Speculative Fiction

The Santa Anna Gold

I REALLY DID HAVE A SON. No matter what they tell you today...

The Santa Anna Gold by Michael Bunker

Want to hear your Uncle Michael read this story to you? Just click play!

I REALLY DID HAVE A SON. No matter what they tell you today, him gone and them all acting like he never did exist. My daughters died young. Car wreck, back before all this happened, and not long after their momma went away and then got the cancer and died. But, like I said, that was before I got put in here. The way it is now, it’s like I never had any children at all.

My boy was named Richard. Richard Henry Smalton. He was named after his great-uncle on his mother’s side. He was born in early 1997, right on our big bed in the cottage down by the creek. We lived off the grid just north of the Santa Anna Mountains. Completely off the grid. No electricity or conveniences at all. Say that too loud now’days and they’ll lock you right up and throw away the key. Had our babies at home, too. We didn’t get birth certificates or vaccinations or social security numbers because we don’t believe in those things.

That’s our right, and we didn’t feel like we needed to burden our children with government before they could make up their own minds what contracts they wanted to enter into and such. I didn’t want my boy drafted into Uncle Sam’s wars, so he grew up and lived the pure and good life like we all did, and no one was the wiser.

I can tell you exactly when the story started too, or when things changed, back before all this went sideways and I got put in here forever—or until I change my mind (at least that’s what they say). It started when my boy—We called him Rick—got interested in the legend of the Santa Anna Gold. But first I have to tell you the story of the gold, or else none of the rest of this’ll make sense.

To most people the gold was only a legend, and the stories had been told and re-told to anyone who ever did move to Coleman County. Not that many people move to Coleman County, though. Most folks just die off or move away. High schools in this county pump out graduates who leave skid marks gettin’ out of here. Population of the county has dropped precipitously since the early 1930’s or so. But when folks do move here¬—usually ranchers or city-dwelling cattlemen, but sometimes homesteaders like ourselves—someone eventually gets around to telling them all about the Santa Anna Gold.

The great historian J. Frank Dobie wrote about it, and we found bits and pieces of the story, sometimes with all the elements changed about all scattershot-like, in lots of different histories of the area. We bought books written by locals that couldn’t be bought or had anywhere else unless you knew who to go to in order to get them. Dobie shared a story from a man by the name of J. Leeper Gay, who shared the legend as it was told to him by a Mexican, who claimed it was told to him by his grandfather down in Sonora, Mexico. But just because a story has a long and twisty path don’t make it not true.

I’ll try to make the story short, because before long they’ll be by here to make me take pills, hoping I’ll forget my own flesh-n-blood boy or change my mind that I ever had one in the first place. No pill I ever took could do that, but they give ’em to me anyway. Even after I showed ’em the picture that proved me right. That’s what tells me they’re probably with the government. They took the picture away too, but I kept an extra that they don’t know nothin’ about. They go to great lengths to convince me I’m nuts. Sometimes I laugh at what they come up with.

Anyway, there are lots of different stories of where the gold came from. Some say it was gold brought down from Colorado, or even the Seven Cities of Cibola or some nonsense like that. Others say it was gold carried along with the Spanish military—used to pay the soldiers as they tried to tame Texas during the time of the Spanish colonization.

Most of the stories agree that the gold came out of the San Saba mines, and that a large load of it was stolen from the Spanish miners by an Indian raid. In turn—the best stories say—the Spanish outfitted a cavalry unit and sent them far up north—maybe as far as Colorado—to search for the stolen gold. This particular cavalry unit raided an Indian village and killed almost everyone there, and in the ashes and ruin of the camp (the story goes), the Spanish found a large sack full of gold dust and coins (although some say it was up to a wagonload of gold ore) in one of the teepees.

Having gained the prize, the unit was pulling back with the bounty and heading south, when the surrounding Indian forces counterattacked. The Spanish cavalry fought bravely and continued to retreat, taking losses, slowly making for their forts and bases to the south, fighting their way along as they were constantly harassed and attacked from the rear. The attacks became fiercer and more violent, and it came to pass that the Spanish got to thinkin’ they’d never make it back to Mexico at all. The Rio Grande might as well have been the river Jordan or heaven’s own pearly gates as far as they were concerned.

Nearly a month had passed since the Spanish had stolen the gold back, and the raiders were making very slow progress down southward. At last they came to the twin mesas of the “Santa Anna Mountains” in an area that is now called Coleman County, in central Texas. My home. These mesas I can see from my window today, they’re not named after the Mexican emperor, but instead after an Indian war chief named Santana who ruled from here. Santana sure ’nuff met future president James Polk one time, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Well, when the Spanish came near to the Santa Anna Mountains, they made camp at a creek not far from the twin mesas. I make that creek out to be Mud Creek to the north, or maybe Home Creek to the south. Coulda’ been any number of other creeks though, since many were runnin’ back then and most of ’em are dried up now. That evening, they received word that a large force of Indians was bearin’ down on ’em. A scout was sent to spy out the enemy from the peak of one of the twin mesas, but he’d not returned by darkfall, so the commander of the cavalry ordered his men to douse their fires, entrench themselves, and prepare for battle.

Around midnight or thereabouts, the scout finally returned with the report that the attack was coming—he knew not how soon—and that the opposing force was so large that all was expected to be lost. That’s a mighty scary story right there—in and of itself—but then to lose the gold again after all that’d already been lost… well, for the Spanish officers, it was too much to stomach.

Now, traveling with this Spanish force was a black man—a slave brought up from deep in Mexico to serve the Spanish cavalry. He was a strong man, and he’d become a handy guide for the Spanish officers on their way around Texas. The Spanish commander ordered the black man and two weary soldiers to carry away the gold in secret—“half a day’s ride,” it’s said—and to bury it so the Indians could never reclaim it.

According to the legend—and in this one detail it seems that all the old legends agree—the gold was buried on top of a hill, under a large flat rock. On the rock, the men inscribed three M’s, so that it could be located again when necessary.

The three men returned to their unit just as the Indians made their final attack. In that battle, every member of the Spanish force was killed or captured, and the prisoners were—each and every one of ’em—put to death by burning… all except for the black guide, who alone was left alive and kept as a slave by the Indians.

After many years of torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Indians, the black man escaped his tormentors and fled back into Mexico. He was the lone survivor of the Spanish raiders, and the only one—it is believed—who held the secret in his bosom as to the whereabouts of the Santa Anna Gold.

Deep in Mexico, the man was shunned by the superstitious Mexicans as cursed, except for the many sojourners who would travel there to attempt to coax from him the location of the buried gold. He, however, believed that it was the gold that was cursed and not himself, and refused to disclose its exact whereabouts, other than in the very general sense I have related to you here in this story.

According to legend, the gold has never been found.

But legend has a way of not always being the whole truth. I know, because my son, Richard Henry Smalton, musta found that gold—even if he didn’t go dig it out—and because of this, he’s no longer with me. He’s gone over… or gone back… and I’m here alone with the tale. I didn’t believe in time travel then, no sir, but I do now.

In a way, I’m brother to this brave black man who buried the gold at the first. We two keep the secret, but for different reasons. He kept it by not tellin’ it, because he believed the gold was accursed. I don’t share that opinion, since “luck” or “curses” don’t have legs or eyes or any science to them. I hold the secret by tellin’ it, and tellin’ guarantees it’ll stay secret, because no one will believe it. All told, the end’s the same. We both hold gold in our bosom as a secret no one knows in our lives but us.

Now I’m going to tell the rest of the story, but since I can’t be believed (on account of them sayin’ I’m crazy), it’ll be just like I told no one.

Now I’m going to tell the rest of the story, but since I can’t be believed (on account of them sayin’ I’m crazy), it’ll be just like I told no one.

My son got on to the story of the gold and he couldn’t let go of it. He wasn’t a covetous boy—actually a young man of fifteen years when this happened—but he was a curious one and smart as can be. “If no one found the gold,” he said, “then it has to still be out there.”

Believe me, I argued with him. “If I found it, I wouldn’t tell no one,” I said. “And I’m probably not the only one thinks that announcing I found millions in gold to the whole wide world is a bad idea.”

“Don’t mean it was found,” he’d say.

“What would you do with it if you found it?” I asked.

“Don’t know that I’d do anything with it,” he said. “I may not even dig it up at all. I’d just know the story was true.”

I argued again, because I don’t see sense in findin’ gold you’re just plannin’ to leave there, but he said, “History’s about finding out what happened and what’s true,” and that was that as far as he was concerned.

So he went about trying to verify the story. On his own time. He’d search the Internet and he’d go to libraries, and eventually his interest got me hip-deep involved too. He and I would go to book and estate sales—especially those held to sell off the goods of folks who’ve lived in this county a long time. Young folks don’t want books, so they sell ’em off for pennies as soon as their folk die off. Now I say readin’ books is the best form of time travel, but that’s an argument for another day.

Then one day Rick came upon a mention in a small Internet forum posting about the Santa Anna Mountains. He came to me and we tried to reason it out.

He said this to me— “An old man, close to dying up in Canada, has posted his story on the Internet, and I think it may be of importance.”

An old man, close to dying up in Canada, has posted his story on the Internet, and I think it may be of importance.

“What’d he say?” I asked.

“Old man was a retired U.S. Marine, name of Joe Paul Scotland. He said he was born in Santa Anna, in the old Sealy Hospital back in 1933.””]

“I remember that hospital,” I said. “I don’t remember it personal-like because it was gone before we got here, but I remember pictures of it. It was built right up against the west mesa, and a lot of babies were born in that hospital.”

So Rick tells me to hush for a minute while he keeps tellin’ ol’ man Scotland’s tale.

It seems Mr. Scotland said he played on the twin mesas almost every day of his life, right up until he left Santa Anna when he was twenty years old. Knew them like the back of his own hand. He said that sometime around 1946 a company began mining the east end of the western mesa for silica sand, and in the process, likely ruined many priceless cave and wall paintings that existed in that area.

I quote here directly from the Internet posting of Mr. Joe Paul Scotland, Retired U.S.M.C. (from memory, of course):

On the North face of the caprock at approx 31 deg, 44 min, 50.08 sec North and 99 deg, 44 min, 20.97 sec west (An area referred to as an Indian holy place and/or Lover’s Leap) were more relief carvings:

a) A stylized Indian Swastika approx 18” x 18” (No wording)
b) What appeared to be a “Bag” gathered and tied at the top approx 14” high and 10” wide (No wording)
c) Several “Doves Flying” (No wording)

The local legend intimated that the “Bag” represented treasure and the direction of the flight of the doves represented the location of the treasure. (I never did find it!)

So my boy becomes convinced that the gold was still in its place back in 1946 when the silica company destroyed the cave paintings (despite the fact that I told him that his story was not necessarily true) and that the paintings were a clue as to the whereabouts of the gold. Rick said that the “bag gathered and tied at the top” musta been the gold. He then determined that the “doves flying” represented the distance and direction one must go to find the gold.

I asked Rick what the Indian swastika could have meant, and he said he didn’t rightly know. Said it sometimes represented legend or mysteries for the Navajo, and that for some others it was a sign of spirit healing. In order to blend it into his theory though, Rick assumed that the swastika was a sign that a mystery was being revealed in these paintings.

Now, none of that followed for me. What I mean to say is that logic didn’t demand any of it, and I told Rick so, but he became convinced. Beyond convinced. Further, he was certain that the gold would only be found in one of two ways. First, by accident. Someone would be digging or excavating and would come upon the gold by pure luck alone. Second, by miraculous find or else by time travel. Someone would have to either go back in time and read those wall paintings and then see the direction of the doves flyin’ and figure it out from there… or… perhaps miraculously find more clues in another as-yet-undiscovered book or letter from the time, tellin’ more about the cave paintings and the evidence.

Jack Finney

I told Rick that time travelin’ was a fantasy (and back then I believed that), so he could just knock that option out right from the get-go, but he disagreed. Told me Einstein proved that time travel was possible. Had me read some books by Mr. Jack Finney that were fiction, but that talked about how Einstein conceived that time travel might happen in a very weird concurrence of events. So I read the Finney books, and here is the gist of what they say…

So, according to Einstein (Finney says), time is more like a river that flows along, and the only reason we sense it passing is because we’re like bein’ on a boat on that river. So you pass a tree and then it’s behind you, and unless you get off the boat or find some other method to do so, you can’t go back to that tree you saw awhile ago. But (and this is the trick) everything you’ve passed in time is still back there. Still just like it was. That tree is still back there and always will be. So just by gettin’ off the boat, you think you’ve traveled in time, when in reality you just got off and stayed in one moment of it. None of it makes sense to me, I’m just tellin’ you the way it was explained in the books.

Finney went on to describe a method of time travel that he believed would actually work. First, you have to disconnect yourself from the millions of little threads of reality that grasp you and hold you in your boat (in your present time, moving forward). These threads are all realities in the time you belong in, not in the time way back before they existed. And get this (since we were talkin’ about trees): when you see a tree every day, its growth and passage through the seasons is part of it bein’ in the boat of time with you. You’re movin’ together to the future. But say you wanted to see that tree when it was still a sapling! You’d have to get off the boat of time and go visit it back where it was, and not where it is in the mobile now (“mobile now” is my phrase, not Finney’s). In a tree’s growth and maturity, it’s a thread holding you into the mobile now too.

Albert Einstein

So the threads belong to a point in time (or to the mobile now), and you have to sever all those, even in your brain, so’s you can go back to another time. Next, you got to immerse yourself in the time you want to be in. Everything has to be perfect. You have to have the right dress, the right money, the right environment. It all has to be just right. Now, even if you can do these two things, and even if you can get your mind convinced completely, only a tiny percentage of the population could ever do it. If the person’s mind isn’t suggestible enough to make the leap, they won’t ever go. The tiny threads of the mobile now in their minds will hold them in the boat, so to speak.

But… if someone can do these things… if someone can totally immerse themselves in the time they want to visit, and they can really believe they are sometime else… then they can do it. So let’s say you wanted to visit the Alamo back in the day of the great fight there. You’d have to go down to San Antonio, be in the proper garb, sneak into the building (maybe at night), block out any sound at all that ain’t right for the time (traffic, radios, et cetera), and totally immerse yourself to the point that you really, actually believe you’re in the Alamo. Then, if everything goes right and you’re one of the people that can do it, you can just step out into that world and be in that time, because all the threads that hold you into your place in the universe are from that period. Now, you might step out of the Alamo in the middle of the battle, or maybe you’re a few weeks, months, or years too early or late. But the theory is that you can do it, and Rick firmly believed this theory to be true.

“You gotta have the right kind of mind to go back,” Rick said. “The reading kind of mind. Able to get into the story.”

Which is why he set his mind to going back to 1910 or so, when Santa Anna was first being founded as a full-fledged town. He wanted to go back so he could climb that mesa, find those cave drawings, and figure out where to go hunt for that Santa Anna Gold.

The first thing he did was gather up the right clothing and other paraphernalia he thought he’d need.

The first thing he did was gather up the right clothing and other paraphernalia he thought he’d need. He studied the time like he was lookin’ at something in a microscope. He went to museums and talked to experts. We cashed in a bunch of our savings (I wasn’t a believer in time travel then, but I wanted to encourage my boy to take risks and be interested in something other than his own self all the time), then we bought clothes for both of us: shoes, the right woolen pants, everything with period buttons and thread. Nothing could be amiss. They couldn’t be replicas—they had to be the real thing. We even bought money for our pockets, and wind-up watches and combs for our hair, all what belonged to the era.

Next, we found a cabin down on Home Creek that was there in 1910 and hasn’t changed since then. It was kept up for most of the last thirty years by the local high school history department working with the historical society, but when the economy collapsed in ’08 the thing got shuttered and mostly abandoned. Weren’t enough money to keep it up right.

Main Street, Santa Anna

We cased the place for weeks, makin’ sure it wasn’t just boarded up temporary-like, and once we were convinced it was abandoned, we moved in. We opened the place up, then set ourselves to making it all perfect. We removed any locks, hinges, knobs, and what-not that weren’t from the right period. Fixed the place up right—basically refurbished it using all original materials. We switched out the beds that were in the place (they were replicas, put there by students in order to impress tourists who never showed up) with right proper beds from the first decade of the twentieth century. We even filled the cottage with food that was preserved and stored up just right. We took the period food out of its packages and stored it in old tin and copper cans we bought at auction from the right time period. We had old, cured bacon, and jars of oil and flour for biscuits too. We had access to a water pump or water from the creek, but we found out they had powdered milk back in that day, so we bought up some o’ that and put it in glass jars up in the cabinets.

There was one problem with this plan, and I guess I should mention it now. If the plan worked (and I had no reason to believe that it would), then we might wake up in the cabin back in 1910, and there would likely be people livin’ there. Rick and I discussed this, but he said, “I don’t know what to do about that except worry about it when it happens.” And since I figured it would never work anyways, I just said, “Okay, then.”

Once we knew the place was perfect, that’s when the experiment started. For weeks we tried our best to sever all our ties to our old world. During the day we’d immerse ourselves in period books and magazines. We’d play games from the time, and read old newspapers and magazines we’d bought online. We made sure it was all just right. No modern staples or stickers or any repairs made from the twenty-first century. We tried to govern our talk so that we didn’t even use modern colloquialisms at all. But… I got to tell you that, all told, none of it seemed to work. We’d wake up and go outside in the early morning dew, and we’d see an airplane contrail in the sky, or hear the truck traffic way up on the highway, and we’d know we failed.

Santa Anna Train Depot

Truth be told, I think it was all startin’ to affect me a little in the head. Not that I’m crazy like they say, because that’s all a scam by the government (I propose). But it was gettin’ to me. I was having very realistic dreams of being in the past. In one of those dreams, I was up at the old Sealy Hospital (which I’d never seen with my own eyes), and it was as real as real can be. I walked in the place after midnight and just looked around. I had to hide from a few of the night nurses doin’ rounds, but except for a locked-up part way in the back they used for crazy folk, I could see everything. The moonlight and the windows were all just right, and I could open up cabinets and look at the medicine bottles, and I ain’t never had any other dreams so perfect as those in all my life.

I know it might be getting things out of order and the cart before the horse and all that, but I have to say here that I think the government is behind all this. I think either they took the gold back in 1946, or they’ve been lookin’ for it ever since. I think with all their NSA email spying and their scanning our search terms and following our every move, they figured out that Rick and I were gettin’ close to figuring out what happened to that gold. Maybe they thought the Spanish government or the Indians would be wantin’ that gold back. I don’t know the reasons, but it’s important that you have in the back of your mind that I think the government was watchin’ us and plannin’ things all along. Of course, the doctors here will tell you, “That’s exactly what a crazy person would say.” But I didn’t know they’d be watchin’ us during that whole time when Rick and I were doing our best to make everything in our lives lined up perfect with the year 1910.

And this is how it went for weeks. Rick never did get tired of it all, but sometimes I did. The night dreams of being in the past were gettin’ more intense, and during the day sometimes my mind would go the other way and flash forward to things like hamburgers and hot showers, but I was usually able to subdue those thoughts and get back into character.

Then one day it happened. Not for me, though. It happened for Rick. I woke up and he was gone. And that was the day everything changed.

I knew Rick wasn’t kidnapped and that he hadn’t run back to the modern times.

I knew Rick wasn’t kidnapped and that he hadn’t run back to the modern times. Not unless the government got him. But if they did, there’d be no sense in making me think he never existed. No, I don’t believe they got him, or that he quit neither. He was too in love with this idea, and he was really convinced it was going to work. That’s what convinced me it did work, because he believed in it so much, it had to have worked for him.

One day, before we started the experiment, Rick told me that there was no difference between what he wanted to try, and getting really deeply into a good book or story. He said, “The better you can get into it as a reader, the more real it becomes.” I said, “Yes, I’ll have to agree with that.” So he says, “Well then, logically—there has to be a point where you get so into it, that it does become real. That’s a logical conclusion from what you say you agreed to.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said. And I really didn’t.

And now I have to tell you about my dream that night. The night before Rick went back to the past.

I dreamed (for some reason) that I was up near the Sealy Hospital. That was usually where my dreams took me. It was 1933 and that old man, Joe Paul Scotland, was just days born (in the dream) up in the hospital. I went in just after midnight, like usual, and I went to see where the baby was sleepin’ in his crib in the nursery. There was a sign on the end of the wrought-iron crib that said “newborn male,” and some instructions about feeding him. There was no name, and he was the only baby in the nursery, but somehow I just know it had to be Joe Paul Scotland since he’s the only child I ever read about being born in that hospital. After I saw the baby, I was hoping I’d wake up and be back in my bed in the cabin down by Home Creek, but I didn’t wake for a long time. So I ended up walking all the way back. Real walkin’, not dream walkin’. My feet started hurting, and I was pourin’ out sweat after a while.

Santa Anna

It was the most realistic dream I can ever remember. In the dream, I was really back in 1933. But then it got weird. In my walk home, I wasn’t in 1933, but in 1910. At some point, the dream switched (like dreams do), and when I actually got into the heart of town, it had to be 1910 that I was seein’.

It was dark out, and I walked through the town and saw some of it like it must have been back then. It looked like it was still horse-and-buggy days, for the most part, and the main street through town was still dirt. I saw the Stockard building (which we today call the “Opry House”) and from what I could tell it was still the W. R. Kelly building because there was a “Dry Goods” sign pretty prominent on the face of it. A new-looking Ford automobile was parked next to the building, but the ruts and horse manure in the road told me that most folks were getting around by horse and wagon.

Santa Anna Gold W R Kelleyv1

I walked right in front of the S. H. Phillips Drug Store and the S. J. Pieratt’s Quality Store right next to it (they were housed in the same building, and Pieratt was Santa Anna’s first mayor). I remembered these places somewhat from pictures Rick and I studied from 1910 out of Ralph Terry’s book, Looking Backwards, that had a lot of pictures from the time. That’s how I figure the images got in my mind. But what I saw in this dream was so real that it scared me. I could even look in the window of Pieratt’s and see clothing on wooden hangers and pink and yellow ladies’ dresses readied up for Easter.

S. J. Pieratt's Quality Store

It was a strange dream, me switching times from the 30’s and then back to the 1910’s. But I can’t explain it any other way. Of course, I never saw the outside of the hospital. The Sealy Hospital that got built in the 1920’s was the only one I knew about. And the dreams started once I was inside, so I understand now that I can’t be sure of the “when” of all of it..Anyway, I headed south and walked right by the Meador and Erwin Transfer business, which (from what I can tell) must have been like a moving company is today. There were five heavy-duty horse-drawn wagons lined up next to the business office, all with hanging signs that said “for hire” on them.

Before long I was out of town, and I walked for hours until I came to Home Creek, then made my way down until I came upon the little cottage we’d borrowed. In the dream I went inside and collapsed onto the bed, and was so tired I thought I might sleep for days.

Anyway, I awoke that next mornin’ before dawn. Early it was—musta been near four or five in the morning. It was quite dark, and I had to pee, so I stumbled outside to do my business. When I was finished, I went back in and tried to find Rick, but that’s when I realized he was gone. His bed was empty, and it was like he’d slept pretty roughly that night—the blankets all thrown about and hanging on the floor. The sun hadn’t come up full yet, so I couldn’t see much, but it wasn’t long before sunrise and I could see the pink-orange glow off to the east, just coming through the trees here and there.

Meador and Erwin

But here I was, walking around the whole area, lookin’ for my boy… and he was sure enough gone. Gone as can be. And now I was stuck waiting and hoping he’d be able to come back once he figured out where the gold was buried. So I sat on the step and waited and waited, hoping he’d make his way back.

As I said before, I never believed he would make it, so I went along with his plan even though I didn’t expect it would come to much. And the plan was this. He was going to go see if he could find the gold, and if he could, then where he found it would determine what he did next. If it was in a location where he thought it would remain unmolested until the future (our time), he’d just remember the place and come on back home to get me (our real home, up north of Santa Anna, not our temporary and borrowed cottage on Home Creek). He should be able to do this at any time, and from any location, by merely grasping hold of the modern times in his mind… reattaching those silken threads of the mobile now, until he could open his eyes and be back in the real time. We never even asked ourselves if this plan would work. We just assumed that it would. That just goes to show you that we weren’t thinking things through completely.

If it turned out that the gold was someplace where it obviously was going to be found (like buried right up there in the caves on the Santa Anna Mountains where the silica company was digging as early as 1917), then he’d find a way to remove the gold and bury it somewhere else.

Rick kept reminding me that he wasn’t interested in getting the gold for himself, but I have to admit that I was interested even if he wasn’t.

I never went back inside the cabin. I would have, but I never made it back in there. I didn’t figure Rick would go back there anyway, since it was very probable that people lived in that place in 1910, but my intentions became immaterial pretty soon after the sun came up. I was gettin’ up from the step and thinkin’ about walking back up to Santa Anna just as the light of day started illuminating my surroundings, and that’s when a couple of men rushed at me and knocked me down. They were screamin’ at me this and that but I couldn’t make out what they were sayin’ on account of their accents were so thick and they were so plumb angry. They beat me godawful bad and then tied me up and dragged me over to a flat-bed. When they threw me into the back of it I hit my head and went unconscious.

I figure this is when the government took over. It was on the day when Rick went back in time. They’d been watchin’ the place, no doubt, and when they saw me lookin’ for Rick I figure they knew the jig was up. So they grabbed me and locked me up in this place.

The rest of the story you know. Though I suspect I can fill in some of the gray places if I have enough time.

They’ll tell you that the building I’m in is the old, wooden hospital in Santa Anna, and that the concrete and steel Sealy Hospital is just in the planning stages. They’ll tell you that the nurses at first thought this old hospital was haunted because they’d seen a man walking pretty-as-you-please around the place after midnight some nights—but then they got worried and reported it to the constable after the man was seen in the nursery, looking down at a newborn baby boy someone dropped off there for adoption.

They’ll say that I broke into the Walkers’ cabin down by Home Creek while the Walker sons were off one morning fishing, and that I’m a drifter and I talk about crazy things like airplanes and the Internet and fast-food joints and rocket ships going to the moon and computers that you can hold in your hand and talk with anyone else in the world. They’ll say to me that these things haven’t been invented, and that I’m a danger to society.

They’ve gone to great lengths to shut me up. Using old-timey syringes to give me shots, and lighting oil lanterns when it’s dark or gray outside. Them all wearing period clothes and making me write with a pen that has to be filled with ink from a bottle. Mocking me while I stare out this back window full of bars at the west mesa of the Santa Anna Mountains. They even muted the walls with insulation or some such thing so I never do hear the airplanes fly over or the trucks rumbling up Highway 84 all day and night.

Nah, they’ll just say I’m crazy. That’s why I have to take my pills, and why they try to convince me I never did have a boy named Richard Henry Smalton who went back in time and musta found the Santa Anna Gold.

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Story written by Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker is a USA Today bestselling author, off-gridder, husband, and father of four children. He lives with his family in a "plain" community in Central Texas, where he reads and writes books...and occasionally tilts at windmills. He is the author of several popular and acclaimed works of dystopian sci-fi, including the WICK series, The Silo Archipelago, and the Amish/Sci-Fi thriller Pennsylvania; two books humor/satire including Hugh Howey Must Die! and LEGENDARIUM; as well as many nonfiction works, including the bestseller Surviving Off Off-Grid.


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