The Pistol in the Desert

Metal gleamed under the light of the sun, flashing a signal to Robert and Lestrad. Quick, long, quick its pulses went—matching the shifting sand and the rhythm of the dune.

“Foggles,” Robert said as he touched the metal. “Foggles and pickles. It’s hot.”

“Use your shirt,” Lestrad snapped, his shadow looming over Robert. “It’s got to be worth something.”

“Ain’t burning this,” the smaller of the two tugged at his thin blue t-shirt. Doing so revealed a skin still trying to heal itself. “Replacing kit ain’t easy for me. No one benefacting my scavenges.”

“Because you don’t take risks,” Lestrad said, his giant hands pointing to the object. “You want me to teach you or not?”

“Yeah.” Robert tried to spit on the ground, but no slaver followed his action. His blistered and parched lips even seemed unable to make any sound without the aid of his vocal cords.

“Then use the shirt,” the hulking teen said. “Show them you’re willing to do what it takes.”

Robert swallowed, his eyes glancing at the seemingly endless sand around them. “Risks,” he eventually said, taking his shirt off. He winced as he bent down, the sun’s rays appearing to cause him pain on his recently exposed torso.

Carefully, he placed a tiny part of his top around the metal and pulled—a steel cylinder emerging from the desert floor, with an oddly shaped middle and wooden handle. Robert held it out from his chest, appearing to analyse the object in. A silver and black light zipped along the side of their discovery.

“It’s one of those things,” he said to Lestrad. “We’ve seem ‘em in the books.”

“I know what it is,” the bigger lad replied, his brown eyes becoming deeper, more focussed.

“What’s the name?”

“It’s a thing, and it’s worth a lot.”

“Ain’t you know?”

“Names aren’t important. It kills folk.”

After a few moments, Robert brought the object closer to his body and touched the handle with his other hand. “Cold now.”

“You sure you want to look after it?” Lestrad commented, stepping towards the smaller boy. “Had things taken from you before.”

Robert spun, and pointed the barrel at his companion’s chest, a finger now in front of the trigger. “Ain’t this how they used it in those moving pictures?” he said, his tone half-joking, half-suspicious.

“Seems like you got the hang of it.”

“You think it’s worth something? I mean, what if it don’t work?” The lights along the side increased their speed.

“It’s a killing thing Rob,” Lestrad said, taking a pace back. “Who you going to kill?”

“Old man Nizer. Beat me good and proper, till me back wouldn’t heal no more in the rays.”

“You deserv—”

“—Ain’t no one deserves that. Got someone else in mind?” Robert’s finger moved closer to the trigger.

“It’s a day’s journey to Lingform.”

“Then it be a day’s journey.”

They made it in half the time, Robert hanging at the rear, the item stuck down the front of his tattered pants. Nizer was exactly where he’d been the same day he’d beaten the smaller of the boys: standing outside of the goods store, whistling at women.

“Lookee,” he said as they approached. “All growed up and cleaned by the sun. God been good to you, Devil should’ve claimed your soul long ago.”

“He claimed my skin,” Robert snarled, clenching his fists.

“Told you, ain’t liking Dune-wafers in me town. Even if they’ve got the blessing of the Locater’s Guild.”

Robert snatched the item from his pants and pointed it at Nizer, the sun glistening off its long metal cylinder. “Don’t mean nothing no more, I’m taking this place.”

Nizer smiled, his yellow-and-green-stained teeth directly in contrast with his silver hair. “Hoo boy, a pistol. Well, ain’t it be me luck and fortune day. Get to beat a wafer and take his toy.”

He waved the pistol once more. The sound of him swallowing easily distinguishable from the gentle wind’s whispers. “This thing be for killin’,” he said.

Lestrad’s shadow changed positions, its direction now towards the front of the town.

“Ain’t that what you said?” Robert asked, his voice half pleading with the bigger boy to tell him he was right.

“Oh, it kill and kill alright,” Nizer answered, taking a step. “But be needing bullets. I got a stash of those, but me pistol went and got all fungused up.”

“Guess you’re due for another beating,” Lestrad said to Robert, taking another pace towards the town’s entrance. “Should’ve listened to me.”

“But…but…” Robert pulled the trigger, the gun clicked and the pulsating light went black.

Nizer’s lips turned into a snarl. “Wackin—” He was cut short by a single beam of silver that came out of the barrel. It penetrated the man’s chest, and everything beyond it, far into the horizon.

“What did you do?” Lestrad asked as the beam grew, getting thicker and thicker, a high-pitched noise starting to emenate from the pistol.

Robert dropped it, slicing Nizer in half. “That ain’t like in the movies.”

Once the silver line was the length of a man’s arm, it made a popping sound and turned into an expanding dome hundreds of metres high. The light it generated disintegrated everything in its path—except sand—and then exploded, turning the sky fiery red and yellow.

Flakes of brown swept over its handle, covering all but its metal cylinder. It gleamed under the midday sun—flashing quick, long, quick.

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