Author’s note: I was feeling melancholy when I wrote this. Be warned.
A lonely January wind howled through the corridors of the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Hannibal Heyes wrapped a tattered sweater more tightly around his slight frame and took one step forward, away from his sagging bunk, which brought him to a small table. As he pulled the chair back, its wooden legs scraped noisily against the cold, hard floor of his cell. He sat, picked up his pen, and settled in to write.
Incarceration had afforded a single luxury. Time. Without a posse in pursuit, without concern for a place he and his partner might find shelter or a meal, Hannibal Heyes immersed himself into the chronicling of his story, his and his partner’s. Making use of each available moment, he wrote with a tenacity rarely seen in any author, let alone one sentenced to endure the remainder of his days confined to a prison cell.
Yet today, the blank page stared, its white emptiness mocking him.
Words had once flowed effortlessly, bubbling forth from his heart like water from a spring, surging down the arteries of his arm, to his hand, onto the parchment. But now, a dam constricted the current, he could feel its tightness in his chest, stifling the course of creativity, reducing his once rushing river to nothing more than a desert stream bed. Dry, barren. Dead.
Shaking numbness from his arm, Heyes laid his pen aside and moved to his bunk, ignoring its creak of protest. From beneath, he pulled a trunk containing his only worldly possessions–a collection of journals. The Journals of Hannibal Heyes. His testimony, declaring that his life, and the life of Kid Curry, had been more than myth.
Lovingly, he fingered the binding of each journal, smiling at the memory of stories held within. Childhood days spent working and playing under a warm Kansas sun, bleak winters, endured with a determination known only to those possessing the true pioneer spirit. Stories of happiness, heartache, suffering, survival, felony, frivolity. Partners. Partings.
How ironic, Heyes thought, as he replaced the half-full trunk and moved again to his writing table, that so many words would be utilized in his definition of a single word. Life.
Placing both elbows on the table, he folded his hands as if in prayer and pressed his lips against them.
The blank page before him still stared, daring him to finish the tale, for no story of life could ever be complete, before reaching its conclusion in death.
Again, the tightness constricted as Heyes recalled that fateful day, the day his partner’s story had reached its culmination…
Kid Curry, fastest gun in the history of the west, had been outdrawn. And Heyes had been there, watching as the Kid went down, shot square in the chest by a city-slicker school-boy from Ohio before the infamous gunslinger had even cleared leather.
Some said that Curry was old, past his prime, but Heyes knew better. The Kid had simply given up, tired of the lying, the running, the killing. “It’s over, Heyes,” he had declared, as his blood spilled into the street…
Heyes shivered, remembering the peaceful smile that had played about his partner’s lips as his eyes closed that final time. He remembered shaking with an all-consuming rage, and the pain he had felt, the betrayal at being left behind. In retaliation, Heyes had raised his own hands in surrender, giving up.
Flexing his fingers, Heyes fought for control, ignoring the strange sensation that shot like lightning down his arm. He picked up his pen, scrawling across the page. He shuffled to his sagging bunk, which gave the familiar creak as he lay down.
“It’s over, Kid,” Heyes declared.
When his eyes closed for the final time, a peaceful smile played about his lips. Nearby, lay Heyes’ final journal, etched with only two words, concluding the saga of his life.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.