To some, he was a gunslinger. To others, a cowboy. To a few, a bum.
But to himself, he was a man with thoughts and a card.
John kept the card in his breast pocket in front of his heart. He tried his best to not follow superstitions but when you’re chasing a living demon through a desert that was once a city, you have to have something to believe in.
The card had no magical power, no secret sorcery, it was in fact, just a card. At first it was a disappointment to John. He had woken up from what he convinced himself was just a nap (nothing more – you know, like the end of the world) to find a card moving along with his breaths as it rested on his stomach. The first thing he’d done was check to make sure his weapons weren’t stolen. It was a reaction that felt more of instinct than habit. He then drew one of the guns and looked for a target. But there was none. (The first of many draws that aimed at nothing.) There was literally nothing.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, John thought there should have been buildings around him. Comfy, squishy grass at his feet. And a stiff park bench that sat under a maple tree that had arms spread out perfect to let some sun down to his face but not too much.
Instead, it was a vast, empty desert. A land that looked as if it ran to the end of the world and back. The kind of place that if you were to blink while walking, you’d be lost. The heat wasn’t intense but enough that John wished that the maple tree he thought of would appear.
John plucked the card out of the sand as it had fallen when he drew his gun. He thought about the gun for a moment. There were two of them. Long barreled, small butts. He tried to remember if he had used the guns before but no memory came. There was also a bag of shells hanging from his brown leather belt.
There was a part of him that said he should have been afraid to have the guns – especially in such an empty, lonely space. A lonely mind could produce lonely thoughts and when the only company you have are a couple of six shooters and a bag of shells, the temptation can grow. . . and grow. . .
However, he knew the guns served a purpose other than suicide. The demon would want that. He wanted John to shoot himself. And as for himself, he served a purpose too. And everything had to do with the card.
John flicked the card a few times and the small grains of sand that had stuck to it danced in the air. They lifted up and swirled in circles. More sand picked up and soon there was a skinny funnel forming – a sand tornado and was a little bit taller than John. The wind felt good against John’s skin until the sand started to hit him. It felt like tiny needles poking at him. A gun wouldn’t stop this. So John did the next best thing, he shielded his eyes with one hand and held the card in the other.
The needling pricking stopped as the wind did. When John opened his eyes, he felt as if he were in a completely different spot than before.
Again, as instinct rather than habit, John checked to make sure his guns were secure. He checked for his bag bullets and then looked at the card. . .
let rest as they be.
open, alive, dead.
They hide – no longer they cast.
Time to chase,
there goes away.
The black shakes,
the sand dances.
What shows is not there,
what moves has power.
All is gone,
except what isn’t.