ABOUT THREE MONTHS AGO I should have died. Still will, technically, and still three months ago. At least that’s what they told me, the two men who approached me that is. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around it at the time, still can’t, and I’ve had five years mull it over.
Yeah, I know that didn’t make a lick of sense. I’ll try and explain.
As I sit in Hafford’s saloon in Tombstone, Arizona it is October 26, 1881. I was supposed to die back in July of 1881. But two hours before I was to be shot and killed, I was taken away by a pair of men in fancy suits who’d made an offer that I’d found somewhat hard to refuse. That was five years ago. And I’d been working for them ever since.
So, the question you’re probably asking is this: How could July of 1881 be both three months ago and five years ago?
The answer is quite simple, though on the face of it, more than a little far-fetched.
I know. I didn’t believe it myself. Not at first.
See, in July of 1881 I’d been in New Mexico. Fort Sumner to be exact. I’d been hiding from certain parties who’d had a vested interest in seeing me dead. My aspirations were to the opposite. So I was, at the time, doing my best to stay a step or two away from the hangman’s noose.
That’s when the two fellas had come to see me. The sun had just set and I’d found the two waiting for me in my room. Well, taking in to consideration the reason for my laying low, when I walked in on the two fellas, I took them for someone who’d come to kill me. So I didn’t ask any questions. Instead I cleared leather and commenced to shooting.
I’d missed them both.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the best shot when it comes to the use of a six gun, despite what all the stories say, but those men were standing no less than three feet from me. I should have had them dead to rights. Yet, I missed.
Turns out they had some kind of machine on them, something from the future. It was this dull black box the size of a deck of cards. They each had one. They told me it projected some sort of field out around them. Not like a shield, I mean, the bullets didn’t bounce off of them. No, instead the field pushed the bullets off to either side of them. It was all magic to me. Still is.
So these two fellas tell me that I’m gonna die in a few hours. They tell me the exact time, the place, and the name of the man who is to do it. Well, you can imagine how I might react to such news. It was instinct more than anything. I drew my pistols once more and let loose.
But again, I missed due to those little boxes.
The two men, well they weren’t fazed at all about being shot at a few times. If anything they were used to it and seemed a bit embarrassed over the whole affair. They only smiled and showed me a newspaper that was dated the next day. In it was an article regarding my death. That alone didn’t convince me. The picture of my corpse in which they handed over next brought me over to their way of thinking.
That’s when they told me that they could help me live an additional ten years if I would agree to assist them in their mission.
Well, I can’t say that I wasn’t curious, so I heard them out.
I didn’t understand a lot of what they said, you know, the science of it. But what it came down to was this:
They were from the future. They worked for an organization called the Phoenix Initiative that policed the time stream.
At some point in the distant future, this gal goes off and figures out a way to travel through time.
For most, the technology was used to go back and view historical events from a firsthand point of view. I’m told that the men and women who made a profession out of studying dinosaurs were able to both confirm and deny every theory put forth since the first bones were discovered.
Entire fields of historical study had to be rewritten as firsthand knowledge was able to show what the original historians had gotten wrong.
But because humans are as humans are, the technology soon turned into something for people to make money off of. Folks would go back in time and make investments on stocks they knew would pay out in big bucks and other such schemes to line their vaults.
But even more sinister, some people thought it might be a good idea to go back and change the outcome of certain events to their advantage, or to stop the events from happening altogether.
It had all started with the best of intentions. The Phoenix Initiative was actually created to take out some short little German fella before he started a war and killed a great big bunch of people.
What they learned quickly however, was that once you start changing events in the past, it changes events in the future, or what would be for them, their present. Which was sort of the idea, of course. But, to their dismay, they discovered that the changes they’d made weren’t necessarily any better than how the world had been before. And sometimes they were much worse. Meaning that in the end, they took the little German guy out, but only managed to trade one global atrocity for another.
That didn’t stop others from trying the same, however. Soon whole families and bloodlines were being wiped from history with the pull of a single trigger. The time stream was in chaos.
Well, the Phoenix Initiative learned from their mistakes and decided that it was time to put a stop to it all.
Now they go back and fix the mistakes that others have made when those others were back there fiddling about in time.
It’s all a bit complicated.
But they don’t only deal with global events. They deal with the smaller matters as well.
And I work for them now.
I’m one of their soldiers.
But, of course, there’s a catch.
First, I get ten years, that’s it. I’m not all that clear on why. Something about the destabilization of something called the space-time continuum and paradoxes and other words I didn’t understand. All I really needed to know what that I had a ten year contract.
Second, at the end of those ten years, they return me back to that room in Fort Sumner on that day in July of 1881, and I go to my death willingly. If I didn’t, then I’d be messing with the future and all that.
And I said yes.
It wasn’t that difficult of a choice, really. I could die in a few hours, or I could hold it off for ten years. And in those ten years I could actually do the world a little good. Something I surely hadn’t been doing at the time, despite, once again, what they wrote about me.
It’s why I was in Tombstone, Arizona on October 26, 1881, nursing a mighty fine whiskey and watching a man named Wyatt smoke a cigar. I was on a job.
Wyatt had taken but a handful of puffs on his cigar and barely a sip of the coffee when two men walked into the saloon. They went straight to Wyatt’s table. All three men had similar features.
The two men, like Wyatt, were both dressed in black and went heeled.
The younger of the two had a revolver on each hip. He wore his anger like a sign around his neck. The kid was practically vibrating with it.
The other man, who looked to be the oldest of the three, favored one revolver over two, but was also carrying a short, double-barreled shotgun. He had a badge pinned to his vest. I noticed it poking out from behind his jacket as he had walked in. He carried himself with more aplomb. Stoic. Like nothing could shake him.
The two men would be Wyatt’s brothers. Morgan, the jumped up younger of the two, and Virgil.
“They've moved on to the O.K. Corral,” Virgil said.
“Who we lookin’ at, Morgan?” Wyatt said.
“The McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom. Billy Claiborne. Plus Ike and Billy Clanton.”
“What do you want to do Wyatt?” Virgil said.
“Well hell, Virgil. You’re the law around here. What do you want to do?” Wyatt said.
That Wyatt seemed to be a real cold one. I could almost feel it from across the room. Morgan looked angry enough to chew nails. Yet, as angry as he was, I could see an excitement in him as well. The boy was so worked up at the thought of shooting somebody that he could have been dancing. Reminded me a bit of me from five years ago.
Virgil just looked tired. Not so much angry, but grim and exhausted.
“I say we go down there and disarm the lot of ‘em,” Virgil said, looking out toward the street.
“They may not want to give up their guns, Virgil,” Morgan said.
“Then we convince them,” Virgil replied.
Wyatt took a sip of coffee, set the cup on the table, stood, retrieved his pistol from the table top, and slid it into his holster.
“Let’s go,” he said and the three walked out into the sunshine.
This is what I’d been waiting for. It was why I was here. This wasn’t one of those global event jobs. No, this was something stupid and personal. A grudge held by one family for over a couple of centuries.
If you’re a student of history, or just a fan of the Old West, you’ll recognize the date I mentioned before.
Tombstone, Arizona. October 26, 1881.
The location and date of what history would come to call the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
To be continued . . .