Courtesy of Pixabay
Magnum woke up first – likely a fly woke him up, or he was having a bad dream – and neighed loud enough to also wake up James, who then rubbed his eyes and sat up straight. He first looked over at Tom who was still fast asleep, then at the sky above. “Get up, son! No time to lose. We must’ve been out for a couple hours at least.”
Tom grunted and turned over, but at last opened his eyes and witnessed how low the sun had already gotten. “Ah shit. Three, four hours?”
“Judging by the sun, it appears so, yeah. Come on, get up and let’s get going.”
The two picked up all their stuff – placing their guns back into their holsters – and climbed into the saddles. Simultaneously, they kicked their horses under their ribs and before they knew it, they were back on their way toward the anti-magic dome, this time with the sun shining at their backs. They were both full and feeling more tired than rested, so they remained quiet – each in his own tranquil state of mind.
With only about 15 minutes of sunlight left, James and Tom noticed a figure in the distance next to a tree. As they rode closer they could make out the figure of a man – the first human they have encountered since they began their journey. They looked at each other and decided to greet him and ask if they could spend the night anywhere nearby instead of out in the open.
“Hey! Hey!” The man waved at them to stop. “Where are you headed?”
“East. Why?” James wasn’t the person to hide his intentions, so he spoke the truth – using as little words as possible, as usual. If he wouldn’t let them continue James wouldn’t hesitate to send a bullet up his skull.
“You don’t want to go there, trust me.”
“Why? What’s up ahead?” Tom jumped in before James could answer. He wanted to know what the man knew, and playing dumb was his best bet.
“Nothing good. Why are you headed east anyway?” The mysterious man grew suspicious. He rested his right hand on his revolver and took a bite of the apple he picked moments prior to the gunslinger’s arrival.
“Hunting.” James caught up with Tom’s plan and decided to join in. “You know, some father and son quality time.” James eased up and even smiled when he said that. He, too, was now interested in what the man had to say.
“Hunting? Listen, if you head further east it’s the two of you who are going to be hunted down, not the other way around.” He tried to persuade them not to continue, but James had picked up an insincere vibe. “Are you from far away, though?”
“We rode for most of the day, yeah. Figured we would spend the night somewhere in the open then hunt at dawn.” James wanted to make sure whether his predictions were right and the man would now offer them a place to stay.
“I can offer you to spend the night at my place, if you’d like. It gets awfully chilly at night – and I have food, too.” The man spoke hastily, interrupting his own self. “It’s not much, some beans and potatoes, but still. I’m sure you’re hungry after a long trip.” He realized that he might have rushed things and wanted to fix it, but James had already gotten all the confirmation he needed. No one would willingly offer two complete strangers – especially armed with guns – to spend the night at their place and eat their food without either wanting or knowing something.
“No need. We can handle a little cold, but thank you anyway.” James kicked Jaguar to start walking forward, but the man sidestepped directly in front of him and waved at Jaguar to stop.
“Oh come on, it’s rude to turn an invitation down. It would be my pleasure.”
“Very well, after you.”
The man smiled and pointed south. “That way. It’s not far, just behind those trees over there. Any of you two mind giving me a ride?”
“Sure. Come on up.” James signaled to the man to approach him, but the moment he began moving James pulled out his revolver and shot him in the head. “Go! Go! Go!” He shouted to his son and they both galloped their way east.
They heard gunfire from the south and lead started hailing at them, missing them by mere inches. With regards to their horses, they managed to get away without so much as a single scratch.
James pulled on the reins to bring Jaguar to a halt and looked back to see if there was anyone following them. Tom stopped also and also turned back to assess the situation.
“What the hell? Why did you shoot him?”
“You really think he’d make us a nice cup of tea and we’d eat potatoes together? Really? You think he was outside like that? At sundown? No, no, no, Tom, let me tell what happened here. He's one of God's or whoever’s men and was out scouting. When he saw us he came to check it out and either talk us out of it or lead us to his friends and finish the job.”
“Listen, Tom, we can’t trust anyone but ourselves, okay? And you heard where the gunfire came from. Are you going to tell me it was his wife shooting five guns at once? And just when did you get so sentimental?” James kicked his horse to start moving forward.
Magnum followed Jaguar without Tom’s command. “I’m not saying you’re not right, but I just wanted to sleep in a bed tonight, and this seemed like a good opportunity.” Tom realized it then that James was right and they really weren’t in a situation where they could trust anyone. “Too good an opportunity.”
“We’ll never know, nor does it matter now. All that matters is getting to that dome, and you know what all this gunfire possibly means, right?”
“We’re getting close.”
James looked up at the sky and saw the moon was half full. “Yeah, and with the night bright enough to ride – we’re not sleeping tonight. Not until we reach it.”
Tom nodded in response and the two both fell into the same state of serenity once more and just rode into the ever darker night without saying a single word. Likely only 5 miles later, they noticed the sky glow in the distance. Tom raised his hand and pointed it out to his father. “Look! There! That could be it, right?”
“Could be. Let’s check it out!” They rushed toward the bright sky ahead of them.
Note: The link will become active once Chapter 4 is written in full.
Disclaimer: This text is part of a work in progress. All content tentative to change.
Gif by @rocking-dave
Should you find this post after the 7 day period and wish to throw me an upvote, please consider upvoting a newer post of mine. Thanks!