Freedom

The morning sun beamed through the stained glass windows on to Daniel’s unshaven face. His dark brown eyes appeared from under his tired eyelids. He knew this would be the last morning that he would have to deal with his father’s shit.

“Danny get down here, its past sunrise, and the chickens ain’t been fedded yet!” came a deep angry voice from downstairs. Daniel stood up and stretched his long arms. He reached them high up and felt the overpowering sense of dizziness come over him. He caught himself on the edge of the uncomfortably sandy bed. ‘Stood up too fast’ he thought to himself, and took a couple deep breaths before going downstairs to begin the morning work.

‘Every morning’, he thought, ‘I has to get up and feed the chickens and milk the cows and do all this shit, just to barely sleep and sleep alone at that’. “Every morning” he muttered to himself. ‘Not any more’, he thought to himself as he opened the door to a very crisp Ohio breeze. He stepped outside in his usual flannel shirt and dungarees, but today was a little different. For today he saw riders in the east coming over the plains and heading straight for his house. He wasn’t startled at this sight, because he knew exactly who it was, and he was ready for them.

He took off his flannel shirt and waved it over his head as the riders came with in a clear view of the house. Daniel then ran back the chicken coop and retrieved his musket and carefully slipped back into the house. His father was sitting at the breakfast table having eggs and his usual cup of whiskey. He met his father between the eyes with a deafening shot that rang through the bottom floor of the house.

Daniel stood there staring at the blood drip down from his father’s head onto his stained shirt. For as long as he could remember Daniel had waited for this moment. To take the life of the person who took his mother’s. For years he has held in this anger, this powerful rage for his drunken abusive father. Well no longer would he wait. It wasn’t as he had expected, he stared for a while realizing that he had just taken someone’s life.

Memories from childhood of his mother and his father, enjoying the beauty of the their land while Daniel ran around in the grass flashed in front of him. His father getting drunk and coming home and beating his mother to death and visions of the beatings he took as a kid from this man. He flashed back to reality and he stood there with the rifle hanging down to the floor in his right hand.

Daniel turned around at the creak of the floor to see his four friends standing behind him with their hats in their hands. “You really killed your paw, this isn’t what we were gonna do Danny,” said one of the taller boys.

“Yeah well this is what I had to do. He killed momma and he beat me too many times. Now he ain’t nothin’ but a dead man and we got everything we’ll need here in this here house,” said Daniel.

Daniel looked at each of his friends, on the left was Jensen Young. A very good friend of his since he could remember, and someone he had trusted for a long time. Jensen stood taller then the rest and he had deep blue eyes that seemed to draw you into them. His hair blonde from the sun and his skin tan and dark, but not like an Indian, as most would expect if his hair were dark. He walked with more confidence then everyone else except for Theodore Raskin.
Teddy, as his friends called him, was a short stocky boy who might have been the strongest out of the friends. He had been working with his father in the lumber industry pulling wood up and onto all the different machines. He might not have been the handsomest of the bunch, but he sure was the meanest. His strength alone could beat a man but his pure hatred for all but his good friends could destroy an army.

Adam Miller, a quite reserved young man stood, with his hat in his hand. He had never witnessed a murder before, and couldn’t believe he was seeing his best friends father dead. Adam wasn’t going to join the group in their journey, but he had been so close to his friends that he co

uldn’t let them leave without him. Adam was more of the brains of the group but he didn’t have the courage to do half the things the others could do.
Kelly Cedar, the worst of the group, stood by Daniel’s side. He would never leave Daniel and would be willing to give his life for him. With that out of the way, Kelly would kill any man, in cold blood if he dare look at him wrong. Kelly was the craziest of the bunch and enjoyed to booze out and fight all the time.

This was the group of five, standing in the kitchen looking at a dead man they all grew up and feared. This they had believed was the end of their childhood and the beginning of their future. No more small Ohio town, with hard labor for ungrateful drunken fathers. No more hard times without any money. They had their horses, and they had their guns.

“Grab the guns from paws room, and I’ll grab some money from his hiding spot. Then we’ll burn the darn house the ground and ride on to Oregon Country!” Said Daniel.

“Yahooo!” said Kelly, “We’re finally leaving this hell hole for the gold. Yeahaw!” And they all started cheering. The young men ran quickly through the house, grabbing things they thought they would need for such a journey.

Finally after rummaging through the house and grabbing the chickens for the ride, the five of them stood in front of the house, as they saw the first of their flames catch the window and its curtains. The smoke began to billow through the second story windows, and the fire began shooting out of the doors and windows of the first floor. As they stood and watched the house burn and smoke, they all realized how important this action was. They knew the smoke would be seen by the neighbors who only lived a mile east of the property.

They packed everything they took from the house and put it on the horses and departed from their old homeland, never to return. Swiftly they rode past the final gate that marked the Whitmore property and rode on down the road. Laughing yet riding swiftly into a gallop they left the small Ohio town of Dayton.
They rode on farther then they had ever been from Dayton in their entire lives. The wind blowing hard at them from the north, their faces eager with the excitement of what the future held for them. The sun beating down on them, sweat beading up on their faces could only be tasted as a bittersweet freedom from the shackles of home. Long had they wondered what it would be like to leave Dayton and roam free wherever they chose. Do whatever they’d like and drink whatever they want.

They kept riding only to take a small break to let the horses drink from a small stream running through the plains. The rolling grass fields, and the strong winds persisted for miles on miles. It seemed the day would never end but Daniel could ask for nothing more then to live this day forever. It seemed to him that he had been cured from the agony of living with his father. The stress of the same old job, doing the same shit everyday. “If only my mom could see me now,” he thought to himself.

Hours it seemed later, the sun was setting in front of them. They followed the sun on that road until it disappeared on the other side of the plains. They decided to stop and make a fire. Kelly and Adam went out to find wood and the other three tied the horses to a couple trees only feet from their campsite. As Daniel pulled off some of the equipment off his horse, he realized that the two chickens he brought with him were dead. The chickens had suffocated in the tight knit bag. Leaving them with only bread and some water from the river. Jensen noticed and looked down to the floor, he realized what a mistake his friend had made by stuffing them into the bag.

“Damn it, well it looks like chicken tonight boys.” Daniel said pulling his knife from the sheath. He laid one of the chickens down on a rock and penetrated the chicken above the breast, and dragged it down to its pelvis. Then he cut the head off and pulled from the seeping gash he had made on the chicken. He peeled its outer-feathered skin from the muscles and laid it out on the rock. Blood oozed quickly from main veins on the neck of the chicken. Theodore realized this unorthodox way of skinning a chicken. So grabbed the other one and proceeded to skin it the proper way.
By the time he was finished, Adam and Kelly were back with bundles of dried dead wood that was pre-chopped. It was perfect for a fire, but it had been chopped long ago.

“Where did you knick all that wood from boys?” asked Jensen.

“There’s a deserted old fort over that away and we just went on up and took us this here wood. Didn’t think no one would mind, seeing that no one was home.” Snickered Kelly.

“Abandoned fort, must have left it a couple years ago by the way it looks, probably to head farther west to the border to guard Illinois from the territory.” Said Adam.

Daniel roasted the chickens over the fire while the young men sat around the fire discussing their future. They all had different dreams of Oregon Country, and how they would strike some Gold and start up their own stores in the cities out there. Some talked about opening a bar with women who worked in a brothel. They all agreed, however, that they were happy they were out of Dayton and would never go back.

Kelly pulled from his horse a large glass bottle. It looked as if filled with lots of water, almost to the top. It was corked by cowhide jammed into the opening on the top by a small broken limb of a pine tree that was still lodged into the bottle. As soon as he pulled the stick from the top, the cowhide followed, along with the overwhelming aroma of moonshine. Its smell alone intoxicated the 5 of them sitting in a circle. “Be careful now ladies, drop any into this here fire, or we’ll have a big ol’ flame come straight up out a hell,” he said laughing.

The rest of the guys sat in uneasiness for a little bit, while Kelly poured the moonshine into some glasses he took from the Whitmore house before they left. As he poured it, they could all see the thick syrupy liquid pour from the bottle. Its penetrating odor still ringing strong in all of their faces. Kelly handed each of them a cup and stood up holding his high in the sky.

“To freedom” he said.

“To freedom,” they all repeated after him. Then as a group they tipped back the glasses into their mouths. The liquid poured into their mouths, immediately stinging their lips and tongue. Its fiery essence burned down each of their throats. One by one they coughed and lost some sense of reality for a few seconds.
“Hot damn that’s some good shit!” screamed Kelly, pouring himself another. Daniel looked around at the other faces, all laughing at Kelly, who was standing up sipping his second cup of this poison that had engulfed all of his senses.

‘So this is it’ he thought, ‘days of riding hard west to a place we’ve never been or seen, just dreamed of. Nights of drinking and resting from our long rides, but nothing seems to change.’ Daniel poured himself another drink. Looking at the stars he thought to himself a little more, ‘Nothing has changed. The same guys I’ve spent my whole life with are right next to me. I wake up every morning still, just to ride all day. Sure that fuck is dead, but I’m not, and I’m alone here. These boys don’t know what they’re doing here. They are just following a dream that I told them about. Shit, we’d all probably be still in Dayton if it wasn’t for me telling them I wanted to leave.’

‘Maybe its best that we left anyway, I mean look at our lives there, I bet it’s best being here…. I mean there, or wherever. Shit, just any place but home.’ Daniel realized he had called Dayton home. The word rang in his head. ‘Home, where was home, with that fuck of a father? With these 5 guys working all day? Was it in Dayton? Where was home, or where is it?’ The thought set in hard for him. Feeling the effects of the word, but not realizing that he had finished his 3 glass of moonshine.

He sat up and looked around at his friends. Everyone was passed out already. Lying on the floor, drooling and shaking once in a while. Daniel put his glass down on root, and it tipped over and clinked as it hit the hard dirt floor. He realized what he had done, and reached down to pick it up.

A sharp pain shot right down his left arm, as soon as he felt it he reached for his shoulder. A large wooden arrow stuck right into his arm. He screamed, loud and panicked from the pain and surprise of an arrow in his arm. His friends all stood up quickly but too fast, for they were all extremely intoxicated from the drink.

Daniel tried to stand up. Unable to move his left arm to support himself he fell over. As sat back up, horror struck him deep inside, as he saw a longhaired man with his face painted black come flying into the light. In the man’s hand a large knife cut right into Kelly’s jugular. Another man came up and stabbed Adam in the back. Daniel watched both young men fall to the floor.

Daniel got to his feet and sprinted towards his horse. The two Indians didn’t see him disappear. One of them was busy cutting the scalp off of Adam, while the other was wrestling with Theodore. Teddy put up a good fight, tossing and turning with the Indian. They fumbled around near the fire, forcing the other Indian to stop cutting off Adam’s scalp and come to help his friend. He wiped the blood off on his thigh and ran over to the two brawling. As he came up to them he pulled his arm high above his, holding the sharp knife that had killed Kelly, and had been used to remove part of Adam’s scalp. The blade shimmered a reflection of the fire.

A shot rang out, deafening the two on the floor. The knife dropped from the Indians hands, as he fell forwards over the two fighting. Teddy and the Indian let go of each other and rolled over onto their backs to see where the shot came from. There sat Daniel on his horse holding his rifle in his hand pointed at the Indian. “Don’t fuckin move you damn injun!” he yelled. Teddy stood up quickly. “Go get your gun, Teddy, quick!” Daniel barked, with terror ringing in his voice.

Teddy couldn’t understand why he needed to go get his gun. He ran over quickly to his horse, and unstrapped his long musket. He checked it to make sure it was still loaded with gunpowder, and he poured some muzzle balls into it. He then ran over to Daniel looking at him in terror. He saw now that Daniel’s left arm was covered in blood, and a long thick arrow was sticking in it.

“Shoot him, quick” Daniel said. Teddy hesitated for a second; he had never killed a man before. He looked at the Indian, over the tip of his barrel. His finger embraced the trigger, and his eyes focused on the chest of the Indian. The Indian laughed, he could see the fear in Teddy’s eyes.

“Teddy!” Daniel screamed so loud, it shocked teddy, and he squeezed the trigger. The Indian dropped his head to the floor and lay there motionless. Blood oozed between the openings of his garment. The two of them stared in total disbelief. ‘What has just happened?’ Daniel thought. ‘What the fuck just happened?’ Tears ran down from his face. He looked around at his friends. Their bodies strewn on the ground, Adam’s scalp hanging off part of his head.
Kelly with his face in a puddle of his own blood. Behind him Jensen with the one Indians knife still lodged far up under his chin. His mouth stapled to his head by the extremely sharp knife. Teddy wouldn’t have lived, if it hadn’t been for the knife getting stuck in Jensen’s head, for the knife belonged to the Indian that wrestled him.

Daniel and Teddy stared in awe at the massacre of dead bodies. The fire crackled loudly in the silence, and then an arrow shot straight over the fire, into Teddy’s chest. A very audible wheeze came from his mouth. Teddy dropped to the floor on his knees, coughing up blood, while clutching the arrow that penetrated his lungs.

He collapsed head first onto the floor, pushing the arrow even farther into his body, until it was protruding from his backside. Daniel watched in amazement. He then realized what had just happened. He kicked hard on the horse, only to see five Indians in front of him with tomahawks drawn. He turned his horse hard, and faced the fire, where he could see more men. He spun the horse around to face even more men. He was now surrounded.

The Indians ran up hollering in high-pitched screams as they knocked Daniel off his horse, and beat him to death with their tomahawks. The Indians stole the horses, guns, and supplies. They left the five scalpless boys naked lying face down. Finally, Daniel was free.

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