Welcome to another week! This week is nicely on time and should be a good week as a bonus story is getting posted mid-week. This isn’t a bonus though, this is Story 40 – Flight.
As Stephen King’s Roland was Clint Eastwood, and Sergio Leone’s man with no name was Akira Kurosawa’s samurai – Anwyn is my gunslinger. A different world, a different time, but that same lone warrior in a world that has…moved on.
Written in the pub and then rewritten back home, welcome to another world, Fantasy – 1218 words.
A dry wind swept along the beach, stirring the sand into lazy swirls that arced along the wide expanse. Anwyn watched the sun slowly sinking toward the horizon. She swung her bag around, it was much older than herself, once fashioned from the finest leather and now a mixture of leather, textiles and bits of found metal. Only a few minutes remained before her ‘date’ for the evening showed up.
That’s what he’d called it, with barely a trace of irony. A date. Johnson, he said his name was, some rich baron. Which was relative given how poor the town she’d just passed through had been. A big fish in a small pond; a saying from way back, that didn’t quite fit the situation. A small fish in a tiny pond was closer, but that level of consideration, and dry humour, was beyond Anwyn. Things were as they were, her practical mind allowed for little beyond her needs, and her mission.
Johnson was someone she could use to get what she wanted without having to extend herself too far. Guns were were difficult to come by, gunslingers were nearly unheard of in this, the new age. How many were left now? Two dozen? Six? Or only one? She had no clear idea and the speculation never rose in her. It was possible she was the last of her kind,
She took out her cleaning pack and unrolled it on a large rock, well away from the white crested water. She pulled one of her guns and, without looking, stripped the revolver and started cleaning it. The activity calmed her, long practice brought familiarity and comfort, until memories started to rise from a different age. From before the world had moved on. She pushed the memories away with cold ferocity and sank into the practiced process, placidly waiting while the sun slowly set.
From the North, a dark figure was ambling slowly toward the rocks where she waited. Anwyn reassembled the gun, slipped it into its holster and returned the cleaning kit to her timeworn satchel. As he got within shouting distance, she rose, and stepped forward to meet him. She stopped while he was some way, nodded and, motioned for him to stop. Reluctantly, and with a few discourteous extra steps, he did.
They eyed each other for a few dozen heartbeats. Anwyn had cleared her mind, so she watched, read his body, how he forced himself to act. How he couldn’t stop his eyes skirting the horizon, to both sides. She didn’t speculate on why he waited, his thoughts, or what he hoped to accomplish. She was a gunslinger, she was trained to react to what was, not the infinite of what could be.
“You’re here,” he called. She didn’t respond, just watched. He continued, sounding bolder now, “I’d like to hire your services, gunslinger. We don’t get many of your calibre passing through our special town. You see,” Anwyn’s quiet words cut through his.
“Tell them to come out, or they are dead.”
Johnson shifted uncomfortably; she watched as he made the wrong choice, he thought she could be easily fooled. Thought he was clever, and her just another person. He blustered on with forced cheer, “Now, girl, what do mean? You really think I have enough men to follow me around wherever I go? Times are too hard for that.” She waited, a lot of people backed down when you waited. It was something about the pause. They felt the need to fill the chasm of silence. She watched him smile, he moved his hand, as though to gesture. He was about to continue talking, more lies and platitudes, no doubt the same as he’d spewed before. She drew, fired, and re-holstered. A man screamed, a shrill cry of pain off to her right. The man before her, spluttered and froze.
“Tell them to come out. The next one will not be through the arm.” Anwyn said.
“Okay, let’s not get out of control here!” he exclaimed. The screaming died down into gasps, grunts and swearing. Two men started toward her, one with the slow stride of someone who’d seen a lot of fights. He was slim, in a faded black shirt. Like herself, he wore two gun belts but one ran over his shoulder and across his back. Anwyn couldn’t tell what that held. The other man stumbled, still swearing, he held one arm as blood ran down useless fingers. She couldn’t tell how injured he was as his shirt was red and he seemed to be wearing a few layers.
Most shooters are right handed, Anwyn shot had shot his right arm, the right choice it seemed. His swearing was a stream of unfocussed invectives, spittle flew as he yelled, he gave in holding his arm and started to reach across his body.
“Now, now, this is just business,” Johnson was imploring, “let’s keep this civil.” Civil, Anwyn thought, how long has it been since anything had been civil. She let the thought go as the injured man found his gun with his left hand and drew. He was still quite a way off, a difficult shot given the sand, the wind and the distance. The red shirted man was beyond reasonableness, business or civility.
Bang. His first shot was almost ten metres in front of where Anwyn stood, with difficulty he re-cocked and, bang, shot again, this time the bullet passed around six metres behind her. It hit a rock and the rock shattered into shards that scattered over the sand. All the while Johnson yelled.
“Tommy! You stop that, and that’s an order. Fuck, Tommy! You dumb fuck! Stop shooting!” He’d hunkered down, as though he was the one getting shot at, his face toward the sand. Anwyn stood, she took in Johnson, the man he was, the shooter in the faded black shirt never so much as blinked, he just strode on. The man in red flailed as he came, he raised his gun again. Bang. Anwyn was already lowering her gun as the back of his head exploded. His shouts cut off at once, he fell backwards but didn’t stop walking. His legs carried on as he sprawled in the sound, one arm jerked in a silent drumbeat in the sand, then he fell still.
Anwyn waited as Johnson picked himself up, he swore, seemingly at no-one, and brushed himself off. The shooter arrived at his side and stared at her.
“That, that, was Tommy’s own dumb fault.” Johnson shouted. “Let’s not let that get in the way of what I want to offer you.” He turned and said something to the other man, he nodded tightly and started walking toward where Tommy’s body lay.
“I need a mule and supplies.” Anwyn said. Johnson started toward her and she again waved him to stop. He did, at once.
“OK, well let’s not rush as you don’t know what I want yet.” That jovial tone had returned already. He cared nothing for his men, that was clear.
“You want me to kill.” Anwyn replied.
“Yes, but…” Johnson started.
“That’s all I do. I need a mule and supplies.” She repeated. The man in faded black pulled off the dead mans gun belt and started back toward Johnson.
MJ Cook: If you have never ready Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or you don’t know the history of Leone/Kurosawa then this may mean less to you. I grew up on first Leone, then Kurosawa, and I really enjoyed trying my hand at that kind of character. One day I’d love to expand on this and re-work the whole thing for greater consistency.
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