F3’s 100th prompt has a Western theme, and we were to use the following words in our story: Rattlesnake, six-shooter, adios, miner, madam, dusty, and sheriff. I suppose the upcoming fright fest of a holiday crept in my head for this one. Please enjoy as I try to answer:
IS SILENCE REALLY GOLDEN?
Georgie woke up on a cot in what looked like a saloon right out of the Old West. He stood up and looked around and there were swinging doors at the entrance, and several small wooden tables and chairs . He checked the shelves behind the bar, but all were empty.
“What the hell?” he said. “One minute I’m pulling a score and the next…”
Georgie saw the doors swing in and a tall man entered. As he approached the bar, Georgie could see that if they ever decided to remake Rawhide, this cat was ready. Black Stetson hat, black shirt, leather vest and pants, double gunbelt, and black boots with spurs.
“Nice six-shooters you got there, Sheriff. What do you say we belly up to the bar and pour ourselves a shot of firewater?”
The man took a seat on one of the barstools, removed his hat and placed it on the bar. It’s been so long, he thought. I hope this one will be different.
“I am Daniel,” he said softly, “and I’m not the Sheriff. I am the Caretaker.”
The ‘Caretaker’? Georgie wondered if that brain tumor Madam Zenda told him was in his future had finally honed in on him. It was time to get directions to the closest highway and head straight to an ER.
“Name’s Georgie, and as much as I’d love to stay and visit, I’ve got places to go. So, if you’ll just take me to my car, I’ll be on my way.”
The man took a deep breath and began.
“I know who you are. Let me explain. You want to know where you are? Well, my friend, this is Hell. One of them. Others come, but they don‘t last long. We have until morning to talk--a rare reprieve from loneliness for me. I haven’t had any company in a long time. Could we please have a conversation?”
Georgie couldn’t figure out this clown in the Gunsmoke Halloween getup. It’s like he actually believed the garbage he was spouting. Georgie couldn’t remember running out of gas. When Johnny D loaned him that clunker, he said it would get Georgie to the bank in Huntersville and then to the city on one tank. Engine must have died, but where was the car, and how did Georgie end up in this loony bin?
“Okay. Let’s assume, just for a minute, that you’re telling the truth and this is Hell. Where’s all the fire and brimstone and the devil with his pitchfork? All I see is a deserted town at the end of nowhere, complete with dusty streets, and a saloon with no booze. Oh, and you. A broken down gunslinger who likes to sit and chat like some old broad at a Bridge game. Sorry, but I’m splitting this pop stand. Adios, friend.”
Daniel didn’t see any point in telling him he wouldn‘t get far. This man, Georgie, would find out soon enough.
Georgie couldn’t see the wall, but he could feel it. Wide open spaces ahead as far as the eye could see, but he couldn’t walk past the school on one side, the burned out church on the other, or out into the fields that ran alongside. It was like he was inside a large square box. He could feel the warmth of the sun, and the air he breathed was clean and fresh. He knew the world was still out there, but how, and why, was he being kept here? What if the cowboy was right?
This wasn’t funny anymore. Georgie was genuinely pissed now, and headed back to the saloon to get some straight answers from Clint Eastwood’s clone. As he approached the doors, a rattlesnake appeared out of nowhere and struck at his left leg. He quickly pushed open the doors and made his way to the bar where the man in black was still sitting.
“I just got bit by a snake. Where’s the doctor?” Georgie was in a panic. He was sure a rattlesnake’s bite would kill him if he didn’t get help pretty quick.
“Nothing will happen to you,” the man said. “The snakes are the only creatures I have for company. Every now and then, they strike. I am unsure as to why.”
“That’s it.” Georgie had had enough. “What is this place and why can’t I leave?”
“As I said earlier, this is my Hell. Long ago, I robbed the bank in this town and I killed a woman and her child during my getaway. For my evil deed, I was condemned to remain in this shadow of the town it once was. Before you, there was a miner who had gambled away his claim and decided to rob the bank. He killed a schoolteacher and was shot by a guard. You were killed by a policeman on your way out right after you shot an expectant teller. She died instantly, as did her unborn child.”
“How did you… I mean, who told… I…”
“We will be permitted to talk through the night. Once the sun again rises, however, we may no longer speak, and will not be permitted any further communication until another arrives. And, that’s only if someone tries to rob this town’s bank, takes the life of an innocent and is killed in the process. If that doesn’t occur, or when the bank ceases to exist, we will have only silence for eternity.”
Georgie wished this jerk would shut his piehole.
“I’m ready to call our jawing session quits right now, but one last question. Why won’t we be able to talk in the morning?”
“I am not permitted to answer that. However, I am obliged to tell you that if you wish to join the screaming souls in the Lake of Fire, you need only to wish for it. So, in the few hours that remain, will you please indulge my need for the sound of a human voice and tell me about yourself?”
Georgie shook his head and went to lay down on the cot. He saw the man lay his head on the bar and close his eyes. He better not come near me during the night, Georgie thought, or he’ll be missing more than conversation when I get through with him.
Georgie felt the sun on his face. He just knew when he opened his eyes, he’d be in a suite at the Holiday Inn on Route 85. Unfortunately, he was still in the middle of this nightmare. The man had moved to the other side of the room and was on the floor, his face to the wall. Georgie watched him breathing slowly, and was grateful he was still asleep. He was not in the mood for a pow-wow with this nutcase. He stretched and felt a yawn coming, but something was wrong. Why couldn’t he open his mouth? If that bastard did something to me…
Georgie walked behind the bar and looked into the mirror. Below his nose, the entire bottom of his face was one solid mass--his mouth had been erased. Now, he understood. He closed his eyes and made a wish.