Iron Box (by Nzie)

Summary: Another go at the old grinding wheel. This time, we’re in Risley’s prison. More specifically, the iron box. Recalled the scenes from the episode that showed Heath panting away ALL DAY. How uninteresting. Here’s my thoughts on what really would’ve happened in the box.
Category:  The Big Valley
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  1100

CLANK. Click. Laugh. Actually, more like a chuckle, Heath thought. Funny to think of that at a time like this. Trapped. Stay calm. Breathe easy. How could it get hot so soon? Or was that just the fever? Both. He was incredibly weak. His back had stung so much. It was worse than at Carterson. No, the Confederacy couldn’t spare the metal to embed in the leather. They’d used broken glass instead. Risley’s whip had both. Funny to sit here analyzin’ the diff’rent types whips I’ve felt.

Nick will get me out. Nick will get me out. Nick will get me out. Jarrod will come and Nick will get me out. Jarrod’s comin’ with the judge. The judge’ll get us out. But what if the judge was paid, too? Naw, Jarrod woul’n’t get a crooked judge. Jarrod’ll get the judge an’ Nick’ll get me out an’ the judge’ll send me home. An’ Risley’ll go to hell. Wait; wasn’t he there already?

But it isn’t his hell; it’s mine. It’s another addition to my fine collection of bad places not fit for a rat. A rabid rat. A rabid rat half dead and crawling over my friends’ bodies at Car–– No, I won’t think ‘bout that. God, I hate goin’ up to the loggin’ camp. No, I said I wouldn’t think about that. Thought. Thought I decided not to remember that place. Jarrod’d be proud of my phasin’. All them lawyers like it real specific-like. Always careful with them words o’ his. Wish he’d been more careful with his words to Risley. ‘Pparently, Risley wa’n’t too happy with ‘em. Right soon after is when they put me in here. Nick’s feelin’ bad. Wonder what Risley’s got planned for him. I bet Nick’s blamin’ himself right now. Never stop that, not even when I’m dead. Or he’s dead. Wonder who’ll die first. I ain’t gonna die here. Maybe next year. Maybe next month. Hell, next week even. But I ain’t gonna die here. Nick’s older than me. Likes to get into fights an’ such. Cain’t ever figure why. Hope he don’t get into one soon after we get out. My back won’t carry him like this. Course, Mother won’t let me leave my room. An’ Audra’ll mother me like I’m a two-year-old. I swear I’ll lose it of she tries to feed me. Back or not, I’ll make one hell of a stink ‘bout it. Nick an’ Jarrod’ll side with me, but it’s Mother’s call. Course, I can refuse to eat ‘less I feed m’self. Yep, that might work. Just might.

Figure it’s what, two hours since they put me in here. That makes it what, three thirty or so. Sun’s heat should start wanin’ right ‘bout now. Maybe it’ll cool off a bit. Who am I kiddin’; I ain’t gonna notice. An’ it’ll take hours for this to cool of. ‘Less they put it in a ice house. Can they put me in a ice house? Boy howdy, wouldn’t that feel fine. Or a nice cold bath. Mother cain’t be there for that. Ain’t no way I’m gonna let Mother in the room with me naked in the tub. Uh uh. No way, Jose. Nice kid, that Jose. His sister was nice, too. But we were young then. Maybe I should write her. Maybe she’s married, though. I’ll write Jose. He’ll tell me ev’rything, and he was a good friend. Too many good friends I’ve let go. Hafta think who else I should write. Not now.

Is that Risley? What’s he sayin’? Somethin’ bout Nick. An’ that laugh again. Chuckled. No, this time it’s a laugh. A crazy laugh. Guy lost his marbles long ago. Too much seawater runnin’ through those veins. Maybe I should answer. Naw. Won’t give him the satisfaction. Can I talk? Throat’s so dry; I don’t know. But I ain’t gonna try it now.

Sounds like supper call. Air comin’ in through them li’l holes is cooler now. Feels kinda nice. But this box ain’t gettin’ any cooler. Wish I had somethin’ to eat. Or jus’ water’d be fine. All I got is sweat. An’ a infection. Lotsa both. That cool air ain’t doin’ much for the sweat like it does back at the ranch. Boy, wouldn’t I love to be mendin’ some fences right about now. No, I wouldn’t be. I’d be up at the line shack or washin’ up for dinner. Or having a drink with Jarrod and Nick. It’s real dark now. Hope I don’t have to spend the night here. Some light come through before. Jus’ a li’l left now. Can see the light reflectin’ offa my sweat. ‘Minds me of one of Audra’s dresses. All nice an’ shiny like silk. Satin? No, that’s the furry one. Silk. With m’sleeves rolled up it looks almost gold on my skin. Looks kinda good. Real thick on the skin, could be the drink I need. No. I won’t be a animal. But it’s the only way I can wet my lips. There’s a lot. Doesn’t taste too bad, jus’ a li’l salty. Wait, ain’t salt bad for you when you need water. Damn fool, Heath. You’re a damn fool. Act like a animal to get some water ‘fore you think, an’ now you’re in worse situation than before. Real smart.

What’s that noise. Nick? Nick?! How’d he get out here? Take me out. Yeah. Good. Knew you would. Knew Risley was lyin’. When’s Jarrod comin’? I can’t talk! Okay, it’s okay. Leavin’, Nick? Come back soon. The walls are closin’ in. It’s okay. It’s okay. Is that Risley? An’ Nick? Are they fightin’? God, no. I wanna get out. Where are you guys? Don’t lose the fight, Nick. Ride up, Jarrod. Bentell’s in here. He’s whippin’ me again. An’ Risley, too. Don’t let them get me. I can’t hold out. No, they’re not here. Yes, there they are. No, it’s impossible. No! NO!

Click. CLANK. Why am I falling sideways?

“Oh my God, Heath.”

“You got here just in time Jarrod. It’s alright, Heath. You’re safe now. Alright, boys, lets get him to a bed.”

Safe. Safe. Free.

***The End***

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