The Cowboy Ghost #SundayWritingPrompt

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I couldn’t sleep, my operation was tomorrow and my head was all over the place. I slipped from the hard hospital bed and drew the thin curtains around so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. Turning on the lamp which blinded me, I dug around for my Ipod and headphones.

Music might not help me sleep but it might calm me. Putting the headphones on, I scanned through the Ipod till I found natural sounds music. Relaxing waves of the ocean filled my ears. I lay back and let them carry me away.

I pictured a white sand beach, hot sun, palm trees, ice cold coconut and pineapple juice drinks. The sea was a dazing bright blue with just a touch of white on top of the waves. I was sitting on a chair basking in the sun, next walking along the shore, feet getting wet.  then I was swimming in gently tumbling waves.

I smiled, feeling all drifty-dreamy.

The song changed to the rattling of something….the neighing of a horse? Oh, was I riding a horse on the beach? How nice!

The creaking of a wooden sign blowing in the wind, a crow cawing and the beach scene changed to being in a desert.

I reached, keeping my eyes closed, to stop the track and re-play the ocean one but then a handsome, rugged man floated to my mind and my finger stopped.

The man, a stereotypical wild west cowboy, was riding a brown horse into a wooden built town. A strong wind was blowing, stirring up the top layer of desert sand. A storm was to be coming. The cowboy got off his horse and looked around, the town seemed to be abandoned.

I decided that whatever was happening here I didn’t want to know. I tried opening my eyes but they felt too heavy to do so. I fumbled my fingers across the Ipod but I couldn’t find the right button to press. I sighed, give up and carried on listening to the track with scenes playing out in my head like a movie.

The cowboy was stood in the wild west town, listening for signs of life. He heard tinkling piano music coming from the saloon. Walking over, his spurs clicking, boot steps heavy, the music grew stronger and he started to hear laughter. There where people here after all! He stepped up onto the porch, it creaked under his weight then he opened the saloon doors which screamed on disused hinges.

The music and laughter stopped. The place was empty!

The cowboy looked around and saw a thick layer of dust everywhere. He went over to the piano, boots and spurs loud in the silence and pressed down a few keys, out of tune wheezing notes sounded. That wasn’t the music he had heard before.

The cowboy walked out, confused. A rumble of thunder sounded, the wind was getting stronger, sweeping the desert sand about. Next door, was a motel. He walked in, wondering if he could get a room for the night. He went up to the counter and ring the bell once then repeatedly. Nobody appeared and dust lay here too.

He headed back, collected his horse and wandered through the town. It started raining and the sky was growing dark. The cowboy didn’t really want to spend a night here but he felt there was no choice now.

A church bell rang out, he stopped and counted, ‘one, two…three, four…five, six…seven, eight…’

He went to the wooden church and tried the door but was locked tight.

The rain started falling heavily, the thunder rumbled again and in the distance, the now black sky was light up by a fork of lightening.

The cowboy’s horse stamped her feet and neighed nervously.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ the cowboy said as he rubbed her muzzle, ‘Looks like we got to stay the night. Let’s go back to the saloon.’

Hurrying through the rain which was fast turning the dry sand to mud, the cowboy turned behind the saloon and found a stable. It was rotting like the rest of the buildings but still standing for the moment. They went inside and found dry but moldy hay.

The cowboy lit a lantern, casting light to see by. He made his horse as comfortable as he could then sat for a few minutes. He fell into deciding if to stay the night in the stable with his horse or not. Would the beds in the saloon be more comfortable?

He decided to go and see. The cowboy got up, taking his bed roll, the lantern and whatever else he needed. He headed outside, braving the storm to get back into the saloon.

The cowboy pushed open the door and went in with rain dripping off his leather hat, coat and pants, sandy mud clumping his boots and smell of the storm thick in his nose. The saloon was as empty as before.

He went behind the bar, found some bottles of whisky and took them upstairs. His boots stomping as the wooden steps squeaked. He pushed open the door of the first room with his foot and looked in. There was just a single bed, side table and a curtained window.

He went in, placing the lantern down on the side table and got himself comfy. Boots came off, jacket too. He uncorked one of the bottles with his teeth and took a few swings. It wasn’t great whisky but it tasted okay.

He made the bed, settled in and pulled a book out of his belongings. Drink in one hand, Bible in the other, he listened to the storm raging outside. The wind was doing it’s best to bring down the wooden buildings, there was so much creaking and snapping. The rain was like a whip, lashing about. The thunder was rumbling like the empty belly of a beast and sometimes lightening would flash up the curtain covered window.

The cowboy began to doze off. Warm, comfy, whisky hazy.

A pearly piano note broke through the storm, quickly followed by more as someone played fast across the keys.

The cowboy stirred. The Bible slipped to the floor with a slap. He awoke and listened, frowning at the piano notes he was hearing but knew he couldn’t possible be.

A woman’s laughter echoed, wood creaked, long skirts swishing.

The cowboy smelt hints of perfume.

Voices rose and fell, chairs scrapped the floor, metal cups clanked and the piano music came impossibly fast.

The stairs creaked once more, lighter this time as if the person upon them was bare foot and weighed little. A gentle girly laugh and ruffle of skirts outside the cowboy’s chosen room made him believe he was no longer alone.

The cowboy snatched up the lantern and got to his feet, drawing one of his guns, he went to the door but it squeaked open before he could touch it.

All the noises stopped, silence hit him painfully but the cowboy stood his ground.

The door swing then was thrown against the wall with a loud bang.

The cowboy just had time to make out the woman – tall, fair haired, huge blood red dress- before she launched herself at him and sent them both tumbling to the floor. The cowboy shot his gun, the bullets hitting the ceiling and causing wood and dust to rain down on them.

The woman’s hands wrapped around his throat. He felt ice cold, dead fingers choking the life out of him. He struggled but her grip was too powerful. She bashed his head against the floor, he felt waves of dizziness and nausea. The cowboy tried to smash her with the gun but he lost his grip and the weapon skidded away. He grabbed her with his hands, fingers fisting the silky dress and slipping through the material.

The cowboy’s head smashed into the floor and he heard a deafening crack,  blackness washed over him.

Outside, the rain poured off the roofs of the wooden buildings, the wind howled through empty rooms, the thunder echoed as lightening flashed over the church tower and set the wooden cross ablaze.

 

My eye lids fluttered and I came back awake. The glaring lamp above me stung my eyes. I pulled my headphones off and rested a few minutes. My mind felt strangely blank but then bits of pieces came back to me.

I couldn’t hear any weather. There were the sounds of other hospital patients’ sleeping and shifting on scratchy sheets. Nurses’ hushed footsteps and whispered voices reached me.

Heavy footsteps with a slight metal jingle crossed the floor. The curtain around my bed fluttered and I got ready to explain to the nurse why I was awake.

The curtain carried on moving as if someone was running their hands over it looking for the gap to part them. It got faster, a huge rippling all over which was more like the wind then a person.

A spike of fear hit my stomach, what was going on?

Hands appeared, reaching through then the fingers bending to find the edge of the curtain.

‘Thank, God,’ I whispered, ‘I’m sorry for being awake, I’m having trouble sleeping.’

The curtain was violently yanked back, I jumped, almost tumbling from the bed, ‘there’s no need for that!’ I cried, scrambling in the blanket.

Then I saw him.

The cowboy from my dream! I heard his boots and spurs hitting the floor, the cracking of his leather jacket and pants. His hat was down, half covering his face, I could make out a strong jaw line covered in black stubble. His throat was badly bruised, some of which were outlined like finger marks. He smelt of stormy air, burning wood and old whisky.

‘He’s not real. You’re still dreaming,’ I whimpered, clutching the sheet to my chin like a scared child.

I heard a rumble of thunder, a clash of lightening, rain hitting the window like stones and a desert wind howling down the ward. I wanted to turn to the window to look but something held my gaze fixed on the cowboy.

There was a plop, plop sound and despite myself, I looked over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Black blood was pooling around the cowboy’s boots, it was falling from the edge of his coat.

‘What do you want?’ I demanded.

He took his hat off and put it to his chest as if in an old fashioned greeting. I saw his face fully but it was just a skull! Deep hollowed, black eye sockets, no nose, high cheek bones, wide jaw and two rows of clenched together gold teeth.

I fought for breath but couldn’t get any in. My body went numb and I so badly wanted to tear my eyes away but I couldn’t!

The cowboy turned slowly, spurs scrapping the floor. He showed the back of his skull which had been totally smashed in. There were chunks missing and cracks running along like crazy paving.

I screamed and screamed.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/sunday-writing-prompt-campfire-ghost-stories/ and also, Sound Effects: Night In A Ghost Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sch7HyYANiI with thanks).

Vintage #3LineTales

three line tales, week 147: a woman playing guitar in a shop

Harmony’s dream was to own a shop, so when the moment came and Harmony stood looking around at all the shelves decorated with vintage items for sell, she still couldn’t believe it was real.

It was a rocky start for her little business and she relied on internet sales, still she loved it and she tried hard to prompt; going to fairs and shows, spreading the word as much as possible.

Things grew and steadied out, Harmony held on to her joy and shared her love for all things vintage, the trend grow so big that she was able to expend out and life quite happily.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/11/22/three-line-tales-week-147/ with thanks).

 

 

Charm #3LineTales

three line tales, week 139: a yellow snake in a basket

The crowd gathered around the old man as he removed the lid of the basket. He put the small wooden pipe to his lips and played an alluring tune. From the basket, a yellow snake slowly rose upwards swaying in time with the music, seemingly tamed and the crowd marvelled.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/09/27/three-line-tales-week-139/ with thanks).

First Steps #TaleWeaver

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It had all started out like this; singing on the city streets at the weekend. He had a simple guitar to strum along with, a microphone, an electric box and a head full of songs. No matter how he was feeling, he would get up in the morning, head in and find a good spot. He would lay his guitar case before him, sprinkle in a handful of change and hope that he would make something.

The crowds would come and go like the tide, he would sing and play, letting the notes carry. People would gather to watch him, pausing in their hurried shopping, surprised by his voice. When he was done, clapping and coins would rain down. He would be bow, feeling accomplished then strike up another song.

And that’s how it was for years, just playing on the streets and getting what money he could. Then he saw recordings of himself on Youtube from people who’d been in the crowds and an idea formed in his head. He switched things up, made a channel, recorded and posted his songs on the internet. His world just exploded and his steps into fame and the music career he always wanted began.

(Inspired by https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/tale-weaver-181-street-performers-26th-july/ with thanks).

Musical #FridayFictioneers

It had started with simple second hand instruments then it had exploded into a lot more. Now, what had once been Duncan’s study was his six children’s music room. He stood in the doorway, missing looking out into the garden from this window, he was glad though his children were so talented.

Duncan went to the garage which was using half of as a study. Sitting at his desk, he shuffled through his work pile. In the background, drifted the sounds of keyboard, two guitars, drums, violin and singing. Duncan hummed along with the song as he worked.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/06/27/29-june-2018/ with thanks).

Yes #3linetales

three line tales, week 121: together for yes

The nightclub was called Yes and I wasn’t sure why but the story of having to say ‘yes’ to everything that my best friend spun was wrong.

I mean, I was fine with strange men buying me drinks on my big three-one birthday but I wasn’t about to let any of them take me back to their beds!

I knew how to have a good time but not to over do it, as we left I decided that Yes wasn’t really my scene, Satan’s Halo was more my place and the men were much more to my taste there.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/05/24/three-line-tales-week-121/ with thanks).

Lisztomaina #atozchallenge

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Lisztomania; the need to listen to music all the time. 

She couldn’t bear not to listen to music, it was the only thing that kept the tinnitus away. At night she always fell asleep listening to smoothing music; rain falling, bells chiming, the calling of whales. During the day, she had the radio on or the TV set to a music channel.

She had to work from home as she couldn’t cope being anywhere else. The office wasn’t happy though, so she left and set up her own handmade craft business. She sold scarfs, baby clothes, toys and everything else it took her fancy to make. She was a lot happier.

Hopeful Rest (Part 2)

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I came back around to the start of the graveyard and looked out once again. I could see the tracks I’d made in the long grass. My brain puzzled over that same last line and I tried to shrug it off as nothing but there was something here! There had to be a reason why it said ‘we hope they have gone to rest’ on all the headstones.

A rumble of thunder sounded over head, blocking out the music from my headphones for a few seconds. I looked up at the sky and saw it darkening with thick clouds. Time to go home. Going back the way I’d come, I put the route into my mind map. Rain began to fall and I pulled up my hood and hurried on.

Luckily, the storm held off until I had reached a place to shelter. I’m not a fan of rain or storms. I entered the little cafe and sat down at an empty table. It was busy as it seemed other walkers had been caught out by the rain too and huddled inside. I looked over to the small pocket like window and saw a flash of lightening.

I got a cup of tea and a slice of cake. My mind worrying that they might ask me to leave if I didn’t order something. I moved tables to this little one in in a back corner which had a huge bookcase towering over it. I watched other people looking out of the windows and heard them commenting on the sudden storm. The thunder was super loud and I’d kept my music on but I could hear the rumbles over the techno beats.

Forty minutes later and the storm still hadn’t stopped. The rain was now lashing at the windows and the wind threatening to blow the place down. I sighed and hating myself, I call my mum to pick me up and drive me home. At least, I got home safe and dry and had a chance to ask her about the graveyard.

‘I think once there’d been a village there,’ she replied, ‘but I don’t really remember. Gran would know.’

The storm raged most of the night. Highly unusual for England. I slept on and off, my thoughts drifting back to the gravestone and that inscription. Finally at around midnight, I got up and turned on my computer. With just the noise of the storm and the PC fans in the background, I researched the place.

There was little to be found. There had been a village, built for the servants and their families who worked in a manor house close by in the mid 1800’s but it had been bombed in World War 2 by a lost German plane.

Disappointed, I went back to bed and next morning got up and went to see my gran. She lived a few doors down from us. She had been born in this town and never left. If anyone knew about the graveyard and lost village it would be her.

I used my key to her house and let myself in, calling out to her as I opened the door. The smell that hit me was a strong reminder of childhood; mints, faded tobacco smoke, dying flowers, coal fire and old things. I walked into the living room and found her there, in her favorite arm chair, watching TV.

‘Hello, gran,’ I said and hugged her.

She patted my arm, ‘hello, Neil. It’s so nice to see you. Cup of tea?’

‘Sure.’

I helped her up and give her my arm as we walked into the kitchen. Once the tea was made and the biscuits gotten out, we went back into the living room and I started with my questions.

‘I found an old graveyard yesterday, out in the moors and all the headstones had the same last line on them; We hope they have gone to rest. Mum said there was once a village up there. Do you remember it?’

Gran thought for a good few minutes before replying, ‘yes. I never want there. Only heard about it.’

‘It got blown up in the war,’ I added.

‘Yes. That’s what all the stories said but we always thought differently.’

I paused and waited for her to go on.

‘There was some kind of disease, more like a plague, that everyone in the village had. No one knows where it came from. Some say the manor family had it and passed it on to the servants, who then passed it on to their families. Or perhaps, one of the servant’s families had it. It was called The Restless Plague.’

‘The internet said nothing about that,’ I said aloud.

‘No one said anything about it,’ Gran cut in, ‘we were not allowed too, but everyone knew not to go to the village or the manor house.’

‘So everyone died of this plague?’ I asked thoughtfully.

‘That was always the story. You see, it wasn’t a normal plague. Once a person had it they carried on living but they were different. They weren’t all together there,’ she said with a tap to her head, ‘when they weren’t working or sleeping, they would wander around a lot.’

I frowned, not fully understanding. I had another biscuit and a few more sips of hot tea.

‘I saw some of ’em a few times. They’d just be standing, staring at nothing or shuffling along not going anywhere. Everyone was told to keep away, lest you caught the plague too. I saw this one man, once, dressed up like a farmer and he was just moaning at a tree. Another time, there was this child screaming and screaming, until she was carted away,’ Gran said with a shake of her head.

I couldn’t think of any straight questions to ask, my brain was trying to process all of this.

‘Thank goodness they’ve all gone now,’ Gran spoke out, ‘more tea, pet?’

‘No, thanks. What about the headstones, gran?’

‘They all had to be buried in another place. No one wanted them at our church.’

‘And those words? We hope they have gone to rest?’ I pressed.

‘They had no rest in life so maybe they’d find it in death? Who knows…..I’ve some angel cake left,’ gran said getting up,’ You want some? You love angel cake, just like your mum.’

She hobbled to the door then paused and said, ‘there’s a good boy. No more talk about this now.’

I nodded and sipped more tea. My brain felt better that the puzzle had now been solved. I part of me was eager to find out more but what else was there to say?

Hopeful Rest (Part 1)

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Some days, I just mindless walk whilst listening to music. It’s a habit that comes from when I was a teenager and just had to get away from my family. I was so anger and upset all the time back then and I couldn’t talk properly to anyone about it because I didn’t know how to. Being autistic didn’t help either.

It still doesn’t, but at least things have become a little easier. I like my job as an IT assistant at a large office. People come to me with their PC problems and I fix it. Though the world still has a habit of getting on top of me.

I was wandering to cool off after a bad day at work, listening to classic Linkin Park albums on my phone when I came across the old stone gate and fence. I stopped and checked for any signs telling me not to trespass etc, it’s important to pay attention to those things. There didn’t seem to be any and now I had stopped, I realised I wasn’t sure where I was.

Around me, thick trees and bushes blocked out most of the light. The path I was on was overgrown and it seemed nothing had been here recently. I was far from any road or house, in the middle of the moors. There had been something man-made here once and nature had claimed it back.

Getting lost had never scared me, my autistic brain didn’t really understand emotions or feelings. I get them sure, but not on the same level as everyone else. Also, if you wanted to be away from people you had to get lost sometimes.

I went through the gap were a wooden gate once had been and found myself on a fading path heading upwards. There were piles of stones dotted around, all of which had fallen off the wall. Past the trees lay an open, tangled snarl of a clearing and popping up from the super long grass and trails of ivy were headstones.

Counting them slowly, I came to about thirty in total, though there was probably more hidden in the grass. So, a graveyard then. I couldn’t see a church poking above the treeline, maybe if there’d been one it was long since gone. I didn’t give much other thought to the hows and the whys. I liked burial places, they were often quiet and didn’t have that many living people about.

I walked to the first row of headstones and tried to read them. Weather, age and moss made it difficult. I traced some letters and numbers with my fingers and got a few of them. I tried to clear the stone, interested to see the date on it. 1879 seemed to be it. The last line on the stone was clear to read, as if someone had gone to great lengths to make it stand out; We hope they have gone to rest.

I moved on to the next which like the first was a plain arched shape. The inscription once again was faded but at the end were those same words again. I went down the row, looking at each headstone carefully, but they were all too hard to read expect for that repeating last line.

There was an odd sound to those words my brain realised. I had seen many epitaphs but that was just different. Who was ‘we’ ? The family? and why ‘hope’ for something that was true? I don’t really get why people do things sometimes.

I walked around the other gravestones. Some of them were clearer then others and I got the sense this resting place was for members of a small village that might now be lost to history. The earliest date I found was mid 1800’s and the most recent 1930’s close to the start of the Second World War. On all of them though were the same last words; We hope they have gone to rest.

To Be Continued…

Hurricane

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It was coming. Atlanta could hear the gale force winds rattling the storm shutters and the rain pelting the roof. She held her breath and hugged her dog, Greg, tighter. He didn’t seem to mind but then he was old and deaf.

They was sat in a small yellow tent set up in the far corner of the cellar. Dim amber fairy lights in the shape stars cast some light down, but it wasn’t enough to do anything by. Atlanta’s didn’t really mind though as long as she wasn’t in the dark.

‘I’m safe. Everything is fine,’ Atlanta muttered.

Every since she had heard about the high chance of the hurricane last week, she had be preparing. All the kitchen and basement cupboards were stocked with bottled water, long life food, matches and extra gas canisters for the camping stove. She had double or triple camping equipment items and a whole range of lighting; battery and candle lanterns, torches and spare candles.

Atlanta picked up her headphones which were top of the range noise cancelling and selected some loud classic music from her ipod.

‘There’s nothing else to do now it’s here,’ she said aloud.

She rubbed Greg’s ears then wrapped herself in a thermal sleeping bag and began waiting out the hurricane.