My vision blurred as the world fell down around me and everything was black and still. There was no more screaming, no more pain, only the silence and darkness. But there was still me. At least, I think it was me, at the center of all of it, as if all the darkness and quiet were a room I was stuck in.
I looked around, I think, but didn’t see anything. I couldn’t even be sure I was really moving my head. I wasn’t spooked by it, just kind of curious. I ain’t recalled to a time when I was ever in some place so still and quiet. So when the voice came from behind me, the only shock I had was that it didn’t start me at all.
“You’ve come, Abacus Jones.” Said a youthful voice.
I turned in the dark and found my eyes on the boy from the train, and whom I’d told the story of my almost love-child with an Indian girl. The boy who’d disappeared without a trace. He was a glow with some blue light against his pale skin. He stood there with a face I couldn’t read, his hair still matted down and greasy, wearing a simple shirt and some light pants that was dusted up by dirt. I should have been surprised to see him, but I weren’t.
“Yeah.” I said dumbly.
“Do you know where here is then?”
“I take it I’m dead.”
“Dead? An interesting thought. Is this you then?” He asked looking around the dark space.
“Sure.” I answered. “I guess.”
“You guess? So you do not know?”
“What’s to know?”
“Yourself of course.”
“As I said, what’s to know? I’m a monster hunter. I hunt things. I kill them. They die. Sometimes.”
“But that is not who you are.”
“I think I’d know myself pretty good by now. Trust me, that’s who I am. I think the question here, is who are you? And what are you doing in my after life? Because I’ll have you know I hate ghosts.”
“So you believe you are nothing more than a hunter? Nothing more than what you do?”
“Kid, you’re startin’ to pester me.”
“Ah, now that is true. It’s the first truth you’ve stated since arriving here.”
“Look kid!” I said bending down and grabbing his collar. “I ain’t in the mood. Who the hell are you?”
“I’m your son.”
I let go. Not because I knew what he was saying, but because it was a lie. It had to be a lie. And there was no reason I had to stand here and take it.
“That’s just fine then. I’ll be seeing you.” I said walking away into the darkness.
“You don’t remember?”
“What’s to remember?” I called back.
The boy was suddenly in front of me. He hadn’t walked up, he was just there. “Yourself.”
“I already said I know myself.”
“Then why are we here?”
“Boy, you are something. We already talked about that, this is my after life and you’re making it damned annoying.”
“This…” The boy gestured to the dark area around us, “is nothing. This is you.”
“Okay.” I respond.
“But this isn’t you.”
“But you just said…”
“Listen!” The boy interrupted. “This is all that you allow to think of yourself. That job of yours. That’s all you think of yourself, but it is not what you are. How you became what you are, that is who you truly are.”
“Boy. You ain’t making any sense at all. Would you kindly leave?”
“I’m your son, and I’m a part of you. I’m the reason you’re here.”
“You might as well stop saying that, because I’m not going to buy it.”
“Then I will show you what you refuse to remember.”
“Look Kid! I…” I stopped when I noticed that the kid was pointing behind me.
Maybe I was back in that jail cell with that vampire at my throat, or maybe I’d gotten out of that somehow. I spun around to see what he wanted me to see, but it weren’t no vampire, and it weren’t a dark room anymore either, it was a farm.
The darkness was completely gone, but the kid wasn’t. He’d stepped to my side, a thin smile in between his lips.
“What’s going on, Kid?”
“You are, Mista Jones. This is the part of you that made you who you are.”
“Do you remember it?”
I look, and it does strike me as familiar. “Yes, I reckon I do. But I can’t say why.”
“You should remember. It was yours. Once.”
“Sure, Kid.” I said spitting out a laugh. “You think a farm is the reason I hunt monsters? That I was so bored from plowing fields and raising cattle that I ran off and left my son behind while I went and killed monstrous things?”
“What I think doesn’t hold weight here. And no, this is not about the farm, this is about you. You need only watch. I have no hand in this.”
“No, I don’t need to watch, because all this is a trick. You’re some sort of fever dream or vision quest gone ill. Just because I recollect seeing a farm, this farm, doesn’t mean it were mine or that I ever had some good-for-nothing brat!”
“Then you really don’t remember. Tell me, what do you remember before you were the way you are now?”
“You mean soulless? I remember enough to know I ain’t had a son!” I spit.
“But you did. And there he is.” The kid said pointing again towards the farm.
I glanced over and saw the kid, looking much like the pale one beside me, running out from the barn chasing a red dog. I watched as the dog took off into the field with its tongue trailing from its mouth with the kid yelling after it and smiling, but then he tripped on a rock and his head hit the ground. The dog chanced a look back and then ran towards the boy.
The kid pushed himself up from the ground but his eyes caught blood where his head had been. He wiped a hand across his forehead, saw the blood, and just started screaming. The dog came up to the boy, started to lick at his arms then his forehead, and then the boy struck the dog in the head. With its tail between its legs, it ran off through the grass and into the woods and didn’t come back.
“What’s going on out here?” Came a familiar voice from the barn.
I watched as a person looking like myself trotted out of the barn and headed towards the kid.
“What the hell is this?!” I ask the kid beside me. “What sort of magic you playing at?”
The boy said nothing and only held a finger to his mouth. I looked back to the person that looked like me, bending down to look at the kid’s head and telling him it wasn’t so bad. That it was just a scrape and would only sting for a while. The kid’s screaming simmered down some, and then that figure with my voice asked where the dog had got off to.
“I…I hit him, and he ran out there.” The boy answered pointing towards the woods.
“What’d you go and do that for? It weren’t the dog’s fault.”
“I’m sorry daddy.” The boy whimpered as I winced at the word he’d just said. “You’ll find him, won’t you?”
“Yeah, I’ll go get him. You just get inside and get cleaned up. And put some taters on the fire. I’ll start dinner when I get back.” The man said with my face and words as he ruffled up the boy’s hair.
“No.” I said looking to the boy at my side again. “Whatever you’re doing, this ain’t real. That never happened!”
“You’ve only forgotten. This did happen, you had a son. And a dog.”
“The dog, maybe. But you? No, I didn’t have a son!”
“Do you remember what happened next?”
“Of course I don’t, none of this is real!”
“You went looking for the dog out in the woods. You were gone for over an hour, but you never found him. So you came home.” The boy said pointing to me coming over the hill that I gone over looking for the dog.
“DADDY!” a voice called out, but not out of joy or excitement.
I noticed about the time the other me did, that down below at the farm was someone that wasn’t me, his gun to the kid’s head.
“Stay back!” The man called out.
His clothes were worn, wrinkled, and he was sporting broken irons on his wrists. He was shaky and jittery, probably hadn’t eaten proper in a few moons. But the person that looked like me held his hands up and slowly walked to the edge of the grass by the dirt leading up toward the barn.
“Whoa now, sir. I ain’t here to hurt you so long as you don’t hurt the boy.”
“Then that’s far enough! I only need a horse! This is a farm, surely you got one.”
“I do, it’s just in the barn. Go on and get it, just leave the boy.”
“No.” The man said thinking. “The second I let this boy go you’ll get me, I know it! So you put that there gun at yer hip on the ground. You throw it down as far from you as you can!”
“I do that and I got nothing to keep my boy safe. You get that, right? I got a horse, and I don’t need it, just go and get it, leave the boy, and we won’t have any troubles.”
“No!” The man shouted driving the barrel of his gun against the kid’s temple. “Throw your gun down! Now!”
“Okay, pardner, easy there. I’ll just have to trust you then. No harm comes to the boy. You need to shoot someone you shoot me, we clear on that?”
I watched as the man that looked like me slowly moved his right hand down to his gun, keeping his left in the air. The other man, shifting his body, drove the gun to point down a bit into the kid’s temple toward his cheek as he moved nervously. I couldn’t understand the man that looked like me going to give up his piece. Giving in to a man. Not a monster or a beast, but a simple ordinary cowardly man. No part of me understood this person.
Then I heard it, just as the man with the boy did, the coming rumble of horses. I watched him turn just so to look behind him, between the barn and the house toward the field where a dirt cloud was coming this way at the heels of a number of horses. The man didn’t even notice that his gun had hand had relaxed and raised above the boy’s head.
I looked back to me, and was happy to see this didn’t go unnoticed to him either as he pulled his gun from its hilt and aimed at the man. But at the last second, the man noticed he’d gone soft, that he’d dropped his guard. He turned too quickly, pulling the boy with him as he did so. I hadn’t even noticed the gun of mine had fired until it was too late. I saw the boy’s head drop and spill blood on the ground. The man holding him let his limp body go and drop. I watched his eyes go wide as he raised his gun to the one already raised toward him.
He was crying, I could see that much before the next bullet fired and tore straight through his heart and he fell to his knees before planting his face in the dirt. I watched the man with my face fall down to his knees, mouth wide, and suddenly I saw a part of myself in this person’s face. Something in those now vacant eyes. The sound of the horses came rumbling in as a number of men rounded the house, rifles at the ready. They surrounded the only man able to speak and kept each gun trained on him as one of em went over and checked on the two on the ground which I already knew were dead.
“How are them two then, Jesper?” called out a tall man with dark hari, his rifle tucked under his arm, and a bright shiny Sherriff’s star on his chest.
“They dead. And this one,” he said picking up the fallen gun and opening the cylinder. “his gun weren’t even loaded! This one didn’t kill the kid!”
“Then that leaves this one. Come bring that wanted poster over to this one. Let’s see if he’s the one we’re after.”
I watched as the man on his knees was vacant of the world around him. If he knew those guns were trained on him, he didn’t show it. The man that had looked over the two dead bodies made his way to the surrounded man still on his knees. He pulled out a piece of rolled paper, and held it up side by side to the man.
“Can’t really say, Angel. He got the dark hair and dark eyes. But his face ain’t exactly the same. I think.”
“I’m him.” Came a thin voice, dry and hard from the man on his knees.
“What’s that?” Asked the man called Angel.
“I’m him.” Came the voice a little stronger this time.
“You admit that you’re Abacus Jones?”
“And you admit to killing this man and his boy?”
“You realize that on top of the robbery you was already guilty of, killin’ will get you the noose?”
“Alright then. Abacus Jones, in accordance with the laws of our lord God, you are hereby sentenced to hang until life has left your body. May God have mercy on your soul.”
I watched as they put a noose around my neck, but I never struggled. I just let em do it. They pulled me by horse to the nearest tree, threw the rope over a strong branch, and strung me up till my feet was off the ground. I never reached for the rope, never even kicked my feet at a ground I wished was there. I just hung there, unable to breath, my eyes never leaving the dead boy that lay on the ground, and then it was over. Everything was black again.
“You made a mistake and have tortured yourself ever since. You hunt monsters and demons and all manner of things because that is how you see yourself.” The boy said from my side.
I had no answer for him. None of this was familiar to me, but after what I’d just seen, the man with my face and voice, it was hard to push it from my head.
“You even took a name not your own, to forever remind yourself of the moment. You became the criminal Abacus Jones rather than be who you really were. While the person that you truly were was believed gunned down with his son holding an empty gun. A completely innocent man.” He stopped as if waiting for me to say something, and when I didn’t he continued. “But it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Be what way? I’m dead.”
“You are not dead. This is simply a stop.”
“You ain’t making sense again Kid. Not that I believe a bit of any of this.”
“You came here. I cannot say why now of all times, but this was of your own doing. This is you.” He said looking around in the blackness again. “You can leave any time you want.”
“Then why ain’t I gone yet?”
“Because it doesn’t have to end this way.”
“Me, your son. I don’t have to have died. You can bring me back. You have to bring me back! LOOKWHAT YOU DID TO ME!” he screamed as a hole suddenly opened in his head and blood poured from it as his eyes rolled back and he collapsed to the ground.
I bent down before I even knew what I was doing, grabbed the boy, shook him, tried to wipe the hole away. It was a trick, I told myself. It had to be. But I was here, in darkness, and as much as I hated to admit it, I didn’t want to be here alone.
“Then what do I do?!” I shouted out.
The boy was suddenly alive again. The blood and the hole were both gone, and his eyes were back on me as a smile crept across his face.
“You need only say my name at the end of your journey. Reclaim the hand, and call out my name.” He said before adding, “Father.”
“And what would that be?”
“Samael.” He said and then disappeared with a whisper hanging in the air.
I was alone. The darkness all around and I knew the boy wouldn’t come back, not here, not now. I started to wonder how long it’d been since I’d come here. What I would come back to when I came to. Was this all a trick, was I really dead? I thought of a lot of things until I finally decided my own truth, and everything around me simply vanished.