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The Outlaw Prophet II

Chapter II

April 3rd, 1859

 

I made my way down the steep mountain path, slowly guiding my horse to keep slow so as not to lose control. It was late afternoon, and it would be dark soon as the sun set behind the Rockies. On my second day on the leeward side of the mountains, I saw the smoke rising from a campsite.


As I rode up closer, I saw him, sitting with his back to me still wearing that strangely familiar red duster. He wasn’t wearing a hat, and his dark hair fell over the shoulders of the jacket like a mane, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was in fact, the man I had been chasing. His gray horse, Jake, also seemed disinterested in my approach and continued to graze on any available vegetation he could find.


But as came into speaking distance, I announced myself intentionally and early so as not to be on the receiving end of any potential violence he might be justified in carrying out.


“Hello there!” I said at the top of my voice just a few octaves below a yell.


Jake looked up momentarily, but Mr. Blackwood did not acknowledge.


“Again, hello sir! My name is Horace Finch, and I’m a reporter with the Daily Alta California newspaper out of San Francisco. Might I trouble you for an interview and perhaps more than a little bit of time?”


“Time is all I got,” he said as his voice boomed out without turning around.


This was already becoming interesting. There was a drawl to his voice that sounded western, but had a hint of English, French, and German mixed in…a very odd combination. This certainly feeds into the mythos of his being the immortal polyglot Cartaphilus.


“Thank you, kind sir, as I said, my name is Horace Finch, and I’m a reporter. Been hearing all manner of tales surrounding your travels eastward.”


“So, you’re here to see if’n I’m the real deal or some sideshow phony?”


“Yes, and yes, as it were,” I replied as I tied up my horse and began walking around to sit opposite Samuel who was sitting on the ground, leaning against a log with his legs kicked out in front of him.


“Where to begin,” Samuel mused as he bit off a bit of jerky. “You’ll need more than a bit of time to get all this,” he said as he displayed his hands palms upward as to indicate the whole of him.


            “Well sir,” I said, “as much time as it takes, I reckon.”


“Pull up a chair,” he mused again. “Won’t be the first time I’ve had to tell folk who I am and where I’m from. The telling ain’t the hard part, it’s the believing.”


“Well Mr. Blackwood, I’ve been following you for the past two months, and at this point, I’m ready to be a believer,” I replied with perhaps more desperation than I was comfortable with admitting. I sheepishly pulled my journal out of my satchel to mask the awkwardness.


“You don’t have to believe me, Mr. Finch. I’m just a man,” he replied still not having even looked up to acknowledge me.


“What I meant to say, was that I’m ready to tell your story, so long as it’s based on facts and not fantasy. To be truthful, I’ve heard so much about you I don’t know which is which anymore.”


He looked up and for the first time our eyes met, and every description of the ‘dead blue’ eyes rang true. There was a paleness to them that seemed preternatural, especially against his complexion.


“I’m supposing you want to know if I’m the Wandering Jew,” he asked.


“That’s as good a place to start as any,” I replied.


“Well,” he said slowly in his strangely cadenced drawl, “I am.”


***

            Over the next four hours, dusk became night and the fire continued to burn heartily without him so much as stoking it or adding any logs to it. I’d made myself comfortable, presuming I would be spending the night there (as there was no other proper lodging in the vicinity). I drank water and sipped sparingly from a small whisky flask I kept to ward off the mountain chill.


Samuel sat, unmoving throughout the entire time, and would occasionally take a bite of jerky as he recalled his time on earth from serving under Pontius Pilate and his encounter with Jesus Christ to his conversion to Christianity and service in the Byzantine Empire. He spoke about his times amongst the barbarian tribes of the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, Franks, and Anglo-Saxons.


He claims to have witnessed the rise of Islam and watched the conquest of the largely pagan Arabia, converting by the sword, all those pagans to the brutal hand of Islam. He recounted in painstaking detail, his most recent escapades in the company of various European royalty from the English Mad King George III to the French Napoleon Bonaparte, to the Prussian King Frederick William III, to the Russian Tsar Nicholas I.  By this point, even my veteran writing hand had begun cramping due to the extensive notetaking. He noticed my growing discomfort and offered to pause for a bit.


“How is this possible?” I asked. “I mean, I ain’t a preacher but how does the curse of immortality square with Scripture? Doesn’t it say in the Good Book that all men are appointed unto death, and then judgment?”


“Yes, it does. In Hebrews 9:27 it says and as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. The way I understand it is there are absolute truths, and there are general truths. When Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes unto the Father but by me, He was stating an absolute truth. But there are at least two instances in the bible where men haven’t died, that being Enoch and Elijah. Also, some died, and were resurrected, and then died again later on, such as Lazarus and Eutychus. This is a general truth.”


“So, which do you figure into? The truth, or the exception to the truth?”


“I reckon, given how long I have been here, I’m in the exception category. But I’ve already been told when and how I was gonna die,” he said with a hint of sullenness to his tone.


“Well, you’ll certainly beat out Methuselah for the longest life lived,” I said, secretly proud that I could recall the patriarch's name from my time spent in church as a younger man. “Given your generosity with your time tonight, I’m assuming I’m not the first person you’ve had to explain your history to?”


“No, about every fifty years or so someone gets curious. The problem with immortality is that everything falls apart, records get lost, cities fall to ruin, and things get lost. As for the barbarians, they never cared much about preserving their posterity. They don’t care about history or the future. They only care about surviving in the moment.”


“Probably much the same with the native tribes here,” I added.


“I reckon so. They’re mostly afraid of me, so I don’t interact a lot with them.”


“Rumor has it, that every so often, a young warrior will come and test his mettle against you, and then is never seen again. Is that true?”


“Yes. Then I show them if they don’t change their ways, where they are headed.”


“Ahh…the hellfire touch.”


He looked up at me at that moment as if he could sense the hint of skepticism in my tone.


“You don’t believe?” He asked.


“Well, you know, I hadn’t gone to church much in recent years. But I was steeped in it as a youth.”


“I didn’t ask you about church. I asked if you believe in heaven and hell?” He queried again…this time, more intentionally.


“I think twenty years spent in journalism (hard to believe it’s been that long) has left me jaded. I mean, the wars, Indian raids, slavery, political corruption, the crime during the Gold Rush years. I don’t know what I believe anymore,” I replied truthfully but now feeling more vulnerable than I cared to be.”


“So, if'n you’re not a believer, then what are you doing chasing me down?” he asked, still piercing me with those unsettling blue eyes.


“To be honest, I was intrigued. But all the same, it’s your word versus the truth. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not like you can prove you’ve been around since the first century…but the hellfire touch…that would be something I could validate.”


“You don’t want me to validate your beliefs by the touch, trust me. It would be better for you to accept that God is real, heaven and hell are real, and that the only way to avoid hell is through Jesus Christ.”


“I am a grown man and can handle…” Those words had no sooner come out of my mouth before he was on his feet and squaring off with me faster than a rattlesnake striking at an unwitting traveler. It startled me.


“Stand up then and take your medicine then.”


Seeking to de-escalate the situation, I stood up slowly. My back and knees aching from riding for two months straight and now having sat on the cold hard ground for four-plus hours.


“Are you ready?” he asked as he walked around the fire towards me.


It was at that moment that I could fully appreciate the general sentiment of his “dangerousness” label. Not only was he much larger than I (something you don’t fully appreciate while sitting down), but his quickness was unnerving. He also appeared genuinely fearful of what was to come, which made me even more fearful of being on the receiving end. But then again, I’d asked for it.


  “Mr. Horace Finch, just remember, it will feel like an eternity, but in reality, only a few seconds will have passed,” he said lifting his head in prayer and touching my forehead simultaneously.


(Editors’ note: I’ve known Horace Finch for most of those twenty years he’s been writing here in San Francisco. I can attest to the fact he is one of the most honest men I’ve ever worked with.)


The moment his fingers grazed my forehead, a rush of dizziness threw me back as if I’d been shoved off a cliff. Plummeting, I clawed desperately for purchase, finding nothing to grasp. Time lost all meaning as I hurtled through the void, resigned to an endless fall until, with a jarring thud, I slammed into solid ground.


Even before I opened my eyes, the heat and stench assaulted me—sulfur and smoke choking the air, triggering violent dry heaves that wracked my ribs. Gradually, the gagging subsided, allowing me to blink open heavy lids. My eyes were of no avail, as darkness, thick as molasses, enveloped me, its oppressive weight pressing in on me like the walls of a volcanic cavern.


The searing heat made any attempt at comfort futile, scorching my skin as I tentatively felt the cracked, blistered ground beneath me. Lost and disoriented, I groped forward, unsure of where—or what—lay ahead. Guided by instinct or desperation, I stumbled onward, hands outstretched like a blind man in an alien labyrinth.


A sense of presence, unseen yet palpable, prickled my senses. My very thoughts, now audible, betrayed my last vestige of privacy and were now echoing through the abyss. Then, cutting through the suffocating silence, came a peal of hyena-like laughter—madness distilled, inhuman, and hauntingly close.


Panic surged as I strained against the oppressive darkness to move away from the laughter, but I felt sluggish as if wading through tar. The laughter drew nearer, a malevolent force hurtling towards me like a charging Grizzly. Bound by unseen chains, I floundered, defenseless and helpless as the creature closed in.


Abruptly, it halted.


Terror renewed as its fetid breath washed over me, surpassing even the stench of sulfur. A low growl rumbled, and two fiery eyes fixated on me from the abyss, towering above like malevolent stars. A monstrous hand seized my shoulder, agony electrifying every nerve, driving me to my knees.


Through the pain, I grasped at fragmented memories—the Outlaw Prophet's warning of 'hellfire.' However, this was no hallucination; it was a harrowing reality. Had I let this stranger lead me to my end, forsaking all hope for a fleeting tale in tomorrow's news?


Panic drowned out hope as despair set in, my thoughts echoing in the cavernous void around me. A gaping maw stretched wide, teeth glinting in the darkness as another hand clamped onto my opposite shoulder, doubling the agony.


I screamed, primal and uncontrolled, knowing with chilling certainty that this infernal beast intended to devour me alive.


And then...


I woke up with a gasp.


Fresh air hit my lungs and the sound of nature awaking with the rising of the sun filled my ears. I opened my eyes thankful beyond all measure that I could see blue skies again. I sat up and looked around. Samuel Blackwood was gone. Finding myself alone and lying on the forest floor I rolled over and prayed. I thanked God at that moment for my life and begged for not only His forgiveness but pledged my undying loyalty to Jesus for the rest of my life. I never wanted to go back to hell. Never. I wouldn’t even wish that upon my worst enemies.


After praying, I got up and kicked dirt onto the dying embers. Even looking at their orange-reddish glow reminded me of that demon's eyes. I kicked even more dirt on them to ensure they would go cold forever. I untied my horse and looked around for any sign of Samuel, but finding none, I looked out over the vast prairie land before me. He said he was heading east to Illinois, so I guess I’m heading east as well. I have a feeling this story is far from over.


…to be continued.

 

Horace Finch

April 4th, 1859

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is great! Love the story telling - we need more of it to help communicate the Truth. Thank you Pete for sharing your gift with us. Praying for blessings upon blessings on you and your family! Still looking for Jesus in the air any day now!😊❤️


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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Wow! enjoyed thoroughly. I thought of the Holy Spirit's work in comparison to Samuel in the story to convince souls of sin and death without Christ. The new life just as that fresh air and blue sky in the story was widely embraced in thankfulness compared to our new life in Christ that is recognized when we know we have been saved from the clutches of sin and death and hell through Christ Jesus. Thank you Pete!

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Pete Garcia
Pete Garcia
2 days ago
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Thank you! More to come

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great story telling, Pete. You have a novel in you. Thanks for taking us on this adventure. Eager for the next installment!

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Excellent

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is great Pete. I can’t wait for part 3

You truly are a blessed and talented writer.

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