If This You Read
While visiting a cave in the hills, Golden Arrow finds himself trapped in the midst of a wintry storm! If he survives his encounter with an escaped convict, he still has to survive possible starvation and freezing to death!
If this you read, then I am either dead, or some damn fool done stuck me in time again. If that’s the case, I sure hope it’s far enough into the future that it don’t almost feel like home and yet feel sorta alien at the same time, like it does now. I think I could handle flat-out total strangeness better.
But maybe you’re wondering who I am and why you should care.
My name’s Parsons. I was born on Long Island, New York, in the year of our Lord, as I heard it said, nineteen-hundred and ten, the son of Professor Paul and Gloria Parsons. Way I heard it, a comet or shooting star or something was seen just as I came outta my maw. The old Pawnee mentor I knew years later told me I was born to be a traveler, and man, he got that right. Born with itchy feet, it’s been said of me, though my first voyage was hardly my choice, since I was only a little papoose when my inventor paw took me and my maw on a cross-country trip by hot air balloon to test out an experimental gas he planned to sell to the U.S. government.
Of course, my pappy couldn’t have known that Brand Braddock would shoot us down as we passed over the western badlands, and he sure as hell couldn’t have predicted that I’d be taken in and raised by an old gold prospector named Nugget Ned, or that I’d be trained as a boy by an old Pawnee warrior named Comet’s-Tail with all the skills I’d need to become a champion archer and horse-rider. In fact, that old Indian brave was so impressed with the skills I’d mastered by the time I was eighteen years old that he gave me the honor of being called Golden Arrow, the same name by which he’d been a legend of the Old West. (*) Though my habit of melting some of Ned’s gold onto the tips of my arrowheads may have also influenced him in that regard. Anyway, with a bit of luck this child of the East ended up becoming a hero of the West.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Golden Arrow, Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940) and “The Golden Arrow,” The Lone Rider #2 (June, 1951).]
As I was saying, I’m Roger Parsons, born July 1, 1910, and today is October 20th or so in 1987, which should make me seventy-seven years old, but my real age is forty-four. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t look or feel a day over thirty.
And that’s because a sailor named Lance O’Casey and I, along with a few others, were basically frozen in time like flies in amber from the year 1953 forward about thirty-two years, when we were finally freed by some well-meaning folks who were themselves heroes, though not the same ones I’d met a couple times back in the early ’40s. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Bulletman and Bulletgirl: The Castaways, “The Bumble-Brained Bridegroom,” America’s Greatest Comics #4 (August 12, 1942), and “Capt. Marvel Battles Sabotage at the Printing Plant,” Whiz Comics #43 (June, 1943).]
All of that stuff is probably written up somewhere, and I ain’t here to write the history of the world, just tell you who I am and how I got here, and why I’m writing this.
Since my return, I’ve resumed crime-fighting as the Golden Arrow, champion of the people, fighter for what’s right and all of that, maybe because my parents were killed when I was a child. Or maybe it’s simply because I believe in my heart and soul that pushing people around, chasing them not only off their own land but hunting them down and killing them for sport is cruel and evil, no matter what glorious name you give it, like manifest destiny. Evil must be stopped, and I was trained to do that as a warrior. Though now I sometimes wear a fancy super-hero costume and mask whenever I’m tryin’ to be Golden Arrow the hero, so nobody can guess that I’m also part-time rodeo cowboy Roger Parsons.
‘Course, the rodeo circuit pays for winning, not just showing up, and the crime-fighting, well, that’s not a for-pay career, but sometimes someone would slip me reward money or a meal. That’s OK, but still, both cost money. Hell, life costs money, but thing is, what you earn should be yours to use as you choose. But stealing people’s means of survival? No.
Well, so I was up here in the mountains, looking for a place I remember learning about in 1942 while on a manhunt: Los Padres Blanco’s tomb, a sacred and forgotten spot where two Franciscan friars had been buried with much honor in 1789, killed by Anglos looking for gold. Someone got ’em, and these two honest, decent men were buried with more treasures than they ever conceived of wanting, and their burial site was secret to only a few. I had found it, and of course, judging from the signs, no one had been here in many years. I hid some old golden Spanish coins in here, figuring the padres would guard it for me until I needed some of it to sell — in case I didn’t make enough doing rodeos — to pay for gas, repairs, equipment, my horse, and his care, and we needed to eat and sleep.
Take the gold and stuff from the padres’ graves? Are you kidding? I wouldn’t remove from a saint or hero’s grave without permission, nor would I seek it unless it was important. No, I found this place by accident and made use of the offering. Besides, I had on occasion seen what had happened to some tomb thieves, and I ain’t no thief. I live honestly.
So I was up here to dig up some of the old money I had left her. And when I found out about the blizzard, I figured I would have time to come and go before it hit. After parking the truck my friend Pete Gallagher left for me when he died, I hiked up from the base, and soon discovered there had been some changes in the terrain since I’d been here last. Even so, I could have beaten the unseasonal-but-expected-to-be-fierce ice storm, had it not been for encountering Gorilla Jones, escaped murderer and former world heavyweight wrestling champion. Jones had been imprisoned for killing three people — men who were cops, not wrestlers, but men in good physical condition, all of which I knew about from the radio. Only, I wouldn’t even have suspected this huge, hairy, kinda bear-like man of being called Gorilla. At first I thought he might’a been half-Bigfoot, and for all I know he was.
But he was about to molest a young woman and was in the process of beating the young man who was with her into a coma and maybe worse when I spotted him. I wished to God I had brought my bow and arrows with me, and maybe even the new costume Jim Barr had designed for me with all its bells and whistles, so I could have put an immediate stop to what was transpiring instead of having to yell and run forward uphill like a damn fool. But I still had my wits and a lifetime of training and practice outwitting owlhoots like this one, and I’d hardly worn that ridiculous new costume much, anyway. It just didn’t fit right on me.
I yelled, “Drop that, boy!” By all indications, it already wasn’t likely I’d be able to beat the blizzard as I’d planned. Nope, the blizzard had other plans for me.
As I ran uphill, shedding my pack and pulling out Pete’s old .45 — it’s rattlesnake country, after all — he surprised me and threw the young’un at me, actually knocking me down. I moved the kid off me and grabbed my pistol, catching a glimpse of Jones running off with the girl. I checked the young man and saw he was more dead than alive, internal bleeding as well as outward. It was obvious he was gonna die, and die soon. There was really nothing I could do for him, but I couldn’t just leave him, could I?
I made the decision to cover him with a blanket and come back as quick as I could, then I took after Gorilla Jones and the girl. It helped that I was raised to track and hunt, and Jones, for all his size and strength, was still just a city boy.
Granted, he was fast-moving, so after following him a bit, I found him right near the mouth of this cave just as the storm hit, and hit hard. He threw the girl down and picked up a large rock. I aimed my pistol at him and yelled at him to drop it, which he did by throwing it at me. I ducked, rolled, and fired, hitting him in the left shoulder. He grabbed a smaller rock and threw that. I fired again and got him between the eyes. Good shooting, if I do say so myself. The storm then came on like a pack of howling coyotes and twice as fierce as a grizzly momma on her period. So I grabbed the girl and ducked in here.
Fortunately, there was still a considerable pile of brush and wood in here, and no animals holed up, but as the winds carried on, and snow mixed with ice started to pile up faster than you can say Jack Rabbit, I expected other animals might try for here. So I fixed up a fire real quick and then checked on the girl. She was unconscious, but breathing OK. In her pack I found this notebook. Her name, incidentally, is Laurie Miller, and according to her cards she’s a nineteen-year-old University of Denver student. Pretty girl, too, with black hair and brown eyes. Fortunately for her, she was still out cold, as there was a nasty lump on the back of her head where Jones had hit her.
If it was as bad down below as it was here, then the boy was a goner for sure. Damn sorry about that.
Using an old bit of crockery found in the cave, I got some snow and ice and melted it for drinking water, but we didn’t have any food here, and this storm could last a couple of days. Already I couldn’t see much of the outside, it was piling up so fast.
This could well be the end of old Roger Parsons, AKA the Golden Arrow, not to mention the girl, Laurie Miller.
So now we are in a fine pickle here, trapped by this storm. We got water but no food, and things do not at all look good.
Looking around, using a torch I made, I found a tunnel. Now, to check it out would require me to leave the girl, and looking at her she showed no signs of waking up. Funny, I don’t remember a tunnel here, but it’s been over thirty years since I was here last. Memories can play tricks on you.
I checked it out a little bit. It does go in a ways. I saw a turn, and that is interesting. Wonder if this place gets some use I didn’t know about.
Laurie was awake for a while, weak but fine. I gave her some water and told her what I could. She’s gone back to sleep now. Gary, the boy, was her boyfriend. I say was because I’m quite sure he’s dead now. Gary Zbigniew — interesting name, that. Sounds Russian or something.
So, making sure she’s OK, I’m going to check this tunnel.
It goes back quite a ways down the mountain, and that’s a good thing. I had to come back and check on her. She’s stirring now. If she’s up to it, I’m gonna take her with me. I think this might be our only way out. The snow and ice will surely make walking outside more dangerous than jumping into a rattlesnake pit. This could be how the Indians got the padres and all this stuff here in the first place.
Decided to finish this off. The tunnel led to bottom of the mountain, and we got out, found the encampment Laurie and Gary had started to set up, which was now covered in ice and snow, of course. But we were able to dig out some food. The storm’s over, and we dragged Gary out to my truck. He’s dead, of course, but I believe he died peacefully. Now I’m at the hospital here at Hell’s Pass. Laurie will be OK, with some frostbite and hypothermia, as well as shock, as it was quite a situation. I notified the authorities as to where Jones was, and I’m gonna get some breakfast and head out.
Not sure what I’m gonna do with this writing. Maybe use it to start my next campfire. In a way, this story seems rather — what do you call it? — anticlimactic. Best I can say is, it was a rough twenty-four hours, indeed.