A war correspondent from back east
The problem with a nightmare is that they always sucker you in – surround you with the familiar to confuse you before they pull the rug away. You wanna know the worst nightmare I’ve ever had?
It always starts off different. One time I was in a bar enjoying a drink with some friends. Another time I was sat down about to eat the biggest steak you’ve ever seen. Then, for no reason I’ve ever been able to fathom, I get up from what I’m doing, head across the room and head out the door. The scene changes, but you know how it is in dreams; you don’t really notice how disconnected things are.
I’m standing in Jack’s Place. I can tell from your confusion that you don’t know it. It’s a dive of a place back home in New York but I spent a lot of my time there as a kid. They always used to host these bare-knuckle boxing matches and me and my brother would sneak in to watch them. More often than not we’d end up being cuffed around the back of the head and sent packing but occasionally we’d get to see a knockout blow.
That’s where Joe got his interest in the sport – and how I got my break into journalism. He began training with “Big” Jack Tilton and was soon the centre of attention. Now I gave the boxing a go, but was nowhere near Joe’s skill, which he enjoyed proving to me time and time again. Think I’ve still got a couple of the bruises somewhere.
So I began writing about the fights, learning all about the fighters; their personal stories, that sort of thing. It wasn’t long before I started selling the stories to local papers. When the Herald started in ’35, they snapped me up and I was telling the whole city about how my younger brother was dominating the boxing scene.
Anyway, I’ve digressed. I’m in Jack’s, and there’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. There’s a fight on but every time I try to see what’s going on the crowd shouts, raises their arms, or generally gets in the way. I push my way to the front, squeezing past the claustrophobic crowds of people. The crowd thins, and the fighters are right in front of me. There’s Joe and, as usual he’s winning and show-boating while doing so. He makes it look easy, keeping his opponent at bay with precision blows.
Just then it starts. I feel a lurch in the pit of my stomach as I’ve seen this before, but I’m never able to stop it. Joe turns to look at me. He mouths something but I cannot make it out over the sounds of the crowd. Showing off as usual. His opponent rushes forward, catching Joe across the side of his head and dropping him like a stone.
But he doesn’t stop there. He attacks Joe like an animal. Snarling and growling like he’s possessed by a demon. One, two, three. His blows rain down on Joe like a hammer. Four, Five, Six. I hear something crack above the sounds of the crowd. A rib? His arm? Why am I not doing anything to help my brother? He’s right there, not two foot in front of me but I’m not doing anything. No, that’s not right. I’m writing. Each blow is described in exquisite detail. Seven, Eight, Nine. Joe’s face has turned a dark purple colour and you can barely make out what used to be his nose. Ten, Eleven, Twelve. His opponent is like an artist painting with blood.
The crowd’s chants begin to rise in their fervour. Louder, more feral, animalistic. Some even begin to kick at Joe or join in with their fists. Then I hear a noise and at first it confuses me. A strange deep noise, as if from far away, but getting louder. And then I realise, I’m screaming along with the crowd, caught up in their rage. I pick up something. Maybe it’s a stick or a bottle. It doesn’t matter and maybe it’s different every time, but I bring it down on Joe again and again. I want to stop but I can’t. Eventually what’s left of Joe cannot even be described as human. One by one the crowd bores of the spectacle and leaves, until it’s just me and Joe. Poor dead Joe.
That’s when I wake up. Someone I met once said that the worst dreams are the ones where you die at the end. He was wrong. It’s the ones where someone you love dies that are the worst.
Joe died in the summer of 1841. I wasn’t there that day; I was somewhere else in the city, getting a story on something, I really don’t remember anymore. All I remember is getting home to find my mother in tears, unable to speak. Father was there, as stern as always. He told me how Joe’s opponent managed to get the drop on him and something must have just broken inside him.
It all changed from that day. I think they blamed me. Maybe if I hadn’t sensationalised his fights he would have grown bored, got a proper job somewhere. I threw myself into the writing and haven’t looked back. I’d take jobs that involved long trips away from home, anything to put distance between me and the family. That’s mainly what brings me down south.
The paper wants me to bring the story of the Confeds to the people of New York. Not everyone agrees with the war, or the reasons behind it. Real stories of people caught up in the battles and how their lives have changed. Reports of the battles, who lives, who dies. Whatever it takes to sell the story. Whatever it takes to distance me from the past.
Traits & Skills
- Size 6
- Grit 0
- White Chips
- Red Chips
- Blue Chips
- Bounty Points
Shootin' Irons & Such