Hunter

Boots on the road, packed earth with no echo. The hunter slipped into town. It was night, windows drawn fast, not a drip of light except the moons. His clothes were filthy, hair tied up under his hat. The only clean thing was his staff, three feet of bleached hazel wood. His eyes were dark and the Law burned in his stomach.

Like drops of rain, his feet fell on the path that led him to the man. It was almost always a man. The hunter could see him in front of him in the dark like a ghost, could smell him like sugar burning. The small house with pale blue fence, slats rotten and broken. The door. The hunter’s fingers spread wide on the door, moonlight, the smell. Yes, the man is on the other side of the door. His leg kicked out like a convulsion and the hunter was through and the man was there.

The man had been sitting in a chair, a bottle of fire on the table next to a candle. Smoke fumed from his lips as the branch fell, the man fumbled for his gun. The hunter was already moving, the smell, the ghost smashing into the man’s flesh, the hunter’s hands tight on the staff. The man’s gun went flying. The staff crushed next into the man’s ribs, the man coughed. The hunter sighed with relief. The hunter brought the staff down again on the man’s neck and the man fell to the ground and was still.

The hunter leaned on his staff and looked down at the man. The man was alive, the Law quivered and receded inside the hunter. Rope uncoiled and the hunter carefully bound the man at wrist and ankle.

The hunter felt heavy. He lay down next to the bound man, keeping his hazel staff between them. He pushed his hat down over his eyes and let the sweet earth reach up to hold him, dark hands clutching him tenderly as his muscles eased. The hunter fell into the empty night with no dreams but the road, the moons, and the Law piercing him like a silver spear.

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