The Eyes of Mictlan Origins
By Michael Rappa
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2016 by Michael Rappa.
All rights reserved.
Cover Art by Jay Taylor.
Cover Design by Michael Rappa.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without permission in writing from the author, except in the course of writing a review, for which short excerpts may be quoted.
The following short story is the first in a series of tales excerpted from my novel, The Eyes of Mictlan. Although the novel is primarily a dark fantasy, I designed the flashback chapters to be self-contained origin stories that would allow me to play around in different genres. The installment you are about to read, Dalton, is a western with elements of the supernatural.
All of these stories will be available for free as part of my The Eyes of Mictlan Origins series. If you enjoy this story and would like to venture deeper into this world, I invite you to read the full novel, which can be purchased for $0.99 at all major booksellers. Visit michaelrappa.net for more information.
Thank you for reading,
The searing August sun scorched the Arizona desert. Dalton Freely awoke sweating, face down in a pool of blood-soaked dirt, a noose cinched tightly around his neck, his arms tied behind his back. His mind was a blur. The last thing he remembered was fleeing the town of Ransom with his wife and two children to escape the wrath of the outlaw Dick Rush and his gang. Just days earlier Dalton, the town’s judge, had sentenced Dick to be hanged for a laundry list of crimes that included murder, kidnapping, rape, bank robbery, and animal mutilation, among many, many others.
Dalton had only recently arrived in town, having lived most of his life in New York City before joining the army on his 18th birthday. He bravely served for several years until one incident forever changed his outlook on the U.S. military. He had grown increasingly disillusioned with the government’s campaign against the American Indians as he witnessed numerous atrocities, culminating in the massacre at Wounded Knee, where he had been forced to participate by his commanding officer. The images of unarmed women and children being mowed down by gunfire haunted every waking minute of his life, and he sank into a deep depression. He knew that if he remained in the army he would likely turn the gun on himself, so he quit as soon as his commission was up and returned to New York to get his law degree. He proved to be a quick study and inside of five years became one of the top prosecutors in New York. During this time he also turned to religion and became a respected member of his church, where he eventually met and married his wife, Beverly.
Dalton had never expected to leave New York, but an old friend of his from the army, who was now a politician in Arizona, contacted him to ask if he would consider taking the judgeship of a small district in Arizona. Dalton initially had not been interested, but Beverly thought it was a great idea. In Arizona they could live a peaceful life and raise their children away from the chaos and dangers of the city, so he soon found himself on a train to Arizona. They settled in the town of Ransom, where Dalton was scheduled to hear his first case—the trial of Dick Rush.
As a man of law from the more civilized Northeast, Dalton had been woefully unprepared for how things worked out West. He had heard that the frontier had been largely tamed in the years since he last rode with the army, and he long believed the stories of the Wild West to be more myth than truth—so when Dick Rush threatened at his sentencing to kill Dalton, the sheriff, the prosecutor, and their entire families, he had not taken it too seriously, thinking that Dick was safely behind bars.
Then Dick’s gang busted him out of jail in the middle of the night and the killing began.
True to his word, Dick Rush led his gang on a rampage, first stopping at the sheriff’s home, where they gang raped his wife before beating her to death. They slit the throat of Ray Barnes, the sheriff’s teenaged son, when he tried to intervene, and only bloody pieces remained of their two-year old son Joey after he took a shotgun blast to the midsection at close range. The gang then set the house on fire.
They next turned their attention to the prosecutor, William Henderson, and his wife, Helen—but Henderson, awoken by the gun blasts and the fire, had seen them coming. He managed to escape out the back door with Helen and they ran to the sheriff’s office—where they found the body of Sheriff Joseph Barnes gutted like a pig, his entrails hanging from his open belly, his mouth stuffed with dirt to muffle his screams.
A few minutes later, heavy banging on the front door of his house startled Dalton out of his sleep. He leaped out of bed and grabbed a pistol from his dresser.
“Dalton, what’s going on?” his wife Beverly asked.
“Someone’s at the door. Go into the kids’ room and wait for me there.”
Beverly complied without saying a word and Dalton walked to the front door.
“Who is it?” he called out
“Dalton, it’s me, Bill!”
“Bill Henderson?” Dalton asked, puzzled.
“Yes, let me in, hurry!”
Dalton crept to the window and peered out. He saw Bill standing there with Helen. He moved back to the door and opened it. Bill and Helen rushed in breathing heavily, their faces pale.
“Bill, what is it?”
“It’s Rush! He’s escaped! We have to get out of town! He’s already killed the sheriff, and probably his family!” Bill replied frantically.
“Are you sure?”
“We saw what they did to the sheriff with our own eyes—all the blood—it was horrible!” Helen cried.
“And the sheriff’s house is on fire,” Bill added. “Rush’s gang came after us but we got out the back door. He’s probably coming here next. We have to get out of town. Now!”
Dalton’s heart sank into his belly as panic overwhelmed him, but he fought to maintain a calm exterior for his family’s sake. “Okay, we’ll take my carriage. We’ll all get out.”
That was all Dalton could remember. His body ached all over as he struggled to turn over from the face-down position in which he now found himself. His teeth crunched on grains of dirt mingled with his own blood as he writhed back and forth. Finally, he managed to flip over onto his back, a dull pain shooting up the arms that remained tied behind his back. He looked up and immediately began screaming. He screamed at the top of his lungs until it felt like his voice box had exploded—and then he screamed some more.
Directly above him, suspended by their necks from the branches of a tree, dangled the bloodstained bodies of his entire party. From left to right hung the corpses of Helen and Bill, followed by a snapped rope from which Dalton himself had hung, then David and Susan, and finally Beverly, who had been stripped naked. As Dalton gazed upon the nude body of his wife in between h
is guttural screams, the memories of the previous night came roaring back in a tsunami of imagery.
They forced me to watch, he thought. Oh God, they forced me to watch!
Dalton thought they had escaped. They had been fleeing at top speed for 10 minutes with no sign of pursuit. Then a gunshot suddenly pierced the night and ricocheted off the carriage.
“They found us!” Bill screamed.
“Take the reins!” Dalton shouted as he reached one hand for the rifle he kept up front.
“But I’ve never driven a carriage before!” Bill exclaimed.
Another shot rang through the air.
“You’ve never fired a gun before, either. Now take them!” Dalton commanded. “Just keep pushing the horses like I was.”
Bill took the reins. Dalton stood up, rifle in hand, and peered over the top of the carriage as another shot whizzed by. Although it was the middle of the night, the full moon shined enough light for him to make out the shadows of five men on horseback about 200 yards away and rapidly gaining ground. Dalton returned fire, missing wildly as the motion of the carriage made it difficult to aim. Loud screams emanated from within the carriage at the sound of Dalton’s rifle blast.
“Calm down, everybody. We’re going to be all right,” Dalton said in a much more reassuring tone than he felt. Bullets now flew furiously from the