The travel West down Federal Route 2 was not uneventful within the almost pitch black confines of the van. some first timers grumbled about the fact that they had been charged almost one thousand dollars American per head to ride in this shit box. Others simply sat as comfortably as they could given the duress of being shoulder to shoulder in an essentially airless container. Even William’s corpse twitched nervously now and again especially after a particularly jarring impact with the more than occasional potholes. The angle of the grade became apparent after the first half an hour. One of the old timers said that the plan of this coyote was to get off the highway just short of the higher altitudes and take a lesser known dirt trail that would not even show up to the gringo drones or even the satellites. If all went well, they would all be across the border and deep into California by midnight. This little speech seemed to buoy the general spirits within the darkness for an hour or two but the lack of air and heat once again became so unbearable that no one needed to pass around the large plastic wide mouth jug to pee in anymore. After a couple of hours, the van ground the gravel to a halting sharp turn and the ride became bumpier and more tentative. It was obvious that the driver was busy navigating some unpaved mountain path. The jarring motion of tortured springs suggested that the old box van was straining to capacity to perform like a mountain goat. There seemed to be and endless number of tight curves and declining grades usually interrupted by a sharp incline compressing everyone to press once more heavily on the back overhead gate. This violent form of monotony kept on till no one inside could any longer be sure of the duration of time that had transpired. With a sharp jerk and the throaty extended cough of gravel from under all four ties they slid to a halt. Even though it was black within, everyone looked back an forth at each other almost startled by the unexpected movement. Two heavy door slams emanated from the front of the vehicle, then voices. Had they been caught? Had a tire blown? Would they let everyone out for a pee break? A minute went by in total silence both from within and without. One of the men inside began to yell just the instant before a deafening sound of lethal angry bees of steel punctured the van’s sides. The fusillade tore into the inhabitants who let out a horrible collective cry of simultaneous screams of both terror and anger. In a minute or more all was silent beyond the sound of liquid dripping from the inside through fissures in the floor out into the desert.
The doors were roughly yanked open to the blinding light of the afternoon and two men with AK-47′s spat another half a clip into anything within that was still twitching. One by one the freshly made corpses were pulled out and the men went through blood soaked pockets, hat bands and socks plucking anything of possible value and throwing the items in a cardboard box. The van had been parked along a barranca where each of the newly fleeced victims were rolled into. William’s corpse was one of the last yanked out from under the bench where to all intents it had been inert. The fact of the bodies advanced decay caused no end of consternation of the men who were hesitant to even touch it let alone go through its clothing.
“¿Dónde coño Juan consiguió esto? ¿Está recibiendo loco o qué?”, one of the bandits incredulously spat. The merely dumped William’s corpse under the back of the truck gate and quickly walked around to another waiting jeep carrying the cardboard box overflowing with loot where the trucks original driver waited idling the vehicles engine. They quickly turned about the jeep and took off back towards the highway before the buzzards or some unexpected aerial reconnaissance might spot them. The drifting sound tires torturing the road of the fugitives now fully subsumed, William’s corpse resumed its faux approximation of life by rolling over on its side and getting slowly to its feet from all fours. A quick inspection found that a few fresh holes had torn into its bloodless flesh busting a rib and damaging its left thigh. William walked his earthly conveyance back and forth a bit testing its roadworthiness. Luckily the rounds had come from the opposite side and the other bodies of the living had spent the fury of the high velocity slugs so they were not guilty of any major structural damage. William stood at the edge of the barranca his attention focused upon the haphazard rag doll pile of spent humanity. Where were their spirits he wondered? Why was he bereft of a crowd of equally vengeful companions that would assemble into a postmortem posse to go out after the brigands who had robbed them of both their wealth and their life? Was he the only one whose desire for getting even reached beyond the grave strongly enough to persist in refusing oblivion till his last most vital personal task was complete? The glow of small areas illuminated by distant lights ranging far to the north were becoming evident with the descent of the Sun. The corpse began trudging on towads that direction leaving the vicinity where a small congregation of of the newly disembodied were slowly gathering like wisps of smoke reading themselves for another kind of journey to some place far away in the great beyond.
The rocky mountain trail hardly navigable during the day brought much pause to the canter of the epileptic movements of William’s corpse. Slow as this incremental travel proved to be by virtue of slip sliding over loose boulder ridden soil it only tumbled down a moderate incline a couple of times doing no significant damage beyond the exposure of a bit of white bone from under a small patch of scraped off leathery skin. The rise and fall of the terrain gave the impression though one was passing through rocky terrain the general pitch tended to suggest an overall sense of decline. The border of the two adjacent lands might have been crossed after many more hours of travel. The only indication significant to the indifferent sensibilities of the dead was the appearance of a crescent moon which helped illuminated the immediate vicinity of travel. A curious glow from a fissure some ways up the side of a ridge at the base of a cliff caught the attention of William. Too weak to be the lantern of some errant camper or a border agent, its flicker suggested its source to be deeper within the fissure. The corpse’s wandering gait was challenged by the sudden ascent but was chided by willpower to the top of the secondary rise that served as a porch to the cave, In a caricature that aped one of the curiosity of life, the corpse bent forward to seek out the source of the flickering illumination. A booming voice shot out with alacrity nearly startling the life back into the convulsing dead clay posing as the remnants of someone once living.
“Done with the work of breathing; done. With all the world; the mad race run, Though to the end; the golden goal, Attained and found to be a hole! . . . or in your case still running the race!”, said a gnarly white haired old man.
The flash of blindness caused by the faux sense of a surging adrenalin of surprise had caught the spirit completely off guard. Was it possible that the even the undead were so vulnerable? Maybe even more so to all the filthy tricks of both man and nature.
“Who in the world are you?”, William’s spirit testily boomed out.
“Just another wayward spirit, fallen in a hole so to speak so many years ago”, said the well-chiseled old fossil of a man, “a spiritual pickle who like you has some bone to pick. To pick up and set down by one’s self as they no longer seem to want to work on their own.”
“Are you dead as well?”, William queried.
The old spirit brought his hand to his chin wile folding the other arm underneath in support. “Dead?” “Dead!” “Well, I suppose that could serve as a fit cause for this lingering condition of existence that I currently have enjoyed since my last journey out of the confines of civilization.”, the white haired disembodied reprobate pondered. His boisterous tone almost shaking some rocks down to tumble into the blackness of the shallow ravine below.
“No, no, if words can be a testament . . . let’s see how does it go?”, he mumbled on to William as if searching in an old dusty attic closet. “Ah yes”, he broke into a recital, “What though of all man’s works your tomb alone. Should stand till Time himself be overthrown? Would it advantage you to dwell therein. Forever as a stain upon a stone?”
“You sound like some old professor!”, harkened William to the fact of the entity’s rambling manner.
“Professor? No an old newspaper man. The cynical cut of cloth of a tooth bearing biting tongue always sharp for a repartee to the madness of my fellow creatures.”, the old white beard quipped. “A constant gadfly to the overreaching overfed Capitalist who has lambasted both ambitious scoundrels and President’s alike and has thus fallen out of currency as some divine justice has cast him in penance for such ignoble sins as spelling out the truth couched in mockery of the misdeeds of other men.”
William could make no sense in this creature’s wordplay. Though it sounded impressive, it was next to impossible to have a conversation with this unearthly hermit. “Well sir”, he said humbly, “Answer me this, have you any inkling where one might currently find the border of the United States and Mexico?“
“Considering the remarkable level of stick-to-itness of that is evidenced by that gyrating tail of a book bound leather covered skeleton that still blindly follows you about like one’s bitter half, I would think that would be the least of your concerns?”, the archaic entity replied. “Perhaps you are off track to that imaginary delightful country of fulfillment that once found leaves one bereft of any reason for avoiding the ultimate realization that they are naught but just another flyspeck?” “For myself, I would endeavor to find a more suitable alternative than to conjoin with worm’s meat.” “Of course you must forgive my penchant for the mendacious as I am plainly addicted to rhetoric.”, the old spirit now unburdened to his fellow soulmate. His own wasted arm suddenly drew upward as straight as an arrow, the stone silent finger extending in total hush like steel barb pointing due north toward the now so evident reddish glow of a distantly posed beacon of mankind.