Another one of those discovered tales from my various storage media, much of which had been mostly forgotten.
I vaguely recall writing this one — I have a reoccurring obsession with writing something in the genre of a New Weird Western, well before I was aware of such a genre. My own forays are more inspired by my interest in spaghetti westerns, a “goth” band with name variations that all hint at Nephilim/Nefilim, the Wild, Wild West television series, a touch of the gunslinger stories, and the serious belief that there is not enough good westerns mixed with horror, fantasy, speculative fiction, or a mixture of all of the above.
I’ve shared a few stories (mostly incomplete) here, on this site, written in those veins. This is no further towards completion than the others, but I thought I’d share this fragment all the same. Light edits for posting this iteration, but mostly intact and as found.
"Blood – I've walked the high wire I had to walk real high to see today Dust – fade without a name When I finish my war, I'll fade the scene” ~ Fields of the Nephilim
Sometimes… Sometimes, it seemed as if there was nothing but dust in the world, no matter which direction he looked. The world was nothing but a shifting ball of dust these days but he could remember when it wasn’t so.
He had been a child back then, eons ago. The world had once been green and blue and damned beautiful. But not anymore. This world was nothing but dust. Blood… and dust.
Creaking leather harness, the soft jeweled jingle of silver spurs, and the low growl of the wind. McCoy gathered his bandana around his face to filter out the blowing grit, reducing the amount that entered his lungs to a level that wasn’t really comfortable, but allowed him to breathe. He was used to not breathing after all these years, but he’d never quite got used to it enough to be oblivious to the discomfort of the soot lining the inside of his chest. He didn’t let himself wonder what breathing this in was doing to his innards — it had yet to kill him and, for that, he supposed he should be grateful.
But, things were as they were, and he couldn’t worry about things he had no power over.
Today, he had other concerns. He had No-Man’s Land to cross.
He checked his water supply. If he was lucky, he had just enough to get him, and maybe his horse to the other side. There were also the dust-devils with which he had to contend. While more of a nuisance than anything, they could pin him down in a shelter and decrease his chances of making it across the desolation with what little water he still had. Limits of encumbrance never seemed to be factored into the plots of the old books and movies he enjoyed from his childhood. None of the characters ever seemed to have to worry about water, there was always some amazing oasis in the middle of nowhere when all seemed lost. McCoy had traveled this road a long time ago and could attest that no such miracles existed in this wasteland. Any water that had once been in this land had vaporized that day the Earth had shuddered and boiled. He knew the smell of water, even at long distances, and there was none of that smell here.
His horse could only carry so much weight and, to the surprise of many, water weighed quite a bit. So, even though McCoy hated the fact, he knew he could only bring so much water with him, and he’d kept it to about a gallon more than he expected he’d need to cross this forbidden land.
And he had still other concerns.
Secondly, he had to start thinking about the man he was hired to kill. The man had eluded, outwitted, or out-shot the others he’d encountered before McCoy’s name had come up as a man who could get the job done. His target wouldn’t be an easy one – that much he knew already, based on everyone else’s failures.
It was going to be a massacre, both of them wading in the blood, guts and brains by the time it was all finished; some of it might even belong to either or both of them. McCoy knew this in the way that someone used to killing knows these things. Before the confrontation took place, he’d have to make amends to all the souls he was going to help release that day. He was cold, but the nighttime visitations by innocent victims sometimes troubled him. He’d have to prepare for the next onslaught of nightmares, but the shades would hardly prevent him from doing what he’d be hired to do. If, because of fate or stupidity on their part, they ended up tasting the lead in his gun – so be it. He’d ask for forgiveness later.
The man, Mad Harney, was the colder of the two gunslingers. Mad Harney would use the people around him as shields, daring any hired gun to show his meddle, daring them to break the tradition that prohibited the slaying of anyone not directly involved with Mad Harney’s crimes. Then, when he’d found a more bulletproof shelter, Harney would dispose of his human shield to cut away the excess weight. It would rattle the bounty-hunter he was currently engaged with enough that Harney would find a way to take advantage of the situation, and kill the opposition.
As much as he’d rather not kill anyone but Mad Harney, McCoy knew it would be next to impossible to accomplish the task without killing at least a few people before or while he killed Harney. He had no such prohibitions.
It would have been easy, if McCoy was able to sneak up on his quarry, dispatch him in silence, away from the crowds. But, there were stories that Harney held conversations with dæmons, and other undead creatures. These supernatural informants (or informants of a more temporal nature) would keep Harney abreast of any upcoming situation that might prove fatal to Mad Harney. If McCoy had learned anything from the failure of others, he’d learned not to underestimate Harney’s uncanny ability to know when he would have fight once again for his life.
In his wake of unrelenting destruction, Mad Harney had left enough survivors behind to make sure the tales would be told. McCoy had to spend most of his coin over the past few weeks buying drinks for reluctant storytellers who, when properly sauced up will burst into tears about how brutal a man Mad Harney had been when he came through their up to then, quiet little town on the outskirts of No-Man’s Land. All the stories were the same – comments made by Harney a day, sometimes two or three, before another stranger would arrive and the town would erupt in a maelstrom of smoke and lead. Many would be left behind, dead or dying, the resolution of the battle always being in favor of Mad Harney to the cost of one dead gunslinger looking to make a name for himself and to collect a bounty. The numbers left dead in the town seemed of no importance whatsoever to Harney – he apparently scored his notoriety not on the bodies of innocents, but how many hunters he’d gunned down.
Sometimes there wasn’t a gunfight and the town would be spared the bulk of the killing. Mad Harney had caught a few inexperienced bounty-hunters unawares, usually because they were well within their cups and hadn’t realized that he’d gotten the make on them. He’d dispatch of these bounty-mongers quietly, but this seemed less satisfying to his blood-lust, and he usually killed at least a few more random people as he rode out of town.
Harney wouldn’t find an easy mark this time. McCoy wasn’t a very good man himself.
Even so, he knew that Mad Harney was several levels of bad beyond even him.
And, in a place that no longer knew the word justice, McCoy was about the only justice than might be found in this dust-ridden place. That was part of the reason why he was hired – he was perhaps the only person who came close to Mad Harney’s wickedness, something that might allow him to succeed with this mission on the Borderlands.
He didn’t see any reason to avoid the inevitable any longer. The sooner he started down that trail filled with death, sweat and dust, the sooner he could try to forget himself once again. All the sooner that he could return to his bottle that awaited him, the sooner that he could numb the shades that haunted him every night.
Another creak of saddle-leather against his chaps as he adjusted how he sat on his horse, then with a coaxing grunt and a shake of the harness, he urged his mount down the broken path leading across the wasteland. As he had planned it, the sun was just beginning to slip over the edge of the Earth, into the depths below him. It would be cooler, this way, ensuring that they’d encounter fewer dust-devils and need less water, at least. There were still the Wyrd Sisters, but he’d dealt with their type in the past.
The winds calmed and the dust began to settle as the night cooled. They had no encounters that night, but the road, with the soft drums of his horse’s hooves against the billowing piles of dust.
The travel along the barely visible path across the wastelands was essentially uneventful. The monotony of the road found its own rhythm and McCoy and his horse, fell into a kind of meditative slumbering, lulled to waking sleep by the soft padding of the hooves and the occasional rustle of sand against sand – a sound softened by the dust. They reached a state where they were neither alert, nor oblivious and it soon seemed like they had been following the ridgeline of broken granite and sandstone all of their lives. The only thing that moved was the sky as it shifted from dusk to dawn in this sound-dampened place.
Each morning, as the first rays of light lightened the black sky, McCoy would stop his horse at the next large trailside crack in the rock that was wide enough for both of them to slip in and escape the daytime heat – and the fury of marauding dust-devils crackling with blue fire seeking metals and mechanisms. He’d put up a lean-to of beige, worn canvas to chase away what sunlight invaded their sanctuary, at to camouflage their presence from all but the most observant eyes following the road – not that there were many eyes to do the prying.
They would remain in that slumbering state of unsleep, the two of them, for the entirety of the day; until the sun would once more fall behind the edge of the world, allowing the desert sands to cool once again.
It wasn’t until sometime around the third night of travel that McCoy and his horse had their first contact with the Sisters Wyrd, mavens of the heart of this vast desert wasteland.