Or something like that. I didn’t want to write today, but it’s not about wanting or not wanting to. I just have to show up and engage in the craft. If something good comes out of a writing session, wonderful. If I just have two or three pages of dreck, that’s also wonderful. I can’t wait for my Muse to lean over and whisper in my ear (which she doesn’t do anyway; she more apt to whack me in the head). Craft, craft, craft. Inspiration will come and go, but the craft remains. Here’s what emerged from today’s session:
“Don’t bother with that one,” Old Laura said. “He’s close enough to dead that we’ll just leave him be.”
Greg studied the battered body at the edge of the tunnel. From his vantage point, Greg didn’t think it was clear the man was on the verge of death. He was certainly bloody, but he was half-shrouded in shadow. “You sure?” he asked and held his lantern higher and squinted his eyes at the man.
Old Laura chuckled and placed a hand on Greg’s shoulder, which made him jump. He didn’t like anyone touching him, but that went double for Old Laura, whose hands had dealt more death than…well, anyone Greg knew, and he knew some cold-blooded killers. Old Laura took the fucking cake and then some. He supposed if she said someone was near death, he should take it as gospel truth.
Still, there was something wrong with the situation. Not that the way it went down, of course. That had been sheer perfection, thanks to weeks of planning, his steady trigger hand, and Old Laura’s combination of blood-lust and keen intelligence. Around them lay six bodies, all dead…and soon to be seven if the fucker at the end of the tunnel would get about it, Greg thought.
“I’m not second-guessing you, Old Laura,” he said, “but let me just wander over there and make sure he’s done for. I know you shot him to hell and back again, but something’s making the hair on my neck stick up.”
“We’re wasting time,” Old Laura growled, “but if it’ll stop your goddamn worrying, go over and check. Just don’t waste a bullet on him. If he’s still drawing breath, just crush his windpipe.
“Roger that,” Greg replied, moving carefully through pools of blood and stepping over what was left of the men he and Old Laura had disposed of. The tunnel floor was like a jigsaw of human body parts, but Greg had an iron stomach. It took a lot to rattle him. Shit, the last time was when that kid’s head landed in my lap, and that was, what, ten years ago? If he hadn’t looked like my cousin Freddie, I could’ve kept my lunch down and–
Greg’s reverie ground to a halt the moment the man at the edge of the tunnel–the man who was supposed to be at death’s very door, expecting admittance at any second–got to his feet and drew his pistol. He was covered in blood and looked like something out of a nightmare, but there he was, quite clearly alive and moving around like the last thing on his mind was dying.
“I prefer my windpipe intact, thank you,” the man spoke and shot Greg in the center of his forehead. As Greg fell lifelessly to the ground, the man moved further down the tunnel and toward Old Laura.
She laughed as the man approached. “Damn, I didn’t think the stories were true,” he said. “Turns out you can’t be killed, after all.”
“No, I can be killed,” the man replied, closing the distance without any hurry. “You’re just a terrible shot.”
“Bullshit,” Old Laura said and leveled her gun at the man. “I hit you at least nine times. You’re just a tough bastard, Wes.”
A thin smile crossed the man’s face. “I haven’t heard my name for a long time,” he said. “So long, I’d forgotten it. Would you do me a favor of telling me my last name?”
Old Laura took a deep breath. Why the fuck hadn’t sheshot him yet? Aside from the fact that nine bullets had only stunned him for a bit, so a few more wasn’t going to spell his doom. Still, at close range, three more would drop him back down and give her time to escape.
And then it hit her: she didn’t want to escape.
“Townes,” she said. “With an e.”
“Wes Townes,” the man said, trying the name on for size. He said it again. “Is Wes short for anything, like Wesley? Weston, maybe?”
“Not that you ever told me.”
“We knew each other?”
“A long time ago.”
Wes scratched at his stubbly face, his expression thoughtful. “You could tell me about myself,” he said. “I should keep you around.”
“If you don’t remember your past, count it a blessing. It was a lot like mine, which was fucking awful.”
Wes kept scratching his face. “I guess you’re right. Well, good talking to you.” He squeezed the trigger one more time, and Old Laura became Dead Laura.
Whistling a tune he knew but couldn’t name, Wes Townes emerged from the tunnel and into the early morning sunlight. He had no idea where he was, but he found he didn’t care. He was somehow alive, and that was all that mattered.