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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #2202336
What a Character Contest Entry October 2019
Time Period - 1795
Place - somewhere in Georgia

Jake stumbled into the creek soaking his pants past the knees. Sticking to the middle he slogged through the chilly water. His plan, he didn't really have one, but he figured the kid couldn't track him through the water, so right now his plan was to stay in the water and go wherever the creek went.

Two days he'd been on the run. Two long days since that buckskin clad kid killed Chad. Two days without food, exceptin' those few berries he grabbed off the bush as he passed just a few hours ago.

He didn't blame the young man for wanting to kill him. Jake may not have any blood on his hands from the deaths of that family, but he had plenty of blood on his conscience.

"Promise me you will take care of your little brother." Momma's dying words rang in his ears even now. Did she know? Did some part of her see in that teenage boy the monster that he would become? Jake hoped not. He would not have wished that burden on his dying mother. And, he hoped, that she never would have made him promise to take care of Chad if she had known what that boy was capable of.

He will never know now, she died a long time ago, her thoughts and feelings belonged to that other world.

Just five years later the killings started. A lone traveler had stopped at their small farm looking for work and a meal. The next evening, when Jake came in from the field, he found Chad standing over the man's body, a very strange smile on his face. The man had done nothing wrong, not even anything to provoke Chad, Chad just wanted to know what it felt like to kill a man. Jake took a belt to that seventeen year old, whupped him within an inch of his life. It didn't last.

They buried that poor man behind the barn, an unmarked and lonely grave.

Not even a year after that Chad came a running. He had killed a young woman, an accident he said, he needed help. They would hang him for sure.

Jake wanted to say "no". He wanted to tell him to give himself up, that he should be hanged for taking a life. He wanted his obligation to end. In the end, the promise he made his mother won out. It always won out.

So they went on the run.

No matter where they camped the dregs of society always found them, found Chad. He was like a beacon to the insane, a light only they could see.

They'd been on the run for less than two years when they happened upon that farm. There were three others with them at that time. From the moment the five of them rode in the intent was obvious. The killings were merciless and cruel. The entire family; Father, Mother, Grandfather, teenage daughter, two small boy children, and a barely walking girl child, murdered.

More than once Jake found himself behind the barn retching, yet he did nothing to save any of them. Not even the smallest one. Nothing.

And that was his one and only crime. He never joined in with the robberies, the raping, the killing, or anything else of that nature. But, he did nothing to stop it either, none of it.

Obligation kept him there.

He tried more than once to kill Chad. To slit his throat while he was sleeping. To shoot him in the back as they rode to the next killing place.

Always, every single dang time, his conscience stopped him. He is your brother.

Or, maybe, he was just a coward.

The creek opened out onto a lake. He stopped. Jake scanned the perimeter. There was no way out, the lake had no other outlet.

On the far side a small cabin sat on a hillock. A lazy curl of smoke drifted from the chimney bringing the scent of fresh bread along with it. His stomach growled long and loud.

Jake climbed onto the bank closest to him, farthest from the cabin. If he had any chance at all of explaining things to the man that hunted him, he had to stay away from people and the temptation to steal what he needed to survive.

He really wanted to survive. Someday he would like to have a small farm again with a wife and children. Someday he would like to have a chance to have a life. To not have the obligation of Chad, a chance to actually live. Someday. He knew that he did not deserve it, it did not stop him from wanting it.

Especially now that Chad was dead. Chad and his three lunatic friends. All dead. Killed by the young man now hunting him.

He just hoped the kid had some mercy left in him somewhere.

The bank on this side of the lake was steep, he had to grab onto some saplings to pull himself up. Intense pain slammed into his back. He tried to pull himself up, every movement brought searing pain into his back and chest. Jake looked down at his chest to find a wood shaft protruding from his body and lodged into the dirt, pinning him in place.

A slight noise brought his attention back to the top of the creek bank. The young man crouched down, staring him in the eyes.

"Mercy..." Jake whispered through his pain.

The man said nothing.

Jake knew what he was waiting for. His pursuer waited to see the life leave Jake's eyes. There was no hate, no malice, just silent resignation. He had swore to avenge the family ruthlessly murdered and now here lay the last of the five, dying.

Jake looked him in the eye. It was all he could do for this young man. When he tried to talk, blood dribbled from his mouth. There would be no mercy, and none deserved, so he gave his killer the honor of looking him in the eye as the blackness engulfed him.

Word Count = 991
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