Chapter Eight – Wisdom and Curiosities

The thing about Jack Horne was, he wasn’t a stupid man.

He was a lonely man, yes. And he was a vengeful man when the mood called for it. And for too long a time, he was a broken man.

That happened when one lost his family, wife and children in one fell swoop, and he knew without a doubt who the culprits were.

But rather than stop with the Crow who had attacked his family for the crime of being white and living too near to their lands, Jack had let the vengeful man have the reins and kept killing until he had three hundred scalps to his name and three hundred dead Crow haunting him.

And they did haunt him, even still.

At first, they had all been loud and angry, most especially the five who had attacked his family. They were the reason he had retreated into the mountains when he came back to his senses, when the vengeful man gave way to the broken one. And their voices always called to him, damning and condemning his actions.

But, over time, the voices of the ones who he had taken righteous vengeance upon fell silent, as if they had been crushed by the weight of the remaining two hundred ninety-five. Those voices grew quieter in his head, but the Crow remained with him… only they had stopped damning him and started working with him.

For some reason, those other ghosts haunting him seemed to want him alive.

Jack remained in the mountains, however, where it seemed to be safest and his ghosts were much quieter. But there was something odd that began happening.

Whenever monsters stopped by the supply station where Jack himself often wound up when he needed something, they shied away from him. He had personally heard Fae clam up and sink back against walls when he passed by, and on one occasion a demon had yelped and sank into the shadows; as far as Jack knew, the young man hadn’t returned.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He was a lonely and broken man, and on occasion he could be a vengeful one. But he was just a man, and would remain that way so long as he listened to the warnings his ghosts gave him.

He was furious when he had been approached on the trail up to his cabin by Ken and Len Pigeon, the two idiots stopping him to ask him about the stories people told. Jack had told the boys he wasn’t interested in sharing stories, and then…

And then two hundred ninety-five voices began to scream a warning at him just in time for him to duck away. Not enough to avoid the blow to the head or the tumble over the edge of the cliff, but enough for him to remain somewhat lucid and to tuck into the fall so he wouldn’t break anything.

The vengeful man came back out to the forefront, trailing the Pigeon boys for two straight days while listening to the whispers of his ghosts. His constant companions whispered that it had been too close this time, that he’d nearly been lost to the monster soul trying to come to the surface. He wondered, even as he tracked the Pigeon Brothers with the intent of retrieving his property, if that was what the monsters sensed in him, if they could sense that wrongness that his ghosts feared.

And then, well.

Somehow he knew that four of the men with the man calling himself Chisolm—and he did remember the man, vaguely—were monsters even before he looked their way. To a one, they had hands on weapons, and the skinny Mexican one had been baring far too many sharp teeth; the one who was likely an angel of the lord had been hovering by the demon, who had been watching him carefully with fathomless black eyes. The one he couldn’t rightly identify as anything beyond old and powerful had watched him warily, hands on his own weapons but not touching the iron.

He also knew, in that same distant way, that the woman and the youngest man in the party were at least part-monster. And he didn’t want to ponder on how or why he knew that; he feared that it was the same thing that his ghosts feared.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He had heard tales of the monster who had been a man first, one with blood on his hands or an evil in his heart when he died. He knew what those men became.

His ghosts whispered it when they thought they were quiet enough, but he lived in silence; it was never too quiet to hear the whisper of wendigo on the wind.

If he was a smarter man, Jack would have retreated back up the mountain with his property and let that be the end of that. He would have returned to his cabin and his traps and waited to see how death would try to come for him. He would have waited to see if he had the fortitude to put a bullet to himself before the monster hiding under his skin could free itself.

Instead, he made it halfway back to his home before stopping, heaving a sigh, and turning his eyes towards the sky.

“I’m going to end up regretting this,” he asked aloud, “aren’t I?”

Destiny fate signs came the whispers. Hope redemption chance.

Jack sighed again. “Y’all ain’t any help, you know this.”

Not all evil, argued one.

Good in all men and monsters, another chimed in.

“All right, okay,” he said, shaking his head and turning back around. “If I die because of this, I’m blaming all of you.”

Companion enemy friend.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He was a broken man for the most part, and at times, he was a lonely man. But it was near impossible to be truly alone with so many ghosts following one, and he’d been carrying his for years. Maybe if he did die in whatever was to come, they could finally move on and leave him in peace.

And yet, he doubted that, too.

Ah well. Whatever happened would happen, and maybe he could learn to live with that the same as he had with the ghosts.

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