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 Category:  Western Fiction
  Posted: December 30, 2019      Views: 42
Chapters:
1 2 3 4 5 

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 FORESTPORT12 
IN PRINT 






 ABOUT
FORESTPORT12 

I've had some interesting years on this big blue dot in the solar system. Syracuse area for the past twenty years. Twelve years in Texas. Married for twenty six years. Five children and two grandchildren.

Since winning a publishing contr - more...

He is an accomplished novelist and is currently at the #37 spot on the rankings.

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Chapter 1 of the book Hosea and the Lost Souls
Hosea tempts fate but shares more with a stranger
"The Place of no Return" by forestport12

Background
Hosea heads west with a fresh start, but his past follows him. He hopes that when he starts a church in a vile town, he will find the key to free him from his past.


Hosea rode into the salt flats of Nevada with one skin of water, believing he'd make it with his horse Patches before the searing sun settled behind the Sierra Mountains. He'd been living on thin margins since his journey west. Having died once, made him less cautious and far more cavalier with a perspective few men get between worlds.

As he rode into the heart of this dry lakebed, he dismounted from Patches, his sagging horse and tugged on the reins. Casting his black coat across the mare's back, he trudged forward into the white abyss, leaving footprints behind like some ghost who dropped out of the pearl-blue sky.

Several hours later, the sun baked Hosea to a crisp, reminding his parched throat, he was saddled with his personal purgatory. Each step he took on the pancaked ground seemed like mere inches to the miles left where the mountain range had seemed closer in the heatwaves--a mirage of distance clouding his mind.

Hosea halted under the burden of his call. Like many who headed west, he'd left a world that didn't want him there, and if the truth be told half those who ventured west did so because of some epic failure of family or business back East and not for the lure of gold alone.

Vultures circled. He halted and squinted upward, fingered his pistol, in case they swooped down. Parched lips cracked and bleeding, he drank the last swig from his skin. He gave the remaining drops to his faithful mare. He loathed their predicament and pitied her plight. Stroking her snout, his throat clawed for words beyond sorry. "This is between me...me and the...the Lord. He's not angry with you. So sorry."

He plodded forward and thought about putting his mare out of her misery, but he didn't want the vultures to carve her up. Then the sun melted behind the mountains and a new reality came to the fore. They'd have to lay low and try to make it out by morning.

As Hosea stumbled along the wind howled as if alive with captured souls. The cold seeped inside and rattled his bones. He plucked his coat from Patches, tugged down the brim of his hat, and cursed the wind.

A host of stars appeared like silver trinkets with a meager means of guidance. His faith was raw. It needed time to cure, settle in his heart. But he kept that part of him hidden from others. He wished for rain, a lashing rain where he could stretch out his tongue and gulp, where he could fill the brim of his hat and his horse could drink. As he faltered and fell to his knees, he imagined diving into an icy-blue crater of a lake. "Lord, you don't aim to let me die, not tell I'm finished with your call." Whether he tempted or tested God, he was too far gone to know the difference.

Patches nudged him back to reality. He rose and shuffled forward into the abyss in defiance against nature-maybe God too.

From an unfathomed distance, he spied the flicker of a flame. He dug the grit from his eyes, blinked several times, and wondered if it was real. He shuffled forward with coarse sounds turned into words. "Come now, Patches, there's a firelight."

As Hosea drew closer his heart tightened and knotted at the form, or the glow of a man warming his hands by the fire. Hosea wanted to call out, but his tongue clave to his mouth and betrayed him.

Ragged pieces of the schooner flapped in the wind like a white flag of surrender. There was no horse to hitch for a wagon, no family, but an old man sitting Indian style with eyes glued to the fire. The closer he looked where the firelight let him, he could see the man had broken pieces of the wagon in order to feed the fire.

The old man perked up. "Whose out there?" He continued his stare into the flames.

Hosea croaked. "We, Me and Patches saw the fire."

"Did you come to end my suffering? Are you an angel or a man?"

Hosea drew closer and could see the man's eyes looked glazed over, and figured he was not only alone and stranded, but blind! The stark reality of this unexpected scene and this man's predicament caused tears to press against his eyes. Every word clawed his insides. "No sir, I'm a man with a horse here, need water."

"I suppose if n you meant no harm, I'd be dead already. Got no way out, but I got water."

Hosea wagged his tongue. He could hardly believe it was true.

"Help yourself," He said, not turning his head from the glare of the fire. "Some days-ago came a gully washer, like holy water from heaven. Filled a barrel, pots and pans too."


Hosea backed up toward the broke down schooner where the smell of death and perfume rifled his nose. He rammed his head into the barrel of water until he had to come up for air. Then his eyes caught the shriveled flesh of a female with mosquito net for a veil cast over her, hands folded over a worn leather Bible.

Patches drank greedily from a cooking pot until it spilled over the rail. She shoved in next to Hosea and stuck her snout in the barrel.


Hosea held his arm to his mouth and stumbled backward. figured the dead woman for the old man's wife. "Sir, that your wife in the wagon?"

"I can't seem to let her go. I know it's foolish, but I talk to her.." The old man finally craned his long neck toward Hosea. "I would have buried her right proper, but I have no strength to dig a hole, and I'm too weak to walk her out. Our son left on the horse in search of help. It's been some days, and I fear something vile has happened to him."

Hosea spoke in a whisper. "I can help you get out and give her a proper burial. Come morn, my horse can carry you and your wife. God's grace we found each other."

The man turned his gaze back to the fire. "I'd been praying for death. Didn't have hardness to do it myself."

Hosea sat next to the man where he clutched a bottle of whiskey.

"Hosea, my names Delbert. Folk call me Dell for short. My wife Mary, I told her I wouldn't leave her. A place for us in a meadow with gentle stream sounds right nice.

Hosea studied the man who had tears in his eyes. "There's time enough to think through how you want it all to set down."

When Hosea heard it, it sparked the memory of his family, his past that haunted him, followed him no matter how far he travelled and how much time slipped between him what happened back east. "I used to have a family."

The man continued to look into the fire, as if nothing else mattered. "No man should be alone. I'd say it gnaws a man tell he goes plum crazy."



Hosea became transfixed by the fire and his mind drifted on the cold Chicago night when he found his house on fire. As he walked back from town in a drunken stupor, he heard the bloody screams of his wife and two daughters. Then house crumbled and shrank, as if it had been made of matchsticks.

Dells words broke the fire's spell on Hosea. "You think ill of me, should I want to die?"

"Best sleep on it. Life's not something to trifle with until it's your time." But Hosea feared it opened himself to a revelation

"What brings you this way, you don't mind me asking?"

"I'm going to a place that needs to heed a warning, a town in need of a message. Some say I'm a prophet. Some say I'm the devil, depending who says so."

"I knew it. Somehow, I knew you was some kinda messenger."

"Free will and free hands give man many a choice to make."

Dell took a swig of his whiskey and spit some of it in the fire where it hissed. He blindly passed the bottle to Hosea.

"No thanks, I swore it off one day, but after I lost everything. I will drink some more water." He stood and found a ladle hanging from a nail, pinched his nose and scooped water from the barrel.

Hosea tethered his horse to the broken wagon, took the saddle and swung it down into the dirt by Dell. "By morning, you might reconsider finding your son for your wife's sake."

"Wife said I was stubborn as a mule, and sometimes kick like one in my sleep." The old man curled under a horse blanket and snored off to sleep.

Hosea leaned back on his saddle and pulled the picture locket of his wife and two daughters from his shirt pocket where he could see their glowing faces in the firelight.

A rogue tear escaped down his blistered face. He could accept God's forgiveness, but he hadn't forgiven himself. It made him question his own calling in a place where there's no turning back and death was the only means to resign.

The last thing he wanted was to offer the old man his hand in death.

Hosea's eyelids fell like the led curtains with a faint prayer for a dreamless night.

The book continues with Tender Mercies. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
Working on a western genre but with speculative touches. Please share with me if this creates the kind of mystery that keeps you reading. Thanks.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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