I would like to give a huge shout out to Maskedhusky! I from whom I commissioned the artwork which resulted in Red's debut. Maskedhusky’s work and motivation inspired me to write this story. She is an amazing artist, and all around fun person! You can see Red, or perhaps you can think of this as one of his descendants here (NSFW nudity) (https://inkbunny.net/s/1629909) or here(http://www.furaffinity.net/view/27590769/) and be sure to check out some of her other works as well :)
To any that actually takes the time to read this, I hope you enjoy. This was kind of a practice piece. Something for me to shake off the cobwebs, clean up the rust,and hopefully get back into writing. Thank you!
Soft light slowly begins to fill the void of darkness which both surrounds me and fills every corner of my being. This new, yet somehow familiar sensation continues to bloom chasing away the dark as it grows brighter, slowly, but steadily becoming more substantial. Simultaneously a sense of apprehension and loathing impresses itself, pushing against this aberration as if attempting to delay the inevitable. A bitter battle of light, versus dark. Both adversaries pulsating intermittently pushing against each other, the darkness wanting to chase this unwanted intruder, these unwelcome feelings away in order to bring back the nothingness. Part of my being wishes for the darkness to once again fill my world, desires it to overcome the force of the light, to allow the dark to continue with it's bittersweet respite. Darkness with it's vow of release, promises of no more struggle, no more stress, no more worry, simply no more. However this I know cannot be.
Darkness is ebbing away, giving in to yet more light, as another sensation steps in timidly making its presence known. This notion of self awareness creeps in sluggishly as I begin to gain consciousness. Bringing me into a state of mental awareness, that which can only exist amidst the gaps darkest sleep, and inert wakefulness. Is this a dream, am I asleep? I don't know, but something new comes into this existence. A high pitched relentless ringing sound fills this void as if being produced by a tuning fork that is being rung with utmost urgency. More sounds flood in, intruding on that of the consistent ringing. I begin to hear distant echoing voices which are strangely muffled amongst that of the high pitched ring. All this white noise begins coming into focus. Is that someone yelling? What are they saying? Why does that voice seem so familiar?
A seemingly distant yet somehow close cracking sound is what I hear next. These noises are now becoming more defined, more real. Another Crack! Just as loud as that which is produced by the use of a bullwhip proceeded by a hollow but pronounced thump. A second, a third, a fourth. Crack, thump! Crack, thump! becoming more pronounced, more real with each new intrusion into my once silent world. Awareness suddenly hits hard with an almost instinctual knowledge of the danger presented by those noises. I know what those are. Those are gunshots! I am aware that I should be afraid, but strangely in this half awakened state I am not. These are sounds which I have unfortunately become far more familiar with over the last couple of years than I would ever care to acknowledge. Inside I know that I am relatively safe. Because of the amount of time between the sound of the crack, and the delay before hearing the thump, I'm aware that while bullets may be speeding near me, their point of origin is some good distance away making precise shots difficult at best.
A grey-purple, hazy light makes its presence around the halo of my vision. My breathing is shallow, slow, and seemingly unimportant at first but even in this semi conscious dream like state, it is noticeably labored. It is not quite painful, yet I know something is most definitely wrong. There is an added tightness with each breath. My lungs feel as though they are becoming more desperate, craving that life giving oxygen which has up until now been an easily obtainable source, and a constant companion. Dust and the light smell of iron, accompanied by their corresponding, taste coats my parched tongue. This metallic flavor is mixed in with the subtle yet unique taste and smell of burnt gunpowder with it's familiar sulphuric essence combined with a salty undertone complementing that iron flavor. These odors, and tastes affirm my suspicion. I know know that without a doubt that I am in the middle of a gunfight.
Now more comprehensible yelling is accompanied with the cracking sounds in the air around me. I am now fully aware that each one of those snapping sounds spells danger! I need to move but how? Wake up! I need to wake up now! This is not a dream! How could I be sleeping at a time like this? How did I get somebody else's blood in my mouth, and why is it so difficult to breathe? So many questions flood into my mind, but this is no time for seeking answers!
Wanting for something more than this paralysis, I am grasping for something, anything! Pushing my will towards anything outside of this mental and physical prison. There, I feel something? Some sensation, some force is starting to come back. I am beginning to feel once again. Pushing down against me I can feel gravity weighing me down, I know that the ground is beneath me, but it seems to be moving? Why is the ground moving? My left hand connects with something, below me. Instant pain shoots up my shoulder, hitting my mind like a bolt of lightning!
That strange grey purple light immediately gives way to a brilliant light blue as my eyes shoot open as a reaction from that hammer like blow of shock up my arm. This burning blue light tinted with the subtlest of reds assails my vision. Sounds around me are becoming more pronounced. These are voices that I am hearing. Why are they yelling? I hear a tone of panic in their voices, but I can't quite make out what they are saying. What the hell is happening? After what seems to be an eternity, with great effort, I slowly begin to gain control of my body one little bit at a time. As painful as it is, I move my fingers forcing past that shooting pain in my left arm, testing each finger as I go. My hand is okay, but something is not right with my forearm. Everything on my right seems to be okay. Arms, legs, muscles throughout my body now move with some great effort, but I am gaining control. I try to lift my head, but the muscles in my neck refuse to cooperate. My movement is still lethargic, very weak but becoming more substantial. With what seems to be the most difficult struggle of my life, I gradually force my head to move to my will.
Squinting to combat the still extremely bright light of the outside world, tan gritty sand seems to contrast against the sea of blue, which I now know is the sky. Other colors appear, objects with defined shapes come into existence, and although they are blurry at first, I can tell what some of these shapes are as I have been surrounded by them most of my life. Everything still seems to have a surreal look, and feel to it, but as though I am rising to the surface of a lake, I am slowly becoming more aware of my surroundings. Now able to look around directly off to my right, I see an anthill, but it seems to be moving? At the border of my blurry vision I can just make out the distinct shape of one of the many desert junipers which grow well in this otherwise hostile environment. Most notably, I am surrounded by sandstone rocks, ranging from the size of small pebbles, to the large house sized walls of stone which seem to surround me.
I'm being dragged! Someone has me by the collar of my shirt and suspenders. They are pulling me backwards, but to who knows where. Before I have time to think of how to react, a small cloud of dust erupts just in front of my outstretched feet. Something hits my neck slapping my flesh as though flung by a slingshot. I feel it rolling down into the crook of my neck, trapping itself between my shirt, and the bare fur underneath making it's way down my chest stopping just above my waistline. I smell my own fur burning, a fraction of a second before the searing heat from the lead slug registers itself against my nerves. Still not in full control of myself, my arm jerks spasmodically. I reach out with my good hand towards that new pain but to no avail. I do not yet have the dexterity I would need in my present condition in order to do much of anything about it. I surrender simply allowing the bullet to burn my flesh. It seems to dig in deep leaving it's own small brand, yet another mark against my already scarred body.
A new level of shock from this small blistering slug somehow acts as a catalyst forcing memories to flood back into my mind as more cracking sounds fill the air around me. An instant anger, edged with hatred overtakes my fear, as I remember Draven the Jaguar! He is why I'm here! He is the reason I've traveled so far, why I've labored so hard, the reason I've searched out every clue, every hint, and rumor never giving up! Pushing through deadly deserts, and hostile woods alike, fighting off raiders, religious nutjobs, nature, and my own desires to just give up and go home! I've left my Ma, and sister alone on the family ranch back in Wyoming to fight through hell to find him. Coming after that son of a bitch Draven! He's the motherless bastard who killed my Pa! I finally found him! I will kill him and anyone else who gets in my way! He will die at my hands just as he killed my father! He was somewhere over there, just past that sandstone outcropping! I'm still being dragged away by someone, but I must kill that Jaguar! I will never stop, not until he's dead!
I summed up all my strength, and will, pushing myself hard! Fighting as best I could to get away from this force which is pulling me away from my target. I reach up with my right hand scrambling for purchase against whoever is pulling me away. I ignore the pain which each new movement punishes me with. “Red knock it off! Quit squirming so much!” I knew that gruff voice, but ignored it, waving my good arm upwards seeking purchase, searching to break his grip. “Stop struggling you damn stubborn donkey!” Said the bulkily built badger in his scruffy voice as he stopped momentarily to renew his grip. Moving again, pulling me back further, I finally found his hand. Balling up my own fist, I pounded against his paw, attempting to break his grip on my clothing.”You dumb kid! You've been shot! Now I said stop struggling with me!” Tate the badger continued to drag me. Pulling me away from what was left of the firefight that had started just moments before. Let me go! I wanted to yell, but all that came out was a wheezing, sloppy wet sound. A bubble of blood inflated, then popped at the end of my muzzle. It was only then that I finally realized that I had been shot! Not only had I been shot, but I had taken a bullet to the chest. Given the bright color of my blood and my labored breathing I had been hit in the lung, and it must be pretty bad.
This knowledge angered me more than anything forcing my mind into focus. I will not give up now! Again I reach up, finding Tate’s paw quickly this time, fixing my grip on the badgers knuckles I squeeze hard as anger fueled adrenaline begins to course through my veins. Increasing pressure on his paw, I can feel his joints popping under my vice like grip. Tate finally lets go with an involuntary yelp. “Goddammit kid!” I fall down to the ground gritting my teeth together against the pain. I have only one thought on my mind. Only one thing is important to me, and that is revenge! I need to get up, and I need to get up now!
Tate’s strong paws grasp me behind my shoulders, him standing above me reaching down, pulling me up, pushing me slightly forward into a half sitting position. “Come on kid! We gotta get you to the doc! Now stop your-” No! I managed to yell, my voice having a sloppy wet sound to it as a gush of bright red blood jetts out from my mouth. Intense burning in my chest made worse by my outburst causes me to cough. Fluid rushing up my throat, I can feel my own warm blood running out of my mouth and nostrils, down my throat, making its way across my chest soaking my shirt and fur with it's crimson red. I try to clear my mind, attempting to override this reflexive hacking. Forcing myself to momentarily stop breathing, my coughing comes under control, but with this I get dizzy, my vision swirling. Fearing that I may pass out, I allow myself to take small measured breaths. Pressure in my chest cavity makes it difficult to get what air I need, but for the task ahead of me, I will make due.
Rolling myself over onto my side, I glance up at Tate and he backs away from me. A look of fear showing on his face. Spitting up a dark clump, some bloody mass out onto the ground as I start to push myself upward. I don't know if his look is out of fear of the still ongoing gun fight, or a fear of me with what must be some wild animalistic rage reflecting through my eyes. Briefly I wonder to myself if I had ever before seen such a look coming from that badger? Tate, who I'd always thought fearless, now looks as afraid as cub lost and alone in the big scary world. No, it doesn't matter! I'm losing my focus! This is not why I am here. Draven is here, somewhere nearby! Killing him should be my only concern, his death must be my only thought. Pushing up with my good arm, I start to stand, feeling more in control of myself. Staggering like a newborn I finally find myself on my hooves. Gravity seems to fight me with every movement. I can feel my legs shaking beneath me, weak, sluggish, not wanting to move, but I force them. I stumble, trying to turn myself back towards the direction of the fighting. My knee buckles, and I start to fall. Tate moves in, taking a step near me, reaching out just as I catch myself brushing off the badgers attempt to grab me. “Come on Red. He's not worth it, you're gonna get yourself killed boy!” Feeling as if I was trying to balance myself atop a moving train, I tried telling him to leave me be! But all that came out was a muffled gargled hum accompanied by another small spurt of bright blood.
This misstep corrected, I finally manage to stand still. My muscles are coming back under my control, still very weak, not quite as they should be, but bending to my will nonetheless. Now I need to move! Reaching down towards my holster, I feel nothing but thin air. Usually this well practiced maneuver, would produce in my hand that nearly 3 pounds of cold steel, which has been both my salvation and my damnation over these last couple of years. For the first time in living memory that fluid movement produced nothing. Where there should be my familiar custom weighted, and carved pistol grips, there was only empty air. My trusty Colt Single action army 45 caliber revolver was not in its accustomed place. Shit! She's gone! I thought, and a sense of dread, an almost overbearing feeling loss, and sorrow came over me.
Not quite ready to give up, I look straight up into the sky stumbling slightly, dizzily searching upwards while I try to continue to further gain control over my weakening body. A small solitary cloud catches my attention. Floating all alone in a vast sea of blue, this surreal vision somehow calms my nerves, further focuses my mind, clearing my thoughts. This isn't over! Forgetting about the hole which must be in my chest, I attempt to breathe in deeply. I can hear the wet stuttering sound of my shot lung as it tries, yet fails to fill with the very much needed oxygen. This breath causes me to once again cough, losing even more of life's valuable liquid. I start to shake slightly, strength weining, getting weak, head sinking, knees wanting to give out, not willing to give in, I force myself to open my eyes looking back up at that lone cloud. Seeing that white lonely mass still floating there somehow snaps me back into the moment. I steady myself, looking down. I begin to search the ground. Drag marks off to my left catch my eye. I start to walk in their direction, staggering with each step. Starting to recollect even more of what has recently transpired. A thin trail of blood, amidst the drag marks dampen the ground leaving a smeared dark line conflicting with the color of the light tan of the sand surrounding it. This trail leads to where I had been standing when I was shot. That would be the best place to start looking for my revolver.
Ignoring Tate’s protest, I turn in that direction and start walking. Slowly but gaining momentum with each painful step I follow that trail scouring the ground with my eyes, looking for even the slightest glint of reflective metal. Shots are still passing by me with that trademark snap of the speeding bullet followed by the thud of the actual shot. I know this is foolish, but I do not care. Heedless of the danger, I follow my own blood trail leading me to a head high sandstone outcropping, rounding the corner, I see her! My pistol is laying next to a small clump of desert merigold only a few feet ahead. Movement seeming easier now that I had a clear path to my revolver I picked up my pace. THWAP! Chucks of sandstone are blown into the left side of my face, hitting my eye stinging my nose, and muzzle. I try to blink away the grit in my eyelid as it rubs against my eye with each watery blink. This new intense pain causes me to stumble and fall barley catching myself in my temporary blindness. Immediately as I hit the ground, the sound of another almost hollow THWAP! Hits the sandstone just above me causing it to erupt into a violent spray of tan gritty debris. I'm right in their sights! Using my momentum from falling, I roll off to the side of a small sandstone boulder, misjudging my movement the ground greets me hard forcing me to give out an involuntary grunt as I pull through this maneuver. Back up on my hands and knees, blood from my muzzle splatters the dusty sand beneath me. I reach forward, ignoring the agonizing pain tormenting my left arm. My hand reaching out towards my revolver, finally grips it, pulling it back towards me. In a sick way I feel almost complete, as if a vital part of myself that had gone missing, is now back to where it belongs.
Now that I am reunited with my trusty six gun, we have a job to do! Muscles fight against me making me feel almost as if I am lifting a mountain. I manage to get myself up into a sitting position. Leaning up against the sandstone wall behind me using the boulder as cover. Eyes watering, my vision blurry, everything looks as though it is tinted in red. I peek over the stone in the direction of those last shots, searching the desert terrain for the Jaguar. Nothing else matters! I know that I am dying, but I do not care. My mind is clear, I am focused, but my body is cooperating only by sheer will power. Motion catches my attention, I blink trying to see through the grit in my eye. Up the hill above me I can just barely make out the shape of two men standing behind a handcart. One taking cover behind the handcart I can’t quite make out, but other I recognize immediately! Draven’s right hand man Cane. Cane the armadillo. He's holding his lever action rifle taking aim right at me!
Not even a split second after realizing who it was I was looking at, I saw the small flash from the muzzle of his rifle. Something barely noticeable tugged at my right ear, THWAP! Debris falling all around I am getting dusted by yet another shower of sandstone. Ducking back down behind the boulder, I look down at my revolver. Hammer at half cock, loading gate wide open, an empty chamber faces me. I take another quick peek over the stone as I roll the cylinder, and push down on the ejector rod in order to empty the next chamber of it's discharged shell. It's difficult at best to see with my injured eye, but I have at least a second or two before Cane will be able to zero in on me again. Weighing my revolver in my hand I can tell by her weight alone that there must be four, no at least five empty chambers! I must have been reloading when I got hit. Ignoring my body's pain, almost setting it aside, focusing on the task at hand, my fingers move in a well practiced motion extracting each empty shell. I can feel fine grains of sand coating my revolver, grinding away within the ejectors spring, sand imbedded between its finely machined surfaces. Glancing back up to the handcart as I push out the last empty shell, I still can’t quite make out who the person behind Cane is through my obscured vision. I can however see that he is using the handcart as a rest for his rifle. Pausing momentarily, Cane gestures, pointing toward me. His rifle directed at me, he brings his repeater back up to his shoulder taking his time to line me up within his sights. Both men are standing behind that cart using it as partial cover. I know if given the opportunity I can at least take out Cane. Predicting the shot, I duck down again. Another bullet strikes only inches away from my previously exposed head. Closing my eyes against the possibility of any more sand getting into them, I reach down to my waistline feeling for my gun belt. My hands seem to move on their own, my fingers brush against the cartridge loops, muscle memory pulling 2 cartridges out from my gun belt at once. Sliding first one, then the next into their chambers quickly feeling only slight resistance from the dusty sand lining the interior walls of each chamber. I close the loading gate after all inserting those 2 cartridges, bringing the total in the revolver up to 3. I turn the cylinder so that an empty chamber rests underneath the hammer. I can feel and hear a grinding click, click, click with each revolution.
Pushing myself up onto my hooves, moving away from the cover of the boulder I see only my target. I raise my revolver up, pulling the hammer back in one fluid motion. Time seeming to slow almost to a halt as I take aim, lining the front post up with the grooves of the rear sight. With the tip of the front post at Cane’s chest right where his heart should be I am ready to fire. Moving up from behind Cane I see him! Draven! He is right there! Seeing the Jaguar blows my focus. My arm droops slightly causing me to lose my original target. Draven is right there! He is standing just off to the side of Cane’s shoulder firing at somebody that I could not see off to my right. Bringing my revolver back up, aiming directly at Draven I knew this was finally going to be over! All I have to do now is squeeze the trigger. Stepping backwards, still in motion I stumble. Something soft on the ground bundles itself up under my hoof, causing me to lose my balance. My back hits something hard making me jerk the trigger. My revolver goes off with it’s ear splitting boom!
Splinters of wood go flying off of the handcart where my bullet hit low, directly in front of Draven. My knees give out, and I slide down, my back against a wall of sandstone. My rear hitting the ground leaving me sitting, facing my enemy. I can't believe it. All this struggle, all of these tribulations, everything I've gone through to finally get him in my sights, and I miss! Draven seems to duck down below the handcart as though he's looking for cover. Another bullet hits the sandstone just off to my right. Low, but no more than a few inches away from my lower ribs. That shot came from Cane. I again cough, trying to keep my mouth shut, this causes bright red blood to spray out of my nostrils in a fine mist.
Cane works the action on his repeater, pulling his rifle up to his shoulder, again taking aim. This is it, this is where I die. A surreal sense of calm envelopes me as i accept my fate. I can feel my adrenaline has worked its magic, giving me the temporary boost of energy I needed to get to this point, but has now voided my muscles leaving me weaker than I ever thought possible. Glancing up at Cane, through my obscured vision I see Draven still crouched behind what little cover the handcart provides them. Cane hesitates, looks down at Draven I think he's saying something but they are too far away for me to make out much of anything over the insistent ringing still plaguing my ears. Cane lifts his rifle off of the handcart, throwing open the lever, looking down into the breach. He's empty! I may still have a chance! Vision blurred, muscles weak, dizzy from lack of oxygen, I bring my revolver back up, cocking the hammer having to use more force than usual, feeling every grain of grit grinding through its inner workings. Again pointing my revolver directly at Cane’s chest as he shoves cartridges into the loading plate of his repeater. All I need do now is squeeze, and CLICK! Where there should have been the loud explosion of my 45 Colt, there was nothing. My arm is shaking as I pull the hammer back once again, feeling fine particles of sand still grinding within its internal workings, fighting me with every millimeter I gain. I finally feel that third click. Hammer fully cocked, I rest the pad of my finger into its accustomed place on the trigger, not feeling as though I need to rush with Cane still loading his rifle, I squeeze and CLICK! Again nothing! I only have one cartridge left. I allow my arm to sag, resting my revolver in my lap. Through a blow of dust I can just make out Cane as he stands starting to pull back away from the cart looking around him wide eyed. He reaches down grabbing Draven by the shoulder pulling him up, pointing them toward the top of the hill, and they start to move.
Are they running away? No they can't! Pushing through the pain, setting my weakness aside, everything seems to be in a daze. I feel like I am acting through a dream and in the body of a stranger. I bring my revolver up for one last attempt. Pulling hard I feel something crack, giving way as the hammer of my Colt locks into place. Draven is limping, blood running down his leg. I know I can only get one of the two, and it may not be Draven, but at least I will not die in vain. They only have a few more feet to go before they'll crest the hill and be out of my sight forever. As much as I will it, my arm will not hold steady. My breathing has become very erratic, only allowing me small gulps of air. I have to do this, and I have to do it now. I can feel myself fading, my vision already blurred, now dark around the edges. My grip tightens, finger posed on the trigger, waiting for the right moment in this bizarre looping, almost bouncing motion of my sights.
As though he could feel my sights burning a trail across his back, Cane suddenly stops, turning around taking a knee, once more working the lever of his rifle. He takes aim. Draven also turning looks at me with an expression of… what hate? No, what I see is not hatred in his expression, but what? Is that a look of pity I see on his face? Draven reaches forward, at the last second pulling back on Canes shoulder. I see flash of the muzzle, the bullet zooms past me with a hiss hitting something hard behind me, I can hear it ricochet, momentarily singing it's way through the air almost in harmony with that of the ringing in my ears which has been tormenting me since I came to.
My revolver falls from my hand, hitting the soft sand below noiselessly. I watch as Draven crests the top of the hill, Cane following just behind he turns giving me one last appraising look before he too disappears from my vision. I stare with my good eye fixed to the spot where I had last seen them, for a few more seconds. Feeling more exhausted than I ever thought possible, I allow myself to slump back against the sandstone behind me. My gun hand drops down to my side touching something soft. Head rolling down to see what it is, I see my hat. Son of a bitch, I think to myself. So that's what I tripped over. I somehow find a delirious type of humor in this, although I can not laugh, I feel my lips moving upwards into a smile.
One last burst of strength, overpowering the weakness in my muscles, I grip my hat as though giving it the caress of a lover, placing it back in its rightful place atop my head. I lean forward staring down. My breathing is labored coming only in small quick panting like breaths. I can feel the darkness once again enveloping me, working its way within. I feel cold inside despite the heat of the sun pressing down on my fur. Bright yellow of a desert marigold only inches away from my muzzle catches my eye. Specks of bright red blood cover the flowers petals adding an innate contrast to the last thing I will ever see. I can't help but find beauty in this visage as I allow the darkness to overtake me, tunneling in around me once again making sweet promises whispering into my ears with its siren song. Finally I have found what I have been truly searching for. It was not revenge, but only that which death can bring, peace. “Pax ante Bellum”
A western revenge theme, something I wrote for practice, as much as enjoyment. For anyone who takes the time to read this I hope you enjoy, and maybe use your imagination a little where needed. Red, or perhaps this great great grandfather of Red, has quite the experience in this short story. Leaving many questions even for me, and I wrote the damn thing. There is some violence, blood, gore and stuff which I generally avoid, but this story kind of wrote itself as it came together. If enough people end up enjoying this, there may be more.
A huge shout out to Nakkune for editing, suggestions, and helping me produce a finished product. http://nakkune.deviantart.com Thank you so much for taking your time in reviewing this, and making suggestions. I appreciate that greatly