The night winds run rampant through the thick trees of the forest. Tall and short, the trees are victimized. From deep within those majestic arbors, from far below their lush green manes, does the scream escape from. The winds sob, too. It begs. It pleads. And it too bleeds.
In the belly of these woods sits a man. He puffs gray clouds of smoke into the air. His face is painted black. A man could see his heart. He wears a long trench coat that would be black if not for his proclivity to play in dirt. His fingers twiddle about with anxiety. Warm red fluid cascades from his palms and dashes against the ground. “That’s what separates me from the other hunters. They would simply use a gun. I am more in tune with my primal needs. I take what I want from my prey with my two bare hands. Man versus beast- just the way the Lord intended, ” he says in a grainy voice. He looks at the pool of life eddying on the ground. “Alas, I must depart. Fear not, the show isn’t over. We will just be taking a brief intermission. There’s still plenty of excitement left. I promise or I ain’t the Bristol Butcher,” he states as if speaking before a crowd. He arises from his seat and embarks on his journey, whistling and skipping through the forestation as he does so.
His seat misses his absence. Where once dwelt the backside of a stranger now lies a heap of bodies. Two bodies, devoid of breath, woven into a tapestry of hate lay as a carpet does. Both of them are drenched in their own essences. They eyes, so newly robbed, stay stricken and open. One’s mouth hangs open, revealing freshly plucked teeth. The tongue is free. The other has no mouth. Only a smoldering cauterized spillage of tissue, blood, and blackened bone are there. Both have lost their fights. Their evasiveness was absent. Their strength was fleeting. They could do nothing to stave off their demise. But then, how could they? They were both boys. Neither of them would reach the head of a chair if they stood at full height. A proud conquest, indeed.
The murderer advances briskly through the forest. His feet clap against the slushy earth. His breath is interrupted by controlled bursts of laughter. Upon his exit of that place, he grabs a black sackcloth bag which is concealed in dense a bush. The figure opens the bag, revealing its contents to be a long sleeved black button down shirt adorned with silver cuff-links and a gold chain link about the collar. He next retrieves a pair of blue trousers. He rips his clothing off and wipes his sin from his hands onto them. He puts on his new skin and dumps the old shedding into the sackcloth bag. He hoists the bag over his head and hurls it back into the woods. The ground rumbles as the bad streaks across it. It rolls down steep sloping hills and falls into the belly of the woods among other like bags. The noises cease as the stranger is ejected.
He spills onto the dirt road clearing. The ground quakes again. The stranger stands resolute. In the distance, he can see hustling horses stampeding his way. Both have reigns latched into their mouths and have been secured to a lavish, white painted stage coach. Gold plates decorate the heading of where the driver sits. His cracking whip drives his steeds into a controlled frenzy. The stranger plants himself at the center of the road. The carriage continues barreling in his direction. The stranger reaches into his pants’ pocket and pulls out a golden item. It cuts through the dusk handily. The carriage halts within arm’s length of the stranger. Dirt clouds spring from the spoke of its tires and hover around the base of the wagon. But they dare not touch him. The horses do not whinny, nor do they neigh. They are perched as if they are ossified. Every protruding muscle in their legs stiffens. Their long hairs remain petrified in the wind. The stage driver salutes the stranger. The stranger returns the gesture and enters the cabin of the stagecoach. The driver dismounts from his perch and follows him into the den. Thunder bolts applaud once more. Tearfully, does it do so. The night air races from the place. The trees and high grass try to follow, but they have been planted to the earth. And the live horses remain entranced. Their necks still hold stiff. Their proud race legs do not trot. The living are not alive. They are only breathing.
The two men snicker gleefully to one another. “How was that last little shipment for you mate,” cackles the driver. His high pitched voice sharply contrasts the vastness of his age. His silver hairs have grown up and left home. His skin is loose and floppy. His hands have curled into thick leathery mounds. “Disobedient, very disobedient. I had to put them to sleep. Gave ’em a nice little story, too. I told ’em we were going on a little adventure and whoever found the most interesting item would receive a special treat from me- One they would not soon forget. But they refused to perform,” blankly states the stranger. “Did they at least perform the duties that were required of them,” inquires the driver. “No. When I proposed it, they took off running. That’s when I drew me pistol and emptied into into them. I right made sure to finish them. That way they couldn’t bother another decent man, again,” the stranger huffs. “How many this week,” asks the driver. “Are you with the police? Is that why you ask so many questions,” blasts the driver. “Oh, no. Not I, sir. Not I,” answers the driver. They chuckle loudly amongst themselves. “But seriously, we can not keep up this supply. My employer has instructed me upon the limits of his abilities and…., ” whimpers the driver before being interrupted. “You and your employer will deliver to me any amount that I wish”, blisteringly responds the stranger as he slithers his hand into his boot and unleashes a Flintlock pistol. He stokes the weapon and aims it around the interior of the carriage. “I would hate for our dealings to incur any injury. Wouldn’t you agree, ” asks the stranger arrogantly. “W..why, yes,” stammers the driver. “Do not worry. This is the part where things get a little bit more interesting and I need my audience to be as large as possible. Why don’t you just go and enjoy the show. I promise you the next act will be much more intriguing,” bellows the stranger. “I will return to my duties now sir,” answers the driver. “Good, you do that,” coyly replies the unknown man, who passes his leisure time by forming figures with shadows, by manipulating the position of his fingers. His driver is wide eyed and beat of sweat erupt from his blushing face. His hands tremble as he feverishly searches for the lever which connects to his escape. Once his pleas are answered, the driver projects himself from there and repositions himself atop the coach in his driver’s compartment. He snakes his hand into his soaked coat and brandishes a knotted wiry rope, “the Educator”, as he calls it. He swirls it in the air and smacks it down between the hears
of his two beasts. Once the loud cracking of the whip sounds, both steeds are quickly retrieved from the trances. They pummel through the dirt road and venture into the dusk.
The night air thickens with cool air. The thunder now sleeps and the skies are greeted with elation. Yet, their struggle is more damaging to the earth below. A dense fog blankets the earth. Bales of intertwined grass strands run across an empty dirt road. Dust clouds kick up rambunctiously in the gusts. Even the earth, in its depression, learns the brevity of joy. A small golden haired puppy cuts through the fog. A pink bow sits atop its head. The bow is satin. The moonlight catches it as if presenting it before the world. Its blue eyes are the most striking feature of its face. They glow as if enhanced by the fire of a torch. Its small rounded button nose sniffs in the night air. The fog seems to concede to it. The wind controls its temper and gently filters through the soft golden hairs of the babe.
It trouts confoundedly on three legs. Its head is held low to the earth on occasion. It only lifts its eyes to scan its surroundings for that caregiver who it has known since it breached into this world. It looks for that person who fastened a red collar with a golden pendant around its neck. This is the very same person who carried this dog as its three legs could not offer prolonged support. How sweet nostalgia is? All the we could ever want, our finest moments behind us that give us the briefest of smiles and smirks and then mock us as reality takes custody again, are never to be beheld again.
The world sways underneath its soft weary paws. It looks into the distance. Through the night, it can see a silhouetted object quickly approaching. The pup barks giddily at first. As the speeding object moves closer, that emotion is replaced by fear. This is the kind of fear, where deep down, we know that it will do no good to run. That terror only grows stronger and hungrier when its prey tries to flee. And that prey is only met with fatigue. So the young canine, so fresh to this world, is wiser than its years. It does not flee, nor does it bark. Every impulse is petrified. It is resolved. It has found peace.
That same white horse drawn carriage is barreling down the road. Its stage master ferociously yanks at the horses reigns, prompting them to go faster. What was an uneventful gallop is now the ride of promise. The driver spies the young pup. His horses begin to slow. Their strides become a remorseful trot. The driver pulls harder at the reigns now, but his horses refuse to trot any further. His whip is also unconvincing. The so called beasts endure countless lashes. They offer little to the conversation. His voice becomes weary after the debate. He, instead, reaches under the ripped pillow stitching which serves him as a seat and unveils a colonial musket. It is rusted over with a crusty brown filament. Black gun powder precipitates from its barrel. The driver takes aim. His wild furrowed eyebrows arc downward and tense. His normal bewilderment so prevalent in his eyes evaporates into a gritty iron focus. His hands no longer twitch, but hold steady. Yellow grinding teeth clench in his frothing foamy mouth. “ Be merry, young one. Have your happiness at last. I am obligated to free the afflicted from their strife. Be merry, free one as I divorce you from the ball and chain, not the one you sleep with, but the one you call life, ” chants the driver. His will sears the air
with a violent scorching and thundering boom. A black cloud gathers around the carriage. The carriage is smothered. The horses are snatched from their sorrow and the driver could care less. He cracks his whip once more at his horses who now are more compliant. Their stride is at a somber pace. Hooves inch forward, meticulously passing over the sin. The blood cries out from the soil. The dog’s still yelps. Its body and will are strangers now. That favored pink bow is swamped with precious life fluid. The brilliant glow once held by eyes is diminished to a setting sun. And that carriage crawls on slowly. No stain encroaches upon it. Only the black powder attaches itself to that vessel. And that vessel in its eternal majesty creeps onward, devoured into the abyss.