When I finally came to I could feel the cold grasp of metal around my wrist and a throbbing in my head. I tried to recall the events that had led to this moment and for several seconds found my self unsuccessful. My eyes opened and my vision was blurry, but I could make out horizontal bars in front of me. My vision gradually cleared somewhat and I could make out the bars of a jail cell, rusting away slowly due to bad conditioning. The reason they were horizontal was because I was laying on my side, atop a small bed in the corner.
The stench hit my nose mere seconds after, like both my sight and smell had been hindered at the same time and somehow recovered at the same time. I pulled my body up and it was in this moment I learned that my entire body ached from head to toe, it had been too long since I used my abilities that using them to such an extremity really took its toll.
When I finally managed to push myself into an upright position, leaning against the cold and damp wall for support, I tried to take in my surroundings properly. Evidently I was in jail, but I couldn't remember why.
Until it hit me like a tidal wave, everything that happened. The bar wench, the creep and the fire, which I stopped. In mere seconds I remembered everything, but one thing stood out: Jay. With my vision now entirely intact I looked around me to see that the desk across from the room had no one at it. The desk obviously belonged to a Sheriff, but the Sheriff was out. I veered my head to try to see beyond an open window but nothing was visible to me. However I could see a small lamp on the desk, lighting all the papers for visibility. I outstretched a hand and focused as hard as I could on that flame, trying to drag just a flicker of it to me so I could melt the links around my wrists. But the pain soared in my head, like the worst migraine I had ever experienced. I was forced to stop trying as the pain became too much.
I rested my head in my hands as the pain became so intense my vision turned blurry again and I was forced to lay back down swiftly in an attempt to calm my mind. It took plenty of minutes but finally the pain began to ease back.
I remained in that exact position for some time, letting my body try to relax and calm itself. It was only in the moment that I could finally feel the pain had almost entirely receded I heard footsteps of someone entering the room. I lifted my body once again, this time the overall pain was beginning to disappear as well but some seemed to linger, slinging to me as if refusing to leave my body at ease. I held my ribs with one hand and my head with my other, as I lifted up and came to see the same man I saw before passing right out, the man in the sheriff's uniform. The man I knew as Jay Carson.
I held my gaze directly at him in complete surprise, wondering what was going on. I watched him, barely blinking, as he moved over to the desk and pulled the seat out before letting gravity take his weight and he practically fell onto the chair, an action of a tired man who is starting to no longer care about such things. His ruffled hair, ragged uniform and cluttered desk all stood out to me. The Jay I knew had pride, so would have always ensured a desk like that would have been tidy and organised, and his apparel would reflect his true nature. So why did he look so worn and beat down?
"Jay?" My voice called out, except it didn't feel like my own it was that hoarse. I only knew it was my voice that called out due to simple logic, I was the only person in the room besides Jay. Not to mention the fact that he begrudgingly looked to me, the source of who called him.
It was in this moment I noticed other details, such as the lack of shine on his badge and the deep bags under his eyes. I began to grow worried for my old friend, but to me this seemed like someone else. He kept his eye sight on me until his eyes opened wide in recognition.
"Calvin?!" he responded as he stood from behind the desk and walked over to the cell. I could barely move still as the pain soared through my body, albeit at low levels. I just remained where I was in fear of instigating the pain once more.
"Jay? What's going on? Why am I in this cell?" I begin to ask, my voice still weak so it cut off at the end of the final question.
"You're in here for the charges of assault and arson" He informed me as he looked at me in wonder, though not the hopeful kind.
"What? But I...I.." I couldn't get the words out to defend myself for some reason and so I stopped and tried to gather my thoughts. "I'm not responsible for that, I tried to stop it..." I looked at him and realised that despite the charges I was faced with there was some greater trouble. "What is is Jay?"
He looked to the ground and spoke five words without looking back at me "You shouldn't have come back!"
After the events of that night, I expected a trial to take place to judge my innocence, or apparent lack thereof. But I was shocked to discover that no such thing had been arranged. Instead, two days had gone by in complete silence, not even Jay had spoken to me properly, and it was this day that brought the result of my alleged crimes: I was to be lynched! It was only hours after sunrise as I was dragged from my cell, my wounds feeling better now but still in some pain due to the force applied to them as I was ushered along to the stage area where anyone who was judged guilty of major crimes would be sent to publicly die.
I was led to the side of the stage and Jay stood by my side as a man on stage spoke to the crowd of gathering people. He was informing them of why they were all here today, the usual pre-hanging speeches. But something was different. I looked at the crowd and most of them were just as rugged and in disarray as Jay was, except for two people in particular. One was the creep from the bar, the one who had truly, yet inadvertently, caused the fire and the other was some elder gentleman. His look at least gave the impression of a gentleman. A neatly styled black suit, a pocket watch hanging from his vest pocket and a pair of small, circular glasses hung from the edge of his nose. It struck me as odd that only these two were to be considered "tidy" in apparel. On top of that, they were the only ones to not have the usual emotions on display at a hanging. There would often be disgust, anger and possibly even sadness and there would always be tears of some kind. It seemed all were present, but those two had different emotions on show. The elder man had none really, aside from a general curiosity. But the younger one, the creep, had a smile on his face like he was enjoying what was about to happen.
"Who are they?" I asked without looking at Jay and nodded in their direction. Jay may have been to the side of me but I caught the look he had when he spotted who I had referred to. His gaze instantly diverted away from them, as if in fear. It was then I knew there had to be something wrong as very little was capable of scaring the Jay I knew in my youth.
"That would be the Mayor and his son, now shush and don't look at them again" his voice wavered, again as if in fear, but his order was stern temporarily.
Before I was given a chance to even think of responding I was pushed onto the stage and taken to the exact centre. I looked to my feet and saw the square section that would give way, plummeting me down only to be stopped by the noose that was now being fixed around my neck.
The person who tied the noose, I do not know what they looked like as they remained behind me and I hadn't cared to look before I was taken on stage, fixed it as tight as possible without choking me to death before I was due to hang. I heard heavy footsteps move backwards from me and then silence as the man who had been making announcements stepped in front of me. He pulled a parchment open in front of him, taking a few seconds to look it over and let everyone ponder and his coming words. The atmosphere was surprisingly thick, full of all different emotions. This was my home years before, but I barely recognised it. It just felt different. The buildings, the people, the air. All of it seemed just wrong, and now I knew it wasn't me just finding it strange to return to a place I had long since departed.
The man stood there in front of me, with his back turned. I could see the scuff marks on his boots and the bottom of his long, dark jacket. I looked up the jacket to see a slight tear on the left hand side. It was small, but noticeable as it ran diagonally along the area underneath his armpit. I also could see his collar was fraying at the edges.
My mind was taken away from this as his voice sounded out from the stage, reaching the ears of everyone around.
"Standing here today is Calvin Mathers. A former resident of this town, and recently discovered bandit..."
My face contorted as he said the word "bandit" because I had no clue what he was talking about. In no way over the years had I resorted to being a bandit in any way.
"He is accused of the charges of assault against the son of this town's own Mayor, and for Arson and destruction of property for burning down the town's largest public house. He has been put on trial and has been found guilty. His sentence: to hang by the neck until dead."
That was the next sign of something not being right as he had said I was put on trial, when no such trial took place at all. The man who had read out these words moved out of my vision and I was left to look at the crowd, all those faces staring at me just waiting to see the life drain out of my body. I scanned the crowd until I saw the Mayor and his son, both with the same expressions as before. I looked at them blankly, but inside I felt wonder and some anger as I was being sentenced to death for no real reason, or at least an untruthful one. And yet, I took solace because I felt like today was the day I could achieve peace after a long life of everything but. I tracked my eyes through the crowd once more to look at Jay and I nodded, whilst he avoided eye contact and eventually looked to the ground in front of him.
The next thing that happened was something I expected but still came as a shock, as a lever was pulled and the ground gave out from under my feet. I dropped and my entire body dangled from my neck only. But the rope hadn't snapped my neck immediately like it was supposed to, something a lot more common than publicly believed. I swayed side to side as the rope applied pressure to my airways and I was having the life choked out of me slowly. I struggled and fought, not out of hope but physical instinct. The always present instinct to survive, even when you don't want to. But I could feel myself failing, and the noose winning this particular struggle. I took one last look at the crowd and saw the faces of the Mayor and his son, both smiling this time before they turned and slowly left the scene. This was the last sight I saw before I eventually succumbed to the waiting darkness that is death.