The Thirty-Six Views of Hell As Seen Through A Metal Tube
by R.T. Allenson
It flew fast.
Quicker, quicker than an eye blink leaving nothing but a silver glint in the air and the sound of rolling thunder ringing in my ear. He looked back of course, having heard the sound and moved to evade the inevitable. Too late. The bullet found its mark and I hear the all-too familiar sound of metal piercing flesh. A howl of pain echoed all throughout the desert.
I cocked my head to one side, leaving the view of my rifle’s scope. Where he fell was thick with a cloud of dust and dirt but I could still see him clearly. What the hell was he doing? His clothes said volumes of what he was – a scavenger traveling from the eastern borders; a merchant, maybe, looking for whatever he could find to sell. He looks like one of those recon idiots though, with the hat and all. Weird. For a while he did nothing but roll around the ground cringing in pain, yelling foreign-sounding obscenities but eventually, he stood up and started hobbling away.
Hey there. Not so fast.
I peered through my rifle’s scope and steadied my aim, the reticule eventually finding his head. I pulled the trigger.
No thunder, no mist of blood spraying into the sky. Just a disappointing metallic click.
My pockets are empty but either way, there’s no time to reload. I see him hobble away, momentarily looking back as if expecting something to happen. I’m as disappointed as you, buddy. I whisper under my breath. Funny how fast some people can ru-I mean limp with a shot leg. Must be the adrenaline. I slump down to the ground grimacing as the crippled trespasser vanished into the horizon, consumed by the setting sun.
There were a lot of us before; almost two years have passed since I’ve seen anyone I knew. The desert was a livelier place back then, not too much scavengers or raiders too and the outpost was well armed back then. After Old Jimmy left, well, he took nearly every gun we had and the rest soon followed. I stayed cause the rifle was mine and I was born here.
Besides, there’s nothing else out there. After the fire from the sky fell, well there’s not much else other than what’s in front of me now: sand, rock and dirt. The world could be a desert for all I know. Water is rare and fiercely guarded. The outpost that I guard is a well, actually, and among the few with still working water pumps. They’re in mint condition too.
Of course, no one knows it’s actually a well. No one ever gets close enough to know. The water isn’t pure actually and it’s a lonely vigil but someone has to do it I suppose.
The sun’s half-gone now. The sky is real pretty when it’s around this time, a muddy orange tinge. I wonder where that poor bastard is now. Hope he doesn’t come back…
Before I could stand I feel something cold poke the back of my head hard.
“Keep your hands down, boy.” The voice was flat and distant. Instinctively my hand creeps towards my pocket knife. How the hell did you sneak up on me like this? He pushes the gun deep into my head. “I said keep your hand-”
My hand flies fast but the knife slices empty air.
The gun’s gaping cylinder greets me, right between my eyes. He pauses for a moment and flashes a green, toothy grin. Bastard.
I see him pull the trigger and I hear the all-too familiar sound of metal piercing flesh.
The sound of rolling thunder rings in my ear.