The Night I walked off of Boot Hill


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Here’s a sample of Chapter One:

My eyes opened. This didn’t look like heaven. As a matter of fact, it looked a lot like the Arizona Territory in 1889.
I sat up.
This was the Arizona Territory!
I stiffly got to my feet and dusted off my threadbare overcoat.
There was a chill in the air, and the bright stars and waning moon above shown down, bathing the world in an eerie light. I sucked in the sweet smell of pine and ashes into my lungs and a shiver ran down my spine. This place was different. Alien. It was as if I’d been asleep for too long.
Suddenly, I realized something: I didn’t know what my name was.
Come to think of it, I’m not even sure how I got to be where I was at. Wait, where exactly am I?
Desperately, I tried to remember anything about my past. I must have looked something like a statue, standing on that hill in the darkness, scratching my chin and glaring into thin air.
I might have stood like that for hours, or it may have been mere seconds. I don’t know because time didn’t mean anything to me.
Then it hit me like a sack full of coal. My name is Barbados Tom, and I was an outlaw living in the Arizona Territory in the late eighteen hundreds. But I still didn’t know where in the territory I was, and how I got here. Last thing I remember was I was a sitting in a jailhouse waiting for something.
I suddenly felt sick. My stomach churned and I tasted bile creeping up the back of my throat. I couldn’t get sick, though, because my stomach was apparently empty.
Pain engulfed me, but it was a strange pain, a far-off pain, it was like remembering something I had done years ago, something that had hurt like the dickens. I knew what I had been waiting for. I had been sentenced to hang.
I had robbed one stage too many, killed one too many men, and stirred up a little too much trouble.
The lawman had finally caught up with me, and in the shootout that had ensued, my gang had been knocked off, one by one, all except for me.
I had lived.
But I had been cornered like a mouse with half a dozen hungry tom cats cutting off any hope of my escape.
I had two choices. Surrender or… No, I only had one choice. I threw down my gun belt and stepped out into the open, hands raised skyward, while sweat poured down my body. I was then pistol whipped and drug, unconscious, to the nearest town behind a galloping horse, and then I was thrown into a concrete and steel cell, being told the next time I set foot outside that jail house would be when I was on my way to the gallows.
And here we are.
I now know where I am.
I’m standing on Boot Hill.
I’m dead. I was hung.
But, if that is true, then, how am I standing here, remembering my past life? Am I a ghost? Is it possible? I remember hearing about ghosts, the spirits of those who had died and had come back to haunt the living.
But I wasn’t interested in that. Yes, I’d hidden out in ghost towns; I’d visited and laughed at supposedly ‘haunted hotels’, but I had never believed in ghosts. So why was I here? Was this punishment? Was I being punished for not believing in ghosts? Now, I’ll admit, I’m no holy man, but I’ve glanced at the Good Book a time or two, but I guess I never bothered to heed what it said. Maybe that was why I was here. Was this my penance? I hadn’t ever given much thought to what would become of me after death. I really didn’t care. I lived for the moment. I planned my next daring escape. I dreamed about the fistfuls of gold I would steal. But as for my soul, I hadn’t giving it a whole lot of thought.
Let me tell you what: I was thinking about it now. I knew in my heart that it was too late for me, but thinking about the gold started my mind working all over again. There had been a reason for the gold, hadn’t there? Yes! I’d sent it somewhere! But where had I sent it? Had I been stashing it in a cave somewhere? Burying it?
No.
It had been important for me to rob those stagecoaches. I needed that money, but what did I need it for?
I slowly walked down the hill, shaking my head and trying to remember what the money had been for. Had I been saving up to buy something? That seemed unlikely. It wasn’t in my nature to buy something when I could steal it. I walked through the gate beneath the sign that read ‘Cemetery’, and continued down the lane.
Vaguely, I wondered if anyone could see me. Since there was not another soul, er, I mean person, in sight, I guess I wouldn’t be finding out any time soon. I just kept walking, not really going anywhere in particular. As the sun came up, I found myself in a town called ‘Aubrey Landing’ at the very bottom of Mohave County. Well, it certainly didn’t look like the booming copper mining town I’d heard about in the past.
It was run-down, ill-kept, and practically lifeless.
I meandered into the nearest house, wondering if I could find any food, and if I did find food, would I be able to eat?
The house was empty. Cobwebs adorned each and every vacant corner, and a rat scurried along the wall behind the potbellied stove. This was my kind of place to live. If I had been alive, that is. An abandoned old place, well off the beaten path would have been the perfect hide-out for an outlaw on the run. But was I still an outlaw? Was I anything?
I put the thought out of my mind while I rummaged around in the pantry. I found a small sack of beans and a jar of tomatoes. I was surprised to find that I was able to pick those items up. I half expected my hands to uselessly pass through any object as if I was made out of smoke. I left the food on the dusty tabletop and made my way to the next room, just wanting to make sure the house was indeed empty.
The room was small. Dimly lit, containing a bed, a dresser, and a mirror. Purely by accident, I turned and looked at my reflection in the mirror.
I was a little surprised. I wore my best buckskin pants, the ones I had taken from the Indian brave I had killed, with a snowy white shirt under a dark blue woolen vest and my buffalo overcoat, I was dressed to kill, or maybe I should say I was dressed to be killed. My black felt had had a bullet hole in the brim and a thin coating of trail dust atop the crown. My dark, unruly hair and beard were in dire need of a trim, and I had dark circles around my hazel eyes. My skin was deathly pale; it was like looking at a ghost. Oh wait. I was looking at a ghost.
I kicked the mirror over, hearing it shatter with satisfaction. I left the room, slamming the door behind me just as hard as I could.

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