Word Count 2,405
The brothers looked on at the uninviting eerie sight before them. One a little hesitant, the other couldn’t care less where they bed down for the night. They both had been on the road for three days now with little sleep from restless nights under the cold sky, and they were sore, dirty, and hungry. Then after an excruciating night before of trudging through a sudden rainstorm and sleeping under a rocky cliff, huddle together like drowned puppies trying to stay warm. Anything kind of town or bed would be welcome.
“I don’t know about this, Scott, It don’t look too promising,” Johnny snorted, “Kind of spooky if you ask me.” Johnny said, rubbing the back of his neck, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Spooky? Come on, brother, it’s just a town.”
“A dead town!” Johnny nervously retorted.
“You can’t tell me that Johnny Madrid is afraid of ghosts?” Scott jokily asked, not realizing he had hit on a touchy subject the ex-gunfighter rather not think about.
‘Only in my dreams, brother,’ Johnny whispers so softly only he could hear.
“What did you say?”
“Oh, nothing.” Johnny shrugged, then let out a sigh of disgust, “Well, I reckon if we have ta, we better go on in, we’re losing light.”
Scott nodded, and the two brothers keeping their mounts at an easy trot, entered the deserted, desolate streets of a town that was once busting full of life, now lies dead as a tomb. And it had them pondering as to what in the hell had happened here to provoke the townspeople to leave. There was nothing here now but tumbled weeds blowing about as the winds picked up whooshing through the large cracks and broken windows of the boarded-up shops, and withering town homes that still stood. The haunting whistling almost sounded like screeches, moans, and cries of the occupants that once lived here, sounds that often visited a young man’s dreams; nightmares of his past.
“I wondered what happened here?” Scott shuttered to ask. And as they continued along, he also noticed after peering through a few windows that were not boarded up, that some shops were still fully stocked. “I say they either had to leave in a hurry, or they never left,” he grimly speculated.
“Well, whatever happened, it’s done. Now let’s find a place to bed down,” Johnny hastily replied as he buttoned up his jacket around his neck when a sudden deadly chill hit it. “Don’t you feel that?”
“Feel what?” Scott asked back, raising his eyes brows.
“How it suddenly got real cold, like ice cold.” Johnny shivered, tightening his jacket more.
“Not really, it must be your imagination, or ghosts coming to get you,” Scott teased. But then he had to shiver too when the same feeling hit him. However, he didn’t let his frowning sibling know. He kind of like having the upper hand for once.
Johnny shot a hard glare at his grinning brother. “Very funny, brother! Let’s try over there at the saloon, cause’ I don’t see any hotel around, at least I can tell.”
“Okay, it’s your call.”
They both urged on their horses and hurried on over to the rickety-looking saloon, and quickly dismounted. The boys together yanked on the two boards over the batwing doors, and with one last hard pull, they freed the entryway. And none too soon as the sun behind them was just about down, and the winds had picked up stronger, whipping and howling through the barren streets, almost engulfing the town in a huge cloud of dust.
“After you, Big brother,” Johnny slyly grinned.
“No, after you, little brother.”
“That’s right! I’m the little brother here, so it’s your job to protect me, so after you.” Johnny said, trying to keep a straight face, and waved his hand towards the door.
“Chicken!” Scott snorted and led the way into the saloon. “Oh, lovely,” he frowned at the interior of the room.
There were broken chairs and glass shattered all around, tables knocked over, as if there was a battle of some sort in here. Scott cringed when he noticed a piece of a tainted green cloth stuck to a table, possibly a from a saloon girl’s dress with old bloodstains on it. Then he spied more dried faded red spots on various items, such as bars rags and drapes that were splattered on, and the hairs on the back of his neck tingled, ‘What happen here?” he asked himself. Then practically jumped out of his skin when Johnny spoke.
“What did you expect, Flannigan’s? Come on let’s find a room upstairs.” Johnny hastily urged and worked his way through the mess pushing aside the debris, with a very nervous yet curious Scott on his tail.
They checked every room that was not locked or ransacked until they found a suitable one to bed down for the night. They lit the lanterns and threw their saddlebags on the chairs. And then preceded flopping their tired saddle weary bodies on the semi-soft dusty beds.
“Now what? We just lay here and look at the four walls?”
“What do you have in mind?” Scott calmly asked after his nerves settled down some.
“Well, I could use a drink, maybe there’s a bottle or two downstairs yet.” Johnny grinned widely.
“Could be, I say let’s find out. I could go for a drink myself.” Eagerly, they both got up, grabbed their hats, and just as they reached the door. “Did you hear that?”
“Heard what?” Then Johnny opened the door, and the sound got louder. “Music?”
Totally confused, both Lancer boys slowly walked out of their room and headed for the steps as the piano continued to play, getting louder by the second, and then froze when they heard what sounded like laughter coming from downstairs. Nervously, they started to descend, and the closer they got to the bottom, their eyes widened in utter bewilderment. There before them was the bar room, as it was before, like stepping back in time. Clean, well decorated, and full of life. Dance halls girls were giggling as they playfully sat on the cowboy’s laps with their plump bosoms pressed against their faces. Men stood around the fully stock bar, guzzling down beer and shots of whisky as if it was water. All were having a grand old time.
The boys stood there at the bottom of the steps, un-noticed, both looking at each other with their mouths open and rubbing their eyes in utter disbelief.
‘SCOTT, WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Johnny yelled over the loud noises.
“I don’t know, Johnny, I just don’t know,” Scott said, shaking his head and then noticed something else that was not right. “Johnny, look!” Then he and his apprehensive brother made their way through the crowd, for which not a soul had acknowledged they were even in the room.
Outside, night had become day, a matter of fact telling by the autumn sun above it was high noon. And the streets were busy, full of townspeople decorating with pumpkins and streamers. Some store owners were happily putting up banners, while children laughed and danced around their parents as they stood there looking on at the merriment. Scott looked up at one of the banners, and pointed it out to his flabbergasted brother. Then it dawned on them both as to what day this was, *HALLOWEEN* But still, they had to wonder what this all meant, a town once dead that comes alive, why?
‘Los Dias de Los Muertos’ Johnny whispered, remembering back to his childhood in Mexico. However, some didn’t see it as a day to rejoice the death of their loved ones. Johnny thought to himself and had a bad feeling about this whole thing.
Just then, the sky grew a crimson dark, as heavy clouds rapidly rolled in, and then all hell broke loose. Within seconds, from out of nowhere, a large band of murdering renegades Indians came barreling down on the unexpected town, yelling, chanting. And right before the helpless Lancer brother’s unbelieving eyes, they began to slaughter the women and children as they ran for cover. The town men tried to fight back but quickly fell to their deaths, from arrows and spears being unmercifully slammed into their defenseless bodies. Their screams and cry were so horrifying it felt like those weapons were also piercing through the boy’s defiant ears and hearts.
Johnny then spied a little girl standing there in the middle of the road, crying, as so did one of the Indians, and he tried calling to her, but she didn’t hear him, nor did the brave as he raised his bow towards the girl. Out of sheer panic, and without thinking of using his gun, Johnny ran as fast as he could to the child, and just as he reached her, the Indian released the arrow. Scott’s eyes widened with unadulterated shock and disbelief when the arrow passed straight through Johnny’s body and right into the little girl’s heart. Johnny rolled over as soon as he hit the ground and was staring at the child’s lifeless face, then she just slowly faded away.
The stunned gunfighter quickly got off the ground, stared endlessly at his brother, as they watched in horror the bodies that littered the street also slowly disappeared one at a time. And within a blink of an eye, the whole town was as it was when the boys first arrived dark and dead—all except the saloon.
“SCOTT WATCH OUT!” Johnny warned his preoccupied brother.
Johnny’s urgent bellow broke his brother’s delusional thoughts, and Scott jumped out of the way, as a brave on his horse came crashing through the batwing doors, followed by another one. The brother’s hearts lurched as more harrowing screams and shouting from the Indians and the innocent victims from within echoed throughout the room as the slaughter continued. Then just as fast as it started, it was over. There was nothing but deadly silence as the bar occupants lay still, then as outside, they vanished as well. The braves then exited the saloon meeting with the others in the middle of town, raising their weapons in the air, and with fire raging in their eyes, they began to whoop and yell, rejoicing in their victory loudly. And as fast as they stormed into town, they then road off into nowhere, disappearing into the dark haze of the night. And without thinking of raiding the stores and homes, the only thing they had on their minds was murder, cold-blooded murder. Leaving others to find this place, board it up, and bury the dead.
The boys stood there, shaking in the middle of the street, dumbfounded. Just then, the moon came out from behind the dark clouds that had covered the town during this whole heartbreaking scene that went on before their unbelieving eyes. Never in their wildest dreams would they ever have thought that they would witness such a horrific nightmare as this, the senseless death of a town.
“Scott, what in the hell went on here?” Johnny agitatedly asked, rubbing his sore eyes, then wrapping his arms around himself to steady his nerves and to ward off the nights chill.
“That’s exactly what it is, Johnny,*Hell*, at least for them.” Scott grimly answered, after regaining his composure, and then thought of a reasonable conclusion to this whole event. “For some reason, I think every year on the day they were murdered; they must have to relive this nightmare over and over again, in this case, Halloween night. Until someone comes along and frees their torture souls, or witnesses the massacre,” Scott glumly added, remembering a story he once read.
“So you’re saying it’s us, who has to free them?” Johnny sadly asked. “What are the odds on that, huh? Coming along at the right time, so to speak.”
“Apparently high, it seems that so far no one else had stumbled on to this place like we did, or if they had did nothing, but buried the bodies in a mass grave somewhere, and went on their way. They probably never did witness the massacre as we did.”
“Yeah, I was wondering about that too. How long do you think they’ve been dead? I mean, I didn’t recognize the clothes on those Indians, at least none I have seen.” Johnny curiously asked, “And I don’t remember Murdoch saying anything about a massacre in these parts.”
Scott just shrugged his shoulders, “I’m guessing it was before Murdoch ever came to this country. Or maybe he never knew of it.”
“Well, what do we do now?”
“We burn it, or tell what we seen.”
“Come on, Scott, who will believe us?” Johnny snorted with a sly grin.
Scott had to admit that Johnny was right. It was a far fetch story, even though they knew the truth about what had happened to this little town nestled in a hidden valley. So gathering up all the dry brush they could carry, and carefully placing it around the buildings, it was now time to put the past to rest. Scott took the horses far out of range, while Johnny quickly went around lighting up the brush, and then ran as fast as he could out of town as each building began to burn.
Both brothers sat there on their mounts, watching in awe as the fire raised higher and higher, engulfing the town in one massive flame, feeling the warming heat of it on their cool faces. With heavy hearts, they couldn’t felt sadder than they did at this exact moment in time, knowing what they had learned this Halloween night. They would never know why the attack took place, all they knew was a whole town had perished, on the what the Mexican people call *The days of the dead*.
Just as they were about to leave, they noticed some faint white shadows lifting from the burning town and floating up towards the moonlit sky, and then one small figure became very clear. And she smiled down at them. Both the boys had to smile back at the little girl Johnny had tried to save, as she mouthed *Thank you* to them, and then floated upwards to the heavens joining her parents in eternity.
“Come, little brother, let’s go home.”
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