Hope you like this, OUTLAW. I thought of you as I wrote it. BTW, I'm Jack.
Jack Evers lived in a sparsely populated neighborhood. Sparse in terms of human beings. There were crate loads of four-footed critters crawling about the dark woods ... furtive, keen of sight and hearing, razor-sharp of tooth and claw. Jack's nearest neighbor, old Ben Malloy, no longer bears the distinction of being a friend in time of need. He's dead. No say in the matter. Surely, he was an old fossil and a bit doddery, yet the life force still wheezed in and out of his spent, wiry frame.
Ben fell sound asleep in his sturdy glider rocker late one afternoon. The fresh, mountain air wafting playfully through the open porch did its mischievous trick. He would have awakened to greet the next day, had his usual long, long nap taken the old cuss through the cool of evening and into the dawn of a new tomorrow. The teeming wildlife - that skittering through dense brush and tangled undergrowth and that soaring overhead with an ever watchful glare toward what lay below - had taken on a sort of assertiveness the locals had not encountered before. No longer an instinctive timidity around humans but an aggressive readiness to take back their proper domain. Ben - kind and gentle soul that he was - was becoming flummoxed by the deer and squirrels and coons making his vegetable garden into a tossed green salad on a near daily basis. The varmints were tearing into his fence and pulling it ten ways to Sunday. On that last day - Ben's last day - he must have collapsed into his rocker in sheer exhaustion. He never woke up.
Jack hadn't seen the poor old coot for a day or two; there were none of the characteristic signs that your unseen but ever present near neighbor was home: chimney smoke from the cook stove drifting aimlessly through the treetops, the occasional hoot and holler at the invader beasts, the twang of the banjo of an evening. Getting a trifle concerned by too much silence, Jack wandered through the woods to check things out. Quiet, eerie stillness sounded throughout the forest. As Jack approached Ben's sagging porch he saw a figure, unmistakably, in the old glider. Something was amiss, however. Actually, something was missing ... The young man began to retch uncontrollably as mind and eyes commenced taking in the reality of the old man's final and horrific state. Ben was now nothing more than a skeleton, his bones picked absolutely clean. Overalls and bright-red cap shredded. Only his boots remained intact.
When Jack got hold of himself he called Sheriff Ames.
Jack hasn't been healthy for a goodly spell. Something’s wrong in his head. The body remains strong and agile, yet the sickness in his mind renders the otherwise robust physicality inert, useless ... weak.
Sitting and dreaming ... sitting and dreaming on the porch of his cabin, Jack takes in the expanse, the enormity of the deep woods that all but swallow up the unwary and the helpless. The fading young man vacantly absorbs his surroundings with a calm that was not a portion of his earlier, hectic life. As he gazes about, Jack catches a scampering squirrel on the periphery, then another. Straight on little Bambi and her parents approach. To the right ambles over a family of raccoons ... Jack is so sleepy, so in need of a good night's sleep. His head nods, then rises before nodding again, his chin finally resting firmly upon his Pendleton-encased chest ...
Overhead, a pattern of buzzards circles lazily before their eventual but sure descent....