Hunting Trees

A Dark Western Tragedy

Written by Aidan McGuire

It stretched out as far as the eye can see and beyond. The wagons; all similar in the design of wood and tarps flapping in the harsh winds, pulled by ponies for the most part, and healthy, staggering horses worthy of knights for the wealthy. The cargo, as of which, was mostly heavy loads of alcohol and metal tools. Only traversing a path molded by the wheels of the wagon, the leader of the millions that followed risked wasting his life away, finding passage through that American wasteland. The sand as dry as cinnamon, the canyons and circles of cliffs made the landscape isolated and endless. The ground, covered with the orange sand shielded by green bushes and weeds at ankle level, allowed for a hiding place for the many rodents scampering about the infinity.

With the strong winds came blinding day light of noon. The sky medium blue in all respects and the white marshmallows in the sky peacefully passed over head to other states, in form and location. The air smelled of horse droppings and bad breath, the long line of riders who all deserved to go to prison, the scum of the Earth, hauling resources that weren't deserved to people who were arguably worse than them. The extremes of people. The good people in the areas travelled to were considered enemies of the state in other parts of the country. All across the country, things are different. The land. The people. The cultures.

The laws. The rights. The abilities of what one could do. There was something here for everyone.

In the melting pot of the world.

Lucas. He was a teacher. A scrawny one, he was, a vulture's nose but the teeth of a rat. Or a mouse, depending on how mutated it was. He wore circular glasses with jet black frames, a thin suit vest stained with dust kicked up. A pocket watch was outlined in his pants, the chain dangling out from it. He sat slumped against a crate, looking out the back of one of the many wagons, driven by an alcoholic bastard, just like the rest.

He said he knew what he was doing. In reality, he just wanted to travel, and then go from there. His current plans were last minute.

A brown rabbit hopped across the trail, almost getting run over by the horse staring Lucas in the eye. It bobbed its head back and forth as it walked, swaying, almost to some tune.

It must be tired, Lucas thought. I'm tired too. But in reality, he was just tired of the smell.

His bags sat next to him with only the bear essentials. Clothes and a book. Blank. Nothing written. Black leather casing and bindings, an expensive stack of papers from a past the he wanted to forget. It used to be a diary of his dad, from when he was a child to about Lucas's age. He wrote how he wanted to become a treasure hunter. Then how he became a man, the entire, graphic process and events of it. Then how his work building burned down from a mad man who would then go on to living in a mental hospital for the rest of his life. How he met Lucas's now-dead mother. How they met when he rescued her from getting raped. Then how his dad beat him when he was angry at his mother.

She was dead too. Everyone was dead. He tore out the pages a long time ago, leaving connected sheets of white that has faded into brown over the years of just existing.

Why is the world so big? Lucas thought. It doesn't need to be this big.

The driver, a fat man in overalls and a disgusting beard, where an animal could easily hide in, turned and looked through the small crack between the tarp and the back of the driver's bench. His curly hair going over his shoulders, a whisky bottle at the ready next to him, taking its own place as a passenger. He accidently hit it with his hip, and turned to sit it back up, and then he looked through the crack again. "How's it going back there?" The voice of a man in the process of puking, groggy, old and worn down to the bone.

Then there was Lucas, nervous and distant, all the time no matter what the mood or situation. "Fine. Thank you."

"Hey, I got some whisky in the back, feel free to snag yourself a bottle." He then took a swig from his own bottle.

A few women walking beside the wagons dressed in rags. One was begging for money, probably dehydrated, two wagons down, and the driver pushed her away. She fell to the ground, then got back up and restarted the same process. The driver finally held out a revolver and pressed it against her temple, and she stopped in her tracks. She disappeared from Lucas's view a few seconds later. He looked down at his bag, thinking about the book. Then he turned away.

The horse was still looking at him.

"Feel free to have some whisky."

"Oh, no thank you, I don't drink."

"You don't drink? How the hell do you city folk not drink?"

"I'm sure many city men drink; it's just that I don't."

"Whatever. I just think that you dudes should live a little." He took another swig, bigger than the last, almost gulping all of it down.

Lucas took out his pocket watch and flipped it open. 3:27 Eastern Time. But it wasn't the correct time zone. He was from Atlanta, a city just starting out in an arrogant country finally finding its place in the world. Right after it became free; it had problems being left alone. Then it found its place as everything that has been ever wanted. Then what everyone wants is sick, thought Lucas for the umpteenth time that day. Just thinking about his travels spanning six weeks so far, and an estimated three more finishing off Arizona, then moving all the way up to the top of California.

Searching for treasure, just like his dad wanted to. Now he's dead from a kick in the face from a horse. A pathetic way to get a head injury, bleed out and die.

He saw entire waves of slaves on a farm get whipped by horsemen, similar to the drivers in his presence. A woman in Louisiana got stabbed in bar right in front of him. She was a hoar, but it was still gruesome and left a bitter feeling in his stomach. In Texas, about fifty men, all with battle scars of ranging sizes and places on the face and body, were tied to poles naked and gunned down with rifles. They might have been criminals, the gunmen might have been lawmen, but Lucas couldn't tell at the time.

Now, he thinks it might have been the other way around.

Birds stormed out of the canyons. They looked like eagles.

"Hey, how much longer until we get to town?" Lucas called back.

"Som'en like two hours, I should say. Yes, two hours sounds about right. What you plannin' to do in town?"

"Find another motive of transportation to California."

The driver sputters out a howl of surprise and laughter. "Motive? Boy, you some thoroughbred of something?"

"No, I'm just a teacher. I'm going in search of gold."

The driver dismissed the idea of gold. He's heard enough of it for a life time. "Teacher? Hah! I remember my old grade school teacher. Fine lady she was, had to move away though, when the school house burned down. Lightning strike hit it right down that pointy thing on the roof, and it just exploded. Never could keep learnin' after that."

"I'm sorry about that."

"No, no, don't be." The driver began reassuringly, "I love my life. I love the way I live, what I do."

"Good for you."

"Damn straight!" He should have died by now from all the alcohol consumption.

Then Lucas looked back at the horse. Its eye lids had dropped a little, the black eyes staring straight into him.

And in the desert, quiet.