With my recent work on the Infinatum, I have been re-familiarizing myself my stories and characters. As I did, I came across this. I had this in my WordPress draft, but forgot to post it. So here it is. If enough people like it, I’ll post the second part. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the entire Black Wave Event book is released… someday.
On a quiet, dusty plateau, overlooking plains of sparse grass and desert, a boy lay flat on his back, looking up into the darkening blue sky of evening. His plain shirt and denim pants had the look of hard work, encrusted with dust, dirt and sweat. Even his face was shaded by the results of an honest day of work. But the grime also covered a black eye. Clear lines trailed down from his eyes, caused by now dried tears.
As he lay there, his gaze seemed to look beyond the deep blueness of the sky, past the few pin-points of evening stars. He had come here often to see what others couldn’t, or wouldn’t see. Sometimes he didn’t understand it himself. All he did know was that when the sun was gone, and stars spilled across the sky, with the moon and its many faces floating by, he felt a certain kind of peace that he never felt anywhere else. As if the vastness of all that he could see in the sky was just a small part of everything.
It was easy for the boy to get lost in his mental space voyages, and thus, easy to startle. He jumped when he heard footsteps approaching. But the scuffing of boots in the dirt were just as telling as the gruff, but soothing voice that spoke to him.
“Easy Son, it’s me.”
The Son sat up and turned. The red of the setting sun splashed the man in warmth. His clothes were similar to the boy’s, they had just seen many more days of hard work. His large brimmed cowboy hat looked as old as time, as did the boots. Both were leather that had been beaten and worn by use and age. His face was leathery too, it read like a map of life and experience, much of which was not good, or easy. His eyes, usually stern and hard, seemed calm and patient.
“Leave me be Pa.” The boy said, turning away, bring his knees up and laying his elbows upon them.
The Father walked over and crouched down with a quiet grunt. He put his right hand out for support and sat down to the right of his Son. He brought his knees up and rested his elbows on them, mirroring his Son. He looked off towards the setting sun, his right hand rubbing his gnarled left hand, which had always seemed like it belonged to a man twice his age.
“There are reasons ah don’t wanna go to town.” The Father said.
“Ah no.” The Son replied, anger, disappointment in his voice. “Yer afraid, o’ them two strangers.”
“Afraid? Who told ya that?”
The Son didn’t answer, afraid that what he had heard was the truth.
The Father glanced over at his Son, his mind working, remembering. His realization came quietly. He nodded his head. “The Johnson boys. The fight.”
The Son sat up straight, looking at his Father, tears welling up again. “They called you a coward! I wasn’t gonna let that stand! You fought in the war! What the hell did their father do!”
“Watch yer mouth boy!” The Father said, a flash of his toughness peeking through.
“Sorry Pa.” The Son replied, settling back.
“Do you think ah’m a coward son?”
“No.” Was the Son’s answer, but it was quiet, unsure.
“That means ya do.”
The Son wanted to reply, but couldn’t. The greatest fear of any child was seeing a parent reduced to a mere person. It weighed on him, like it had been for a while now.
For what seemed like an age, nothing was said between them. The sun slowly sank below the horizon before the Father lowered his head, as if searching for the words, or mustering up courage to speak of something he never wanted to speak of. “Did you know what ah did in the war?” The Father asked.
“You were a soldier?” The Son replied, not sure of the answer. He was never sure of any answer when it came to the war.
The Son watched his Father as he looked up, across the plains below them. He had seen humanity in his idol, but it wasn’t like before. He didn’t see the sadness, or the reflection of loss. He had heard others talking about a weight his Father had carried, but he had never seen it, until now. If this was what they talked about, it seemed like something haunting, dark, and sinister.
“Ah was a field doctor. That means ah healed people. Sometimes, ah tried to heal people in the middle of a fight.”
“Really?” The Son questioned.
The Father nodded. “Yep. Ah helped save a lotta men.” His voice caught at the thoughts and visions in his mind. He held back his sobs and looked at his Son with eyes filled with tears and nightmares. “Ah also saw a lotta good men die in terrible ways, Son. Ah’ve seen things that still haunt me, things ah’ll never forget.” He looked away from his Son, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Things ah can’t forget, no matter how hard ah try.”
The Son put his hand on his Father’s arm.
The Father put his hand on his Son’s hand. “Ah don’t know if’n you’ll understand all this–”
“Ah do Pa.” The Son interrupted. “Ma tried ta tell me.”
“Yer Ma is a strong woman. Not many woulda put up with the likes o’ me. It’s because of you an yer Ma that ah’m still here, an not off somewheres doin evil.” He said, not wanting to think about all those who had thought their lives weren’t worth living after losing a limb, or limbs, or loved ones. Some hid their fears by trying to quench their new-found thirst for blood and violence.
“These things ain’t easy ta tell, Son. Fer some, it’s harder jus ta live. Some can’t deal. Yer Ma, bless her, tried. But the things ah told her scared her.” The Father looked at his Son, seeing the strength he once had. “But since you were a young’n, you never seemed afraid, or backed down from a fight, as the Johnson boys know full well.”
The Son smiled sheepishly.
“Ah see a willfulness in you Son,” The Father continued, pride shining through, “but it ain’t hard or cruel. It comes from a need ta do what’s right, no matter the cost. I see that in you Son, an it gives me hope.” A broad smile brightened the Father’s face as he put his arm around his Son. “Ah hope I’m makin sense.”
The Son put his arm around his Father. “Ya Pa, you are.”
The Father pulled his Son to him and hugged him tight.
The Son did the same. “Ah love you Pa.”
“Ah love you Son, so much.”
When they parted, they were all smiles and full of goodness. The Father took off his well-worn hat and placed it on the Son’s head. The Son adjusted it, smiling. The Father nodded his approval. They turned their attention to the horizon, sitting with elbows resting on bent knees, as the last light of day faded to darkness.
As night finally stretched across the sky, the Father looked down again, like he did earlier, before he told of his tortured past and soul. “There’s a reason ah didn go to town Son, an it had nothin ta do wit that gunslinger.” The Father raised his head, clenching his jaw as he looked at his Son. When their eyes meet, the Son saw something even graver than his Father’s previous revelations.
“Did ya know the other man, Pa?” The Son asked, a chill coursing through him at the sight of his Father.
The Father nodded. “Do ya believe me son, when I tell ya somethin?”
“Of course Pa.” The Son replied in a whisper.
The Father looked away from his Son, towards the horizon. He took a few deep breaths before he spoke. “Them Johnson boys tell ya that stranger’s name?”
The Son nodded slowly. “Mr. Abraham. He came to Nevada askin ’bout minin’. But,” he paused, unsure if he should say more. Normally, his Father wasn’t one for idle gossip. But after what he had learned about his Father, something told him this gossip wasn’t idle. “One a tha Johnson boys, their Ma works at the hotel, they heard her tellin’ Jessica Crabtree sumthin ‘bout Mr. Abraham.” The Son stopped, unsure if he should continue.
“Tell me ya heard, Son.” The Father replied, reluctantly.
The Son leaned in close, forgetting there was no one around for miles. “She said he was a smooth talker, prob’ly from back east, maybe New York. She said he could sell dirt to tha ground. But, when he was wit tha old Navajo, Coyote, he had his self an English accent! He was supposed ta stay longer, but he got wind tha some gunslinger was lookin’ for ‘im, he packed up an left!” The Son looked at his Father, a mix of excitement and uncertainty.
The Father saw this. “I ain’t fond of gossip, son. But yer Ma has a point. It makes fer interestin’ conversation.”
The Son nodded his understanding as his uncertainty faded. But he still noticed the seriousness in his Father. “Did ya know tha Mr. Abraham fella?”
The Father nodded, his jaw clenching again, “Ya, I did. I met ‘im during tha war.”
“Really? Where? Was he a soldier you saved?”
“He was,” The Father began, his thoughts, like his words, were broken and jagged. “A soldier. But ah didn’t save him.” He let his words hand there, like an eerie haze.
After a long, puzzled pause, the Son asked. “You didn’t save him?”
The Father slowly shook his head from side to side.
“Then who saved him Pa?” The Son asked. His mind raced with what his Father was implying.
“No one.” The Father stated in a plain-as-day fashion. “He died.”
The Son looked at his Father as the world seemed more still than any other night he had spent out under the stars. No gazing into the depth of night could compare with the blackness beyond death. He didn’t want to believe what he heard, but somehow, he knew it was the truth. He swallowed a lump in his throat before asking the question he was most afraid to ask. “Then how’s he alive now?”
The Father looked at his Son with a fearsome calm. “Cause somethin’ evil brought him back.”
The Black Wave Event Copyrighted © 2016 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.