A splitting pain shot through his back, then another through his ribs. The air leapt from his lungs when the pain drilled through his chest and finally through his skull. Then there was nothing. Jackson felt fine, he felt awake and opened his eyes to darkness. A pitch black nothingness where even sound was absent. Where ever he was, it was not cold, nor hot. It was merely…
“Nothing.” A voice suddenly broke out. The voice sounded cool and collected. A match lit up and moved to the lamp, giving dim light to the small wooden table Jackson sat at. The table was old and looked warped from age. Across from Jackson sat a man in a fine suit of black with a yellow vest underneath. On his head sat a hat, but his face was covered in shadow. “Mr. Jackson, are you with me?” The man across the table asked.
Jackson stayed silent looking around, it was just blackness around their tiny table. The chair he was sitting on looked as old as the table. He inspected himself quickly, the same black and faded leather vest and pinstripe pants, the old brown shirt still marked with dirt and blood, all of it just as he had last remembered. He gave a look of confusion.
“Mr. Jackson.” The man paused. “You look as if you have remembered something.” He said with the faint outline of a smile as far as Jackson could tell. The man leaned forward on the table and the light revealed his coy smile and bared, white teeth.
“Where am I?” Jackson asked quietly looking directly at the man across from him.
“Always to the point Jackson, I admire that.” The man replied leaning back once again. “Can I offer you a smoke or a drink perhaps?” Jackson paused.
“How ‘bout both.” He shrugged and pushed his salt and pepper hair back.
The man reached down under the table and brought up a jar of whiskey and a couple of glasses. Then pulled a case out of his jacket and slid all of it across to Jackson. “Jackson, I need your help understanding some things about the last couple of months you have had.”
“You tell me where I am, and who you are and we can see about that.” Jackson said as calmly as ever, pulling a cigarette out of the case and lighting it. “You a sheriff or a marshal or something?”
“I have a lot of titles, none of which I want to bore you with. As to where you are; is out of the fire. I pulled you out from under a large willow tree just outside Denver. I want to know why you ended up under that tree. So be sure to tell me about the train ride you took and all the little moments leading up to it.” The man said.
“Yer starting to sound like yer from back east.” Jackson muttered opening the jar and filling the glass. “And it sounds like you already know what happened with the train.”
“But I don’t know exactly why things happened the way they happened. Only you can really shed light on that. You, Mr. Jackson, undoubtedly have the most interesting story here.” The man said. He sat still looking towards Jackson before reaching over towards the cigarettes and taking one. “I’ll tell you what, if you tell me every important detail that has anything to do with the train; then I will not only free you, but I will give you the little peace and quiet I know you deserve.”
“Maybe you should have just left me under the tree then.” Jackson chuckled. He threw back the whiskey and refilled his glass. “Fine, but every detail is a little tough for someone like me. I will try my best, but there is no guarantee.”
“I am sure you will find it surprisingly easy to remember.” The man said puffing on his cigarette.
Jackson thought for a moment and he could. Just as before, his memories came flooding back as if he were experiencing it for the first time. Being on the train, on the road, buying the horse, and back and back. Memories of being a young man, back to a kid, to a child, to an infant; every moment was clear and perfect.
“Do you want answers Jackson?” The man asked with another one of those smiles. Jackson replied with a blank stare. “If you want answers then give me what I want to know.”
“Ok.” Jackson whispered so quietly, it was almost inaudible.
“Because I know that stare and I know what you are trying to process, let me explain this and you just listen. I know a man approached you in a saloon. Start your story from there but I don’t just want what happened; I want to know what you were thinking as you were going through all of this. It is important that you explain your thought process, whatever you were feeling, all of it.” He reached under the table and brought up a leather bound book and opened it with pen in hand.
“Ok.” Jackson said louder. His blank stare had turned into a thoughtful meditation. He puffed his cigarette and threw back another whiskey.