stories, he said, terrible stories.
like what? i asked, not sure if i really wanted to hear any.
well, The Warden was obsessed with the occult, egyptian mysticism, that sort of thing. he'd spend hours poring over salvaged papyrus they had stored up in the church archives. he wasn't a member of the twelve, but he was close with brigham young and his.. eccentricities seemed to have the tacit approval of church leadership.
he'd built a scale model of an ancient necropolis in the courtyard of his prison, the centerpiece of which was a row of sphinx 13 abreast, 7 feet tall and identically carved. at each of the four corners of the courtyard stood a pure white horse, black funerary plumes mounted on their headtstalls.
they were trained to stand stock still. The Warden was consumed with this and demanded perfection. if one of the horses shied even a foot, it was instantly shot through the head.
geez, i said.
..there was a man who worked for The Warden managing the stables. it was his job to train the horses and, when it was ordered, to shoot them with the heavy revolver he wore on his belt. he'd learned not to become attached to the horses, didn't give them names. he'd had to become a hard man, at least on duty.
one horse, though, had outlasted the others. for whatever reason, temperment or training, it had stood motionless while a dozen other horses had been dispatched. in spite of himself, the man had grown to respect this horse. not love or affection, just a dull glimmer of respect. it was all the man would allow himself.
one day, The Warden returned to the prison from a visit to salt lake in a furious temper. he thundered through the courtyard, a constant stream of near-profanities falling back on the lackeys in his wake. when he reached the corner where the old horse stood, he stopped and stared. a long time he stared and the horse stood, unmoving, staring back at him. stableman!, screamed The Warden, shoot this animal immediately!
the man had watched The Warden, had seen that the horse hadn't moved. he crossed to the corner, drew his revolver and shot the horse just behind the eye. it staggered once and fell in a heap at The Warden's feet. The Warden turned and stormed up the prison steps, resuming his tirade as if nothing had broken his stream.
stonefaced, the man dropped his revolver in the dust, turned and walked across the courtyard and through the gate. he walked for miles down the dirt road heading towards salt lake and his home. entering the house, he stood the middle of the room, the front door open behind him. his wife came in from the kitchen, immediately sensing something was wrong. what's happened? she asked, crossing to him. as she came near, he drew her in with his arms and started sobbing; big gasping sobs and kissed her desperately. the kisses grew more aggressive and soon he was biting her face as the sobs reached a crescendo. she struggled to get free and yelled in pain, but his arms held her fast. he kissed and sobbed and bit her and screamed. eventually, she stopped struggling, passed out from the pain.
the neighbors found him sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor, his faceless wife slumped in pooling blood.