Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Devil's in Ye, Walter White! -006

I'm participating in a story-a-day challenge from a Reddit writing group. My story is based on this prompt.

Walter found himself in the Rose & Thistle Saloon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the distance he faintly heard the blast of a horn as the factory belched black smoke into the air. He had come here to hide from the New Mexico Territorial authorities who had discovered his terrible secret. He paused, then took a seat at the dusty bar. Running a finger through his handlebar mustache, he summoned the barkeep.

"Sarsparilla," he croaked, barely suppressing a cough. The Consumption was catching up to him now. No more bottles of Dr. McCrory's Home-Brew'd Elixir of Health & Vitality remained to keep him alive. He would die soon, far, far away from his family in the territories. This was especially ironic, given that he himself was the fabled "Dr. McCrory" now wanted by the federal marshals.

He took out the last piece of paper, a fountain pen, a vial of ink, and began writing his confession.

He started with the story of how it was he, not Thomas Edison, who had crafted the lightbulb. It was he who had suggested Tungsten as a filament. It was he who said a vacuum must exist inside the bulb. Everything about the light bulb was Walter's idea except the shape itself; but in the end, that was enough for Edison to take credit. The shape's the thing, Edison had retorted just before firing Walter.
Walter went on to describe his situation: a half-breed Indian wife, a son lamed by Rickets growing up in the Lower East Side, a newborn daughter who would never remember him now. How the family had sold everything to live on the Ute Reservation to the northwest of a dinky town named Albuquerque. How he taught sciences on the reservation and repaired wagons for travellers just to be able to feed his family. 
And then he came to Jessie. A former student who'd narrowly avoided arrest for selling snake oil. It was the opportunity Walter needed. He purified the formula: a combination of olive oil, exotic herbs from Italy, but mostly bathtub gin. It was one of a million false cures for every condition under the sun, but Walter made it work. He'd discovered a mould in one sample, but rather than dispose of it, he tested the mould to identify it. And what he'd found astonished him: the mould produced a chemical that killed bacteria. Walter and Jesse had stumbled upon an actual cure to thousands of diseases from Syphillis to infection. 
Production had begun slowly, but soon they'd found themselves in the employ of a dry goods proprietor from South America who secretly controlled much of the snake oil cartel in the Territories. Gustav had given them everything they needed, but Walter couldn't stand for working for another man; he wanted to be the best, and to be the best, he had to eliminate everyone and everything standing in his way. 
First was the vaqueros, all poisoned by Gustav, then Gustav himself, killed by dynamite. Another brilliant chemist, Gale, had to be eliminated as well; Walter had manipulated Jessie into shooting him in a gunfight. Then it was the local Klansmen: they had helped Walter tie up some loose ends, but they'd also killed Walter's brother-in-law, a federal marshal named Henry. Walter dreamed of exacting revenge on them, but now he was stuck here in New Hampshire....
Walter paused. He'd been writing for three hours, and his hand was beginning to cramp. But his confession was complete. He folded the sheet in thirds, then walked back to the bar.

"Another sarsparilla, stranger?" the barkeep asked.
"Please. And could you see that the local police captain receives this letter? Tell him it's from Walter White." The barkeep froze. Everyone knew of the outlaw Walter White, and now here he was. Walter smiled. "I'll wait," he said coolly. The barkeep turned and left the shop, probably in hot pursuit of the nearest patrolman. It would be a while, still, so Walter picked up a newspaper from behind the bar and began to read.

What he saw on the front page chilled him to the bone, then filled him with rage: EDISON PLEDGES $400,000 TO FUND ANTI-SNAKE OIL TREATMENTS. Walter couldn't see beyond the headline, his mind was clouded with rage. Then he had an idea. A wonderful, terrible idea....

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