The Haunted Man

He lay on his back staring at the yellowed ceiling above his bed. The smoke from his cigarette spiraled in soft gray wisps into the early morning light. Dark circles colored the skin around his deep brown eyes and three days of stubble had become irritating and itchy. He hadn’t slept all night. Hadn’t slept in days actually. Sleep deprivation had become the norm.
He remembered seeing a poster once that read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Life. What life? Fuck. What if you didn’t have a life? What if you were so haunted by the demons that you ceased living? Oh, sure, maybe the blood still rushed through your veins, and your heart still beat in your chest, but was that life?
He knew he should drag his lazy ass out of bed, but for what? To face another day existing? That’s what his life had become. Existing. He rolled over and sat on the edge of his bed, his feet touching the cold floor. Why couldn’t anything ever be easy? He squeezed his hands together, wincing at the pain. More than ten years of building road in minus fifty degree weather had taken its toll. Fuck.
He was coming to despise, even hate what he’d once loved, needed. Why wouldn’t it leave him alone? Why did it eat at him? Why couldn’t he shut out the words? Running his hands through his long dark hair, he screamed at the demons that haunted him, to shut-up, to leave him alone!
He longed for a normal life. To get up every morning and go to work like every other stiff. To get a pay-cheque twice a month and buy a car, but the words, the words!
He wasn’t going to do it. Fuck it. He was stronger than them. He wouldn’t let them win. Not this time. He picked up the newspaper that lay on the floor by his bed. He needed a job and they weren’t going to stop him this time. He ran his finger down the help wanted column. He felt better already.

The scene threatened to make him vomit, so The captain guided his own mount away from the make-shift abattoir with the slightest shift of his knees.

Stop it, he screamed silently in his head at the demons!

The Captain could feel the 9mm Marshal in its holster, pressing against his chest, the last seven rounds known to exist for the weapon resting in the gun’s clip.

“Shut-up,” he screamed again, dropping the paper as he covered his ears with his hands.

Men that had asked for The Honor, taking their own lives when they felt they had become a burden to The Captain and The Company.

Jumping up, he grabbed a duffel bag out of his closet and began stuffing clothes into it. He’d show them. He’d leave. Run away and leave the words behind.

The need to vomit was back again, but much stronger now and he had to fight to control his anger.

He fell to his knees, “Please,” he whispered. “Please.”

Captain John McQuaid…

Standing on weak legs he walked over to his typewriter. Thousands of words released onto paper lay scattered across the desk. He touched the words gently, caressing them, wanting them. Like a lover betrayed, longing to love again, but afraid to try, to trust. The dream was still there, he knew. The dream to write, to let the words out. He remembered a quote he’d once read, and use to believe- There are the poor damaged souls who must write, who haven’t any more choice in the matter than whether or not they breathe.
He pulled out his chair and sat down.

Instinctively, The Captain reached over his right shoulder to the bound hilt of his broad sword which poked through the slit cut into his long riding coat.

His hands stopped shaking, much like an alcoholic after he’s been given his first shot of whiskey. A writer writes.


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