Dust and Ravens, a tale

He stood staring into the sun, face set into a grin tinged with madness. That unblinking stare continued for what seemed to be hours. His black suit was covered in fine red dust blown out of the dry creek to his left. His shiny head glistened with sweat. The treeline to the right was sparse at best but was the only green for a couple hundred feet in any direction. He absently scratched his arm and stared into the red dying light of the sun.

Somewhere in the distance a raven called out to the rest of it’s murder. He flinched a little, barely noticeable but it was there. It must have snapped him out of his reverie. He casually looked around the empty creek. It was still hot and the setting sun would do nothing to remedy that. The air was filled dust and heat. He scratched his arm again and hacked a large chunk of phlegm onto the ground at his feet. Reaching into his jacket he removed a cigarette and lighter and carefully lit it. The blue smoke swirled lazily on the breeze around his head.

Shaking the cobwebs out he began to walk back towards the little town on the other side of the hill. The grin never faded from his face as he smoked and walked.

By the time he climbed the hill his cigarette was done. He reached into his pocket again, this time removed a small revolver. It reflected the last red rays as he placed the barrel under his chin. He looked down and could see the town, lights flickering on to combat the encroaching darkness. His grin slipped a little and madness turned to bittersweet. He coughed and spit onto the mostly dead grass.

The sharp crack of the gun was soon followed by his body hitting the earth. Somewhere ahead the raven called out again.

The sound of the gunshot echoed in the town. Loud and clear it had rang down the empty streets. Curtains parted as the inhabitant fearfully looked to see if the danger was near. None were foolhardy enough to step out and see what had happened. None of them would go out after dark any longer. They knew the things that go bump in the night are real. Signs to ward off evil were gestured and silent prayers to what or whomever might be listening. They were empty movements and thoughts though. They all knew damn well that there was nothing willing to listen or be bothered to protect them.

It was sad state of affairs but this was the life that had been given to them. They set about eating dinner and pretending the world outside their doors wouldn’t chew them up and spit them on to the ground given the chance.

Soon the gunshot was a distant memory and the lights flickered out one by one and they turned in. Sleep would come soon along with the dreams. Hungry, fevered dreams of the hunted. Dreams of prey and of the ones who would feast on them. It was fitful sleep and waking meant feeling just as tired in the morning. But at least the sun was up. The fear is weaker when the light shines down.

The body was found by a couple children who didn’t have enough sense to stay close to town. The skin was completely gone as was most of the top of his head from where the bullet forcefully exited. There was no blood anywhere around the corpse. The bare muscle and sinew dried like cured meat. The kids poked at it with sticks they grabbed from by the creek bed. During and prodding each other to get closer. One got within a foot and as he was about to get the courage up to poke the open skull the black jacket shifted and they let out screams of terror. A bright green scorpion, nearly the size of the skull scurried out of the clothing and stared at them, evaluating the threat level they posed. One of the children let out a stream of urine through his short pants. The youth ran back to town and the scorpion casually went back into jacket to resume whatever it had been interrupted from.

Some of the elders came up to see what had happened on the hill. By the time they arrived there was nothing but the spent casing of the bullet. Signs of protection were made and the ground salted to prevent evil from coming back was laid. No one spoke a word as they turned to go back to town. All but one of them.

She wore a black dress of roughly hewn fabric. She walked down the hill to stand by the creek. She reached into her pocket and removed a cigarette and lighter and stared up at the sun, a grin slowly spreading across her face. She stood like that, smoking and grinning as the sun made its way across the sky. Red dust slowly coating her dress. Madness slowly infecting her grin.

A raven called out in search of it’s murder in the distance.

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