Night fall. Something is stirring in the village streets. A restless horse brays outside of a lit dwelling. A message of utmost importance has been crafted. Its delivery cannot wait till sun rise and the messenger must ride over the sand flats and the hills, crossing the mesa in order to get to the village on the other side. The journey is a perilous one but the message must be delivered. The horse is readied and the rider sets off guiding the horse through the streets, the clatter of hooves ricocheting from cobbles and brick work. Upon reaching the main path the bridal snaps and the horse gallops forth, flying into the sand flats, a cacophony of dust and sand drifting through sage bushes, enveloping cacti.
The maze of cacti is safety navigated and the messenger moves into the hills. During the night the hills are a dangerous proposition, uneven terrain dotted with crevasses and unstable patches. Using only a lantern the rider marshals the horse through the night tide, the contours lit up by the light. The pace of the journey has slowed but after each step the messengers strength of will grows, his determination to finish the journey ever greater.
Crossing over a crevasse two coyotes spring forth startling the horse. The messenger is thrown from the horse into the crevasse. He grabs at the saddle dragging it down with him. The horse bolts as an almighty scream fills the air, unheard.
The messengers leg is shattered, bone shredding through flesh. Vast quantities of blood have seeped into the dust the ground stained crimson. Somewhere in the hills the gaucho rouses, old bones rising, trusted mount walking over to the rider. Even in twilight the gaucho moves through the hills with ease, the skeletal horse never makes a false step walking as though the land has plunged into non-existence. Winding through the hills the gaucho pauses, spotting a fire clinging to existence barely lighting the bottom of a crevasse. The gaucho tugs on the reins and the horse jolts forward trotting into the crevasse.
The messengers voice is hoarse from screaming. Starring up at the sky resigned to his fate he spots something moving at the top of the crevasse. He readies his gun. Under the cloak of darkness the gaucho descends the horse handling the vertical terrain with unparalleled ease. In the glow of the fire the messenger can make out the outline of a man and a horse. His grip on the gun tightens even though his energy continues to fritter away.
Dismounting the gaucho walks towards the messenger. Lifting his gun, preparing to fire the messenger catches a glimpse through the flames of the skeleton and the grey lifeless poncho. He freezes, eyes widen and jaw clenches, hand unable to squeeze the trigger. A skeletal hand removes the gun from his grasp tossing it away into the gloaming. The mans breathing is heavy laboured as the gaucho wanders over to the saddle bag, rooting through its contents. Finding a blanket it uses the cloth to cover the messenger, now visibly confused. Investigating further the gaucho finds cigarettes and a box of matches.
Drifting back to the messenger the gaucho places a cigarette in the mans mouth and drags a match across its face the bone a perfect surface for igniting the match head.
In the match light the messenger sees the wraiths face, wizened and petrified, weather worn by life in the hills. The cigarette blazes and smoke drifts through the night air, the messenger taking it all in, his last pleasure on this earth. The gaucho sits cross-legged, watching the man enjoy his final moments against the fire raging against its fate.
Eyes shut, the cigarette drops to the ground and the last breath escapes the body. The gaucho rises and enables to the soul to free itself from the mortal coil. The gaucho takes up the body and belongings before leaving the crevasse, the sallow horse once again handling itself with ease. It earns an affectionate pat for its efforts.
Journeying back to the village the gaucho places the body at the village entrance so as to allow the villagers of bury the body. The soul will be dealt with by the gaucho, returning to the hills.
In the early hours of the morning the village over the hills finds a message resting on its gate.
Fear I may have overwritten this. Feedback welcomed.
Inspired by the scene in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” when the Man With No Name gets his famous poncho.
Video from YouTube user Suikojowy.