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.