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A Black Day In Comanche Bow, Texas
A short old west sci-fi story by Chuck Keyes
Sheriff Drake Tanner woke up expecting to see the morning sun shining through the small cell window. The morning sun hasn't risen yet, but Drake feels physically refreshed as if he's had his full night's sleep. Curiosity of wanting to know the time, forced him to roll off his cot, and scratch a wooden match to ignite the oil burning lantern hanging over his desk. He first rubbed his eyes with fisted hands, and then he looked over at his wall mounted wind-up clock. That's down right impossible, he thought, my doggone clock must be broken. Drake quickly pulled his pants up over his old long johns, slipped on his favorite rawhide shirt, and yanked on his boots. He stepped outside to look up at the black sky. Strangely, there's not a star to be seen, making it as dark as being in an outhouse without a half-moon shaped window. The town is quiet, and he figures everyone must still be sleeping. He also noticed there's no wind, not even a slight breeze, and the still air smells musty. Drake walked back into his sheriff's office, set his coffee pot on the pot belly stove, and sat down at his desk. He began to look over his new stack of wanted posters he received on yesterday's mid afternoon stage.
Unexpectedly, Grub Murdock, the town's faithful blacksmith, barged into Drake's office. "Sheriff Tanner, the sun hasn't come up yet," he excitedly shouted, "It should've risen more than two hours ago!"
"Grub, you're all fired up. Sit down and settle down your mind!"
Grub plopped down in a wooden visitor's chair, but his old legs nervously danced in place. "Sheriff, what are we going to do without our sun?"
"Are you sure the sun is missing?"
"I've checked nearly every time piece in town, and the sun is running late, just like the stagecoach always does every day." Grub's long white whiskers swayed back and forth while he shook his head in despair. "Sheriff, this is bad medicine. Might be that the sun's fire has died out!"
Drake chuckled. "If the sun's flame had been snuffed out, I reckon there would still be some glowing coals up there."
"There's nothing up there but blackness," whined Grub. "I'm figuring we better wakeup the town's folk. They all need to be warned about our missing sun!"
"Now let's not start a brush fire unless we have to. No one has been hurt, and I reckon the folks will be waking up on their own soon enough."
"Sheriff, do you have a jug of rye? Maybe it'll settle me inners down."
"Yup, behind you there's a jug up on the top shelf."
Grub stood up and jumped up to grab the jug, pulled the cork, and took a swig of the brew. He smiled, showing off a few gaps of missing front teeth. "By golly, this here firewater will settle my innards."
Betty Bell waltzed into the sheriff's office. Drake perked up like a starving man who just found a can of beans. As always, Betty is wearing a beautiful colorful dress and fancy jewelry she purchased from the old northern states. "Drake, where's the sun?" she asked while she flung her long blond curly hair over shoulder.
Drake shrugged his broad shoulders. "Betty, if I knew where the sun is, I'd go fetch it for you."
"I'm still waiting for the moon you promised me." She leaned over his desk and whispered, "now that I'm thinking about it, you've been promising me the moon every time you're lookin' to partner up with me in my bed!"
"Sorry, Betty, but I'm still lookin' for a rope long enough to lasso the moon and pull it down for you."
"The sun being missing is going to mess up my saloon business! My patrons will be drinking more during the day, and they'll be too whisked up to come back at night for the entertainment. What you need to be doing is gathering up a posse to go search for the scoundrels who robbed us of our sun!"
Drake Chuckled. "So you actually think outlaws have taken our sun?"
"That's what Joe my bartender believes. Besides, this is the first time the sun didn't rise in morning, so somebody must've run off with it!"
Grub heard a commotion outside, so he opened the door to take a gander. "Dang, Sheriff, there's mob with torches coming this way. I haven't seen a mob this big since when they all wanted to hang that bean eater for horse stealing."
"Oh joy!" Drake grabbed his double barrel shotgun and bolted out of his office to meet the mob out on Main Street.
"Sheriff, what the hell are you going to do about returning our sun?" shouted one of the Comanche Bow citizens.
"Yeah, yelled a woman with anger in her eyes."
A bearded man frantically waved his flaming torch over his head. "We want our sun returned to where it belongs!"
Old Daisy Crumpet shook her fist in anger. Sheriff, my flower garden needs the sun! If you don't do your job and find it, then I'm going to supply the rope that'll be used to hang your ass from the old red oak in the town square!"
"Folks, I didn't take the sun. I don't have any reckoning where the sun may be! Pastor Wilkins, I'm surprised to see you joined up with this unlawful mob."
"You're the sheriff, Drake, so I reckon it's your job to find out what happen to our sun."
"Look up," shouted Drake, "The stars are also missing. Do you want me to find them as well?"
"Yup!" Nodded the pastor. "It's your job as being our duly appointed sheriff!"
"Folks, my job as being your sheriff, is to uphold the law, protect all you nice folks from outlaws, and to keep the peace, which does not include searching for our sun and stars. Everyone here knows that forming a mob is against the law here in Comanche Bow, so everyone needs to backscatter. Although, a better thought is for everyone to go to church and pray for the return of our sun and stars."
"Sheriff, do you think our missing sun and stars are bible related?" asked Pastor Wilkins.
"Pastor, you know I'm not a bible thumping man, but the way I see it, I don't reckon a mortal man can steal our sun."
"Are you suggesting God may be the one who removed the sun and stars?" asked the pastor while displaying a bewildered expression on his round plump face.
"Maybe they need needed fixin'," replied Drake, "or perhaps this is the labor of the devil."
Everyone responded with awes, oos, and head nods.
"Folks, I reckon the sheriff is speaking the truth," yelled Pastor Wilkins, "and we all need to meet in the church and drop to our knees in prayer and song."
Everyone followed the pastor off to the church.
Thank God, thought Drake as he spun around on his boot heel and headed back to his office. I know these folks are scared and fired up angry, but there's nothing I can do about it. Before stepping up on the roof covered board walk, he paused on the dirt Main Street to look up at the pitch-black daytime sky. I don't know how everything works up there in the heavens, but I'm figuring if the life giving sun never returns, everything that's living thing down here on the ground is going die off. He stepped into his office to see Betty Bell sitting at his desk, eyeing one of his wanted posters.
"Drake, look at this poster of David McCanles. Five hundred dollars dead or alive. I'd bet you a bottle of good northern whisky that McCanles and his gang had something to do with our missing sun."
"Dear, believe me, no outlaws were involved in the disappearance of our sun. I'm figuring it was most likely God who hung the sun over our heads, so whoever took it would have to be just as powerful as him."
"I'm frightened," said Betty, flashing her pretty sky-blue eyes at Drake. "What are we going to do if the sun never returns? Our missing sun may be the beginning of the end of everything."
Drake shrugged. "I don't know." He helped her to stand up, and then he wrapped his muscular arms around her, pulling her breasts against his chest. Their lips met in a long passionate kiss.
After the kiss, Betty said, "I know what I'd like to do."
"What?" asked Drake.
"I'd like to become a married woman before everything ends."
Drake flashed Betty his silliest grin. "And whom are you planning to marry?"
She powerfully slapped the palms of her hands against Drake's broad chest. "You, of course, the only man I allow to borrow my body for his pleasurable needs."
Drake laughed. "Your howling screams of satisfaction have always proved that you enjoy my bronc busting rides."
"Yes, your bronco riding talents are one of the exciting reasons why I wish to be your wife. Ever since Jack Slade gunned down my pa, leaving me with his salon, I've been waiting for you to ask me to marry you. I love you more than you can ever imagine. In spite of what you may have thought, I have never liked being a single woman who owns a saloon, brothel, and gambling house combination. It makes me look bad in front of the town's women folk, and I don't like the men folk tipping their hats and calling me Madam Bell while displaying smirks on their faces."
"Betty, why haven't you told me this before today?"
"Because it may be the end of everything, so I reckon if I don't say it now, I'll never have a chance to say it in the future."
"Oh, Betty Bell, I do love you, and every day I think about asking you to be my wife."
"What's been stopping you?"
"You are the wealthiest woman in Comanche Bow, and I figured me being a low salaried Sheriff, wouldn't be a good enough man for you to marry. I've been saving up money in the bank by collecting the bounties on law breakers, hunting for my own food, and living here in my sheriff's office. After I grow a large nest egg, I'm planning to ask for your hand in marriage."
"I don't give a dang about how much money you have! My sinful businesses are very lucrative. I have more than enough money for both of us to live high on the hog. I love you for whom you are, a kind hearted, handsome brave man with brawny muscles."
Drake gave Betty a passionate kiss, then he excitedly said, "let's head right over to the church and ask Pastor Wilkins to hitch us up."
"You mean it?"
He grabbed hold of her hand. "I mean it like a heart beat!"
A wide smile formed across her beautiful face.
Within an hour, they were married, and Betty happily took her husband home to give him a hot soapy bath, throw away his old dirty long johns, and to give him a rewarding honeymoon that he'll never forget.
Early the next morning, Drake was the first one to wake to see sunshine passing through the silky white curtains covering the three windows in Betty's bedroom. "Betty, wake up." He gently shook her bare shoulder. "The sun has returned."
Her eyelids jumped up as if they were spring loaded. "Oh my, let's hurry up and get dressed so we can run out to the garden patio to eye the sun."
They passed through the back doorway and stopped dead in their tracks as they looked toward the sunlight.
"What does this mean?" asked Betty.
"I don't know," replied Drake as he shockingly gazed at two suns. Each the same size, sitting close together, and straight up overhead, he can see a giant round moon. The reddish brown moon is so close, he's wondering why it's not falling onto their heads."
After many silent minutes of gazing in wonder, Betty voiced, "somebody messed up our sky."
"Yup, and we now have two smaller suns, but they seem just as bright when we had one sun, plus somebody has pushed our moon closer to our heads."
"Who could've done this?"
"Perhaps it was God, or someone with God's great powers."
Betty pointed her finger. "Drake, what's that shinny tall post over there?"
"Let's take a gander of it."
As they walked across the yard toward the post, a strange box mounted on top of it slowly spun around, aiming a large fisheye at them. Drake tapped his knuckle against the post. "It's not made of wood. It feels hard, like eatin' irons."
"Who do you think put it here?"
"I don't know."
"Look, there are more of these odd posts running along both sides of Main Street, and around the square."
"Now that I have daylight, this morning I'm going to ride out to check on some of the ranch families."
"Okay, but first I'm going to cook you a hardy breakfast."
With a set of new duds Betty purchased for him, along with his gun holstered, Drake mounted his trusted horse he had named Joe. "Let's go, Joe, he said along with a soft kick to Joe's ribs. As he rode along the trial heading toward the Johnson ranch, he noticed more of those shinny posts. By the time he arrived at Tom Johnson's ranch, the twin suns are directly overhead, and the large moon is beginning to set over the horizon.
Tom ran out to meet Drake. "Sheriff, this is dang remarkable. I woke up to see a new sky over my ranch."
"It's the same new sky over everyone's ranch. How's your family?"
"Their okay. Although Emmy is afraid to go outside to do her morning chores. I may have to force her outside!"
"Give her some time, Tom, cause ain't going to be too happy if I hear you've hurt her."
"Okay, I'll give her another day before I drag her outside to do her chores."
"Tom, I see you have some of those strange iron posts planted around your ranch house."
"Yup, and it's those dang posts that are frightening my Emmy. I spent three hours this morning trying to pull one of them out of the ground with my plowing mules, but it wouldn't budge. My thirty pound sledge won't even dent the dang post!"
"Well, Tom, you take care of your family. I'm going to ride on to the Cartwright ranch."
"Okay, say hello to Ben for me."
"I will." He gave Joe a nudge and continued along the trail.
Drake is nearly thirty miles from town when he noticed Joe seems upset about something. He looked around for a rattler, but there weren’t any to be seen. He gently stroked Joe's neck to calm him down. "What's wrong, Joe, are you sensing trouble up ahead?"
He cautiously rode a few hundred feet further, and all of a sudden, Joe came to a stop. Drake dismounted and circled around his horse while lifting each leg to look for any problems with Joe's hoofs. He grabbed the reins to see if Joe will walk with him. "What the hell!" Drake snapped aloud when he bumped his head against a hard wall that he can't see, but he can feel it. He can see the Texas landscape continuing on beyond the invisible wall. He paused to rub the painful lump on his forehead, and then he walked along the side of the wall with Joe. Every five to ten feet he glided his hand against the smooth wall. This is the strangest dang thing I've ever encountered, he thought. Drake bent down and picked up a fallen oak branch, and with all his might, he hit the branch against wall. He continued to hit the wall until the branch broke in half.
Suddenly, the landscape beyond the wall changed, and with bulging eyes of fear, Drake is staring at countless creatures that are somewhat shaped like himself, but their shorter than him, more slender, with gray shinny skin. They're large eyes appear to belong to a tree owl, and their arms, fingers, and legs are long and boney. Their all wearing silver colored silk-like clothing, and he can't tell if their male or female critters. He's figuring either these creatures are locked out, or he's locked in on this side of the wall. Most of the strange creatures are carrying an object that looks a thin book, and the front covers on the books are creating a flashing colorful light. Beyond the rows of critters who are staring at Joe and him, are oddly shaped buildings reaching far up into the sky. Many of the critters are riding on flying machines that are only a few feet above the ground.
Above Drake's head is the backside of a large electronic sign mounted on the other side of the wall. If Sheriff Drake was on the other side of the wall with the critters, and if he could read their alien language being displayed on an electronic screen, then this is what he would've read:
The Zare City Zoo is proud to present a nine hundred square mile habitat of unique alien life, which was barge transferred from planet number eighty-seven, located in the capshaw region of our universe.
Please use your handheld electronic monitors to view the aliens throughout their natural habitat.
Thank you, from the Zare City zoo management.
© October 2011