In 1837 the Central Railroad and Banking Company drove a one foot wide, and 42 inch tall, rectangular stone into the ground deep into former Cherokee territory. They called it the zero mile post.
The stone had two different carvings in it.
Zero Mile Post was the Western and Atlantic Railroads marker to designate the end of a railroad system starting from the coast. They named the location Terminus. Which means end of the line.
But none of that mattered to Ambrose Bierce at the moment…
That was 27 years ago, and currently he was leaning against a tree with a traumatic brain injury, thanks to a Confederate Sniper.
Blood was pouring from his head like a waterfall. The Rebel marksman had done his duty. If asked Ambrose would say it felt like his head had been broken like a walnut. The soil beneath him was sticky and muddy with red; mixed with fragments of bone and brain.
Being shot with a .577 round was like getting hit with a half inch metal marble traveling faster than the sound of the gunshot. The pain from the entry and exit point starts to blend with the need to survive. Pain is just a symptom, eventually it can be ignored. What can’t be ignored is the grinding sounds of the broken skull.
Ambrose thought to himself, how ironic to have been through so much combat, to die on Kennesaw mountain. It was the Cherokee word for cemetery. He was at the end of the line in a cemetery.
The sniper…was an infantry man that had shown his skills with a rifle. Sharpshooters we’re considered the Rebel elite. The Kentuckian boys were using the London-Kerr long rifle. A British weapon with an effective range of 500 yards..Ambrose had been like a deer in their sights.
The battle was lost for the Union. Sherman had been defeated on Kennesaw Mountain but it wouldn’t keep the General from his ultimate target. The town formerly called Terminus.
Bierce knew the wind and fire were coming. Sherman was unstoppable. The heart of the confederacy would be pierced and be gone with the wind.
But today, the Confederates ruled the day and Sherman’s mighty force had been slowed in his advance toward their precious gem. Their end of the line, Terminus. The Rebel city that linked Atlantica to the Pacifica. Atlanta.
His vision was starting to blur. He watched the trees on Kennesaw mountain start to sway. The pain of the gunshot was starting to fade.
His body was starting to cool as well. Ambrose shuddered as the blood seeping from his head wound started to slow. He was running out of blood. He was dying.
Truly, Today would be a dark and Southern Gothic Horror. Today would be the day the confederacy killed Ambrose Bierce.
Without a movement, without a sound, in the pro- found silence and the languor of the late afternoon, some in- visible messenger of fate touched with unsealing finger the eyes of his consciousness—whispered into the ear of his spirit the mysterious awakening word which no human lips ever have spoken, no human memory ever has recalled.-Ambrose Bierce A Horseman in the sky. -1889
Smoke from the battle swirled around Ambrose as the edges of the world started to grey. Instead of the booming sound of gunfire, the sounds of war faded into whispers.
The smoke in front of him appeared red, like it was stained with blood. Somehow the smoke started to solidify.
Before him the red- cloud of smoke started to shape onto a figure. It was a human figure, with red skin, but the movement of the clouds made it hard to distinguish if it were a male or female.
The being stepped in and leaned down toward Ambrose. The movement of the smoke still obfuscated the sex of the being, but he could see that it had Cherokee features.
“Are you an Angel or a Devil!?” Ambrose barked, knowing that lunacy and blood loss were setting in.
The being spoke, “Hello storyteller… I am ASGAYA GIGAGEI”.
The being spoke with a calming tone. The voice sounded like a male and female voice speaking in sync.
“You have sustained a grave injury white man.” Asgaya Gigagei tenderly observed, placing a hand on Ambrose’s forehead.
“Are you an illusion at deaths door?“ The fallen soldier asked.
“No, I am the Cherokee spirit of healing, and you have sacrificed to save this land” Asgaya answered.
“Then I will live?” Ambrose said with a hint of hope.
The smoke around Asgaya began to shape into different patterns. On the ground the shapes of a city started to appear. There were animals and people walking through the smoke city streets.
“You will live…to share the shadows of the world with others.” Asgaya answered. “So says the God of healing.”
The city at Ambrose’s feet began to grow, the animals and people changed and some of the buildings took on a different look. It was as if Ambrose was watching the passage of time.
“You haves aided in the growth of a powerful place.” The God spoke. “A place that will suffer through a raging fire and rise again like a Phoenix.”
The smoke shifted again. The city changed once more.
Asgaya continued. “The white man stole this land and buried it in Evil. There is darkness that pumps through the city you seek to conquer.”
“There was a time they were going to name it after a child. Martha, the daughter of its local sovereign. This was supposed to be Marthaville”
“But the poisoning of a conquering people, gave rise to naming their cities after Roman city-states.”
The smoke swirled around the city as it’s buildings started to look like nothing Ambrose could imagine. The buildings, the clothing and the horse carts looked different as well.
“Rome, Helen, Athens, Alpha-retta, and of course the legendary city of Atlantis, which they called Atlanta.”
“Tell them of war. Tell them of loss and sorrow. Tell them of The Horseman In The Sky.”
“Rising from the ashes the people of the future will see a brighter day. They will march and they will see a movement of the people take root in their streets. They will see freedom.”
The Red God stood from his/her position in front of Ambrose and disappeared. In place; a Union soldier could be seen running to his fallen comrades aide.
There was a Red Cross floating over the soldiers head. Ambrose knew he would live to see another day.
His final thoughts drifted out as the soldier reached down for him. “Good ol’ Marthaville”