Chrono crossed, p.1
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       Chrono-Crossed, p.1

           P. C. Sharpe
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Chrono-Crossed


  Zero:

  Father and Son Plus One

  I’m a bad father, Bill Oakley thought to himself.

  “Like I showed ya.”

  The cowboy and his son, Buck, are standing on a quiet riverbank aiming handguns at a nearby tree. It’s Thursday. September 16th, 1886. Precisely 6:49 P.M.

  An ominous breeze whisks deadened brown leaves across the otherwise still water. The gust is complimented by an orange tint in the sky as the sun departs for the day. A crude carving of an outlaw’s face is etched onto the awkward aspen tree. Underneath this caricature are engraved the letters N, A, and T.

  The young boy aims the gun at the tree, his hand quivering. Buck fires a bullet that completely misses the crude face on the bark. The boy lowers his head in humiliation and whispers indistinctly to himself.

  “What’s that, son?”

  “I… can’t do it. I’m just not good like you.”

  “Buck Oakley! Look at me! Yer better than me.” the father snaps. “And far better lookin’.”

  Bill grins. He plants his hand on Buck’s head and ruffles the boy’s shaggy hair. Buck pulls back as embarrassed sons often do.

  “What’ve I told ya? If yer mind’s troubled, you’ll always misfire.”

  Bill twirls his gun horizontally and unloads multiple shots that send chunks of bark exploding from the tree. The engraved artwork is left destroyed. With lightning fast motion, Bill holsters his gun, and turns towards his boy. The cowboy takes off his hat and plants it firmly on Buck’s head. The two look strikingly similar in the evening light.

  “We’re kinda like partners, huh dad?”

  Bill gives the lad a fatherly nod and an equally-proud smile.

  “Always. ‘Til the e-” but Bill’s words are cut short by a disturbing sight.

  He eyes an outlaw staggering onto the riverbank. Bill’s smile quickly fades. He pushes Buck behind him.

  “Dad. It’s him.”

  “Don’t move, son. Do nothin’,” Bill says. His hand clenches Buck’s arm tightly.

  The outlaw unhurriedly approaches in a dangerous limp. His hand is fixed on his gun holster, and his silhouette shows that he is a bit heftier than the thin Bill Oakley.

  “Nat, now’s not the time.”

  Nat Dalton’s narrow eyes are hidden by the rim of his cowboy hat. The man’s mouth is curled into a distorted half-circle, gritting down on his teeth viciously. A trickle of saliva oozes from the crevice. There is an intense moment of increasingly hazardous silence. Autumn leaves perform a twisted dance in between the two men, awaiting a break in the silent tension.

  “Ya got some nerve,” Nat spits out.

  Bill’s hand slowly lowers over to his holster, and it rests over his gun. More silence.

  “Dad?” Bill is shocked by the sound of desperation spilling from his son’s mouth.

  “DON’T MOVE, BUCK!”

  Nat lifts his gun in a slow determinism. Bill’s hand never releases Buck’s arm. The father pushes his son behind him.

  “Nat, please. Brother, I’m beggin’ ya.”

  Nat pushes the hammer of his gun down.

  “No! Don’t make me do this! I didn’t…”

  The sound of the bullet echoes throughout the evening sky. The boom startles a flock of birds, flying overhead. The bullet pierces both the silence and Bill’s left arm. A burst of crimson blood erupts from the man’s arm and shoots out yards away from him, painting the grass red.

  “DAD!”

  Bill stumbles back from the shock of the blast, but firmly stands in front of his son. He struggles to lift the gun from his holster. Nat walks over and kicks him in the chest with his muddy boot. Bill tumbles to the ground, performing an involuntary roll. Buck lands a yard or so away from him. With a desperate breath, Bill pleads one last time, spit spilling from his mouth.

  “Na- p- please.”

  Nat yanks Buck from the ground by his tattered shirt and plants the gun to the side of the young boy’s head. Bill forces himself off the grass with the last of his strength, and rises to his feet. His gun has fallen into the tall, wavering grass, and going for it will only prove a fatal action.

  “I could kill ya, but I want ya to feel what I feel every day.”

  Nat slams his pistol into the side of Bill’s head, and the wounded man spins and lands onto the ground with a thud. Weak from bleeding out, Bill is unable to muster any energy to move or speak. Nat slides the cannon to Buck’s chest.

  “Alone.”

  The young boy sobs, screams, and shoves, but to no avail. Time slows down to a halt. A bullet enters Buck’s chest and another explosion of blood follows. Bill’s eyes flood with tears and grow twice their original size. He throws his arm up with the last of his ability, reaching to Buck in a frantic attempt to protect him. Growing more and more faint, Bill screams out indistinctly.

  Nat drags the motionless Buck to the water’s edge, leaving behind a trail of blood, and thrusts the tiny boy’s body in. Tears gush from Bill’s eyes. He throws his arm out to crawl towards the water, but falls back to the ground.

  “God… no!”

  Buck’s body is floating in the direction of the water. Nat staggers back to Bill. He looks down on the man who is clenching onto consciousness. The silence is broken by a grunt from Nat, followed by a spit onto Bill’s head, tailed by a swift kick to the stomach.

  A loud sound booms in Bill’s head, and he finds Nat looking off to the water to confirm his kill. Bill’s eyes close despite his will.

  Don’t do this to me again.

  The world grows dark. The sun drifts farther away. Nat’s departure is the last thing Bill sees before he blacks out.

  C h r o n o – C r o s s e d

 
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