Battle of Bloody Creek
Robert Pitt was feeling a little groggy after driving all night to get to this small southern town in Alabama, but the sun was going to come up in a few short hours. He had been to many Civil War reenactments, but never had heard of the battle of Bloody Creek. He had been looking for memorabilia in the antiques newspaper, when he had spotted the ad promoting this community's first time commemoration of this obscure conflict, which to his knowledge (an impressive bibliography) he had never read or heard about previously. Searching the internet produced a big Google goose-egg.
That glow in the horizon became his beckoning beacon in minutes after his thoughts rambled in his semi-dream state. And, he was entering Alabama. He double-checked his Trip-Tik to see how far down Interstate 59 he had to go before he needed to have heads-up for his exit. There, he saw it, State 117, Sulphur Springs and Sequoya Caverns just as he looked up from the map that reminded him.
"Dang! buddy, let me over." He yelled in futility at the pickup truck that appeared on his side just at the very time he needed to lane change. Squeezing in, he made his cloverleaf machinations, tires losing nano-inches of rubber in the maneuver. He was not going to Sequoya Caverns, but all around the area were limestone natural artifacts.
Finding the next road was not going to be easy, it was a dirt road that wound through the hills, and went to an area that no longer thrived like it did a 150 years ago, in fact, it could be considered a "ghost town." He was supposed to turn at a place where the pine tree was broken by lightning in the summer's storm,
"No wonder they never hosted an event before." He muttered to himself, while scanning the sides of the road for his turnoff. He saw something ahead that looked like a man with an amputated arm. It was the tree! He always used to enjoy Frank Winthrop's playing the role of the soldier needing mid-nineteenth century medical treatment for a 50 caliber mini-ball wound to a limb. Whiskey and a saw, and "Don't call me in the morning!" was the prescription. Oh, most of the time for amputation it was a stick to bite on, because the liquor was long 'drunk-up.' But anyway, Frank made it look real because he was born with a stub for an arm, and they could frighteningly cut off a plastic one, that even bled ketchup.
Finally, tired of his morbid reminiscing, he concentrated on his next landmark, the barn with the Confederate flag painted on it...
"That should be easy". He thought while bouncing on the rougher and rougher gravel road that was quickly turning to plain dirt. There it was ahead! It was a delapidated barn, all graying brown, except for the Rebel flag, but this one had a skull and crossbones in the center. He knew that some of the Southern sympathizing reenactors were nostalgic to the point of zealousness, but this was something additionally more, but he put aside any sinister musings on the sight. He pulled onto the grass near the hand-made sign saying
Ya'll Welcome, park here.
Another similar placard directed him to park his Taurus stationwagon in the gloomy
old building, that had not been used to store hay or animals in centuries. He drove through cobwebs, and over unknown lumps.
Not seeing anybody around, just as he was opening his door and getting out, he was startled to see a man, in his late 40's, dressed in dirty light brown wool shirt and pants that did not match, and had a rumpled felt old fedora on his head come out of seemingly nowhere.
"Where's yer uniform?" the man reeking of chewing tobacco inquired. "I want uh everythin' to be uh gen-u-ine." He added with the 'u' and the 'i' pronounced strangely long.
"I got them right here in the back," he said reaching to his folded down compartment, and spit out, "where's everybody else?"
"Don't you go worry y'self, now, I'm uh takin' ker uh the details." He huffed, "Jes uh git yer stinkin' blue Yankee get-up on."
Feeling a bit nervous, Bob grabbed his leather bag, authentic to the old worn patina, and pulled out his sargeant's coat and pants; and thinking how fortunate this was October, and a bit cooler for wearing dark wool. Was this guy going to stand there and watch me undress? The rude sonuvabitch didn't even introduce himself. He began to feel suddenly warm in the humid afternoon, and it was more from the inside out.
"I'll be dressed soon and will meet you outside in a minute." He tactfully emitted, struggling to keep his fear and anger from showing. "By the way, my name's Bob, Bob Pitt, heh, heh, now Sgt. Robert Pitt of the Pennsylvania 9th Regulars." Bob waited for the appropriate response, hoping that would break this most awkward moment.
"You invading bastards weren't too shy to rape our wimmin' and burn our towns!" He spurted with his face turning the color of the Crimson Tide. "You jes strip there boy, show us some uh that Northern bravery....and I don't wanna see no fruituhtheloom panties, neither!"
His body now shaking with real trepidation, he felt he had better go along with this, and not that he'd better not show fear or anger, but assuage this obviously deranged individual's fantasies. Turning his body facing his car, hiding behind the car doors, he took off all his clothes, the Autumn air taking on an extra chill that seemed to grip even his bones.
"Don't you git fretted over me lookin' at your pitiful privates, I'm jes a lil pee-oh'd that you weren't ready for our get-together." Spat the contemptable fellow with tobacco juice also splatting my headlamps.
"Now what?" He asked, his feigned neutrality spoiled by the sudden whine, but feeling more secure as he was almost frocked.
Suddenly, the anonymous "Rebel" grabbed Robert's two arms, and pinned them behind him. He felt the rough hemp cords quickly and firmly spun around his wrists, much too fast for him to react.
"Hey! He blurted, "What the hell are you doing?" But as he twirled him around violently, he became aware that answers were not forthcoming. The prisoner was now pushed out of the back of the barn, where he saw about a dozen other vehicles, he wasn't alone! But hope turned to depressing despair when he didn't see a single soul, other than the funky dude leading him roughly past the derelict outbuildings.
Silently, he was prodded along onto a clearing punctuated by rock outcroppings. Upon getting closer, he noticed the dark splotches he'd seen from a distances were actually craw-like openings in the formations. Not even warned to duck his head, he was hurried in one of the cave openings, the apex of his cranium losing a battle with sedimentary stone. Now, feeling faint from not only the pain in his shoulders, arms and hands, but the contusion on his noggin, he did not even put up a fight while his feet were now bound, and he was dragged to another opening around a corner, this one placing him in absolute darkness.
His captor began a soliloquy:
More'n a hunnert yars ago my Great-Gran'pappy was coming home from fighting in the Battle of Chicamunga, his arm dangling useless from a piece of Yankee grapeshot in his shoulder. Well, he was uh gonna git back to Lafayette-born Emilie-Jeanne to have her dig the lead out, put her Cajun poultice on it and sew him back up. She saved nigh all his sick 'n injured mules and cows at the farm. But when he came through his beloved gates, he knew something wasn't quite right. He didn't hear the animals like usual, and the door was gapped wide open, but Great-
Gran'ma never would have left the door open during these troublesome times, or she would be running out to greet me. He ran through the door, and no's sooner he became adjusted to the gloom, he saw the bodies on the floors and tables and heard the moans.
"You there, halt! Put your hands up! And turn around slowly." He heard the hated Yankee soldiers say as they emerged from the shadows on the edges of the doorway. "You're lucky, Johnny Rebel, you stumbled into a temporary military hospital, but you will be our prisoner, just like the crazy Froggie wench we had to throw in one of those convenient holes out in the meadow. Too bad she didn't survive the night."
Corporal Tillis broke into a cry that was part Rebel Yell and part Cry of the Banshees, but the soldiers took the butt of their Springfields upside his head, and threw him down on the piano he'd bought for Emilie-Jeanne.
"Sargeant McCullahan! I think he's damaged enough, don't you think?" The Doctor yelled coming out of the other room, the old brown blood stains mixed with the fresh vermillion on his coat like my Uncle Jimmy's butchering apron. "Do something useful, Private, bring my bag with my surgical implements, we don't wait for gangrene, I believe in aggressive treatment. It's a good thing, though, that's he knocked out, because I don't wanna waste good bourbon or opium on whitetrash."
Unfortunately for Tillis, he was waking, but the agony of the insult couldn't match the excruciation while his arm was being played like a bloody fiddle when the 'good' doc began running that devil's bow across his shoulder. "Gimme some of that whiskey!" Doc Patterson demanded, but as soon as his hands touched the bottle, it went to his lips and not the patient more aptly named a victim.
After finishing, they threw my ancestor down in the waiting maw in the ground, and he bled to death while his dear Emilie-Jeanne stared unblinkedly back at him.
"What do you expect me to do?" Bob asked feebily, hoping that this story would induce sympathy for him, now a similar victim as his 'caretaker's' departed relatives. "That was unbelievable years ago, and I didn't have anything to do with it," he pleaded.
"Shaddup!" was the not too unexpected reply. "I gotta deal for you. Would you rather join the Confederates?"
Not hardly hesitating a millisecond, 'Sgt.' Robert answered "Yes!" Hoping to end his horror by joining the side that deemed itself the recipients of gross injustice.
"Good," Tillis, whatever his rank, joyfully said, throwing over to him a wretchedly soiled and drab colored shirt and pants, its stench helping to rouse him from the previous stupor. "Now put those on, and you will show what real bravery is." He then cut the ties on his feet.
Dressed, the peculiar man led him out of the cavern, and thankfully into the light, and cut his other bonds. "Come on in the house where I can show you Southern hospitality." He said, bizarrly emphasizing the 'hospital' in the word.
As Robert and 'Tillis' went into the house, out of the recesses of the foyer a scrubby woman with a shotgun emanated menacingly, "I got him covered, Jeth, let's make history come to life, now, jes lak on TeeVee."
"Yeah, git the videocamera, I want folks to see what happened to Pap. I bet Ken Burns'll pay me plenty for this'un. You.." He said to Bob, "Get on the piano."
"But I don't play," hoping to interject some humor to feel out their intentions, "I really was hoping to play the role of the doctor."
"That's alright, I've got that covered," he snorted, spitting more vile fluid near his ear, "it's all been thought out for more than a hunnert years." He then whirled and put on a sepia mottled coat, while the woman found huge straps which she almost instaneously put around the hapless Robert cum Tillis.
"You too are lucky, because unlike that Doc Patterson, I have brand new Ginsu knives with which to operate. I must concur with him, however, 'an aggressive treatment plan is in order!'"
Bob's screams seemed to go into a key change as the knives cut into his flesh, and the quack from Hell struggled to cut through bone. Peggy Tillis meanwhile was playing the role of cinematographer of the Century.
He awoke just long enough before he passed out again, never to awaken again, not to quite figure out if he was Sgt Robert, or whomever, but he could realize he was in a big hole. The sky above giving just enough light for him to see there was someone unflinchingly smiling at him....a very pale and gaunt Emilie-Jeanne!