Promptly Written: The Stranger

Hello! Here’s my second story, this time with a prompt from r/WritingPrompts!

Prompt: A stranger walks into town with a coldness in his eyes, guns in his hands, and vengeance on his mind.

The sun sits directly above. A dry wind blows across the cracked clay, kicking up dust. Hand-painted wooden signs mark handmade wooden buildings. The nameless little town’s lone street stands empty, but for these buildings, a stranger, and a lone rider. The two men face one another, less than 100 feet apart. A long time passes, then the rider calls out to the stranger.

“Best turn around, son.” The rider’s brow is furrowed. His eyes never leave the stranger. He leans slightly over the side of his horse and spits out brown, then continues chewing. He blinks slowly, wipes a bit of spittle from his graying beard. The rider’s eyes are hard and tired, his posture strong. He has both hands on his horse’s slack reins. The stranger makes no reply, keeping his hands around the grips of his pistols, the barrels pointing at the ground through his hip holsters.

The stranger takes a step forward. His black hat has a wide brim and covers his face in noon’s shadow. His shirt is black, his vest and pants matching it. He is covered in dust from black boot to black hat. A black bandana covers his nose and mouth, keeping the dust away from what matters. He is a silhouette, a blank space where a man should be. He takes another step.

“Y’ain’t gonna make this easy, are ya?” Without looking back, the rider reaches to the saddlebag and draws a double-barreled shotgun from the holster there. He swings it up almost carelessly and aims it vaguely in the direction of the stranger, never letting his eyes leave the man. The stranger takes another step. The rider fires a blast at the ground a little more than halfway between himself and his shadowy opponent.

“That’s far enough.” The rider shifts his aim slightly, readying the next shot to go through the man. The stranger again takes a step forward. The rider continues to squeeze the trigger, to send the second shotgun blast across the darkly-clad stranger.

A single shot rings out.

The rider slumps back in his saddle. Smoke rises from the stranger’s left pistol.

“H-how…?” The rider’s hands come loose from the reins. His body slides from the saddles, landing hard on the ground. He struggles onto his elbows and crawls away from the horse, leaving a trail of crimson blood. The stranger begins to approach slowly, holstering his left pistol. The horse, already riled by the gunshot, rears and neighs wildly. The stranger reaches the fallen rider and the horse finally runs off in the other direction. The rider looks up. The stranger tilts his head, the brim of his hat blocking the sun. The rider’s eyes adjust, despite the dust and the pain. He sees the stranger’s face.

“Y-you… I should’ve known it’d be you.” The rider turns onto his back and closes his eyes. The stranger lifts his right pistol and fires between the fallen rider’s closed eyes.

“Yes. You should have.”

The stranger steps over the body, holstering his pistol.

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