The spectral figure of Warren Williams had continued walking on through the rocky scrub until he had come across an arroyo. If he could have been said to have still been in any sense of human time or for that matter accurate distance it could be accounted that he had traveled about twenty miles over empty desert from his fatal resting place during the course of the day. The surface of his physical form, originally the consistency of beef jerky had concealed into a dryer dust covered coating with the constant trudging through sand and alkali. Most of the insects that had happily found delight in dogging him that morning had gone off to more freshly killed attractive prospects. Dusk was settling the sky into its accustomed pallet of reds and yellows. The narrow dry bed seemed more a depressed form of paved trail that wound back and forth like a large snake passing through the meager skeletal foliage. Though of course there did not seem to be any kind of GPS available in William’s version of the afterworld, he reckoned that civilization in the form of a paved road would sooner or later be found at the head of this dusty stream bed. It seemed perfectly possible that this course of action would then lead him to a town, perhaps Brawley where he might encounter his own vehicle still parked where he had left it or possibly at an equally accessible auto pound. If such a thing as hope could be accounted for the class of unlikely creatures such as the undead then the expectation of experiencing such possibilities seemed to quicken his inefficient gait. The dark figure of the old Yaqui that suddenly appeared at the juncture of the next curving undulation of the arroyo seemed to startle the corpse’s progress to a complete halt.
An old man stood completely motionless several feet into the thicket of brush by a small sequoia cactus. Even in the failing illumination of the dying sun his figure appeared a sharply incised silhouette blocking view of the terrain behind him though some form of light absorption. The indian’s burro whinnied nervously at the awkward stirrings of William as his legs brushed against rock and scrub.
“I see you Cho’oko Baso!”, the old man calmly blurted out.
“I’m not Cho’oko Baso!”, replied William’s corpse.
“Well, I don’t have a stick handy to capture your soul with a rock Cho’oko Baso”, the old man replied, “But my second attention tells me you are a troubled spirit lost to the world of men, a sprit fox!” “Perhaps still a danger to those alive but perhaps simply chasing your tail?”
“I’m not a fox you stupid old man!” retorted William’s animate form, “I’m a corpse, a ghost!” “Can’t you see me, old man?” “Aren’t you scared of the dead?”
“My name is Don Joaquin and I do not run from just any spirit of this desert!” “You do not yet understand.”, the old man calmly replied.
William stood motionless almost dumbstruck before this man. He could not understand why the fact of his own apparent ghastliness seemed to take effect on this still very much earthbound being. Maybe he was too senile to understand himself?
“Where is the road?”, Williams unearthly presence exclaimed impatiently, “How far?”
“Far enough.”, said the old man, “Maybe too far for those who are not that familiar with the night?”
Though the old indian seemed tranquil enough his burro was another matter. The initial appearance of something dead had instantly made the creature ill at ease. A building sense of angst repressed only by the old man’s rope halter saw the poor animal bucking its head ever more frantically. By the time the conversation had progressed to present tense, the animal was frothing at the mouth ready to gallop blindly in any direction through the shadowy thicket. The old man paused for a second and turned his head toward the poor beast and stroked its head. It became apparent at that point that the indian had all the time been standing with his back to William’s spirit’s presence. The still vibrant physicality of the human silhouette then faded into the blackness of night. A few minutes the sound of the burro’s staccato breathing had faded to an occasional very distant snort.
How that Indio octogenarian had managed to successfully detect and respond to the presence of William’s still active remains with back fully turned seemed equally as impossible at the fact of his own restlessly persistent entity. What kind of universe was this he thought. Why wasn’t he dead? Had he misjudged his present condition somehow and in fact was a still very much alive human that had the unexpected capacity for surviving epic damage to his body? Equally disturbing was the shadowy presence of the other man. How could he remain for all intents and purposes a shade that was there one moment and then gone the next? If William was truly deceased and his spirit was still confined within no longer living flesh then how could another who was still alive be so agile at this form of spirit craft? He ran his skeletal paw across his own bony frame checking for signs of life but found no pulse. If there was something left that fit the definition of the antipathy of the constant vengeful rage that seemed to be the battery empowering William then it was a sense of inexplicable apprehension that the world had significantly been transformed from a land inhabited by the living to something else again. He stood their for a long time contemplating whether to lay down on the spot and give a little more time to these mysterious forces of nature a chance to finish the job or to hobble on and continue his own bloodless quest. After a while the moon rose in the sky and the arroyo was dimly illuminated by its cooling glow. The corpse of William Warren slowly moved on down the every undulating path of sand towards the all consuming darkness of the terrain before him. His only guide the hump backed towering emptiness of mountain peaks far in the distance ahead.