Windblown Saviour - Chapter 3 - Food for the Crows

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Chapter 3 – Food for the Crows

Bright sunlight and an odd scuffling noise brought me slowly back into a world of personal agony. I could barely breathe and at first couldn't understand why. I cracked open my painfully bruised eyes and lifted my head to take in my surroundings.

All I could see was sand and scrubby bushes. There was no sign of the barn where Tennant had beaten me or the street where I had left his brother's blood pooling in the sand next to the previous day's stain left by John Evans. There was nothing for miles.

"Shit."

I swore softly, but instantly regretted it as swollen lips cracked with the movement, the lack of moisture adding to the agony of the bruising. Blood from the broken skin moistened my tongue briefly and gave me momentarily relief, but I could feel the bare skin on my shoulders and head blistering in the hellish sun. My eyes tingled with the salt sting of sweat and it was only when I tried to rub the salt from them that I realised I couldn't move my arms.

I was buried.

I had no idea how long I had been there, but the sun was high in the sky and a small group of black vultures sat patiently in the trees around me, admiring the meal someone had so thoughtfully provided, occasionally hopping over to inspect me judging by the tracks in the dust that surrounded me.

The sand had been packed tight around my body, only my upper chest, shoulders and head left above ground level; just enough to let me breathe, not enough to allow me to escape. Dust carried by a fitful breeze brought irritation in occasional spurts of dryness into my face and I contemplated my situation. Desperate didn't really begin to describe it: dead seemed more appropriate.

A lone carrion crow hopped cautiously closer, making the odd scuffling noise in the sandy soil that had roused me seconds before. As I swore loudly at it, it wheeled abruptly and flew away, retreating to its death robed fellows and biding its time.

"Well that ain't no way to talk to one of God's creatures now son, he was only being interested. You probably look mighty edible at the moment."

The voice came from outside my peripheral vision, but a gob of brown spit from a wad of chewing tobacco landed in the sand in front of my face, the moisture disappearing almost immediately in the excruciating heat. Then, approaching footsteps and an accompanying shadow gave me a brief but welcome respite from the sun's harsh glare.

I craned my neck painfully upwards, and the wizened silhouette of the scavenging old man from the town beamed down at me.

"I seen you get whacked in town boy, so I thought perhaps I'd see whether you was dead yet."

"I'm not," I rasped. "Any chance of a drink old man?"

"Nope. I'm thinking perhaps I oughta wait 'til you're dead then dig you out and take your guns, like I did with them fellas you killed in town."

"Well old man, I'm afraid you're outta luck. Tennant has already stripped me of anything valuable and left me to rot."

"Ah, shoot." The old man muttered and then crouched down in front of me, breathing the foul fumes of his rotting teeth across my face. "Well, you ain't no good to me boy. Good luck to you." He stood up creakily and then started to move off.

"You miserable old goat." I tried to shout, but it came out as a dried wheeze and left my head spinning. "I oughta kill you, I......" Not enough air got in, so I passed out again, spinning dizzily once more into darkness.

~

I woke up confused, nauseous and weak, to the sounds of clattering pots and pans. Opening my eyes, I looked at my surroundings. I was in a solid looking log cabin, lying on a narrow cot bed. A small fire provided light and warmth in its neat stone hearth a short distance away. It was all one room, although well tended and clean and the clattering was coming from the old man, who was rummaging and muttering away to himself in one corner.

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