Continuing on with the experiments, here's another oldie from the dusty DarcKnyt archives ... circa 1998. This story is much farther along, having four completed chapters beyond this -- which was initially the prologue. I know, I know ... "call your prologue chapter one." Well, I didn't know that then, and when I re-work it, maybe I will, but for now, this is the prologue. Backstory. Events taking place prior to the primary events of the main story. So, I thought it was a prologue. My bad. And, since I haven't read through it since about 2004, I hope you'll forgive me for my weaknesses ... this is still in draft, so any suggestions you have on improving it are welcome. I hope you enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think.
The night was slow, and painfully quiet.
That’s usually how it was on Sunday nights, though. José Marquéz sat, night after night, waiting in the quiet little bar for something in his life to change. He listened to the music playing softly over the jukebox speakers piped through the bar, watching the faded wooden sign out front sway in the occasional breeze. The street was quiet beyond the parking lot, and there was nothing happening, period.
It was always the same old story.
He often would allow his mind to drift to far away places, places only dreamed of for him. New York, and the pounding, pulsing streets full of life and vitality. London, thronging with humanity and wet with cool rain. Paris, the most romantic city in the world. Somewhere … anywhere but here.
He drew a heavy sigh and sipped his Mescal.
This God-forsaken hole for a city was all he had ever known. It was all his mother had ever known, and his grandparents before them. They were all farmers, every one of them; no ambition, no dreams. It was as if they were never aware that there was a world beyond Tesacarina, Mexico. Population: 62; major industry: rotting in mud-floor huts waiting for the huge tourist industry that was promised months ago and never delivered.
But José knew better. He wasn’t content to rot here, waiting for the government to develop the resort that would never come to pass in his lifetime. He was going to get out, and get out soon, and take Rosamaria with him. Together, they would escape the bondage of Tesacarina that held so many prisoner in poverty and false hope.
This ridiculous bar was a perfect example. It was built last year to be the first in a “long line” of resort recreational facilities. There was talk of land developers being interested because of the location, so near to the coast, only a few miles away. They were going to buy the farmland, build huge hotels, casinos and swimming pools and attract millions of visitors every year. The townspeople would have a new industry, new jobs to get, more money, or could retire on what was paid for their farms. There would be training, and schools, and soon, Tesacarina would be just like Acapulco or Cabo San Lucas.
José saw through it all, though. There was no way they were going to build here … or anywhere near here. The air was too dry and the weather too hot; the ocean was almost fourteen miles away, over hot sands with poor roads, if any. There were no palm trees, no bathing beauties like in the magazines, and the people in this area are uneducated and foolish. They believed the government would negotiate to get the land sold, and then everything would be all right.
Stupidos! he thought. How could you believe such rubbish?!? You believed all of it!
His mother was worst of all. She had actually begun packing her bags. The whole event had come and gone in less than a month, and that was nearly fourteen months ago. There was nothing being built; not now – not ever. The whole thing was a hoax.
But when he came back from school, he was determined it would be the last time he came back. Next summer, he would go visit someplace he wanted to live. Leaving behind his family would be easier than leaving behind Rosamaria, so he would take his sweetheart with him to the ends of the earth.
School wasn’t easy to get into and stay into in this area. He had worked very hard, every day after school and every summer, and that was just to finish his basic education and high school. College was an even worse struggle, but he was managing. The letters of encouragement from Rosamaria kept him going, studying late into the night after working in a bar on the campus in the evenings and weekends. His grades had faltered some, but he was confident he would recover them. He had to – he was the last, best chance that either he or his family had. And Rosamaria too, for that matter. She was as dependent on his success as he was.
So when he came home for the summer this time, he got a job in this rat-hole bar owned by the sleazy drug lord from Guadalajara. When there is money to be made, or the chance that money will be made, you will find them. This bar was losing money by the hour, and his wage was a bigger drain. Soon, it would close, and hopefully when it did, so would the memory of the lies that were driving the people into the ground.
He closed his eyes and allowed himself to think about Rosamaria. The curve of her jaw; the almond shaped eyes, so bright and full of hope; the delicate neckline; the voluptuous bulge of her –
Without warning, the saloon door crashed open, spilling someone inside.
The thin walls rattled and startled José out of his fantasy. He jerked his head up to see a tall, thin man in a long raincoat and a wide-brimmed hat stumbling forward almost frantically toward the bar, his arms flailing in front of him as though he’d been thrown through the door. José jumped back as the man crashed into the bar, shaking it and knocking over some of the stacked glasses and bottles beneath it.
“Whiskey!” he rasped, his voice almost desperate.
José stepped forward as he slid suddenly to one side.
“WHISKEY!” the man screamed, his voiced edged with panic.
José didn’t speak much English, but he knew this word. He reached below the bar, his heart pounding and hands shaking and quickly poured a glass, filling it with too much house whiskey. The man snatched it before he could hand it to him, and finished the dosage in a single gulp.
“More!” he shouted, holding the glass out trembling to José, who tried to pour another glass but was shaking so badly he spilled it down the man’s wrist and shirt cuff.
Before he finished pouring the stranger downed the serving again, and again looked out the glassless openings that served as windows in the bar.
“They’re coming for me,” he stammered, “they’re right behind me.”
He was clearly afraid. José recognized the tone but not the words; this man was in fear of his very life.
The tall stranger turned back to José and shook his glass. “C’mon, more! More!” he urged impatiently.
José poured again, trying to be calm despite his adrenaline and fear. Again the stranger took the glass and drank it in a single swallow before José finished pouring.
“They’re hunting me down,” he said, his voice thin and desperate. “I’m never going to get away. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide.”
José tried to comprehend, tried to make sense of what the man was yammering. But his English was simply too poor. He couldn’t understand.
The man turned back to him. “You’d better run too, boy,” he said. “If they see you with me … or worse yet, you see them…”
Suddenly the man jerked around, dropping his drink glass. José cried out in start as the glass shattered on the hard adobe floor. The man rushed next to the window, pressing against the thin wall and peering out the window. “Did you hear that?” he whispered. “Did you? I can’t tell anymore if I’m crazy with exhaustion or if I’m really hearing things now. Did you hear it, kid? Didja?”
José could tell he was being queried, but when he opened his mouth to speak, nothing came out. He felt his heart pounding in his throat. He was shaking uncontrollably. This stranger was clearly mad.
The man looked back at José, and his eyes were wide and hallow. They recessed deeply into his skull, and the madman’s gaze frightened José the more.
“You don’t speak English, do you kid? No hables ingles, eh?”
José shook his head, fear showing clearly on his face.
“Good,” the man said. “Bueno, bueno. Maybe they’ll leave you alone.”
José was confused and frightened. He held the bottle up again, smiling weakly as he reached for another glass. The stranger snorted and looked down, shaking his head.
“You just don’t know, do you? You just don’t get it. No comprende, eh, hijo? You’re dead … I’m dead … we’re all dead.”
José offered the bottle again, trying to appease the somewhat calmer madman. He chuckled a bit and poured a glass of the whiskey, and gestured to the man. “Te quieres mas, Señor?” he said.
The man laughed tiredly. “Sure kid. I want more. Why not?”
He started for the bar when he heard the stealthy crunch of gravel outside the bar.
This time José heard it too, and he froze.
The stranger turned slowly toward the open window, reaching frantically into his raincoat pocket for something.
That was when the lights went out in the bar. It was totally black, no streetlights or reflective light from other structures to assist in the darkness.
José scanned the dark, trying desperately to make his eyes adjust to the sudden blackness. The stranger was fumbling backwards, shuffling his feet across the floor to keep from tripping.
Somewhere in the dark there was a guttural snarl.
José tried to scream, but terror had frozen his vocal cords. He dropped the whiskey bottle and slammed himself against the wall behind the bar in terror, still searching in the dark. What he was searching for, he did not know.
The stranger was holding his arm out, clutching something in his badly shaking hand. José was beginning to make out silhouettes in the darkness against the moonlight coming in from the windows. There was the shuffling and grinding of gravel outside, more distinct this time in the silence, and the stranger whirled in the direction of the movement. José caught the silhouette of a very large pistol in the man’s quivering hand.
He shrank to the floor, holding his hands over his ears, tears running involuntarily down his face. He wanted to shut his eyes but fear locked them open, looking over the bar, a panicked whimper escaping him. There was deafening quiet above the bar.
He screamed like a woman when the crashing tore through the silence. The entire bar shook with the force of a blow of some kind. There was an unearthly scream, and gun shots, four, five, six … click! The magazine was empty. José screamed again when the stranger cried out and there were pounding footfalls across the floor. A huge thump, the crashing of tables, a scream from the pits of hell itself … and a terrible sound, an ungodly sound that made the room go silent again.
José wet himself then, and cried like a baby, weeping in fear and dread. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed, crying uncontrollably, the tears stinging his eyes as he clenched the lids shut so he wouldn’t see, still holding his hands clamped over his ears.
He felt the bar shudder and creak under a weight. He didn’t want to – absolutely didn’t want to – but couldn’t help opening his eyes and raising his head to see what was above him.
Then, he really screamed.