A short (less than 2400 words) vignette with a western flair, but a fantasy foundation.
I had a dream several weeks ago, and this was the dream. There’s another piece of it, too, though it seemed unrelated in how diverse the scenes were. I’ll get to that one soon, I hope.
Enjoy, and please feel free to let me know what you think. I appreciate the read!
He lowered his haunches onto his broken, dust-caked boots.
His fingers touched into the powdery, silver dust in the dirt. The fine, flour-like granules blew into a tiny cloud and wafted on the air currents along the tops of the more grainy, sandy gravel and grit of the box canyon.
He held it up to his eyes, narrowed them, and rubbed his fingertips over it.
His brows drew lower over his face beneath the brim of his battered hat, and he tugged it lower on his head. He rubbed his hand over his stubble-crusted chin.
Not far. Somewhere in the canyon, probably.
He sniffed into the soft breeze, drawing the gossamer stream into his lungs. A faint hint of acrid char carried over the scent of moist, dew-damp dirt. The early morning light didn’t penetrate the deep, thick fog clinging to the cliff faces. The mesa tops vanished into the wisps as they swirled slow and easy. A light dripping sound drifted with preternatural volume in the dead stillness.
Gray Canyon lay ahead, but its labyrinth passages and channels would cost a man his life without a guide. He’d needed a map ten years ago. Now he could navigate though it blindfolded or at night. The perpetual, inexplicable cloud floating just a few feet off the canyon floor held no mysteries for him.
At least not until now.
He stepped to his horse, pawing and huffing in the cool air at the edge of the tree line. He took the rein, led the horse to a thin tree trunk and tied it there. He reached into the saddle bag on the right flank and pulled out the heavy, antique irons in their smooth, soft, worn holsters. The cartridge-lined belts unrolled from around the gleaming silver revolvers. They flashed the white-gray clouds and ruddy crumbled dirt in their mirror-smooth surfaces. He studied them for a moment as he always did, before he slipped the heavy leather around his hips and let it slide so the weight of the gun rested on his thigh. He tied the holster to his leg with a rawhide strip, repeated the ritual on his other leg, and turned.
He shut his eyes and let the heel of his hands drop to the silken polished ebony handles. He drew a long breath and then with lightning quickness snapped the guns free. He opened his eyes, slipped the huge revolvers back into their skins and snapped the holsters closed with the copper snap on the leather band which laced beneath the hammers.
He looked over his shoulder at the horse. It munched on low weeds and grasses softened by the fog a few yards away. He pondered trying to force it into the canyon. He could use the speed.
He shook his head and gave himself a sardonic grin as he adjusted the hat on his head. The horse wouldn’t go, and he knew it. The scent alone drove most critters away from a lair, but his horse even more so. They’d seen many rides like this together, and by now the horse knew what the smell meant. He’d have none of it.
He’d lose more time trying to coax it into the canyon than he would just going in alone. Which is what he decided on.
The gentle uphill slope gave way to a more level surface, then rolled down a bit and channeled toward the canyon opening. Whatever cataclysm created Gray Canyon involved water being funneled into it in the dim and distant past. He could follow the dry bed and it would take him right to the opening.
7 thoughts on “Western-Fantasy Vignette #1”
freshet – hey I learned a new word today.
If I had dreams like that, I don’t think I’d ever sleep.
Oh, I’ve had far worse. This was pretty mild; it was like watching a movie, as many of my dreams are. You could’ve easily handle it, being a zombie wrangler and all. Thanks for the time to read and comment, Bryce!
Cool, man. You put me right in the dream. This vignette is actually a story, though, as far as I can see. Maybe if you tweaked the last few sentences to be more definitive.
That’s interesting, Sher; I didn’t see a beginning really, just an en medias res thing. And the middle’s the bulk, but there’s not really an end (I see what you mean by making it more definitive). A unique perspective.
I’m sure Fal gave you her ideas on the symbolism of the dream: the fog obscuring many paths, the sense of danger you can’t see coming, etc.
Actually, no, this is the first I’ve heard of it! Ha! Never thought of the symbols at all. Hopefully, this isn’t an ominous sign of things to come. 😀
It’s a dream and dreams don’t end, they just stop when you wake. Dreaming is like being on a treadmill. Always know when the reading is really good, have to have the dictionary close by. Had this picture of you as a 5 yr old boy with yellow sticky notes all over you with ‘special’ words on each note, rolling down a grass knoll trying to read each note while tumbling and laughing. At the bottom of knoll is a very big Webster’s. I’ll just have to quit posting so much and start reading more. Terrific! You do the same thing as I do with the poetry. When given the choice you opt for the ‘special’ word. Like the whip cream on top.
Thank you, Sara! I’m glad you took the time. I hope I didn’t put you off with TOO many special words, but I appreciate the time you took to come by and read my work. 🙂
I don’t know how you do it, but you’re fan-freaking-tastic at embellishing the mental image that I have in my head of the scenery, character, and action. Through your words I’m able to see roughly the scene as it went through your head.
I don’t know how YOU do it, but YOU are fan-freakin’-tastic at making ME feel like an honest-to-goodness, no-joke, bona fide WRITER. 🙂 This is the challenge ALL writers face; can you communicate with the reader over time and distance with your mental telepathy? You made my day with this bit, love. Thanks.
I’m still uncertain what the platinum was about but I’m sure that’s more on me as the reader than you as the writer.
I didn’t go into it; if I don’t go forward any more with this, I’ll sharpen it up. Basically, platinum is the catalytic element so the wyrm can … ready? Breathe fire.
Nice use of the term ‘lazy’ to describe the stream. That sentence would have sucked ass without it and been much weaker had you used something lame like, “meandered.”
Well, thanks! 🙂 I tried to convey a cowboy-ish western feel without being TOO cliched.
Good work – glad to see you stepping outside your comfort zone 🙂
🙂 Couldn’t do it without the encouragement of all of you, starting with my loving wife and working outward to my good and trusted friends. 🙂
Nice story! Very original. You have a great way with words, but I wonder if you pay attention to how you brandish them at times…I received a bit of advice in my writing a while back that I would be humbled to give you if you would hear it: Be sure to keep your adjectives to a minimum when strung together so closely (like when you were describing the terrain: the grainy, sandy gravel…sandy and grainy are almost one and the same thing)…I was told to eliminate one adjective and to keep the one with the most emphasis on what my picture portrays. 🙂
Sage advice, Taylor! Thank you! I appreciate the feedback and the kind words. I do go over the top with description sometimes. I’ve heard it before, and I have to learn to tone it down. This gentle reminder will help. Thank you again!
You have a fine style. Please keep writing! 🙂
I appreciate that! I’ll try! 🙂
Taylor J. Beisler
Once again I envy your ability at descriptions, very evocative stuff. If I wrote a scene like that it would have been to darn short. You do good work. Keep at it.
Thanks, Al. I appreciate the kind words. I’ll do my best to keep at it. I’ve been writing a LOOOOOOOONNNNG time; don’t see it changing any time soon. 🙂
Awesome! I have to make you a victim in a story and rid the world of your existence due to the envy I have. From one guy trying to write horror to another guy actually writing horror, I hate you. THIS IS GOOD STUFF! I’m a big fan of westerns and always have said western horror stories are missing from the world. I’ll be watching you. I’ll check the rest of your work. Do you mind if I post your site on my blogroll? I agree with Taylor in adj. use. I know it because I do it so often. Your stuff needs to be read and spread. Encore! Encore!
Thanks, horrorible! I’m flattered; I’ve never gotten a death threat for being talented before! It makes me all warm and gooey inside, like a pus-filled zit. I’m going to check out your work soon. Thank you so much for your kind words of support, and for spending some of your valuable time with me. I’m very grateful and look forward to being on your blog roll and adding you to mine! Thank you!