Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Last Gunfighter

A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Genre-bender Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained. I think I misread this as genre-blender. How many genre's can you find.

Narkiss floated in a sea of whiteness, pinpricks teasing his nerves as if a cactus enveloped him, needles pressing on all sides. The pop and hiss of water streaming over rocks in a babbling brook. No, Narkiss was mistaken. A less complex sound tugged him through the whiteness, a film brushing past his cheeks leaving a trace of hoarfrost on his hair. Voices.

"Do you think we'll escape the Oracle's prophecy?" asked a woman, age scarring her syllables.

"We must. He's never seen a girl, and we've hidden the villagers his age." The man's staccato voice vibrated like an arc of electricity.

Narkiss clenched his hands on a wool blanket. The pain faded as did the whiteness surrounding him.

"Shhh," said the woman. "He wakes."

A man wore a white Stetson hat and a flannel shirt. Narkiss sat up, knocking a cable from the pillow above his head to careen against the wall.

"Sorry," said Narkiss.

"No problem," said the man. "You won't need the data shunt. How do you feel?"


"As expected," said the woman. She balanced his weight as he swung his legs over the edge of the table. "We don't have much time."

His legs buckled beneath him. Her face was familiar. "Don't I know you?"

"Careful," said the man catching Narkiss.

The woman stepped back towards the room's door. "Yes, we created a simulacrum of me as one of your instructors."

"Yes, the star-crossed --"

"We named her," said the woman, "that when we traveled the stars, but we have found a home."

"We don't have time for this," said the man. "You know how to ride your steed?"

"The simulations trained me," said Narkiss.

They walked through a seamed door onto a porch. Similar buildings, built of flat planks two-stories tall, shadowed the other side of the sandy street.

"Good." The man unlocked a plastic chest on the porch from which he lifted a ten centimeter white cube, which he dropped in the middle of the street. "Mean Billy Trenton and his Broken Finger Outlaws approach. Only you can save us."

"Why?" asked Narkiss.

"Because you were trained in the simulations," said the man.

"No," said the woman. "You want to know why Billy Trenton comes."

Narkiss nodded.

"We killed a henchman."

The sandy ground heaved as a wave crested along the street pushing sand to wash onto the porches. In the center of the street, a wormsteed -- it's mouth large enough to consume Narkiss whole -- surfaced. The wormsteed's carapace fanned out beyond the head to protect the jockey's pedestal from the sand.

"It's time to go," said the man. "Will you battle Mean Billy Trenton for us?"

"I don't have much choice," said Narkiss. He slowed his heart as taught in the simulations, the same simulations that taught him this was his duty. "How will I recognize Billy?"

"Black hat." The man tapped his brim.

"He won't be far beyond the dome's edge," said the woman.

Narkiss mounted the jockey pedestal, it shook underneath his feet as the worm undulated with an eagerness to leave the sun and enter the cool sand below. He took the reins in his hand as he had in the simulations, giving the wormsteed full reign. The worm reared its head before burrowing into the ground. The sand streamed past, grains blowing in the protected space behind the carapace. He trusted his simulation-enhanced senses to measure the distance to the dome's edge. As they neared the dome, ten clicks from the village, Narkiss pulled back on the reins to return to the harsh sun-bitten surface.

Dismounting from the wormsteed, Narkiss neared the dome's edge. Outside of the raised foundation, the energy dome was imperceptible and Narkiss saw a flowering cactus standing in the storm outside the dome, a hint of the edge of the dome where the sand particles deflected. Near enough to touch the dome, the sun caught the power particles creating a sheen on the dome where Narkiss saw a face.

A beautiful young man standing outside the dorm, a hand raised towards its edge just like Narkiss's hand. "Hello," called Narkiss.

"Hello," replied the man.

"I'm Narkiss, who are you?"


"What are you doing in the storm outside the dome?" asked Narkiss.

"What are you doing in... side the dome?" asked Arya.

The wormsteed harrumphed a rolling barrel tone before undulating into the sand. Narkiss sat on the edge of the dome looking at Arya, amazed at how gracefully he followed Narkiss's lead, sitting across from him. Narkiss winked at the man, the man winked back. "Why, I'm here to battle Mean Billy Trenton. At least, if I can coerce the wormsteed to come back. I promised the villagers I'd protect them."

"Why villagers?" A tear ran down the man's face. It made Narkiss sad, a mix of the adrenaline that faded as he sat in the sand and sadness he saw in the man's face.

The dome's forcefield flickered. Where Arya, Narkiss's love, had sat now stood a half-dozen men with bandannas across their mouths, six-shooters in their hands. The leader, a big man with a wide-billed black Stetson strode forward.

"Who are you?" asked Mean Billy Trenton.

"What did you do to Arya?"

One of the henchman holding a spike with an electrical display on the top of it, returned to the inside edge of the dome's foundation sinking the spike into the sand. An electrical arc spidered across the foundation to meet another spike standing on the other side of the dome. Nearby, a green-furred blur hopped across the desert. "Arya, Arya, Arya." The voice lingering as the creature disappeared into the sandstorms.

How had they captured Arya? Swallowing once, twice, Arya was gone. He drew his gun, lightning fast. Six pops and Mean Billy Trenton and his men writhed a final moment before they stopped.

The wind whispered "Arya, Arya, Arya." But the light had changed, and he found only emptiness.


  1. It seems kind of like a New Weird Sci Fi Western to me.

  2. I kept thinking of other stories, whif's of the matrix, dune, dirty harry, the dome. hehe, what a mix! The overtones I could detect were sci-fi western, but then I'm not so well versed in subgenres.

  3. Hi JP & TS. Yes, sci-fi and western are the two strongest genres. There is one other major overtone that has been missed so far. A hint is that it relates to the theme.