert. There on the ground was a body. Next to the body were some old saddlebags, I think. I remember seeing them on horses in old west movies. I say I think because these looked terribly worn with holes and the leather was faded. The scene began to close in around the body. It was as still as death, most dead bodies were though. It looked like a man who had been quite tall in his time, maybe even handsome. The hair was thin but held a brown color to it.

The hat on his chest was most likely black in its day, but it too was well worn and bleached by the sun. His cheekbones were high and his jaw line straight. As I was taking in every descriptive aspect of the body it shuddered violently. It, he had taken a breath!! He was alive? The breath was so deep, so dramatic, that I jumped, spilling my wine on my jeans. I got up quickly and walked backwards to the kitchen to grab a towel so that I wouldn’t miss a second of what was going on. For some reason my eyes fell and caught sight of the box and the letter lying on the coffee table.

While I patted myself and the couch off, my eyes still glued to the window, the body, the man, no the cowboy (?) sat up and began to look around. You could see the confusion in his eyes. He looked down towards his chest and absently fingered the bullet holes in his vest. He looked towards the buildings in the distance as if he had a brief moment of recognition but wasn’t quite sure of the sight in front of his eyes. As he continued to look around it seemed as if he suddenly noticed his hands. If my hands looked like his did I would have stared at them too!

Within seconds his quick movements had me jumping again. He leapt to his feet and was staring at his hands with his eyes and mouth opened wide. As dry and crusty as his face was, I truly believed all of the stretching would cause it to explode into dust. I wondered what it was about his hands that disturbed him so. He seemed to stare at them, still open mouthed, for an eternity. It was then that I realized the scene had changed from high noon to evening for the sun was slowly dropping behind the rocky hills.

Finally he looked away from his hands and his gaze fell upon the saddlebags that were lying near him. Again the questioning look upon his face followed by the exclamation of remembrance. He, by this time, had bent over to pick up the bags with a look of what appeared to be anger.

In the distance, to his immediate northwest, a column of light appeared. To me, it looked as if Capt. Kirk from the Starship Enterprise was preparing to beam down. Yeah, I laughed at the thought. I couldn’t help it! Funny, though, we seemed to notice the light at the same time. He picked up the saddlebags, tossed them over his ragged shoulders and slowly began to walk towards the light. The screen, I mean, my window, faded to black and slowly the lights on the Willamette began to dance.


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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