Sand of the Hour Glass - by Edwardjsmitty

  Sand of the Hour Glass-byEdwardjsmitty

  There is nothing but sand for miles around. Scattered about the sand dunes are lone cacti, some so tall they look like hands reaching for the heavens. With a quick whack of his machete he takes a limb of a cactus off, picking it up carefully and draining what little precious water it has in it, into his rawhide water sack. He pulls out all the thorns and begins to squeeze all the water he can out of it. He looks behind him at the tracks his made, and he can't help but feel some loss for his horse with no name.

  The sun is high in the sky and he uses his hand to shield his eyes from the harsh rays. There is a screech from high in the sky and he looks for her. She is Vesper, an albino Osprey hawk, circling high above. He spots her just as she is diving head first towards him at incredible speed. Standing his ground, he holds his arm out as a perch for her to land on. Just mere feet from him, she spreads her wings out wide and proud and flutters to land on his arm and lets out a screech of accomplishment.

  "Good girl Vesper." He hands her some dried meat which she reluctantly takes; it's not alive but its food and that'll do for now.

  "Now, what did you find, hmm" The man asks.

  He stands well over 6 feet tall and is covered in desert sand from head to toe, wearing a dark brown leather trench coat, a long thick brown glove on one hand where his companion landed. His other hand, uncovered and open, reaches up gently and pets Vesper and she squawks a little.

  His eyes close and a moment later he is soaring high in the skies. A soft voice whispers in his head, "Hello Master."

  "Hello Vesper." The man says. "What do you have to show me dear?"

  "There is a town north of you, it's at least three or four miles away" Vesper whispers. Though she can't be seen, she is the voice of his hawk. "There is nothing else for miles, Master. Are you sure you will make it?" she asks with concern.

  "I'm sure." He says. And he gently tosses her upward and she takes flight, screaming for the sky.

  He looks up at the setting sun and decides to find a place to rest for the night. With the sun hanging lower, he begins to build a fire with twigs and Devil's Brush. Devil's Brush has a few different uses, good for smoking, chewing, or fires. It burns real slow and casts a blue, not red, light and people have been known to hallucinate from the brush, hence the name Devil's Brush.

  They say though, if you use too much, it starts to eat away at your memories, like a vulture on a dead horse; picking away at your childhood memories and dreams. If you've had a horrible childhood, I guess that wouldn't matter too much though. Vesper screams high in the sky, and a few moments later three dead snakes fall on the ground. He picks them up and cuts the heads off, skins them and skewers them on a stick, propping them up by a rock in the fire circle to cook. Vesper lands on a branch in a tree across from him and settles down.

  Reaching into his coat, he pulls out a flask, unscrews the cap and takes a small sip. Leaning forward he turns the cooking snakes. The firelight is now a greenish color, which is the devil's weed burning. They say that if you stare long enough the devil will reach into your soul and force you into a contract for it. But those kind of rumors were only told by those who were truly too far gone from eating the weed.

  "Jeremiah!" A young girl yells. He's climbing up a the side of a mountain. "Jeremiah wait!!"

  Jeremiah is a few feet further up the mountain than Amy, his younger sister by four years. He hears her yelling and sighs, but keeps going up faster to get further away. He can't stand his sister, she grates on him because she doesn't understand him. She follows him everywhere, asking him all sorts of questions. So yeah, he tries to lose her all the time, even playing hide and seek with her and leaving her hidden and not found for hours.

  "Hurry up already Amy!" He shouts from the top of the mountain and puffs his chest out in accomplishment, while Amy continues to climb further until she reaches the top. "Why you always gotta try and out run me!" She asks huffing and puffing. "Cuz your a turdeater." Jeremiah says.

  "I am not!" she retorts, stomping her foot and making a mean face at him. "Race you to the bottom then!" She takes off back down the mountain at speed.

  They race back down the mountain, laughing and chasing each other; hearing a bell ringing in the distance. Standing up, they brush themselves off and race toward home. Deep in the desert somewhere, their log house is only a few miles outside of town. Their father used to be the town lawman, until he was found hanging out on the gallows. No one knows why or what happened to their father; there were no notes or signs of a fight or anything.

  Arriving at their house, their mother is standing at the door. "You guys took forever!" she says.

  "It's Jeremiah's fault!" Amy shouts as she runs past their mother.

  "No it wasn't.." Jeremiah starts to defend himself.

  "I don't care who did what, just get cleaned up for dinner" Their mother says and then closes the door.

  Vesper squawks and he jumps. Finding himself staring into the fire too long again, he leans back against the rock wall behind him, folding his arms and tipping his hat forward. A few minutes later he gets back up and pulls the cooked snakes off the fire and begins to eat. After eating he takes another couple of sips from his flask and then rolls a small cigarette of the devils weed.

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  Vesper screams high above Jeremiah, but this is Jeremiah only fifteen, climbing up the side of a mountain again. But this time it's much higher, a lot steeper and more dangerous. He has ropes looped around him and a belt holding assorted climbing tools. He reaches up and grabs onto a small outcropping, he shoves a device in that grabs on to the rock and then loops the rope through it.

  "Jeremiah!!" Amy yells from below him. She's still following him doing what he does, she's become a regular tomboy; running around killing rabbits and snakes for dinner, going out with her brother on runs to the market, and doing anything else she can insert herself into.

  "Good grief sister, can't you ever move fast enough? You're always slow as a snail." He shouts back down at her, moving faster and further away.

  Getting to the top he waits. Amy struggles to reach from rock to rock, placing her foot into a hole, she puts her weight on that leg and begins to tries to reach up. The rock breaks and she loses her grip and falls, yanking Jeremiah almost off the top.

  "Amy!! AMY!!" He yells.

  "I'm here, I'm hurt, but nothings broken." She's holding her arm to comfort it and starts to swing herself back to the mountainside. Jeremiah struggles to hold onto the rope and he eventually is able to wrap the rope around him and put his whole weight into pulling her up.

  "I'm almost there." She yells.

  Suddenly the rope starts to fray and come apart. Fearing the worst, Jeremiah tries to pull faster.

  "Amy hurry up, the rope is starting to break!" He pulls harder and gets closer to the ledge to try and help get her to safety, but the rope keeps continues to shred against the cliff edge. He looks over the ledge and sees his sister almost at the top; he reaches out. "Take my hand." he says.

  She reaches up several times, their fingers touch but pass right through each other. But she continues to try and reach for his hand, getting closer and closer every time. The rope snaps and she starts to fall but stops sharply as Jeremiah manages to grab her wrist just in time. He is slipping himself now and trying to hold on by bracing his foot against a rock; his other hand holding on to the rope behind him.

  She screams loudly, she panics and starts to flail around, making it hard to keep a hold of her hand.

  "Stop flailing about damn it!" Jeremiah yells, but it does no good; she continues to flail about and his grip starts to weaken.

  He's hanging on with everything he has, but she just doesn't listen, she keeps on screaming and flailing around. Slipping a little from his hand, she starts to scream and panic even more, making it harder to hold on to him.

  "Please don't drop me Jeremiah, I don't want to die!" she cries out, trying to grab on to anything she can.

  Everything stops, the wind, the birds are quiet, there's no sound. She looks up at him with an open mouth, screaming, her eyes wide and her hair blows into her face as she plummets to the ground.

  "NO!" He shouts and wakes himself up.

  He glances around to make sure no one had crept up on him in his moment of sleep. Getting up and poking the fire, he goes searching for more wood to burn. Noticing a small cave in the distance, he decides to investigate. He lights a torch and ventures inside, stumbling across a skeleton clothed in some kind of workman's uniform. A quick hunt through his pockets reveals some form of identification, with the words "Muhn Chi Xu", along with a still working pocket watch and a small carving knife that looks well cared for and old. Perhaps an heirloom of some kind?

  Returning to his fire he settles down for the night. The next morning he wakes and takes the time to give the dead man a proper burial. He leaves no headstone, just a small pile of rocks with a make shift cross in the ground. He says his prayers and blesses the soul of the man's remains. He collects up his things, slings his backpack on and continues on his journey. The sand, heat, and sun are a brutal combination without a hat, so the dark cloaked man pulls his hat over his face even further.

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  There are telling signs that the man is getting closer as signs of life litter the edge of the trail. Tracks were beginning to look more worn in and used, rickety carts, markers and signs scattered around about. Off in the distance a church bell chimes, either for school or just to mark time. Alert, he hears a gang of men on horseback come riding up behind him; they stop in front of him, and he tries to go around.

  "What's your name, and what's your business in these parts?" The cowboy asks and then, just like the typical asshat alpha man, he spits in the hooded mans direction.

  "I don' wanna quarrel wit'chu boy, Jus'a let me pass. It'll be like I was neva here. " Jeremiah says quietly, but in such a way it sends shivers down everyone's back. All five of the men dismount and prepare to teach this stranger some respect for their town.

  "I don't think you heard me all that well, Mister. Do you need to see the doctor, or maybe the stable hand to help you clean out the shit in your ears? I asked you a question now. What's your name?" This young kid, no more than twenty, says.

  The kid slides his hand down to the polished ivory handle of his colt .45; which has never shot a man before, just some cans outside his papa's house. Jeremiah sees the young mans hand is trembling ever so slightly.

  "Now listen 'ere boy." He says from under his hat. "I'ma gonna say dis one more time, Lemme pass. Other you'll be wakin up in the doc's office, or worse de morgue." The tall Irish looking man says.

  He looks to be in his early to mid-forties, with long dark red hair cascading over his shoulder. He is a mess, filthy and worn down and dried out from the sun in all sorts of places. His face is rough, with nasty scars reaching across his cheek and nose and one scar slanting across one of his eyes.

  "So will ye let me pass? Or ye wanna do tings the 'ard way eh?" Jeremiah says.

  The five men start to pull their guns and slowly walk towards the Irishman. "No!" shouts the young cowboy. "He's mine! It'll be a fair boxing fight, winner takes all. If you win you walk away." the young man looks around, "Is that clear? Not a one of you gonna do no harm to this man if he wins."

  "Yes Sir!" They say.

  "Alright then, Now all we need is a referee!!" He spots her, out of a crowd of at least a hundred or more people now stopping to stare and anticipating a fight.

  He is lost as he watches her gracefully cross the street. As she stops to find out what all the fuss is about, he blinks and shouts. "You miss!! Yes you!... Come here."

  He points to the woman and she makes her way through the crowd, bumping and pushing through the bodies; some of them having not bathed in a few months and she wrinkles her nose and covers it. She reaches Jeremiah's side.

  "Whats your name lass?" He asks her. "Coraline Bethal." She answers shyly.

  "Well Coraline Bethal, how would you like to referee a fight between myself, and this bloke over here. Think you can do that?" Jeremiah asks her.

  She shrugs "I don't know anything about fighting, Mister. My Daddy always taught me that violence never solved anything." she coyly tells Jeremiah.

  He laughs and says "Very well then, I will teach you as we go - it's not that hard my dear. Follow me." They walk towards the center of the ring.

  The young guy joins them and they go over the rules of the fight, they touch fists and back away from each other. The girl follows Jeremiah back to his corner and she whispers.

  "What do I do now? Oh dear why did you pick me for this huh? I'm not going to do this right at all" she says worrying and fretting.

  "Lass, justa go out there and shout loud like, "Fighters fight." justa like dat and den be gettin outta da way" Jeremiah says to the girl.

  She is trembling in fear as no one has ever paid her much attention in town before now. She isn't a plain girl in any sense of the word. She is a beautiful young woman, just starting to bloom. She's extremely smart, always spending time in the library while other girls are out pursuing other things. She stands up and smiles at Jeremiah and nods. She walks out into the middle of the ring and begins to shout and then the bell rings!!

  The young man comes out of his corner quick expecting to rush him, Up comes the Irishman hopping around getting closer to the kid, they meet in the middle. The kid takes a jab and Jeremiah takes it to the face, kid does it again and again he takes it to the face. Now the kid's starting to get some confidence in him and starts to dance around Jeremiah. The men square off and start exchanging blows, left and then a right, back and forth. One to the head, one to the gut, and three punch combo; in time the closing bell rings and the men return to their corners. Both men received cuts, swollen eyelids and lips, and the young man seems to have a broken nose. The bell rings again, the two men stumble back into the center of the dirt ring and the fight lasts for a good while. Coraline is not in the thick of it or yelling and watching the men closer, he fears she's gone.

  Jeremiah has a burst of speed and strength and he assaults the kid with a barrage of hits. One to the chin, one to the side of the jaw, the last right blow to the temple sends the kid falling face first to the ground. Coraline runs over and starts to count enthusiastically, ".... seven, eight, nine, ten..... That's it fights over, The winner by a knockout, The Irishman!!" She shouts and cheers with the crowd. Jeremiah stumbles, catches himself but is unable to hold onto it, and stumbles again this time right into the arms of Coraline and passes out.

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  He begins to come around and hears muffled music and feels something soft and fluffy against his skin. He sees a woman humming softly as she pours water into one of those old wooden round tubs. He just lays there, trying to get a sense of where he is and what's going on. The woman walks out of the room and shuts the door behind her. Jeremiah looks up and around, the place is certainly a woman's place. He slowly climbs out of bed and realizes that he is naked.

  "Ah you're awake finally." Coraline says with a little chuckle.

  Jeremiah is startled for a moment; turning, he sees Coraline in the tub and he quickly covers himself with anything he could reach in that split second. A purple feather boa!

  "Oh you are just too cute, Mister.... You know, I have had strange men in my room before, but this is the first time I've had one where I don't know their name." She smiles sweetly, and the door behind him opens up and again, Jeremiah jumps and scurries to the other side of the room, still holding the boa covering himself.

  The woman pours the bucket of hot water into the bathtub. Coraline says, "Thank you Milly, that's just enough water. Would you be a dear and bring me some extra towels? And maybe a bottle of ...? " She looks to Jeremiah.

  "Irish whiskey if ye be havin' any" he answers.

  Milly nods, "Yes Ma'am, I shall fetch it right away. Should I have the chef make something to eat?" She asks softly.

  "Maybe later, it's still rather early in the evening. Tell him to get some rest, maybe think of something new." Coraline smiles softly.

  Milly smiles and walks out of the room. Coraline moves around in the tub, the steam rising from the water giving her some cover for decency. "So now, shall we? You've had my name kind sir, would it not be proper that I may know yours?"

  Jeremiah walks over and sits down on a chest covered with dresses. "Well, That be a right smart question d'ere."

  The door opens and Milly walks back in with a bottle of Jameson, a bucket of ice, two glasses and some snack foods on a tray held in one hand and a stack of towels in her other hand. She sets them down, "Will there be anything else, Ma'am?" she asks.

  "No, Milly, I do not wish to be disturbed for the rest of the evening." Milly nods and leaves the room.

  Jeremiah stands up, forgetting about the feather boa, walks over to the tray and begins to pour a drink.

  "I'll take one neat please." She asks sweetly.

  He nods and pours her a drink. Picking them both up he walks towards the tub. Coraline tries to keep her eyes from roaming over this tall naked man in front of her. He walks slowly, his legs muscles tighten and relax with every step, they are toned, tight, and rough. She notices that he has some bullet holes in one thigh, and a long sword scar down the other. Her eyes wander upward; he is a lean, fit, toned, well worn sort of a man. She smirks as her eyes land on his manhood; six inches long relaxed and in her mind she chuckles, noticing the manscaping. She is surprised such a man like him would take such care of himself like that. As he approaches she notices more scars and gunshot wounds. She watches his abs ripple as he moves, he reaches out to her handing her the drink.

  "See anything you like?" Jeremiah asks with a wicked grin.

  She takes the glass and backs away in the tub; it is very large, enough for at least five or six people, but she's never tried that before.

  "Perhaps I did, or not. You need to figure that out." She reaches the back of the tub, spreading her arms out.

  "You know it is not polite to keep a woman waiting, or for her to ask the same question more than twice. So if you would please be so kind as to give me your name? Or do you not have one?" Her hand slides between two towels on the left, underneath is a small .22 nothing that'll stop a man like this, but enough to slow him down.

  "Forgive me, Everyone that knows me, knows me as The Irishman." He takes a sip of the whiskey.

  "But my friends? They call me Jeremiah." He smiles. "Jeremiah McGowan. At your service Ma'am."

  "Well Jeremiah McGowan, Since you so eloquently pointed out, You are at my service. So what do you have in mind? " she asks coyly.

  He downs the whiskey in his glass, and slides into the tub. "Well first... how about we wash the desert off me. I could use some help with my back." He smirks and vanishes under the water for a few moments and comes back up gasping for air, the water running down his shoulders, chest, and abs. Coraline licks her lips and floats her way over to him. She wraps a leg around him, reaching up and taking hold of his long reddish brown hair and pulling it away from his back. She grabs a small wooden stick and wraps his hair up pinning it to his head.

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