A King Comes In The Age of No Reason

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Barka decapitated one of the trolls with a vicious backstroke of his sword, then spun around in one smooth motion and cleaved the other troll’s skull open like a ripe melon.

The remaining two trolls turned and ran as fast as their stubby legs would carry them. He wiped the blood off of his sword, Avenger, on one of the dead troll’s rough jerkin. After slipping the mighty sword into the sheath on his back, he set out on the King’s Highway.

The highway was eons old, built by a civilization that no longer lived in Mid-Earth. The cobblestones still showed hints of gold, the color the whole road was once painted. It connected the three Kingdoms of Asortia, and was a major trade road that saw commerce for hundreds of years. But that was before the cataclysmic events brought on by two evil wizard brothers seeking complete control of Mid-Earth.

The ensuing war between the wizard brothers and their minions, versus the First People, the Elfish people, and the white wizard Heroon Dar, nearly destroyed Mid-Earth. Some survivors were so scarred by a lifetime of brutality and war they became hermits, wandering off into the hinterlands in search of peace. Others clustered together in little groups to protect themselves. 

One of the wizard brothers was dead. The other, Jeezera, was confined by a spell that Heroon Dar cast on him, and was buried deep within an ancient salt mine. Afterwards the white wizard disappeared without an explanation. Most of the remnants of the First People and the Elfish went their own ways when the war ended. They returned to their burned-down villages and rebuilt them. Decades passed as Mid-Earth rested from the cataclysmic times that threatened to destroy all living things.

During that time, a tribe of trolls from the East moved into the forests near the Great Plains where the First People were settled. Their presence wasn’t welcomed by the Elfish People who lived there first. The brutish trolls were not only warlike, but they were not driven by any ideology or king. They had no stated purpose to their lives, other than to kill, eat, and to procreate.

It was during this Age of No Reason when Barka, the son of a First Human, and an Elf, was born. The village he was raised in was a rare equal mix of both races. All he knew growing up was a harmonious way of life where respect was important. He spoke both languages fluently and was exposed to both races histories preserved in tomes written by long dead scholars.

One of his First Human traditions was that a man must learn to use a sword to defend himself and his family. An Elfish tradition was the handing down of a magical family sword to the first-born son. Barka was given the sword Avenger on the day he left the village. His mother presented him with the sword, and an Elfin bow and arrows. 

When he chose to leave home his parents understood their son was a seeker of knowledge and his destiny lay beyond their little village. His lust for adventure made it a given the day would come when he needed to set out on the King’s Highway and to explore.  Tears were shed, and Barka left the only place in Mid-Earth he knew.

The rumors he heard about trolls raiding on the King’s Highway were true. He killed two on his first day out. Keeping a sharp eye on the tree line, he briskly walked down the road towards the ancient capital of one of the three fabled kingdoms; Stroom. Before leaving home he heard numerous rumors that a new kingdom was springing up in the North, in the vicinity of Stroom. It seemed like a good place to start his anticipated travels.

It was a week before he ran into other people on the road. A group of six were on their way to Shan Tar, a growing city that Barca assumed was the new kingdom in it’s infancy. They talked about their travels and troubles with trolls who seemed to be everywhere. One of the men, the oldest in the group, told Barca that the new city was in response to the growing troll threat. Small villages were being sacked with no survivors left behind. Farmer’s crops were being stolen. The attacks were becoming more frequent and more organized. Village elders realized it was time for the First Human’s to come together in force to resist the growing tide of terror.

Barca listened closely to the old man, sometimes interrupting with questions. When they came within site of a large stone wall and tower, the small group broke up and went in different directions. Some had relatives already there. As Barca walked through the city he was impressed with how well the people worked together. He seldom saw anyone who appeared to be in charge. Those who were leaders in the massive mission to build safe fortifications worked alongside the laborers. He sensed the single driving purpose that drove them all – survival.

He also had a sense his destiny was here. 

The leaders of the burgeoning city’s progress met weekly to discuss challenges and solutions to them. There were twelve leaders. All chosen by the people for their knowledge and skills. The first time Barca went to one he sat nearby with a group of onlookers and was silent; listening intently and observing how they interacted. When their meeting was over he approached each one and introduced himself. He offered his services to the cause which seemed to please them all.

Between helping build the city’s perimeter wall, he found time to conduct classes on swordsmanship. It quickly became apparent, after outdueling the best sword fighter’s in the growing camp, that Barca was the most skilled. The people respected him because he was a hard worker and a modest man who could talk with anyone and put them at their ease.

One of Barca’s favorite pastimes was hunting. Food was always needed for the growing population, so he didn’t feel guilty about doing it. He carried his Elfin bow and was a skilled archer. He always brought meat back. The hunt gave him an opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside. For the next year he rotated his duties and grew more popular with the general community. The leaders became more comfortable asking him questions and listening to his counsel.

One day while out hunting he came across a wounded man. He was sorely wounded and exhausted from his efforts to elude the trolls who attacked him. As Barca tried to comfort the dying man he warned him, “Evil is back on the land!” he cried. “The evil wizard Jeezera is free! Somehow the trolls freed him!”

Barca’s blood went cold. It was the last thing in the world he expected to hear. He stayed with the man who died a few hours later, and buried him. On his way back to the city he thought about the situation facing them. He hoped the elders had some ideas on what to do.

An emergency meeting was held that evening. As he told the elders about his encounter a nervous buzz began among them. The eldest of the leaders was a learned man who was steeped in the history of Mid-Earth. It was he who addressed him, “Brother Barca, a new age is dawning. Whether evil or good prevails will be up to us. This was written in the Chronicles of Lar Hak, which predicted this time would come.”

“What shall we do master?” he respectively asked.

“The time has come for our new kingdom to have a king. We believe you should be that king!”

“I don’t know what to say,” he said.

“Say, yes,” the elder urged. “Your destiny is here.”

And so it was.

King Barca re-united the Elfish community with the First Humans, forging a powerful bond that turned the trolls back despite their massive numbers. In his greatest achievement, Barca was able to find Heroon Dar who stopped the evil Jeezera by killing him in a world-shaking duel that lit the heavens for a day!

As It Stands, the eternal battle between good and evil is fought in many worlds.

Novel Ways To Prepare People For Dinner

Listen to this story narrated by Otis Jiry, Master Story Teller

2037 – Somewhere in what used to be the United States of America

It turned out to be the Mother of all Wars. The Last War to End all Wars. The Final Confrontation. The end of civilization.

The unlucky survivors were reduced to eating one another. There was no other food left on the planet. All the animals, right down to gophers, were gone. Killed, and eaten if possible. The oceans were polluted and no living things were left alive under the waves.

Human flesh, and organs, had been on mankind’s menu for ten years. Since the nukes struck. Nothing grew on the polluted soil of planet earth. There was no such thing as a vegetarian. Everyone still breathing had one food source – their fellow humans. The final taboo.

Wyatt waited. Hidden in the debris of a once multi-story building. He could hear his prey moving noisily on the other side of the street. When an old man stumbled into the center of the street Wyatt’s arrow struck him in the heart. A clean shot.

As Wyatt searched the body he found two pistols, but no ammunition for them. A buck knife (much like his own), some human jerky, and a canteen of potable water. His kill was older than he liked. The meat would be tough. He’d have to take it to Maude, which meant sharing some.

After “bucking up” the body and putting it in the burlap bag he brought along, Wyatt took his prize to his camp. He lived alone. It was easier that way. You could never be sure that whoever you lived with wouldn’t eat you.

At least, that’s the way Wyatt saw the world.

There were groups of people who banded together. Hunted together, sharing their kills. Some had names like, Patriots Who Love God, or The Freedom Freaks of Fifth Street. They lived by a set of rules that forbade eating anyone within the group.

The groups fought one another when single pickings were sparse. The resulting battles provided the victor with a feast.

A good chef was highly prized. The ability to come up with novel human recipes was a sure way of becoming popular with any group. But there were also independent cooks with culinary abilities that rivaled any group cook.

These independents could get anything they asked for. One of the most famous was a middle-aged woman named Maude. She lived in the massive thickets and vines in what use to be a community park.

If she was hungry, or bored, she’d come out of the prickly maze when called. Wyatt was lucky when he came by. It was one of those days and Maude responded to his calls for her.

When she stepped out from the dense growth Wyatt inhaled deeply. She was a good looking woman. Her tight-fitting human-leather britches and vest showed off her form to good advantage. He exhaled.

I need a recipe for tough meat. Not the usual boil until it comes off the bone method. It’s too bland,” Wyatt said.

Maude smiled and ran her hand through her short blond hair. He was a good-looking young man and she was in a good mood.

“I’ll be straightforward with you. I don’t give my recipes out to anyone. If you want a recipe, go find someone else. I will, however, cook your meat to order.”

“I’m okay with that. What’s your price?”

“Half the meat.”

“That seems kinda high. How about a third?”

“Don’t make me bargain, or the price will go up! It’s not easy turning tough old meat into a succulent repast. It’ll take a day. I’ll use the organs to make some of the tastiest side dishes you’ve ever had.”

“Okay. Here’s the kill. Less than 24-hours old. I’ll be back around this time tomorrow for my half.”

Maude hummed a strange tune whiled skillfully pulling the burlap bag behind her through the thickets. There was something she liked about the young man. Yes, indeed.

She had a special recipe for just this kind of meat. When she got to the overgrown shed she took the meat out, piece-by-piece, and laid it out on the butcher block table.

As she filleted the buttocks a scene went through her head. Thirty years ago. Before the bad times came. She was preparing a chicken to feed her family. It made her queasy when she had to cut off the legs and wings. She thought at the time, “Why didn’t I just go to KFC?”

When Wyatt came the next day she was waiting for him. “Follow me,” she said and plunged into the thicket. He fought his way through the mass of thorns and vines until they came to the overgrown shed.

Maude led him inside. A candle was burning in the center of the butcher block table. Silver trays and bowls were packed with food. Slices and chunks of strangely seasoned meat were surrounded with puddings, boiled eyeballs, kidneys on shicskabobs, and other unfamiliar dishes.

Maude pointed to a chair and urged him to sit. She took the chair across from him and handed him a platter of crispy liver bits.

“Help yourself.”

Wyatt filled his plate up with samples of everything before him. He made sure to use the white napkin she had provided and picked up a sliver fork and knife.

“Bon appetit!” Maude said.

Afterwards, Wyatt felt sleepy. He didn’t plan on staying overnight. He never did that. But he was so tired. When he couldn’t stand up a sense of panic arose.

Maude was still talking about plants that survived the bad times. How there were very few plants, and how she had found a special plant which she shared with him tonight.

“It’s called belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade,” Maude was explaining.

Wyatt was having trouble hearing her, and breathing. Mustering up the last of his strength, he asked her, “Why?”

Maude stopped rambling.

“Oh, that’s simple. I really like young men. They’re much tastier than tough old ones!”

As It Stands, this look at normalizing a taboo is a subject in itself.

Sharky’s Story: A Tale Of Catch and Don’t Release

I’m real. I could be your neighbor.

The streets of New York are rivers stocked with fish/pedestrians from all over the planet.

They flow north and south during certain times of the day. The rivers going east and west are the busiest and best for hunting.

I am a fresh water shark stalking my prey every day. I know every little outlet and cove where my prey tries to hide. My predator blood boils when I sense fear. It’s like an intoxicant.

I see red. Then I drink the red. Then I go home and sleep soundly until my hunger awakens me again.

You should know that I’m not a vampire. That’s a supernatural being. I’m real. I could be your neighbor. I could be a greeter at Walmart. Or, your neighborhood Postman.

I like to play billiards. You’ll never guess what my nickname is at Al’s Pool Emporium. Give up?

It’s Sharky!

I use to be a sailor in the US Navy. That was years ago when I was still growing my shark teeth. They got sharper in every dream I had, until the day came when I got my first kill. It was swift and savage!

One moment I was talking to one of the ship’s cooks on the fantail, and the next I was choking him to death. What came next surprised even me. I bit his neck. Once, twice, three times, trying to pierce the skin to draw his still pumping blood.

But my teeth weren’t sharp enough. So I used the cook’s own pocketknife to slit his throat. I’ll never forget the awesome surge that coursed through my body when I sucked that thick hot blood from the open wound.

Afterwards, I tossed the body overboard.

That’s really when I became Sharky. The billiards thing came later.

I became a land shark when I got out of the Navy. I returned to my native waters in Manhattan and set up shop as a computer repair wiz. There turned out to be so much business, that I had to hire an assistant to keep up with it. Then another person.

Before I knew it, I had a nice office building with a dozen employees and was making a million dollars in my first year of business. It was all too easy. I grew bored with my success and hired someone to manage the business for me.

I was free to pursue other activities. Like swimming in the streets of New York in search of tasty fish.

I prepared for my prey this time by sharpening my front teeth – upper and lower – until they came to sharp little points. I disguised them with a set of false teeth that fitted tightly over them.

Sometimes I pick my victims at the pool hall. I never know who the catch will be. That’s the thrill of it. I could play pool with a dozen different people without knowing which one’s blood I get to taste that night.

When I feel more adventuresome, I silently swim through the schools of pedestrians on their way home from work, or towards those night-owls seeking entertainment in the theatre district.

It’s been like this for thirteen years. Right up until a clever group of cops caught me red-handed. Literally. So I’m sitting here in jail waiting to see what happens. It’s really boring.

That’s why I’m telling you my story.

Who knows what these fisherman of evil souls will do? As a shark, I expect no mercy. As a man, I’ll act crazy and see if that’ll save me.

As It Stands, this tale of  catch and don’t release, is a reminder that the mentally ill in America today need help…before horrible things like the shootings at Parkland High School in Florida happen again.

The Sage of 4th Street’s Deadly Game

 

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Psychopaths come in a variety of packages.

Some just kill their victims straight out with whatever’s handy.

Some like to play with their victims. “Cat and mouse” is a favorite game. It rings a bell among the unbalanced set.

Then there’s the more refined psychos who like to stage elaborate games with their prey.

That would be “The Juicer.” He’d forgotten his birth name years ago. One of the many street denizens in Los Angeles called him The Juicer once. He liked it, and kept the nickname.

The Juicer lived to play the Deadly Game. He invented it years ago and was still refining the rules and the roles of the participants. It took three people to play, not counting himself.

The best part of the game was that players came to him. The Juicer, also known by his business and stage name, The Sage of 4th Street, had a fortune-telling business. It was located in a nondescript neighborhood that only had a few old storefronts.

“Fortunes Told Anytime,” the sign outside The Juicer’s business read.

He looked for people who were gullible in their grief, easily hypnotized, and single. It wasn’t easy, and he often waited months before getting enough good candidates to play.

When the big day arrived and he had all three qualified gamers, the fun started. Each person was locked in a wooden box that was only three-feet high by seven-feet long. with air holes on the top.

A small speaker was inside each box. The boxes were the only thing in the tiny room with the concrete floor. One bright LED bulb dangled from the ceiling. The three unwilling gamers would still be sleeping off the effect of the drug he gave them.

The Juicer unlocked the end of each of the boxes. When they woke, they’d be able to crawl out. Then he went back up the stairs, shut the trapdoor, and went to his parlor. He could see the boxes and the room clearly, with the cameras he’d installed.

He sat down and poured himself a cup of tea from a fine China teapot one of his past victims gave him in appreciation when he contacted her dead husband the first time. He put one lump of sugar in his cup and glanced at the monitor. The room was also audio monitored and he could hear every noise.

Box number one contained, Dan Wrightwood, a thirty-three year-old vegan nature boy. In box number two, he had Linda Lunquist, a single 22-year old woman. Box number three contained, Elton Eisenberg, a 20-year old college freshman at UCLA.

He listened as they woke up, one by one, and realized they were in a box. The screams always provided a great prelude to what would soon come. He finally spoke to them, “There’s a little ring just behind your head. Pull it and you can get out.”  

The three wood boxes shook and all three of them slithered out on their backs at about the same time. Dan was the first to stand up and inspect the room. Linda and Elton slowly got to their feet by supporting one another.

They’d all been unconscious for over 24 hours and were thirsty and hungry. The Juicer savored their confusion for a few minutes before he announced, “I’m going to give you an apple. Enjoy!”

The basement door opened and he tossed the apple in. The three looked down at the bruised apple. Elton bent down and picked it up. “We can each take a bite” he suggested.

That was Day One, and The Juicer smiled in anticipation. Seven days later he announced that he was going to give them an apple again, “Enjoy,” he called out as he lobbed it down.

Now was time to make his bet. Who would be the last person standing? He figured Dan, being the biggest and strongest, would be the sure bet. But after watching them on the monitor another week, he wasn’t so sure.

Week three was a bloodbath as they clawed, bit, and hit each other until passing out. The combination of Elton and Linda versus Dan kept the game interesting. When he tossed the last apple down on week four, Linda was the only one alive. She died the next day.

The Juicer cleaned up all the evidence, until not even Sherlock Holmes could find a clue.

As It Stands, I’ve always been uneasy with fortune teller types.

The ‘Beast’ In The Bayou

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Circa 1950. Port Barre, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.

Pierre Part dit LaForest was never so afraid in his life.

He looked behind him at the murky waters of the Bayou Teche expecting to see the creature running along the banks. He tried to concentrate while paddling his pirogue in the light of the full moon.

He shouldn’t have been caught out this late in the marshes. That nap set him back a bit. When he woke to the howl of a loup garou (Cajun for werewolf) he scrambled to the pirogue, leaving his gear behind.

Children at Port Barre are warned that loups garous can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses. Pierre wasn’t sure he qualified as evil. Yeah, he may have done a bad thing or two, but was that all it took?

The beast’s howling stopped after a few minutes. He saw lights ahead and sighed with relief. Ft. Barre’s history stretched back to 1760 when it was an Indian trading post at the place where Bayou Courtableau flows into Bayou Teche.

Nowadays there were less than 2,000 inhabitants. Over half of the town’s income derived from speeding tickets. Everyone knew everyone. It was a tight Cajun community that was proud of its history, culture, religion (Roman Catholic), and entertainment.

Myths and legends were taken seriously. Most had been to a Shaman one time or another seeking help for something.

As Pierre downed his second bottle of beer his best friend Yves Dussault looked worried. He asked, “Are you sure it was a loups garou?”

Never heard that kind of howl before in my life. You ain’t either,” he assured him. “It made my blood run cold.”

Despite his scare Pierre was back fishing three days later.

Deep into the bayou there was a crude hut made from sticks and two old green Army blankets. It was Pedro Gonzalez’s home. He was originally from Mexico, but fled after the cartels captured his family and put them on display in a private zoo.

The Gonzalez’s all suffered from a rare genetic condition called hypertrichosis. Pedro had four inches of thick fur on his face, and his eyes were the only part of his head that was exposed.

This “curse of the hair” is caused by a primeval gene stemming from man’s animal ancestors. Some cases are more extreme than others. All the Gonzalez family had hair all over their bodies.

When Pedro escaped he made his way across the border and into Louisiana he had a plan. He read that it was almost impossible to find someone hiding in the state’s bayous. It was to become his new home.

For a year he avoided any human contact, but spied on people fishing,  listening to their conversations about loups garous. To ensure privacy, Pedro decided to become one. He certainly looked the part.

Living alone was no problem for Pedro. He hated to be stared at like a freak. After three years though, he was starting to miss conversations, and news about what was going on in the world.

Pierre decided he’d collected enough crawfish and catfish. The “Cracklin Festival” kickoff was today and he wanted to get home and change his clothes. He looked forward to dancing all night.

The sun was slowly setting amid a pink and orange skyline when the huge Alligator smashed into his little pirogue. Pierre was unceremonially dumped into the murky waters.

Watching from the marsh grass, Pedro saw that he was in big trouble. Going against every natural instinct, Pedro jumped into the dark water and swam toward Pierre who was screaming in agony!

The Alligator had his leg and was trying to pull him underneath the water. Pedro pulled the only weapon he had, a kitchen butcher knife, and slashed the Alligator across its eyes, puncturing one in the process.

The enraged Alligator let go of Pierre and turned on Pedro. But Pedro was ready. He’d killed a lot of Alligators (and smaller game) to survive. Nimbly avoiding the snapping jaws he plunged the knife in the base of its neck repeatedly.

After cutting its throat he drug the monster onto the bank. Then he remembered Pierre who was hanging onto the remnants of his boat. He swam back to him and held him in a lifeguards hold until they were on the muddy bank.

Pierre had passed out from loss of blood. Pedro tore a sleeve from Pierre’s shirt and wrapped up the gaping wound to staunch the blood flow. It was obvious he’d die without medical attention.

Despite his own misgivings, Pedro picked him up and started walking toward town. The night was aglow with lanterns and dancers were gaily spinning around on the massive wooden platform built for that purpose.

As Pedro stood in the shadows Pierre woke up. He looked up at Pedro and his eyes opened wide in fear. “No. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m leaving you here so you can get help.”

Pedro propped Pierre up against a large bald cypress tree on its knobby roots. Then he let out a series of howls. Looking back one last time at Pedro, he took off for the interior.

When the townspeople found Pierre they thought he was hallucinating and didn’t take much notice of his claims that a loups garou had saved his life. It seemed much more likely that the beast (the loups garou) attacked him and he was in shock.

From that day forward, Pierre added a new wrinkle into the lore of the loups garou.

As It Stands, I’ve often wondered if someone with hypertrichosis was ever mistaken for a werewolf.

 

 

Pete’s Last Hope To Stay Out of Hell

Do, or Die

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Questionable souls, standing in line, waited for one last chance to save themselves from the fires of hell.

There were two lines that stretched into infinity. One coming into the arena, and another going out.

The sounds of the Celestial Games filled the air.

“Do you have any idea what our challenge is going to be?” Pete asked the hulking soul in front of him.

“I heard it was different for every soul,” the hulking soul named Tyson replied.

The cacophony of sound increased as they walked into the enormous coliseum packed with Saved Souls seeking entertainment. Super sports fans. They were so good that they didn’t have to compete to stay out of hell. They went directly to Heaven after dying.

God sat on a huge golden throne on the other end of the coliseum. He was wearing a baseball cap and a sports jacket that glittered like diamonds. “Let the games begin!” he roared.

The games consisted of a variety of sports. Baseball. Football. Basketball. Hockey. Soccer. Golf. And boxing. The contestants were assigned a sport. Those in the football line had to tackle famous running back Gale Sayers before he got a touchdown.

Sayers, was one of the happy souls that got to play the game again…and again..in his version of heaven. Determined souls slid right off him as he barreled for touchdown after touchdown.

The souls that were assigned basketball had to make a basket with Wilt Chamberlain guarding them. He happily swatted away desperate shots without working up a sweat.

Those souls in the baseball line had to get a hit against Sandy Koufax. When it came to hockey, the souls had to keep Gordie Howe from scoring a goal. The souls assigned to golf had to play – and beat – Arnold Palmer in a 3-Hole sudden death.

There was one line – in the center of the coliseum where the souls waiting to fight against Mohammad Ali, were groaning out loud with fear.

Pete was in the basketball line. He watched Tyson dribbling the ball around Wilt…looking for a shot. Finally he thought he saw an oppening and took it. Wilt smiled and waited until the last second before sending it into celestial orbit.

Pete had a few basketball moves, but never played with an organized team. He grew up playing street ball. The were few rules in that version of basketball. He stepped onto the court and was handed a ball.

Pete looked up at Wilt who was smiling at him.

Flashback.

Pete and a four teenage friends are playing pickup basketball at a local gymnasium. Their team is playing one of the tougest groups of thugs in the neighborhood. The “No blood – no foul” rule was in effect.

The other teams center was taller than anyone in the gym. His arms looked unnaturally long and it was nearly impossible to get a shot past him. The game was tied at 19-19 (a point for every basket). It took 20 to win.

Realizing that he couldn’t get around, or shoot over their center, Pete dribbled to half court. Without even trying to drive and pop against their big man, Pete stopped and took aim.

He always had a good set shot. The range wasn’t impossible. He’d made many shots from there before. The center was content to let him make the shot. Everyone else was closely guarded.

Pete fired away. The ball arced and came down smoothly, barely moving the net in its descent. Game over.

“C’mon man! Bring it on! “ Wilt said, with a note of irritation.

According to the rules, a soul had to drive on Wilt and score. But Pete was never too worried about rules. This was sudden death. A deep breath…and Pete released the ball!

As It Stands, this tale was for all of you sports lovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stunning Showdown at Snake Junction

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The fastest Sheriff in the Old West never got his due.

You won’t find his name written down in the history books alongside legendary gunslingers or lawmen.

He never traveled far from the tiny town of Snake Junction, living just beyond the city’s limits somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Visitors passing through would stop at the town’s only Saloon – The National – and listen to the locals talk about their Sheriff Sledge, over shots of rot gut whiskey and mugs of warm beer.

“It’s his eyes,” one old-timer told the three visitors. “They’ll freeze you. He doesn’t blink,” he warned. “He’s faster than a snake and a dead-eye shooter.”

Wyatt Earp finished his beer and called for another one. He wasn’t the kind of man easily scared by anyone. Or, reputation. He had his own.

“I’d like to meet this gent,” Doc Holiday said while sipping whiskey from a flask.

Wyatt’s brother Warren was puffing on a cigar as his eyes roamed around the room. “Make that two beers!”  he shouted.

“I just want to talk with him. We’re looking for some murderers and he might know something about them. He might have seen them recently,” Wyatt said to the old-timer, who went by Jack.

“It’s true Sheriff Sledge knows about everything in this town. Seems like he’s been here forever. I know for sure he’s been here before Snake Junction became a town ten years ago. I got to tell you he’s not much of a talker,” Jack explained. 

Doc suddenly broke out into a coughing fit. He pulled a handkerchief from his jacket and put it over his mouth. His tuberculosis was getting worse. Speckles of blood tinted the white handkerchief.

Wyatt and Warren looked at one another. They both knew he was dying. Yet here he was, at their side helping them seek vengeance against The Cowboys. When his frail body ceased fighting for breath he reached inside his jacket and pulled out his flask and took a shot.

Doc stood beside them at the O.K. Corral. Regardless of what most foks thought about him, Doc was a gentleman and a loyal friend.

“How can we find him, Jack?” Doc asked, as he poured himself another shot.

“It’s not that easy. He only shows up in town for supplies once a week,” Jack replied.

“When was the last time he got supplies?” Warren asked.

“Friday,” Sheriff Sledge said.

All eyes turned on him. His tall slender body was framed by the setting sun behind him. His swarthy face was beardless and his arms looked too long in proportion to the rest of his slim body.

He wore a snake-skin vest with nothing underneath it. In the distance and in the poor lighting of the saloon it appeared he was heavily tattooed. His jeans were well-worn. Snake-skin boots covered his long narrow feet.

His leather holster wasn’t fancy, but the .45 Smith and Wesson in it was in excellent condition. The gun hung low on his right side, with a leather rope tying it to his leg for stability.

“Youuth looking for me?” Sheriff Sledge asked with a noticeable lisp.

“We’re looking for some murdering scoundrels. We’ve been deputized to bring them to justice, ” Wyatt spoke up.

Sheriff Sledge’s laugh was shrill and downright creepy. “Sssscoundrels …, he hissed.”

Wyatt stood up. “Yes. Murderous scoundrels. Have you seen any shifty characters around here lately?”

Sheriff Sledge slowly slid into the center of the room. Under the massive chandelier glow they could see scales, not tattoos, on his chest and arms. His eyes were green with yellow pupils that did not blink. A tension suddenly filled the saloon.

Warren and Doc both stood up, alongside of Wyatt.

Sheriff Sledge, whose Hopi name was Situlili (after the snake god), belonged to the snake clan called Tsu’ngyam. In Native American lore snakes enforce a rough type of justice, and breaking laws could result in a person being bitten by a deadly snake.

Or, by being shot with Sledge’s .45 Smith and Wesson.

The silence that fell over the saloon hung like a funeral shroud. Before the Earp’s and Holiday could even reach for their guns, Sheriff Sledge drew his, and shot their hats off their heads!

His pistol slide back into the holster in one smooth motion. Sheriff Sledge smiled at their astonishment. None of them had ever seen such speed and accuracy before. Nor, would they ever again. The draw was too fast for the human eye…and hand.

“Yooth thay your lawmen?” he calmly asked.

All three shook their heads up and down affirmatively and shifted uncomfortably. Wyatt knew he wasn’t fast with his clumsy Buntline Special, but Doc Holiday was the fastest draw he’d ever seen… until now.

They all prepared to die.

Then Sledge smiled and they swore (afterward) that his tongue slithered out and was forked. “Juuust doing my job keeping the peasss. Ain’t no sssscoundrels been by lately,” he said.

They watched him glide over to the bar and order a shot of tequila. There was a certain reptilian smoothness that made them all uncomfortable.

Afterward, when they were miles away and camping under the clear southwestern skies, all three men agreed to never tell the story about their showdown at Snake Junction. No one would have believed them anyway.

As It Stands, I’ve always suspected there were lawmen and gunslingers whose stories never got told.