Sonora

Reads: 512  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two men, an American irregular and a Mexican Cazador make the perilous journey across the Sonora desert, making for the Rio Grande.

Submitted: June 18, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 18, 2016

A A A

A A A


A cold darkness creapt up on them. They rode quietly as moon came along the small stones and the shimmering earthen citadels lying in the distance clothed in a celestial dress of dark sky and scarce twinkling starlight. Somewhere water trickled. They stopped when they heard wet thuds, the hooves of their tired and half blown mounts thudding against the wet stones caked in claylike sediment.

They came from their horses announced by the heavy splashes of their rawhide boots in the stream. Ankle deep and panting as their feet grew cold. They stood like dying men with arms slack against tawny flanks shuddering from exhaustion.
Somewhere far off the stream faltered.

Sparks against that celestial backdrop, suddenly. A bright yellow petard burst into life from their flints and what missed the deadwood they piled very quickly and desperately with hands wet from gorging themselves in the stream, went to be snuffed out in the cold. More followed. Their clashing stones echoed and ricocheted within the earthen city resounding off tower and turret like the sounds of a faint and distant gunfight, while they squatted in the dirt and braced themselves against the bitter cold.

Later, in the faint glow of a fire they coaxed to life, barely. They sat facing each other but neither said a word. One man was tall and haggard, a face etched deeper and more extensively with sharp ridges and creases of age. His eyes were wide and his mouth long and slack, such that he stared into the flames like a mad man. A chewed up brim of rawhide fashioned into a crude sombrero bisected crosswise his frenetic gaze. The fire was reflected back in pools in the deep blue American eyes. The other too stared into the flames, though his face was obscured by a weathered and pockmarked tricorn from which a red plume rose. Below its brim were faded white trousers and dirty spats and leather boots that had once been military spitshined, and the green jacket of the Cazadores a Caballo.

Long shadows went from their static forms as the light that begat them flickered and waned. From a pocket of rawhide that hung by a scant few stitches the American fished a bottle of murky whiskey, the name of which was scrawled upon a faded label in harsh and illegible Mexican. Along the wavering perimeter of the world straddled by the furthest spires they could see, lightning rippled within clouds fat with rain and they could hear the soft sounds of distant thunder. From the basin they heard a herd of bighorn sheep march along the barren plains, their hooves like the storm that was approaching and their pelts the same shade as the rippling starlight.

All the next day they rode single file, out the gates of the earthen city which gave way to a shimmering barrenness beclamoured by the thundering silence of desolation, the world beheld through eyes half dead and half crazed. Onward they rode. They saw nothing but the sharp distant stars of pronghorn bushes and yucca bordering the playa, and beyond that the shoulders of the Sierra Madre lay in unreachable distance. At mid day they crossed a salt plain that left them sucking desperately on tongues gone dry and white, half dreaming in their thirst of the stream they crossed the night before. Two shadows against a glazed and dried sea of rippling white they rode with squinted eyes fixed on the bajadas that curved gently towards to the great barren cobalt sky.

With the sky dimming they finally came to a narrow valley dusted with patches of grass, between two citadels atop which lay smatterings of creosote and the quick shadows of snakes and mountain lizards, and here they dismounted finally. The American came on his knees among the dried saltgrass and dirty white winterfat, a sliver of a knife blade in his left hand and the right combed through it. The Cazador stood with his back to the valley and his eyes toward the world that had turned to an inky and electric dark and the meridian plane that ran across it. The sheep were moving again and from where he stood he could also see the coyotes hurrying after them. The pursuit followed its own charter, commanded by only the most instinctual constitution. The coyotes would yap and follow the herd and wait for stragglers to fall behind. The whole herd was a prey beyond their grasp and it was in this way that they knew their place, as did the sheep that outran them and the ones that did not.

Goddamn.

The American sprang, suddenly, uncoiling and recoiling as if in one motion. He held in his free hand by the tail a rattlesnake, convulsing and writhing as its mouth sought purchase and he brought the knife and decapitated the creature and let it bleed. Then he lay the thing down and began to gut and skin it. The Cazador came from his watch with deadwood from a pouch of his mount and his flint and knife. They ate the snake over a fire as weak as the one from the night before. The Cazador shouldered his carbine again and took watch as the American slept. As the fire waned, so did he, and soon the both of them were deaf and blind.

Far off in the dark world, as they slept, and they did sleep, in a tight huddle with the earth as a slab and the sky as their blanket and the lances of dry Sonoran cold, a sheep fell from pace, and the coyotes sprang upon it, and in the light of a moon waxing gibbous that shone high in the sky they tore it and rent it and its bleats were soon drowned out by their howls.

 


In the evening of the next day they came upon baked clay walls in an oblong perimeter the color of the dusking sky and an uneven gap flanked by two wooden poles that served as its gate, and in the evening redness the hovels and huts that made up that desolate pueblocito seemed the same shade as the sky under which they lay. A wind came from the east and threw sand into the eyes and snouts of their horses, and the beasts shook and snorted indignant and indifferent beyond this small concern.

The Cazador crossed the thresh hold first with his carbine drawn and level at his waist and the American followed, with the oblong stock of a Harper rifle cradled in his arms and half of its barrel leading him on. Through an empty avenue they strode and around them the light cast strange shadows from the things that were left behind. The baked earth walls were dry and the buckets and cups and clay jugs sitting in the window sills were dry. Sand and the desiccated branches of dead shrubbery that perhaps had once grown in a viridescent abundance. Wooden troughs with the wood long since dead and pale in the hot son lay like open caskets in the dusty streets. They passed a well with the rawhide cover blown to into the desert and long since on its journey by the time they beheld it, and within the water was a murky brown.

Here they stopped, perched on its rim, staring off into the sun sinking low beneath a wavering horizon dotted with the hills and the distant marching animals along the plain. In the middle distance they could see horses and their mounted riders emerge from the coming darkness, almost fantastical in that shimmering void, bobbing and trembling and announced by the plume of sand they threw behind them. A battalion of miserables with some clad in the colors of Mexico and others wore ponchos adorned with diamonds the color of the blazing noon sky and others were naked though their tanned and leather like hides made them seem clothed in a garb spun by the desert itself, spat out clothed in dry redness to sow havoc among men, and as they rode it was with a bristling of many barrels of muskets and some older arquebuses with match strings trailing long blue ribbons of gunsmoke.

They’d set their perimeter but between them both shot was light and aim was further lacking and the one thing they had in abundance was the fire they’d lit. It was in this small brightness they saw the banditos draw nearer and when they’d come to range for their rifles the frontmost man turned and dismounted and stood in the sand and his fellows stalled too. This one was in the bright azure of the Mexican soldados though it was marred by the signatures of ball and arrow alike, and what little remained hung loosely. He bore what was once perhaps a dog lock smoothbore, four feet of iron and wood formed long before he was, and he clung on to its much beaten stock and he would caress and work the lock as if the thing in his hands were his sole anchor to the world of man, and as if to let go were to submit to the amalgamation of what little remained of man and what was created in the silence and calamitous desolation.  

The Cazador wet his mouth that had gone dry during their approach and spat into the sand. The American kept his Harper level.

English?

Some. Enough.

The bandito spared the Cazador a quick glance.

Does he speak? Hables?

The Cazador answered with a motion smooth and practiced and his carbine was level.

He does not speak.

So it is. What is it you want here?

Shelter. For the night. We will move with dawn.

Men who move with dawn move from something.

We move at dawn to move fast. We move from nothing.

The bandito glanced away toward his riders and they gestured to him with their gun barrels and lances.

Supposing

He said, not believing

Whatever lies on yonder plain which pursues ye. Does it pursue me to?

The American looked to the Cazador and did not say anything. The Cazador looked at the bandito and his dirty brass buttons and torn alabaster sash and did not say anything. He nodded. The bandito made a sound in his throat that was an ugly middle distance between anger and despair.

You’d have a day’s start if ye left now.

The American offered but his Harper still beheld the bandito’s head, the greasy locks strewn about it more akin to mane than hair.

The bandito remounted and cried out toward his men in a tongue that was a part the very base of Mexican and the rest was a crude motley of language formed out of desperation by desperate men. With the sounding of their cries and whoops and the staccato thunder of their pieces to announce their exodus from that dark and dry place they rode till they were again but rippling phantasms apart from the tangible plain and then they were no more.

 

In the long days they rode westward. A single file across boundless sepias and a crimson meridian that ran forever far and wide. The sun was hot and they rode blinking sweat out of their eyes and soon they could sweat no more so they took to riding in darkness among the unbroken mustangs thundering for long hours. They came upon great stone monoliths in the bases and shallow caves of which they huddled in much like the men that came before. In the blazing day a pronghorn or somesuch creature would wonder by their merger trappings and the American or the Cazador would trade shots till one fell it and the other advanced snakelike stooped low to avoid gazing at the sun to drag it back to the cool dimness where they would begin to butcher it. They rode with long strips of the dead things hanging loosely on ropes fashioned form dried grass. They dried them in the day and would chew as they rode, tanned jaws rolling with the motions of rending the flesh. At night the wolves that pursued them howled intermittently and sometimes they would let off shots into the dark and when the shot and powder pouches were all emptied they took to howling back. They since abandoned the vestments of man and rode and dwelled in that great plain in near nakedness.

By the light of a tallow candle that was very much burdened they entered through the archway of a doorless saloon, clad in loincloths fashioned from what remained of what they’d worn clutching into axes of bone and stone with hair knotted and braided and the blood of a hundred butcherings upon their dirtied hands, and the brick walls were the first things they’d seen formed from the hands of men. A cold wind blew. They drank whiskey, or something that did a similar duty, from clay cups red like the walls and soon they left as the men inside drank and the candle burned itself down.

They were on a knoll, and yonder lay a smattering of starched military tents numbering close to sixty. By a twilight that came slowly and softly to be reflected along the wideness of the rio grande they traipsed and danced around tent pegs and dying fire pits like faustian ideations and they would stoop with bundled arms for the muted glints of sabres and shot shining in the distant star light, and the smooth and muscled flanks of cavalry horses, and soon they returned to their roost upon the knoll and to their backs was a full new moon and all around was the darkness and in the far distance they could hear the first of the wolves.

The end.


© Copyright 2017 avocadohm. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by avocadohm

The Old Man and the City

Short Story / Other

Sonora

Short Story / Westerns

Night Rider

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Popular Tags