Hanging On: Chapter Twenty

Once Matthew had identified the deceptive stealth invader, he immediately took a defensive posture, and pulled his head back out of sight. The stark and threatening realization of imminent danger forced Matt into an instinctual, but heretofore unexplored realm. Every cell in his body was instantly exposed to an uncontrollable rush of adrenalin. His heart had taken on a maddening pace, and his breathes were short and quick. Fear had gotten a hold of him, and Matt reflexively clenched his fists in response. With gloved, but empty hands, he tightly gripped the thin air, as if he were hanging on for dear life.

Matt’s natural impulses were busily hurrying forth his initial move. Eager muscles twitched whilst they waited for him to make a critical decision. His first course of action was to take no action at all. Momentarily fixed and stone-like, he stood still, as every moving part of his body longed to flee. His will to move had been compromised. Captured and imprisoned in the immobility of a dream stage, his suspended sense of purpose struggled to breakthrough the front lines of inertial forces. Matt stared down the backside of his house. His gaze was set on the door. Dim rays glowed out of the window nearby. A second or two later, it finally dawned on him. He saw the light, and thought, “Oh, crap! The light…the only light in town.” The safety of his family was now his first and foremost concern. Matt’s feet listened and obeyed his command. They quietly carried him onto the thresholds of security. “I wonder if he noticed.” Matt paused for a second to await a logical answer. “Well, yes, he probably saw it. Better get the rifle loaded before I put out the fire.”

Without making a sound, Matt opened the door and went inside his walled-in fortress. “Ah, good thing it’s already warm in here,” he whispered to himself, “and dry, too. Damn that weather!” He could see that he was all wet, but he didn’t bother to take off his coat, nor did he remove his muddy boots. Straightaway, he crouched down low, and made a bee-line for his cartridges. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his hound dog come out of the bedroom. Matt put his index finger over his lips, and told him,”Hush.” The old dog lifted up it’s snout, and looked at Matt as if to say, “Told you so.” Then it turned, and went back to lay at the foot of his bed. Matt made short work of his task, and in no time at all his single-shot rifle was loaded. As he went for the stove, he glanced around the room to see if there might be something he’d forgotten. “The doors. Bar the doors!” Having successfully accomplished that, he went back to the stove, shut the vents, and grabbed his rifle on his way to the window on the front-side.

Matt sneaked a peek out of his slowly darkening hiding place in the hope of spotting the shadowy figure where he’d last been seen, but the only thing out there was the man’s tall horse. It had moved back into the grim atmosphere of the graveyard, and appeared to be staring at the big old oak. Matt’s eyes were on the lookout, and he scanned the entire area, but the killer on the loose had disappeared from sight. “Dammit! Dammit! Where’d he go? Where’d he go?” Matt ducked down beneath the window, and tried to think. “He has to be out there somewhere. Try the other window.” The fire in the stove had gone completely out, so Matt felt his way to the window on the south side, and looked out once again. “Nothing. Damn it all, anyway!” The dark horse hadn’t moved from its spot. Now at a loss, Matt looked higher up into the tree. “Nah, he wouldn’t climb up there, not on a night like this. Surely not. No way, way too slick. It’s already iced over.” So Matt let his eyes follow the trunk all the way down to the ground, and ‘bingo’, there he was at the base of the tree. “There he is. Good, good!” Spying the evil man had given Matt a minute measure of relief. He was somehow glad to see that the killer was still where he was supposed to be, as opposed to some other horrible place, like outside of his front door.

The man in black appeared to be on his knees, facing the tree. “What the hell’s he doing?” Matt watched the colorless, rounded figure for a few seconds. The murderer seemed to be hunched over something on the ground. His movements seemed to indicate that he was digging a hole. “What’s he need a hole for?” Matt searched his mind for an answer, but couldn’t come up with any good reason right off-hand. “No, he can’t hardly be uprooting the tree by himself.” He tried the question again, and shortly thereafter he received a simple answer. “He’s gonna bury something, maybe. But what? It’s a terrible hiding place. How stupid. Is it some kind of trap? To catch what?” Matt decided to stay put, and wait it out.

A few moments later, three words and a picture from the past came to his mind. “The Grim Reaper himself, eh?” Matt shook his head, and reassured himself. “No, no, no! Even though, his looks do fit the bill.” Matt was then promptly reminded, “I don’t believe in that stuff, anyway,” but it didn’t help to calm his nerves. They were necessarily cocked, ready, and set to fire, if called upon. After some five minutes of digging in the mud, the man reached over to one side, and grabbed what looked to be a small, wrapped bundle. “There’s his treasure. It must not be worth anything. What in Hell is it then?” Next thing Matt knew, the man appeared to be filling the hole with the chunks of muddied dirt clods he’d previously dug out. “How strange. I can’t even imagine what!” The man then stood up, patted the spot a couple of times with his foot, and brought something out from the inside of his cloak. He knelt down on one knee, facing the tree, and leaned towards it. It looked as if he were placing something on top of the little grave. He then got up again, and walked underneath the lowest limb. He looked up at it for a second or two, then he stooped down, and picked up the rope.

With his cloak flapping away in the wind, the murderer turned, and took a sinister approach to the graveyard. When he’d made it to his horse, he climbed up, and got on with the rope still in hand. Matt thought, “Good! He’s leaving.” The man kicked his horse in the ribs with both heels, and forced it towards the tree. “Well, crap! He’s not leaving. What’s he up to now?” The horse hesitantly walked halfway, stopped, and snorted out its refusal to go any further. The man kicked him again, twice this time, and with ever more force before the horse relinquished its will, and surrendered to its master. They slowly made their way towards the tree until they were both underneath the lowest limb, and there they stopped. The man let loose one end of the rope, and slung it over the limb. Matt was dazed and amazed, and spoke aloud, “What the hell?” after realizing the villain’s vengeful intentions. The man finished tying a knot in no time, and pulled down hard on the rope. He then began to work on the noose, using the horse’s back as a table. In less than a minute, the man had tied his loop. “Damn! That was awfully fast. He must have done this before, more than a few times.” This seemingly practiced executioner dropped the rest of the rope to the ground, and eyed his magnificent work, which was now hanging from the limb. He’d tied the noose short, about 4 feet below the limb. “So! He thinks he’s gonna hang somebody, does he? Well, not if I can help it!” Matt bravely spoke to himself.

The man in black whipped his dark horse around, and headed back towards the graveyard. “Just go ahead and leave, mister,” Matt wished once again, but when they’d reached the nearest tombstone, the man got down, and tied the reins around the old grey slab. Once he’d done that, he walked back to the tree, and sat on the ground beside his buried treasure. “What? In this rain? He’ll freeze his ass off! Who’s he waiting for anyway?” Matt paused, and waited for a reasonable explanation. “Sam? He’s waiting for Sam? But he’s got a whole posse of men. He won’t stand a chance! You’ve got to be kidding me. What?” No more answers came forth, so Matt continued to stare him down. Ten minutes passed on, and the man still sat there with his head bowed. His hands were clasped, and his arms were around his pulled up knees. Matt felt a weariness settling into his legs, so he found and pulled over a chair, placing it underneath the window. Then he sat down to rest, and think. He kept his rifle in his lap. Addressing only himself, he thought, “Good Lord, it’s really late! How long will I have to wait?” And there sat Matt trying to predict the near future. It didn’t look good, no matter which way he looked at it.

At the first, Matt had gotten himself up to glance out the window every minute or two. That went on for another ten minutes or so, and each time he looked, the murderer was still there. According to Matt’s later testimony, during the next twenty minutes, he only got up twice. He swore that he stayed awake for at least another half of an hour, looking once every ten minutes, but that’s all he remembered of the rest of that evening. Matt ended up telling everyone that he’d awakened the next morning before the sun had risen, only to find himself still sitting in that chair. Of the events that had transpired over the course of that night, he knew nothing. “Honest to God! Nothing at all,” or so, he claimed.


24 thoughts on “Hanging On: Chapter Twenty

  1. To hone or not to hone? That is the question.

    Hone-st to God,
    I swear to God, and
    I curse at Satan.

    Swear words came
    when I was sworn in.

    My hand was placed
    on a leaf, knot a book.

  2. I think-that-when-i-get bad ideas in my head-that-I’m really not bad-and-that it’s prolly the devil-that-makes me think those bad thoughts. That’s-what-I think


    can you relate Uncle Tree? (maybe we should check with Luke, just to be sure that he dident see nuthin that would hold up in a court of law) you know present day court of law.

  3. Cure is a strong, unambiguous word, Ed,
    whereas healing brings forth multiple connotations.

    Satan wears you, as if you were a full set of clothes.
    Shower regularly with Dove soap.
    Wash away sin sink lee, and dry thoroughly.
    Hanging prevents wrinkles.

  4. Hey, Dustin! Do you think
    there is only one devil that makes you do it, as in The Devil, or
    do they come in multiple sets, with a variety of add-ons?

    Man is made in God’s mirage and,
    we are merely mirrored images.

    The mirage in my garage is fully conscious of itself.
    Consciousness is man’s most defining trait.
    If The Devil is a conscious serpent, then he is man-like;
    his posse, our daemons. Man is said to fight his daemons.

    Psychological truths are equations. 1 = 1
    For example: God is Love = Love is God

    Hypothesis: Man fights the daemons within = ( guess what )

    Are you following me?

  5. I’m still waiting for God to meet me for lunch to clear a few things up but he keeps cancelling his appointment, says he’s really busy. I’m beginning to think he’s avoiding me. Satan doesn’t even return my phone calls. He’s so rude.

    So I’m guessing this man in black has a little history with the old oak and he’s waiting for the posse to show up. Matt should have stayed awake.

  6. That was a great comment, Derek!
    Thanks for cheering me up, I need more of the same.

    I’m having a helluva time getting this next chapter…gulp…done.
    These last three nights…one thing after another. Car trouble tonight.
    Financially, this has been one of my worst years…since I’ve been an adult.
    I still have my job, and things could be so much worse…it’s scary. No b.s.

    Hanging on? That’s me, by a thread, that is soooo me. Right now.
    This will come to an end, won’t it? “Tis the season to be jolly? Ho-ho.

    2 or 3 more chapters, and most likely, a conclusion to tie up loose ends.
    I didn’t allow myself time to think too far ahead in the story. And now,
    uh…it’s like…uh…now what. As soon as I figure it all out, I’ll tell you.

    Okay. I’ll go to work now. Thanks for being patient. Everyone…thanks.

  7. I hear you uncle. This last year has kept me on the brink of homelessness every month. Art is one of the first things cut in a tight economy, I wish I was born a shrewd business man instead of an artist. Imagine though if artistic creativity were currancy? You paint a picture or write a song, or even write a story to pay the rent. I would be rich and the shrewd business people would be broke. Oh well, as long as ‘we the people’ worship money and power it will stay this way. You know, there’s no universal law that says we have to live in a money based society, we just perpetuate it for lack of a better idea.

    Yo Uncle, don’t stress the story, it will come. Creativity should not be pushed too hard. That’s the quickest way to kill the magic. I have never known an artist that can force creativity into a schedule, they can only work everyday so that when it shows up they can take advantage of it. When I’m stuck on a piece I have to walk away from it and trust I can still make the deadline. That can be scary but if I continue to force the process I for sure wont meet my deadline. When I do walk away for a time, the creativity pours back in and then I have a hard time keeping up.

    On God’s last voicemail, he did say Satan was having a family crisis and wasn’t returning anyone’s phone calls. It wasn’t just me. And he apologized for cancelling so many times, but he still didn’t reschedule. Yo.

  8. Yo! You know, Derek, I’ve never really given it thought.
    If Satan has a wife, I bet he has to barter with her
    to get what he wants. And what does he want?
    She must have something that he doesn’t have.
    This something she has must be something that
    none of his other wicked lady friends have. Or,
    perhaps, it’s ‘something in the way she moves’
    that ‘attracts him like no other lover’, by George!

    On another note: $192

    My car needed a new plastic bypass pipe, but
    I couldn’t bypass the bill, or pay him with words.
    The bank teller didn’t care to hear me sing my song.
    So, I gave her a piece of paper, and she paid me for my
    signature. This was a piece of paper I was not expecting.
    We weren’t suppose to get a Christmas bonus this year.
    It was a nice surprise, even though it was less than half
    of what we normally get. My mechanic got half of my half.
    Santa Claus wants the other half, and he’ll probably get it.

    Thanks for the advice, big D! Perpetuating a crisis
    is what I’m supposed to do, so it’s no wonder
    that I’m knot out of the woods yet. Yo! 🙂

  9. Oh uh!
    tree be careful. The bank teller probably wasn’t after your autograph… check your cheque book.
    If one is missing you may have signed a check!

    The chapters are nice tree, just finished 21.

    to answer your question, there is only one devil, Lucifer,
    the others you refer to are professionals (the devil signs their paychecks)

    and he cannot technically make me do anything (accept for those 4 things that are in our legally binding contract)

    Derek, did you seriously get a voicemail from my father?
    are you sure it wasn’t a text?

    I’m still reading tree til the chapter says

    The End

  10. Hey, Dusty!

    If Lucifer got himself hung-up over a complex technicality,
    then his professional help failed to do the proper research.

    That which is binding is bound to cut off his circulation eventually.
    Tied to the draft as he is, we don’t dare cut him any slack.
    All are called. Few are chosen. I remain a bench-warmer.

    I will gladly scoot over, if you’d like to take the hot seat.
    It’s on the end, down there, where your Dad took the fall. 😉

  11. Cabrone,
    Fear knot those who threaten, they no know notting. If they are in your physical space swing fast and hard straight to their face. Knowses break quickly and if they don’t relent more will trouble these sickies.
    If it’s a female don’t touch, vengence’s a must as I am bound by contract. There is no penalty for dropping bags, specially when those bags are not worth dhyan over.
    Carrying out justice is a risky business. Cause as I understand it, you will be held accountable for your actions. Even when you were lied too or fooled. We all have the means to know the truth.
    Not all employees of every oregonization are inked for life to show their loyalties for every honest man to see. Those few whois their mark, the tattood symbol spells his name, YES THOSE FEW

    do knot have enough skin to be inked with the mirrored image=all those who are inked with his name.

    Go Fuckin Figure (should have gotten permission from someones boss before you toy with those bound by contract)

  12. My comment, the one last night (not yurs) was made post dawn.


    typo. Should have been “yew’ll wish yew new where I’m fromb”

  13. Reference note: If it is 1869…Matt could not possibly have a rifle that you could load with more than one shell. Unless I am mistaken Winchester made a repeating rifle in 1873. I do not know of any other rifles that are not breach loading arms before this time.
    Don’t mean to drive you crazy with these things but if you want to give the reader an awesome ride these things are points to consider.

  14. There’s that technical know-how I was talking about. Thanks again!

    Okay, so I say he grabbed his bullets, but you wish for me
    to stress the fact that he could only load one at a time. Right?

  15. Then, perchance to give thanks, for small murphies and a short week.

    Blessings for another tomato year, my friend 🙂

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