Thursday, June 30, 2011
Chapter 3: Ludleyville
The Gunslinger picked an apple off the tree beside the road and tossed it to the kid. Afterwards, he picked another one for himself. The Gunslinger was deep into the first week on the road. He had picked up a companion along the way. After the Burnt Mills, young Charlie Livingston had no more ties, nowhere to go. So he joined the Gunslinger on his unknown quest. They traveled down the road. Charlie had lived on this road for a couple of years now. He knew of the different towns, camps, farms, grounds, and villages that made up the road down the mountain. As he walked along with the Gunslinger for almost two days now, he still could not tell whether or not the dark gunman knew of the danger that lie in his way.
They walked together silently in the early morning dew. The sun had not yet pierced the skies, but the echoes of its rays made the night light blue. They pounded the moisture off the road with their boots as it turned into the atmosphere. The Gunslinger could sense something with them on the road. Charlie stayed behind him, weaponless. He feared for a showdown that he would be unable to defend himself. He did not want to have to rely on the Gunslinger for protection. As he was warned before he joined the man with the dark-rimmed hat, he would have to be accountable for his own life and safety.
Charlies' first step would have to be to get a weapon. The Gunslinger did not worry about such things. He worried about the road ahead. They passed a sign freshly hung on a wooden post that read, "LUDLEYVILLE".
Charlie knew this town. He knew they would have to cross through it quickly. Ideally, they should have gone around, but the road leads right through it, dividing the village perfectly in half. Charlie followed the Gunslinger in.
"We shouldn't be here..." he worried.
"We're just walking through." the Gunslinger comforted.
Together they walked by the quiet private homes. This was an eery place, Ludleyville hated outsiders, to them, they brought nothing but trouble. The villagers of Ludleyville were not wrong. When the Gunslinger passed another dark house a saloon came into his sight. Charlie tried to get the Gunslinger to continue his path down the road. There were fires and chanting coming from within the saloon. The Gunslinger's path began to diverge towards the saloon. Charlie could not stop him.
"I wonder what's going on in there..."
"This is a bad idea, Gunslinger."
The Gunslinger pushed the double-doors open and the cheering and singing came to an abrupt stop. They all froze and turned to look at the strangers in the door. The Gunslinger walked in and consulted the bartender. He acted as though he did not care about their piercing glares.
"We're fresh out."
"Then I'll have a whiskey."
"Fresh outta whiskey too."
The Gunslinger put his hand on his still holstered revolver. "What's going on here?" he declared as he tapped his foot.
"We don't want any trouble, Gunslinger, take your money and go."
"I'll go after my drink."
The bartender put the bottle of whiskey on the bar and shooed them away, "Take it and go."
The Gunslinger picked up the bottle and flipped a gold coin onto the bar. It bounced once and the Gunslinger turned his back on the bar. It bounced twice and guns were drawn. It bounces three times and spun to a stop, flat on the bar counter. . .
The Gunslinger walks out of the bar. One of his guns smolders with now two empty chambers. He left with Charlie, who was in awe. He scurried back behind the Gunslinger as they headed for the other end of town. "One in the elbow, one in the knee...you didn't mean to kill them?"
"There's no reason to kill a couple of bigots, not when they just want to keep to themselves."
The clouds in the sky got noisy. They gathered and turned gray, preparing to open up. The other men in the rushed outside for the Gunslinger. He had raised hell in their bar, he would not escape unpunished.
The Gunslinger touched his foot on the road and the gunfire started again.
He rolled the whiskey to the floor softly for cover. The clouds focused and charged above them. Thunder in the short distant. Lightning within view. A storm was coming. The men from inside the bar had emptied out before it, guns in-hand. Firing off like madmen. Charlie panics. The Gunslinger yells at him to get the whiskey bottle.
Charlie weaves between bullets spearing through the air, bullets intended for his blood. He gets to the bottle behind a desolated rock wall before the road, which parts through the town like a spine.
When Charlie grabs the bottle, fear holds him down back in the corner of the wall.
The Gunslinger looks back and once Charlie remains covered by the wall, he turns his head back and draws his other gun, cocking both of them pointed straight in the air, as he slowly walks towards the villagers.
The bullets pass by him at razor thin odds. He should not be alive. And yet he still walks against them. Against all odds, the Gunslinger plants his feet, bends his knees, and aims his guns.
Thunder cracks the sky opens above them and rain pours between them.
After that, all Charlie can see is tiny explosions muffled by the wetness of the downpour. The Gunslinger advances, reloading the pistol that only had four shells left. The wind kicks the rain diagonally. The Gunslinger snaps his gun closed and jumps through the storm barrier.
Lightning flashes light on the scene and all is exposed to the Gunslinger.
Six men remain, one in arms length. The Gunslinger quickly holsters and grabs the brute's gun-wielding arm and throws the drunkard around, pointing his gun at his own men. They all converge on the Gunslinger and his hostage. Charlie watches from afar and wishes he could do something. That's when he realized....
The bolt action rifle was not with the Gunslinger.
The Gunslinger pulls the trigger-finger of his hostage and kills the last man on the left. The other four open fire and kill their own townsman. Like a meat-bag he absorbs all of the bullets as life falls out of his fingers and the Gunslinger finishes off the rounds on two more of the villagers before switching back to his own revolvers.
This fat comacho with searing aim pops off a couple too many rounds at once and jostles his gun. The Gunslinger uses this opportunity to unload both his revolvers into the fat pig. It did not matter. The last of the villagers waited for the Gunslinger, gun holstered.
"I know the ways of your people!" He called out in the raging rain.
The Gunslinger reloaded his guns with his back turned to the man.
"I demand a duel!"
The Gunslinger rolls the chambers of his revolver over his forearm and locks it in place, holstering it. . .
". . . As you wish."
He turns around and walks over to the villager. The Gunslinger looks back for Charlie but he is not there. So he continues towards the dueler without him. They stand about thirty paces between. The Gunslinger stares at his opponent. As Gunslinger, he is obliged to wait to be drawn upon in any duel before drawing himself.
The Gunslinger watches the wrist of the villager's gun-hand. "That is the key," he was told. The opponent's wrist moves and he draws his gun. In times like these there is no getting around intentions. The Gunslinger fires off two shots before the last villager can get one off. Both shots go into his stomach and, in shock, the villager only fires one shot wildly into the air as he falls to his knees.
The Gunslinger walks up to his defeated opponent. "Then you should know as Gunslinger, I am also obligated to end your suffering...only you should ask...."
The villager looked up to the gunman; now toting his smoking revolver in the shadow of his head eclipsing the sunlight. The man on the ground tried to talk, but coughed up blood and gurgled his words. It sounded like, "Kill me."
The villager looked up over the Gunslinger's shoulder. He was noticing something else. When the Gunslinger began to catch on, the villager grabbed the barrel of his revolver and placing the tip against his head, right between his eyes.
Unbeknownst to the Gunslinger, the bartender had gotten to the roof of his bar and was now aiming a rifle right at his back. The bartender is prepared to fire before the Gunslinger does when a shot not from either of them rings out.
The Gunslinger knows that noise.
The bullet sweeps out from another rooftop and carves out the bartender's chest. The Gunslinger looks up and sees Charlie, kneeling atop a building and reloading the Bolt Action rifle. His trigger is pulled by the villager's hand. At first the Gunslinger thinks he is wounded. But when he looks down he realizes that the villager had committed suicide at the mercy of the Gunslinger.
"We must go." The Gunslinger said to Charlie as he picked the bottle of whiskey back up and they made their way to the road and out of Ludleyville. When Charlie tried to give the Gunslinger back his rifle, he told him to keep it.
"I'm better with my revolvers anyways." He said.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
...one month ago...
Jack walked with Dr. Randolph back over to his desk. Dr. Randolph put the resulting data into his computer. "Now that that's over with, you wanna talk to me for a sec?"
"It's not just the stone, Jack."
"Theoretically...your body will adapt to anything your throw in its way. And then you can utilize that ability any time you want after."
"So, the possibilities are endless!"
"Don't sound so excited, Doc."
"I say we throw you off the roof first."
"DOC! Your not gonna throw me off the roof."
"What if it grants you the power of flight?"
Dr. Randolph stood behind Jack with his eyes closed atop the roof of their apartment building.
"Are you sure about this, Doc?" Jack was worried. If this is how he got the teleportation ability, then what if refusing that instinct to teleport away leads him to falling to his death?
"We won't know if we don't try. Just put off teleporting until you have no other choice..."
Dr. Randolph pushed Jack off the ledge of the rooftop. He fell the short two stories and braced for impact. He did not try to teleport. He tried to think about what flying would feel like. To be able to manipulate the air between one's fingers was the power of a god. Jack heard Dr. Randolph screaming but he could not make out what he was saying as the building rose to his plummet. It was probably more theories or instructions.
Finally the floor came up upon him and he could do nothing to stop it from crushing his body. He threw his arms out like he did for the stone. But instead of his skin changing, his palms released a blast that slowed his velocity down tremendously. Jack bounced back up in the air a little before falling again. He shot out two more blasts from his palms and it slowed him down enough to drop safely onto the curbside ground.
People looked at him from both sides of the street. He ducked into the corner and ran down the alleyway. When Jack got back around to his building, Dr. Randolph was coming down the fire-escape. "Have you tried it on command yet?"
"No, Doc. I came right back here."
"Ok, Close your eyes and begin to recall-"
"Yeah, I think I got the hang of it now."
Jack closed his eyes and shook his hands. Nothing happened. He took a deep breath and tried it again. He could feel a slight charge up in his hand. He felt nervous. The kinetic energy welling in his hands had to be released. But he could not trigger it. He tried again and felt a tear. Jack was unsure of what he was doing. It felt like to him, that he was tearing a hole in the atmosphere. He trusted himself and allowed the energy to boil over. At first it felt okay, the energy slowly growing within him. But as the feeling became too great, and all of his body was packed with energy. He could stand it no more and let it take over. Jack tries to aim the pressure build up.
The resulting overload comes ripping out of Jack's palms into the atmosphere, shocking the air and pushing the pressure down. The shock wave lifted Jack off his feet. He flung about two stories into the alleyway sky. Jack flailed his arms around like windmills as he arched and approached his downfall. When the ground came rapidly back at his face, Jack put his hands out and blasted out two shock waves again, reversing his inertia. He still had little control and thrust himself back too hard, landing harshly on the alleyway floor. A puddle dampens his head.
He looks up and it is not Dr. Randolph standing over him, but an unknown assailant holding the butt of a rifle over Jack's head. Before he can teleport away or even react, Jack is knocked unconscious with a rifle-butt and dragged away.
It is some time until Jack awakes. When he does he find that he is not alone in being abducted.
Dr. Randolph is tied up next to him along with two more hooded figures tied to chairs. There is only one light in the room. It swings above his head, lighting only him, Dr. Randolph, and the other two. The rest of the room is dark. A door opens light on the rest of the scene. Two gangsters dressed in dark suits with a red dragon emblem on their ties approach the prisoners. Jack had no doubt in his mind now.
They were Triads.
They take the hoods off of the other two prisoners. Jack's mind is racing. Who could it be if not Randolph? Did they find his old life? Did they find his Mother and Father? Good God, did they abduct his wife? Poor Sarah thinks he is dead. What will she think now? All this time has gone by and Jack did not return to her. The hoods came off of the two prisoners and Jack was wrong entirely.
It turns out, Sensei and his grandson never left the city...
Thursday, June 23, 2011
...one month ago...
Jack lay on his bed listening to the police dispatch radio he had stolen from a patrol car. He was keeping a close watch on his city. Since he had killed the big figureheads and leaders of the crime racket in China Town, the Triads had moved in completely kicking out all the other families. There had not been only Chinese families living in this area since the first founders of China Town. Ever since their immigrant days the Triads have seen countless other criminals try to move in on their neighborhood.
Jack was comforted by their rule as a gang. There were little-to-no petty burglaries or assaults on innocent people. Only big picture crime syndicates like arms and drug trafficking and underground casinos. They kept their thugs and whores off the street, and the neighborhood kept out of their business. That is how it has always been. There is no trouble in that, until you have to deal with invading gangs.
But he was still expecting something...something big....
They would not let the Triads go unchecked, unchallenged, or get away with the Slaughterhouse Massacre. The first time Jack heard that catch phrase in the news he laughed. He had a good laugh. It was all too cliche to be real. But he knew out of everyone, the darkness that he wrought on that night against the corrupted and the wicked. Revenge would come, but not for him, it would come for the Triads. The only ones logically held responsible for the massacre. It was down to another choice for Jack...
Let the Triads rule or let them all wipe each other out?
Which would you do? Jack could not make a decision.
He had to find his Sensei. But he has been searching for him for weeks now. And has yet to find him. The last time Jack saw his Sensei was the night of the massacre. He remembered that night the old Chinese Man spoke weird. It was unlike his master to be so roundabout and indirect. From the day Jack met the old wise man, in his dojo, he was never anything but straight-forward and direct. Until that night he talked about a temple in the East.
But Jack knew deep down he was not dead. For one, the Sensei's family and dojo, including his grandson, were all cleared out. He knew, and did not feel insulted, that the Sensei did what he had to do to keep his family safe. It probably hurt him more than anyone. To leave the land that he loves.
He sat back up on his bed. He was out of leads. He had nowhere to go. Jack had to think. He needed to talk to the Triads as DarkFlood, but that would make his presence known. The only other option would be surveillance. He didn't know the first thing about tech. That was always somebody else in the squad. Right now, DarkFlood was an army of 1. That's when Jack looked up to find his long loyal yet persistently distant friend, Dr. Randolph.
Dr. Randolph was examining something with a microscope on the desk with his computer. Jack asked Randolph, "What's new inside the wide world of that microscope, Doc?" Dr. Randolph did not answer at first. But finished his experiment. He got up and walked over to the front door. He opened the case beside it and took out the fire extinguisher. Dr. Randolph walked straight for Jack. This time he knew what was coming.
Jack took a step back, but curiosity kept him from running.
Dr. Randolph sprayed Jack with the fire extinguisher. He put his forearm out to block the rest of his body, ducked, and took the blow. His arm got cold and frozen stiff. Dr. Randolph emptied the tank and put it down. The smoke escaped all over the floor and they looked at Jack's icy arm.
Jack was getting used to pain. He went to chop the frozen arm with his other hand. He assumed the doctor's theory was that his arm would grow back. But that is not what the Doctor was intending.
Dr. Randolph tried to stop Jack, but he went through with his hit anyways. Jack's other hand chopped right through the ice but when it came to his arm felt like he hit stone. The ice splintered and when Jack pulled his hand out, it shattered and fell to the floor.
"Just as I suspected."
Dr. Randolph had been doing thorough research on his patient's condition. "At first I was wrapped around the tumors in your body and why they were not progressing. I mean malignant tumors that do not grow are theoretically impossible. I though something was keeping them from growing, working for your body. A couple of days ago I came to a dead end. That is when I thought of something. A stone not yet unturned..."
Jack looked down at his arm, "...stone..."
"Yes, stone...Your body, those tumors, they don't act like anything natural, but they are not completely random..."
"What are you saying, Doc?"
"Your condition has a mind of its own like a symbiotic organism. It needs you just as much as you need it, that's why it repairs you...."
Jack's arm turned from stone back into his regular skin. Dr. Randolph kept going, "and defends you. My theory is that is why you teleported in the first place, to save yourself from dying. After that initial activation of that ability it seems that you can control the power at will. If my hypothesis is true I'm going to need you to try and turn your body to stone now..."
Jack stood back and looked at his arm, he looked at both of his arms and then closed his eyes. He flexed his muscles and thought about how he felt when the fire extinguisher was devouring his arm. He thrusts his forearm out and opens his eyes.
His arm is made of stone. Jack looks further and his entire body was stone. He moved and felt the joints of his body grinding stone against stone. When Jack exhaled the stone disappeared. He returned to his natural skin. Dr. Randolph smiled, "Exceptional, Jack."
"Thanks, Doc" Jack panted.
"The longer you can maintain that form-"
"The longer I am impervious. "
"I wouldn't say impervious...but you can break down walls."
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
...two months ago...
The meeting of the families was never an easy thing. The Triads did not like the blacks, and the meatballs from Staten Island had always staked a claim in China Town. With this most recent rise in crime sprees and gang-related violence, pressure was coming down from all 4 families. The Downtown 9ers were the first ones to start war with the Triads. They came from Washington Heights over 20 years ago now. Since then, the family has spun off into smaller sects of petty drug gangs. They all in serious wartime called themselves collectively the 9ers but anytime else were small-time thugs trying to make a name for themselves. One of which used to be the Dec Dawgs before they were taken out.
The Italians used to be a heavy influence with Hell's Kitchen just in the adjacent neighborhood. Steadily since the 90's they have been withdrawing from NYC and settling in Jersey. But that is not to say they did not still control many properties and businesses in China Town. The Mafia used China Town's ambiguous juxtaposition as a perfect cover for drug and gun trafficking. They would reside in Newark and Elizabeth, and watch over they're interests indirectly, never having to worry about being pinched by the government.
Back in the late 80's a vast wave of Russian immigrants came to Manhattan. They called themselves the Stoyevski family after their crime-boss, Demetri Stoyevski. Their criminal fraternity controlled all of the underground casinos and illegal gambling in the downtown area. They chose China Town, just like the Italians as a front for their seedy businesses. All of a sudden nightclubs began popping up all within the markets of China Town.
Chinatown had become overcrowded entering into the 2000's. Police did not waste time or manpower in keeping 4 gangs out of such a small part of downtown Manhattan. Soon they're presence was evacuated, and the simple people who lived under the Triad's long sovereign rule could not safely walk down the street. The 9er's and the Stoyevski Family made a war-zone out of the old china village. The Chinese families that had lived there for years putting down roots did not leave, but hunkered-down, hiding in their homes. Gang-bangers and Drug-dealers ruled the streets. And that is when fate placed you here, Philip Dresden-"
"Don't call me that."
"...That is when you saved my only living grandson from our nightmares."
"No one can know who I really am."
"No one will ever know but me."
"Thank you, Sensei."
"I promised your Grandfather, just as he had foreseen..."
"How could he possibly have known I would ever be here?"
"The power of the Flood should never be underestimated."
"I will bring this town back from the lost."
"Then you must make it known to your enemies, when the families meet tonight at the Slaughterhouse Hall."
"I will end this all tonight."
"GO FORTH! DarkFlood!"
Jack turned around. This was a new feeling. He was not being called Jack. He was not being called Philip. He was not being called Colonel. He was not being called Sir. He was being called something else entirely.
Sensei continued, "If you do not do this right, you may change things more than you can control."
"They deserve to die."
"Do what you must."
"Thank you, Sensei."
"If I am not here in the future there is something you must know..."
"..." Jack had a inkling his master knew tragedy was coming.
"All that you seek is not here, but in temple."
"There will come a day when I am not here-"
"Don't say that."
"If the time comes you will have questions beyond understanding. They will be found not here in New York City, but in the East."
"Flood technique is not just a family heirloom. It was once a religion. It is many things. But mainly an idea. The temple explains all..."
"Where is the temple, Sensei?"
"Only it can tell you."
"Am I suppose to believe that bullshit?"
"Not right now, no."
"What am I suppose to do then?"
"Go out and rid this city of the wicked."
The strange old Chinese man led Jack to the old slaughterhouse building, where they held their meetings. They were all in there. All of the heads of the families. If a cop was here, he would be useless unless they drew their weapons on him. If he was still soldier, these terrorists would be put down. That is what had to be done. This was a sweep op. Jack had to think about this carefully. It had to be either quick and big or quiet and hidden.
Jack stood still and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and teleported behind the 9er's King Pin. He grabbed the big black king pin and teleported back up into the rafters. He snapped the 350 lbs. Armani suit wearing gangsta neck and took his gun. Jack checked the clip of his silver .50 Desert Eagle. It was full. He loaded the chamber and pulled out his other pistol.
Jack checked his watch as he held both pistols crossed over before him. It was time. Jack then closed his eyes and teleported once again. This time he materialized standing at the center of the meat table they were all sitting at. Jack began firing at the heads of the Stoyevski family right next to him on both sides. The bodyguards jumped in front of Demetri Stoyevski, but that did not save him. The bullets kept coming, putting them all down as he turned his fire on the rest of the table. As he emptied the clips he straightened his arms out and prepared to reload.
The Triads were not there. This was alarming. Jack spun around and finished reloading, sliding off the table and finishing off the Russian family and 9ers.
Jack stood, back against the wall, 2 more bullets in his guns.
The Mafia Don got up and was walking towards Jack with his boys. They had bats, and clubs, guns, and knives. The Mafia Don himself was laughing. "You did me a favor..." he jested, "Whoever the fuck you are!?" Right before he began firing on Jack along with the rest of his crew. Two had automatic pistols, together they drilled apart the wall Jack was hiding behind.
Jack took a deep breath. He stood up and fired the two shoots. From each gun they sailed straight forward from his arms into their goomba-johnny faces. And then DarkFlood disappeared. The guns fell to the floor. The Mafia Don stood confused with his boys. They looked around and stayed alert.
Little did they know that Jack was sneaking around them in camouflage. He found a blade from the ground and tip-toed up against one of the goons left. He put the knife through the back of his throat, cutting his voice-box and keeping him from screaming. Jack grabbed the gun in the mobster's dying hand and began firing it on the rest of the gangsters. He killed them all before they could act, everyone except for the Mafia Don. He left him armless and crippled on the ground. The gangs would scramble after this. It would all be blamed on the Triads. Jack should have realized this before he started his assault.
Time moving forward is time spent not reliving your mistakes.
He ran out and gathered what evidence he could on the bodies. Luckily, most of them had drugs like cocaine on them, and identification. The police would be no problem on this one. DarkFlood left as if he was never there. He wish not to be known or talked about around town. An unseen presence watching...guarding the innocent...ridding the world of evil. He asked for no recognition or thanks, just for privacy and liberty.
Jack left the place without a hint he was there, or a trace back to him. He was in the clear. Now he must focus on the Triads. What would happen to them now that all the heads of the other families are dead? He must find Sensei, before it is too late. Jack hurried back to his small apartment in China Town, NYC.
A war was coming. One in the streets. A day is near where DarkFlood will no longer go hidden in the shadow. He had stirred the cauldron, the tides were shifted beyond repair. The streets will flood with gangsters and criminals rioting their leaders' deaths. Rampaging through the Triads and China Town district; all because of what Jack did.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Chapter 2: Burnt Mills
Late it was getting, in yet another day in search for the road. Since Porter's Lake, the Gunslinger had entered into a maze of trees and hills. The baron trees looked young, but pale. There was not a leaf among them. Solemn they did stick through the dense fog of MountainTop. Suddenly the treeline broke, and fields spanned across the ridge, surrounded on all sides by the white trees. It carved out a clearing of the tree-infested mountainside. Within this oasis were ruins.
Within the ruin were four windmills.
These windmills had long ago been trampled by war. A war won by the Gunslinger's ancestors. But before that, they were originally watermills of a budding town. When the river dried up, the town deteriorated. The mills were abandoned. Until one day re-found and made home to a decent and innocent family. Old Man Livingston had two daughters, a baby boy, and a recently dead wife. He lost his wife during her last childbirth. Afterwards he moved his family away, into seclusion.
A family trying to start fresh.
Old Man Livingston then fell ill with the fever. To help their father, both Livingston daughters thought long and searched for something they could do, on their own. Finally they figured out how to turn the mills into windmills. They replaced the wooden wheels with clean white cloth. It was a beautiful sight.
The town began to return to the mills. Soon the doctor returned and Old Man Livingston was brought back from the brink of death. Old Man Livingston lived happily with his daughters as they raised the baby. That is when the war started. The mills were never heard from after the war. Years later, the Livingston Family was found dead in the mills. All except the baby boy, the son...
Light stretched across the twilight sky in thin horizontal strips through the clouds. The strips of sunlight stretched down on the mills, singling them out among the mountainside. The Gunslinger got a good look at them. There was no white cloth left on the windmills. Everything was charred black and ruined. The wood of the mill was splintered, its stone foundation cracked. What a horrific sight this was...still! So many years ago was the war. The mills were untouched, as if it happened just yesterday.
The Gunslinger walked for the first mill. He crossed the crumbled stone wall. The doorway was still intact for the the most part. He walked inside. The place was dark. The Gunslinger struck a match with his leather glove. A scream came from the other side of the wall. The Gunslinger called out. It was a girl's scream. She was frightened.
The Gunslinger pulled his gun and fired at the wall, splintering it. He then began ramming into the rock. The shocks rattled the wall out of balance and it collapsed in on itself. There was nothing on the other side. Nothing except grass, a stone wall, and the treeline that was across the ridge. A scream from the doorway.
The Gunslinger turns and sees her standing just outside. The scream pulls her white apparition apart again. It stings the Gunslinger's ears and when he looked back the girl was gone. The doorway collapses and the Mill comes crashing down on the Gunslinger.
The first mill is now complete ruin. Just rubble sits on the ground, and there is no sight of the Gunslinger. When he finally awakes, he is sitting safely in the second mill. He looks around. It is dark out, dark within too. Except for a fire in the fireplace he was laid down next to. Someone had to have saved him. What was that girl? The Gunslinger was taught to believe as a kid that there were no such things as specters or ghouls.
He got up and tried to find the door. But he did not have to. It was a log cabin on the ground level with a wind mill on the floor above. But the war had left it completely open on the southern side. The hole in the mill was so big, you could see the second floor and the sky from anywhere on the ground floor. The Gunslinger walked out of the second mill and over to the third. There waiting for him before the doorway was the screaming spirit. It whaled out and pierced the Gunslinger's ears as it began to charge at him. Her legs did not run like a normal little girl's, instead she glided at him. He tried to avoid her but the spirit came down on him.
The Gunslinger shared his heart briefly with the haunted soul.
It was a daughter of the Livingston Family. She had lost her mother at a young age and her father during the war, when her sister betrayed her and ran away with their baby brother. After what had happened to the daughters while the mills were held captive by the Gunslinger Army, things were never the same. Their father had come to full grips with it by the end of the war and tried to liberate his family. He did it for her, and got himself killed. Her older sister could never forgive her. But it was not her fault, she had no control. When her sister left with the baby, there was nothing left for her. The lonely guilt-ridden sister hung herself off the last windmill.
But when you commit suicide, it is an insult to Death, and he traps you in his locker of the in-between.
The lost daughter had nowhere to go. And so wrath took her and in such passion she animated back into life, a pure white re-imaging of her face. She haunted the place that destroyed her life. The Gunslinger could not stay here. He ran past the third mill and there was the fourth and final one. The windmill where the Livingston daughter hung herself. The noose was still dangling in the wind off the shattered beams. A high gust rocked it off the beam and it fell to the ground. It hit and not right before the Gunslinger. Suddenly she jumped out of the noose with a demon face. Horns and a warped brow, fangs and red eyes, she wanted the Gunslinger's blood.
A kid throws tiny slivers of silver at the lasso as they ignite off the haunted airs. He grabs the Gunslinger and leads him off the mills property and into the woods. The Gunslinger tries to regain his bearings. It was one thing to face a bear or a hunter, he was unmoved with those foes; but this...
Who was that bitch?
The Gunslinger looked back at the kid that saved him from Lord knows what. He couldn't be older than twelve or thirteen. "Who are you?" the Gunslinger asked.
The Gunslinger looked him up and down. He put his age together with how many years ago the war was. There was no getting around it. The Gunslinger knew the rest of his name...
He was the baby boy that survived the burning of the mills. The Gunslinger could not believe that this legend was becoming so real to him. The kid sat across from him, as plain as sight, and had alreadysaved his life twice. He could only say one thing...
"What happened here?"
Finally, the Gunslinger could get the full story.
The kid began, "When my 'mother' got sick, on her deathbed she asked me to take her here. That is when she told me I was really her brother. She told me of our father and our evil sister."
'What did she tell you of your sister?"
"That her lusting after the guards led to our father's murder."
The Gunslinger could not bring himself to tell the kid. And so he continued...
"When my father found out the soldier was sleeping with my sister, he killed him and stole his revolver. He tried to kill all the others and free my family. He was gunned down. That is when my mother, or my sister, decided to get away from the mills with me. That was over ten years ago. When she died I buried her here and remained in MountainTop."
"How long has it been?"
"I buried her four years ago today."
"That is why you are here."
"Yes. Why are you here?"
"I am leaving MountainTop, Charles. I am going down the road, but I was taken off-course. Do you know the way?"
Charles had a feeling that would be the Gunslinger's response, "I can take you to the road." He knew of the Gunslingers and their ways. He knew of the Rite of Passage. A truly outdated ritual.
The Gunslinger followed the kid. They got through woods quickly and left Burnt Mills behind them. The ghost seemed to only lurk within the mills. It did not come after them again. The Gunslinger wondered how much the kid knew about his haunted sister. Should he be the one who tells him? Was that why he crossed with the soul? His destiny was to bring them together and release her to the beyond. The Gunslinger wanted to scoff at such romantic ideas. But it all rang true. It was merely down to him. A choice. To continue down the road, or re-unite brother and sister?
The kid crawled up a short hill of damp soil and helped the Gunslinger up. They both reached the top and there was the road. A beaten gravel path going on between the trees. The tall black trees had long leafless limbs that stretched and met over the middle of the road. "Thank you, Charles."
"Call me Charlie."
The Gunslinger did not think twice about this as he assumed it was no doubt the last time he would ever see or talk to this kid. He would not help him put his sister to rest. His destiny was the road. That is all he must worry about. His mission. His creed. His plight. The Gunslinger began to walk down the road again.
"Can I come with you?" the kid yelled out behind him.
"And what of that siren?"
"My life is no longer determined by my family."
The Gunslinger thought about it. He could not have a kid slowing him down. He must get down the road before the solstice. He warned the kid, "I will not go out of my way to protect you."
"I will look after myself."
"If you cannot keep up, I will not wait for you."
"Is that a yes?"
"You can join me only if you return with me one day and put your tortured sister to rest."
"You've got yourself a deal."
The Gunslinger shook hands with the kid and together they continued down the road. The Gunslinger walked silently and waited for the kids true nature and immaturity to come out. He knew he could not trust him in a bind, and as soon as the silence would grow too long...the questions would begin.
"So, you're a Gunslinger?"
. . .
The Gunslinger patronized the boy without him knowing. He knew that they would get to know each other and he would now be able to tell him about his sister. And because of that one fact alone, he allowed the kids relentless badgering and endless questions. . .
"Have you ever killed a man?"
"I have killed many men."
"Can I shoot your gun?"
"No man shall touch a gunslinger's gun other than his own. But you may hold the rifle."
The Gunslinger unloaded the rifle and popped the shell in the chamber out, handing it over to the kid. He took it and swung it around to his sights. He cocked the empty chamber and pulled a blank trigger. After making a small explosion noise with his mouth, Charlie handed the rifle back to the Gunslinger and professed, "I'm a decent shot."
The Gunslinger laughed and the kid smiled humbly. They walked down the quiet wilderness road as the sun tried to break through the canopy of dry tree branches. The Gunslinger had a couple questions of his own and found it to be a good time to raise them, "How well do you know this area?"
"I have been wondering south of the mills for the past three years. I have never had the courage to go up north."
"Do you seek revenge on the Gunslingers for your family?"
"I have already sought out my revenge. I am not so ignorant to seek vengeance on the entire group for one man."
"You killed the man that..."
"I made him pay for what he did."
The Gunslinger was astonished. This meant he was wrong before. The kid had known all along. "But how?"
"I have spent many seasons here, Gunslinger..."
"...I confronted that...thing...that...whatever you want to call it...what we saw in the mills...my sister...I tried talking to her and standing my ground and she attacked me, she crossed through me. And I saw what happened to her."
"As did I, Charlie. She was just as innocent as you or your other sister."
"Susan, my mother's name was Susan." The kid walked ahead of the Gunslinger.
"You mean your sister. And what was your younger sister's name?"
The kid stopped and turned around, looking at the Gunslinger, "Elizabeth."
The ghost appeared between the two of them. It blasted a pulse out and shook the road around it. It faced the kid. At first the shock absorbed the scream, but it came screeching back together with the phantom before the kid. That is when the ghost came crashing down upon him. The Gunslinger stepped forth and shot his revolver. He threw the rifle over to the kid and yelled, "Your silver! LOAD YOUR SILVER!"
The haunted sister came at both of them as it expanded and grew into the branch ceiling of the road. The Gunslinger shot both of his revolvers at it. The sound and the flash dissipated the growing paranormal horror for a brief second, forcing it to grow back. Giving the kid more time.
The sister wailed and hollered and begged for freedom. The Gunslinger could hear it. When the kid loaded the rifle and aimed it up he saw her as she was in his memory. He saw her for what she truly was. Long before the war, the girl who made windmills of white cloth and revived a dead town. His finger released the trigger and the Gunslinger stopped firing off in the background.
Charlie walked up to his sister floating within the light.
"We know it wasn't your fault." the kid said.
The phantom was almost completely on the ground, in human form. Charlie got to look upon his other sister like she was when he was a baby. This felt like a dream to him. She was crying and still wailing but now in a soft child's tone. Charlie put his arms around her and consoled her. "Just know..." Charlie went on talking into her muffling shoulder, "that those who await you already know you are innocent."
The ghost of Elizabeth Livingston closes her eyes and is torn apart by beams of lights disappearing into the air. Her soul is released by Death and now resides with the rest of the Departed. With the Gunslinger's help, Charlie Livingston was able to cast out his family's demons once and for all. He had saved his family, his purpose in life complete. Now he could start fresh, a new life. One of peace and worth. Charlie Livingston was saved.
The Gunslinger continued walking down the road.