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.