Tucker was aware that he was standing on a wooden platform. A scaffold, actually. The scaffold had been erected in the middle of a clearing, within a fog-drenched forest.
There was a distinct chill in the air. The smell of gunpowder.
Tucker’s hands were bound behind his back.
A rope—a noose, to be precise—was tied taut around his neck. Not quite choking him. He could feel the itchy fibers of the rope. The rope’s hardness.
He looked down and got yet another surprise. He wasn’t wearing any clothes that he would recognize as his own. He was clad in white breaches, and black riding boots.
He was wearing some kind of a jacket that was heavy and woolen.
From somewhere back in the foggy woods, a crow cawed.
Then Tucker heard a slow, rhythmic drumbeat. On one side of the scaffold, a row of soldiers became visible, half-shrouded by the fog. They wore tricorn hats. About half of them were standing at attention, with muskets at the ready. The other half, bearing drums, were the sources of the beats.
Closer to the scaffold, an older male voice said Tucker’s full name. Tucker looked down, and saw a portly man in a blue uniform, standing beside the platform. He wore a tricorn hat, too, and a powdered wig.
The stranger raised his hand, and the drumbeats stopped. Then he unfurled an old-fashioned scroll. He read aloud from the document, in a strange accent that was not quite contemporary American, but not quite British, either.
“By order of his Excellency, General George Washington, you have been charged with high treason. You have been sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. May the Almighty have mercy on your soul.”
“No!” Tucker cried out. “I didn’t do anything!”
Tucker heard the slow clopping of an approaching horse. He looked in the direction of the clops, and saw a horse and rider approach out of the darkness.
George Washington sat atop a black horse. The general wore his military uniform, complete with gold epaulets. He stared directly at Tucker, his face hard and implacable. But that wasn’t all.
Washington’s skin was as white as his powdered wig. He looked skeletal inside his uniform. Because he wasn’t much more than that—a skeleton.
Washington’s eyes were two solid black circles.
“Tucker,” someone else said.
Tucker looked down, and Joel was standing at the nearest corner of the scaffold, not far from the man with the scroll.
“You see, Tucker,” he said. “I told you that you would have a chance to meet George Washington before the end of the summer. Well, now you’re meeting him—”
Tucker awoke in the darkness of his bedroom, breathing hard. He occasionally had dreams that he remembered upon waking, but it had been some time since he had had a nightmare as vivid as this.
A few more weeks, he thought, until he reported to George Washington Investments to begin his co-op job. He hoped that the strange events of today, and that horrible dream had been nothing but jitters, brought on by his anxiety over his employment situation.
But he feared otherwise.
End of excerpt