Mama, put my Guns in the Ground - I can’t Shoot them Anymore
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Part 4

Mama, put my guns in the ground

I can't shoot them anymore

That long black cloud is comin' down

I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Bob Dylan

Edward Kelly, weary, tired, muddled, rode his horse to the edge of the swamp. He took one last look at his orders and their corresponding warrant, and dismounted.

FULFILL WARRANT 811.

NOTES:
The “Hazeltown Swamp Witch” has been a story that’s persisted perhaps for as long as Hazeltown itself. Despite this, tales of actually encountering the thing have only just begun springing up in consistent numbers. I only saw it once, and even then it was very briefly. Its legs and arms were strangely long, and its skin was green and slimy. However, I don’t know if it’s actually dangerous. It just seemed scared.

-Iris Thompson

WANTED

Gaskell Observational Consortium

The Hazeltown Swamp Witch

DEAD OR ALIVE

It didn’t feel important anymore. He didn’t know what did.

Justice?

What was justice?

Every night he heard the cries of that baby. That baby he’d left behind in the doomed house. That baby he’d left behind in the explosion.

That baby he left to die.

And here he was, fulfilling another soulless order without thought. It was all he had left, after all. He dismounted his horse and entered the swamp, with his senses primed and his gun ready. At least this time he wouldn’t have to worry about killing a human.

He waded through that gloomy swamp for what felt like hours. Here, time seemed to be far and gone, stiller than the murky swamp water. Every distant movement made him flinch, and he’d drawn his gun in vain more times than he could count.

After an eternity in the timeless mire, Edward Kelly’s priorities switched from hunting to finding a way out. He was tired and ragged, and his boots were soaked. The way back from which he came seemed to lead only deeper into the boundless marsh.

That’s when he saw the figure. It may have been of a normal height, but its limbs seemed much longer than any person’s should have been. Its skin was a muddled green, shining with a layer of slime. It wore no clothes, only the long, tangled black hair that reach down to its knees. Kelly kept his hand near his holster.

“So I’m guessing you’re the Swamp Witch, huh?”

If his appearance had been a surprise, the creature made no indication of it, only looking at Kelly with large eyes.

“No. Me Aé. No witch.”

“Witch or no witch, doesn’t matter to me. Been sent to deal with ya, so let’s make this easy.” If there had once been a spark of determination in saying lines like these, it was long-gone by now. Instead it was replaced by slow words and a sigh.

“Deal Aé?”

“Yes, that’s what I said. I have to deal with ya, take you out, you know.”

“Where take Aé?”

Kelly wondered if this was an act, if he was being fooled again.

“Somewhere far away, where you can’t hurt nobody.”

“Aé not hurt anybody. Aé live here. Eat fish.”

Kelly lowered his hat so he didn’t have to look at those eyes - those large, confused, innocent eyes. They looked honest. Maybe it wasn’t an act.

“Maybe she does, but Aé’s gotta go now.”

“Go? Aé not go. Aé home.”

“Damnit, this isn’t easy for me! I have my orders! And they’re to get you gone and get out of this blasted swamp!” Kelly roared.

This frightened Aé, and she disappeared into the waters of the swamp.

“Now come back here. I can’t do no chasing anymore.” Kelly was drained. Could he even do it this time? Could he kill her? Was she really deserving of his cold justice?

Aé’s head surfaced.

“Scary man. Go away.”

“Believe me, I would if I could.”

“Scary man lost?”

“Yup, scary man’s lost.”

And maybe it was because Edward Kelly really did look more lost than anyone ever could be. Maybe it was because he looked like a defeated man - a man that didn’t know what he was doing anymore. Maybe Aé saw this, and that’s why she said what she did.

“Aé show way. Follow.”

So he did.

They continued in silence, Aé gracefully maneuvering through the marsh and Kelly trudging through it. Aé stopped once. She grabbed a fish and Kelly watched as Aé’s slimy skin dissolved the thing and absorbed it. He would have been repulsed if the creature he was looking at wasn’t the only thing that had shown him mercy in a long time.

As a matter of fact, it was the only thing that showed him mercy in year and years. Maybe that’s why, when he pulled his gun to its head, that his hand shook so much. He could barely hold it straight now. The crying was back to haunt him again. The dead were back to haunt him again. They pulled at his hand, his trigger finger. It felt like he was pushing it against a brick wall.

And that’s when he showed his own mercy. His arm dropped, and he put the gun back into his holster. This time, he couldn’t do it. Aé continued onward again. Kelly followed.

In time they reached the edge of the swamp, and Kelly took one last look at the creature that had saved him.

“Uhm, thanks.”

“Scary man go now.”

“He will. And you’ll go back to your swamp. You’ll be safe now.”

And Aé did return to her swamp, disappearing into the trees and ferns in seconds.

And Kelly was alone again. But this time, he felt right. And he knew why.

He felt honorable.



Part 5

Many times I sold my fast gun for a place to lay my head

Till the nights began to haunt me by the men that I lay dead

Couldn't stand it any longer with the life that I'd begun

So I said good-bye to Jeannie and became a running gun

Running Gun, Tompall & Jim Glaser

ACCOMPANY TEXAS RANGERS TO ASSIST IN LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT UNTIL FURTHER ORDERS ARE PROVIDED. NOTES ON ANOMALOUS WARRANTS WILL BE UNAVAILABLE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
NOTES:
This will be the last note I write. I have found out Maria is selling these to some other organization responsible for the death of many. I can’t be a part of that. I’m no longer working with her. All investigations from now on will be my own, and will belong to no one but myself. So, to all of the devious people who have used my notes to spread death, goodbye.

-Iris Thompson

A caravan had come through Hazeltown, bringing the promised Texas Rangers with it. Edward Kelly had been waiting for days, laying low and reassessing his morals. It had been a fruitful time.

But that time was over, and the Rangers were here. Kelly had joined the caravan, following his orders even if he wasn’t sure he believed in them anymore. Neither the Texas Rangers nor the Consortium agents that they had partnered with, he found, were savory company.

“Get on board, newcomer!” A large specimen of a man shouted. “Consortium or Rangers?”

“I’m with the Consortium.”

“Ah, a headhunter then! We’ve got a couple of you bastards riding with us! Now get yer ass on board - we’re about to leave!”

And off they rode, covered wagons crawling along the ground like a trail of ants. Texas Rangers and Consortium members regaled each other with tales all along the trip.

“…and then I shot the feller four times in the chest!”

Laughter abounded in the covered wagon as one ranger finished a particularly crude story. They had been sharing such stories for a few days now, and Kelly was beyond sick of them and the people who spoke them.

“Alright, now it looks like we’re gonna be splitting off. Where are you going, loner?” The large man who led the law-enforcing members of the caravan pointed a finger at Kelly. “You know the choices: two cowardly, sniveling excuses of men running from the law! If you wanna stay in Texas with us rangers and a few from the Consortium, there’s Nathan Rivers. He’s a real slippery son of a bitch, but we’ll get to him. Of course, the rest of the Consortium members riding with us are heading North out of Texas to get one Dan Ricketts. With a record like his, he musta been running from the law the moment he jumped out his Momma. Your call.”

Kelly chose to stick with his own kind. And so he rode with the Consortium agents for days, heading north. Time had not warmed him up to them. As the weather got colder, so too did Kelly’s attitude towards these strangers.

“So, Edward Kelly, you heard about this Dan Ricketts fellow much?”

“Nope.”

“Ah, it won’t be much of a fight. He ain’t killed no body in fifteen long years.”

“Seriously? All six of us are chasing down one man who ain’t shot anyone else for that long?”

“Maybe, but the one man he did take down was a Consortium agent. And an act like that don’t go unavenged.”

“Hmph.”

Kelly didn’t feel good about this.

After all, didn’t everyone deserve the chance to turn their life around?


Part 6

I hurt myself today

To see if I still feel

Edward Kelly, six hunters and one outlaw stood on a Kansas mountain in the snow. Despite being among the hunters, Kelly no longer had the same hunting instincts his accomplices did. He was cold, and his head was filled with doubt and self-reflection. They had tracked down the fleeing man easily, and had caught up to him after leaving the caravan very quickly. In this moment, however, Edward was weighing his choices

He could join in his fellow agents and shoot this running man down like a dog in the cold, and maybe his life would feel normal again.

But just thinking that brought back the cries in the back of his head.

He could spare the man and walk away, but that would leave six men to shoot the guy. What good would that do? And that man wasn’t innocent, either. He had killed too.

An agent to his left shouted.

“Alright, you’ve been running long enough, but there’s no escaping now! Drop your weapons and we’ll make this a quick execution.”

The surrounded fellow held his gun in a shaky hand.

“Please, I don’t want this anymore. I’m done. I can’t run anymore. I’m so tired. I don’t want to kill none of ya but y’all are forcing my hand. Don’t make me kill again.”

“Didn’t ask ya to shoot. We asked you to face justice, you mangy son of a bitch!” A GOC agent shouted.

“Please! It’s been so long since I made my mistake and I’ve changed my ways. I’m peaceful now! I don’t do no killing! Don’t force my hand!”

Kelly could feel the tension among the hunters around him. He had to make a decision, quick.

I focus on the pain

The only thing that's real

It suddenly seemed so clear what had to be done. There were six killers that wanted to kill again, and there was one man who didn’t want to kill at all. Then again, that one man was also a killer. Maybe none of them deserved mercy. Maybe that was true justice.

Edward Kelly had decided what to do.

Nobody moved. The tension was thicker than molasses and everyone had their hands on their guns.

Pulling both guns out of his holsters, Kelly shot the agents both to his left and right.

The needle tears a hole

The old familiar sting

Edward Kelly dove into the snow as chaos erupted. With the GOC agents blindsided by this betrayal, Dan Ricketts started running. Kelly had just enough time to shoot another agent distracted by this escape, before bullets flew his way.

Somewhere on his left shoulder, a magnificent burst of pain came, turning quickly to numbness with the cold and the adrenaline. Kelly kept running as he aimed straight and true.

Try to kill it all away

But I remember everything

There were three agents left, blasting away at Edward Kelly as he dashed through the rocky snow. He’d already taken one hit and he knew he couldn’t take another. It was time to be quick.

One man had already used six shots and was reloading as fast as he could. Kelly shot him twice and jumped down behind a large rock as the other two got closer to him.

His shoulder was really starting to get goddamn painful. Leaning over the edge of the rock, he struck one agent in the leg. As he went down, Kelly took out the other agent with the pistol in his good arm. He let the last agent howl for a second on the ground before he doled out his final judgement on the man. And when he looked on the body, he looked back into the cold dead eyes of his past self. The facade of “justice” was still draped over his dying face. Kelly shot him again. And Kelly killed his former life.

One left.

He caught up to Dan Ricketts soon enough.

What have I become

My sweetest friend?

And then there was two.

Two young men, changed by experience and circumstance. Hardened by an angry world and a dangerous life.

Chilled to the bone.

Edward Kelly and Dan Ricketts.

Hunter and outlaw.

Man and man.

They lifted their guns slowly, aiming at the last living thing in sight. Each man was ready to die at this very moment.

Everyone I know

Goes away in the end

It was the final moment of justice.

The final moment of honor.

Now the cowardly outlaw would meet his end.

Or the agent of justice would meet his fate.

And you could have it all

They were weak from battle. Shivering. Fatigued. At their wit's end but too mad, too committed, too weary to turn back now.

My empire of dirt

But was this justice? Was it honor?

The endless cycle of bloodshed would continue. The running would never end. The battle would go on and on, until they were both dead.

I will let you down

And neither of them wanted to die.

This wasn’t justice.

And this wasn’t honor.

I will make you hurt

Edward Kelly lowered his gun.

And Dan Ricketts followed suit.

And with it, the hate was gone. The cycle had been broken. The war was over. And now Kelly realized he was truly free.

Then Edward Kelly started laughing. A low, cold chuckle, growing into a full, warm roar. Dan Ricketts began laughing too. The two men laughed and laughed and laughed.

Kelly patted Ricketts’ shoulder, and the two men walked off to get a drink.

It was a cold world, after all.

If I could start again

A million miles away

I will keep myself

I would find a way

Hurt, Trent Reznor

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