You’re ten. You don’t remember your ma—she died birthing you. Your pa is a gunsmith and the part-time sheriff of a town too small to afford a professional lawman.
Four drifters ride into town and leave Pa sprawled in the sun-baked dirt of Main Street, life pulsing out of his body in ribbons of blood. No one lifts a finger.
You go home, punch a new hole in his gun belt so it fits your small frame, and strap it on.
The drifters are drinking at Coleman’s. You push through the swinging doors and softly speak, one word, “Death.”
You draw Pa’s customized Colt .45’s, triggers so sensitive that it takes little more than a thought to fire.
They turn towards you.
The first one dies before he can reach for his gun. The second dies before his gun clears the holster. The third before he can fire. The fourth gets off a wild shot. He goes down with a bullet in his gut, the kind of wound that means slow painful dyin’. The Christian thing would be to put another bullet in him. You don’t.
That sour smell of spilt beer, smoke, and death linger in your nostrils for hours, in your mind forever.
You take what little coin they have, their guns, and their best horse. You don’t look back.
You’re in another town, eating a cheap meal in the saloon. You have to reach up for your food on the adult-height bar.
“You’re wearin’ a man’s guns, Squirt,” A loud-mouthed drunk has decided to state the obvious.
You keep eating. He tries to pull one of the guns from the holster. You slap his hand away, as you pivot to face him. He reaches for his gun. You shoot him and walk calmly from the bar. Two of his friends follow you from the saloon. They call you out, you turn, “Death,’”they both die.
You wander from town to town. Fight to fight, you never start them, you always finish them. The only word you offer your opponents, ‘Death’. A local newspaper names you Kid Azreal—the Angel of Death, and the whispers run ahead of you.
An aging gun-hand with tired eyes calls you out. He’s a split second faster, but he hesitates. You’re confused; but not enough to wait. He looks almost at peace as two bullets slam into his chest.
In yet another town the sheriff fearfully asks you to keep moving. You nod, tip your hat, and ride on. Whenever a lawman tells you to move on, you nod and do. The legend grows.
One hundred dusty towns, one hundred duels, no surprises. There is only one that you remember clearly, the old gunman with the tired eyes.
The days are all the same, the months, the years. Towns all the same. Faces all the same. They always recognize you now; your reputation commands instant respect or fear—all the same to you.
You begin to realize: that’s all there is, that’s all there’ll ever be, the sameness.
You feel hollow, a remote disinterested spectator of your own life. You’re tired, so tired.
Just another town, just another punk looking to make his name against you. You’re faster. What’s the point? You hesitate. He fires. You barely feel the impact; you only feel relief. The last thing you see is his confusion. The last thing you feel is peace.
Art is a retired computer programmer. After forty years of writing in COBOL and Assembler he decided to try writing in English; it’s much harder than it looks. He lives in New York City with his wife/muse and regularly visiting grandkids. Art’s had stories published in Third Flat Iron Anthologies, The Rabbit Hole Weird Stories, and The Gray Sisters. You can find Art’s work by searching Amazon, in Science Fiction & Fantasy for ‘Art Lasky.’ You can contact him at artlasky321@GMAIL.COM or Facebook: artlaskyauthor