Open Windows-Chapter Five
  


Chapter Five

As I stood there, I felt a strong voice in my head that shouted “Move left now!” and rather than argue or try to figure out why, I just moved, and then felt the bullet whiz past my head moments before I heard the gunshot.

It was so close that I felt I could watch it as it was spinning by my head, the bullet rolling end over end until it hit the door jamb, hitting that spot where I should have been, where I was a second a split second ago or less.

Even just as important, that was where THEY thought I would be at the time. I watched as the wood shattered and splintered where the bullet hit. Even though some wood fragments hit my face, other than a twitch in my left eye, I didn’t move or raise a hand to touch the hurt. I was as ready to kill them as they were to kill me, maybe even more so because I was angry too, and they weren’t going to give me any answers while I was standing there.

Then I saw the bartender, across the way and on the roof looking down at me with a surprised look on his stupid face, he was still holding a rifle in his big meaty hands, the barrel trailing off smoke as he held it.

He started looking around at his friends then, I thought he was waiting for approval or something, then finally getting it, he began nodding his head and then looked back at me.

He quickly raised the barrel and aimed at me again, pulling the trigger when he was sure he had me, the click as the pin slammed into the chamber echoing thru the sudden stillness, but no bullet came for me, instead there was silence as the echo faded.

I saw then that it had jammed and he was trying to cock it and fire again, but the gun wasn’t co-operating with him.

He didn’t think he was going to need a second shot when he saw me walk out anyway, so there might not even be a bullet in the chamber, but he was fighting with it and looking at me at the same time. Maybe they had elected him to kill me and he had let them down, I wondered if they would punish him for missing me, for only bringing one bullet if that was the case, and then I thought, “How do you punish someone that’s dead? Take away his sheets and leave him exposed?” That brought a laugh out of me and confused them.

He seemed surprised that he missed me with a rifle at that short range; he even stopped once to look down the site again. I thought next he would look down the barrel and that would be too funny.

He was even more surprised when I pulled my left pistol (thank full it was real again) and squeezed off a shot that struck him in the middle of his forehead.

I was really lucky that I hit him at all, because the gun kicked like a mule, the force kicking my arm hard and almost making the gun fall from my hand, I felt my body move back a few steps from it.

The bullet shattered as it hit the bone, but enough fragments got thru his thick skull, the largest chunk spun thru to the left side of his head, then out behind and slightly below his ear. As he fell I thought could hear him muttering to himself, “How the hell did I miss him?”

I pulled out my other pistol and looked for my other friend, the one with a million questions, my head still hurt from all the probing he had done, the pain reverberating thru my shoulder only added to it. I wondered if I could go back and get a smaller gun and laughed again.

He told me, “Since my guns are not drawn, could you be a gentleman and put mine away as well? Might that not be the fair and straight thing to do?”

I looked at the sound of his voice or whatever he called it and was surprised to see him there, right in the middle and exposed, not trying to hide at all.

He was now smiling, I could feel an evil grin spreading across his face though I still could see nothing there.

“Fair and straight?” I asked him, “How fair and straight were you when your bartender fired that shot at my head?”

“That’s a good a sensible argument!” He said, “But, tell me my friend, who do you think it was the told you to move?”

“You expect me to believe that?” I asked him, “Why would you try to save my life? You have been wanting to kill me since I first got here!”

“I assure you, I didn’t save you out of concern for your well being!” He said with what I thought might be a sneer. “I saved you for myself, I want to be the one that kills you, they had their own ideas obviously, and I had mine.”

I looked around me at the others that were there, looking for something I could use, anything to increase my chances of getting out of there intact, and I was hoping he couldn’t knock me out again. I tried to steel myself for what was ahead, that was another advantage they had over me, then I realized that they were seasoned killers and I still had that soft side, thinking “Can’t we ALL just get along?”

I tried to keep anything that might help him hidden from my mind and thought only of things I wanted him to know and hopefully nothing he could use.

Something in the air seemed to revive me, maybe it was that “smell of death“ that they speak of in the movies, but for some reason I suddenly knew I wanted to live, to see Erika again and make things right. Start over again and forget about the past, I knew it would be embarrassing for my brother but he would have to find his own peace with it, I would hold no grudge against him either, he is after all, my brother.

Nemrul was standing there impatiently, but he had moved to my far left, and I felt that same smile that didn’t belong on that non-face of his as it started to fade back to that blacked out nothingness that was there before. I know that life is full of little trade-offs and I wondered what he had traded for that ability to never been seen again.

Then I wondered if he could turn it on and off, because something like that might come in handy sometimes. I wondered what happened if you took off that robe he was wearing? Was there was nothing underneath or would I be able to see him still? I thought that couldn’t be because I had seen his hands I thought that if he could have, he definitely would have because the hatred he felt for me radiated off him in waves and I could feel it from where I stood.

He was so sure of himself that his guns were not even drawn. His arms crossed high on his chest. He had a toothpick in his mouth and I could see it moving back and forth quickly.

It was maddening, I was wondering if the toothpick would disappear where it entered his mouth or you would see the whole toothpick suspended in the space where his mouth might have been. I know I should be thinking of how to kill him, but things like that popped into my head and didn’t need to make sense, they were just my thoughts after all.

But I was thankful for that toothpick; when it stopped moving I knew it was the only sign that he was coiled and ready to spring. Otherwise, he appeared to be so calm and ready to take care of business, no matter what else might happen today.

“You just won me another twenty dollars he hissed at me. We must have been a full thirty feet apart, and though he whispered, I could clearly hear him as if he was at my ear.

I liked it better the other way; this voice was so raspy and horrible. It reminded me of an old cassette tape that had been eaten by the player as it wobbled out of somewhere deep inside.

I felt as though someone had touched my neck with a feather when I heard his voice, I reacted by flicking it back and away and almost got shot for that move, I wasn’t going to live long as a gunfighter if I didn’t learn things a lot faster than they were coming to me.

One of the other men standing there tried to draw a bead on me but he was stopped short when Nemrul raised his hand. “Back!” He shouted at him, “This is to be my pleasure! I will kill the man that tries before I am ready!”

They all got a good laugh out of that one, knowing the enjoyment he would get out of this, maybe some of them would shoot some into my corpse when he was done, but none would fire before he did or face his wrath, and all were glad that he wasn’t focused on them, for though they had seen his rage, he had never been this angry before either, and they were not sure how to react nor what they might do if he did turn on them.

I could see he had a pair of Colt 45’s, all chromed up with clean pearl handles, they were exact copies of the ones I had, and I wondered if his said “Peacemaker” or “Piece Maker” as mine said.

He turned back to me and said, “They bet me you wouldn’t show, that you were too scared, but I knew better,” he hissed at me. I wondered why he was stalling this way, he kept talking as if he was also waiting for something, some sign or maybe for me to move into the right place so he cold get the shot he wanted, but I wasn’t going to answer him, I never really even heard him then, and I wasn’t going to move and do him any favors, and I still thought that if it got to be too much I could dive back inside.

“I told them you weren’t smart enough to be scared, that you still think you might yet live thru this day!” he showed nothing but contempt for me as he spoke, I knew mercy was not a word he was familiar with.

I had to rattle him this time, it was my only advantage, and fortunately it was one of the few things I was good at. I was hoping he was the kind that went off and lost focus when he was angry.

“Hey, nimrod! Are we going to do something here or you just want to talk me to death?“ I asked as I smiled at him, not just a small one either, but I gave him my best toothy grin, showing him all of my teeth with that smile.

I saw the edges of the fabric near his face smoldering and I smiled even bigger, and then I dived to my right and pulled my guns out, firing as soon as they were free, and thankful that they were still real.

When I was a kid, I had this recurring dream where someone was chasing me, and no matter how fast I tried to run or tried to be, I was always too slow and he was super fast, or I couldn’t hit him hard enough to hurt him, making him laugh as he hit me and his punches would really hurt. Watching him uncross those arms and lower them to his guns was a lot like that.

Like watching a slow motion action videotape…click…click…click. As if I was watching the Zapruder tape of John Kennedy being assassinated by all those gunmen.

It happened so slowly that I could have counted the hairs on the back of his hand. I could see a callous on his thumb, the way he moved spoke of hours upon hours of day after day practicing with those pistols at his side or in his hands until they became second nature. I could see he had a different callous on the pad of his other hand, this one from fanning with one hand to fire even faster, and the glove on that hand worn away from years of over use.

All of this combined was what made him the gunfighter he was now. A dealer of death and well fitted for his chosen profession. Maybe it’s true that your enemies become a mirror of you because he also dived to his right as he fired.

I fired at Nemrul as he fired off from each of his, two of our bullets actually hitting each other between us as, we fired, and another had bent sent off it’s deadly path by a fragment of one of those shattered bullets.

Intent on our purpose, we fired and emptied our guns and re-loaded as we tried to kill each other many times over.

I rolled over and tried to reload before he fired anymore and saw he was doing the same, though he was taking his time, and he watched me as he loaded.

When we were both ready again, he drew first this time and I felt the heat of a tiny fragment of lead as it hit my left cheek, just below the eye and stayed there, underneath the surface of my skin. I felt it burrowing into my face it made my eye twitch rapidly and that might have cost me a good shot or two as it broke my concentration, I slapped away at a bug or mosquito that wasn’t there.

I took out one gun then and aimed at his gut and let the weight of the gun and the kick of firing the gun raise my aim, and I kept shooting that way until I was sure I was firing at his head and held it there.

As quick as I was, Nemrul was even quicker and more accurate, all his shots aimed at my head, but unlike me, he never seemed to hesitate as he fired at me.

He fired in rapid succession as he turned and moved to his right again, in a low profile, he seemed to almost float a few inches above the ground as he turned until he lay back and fired at me, and though he was now turned away from me, he got those four shots off in a hurry, they were meant to do the worst damage to me, hitting critical areas of my upper body and ending in my heart.

To my dismay, I saw my shots hit the dirt behind him as they missed the mark again, though I knew at least one of them went thru the muscle on the back of his right leg.

I heard him howl and knew that it must have hurt, “You must be getting tired, because you’re slowing down!” I said and then began to laugh again, knowing that would infuriate him. He fired another volley at me, though this time he didn’t expose his body, he had rolled around and was now hiding behind a wall, that told me he was scared and I liked that. Too angry to think right, I was getting to him and we both knew it, though he would have denied it I was sure.

Then I saw the bullets as they came towards me, slow and deliberate, like torpedoes in a submarine movie, and since I had been slower than him, I didn‘t have time to react or move away.

I saw them tear thru the air between us but as soon as they got close enough to feel the heat of them, I faded out.

I felt everything turn black and thought I was dead. I thought that one bullet I hadn’t seen had pierced my heart and that at least it was painless. I was even thinking that this wasn’t so bad as I had feared, that it was almost as peaceful as going to sleep in my own bed.

When I opened my eyes, instead of an angel, or much worse that I thought I might deserve anyway, I was sitting at a campfire, and across the way was an old man talking about the good old days.

I was dark there, with a million stars above us, I could hear crickets somewhere nearby, and I wondered at that because we were back in the desert.

I looked around, wondering where the hell I was and for a moment I thought this might be heaven and I was outside the pearly gates or something, but all I saw was sand and the sage brush that grew all around it. As if to further confirm I was back in the desert a tumble weed swept past at that moment.

We were in a low part of the sand, on two sides of us the sand swelled up again like a mighty wave, intent on over turning your small boat and drowning you. I thought maybe to keep the wind off us or to keep warm we had sat in that low point, the other two sides were almost flat and even but away from the wind as well.

I could see that there were several logs burning brightly in the fire between us, though there were no woods nearby and I wondered where he had found any wood at all, let alone logs such as these. So many things there made no sense and I was the only one that seemed to notice that.

I thought they were fake then, because though he never stoked the fire or added anything to it, those same logs seemed to not be burned at all, though the flame was warm and real, the wood still had bark on it and seemed untouched even by smoke.

I looked around me then, and I couldn’t tell what time it might be, the night was clear and bright and I felt that if I climbed to the top of that rise I could see for a million miles in every direction.

He meant no harm, I could see that because he was sitting cross-legged at the opposite side of the fire and he was staring off into the distance as he spoke, almost as if I wasn’t there, and yet every so often he would look at me, cocking his head to one side as if to see if I was still listening, yet he asked nothing as he spoke, no questions to test my attention, he would return his gaze to some far-off vision he held in his heart.

He wore and old t-shirt that was faded and frayed at the edges, but I could see something written on the front of it: “The older I get the better I was!” and he seemed to have adopted that philosophy.

He looked like an old wino or something and where the shirt was torn away you could see his body rail-thin and yet strong, his arms bands of muscle and thick veins, black from years spent wandering under this hot desert sun.

He was talking excitedly, his hands making quick fluid movements thru the air. Almost as if he was conducting music, but he must have lost it somewhere, as he wasn’t making any sense, his movements disjointed and erratic.

His hands rose in front of him and he made this odd motion as he spoke, as if he was wringing out something that was in front of him, his hands starting at the top and coming down as he went, but going right to left, as if he thought I could read it that way as he worked the letters.

Other times his hands would rise above his head, open and empty, as if he was showing someone that he was unarmed and meant no harm, other times a feather would appear in his hands, huge and white and so clean it almost hurt your eyes, yet I know it wasn’t there a moment ago and I wondered how he did that, the words a soft muttering on the edge of my consciousness.

I thought I still had my guns in hand, and I could still hear the sounds of gunfire fading away but when I looked at them, I was instead holding an old metal cup, filled with coffee, strong, black, grab-you-by-the-throat coffee, almost as thick as syrup, and the cordite smell was leaving me quickly now, fading away with the sounds of the battle I had just left.

The cup was warm and dented here and there. I found myself wondering if these dents came from hitting anyone on the head as my mother did with her frying pans.

That took me back to something from long ago; I was watching my mother in her kitchen, which was the only place she ever really felt at home, that was HER domain and it didn‘t matter what my father said when she was in there.

I asked my mother once about the dents in her frying pans, and she told me it was from “Knocking some sense into your brother and father, and you’re next!” as she spoke those last four words she shook the pan at me for emphasis and it made me smile, remembering her that way.

I believed her, because her and my father had some pretty nasty fights, as I remember. I knew she had hit my father with things like that pan, but he never hit her back, at least not in front of us. She never hit him hard enough to cause more than discomfort, but it was a funny memory to me.

I had an Uncle in those days, he was my favorite and all of the kids I knew loved him as well, because he respected us and got in the dirt with us, never acting as though we were stupid and he never would belittle us, I asked him about that once and he told me, “A real man never hits a woman!” and it was something he said to me a lot, even before I knew what he meant.

The hollow look he got in his eyes when he said that made me feel that he had seen that happen before, like one of those bad memories we try to forget, but I never had the guts to ask him about it.

As I got older I knew there were times they both forgot what they tried so hard to teach me, but there are things we turn a blind eye to when we love someone, no matter how wrong it is.

Maybe part of that was because the women involved forgave them, or endured it for their own reasons was the reason we could overlook the bad things that we didn’t understand anyway.

The memory of the gunfight I lost just moments ago and the non-singing woman were fading from my memory now. I had small “dimples” where the bullets would have hit me running across my chest and stomach. Sometimes they even burned a bit, like sparks that flashed quickly and were soon gone. I still had a small pellet of lead under my skin but it was a minor irritation and I couldn’t know if it was showing or not, but I guess I didn’t really care.

I had a vague memory of an interrogation but not who asked the questions or why, not even clearly remembering that it was me that was being interrogated at the time. But I DID somehow remember the flowers and that made me shiver and look around quickly, my hands reaching for my guns.

While all of this was going thru my head and either flushed or filed away, he kept talking about something he thought was funny, his voice droning on as he talked and again I wondered if he even knew I was there at all.

I was thinking the coffee smelled really good and it was waking me and relaxing me at the same time, and the cobwebs were completely gone now.

I then remembered a time I was camping with my brother near a lake or something and he burned the palm of his hand on the fire while we roasted marshmallows. It is a favorite of mine, good memory, and I laughed at that thought.

We used to camp out a lot like that, because he loved the outdoors, but though I don’t remember us being alone like that and camping very much, we usually went with a lot of family, yet this time it was just the two of us.

We were sitting by the fire, trading ghost stories and roasting marshmallows when had tried to take one off the stick when it fell apart, the heat burned his hand and raised more than a few blisters.

When we got back my Dad was really mad about it, but Ray wouldn’t tell him how it happened, because he felt stupid and didn’t want to face that, though not a big deal, he didn’t want to admit it to our father, feeling he had somehow let him down.

As I passed the room they were discussing this in, my father called for me and I could tell by his demeanor that he was sure it was somehow my fault.

Before he had seen me, he wasn’t sure what to make of it, but seeing me gave him a target and he knew I had at least some of the answer if not all of it. Ray was sitting in the other chair and he looked at me when I entered but said nothing, only giving me a weak apologetic smile and then hanging his head down.

“Do you know anything about this?” he asked angrily looking down at me and pointing a finger in the general direction of my brothers hand.

I looked down at it and saw he had tried to make it heal faster by popping the blister it had raised, but it was now red and angry looking with an infection. I looked from his hand to my father and then back again slowly, enjoying every moment of this.

“Yes” I answered and swallowed hard for affect and waited, looking anywhere but at my father as I spoke softly. I knew he either thought it was my fault or something I had done, and was hoping to use this to full effect and not smile before it was time.

“Well?” He stopped and let his breath out slowly and impatiently, and then he demanded as he crossed his arms, “Are you going to explain the blister on your brothers hand?” even more impatiently, and now it was hard to keep a straight face.

“I told him to start using his other hand or that was going to happen! I tried to warn him!” I said, Ray was a sucker for a good laugh and as hard as he tried not to laugh, that made it all the funnier, we both started laughing really hard and he fell out of the chair and to his knees, he couldn’t help it.

But not my father, who never understood the value of a practical joke when it was pointed at him, and he didn‘t even smile.

I still got my ass kicked just because I made the joke, but he never found out what happened either, and I think it proved something to my brother when I didn’t say anything about it, though I didn’t see what a big deal it was.

I looked around me and was feeling I had some sense of control over what was going on again, even the old man was starting to make sense now.

I looked at him and expected to see “Curly” explaining to me about “one thing” and holding his finger up…not the same finger from “City Slicker’s” though; this would have been the “other” finger, and he only vaguely resembled Jack Palance.

That made me laugh again, and he stopped what he was saying and started to laugh too, though I didn’t tell him the joke.

He was so old, when he smiled his face looked like a catchers mitt, or like the briefcase of a traveling salesman that has been around the world more times than it’s been home. He had no teeth in the front anymore, maybe a stubble of one or two on top, but he no longer cared about that, he was beyond worrying about cosmetics or appearances.

As I listened, I found out that he had been out in the sun for going on twenty years though he didn’t look a day older than 100.

Knowing that he lived on the brush that grew wildly here and who knows what else he ate helped me to understand why he didn’t make sense, yet as I listened to him speak, I realized that interspersed with his “confusion” was some truth.

I heard him say, “Do not trust your senses, they will try and confuse you, do not take what your enemy offers, and never trust your eyes!”

That was followed by him telling me that he had gone mad a long time ago, and he still refused to accept it because he had some lucid moments now and then.

As he said that, he began to argue with himself again, transforming as he spoke from himself to someone entirely different in a flash at times, such as when he would interrupt himself.

“He doesn’t need to hear that! It would only further confuse him and serves no useful purpose!” He shouted to his right.

“I don’t care what you think!” He shouted even louder, and then stood up, waiting for who ever he thought was there to stand so he could knock him down. After a few tense moments he sat down himself, turning towards me again as if he’d won some argument.

“He wants me to tell you about how I got here, but that won’t help you, and that’s all you need from me!” He said and turned back, daring the other one he saw there to speak different.

“I have gone quite mad over the years, refusing to accept even my own death, though I have a strong memory to remind me!” he said, again looking back to his right.

Then his other side entered and shouted, “We are NOT insane! Do you understand that? We still have reason, we still feel warmth and cold, we made that damn coffee that he’s drinking!” he pointed at my cup when he said that, making me jump.

“But that’s ONLY because he’s NOT insane! WE however are, and quite so by the looks of you!” as he pointed a boney finger at himself.

I wondered then if he had those good angel/bad angel figures sitting on his boney shoulders, both fighting for his soul, both telling him what he should do. I noticed that he never ever looked to his left, so that must be the dominant side, but was that the good angel or the evil one, I could not be sure.

He sat there and watched me then with a wistful smile, and I knew that he was reading my thoughts, maybe even understanding some things about me and why I was there because he nodded his head a few times, and I had an idea that he even saw the gunfight and how I ended up here, but in his mind I was all an illusion and he was in control, this was HIS world and he probably didn’t think anyone was really there with him, that he was as always, alone and carrying his own conversation with his “other” self.

That he was speaking of insanity as if he were in some way discussing a patient scared me a bit, he interspersed his thoughts with words like “psychosis” and shock treatment therapy, it was a little spooky hearing him say that and then I remembered hearing,” Do not listen to the devil! He mixes lies with the truth to confuse you!” and thought he was talking about himself then, and not Nemrul. I wondered then if I had said that name would he react? Would he know who it was and how to stop him? But I never got the chance to ask him because he interrupted that thought by turning his head towards me and making sure I knew he was speaking directly towards me.

“Do you know that even the devil himself knows the Bible, chapter and verse?” he asked me, “Because he speaks the words does not mean he lives them!” he shouted again. “He only knows what he can use against you, nothing more of it matters to him!” he said.

When I didn’t answer him, he would answer for me. I could sit back and listen to an entire conversation, as if I was a third person sitting there with them.

I saw there was a pot boiling in the fire, and I know it was not long ago that there was nothing on that fire except the coffee, I wondered how he did that.

Then he asked in a matter of fact voice, “Are you hungry yet? Soups on!” as he began to pour some into his cup, not waiting for me.

“Lord helps those that helps themselves!” He said, looking out of the corner of his eye as he sipped at the hot liquid.

Then I drank the rest of my coffee, though it was still warm and burned my throat a bit; I was hungry and hadn’t realized it until he asked and there were not other cups or bowls nearby.

I wondered again what time it was and how long had I been in here? How much time I had left before I could leave? I was going to ask him when he looked at me and then the soup, as if to remind me it was not going to be there for long.

I leaned over and poured myself some of his soup into my coffee cup, the aroma making me hunger for it even more . It was surprisingly good, he had put a lot of vegetables in there and made thick gravy over them somehow, and I had to wonder about that since he didn’t seem to have a garden nearby but I didn’t ask, and even more insane was the fact that I had never seen him prepare anything as we sat there, it was just “there” now.

As I leaned back and settled into it, he was getting more and looking at me with a curious look on his face, but he went back to his soup and forgot about me, it was as if he had just realized I was there and he had been talking to me all along and was upset because I wasn’t answering him.

I thought then about this world inside her head, some things made sense and some things would never change no matter where you were, who you were or what you did or didn’t do, and it seemed crazy but I was making some sense of it, figuring things out for myself and ignoring his conversation for a while. It went on anyway without my help.

I watched him as I sat back there, his conversation still animated, his constant gestures flying wildly about his head, and he was still answering for me and talking within himself.

I thought about conversations I had over the years, when I tried to listen but they made no sense to me, no matter how hard I tried I could not understand, and the times I did understand, I was preparing my answer as they were speaking so I wasn’t really listening. Was this much different than that? I wondered.

Again he stopped speaking at that very moment, as if he had heard my thoughts and was awakened by them somehow, aware that I could read his face he stopped again and closed his eyes for a moment.

He reminded me of a turtle that pulls itself into its shell when it feels threatened and I thought that might have been how he had survived all these years under this sun.

But for the fact that he was dead and not alive at all never came into my thoughts, because it made no sense to me I dismissed it.


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Bluez
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Rating: 10.0/10

Synopsis
I don't know what else to say that I haven't already said about this one, but I hope your enjoying it as much as I did when I wrote it.
Published Date
11/4/2007 12:00:00 AM
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