©2022 Michael Raven
The crunch of gravel under his boots was the only audible sound in the yard. Even the howling of Remnant’s ghosts riding on the wind settled down in his presence, sensing that their untouchable status was no longer guaranteed in Sadness’ presence. It was always this way. He looked to the second story window of the largely abandoned house at the edge of the Fringe, lifted up the brim of his hat to better see within the dark framed by pine brittle with dry-rot and the jagged teeth of glass shattered by one of those roaming ghosts in a spree of destruction long ago — in a time when this place still had the feather hint of life still clinging to the timbered frame.
“I saw you,” he said, loud enough for anyone within the fragile place of refuge to hear, but not so loud as to challenge the wind, just in case it took offense at his audacity. “Might as well show yourself. I have no intent of killing you.”
The barrel of an ancient rifle poked out of the window, a tubular metal tongue stuck out at him. He could see the rust speckled metal from where he stood and decided the old gun was as much or more of a danger to the person holding it as it was to him.
“An’ rape? You got rapin’ in your head?”
Sadness didn’t answer right off, but instead brought the old skin bag full of water to his lips, drank a few mouthfuls. The conversation had already progressed faster than he’d expected when he first say those furtive eyes peering out at him from the road. He washed his mouth out with another draw on the bag and spat it out. The thirst ground of the Remnant did it’s disappearing trick with the water, but the eyes had seen.
“Never been inclined to raping no one,” he replied. “I reckon forcing yourself on someone for a dry poke any hardly worth the effort involved.” He held up the water bag so those eyes could examine them closely. “I’m betting you need some water, out here in the Remnant. Nearest sweet well is half a day’s walk and I’m guessing we needn’t bother talking about the time involved with something for you to ride.”
The only sign of livestock was about as brittle and dry as the ramshackle remains of the house. It was amazing that the wind hadn’t blown what was left like the desert dust.
He tossed the skin at the open doorway and waited.
“Go on. An offering,” he urged. “I just want to parlay a bit. Ask about what you might have seen.”
There was a long pause as the wind whistled along the broken-down fencing.
“You want to know about him, doncha?” The voice hadn’t moved from the window.
“Aye,” he admitted. “I ain’t gonna bother you none. I just want to know about the man.”
“He gone kill you,” said the voice in the window with a certainty.
“He can try. I ain’t so easy to kill, though.”
One of the ghosts started to laugh, but then remembered who they were laughing at and shut that up right quick.
Sadness didn’t pay much attention. Ghosts were foolish things. He sat down in the yard, pulled his feet under him all crisscross like the masters had taught him ages ago, lit a cigarette, and waited for the soul in that sorry excuse for shelter decide to come out and talk, as if they had any other choice. Sadness had a reputation for stubbornness when he was a youth, something he’d never quite outgrown.
Besides, the bounty was worth being patient for.