Splash of Sunset News
To die is to escape this world's earthly chains of pain and despair and move on to another realm where our afterlives are blessed with milk and honey. We mere mortals are promised an unseen kingdom bequeathed to us by our Gods in tomes forged of simple ink and parchment. These texts are filled with ancient legends and stories that have passed from mouth to ear over a multitude of generations. Ah, but faith, faith is the key to unlocking those promises held within the bound pages. Promises which allow us passage through the pearly gates of Heaven, into the mead halls of Valhalla or on to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Sadly, faith is something I have very little of.
I gazed across the expanse of forest that lay before me and stood resolute as if I were the only person on the planet. Like an insurmountable army the pines stood stalwart against the winds, majestically challenging the skies. I was quite possibly the first human to join their ranks. Sure, there had certainly been natives inhabiting this land at some point in history, but they were nomadic tribes that simply foraged and moved on. I would the first civilized man to call this place home. For many it was too desolate, too isolated, but for me that is precisely what made it perfect.
Even shrouded within this dense forest of pine I could hear Michi Gami calling out my name, beckoning me to her golden sands. It was such a contradiction for me, the water, especially the big expanse of this great lake. I was terrified of water, and yet, the beauty and serenity of her depths were like a comforting blanket.
I followed the sounds of the lake through the thick trees, stopping every so often to clear a trail by chopping down smaller trees and saplings which I would use later. I used my knife to fashion a toothpick from one of the saplings and dug a troublesome piece of meat from between my canine and first incisor. Raw meat is always so sinewy and hard to chew up completely but does provide a certain amount of nutrients not found in cooked meat. That was the last my raw meat, everything else was salted and dried which would sustain me through the winter. However, I preferred raw as it seemed to suit me just fine.
Daylight shone down through the trees casting a heavenly glow upon the dew laden needles of pine. The tiny droplets sparkled like diamonds held up to a lantern’s glow. This invading light told me I was nearing an opening in the trees that would lead to a meadow or possibly even the beach. The sounds of the water reaching my ears was no longer a gentle lapping of the shore but a slapping of the sands with wetted hands. It wouldn’t be much longer before I ran out of timber land in which to hide away. I cleared a half dozen or so more saplings and broke free from the forest's grasp.
Clumps of dune grass undulated in the winds blowing up the sandy crag. A few dozen paces found me perched on a ledge of sand overlooking the coast. I stood on the ledge watching the intricate dance of the great waters. White caps rolled from as far away as my eye could see, crisscrossing the small bay.
Even though the trees had barely started their colorful process of ushering in winter, it was still apparent that the brutal season was fast approaching. I would need shelter much sooner than I would be able to build something sturdy and proper. All of the signs in nature predicted it would be a rough season indeed and I was destined to have to ride it out until the next spring. Squirrels were busy storing up nuts while black bears had all but abandoned any vegetarian semblance of their diet for pure meat. I ran across several deer carcasses as I was clear cutting the woods which sent me to my pack to check how many cartridges for my Sharps rifle I had left. Less than a dozen were all that remained. I would have to make my shots count that’s for sure. Not that they would be of any use against the beast who had proven to be my biggest threat.
I spent the better part of that first week after escaping Toledo to cut saplings and drag them deep into the forest where the thickest boughs resided. Using grape vines I found near the shore I fashioned a crude shovel to dig the pit I would need for shelter and also fashioned a crude travois to drag my dead horse and meager belongings into my new home. I had not known her for long and rode her much too hard. My mind drifted to an old friend from another life and I wondered what had ever happened to her. Not being a big fan of horsemeat I hadn’t decided whether or not to smoke the meat or just bury the critter.
I took a break from my labors and wedged myself comfortably between two mammoth pines and stared at the blue skies allowing my mind to drift away. After several moments I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a notebook fashioned from scrap parchments held together by waxed twine. I pulled out one of my prized pencils, all the way from London, England and honed the point with my knife. I started to put down my thoughts which were a jumbled mess as was the norm.
I wasn’t certain if the order of events should be kept strictly in a chronological order, or in order of what I deemed most important. But I was most assured that if my story were to ever be told I would locked away as a lunatic or worse, end my days at the end of a hangman’s rope dangling there alive, kicking and thrashing until the end of days for the amusement of the kingdom. And the tragedy of either outcome caused me to shudder to my marrow as I was learning day by incredulous day that one simply endured immortality, they didn’t live it.
Elijah Blackwood was no stranger to the darkness residing within him. He didn’t run from it, he didn’t hide from it, and he didn’t even make excuses for it. In fact, he embraced it. Being an evil man was not what he did, it was who he was to his very core.
Elijah was content to be who he was until he met someone much darker than himself. For the first time in his life he questioned his existence and the existence of a higher power. A higher power that terrified him to his marrow.
The Iceman Cometh
We are all placed upon this earth for a specific reason. It is up to each and every one of us to determine what that reason is, to pursue it and to practice it for the sole purpose of benefitting the bigger picture. The Grand Design if you will.
No matter what your personal beliefs, be they light, dark or in between, we all serve a Master. We all capitulate to being lesser beings unworthy of this earth. And each of us strives throughout our entire lives to end up spending eternity someplace else. It’s human nature. Deep down, even the atheist believes in something when the end draws near.
Standing at the precipice of life a silver haired man contemplated his role in the Grand Design while weighing the sins of his many decades on this earth. Had he paid enough forward to negate any of the evil he had committed? It wasn’t that he was a bad man to the core, he had just done some very bad things. He wasn’t ready to leave this earth before discovering his purpose.
He could feel the sniper's cold, deadly eye piercing the back of his skull. He didn't need to be able to see the assassin to know he was there just the same. He could feel him. Being a cold blooded killer himself for more years than he could remember he was quite attuned to the fact he had now become a target. Cold sweat trickled down the back of his leathery neck, saturating his collar. He shuddered once as an icy wind blew across his nape.
A part of him seethed in anger. He had been an operative for long enough and he felt he had earned a certain level of immunity from the inevitable. If for nothing more than out of respect for his work and for what he had accomplished in his many years with the Brotherhood. He was sixty-eight years old for Christ's sake. What purpose would it serve by killing him now?
Another, more logical part of him was well aware of the secrets contained in his gray matter that was but mere seconds away from being scrambled by a speeding chunk of heartless lead. He knew all too well why he had become a threat and a danger to the security of the Brotherhood. Deep inside, he had always known this eventuality would come.
He stood atop Sugarloaf Mountain gazing out across the great expanse of Lake Superior. Small islands encrusted in winter’s icy grip dotted the harbor down below. Although the bite of winter had relinquished its grip on the trolls down below the bridge, up here in the vast wilderness it was still hanging on by tooth, fang and claw. He watched as waves crashed over the tiny islands frosting them with a little more whiteness as each wave receded. Nothing was more calming or more soothing than the violence of the lake. It was pure chaos, but it still had rules, it still had order even in that chaos.
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned, and sinned again,” he prayed to an entity he had forsaken for most of his adult life.
He took off his Stormy Kromer, slipped it into his pocket and then flipped his jacket collar down to expose the sweet spot. He said a quick prayer for his son, the only family he had ever truly loved in this world.
“Goodnight Tiger, I hope this world treats you well,” he commented to the wind. His only regret in life was not being there for his son when he needed him the most.
The crashing sounds of the waves against the rocky shoreline drifted up from two thousand feet below. Black clouds had invaded the horizon and swallowed the sun, leaving a dark, cold hole. A lone gull cried an eerie melody while drifting on the wind like a surfer glides effortlessly across the sea. Funny, decades of life on this planet and he had never really noticed these things.
A few breaths later it came. It really felt like nothing more than a little pinch but he knew that was because his spinal cord had been severed by the compassionate aim of his assassin.
A warm, seeping fluid saturated his collar. The stain spread far enough down his shirt for him to see the finality of his life before gasping for his last breath. With his dying breath he thanked the sniper for being the consummate professional. There was no pain, only an all-encompassing darkness. He had always wondered what hell would be like, now he had his chance to find out first hand.