Holy Smoke by Cam Jace Storykiller
Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019
An hour to sunrise…
Dorothy woke up to the pain. The room was dark, but the bed underneath was such a treat. She hadn’t slept on such cushions for so long. God, how they smelled so good and fresh and clean. Still she didn’t want to get used to such luxury.
The pain increased the more she twisted her body. But it was okay. Tolerable. She could feel the absence of the bullet’s copper from her body. Healing might take some time, but she had no time–it wasn't like she hadn't been shot before.
She was alive for one more day, and that's what mattered so she could find her.
Once she felt better, she found herself calling a name, “Toto.”
A slither of light cut diagonally into the room as the bartender boy entered. Such a gentleman, he was. In his hands he held a tray of food, drinks, and medicine.
“Rise and shine,” he put the tray on the side table then lit up the lamp beside her bed.
Dorothy stared at him but said nothing. She hadn’t been treated as good for some time, and the last time she had she ended up betrayed.
“It’s okay,” he sat by the edge of the bed. “You don’t talk too much, I get it.”
She nodded, appreciating his understanding.
“You’re a tough cookie, if you ask me,” he began slicing her a sandwich. She watched him spread marmalade on hardened toast. She had forgotten people used knives to eat. To her, knives were just another weapon.
“Pardon the sheriff,” he said. “He just wants to keep peace in this town,” he gazed into her eyes. “With all the fear spreading outside.”
No one knew about that fear more than her.
He handed her the sandwich. She didn’t take it and pointed to the bottle. He passed it. Dorothy gulped like she was never going to drink again.
“Whoa,” he said. “Easy. We have a lot of water, Dorothy.”
“Ah,” he moped his head. “You don’t like anyone calling you otherwise,” he stopped, examining her face. “Is it true?”
She tilted her head quizzically.
“That you’re after her.” He said.
It took some time. Not to digest or remember. It’s just the fact that she was after her. The fact that she’s been after her for so long. Longer than she can remember. Door nodded for answer.
The boy shrugged, fear tinting the corner of his eyes. “But she’s not after you, is she?”
She shook her head no. “Don’t worry.”
“Because the sheriff has been asking me all night,” the boy said. “You know we can’t fight her,” he chuckled uncomfortably. “Not that she would be interested in our little thirty people town.”
Door said nothing.
The boy wanted her to say more, but knew she wouldn’t. He wanted to know about the legend, Door of Oz.
He watched Door look out of the window, looking for her horse.
“It’s a good horse,” the boy broke the silence, following her silent gaze outside. “It sure likes sugar.”
It was a thin smile. Weary and faint. A sliver of the beauty she could have drawn on her face. It lit up the evening though.
“Toto,” she said.
“Ah,” he chuckled. “I thought you wanted some ’toto’ whatever that meant.”
Her smiled widened, not as much as he would have wished, but he liked it cause he knew she was smiling at him. Not laughing at him. How old was she? Seventeen, maybe?
She must have looked older than her age. With all the horrors she had seen. One time, travels from Kansas spent the night couldn't stop talking about her. They talking Bleeding Kansas, a nightmarish battle where she had been seen slaughtering ten men or some.
His eyes drifted toward her hands, her face, her skin. The color of her flesh.
“I’m a quadroon,” she explained, proud of her color.
“I’ve heard,” he nodded, a little serious now. “I’ve never met one.”
“Quadroons do their best to hide in plain sight.”
He nodded, pleased she was talking. Apparently, the subject of her being who she was mattered a lot. How couldn’t it? “I guess that’s why you have green eyes.”
“Emerald.” She corrected.
“Oh, yes. Emerald. The color of precious stones.”
“The color of mixed heritage,” she corrected. “Green had never been a human's eye color, not before people like me were born.”
Quadroons were a sensitive subject. In a world torn by civil wars, he shouldn't have asked further but he couldn't, “And the hair?”
She didn’t smile this time and touched her own braids. Once brown curls of an innocent girl in the prairies, now braided and stiffened with dirt.
“You made them yourself?” he was curious.
“A long time ago. Never had a chance to wash.”
“I noticed you smelled sooo bad…” he wrinkled his nose and teased her.
She didn’t get the joke.
He passed. “So all Quadroons are neither white or of color?”
“Depends,” she looked out of the window. “For a Quadroon it’s not the color of skin that haunts them. It’s the color of their soul: their heritage, like I said.”
“Don’t say that. You’re so beau—“
She shushed him, not looking at his way.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—“
She shushed him again.
He followed her gaze outside the window. “Toto is all right—“
She shushed him again and again. “Listen!” She pointed outside.
He craned his head, trying to listen. The sun was about to rise in a few minutes. “All I hear are birds.”
“Monkey birds.” She corrected him, getting out of bed, putting on her belt and guns while staring the window.
“Never heard of Monkey…”
“STOP. TALKING,” she raised her gun. “A rare breed. They come as a prelude.”
“Prelude? What does that mean?”
“The calm before the storm,” She put on her boots, stood and donned her fedora. “You have to wake up the others.”
Door looked back with her Emerald eyes dimming into a blunt lifeless green. “You’re all going to die. She is coming…”