“Well met, traveler.” Meaningless words accompanied by a shallow smile from some blonde meat puppet. I look him over: mid-twenties, strong, scrap armor, metal blade, and a revolver on his hip. Another dumb adventurer. He’s also alone. Guns make people so confident…
“Hello.” I wait a moment before I offer a hollow reply, then bow my head for a moment.
“Are you here for the bounty too?” The man flashes me a toothy grin. Bounty? That’s news. He looks me up and down, sizing me up for a moment, then looks away dismissively. Yeah, I probably would too.
“Bounty?” My ears hear my own voice and I barely recognize it under the feigned naivety. The bounty hunter nods in response. I’m already watching his hands.
“They village to the south is convinced that there is a – fuck, what did they call it – a dargon? Yeah, something called a dargon keeps burning their livestock.” The man’s gaze drifts away from me and towards the distant horizon. There are no clouds in the sky today, just a sneering sun leering down at us from its perch.
“Not familiar with that word. Maybe you mean… a dragon?” My eyes inadvertently drift towards the revolver on his hip and away from his hands. Craftsmanship seems alright; it might be reliable. Best not to take chances then.
“Dragon? Yeah, that might have been it. A dragon. Do you know anything about it?” Now the man’s leaning in towards me, making frequent eye contact. He wants something from me. Everyone wants something from me. Sometimes they are polite, but more often they are not. What do they offer in return, though? Nothing. Nothing at all.
“My throat is parched… do you have any water?” A fake cough here as I act like I’m clearing my throat. I already know he has water. Nobody travels without water. Whether he wants to give me any is a different story. Let’s see if he passes my test.
“None to spare, I’m afraid.” His response is quick and now he turns away, like he’s hiding something. Failure.
“Might be hard for me to talk then…” Continuing to feign naivety here but he’s not buying it. I’m watching his hand drift towards his revolver now. Definitely a bounty hunter. Not a hero.
“Listen… the people in that village will starve if this thing is allowed to run free. Why don’t you just tell me what you know?” Now he’s starting to show his real colors. I know he doesn’t care about those people. Why should he? He just wants to get paid, after all. Just another selfish prick. I remain silent and fake another weak cough, then steal a quick glance at the man. Furrowed brows, pursed lips, flaring nostrils. He’s not buying it. He’s impatient, too. Now I’m the one scowling.
“Tell me what you know.” Just like that, he’s drawn the revolver. As I hear the click of the hammer being cocked back, something inside of me stirs. Disgusting… fucking disgusting! I’ve seen enough. Now my eyes lock onto the gray gun metal of the revolver like the jaws of a mad dog and I picture it in my head for a moment. In my mind I can see how the pistol grip is beginning to glow a scorching red, the sizzle and smell of burning flesh… all of the things I crave. The man’s eyes grow wide and he suddenly drops the revolver in the sand. He doesn’t seem to understand why his hand has a giant red skid mark across it now: he’s shocked.
“What’s wrong… ?” I can’t hide my grin or confidence anymore so I snicker. Sweat beads down my forehead. I feel little needle pricks all over my scalp. I’m thinking about that scrap armor now. My eyes widen as I picture it melting onto his skin, mingling with it, and dripping down the front of his torso, taking all of the flesh with it, revealing what lies beneath the skin. My chest feels warm. The man starts to scream as my thoughts manifest themselves into reality. He tries to take off the armor, but how could he take it off when the buckles are too hot to touch?
A roaring flame, now. That’s what I’m imagining. A towering inferno swaying uneasily, billowing black clouds. Right on cue, the man’s screams intensify as he bursts into flame and begins to flail around before falling to the ground, screaming his guts out the entire time. I’m sure it would be enough to make anyone else’s blood curdle, but not mine. I’m not like other people, after all. I’m the Stranger… and you are just another log for my fire.
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021 All Rights Reserved.