1883

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sheriff Lawman lived a normal life in the small town of Dead Wood. Never worried about a single crime, it was the perfect job. Until the Brothers Eight came into town, and murdered everyone, he brought them to justice, and saw them all hang. Sometimes, spirits decide not to rest, and others just don't remember their death.

Submitted: August 17, 2009

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Submitted: August 17, 2009

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  I sit in the Sheriff’s office; my office I should say. I listen to the wind gusts as they bang the shutters against the building. I’ve been meaning to fix them for some time now. They can be quite annoying at times.
  Now is one of those times, but I’m lazy at heart. I haven’t even dug my outhouse yet. I use the saloon’s outhouse when I have too. I don’t have far to go, just down the street a bit.
Tex, the saloon keeper doesn’t mind.
  I’m not lazy when it comes to upholding the law. It’s my sworn duty, and I put all I have into it.
  The banging intensifies as the wind grows stronger. It’s going to be one hell of a storm from the way it sounds. Standing from my chair, I walk to the window. Looking out, I watch the Sheriff sign swinging wildly back and forth.
  Most of the horses that had lined the street are gone, no doubt taken to their stables, or now galloping all out for their owners’ homesteads. A flash of lightning illuminates my unshaven face in the window glass; reminding game that I should visit Hank, the towns barber. The angry rumble of thunder shakes the window panes. It’s been a long while since the town of Rotwood has had a storm. Damn near close to a year and a half now I believe.
  I inhale the last bit of tobacco my cigarette provides, toss it to the floor, and crush the fiery life from it.
  “We’re in for one hell of a night.”
  My spurs jingle against the floor as I make my way to the door. And open causing a great gust of wind to rush in. I hold onto my hat so it doesn’t fly off my head.
  Storms have always intrigued me. The raw power they display is fantastic. However, I fear them just as much as I admire them, for storms can produce deadly twisters. One tornado saw to my brother’s death not quite a year ago.
  Stepping into the wind, I discover it has yet to rain. In another flash of lightning I spot the shadow of a man walking down the street. Who in the hell would be out in this? He can’t be in his right mind.
  “Who is that?” I yell, getting no answer in return. The man disappears into the darkness as the lightning’s glow fades. The man’s his footsteps grow closer. I think on about pulling out my irons.
  But that wouldn’t be very smart if it were to be a townsperson caught in the storm.
  “Caught in the storm, huh?” I ask. “Why don’t you come inside my office till it lightens up?” A man stops short of the porch steps. The sky bursts forth in a great explosion of rain.
  The man is unmoved.
  “Hurry up, sir.” I shout. “Get out of that downpour.” The man does not move. “What’s wrong, sir? Why don’t you get out of the storm? You’ll catch your death out there.” Then I hear a faint chuckle. Something isn’t right about this guy.
Why would he stand in a thunderstorm and laugh?
  Lightning illuminates the man’s form once again, only this time two other men are at his side. I know they weren’t there a moment ago. Where did they come from? The urge to pull my guns resurfaces a second time.
  “Where are you gentlemen from?” I approach the edge of the porch. “Texas, New Mexico...Arizona? This here is Rotwood, Texas.”
  The banging of my shutters spooks me.
  “Look, gentlemen. Being the Sheriff, I’ll have to advise you to get out of this storm. It’s for your own safety, you understand?” I jab my thumb toward the saloon. “Tex in the Saloon will put you up for the night.” That’s when I notice that there are no lights on in the saloon. A quick glance around town also shows an absence of light in every building. The saloon doesn’t close till dawn.
Max always has his lights burning bright till then.
Lightning illuminates the three figures.
  The three have now become six.
  I pull my guns. “What’s going on here?” I aim at them. “Give me some answers.”
  There is silence, save the deafening rumble of thunder.
  Two more men appear to make eight.
  “What’s going on?” I shout. “Who are you guys? Answer me, damn you.” The very first man steps forward, but not close enough to reveal him in the light from my office.
  The man throws something onto the porch.
  It lands at my feet with a thud. I can’t make out what it is in the dim light.
  “1883. . .” A dry voice says.
  I bend down to pick the object up. A closer inspection shows it’s a noose -a hangman’s noose- covered in mud. I’ve only had one hanging in my town. It was a mass hanging. 
The brothers would into new towns, rob the bank, and then begin killing everyone in the town - women and children included.
  It can’t be them. I watched them all hang by their necks myself. I watched their bodies’ spasm and jerk as they swung. Doc Grey checked them one after another once they had been cut down. He said they were all dead, dead, and dead. They were buried together in unmarked graves out by the old mine, the one in the desert.
  “1883. . .” The voice returned.
  I look at the man to see his eyes glow like hot coals.
The thumping of the broken shutters matched my heartbeat.
In a flash of angry lightning, I see the cause of the thumping.
  The bodies of the townspeople all hang like convicted criminals outside their porches, their limp bodies banging against their homes in the harsh wind. Tex bangs against the front door of his saloon. Their eyes are fixed toward my office. All his women sway in a ballet of death. Their slender bodies to never again know pleasure, necks snapped like old branches.
  “God, no,” I gasped.
  I’m now in a state of panic. Every sound is amplified; every flicker of motion speeds up. I fire hollow clicks from my revolver at hissing tumbleweed as it rolls down the road. I forgot. I always keep my revolver empty. The crash of my Sheriff sign causes me to yell out, as it falls to the porch from weak fixtures.
  “1883. . .” the voice seemed to drift on the wind.
  “No!” I yell, and then rush into my lit office. I slam and bolt the door behind me. I’ll be safe in here. The light and walls will keep me safe. They’ll keep me from the thumping of the hung corpses. The townspeople, the people I was sworn to protect all dead.
  “That’s what I did!” I shout. "I protected my people by hanging the Brothers Eight. It’s not my fault the souls of the murderers I hung can’t rest. It’s not my fault they feel the need for revenge. Why should they? I did my job as a lawman."
  They were cold-blooded killers and deserved what they got.
  They each deserved every inch of their ropes.
  “It’s not my fault!” I shout.
  I race to the glass gun case, that the one my Daddy built for me and shatter the glass. Reaching into the case, I pull my Winchester repeating rifle from it; always fully loaded and ready for action.
  “You’ll keep me safe.”
  I hear the sound of boot heels clicking on the porch. Then I sink behind the desk in the hopes of hiding from who ever it is. My Winchester is close to my chest, with hands locked, one on the trigger, the other on its barrel.
The lantern flickers above my head. “Don’t you go out on me?” I rasp.
  The boot heels grow nearer the front door. Lightning flashes, and casting a humanlike shadow on the wall where I hide. The frame of the door encasing the shadow tells me it’s still outside.
  As the light fades, from the flickering lightning, the lantern dies. I’m hit with darkness, and it surrounds me on all sides, seeks to strip me of my senses. Replacing my sanity once filled with courage and nerve now filled with fear and cowardice. I hear the sound of the front door. I know I locked it! Now it’s creaking on its rusty hinges, filling my heart with dread. For a brief moment, I place the barrel of the Winchester under my chin. It’s the only way out, the only possible escape. All will be silent and still. No! Death is not the answer to this nightmare.
  The boot heels click across the room heading in my direction. Rising with a yell, I fire at the thing. There is nothing to be seen but a corpse swaying in the wind just beyond the front door, its boots banging against the banister.  
  I’m afraid to look.
  I can’t.
  The door has been opened, and the wind slams my sweaty brow, chilling me to the bone. It causes the body to turn in my direction with the creaking sound of a tight rope. I hold my breath. Lightning illuminates the face - my face!
  “No!” I cry.
  Dry laughter echoes about the room, drifts between the buildings.
  I laugh along with it.
  There’s no way I can be dead. I’m standing in my office, holding a rifle, and bleeding from when I shattered the gun case. As far as I know ghosts don’t bleed.
Dead men don’t bleed.
  I walk over to the saloon. “Sorry, Max.” I look up at the swaying man.
  I then touch the thigh of a lovely young woman. “Sorry, ladies, it’s not my fault, you know? I’m going inside to have a drink, Max. You can put it on my tab,” I laugh.
An hour passes; I’m so drunk that the thumping of the corpses sounds like the beat of a grand song. I keep beat with my left hand, tapping it in time with each thump. I even attempt to make up words to a song that doesn’t exist.
  “You said you loved me.”
  Thump. Thump.
  “But you didn’t care.”
  Thump. Thump.
  “But I. . . I need another drink over here.”
  Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
  “You’re dead, dead, dead,” I laugh.
  Thump. Thump.
  “Put this on my tab, Tex. I want to buy everyone a round.” I raise my shot glass. “Just put it on my tab. You hear me? Sorry. . . I forgot you’re hung up at the moment.” I laugh like a madman.
  “1883. . .” The voice returns.
  “The population of Texas. . . I think.” I burp.
  “1883!” The voice growls overlapped with other voices.
I slam both fists into the bar. Lightning flashes, and strikes something in the distance.
  “What the hell happened in 1883?” I shout. Glancing to the mirror behind the bottle display reveals the Brothers Eight standing at my back, their eyes glowing red.
  “The Brothers Eight. . .” I gasp the image in the mirror changes. It shows the day the brothers were hung on the large gallows built for the occasion. I watch myself give the okay. The trap doors open, and their bodies jerk and twitch. Three of the brothers die instantly as their necks snap in unison.
  “No!” I roar.
  The mirror shatters into thousands of glimmering pieces as I hurl the whiskey bottle into it.
  As I race into the raging downpour, the swinging bodies greet me with their dead stares. The swinging bodies give no waves of “goodbye.” With their scents and stares, their constant musical beat.
  A horse also waits.
  The horse and I flee the town.
  All I have seen is left behind for memories.
  The hours pass.

  Two riders approach me and their eyes bug out.
  “The ghost story is true,” one cries. “The ghost of the hung lawman does exist.” As they flee back to town, a book drops from one of their saddles.
  What are they talking about?
  I dismount and pick the book up. It’s covered with mud. I wipe the cover clean. I then discover it’s a book about spooks. All the stories are said to be true. I open the book to a dog- eared page. I find a story entitled: "The Hanged Lawman of Rotwood." I begin to read. The story tells of a sheriff that is haunted by the restless ghosts of eight brothers he had hung in the year 1883 for numerous counts of murder. It says he nearly went mad with the constant hounding the spirits gave him.
  One night, the sheriff discovered all the people of his town had been hanged, almost as if the Brothers Eight had hanged them all out of vengeance. The sheriff himself was found hanged on his very own porch the following day. In one dead hand he held a muddy hangman’s noose, in the other a Winchester rifle. The book says the ghost of the lawman rides the night trying to escape the horrors that happened in his town, and the vengeful spirits of the Brothers Eight.
Dry laughter echoes throughout the night, the laughter of eight dead men.


© Copyright 2019 Chad Fleagle. All rights reserved.

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