An Ode to the Dearly Departed IV

[3 Days Earlier]

Seven men stand on a tall ridge. One of them doesn’t belong. His legs are just about finished being tied together. He can hear the rushing rapids a great distance below him.

“You stupid fucking pieces of shit. Don’t you see that you’re already dead? In the west, a man’s only good as his word, his word’s only as good as his gun; I’m the best, good will prevail.”
“You damn fool, in the west, ain’t nobody good.” They secure the burlap sac over the man’s head, and kick him off the cliff edge into the ravine.

His body thrashes around in the rapids, shocked by the cold after being marched through the desert tied to a horse. Taken downstream, he hits a few rocks, but manages to stay above the water. With his hands and legs tied together, his exhausted energy doesn’t last long with his gear weighing him down. The rope trailing behind his legs gets caught on some branches under the water, and stops his flow further down river. He manages to get his hands towards his boots, and uses his spurs to cut the rope. He is almost through when the branch snaps, and the current overpowers him, sending him head-first into a rock.

He awakes some time later with a facefull of thorns and coughing up water, but he’s still breathing. The ropes on his hands have become free from the cutting. He removes the burlap bag over his face that saved his skin from the sun while laying on the small shore. As he removes it, the barbs come with it. He makes his way out of the mud and onto some sand, untying his feet. He hops down to the mud again, and picks up his other boot, pouring water out of his. Back on the sand, he puts it on and takes further inventory. Holsters, guns, and ammo belt, all empty, but all still there. He stands up, and keeps following the river, it is much calmer now.

Following the flow of water over the next nights it eventually calms even more, turning into a stream. He sees a bridge that crosses the gap between the raised land carved by water of years gone by. Under the bridge he sees a figure in its shade. He approaches cautiously, trying to make out what it is, but cannot quite make it out. Apprehensive and out of bullets, he still removes his pistol. The sun shines off his empty gun. As he gets closer, he finds that it’s a fallen horse. He slowly approaches it, and taps it with his boot to see whether it’s is alive or not. Moving its head with his gun reveals only decay, partially eaten by mudcrabs, must have been here a day or so. He opens the saddlebag, and begins searching for ammo, food, anything. Nothing. With a sigh of disappointment, he heads up a small path and onto the bridge.

He sees smoke rising off in the distance. The sun doesn’t look too bad. Whatever that fire is, lost and tired, he knows it’s his only hope of a chance. He unties the wet burlap sack from his holster, protects himself from the sun, and starts walking out into desert on the new, barely visible path.

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