The cold, harsh winds blew the howls of the coyotes towards the campsite, golden orange flames danced to the sounds of the crackles of the burning pine wood. As time passed by, and the sun slowly set over the planes, the reclusive wanderer finished off the last of the beef jerky and rice that he’d rationed himself. He got up to take one last gaze over the valley before he reassured himself it was safe for him to get some rest.
As he drifted off to sleep, he knew that was his last night of complete solitude before he made it to Braverock, to begin his new life, this thought flooded his body with anxiety, and panic, as much as it overwhelmed him with a feeling of normality, finally being around other people, after all this time spent, alone, just searching for a new start somewhere. He never made it more than 6 weeks anywhere before he was forced to leave, and he was hoping that this time, he could break the cycle.
The distinctive howls of the cayotes got louder and louder, loud enough to wake him from his light sleep, the wanderer crawled out of the wind shelter he’d erected and decided to call home for the night, barely able to see in the dim, moonlit desert, he just about made out the blurs in the distance accelerating towards him, he knew coyote attacks on people were rare, but this landscape was baron, and these coyotes were relying on their basic primal instincts to survive, and they were heading in his direction.
The nomad stood there, and waited, the only thing between him and the pack of six, hungry wild canines, was the feint orange glow of a fire on it’s last legs, barely anything more than warm ash at this point, the coyotes bounded closer and closer, they were within three hundred feet… two hundred feet…
With intense focus in his eyes he stared at the coyotes, not blinking once. Fifty feet! He flung his hand up from beside his holster, palm facing the starry night sky, and as his hand rose above his head, a scorching collection of flames arose from the final burning embers of pine wood and spread in a perfect semi-circle around him. Behind him, his horse reared and let out an almighty “NEIGH!”, the coyotes scrambled to a halt, sliding across the underfoot sand, digging their paws in frantically for anchorage. All six of them stopped dead, looking defeatedly at the pyrokinetic conjurer.
A devastating rage overcame his body, the depressed, defeated eyes of the wild dogs locked with his own, the battle was over, he’d won, he was in no danger from the coyotes anymore, but he struggled in his head to reason that with himself, could he be angry at them for doing all they know how to do? Could he just let it end there and accept victory?
Slowly, and warily, he closed his fist, and as he broke eye contact with the alpha to watch the flames die down, the whole pack scattered with even more haste than they approached with. This might not seem like a big issue to you, but conquering this mental battle with himself was the little victory the wonderer needed; something he’d never been able to do before, overcome his emotions and not allow them to make his decisions for him. The sense of pride he felt in himself reassured him that just maybe, this time he’d be able to finally settle down and stop his roaming.
The moon was still high in the sky, he guessed he had a couple more hours to sleep until dawn, so he calmed his steed “you’ll be okay.” He said as he stroked the back of the horse’s neck, “we’ll both be okay.” And then he crawled back into his nest and tried to get any last bit of sleep he could before sunrise.
As the sun rises, the desert scorches, the insufferable heat rains down on the cowboy, his only solaces being the hat keeping his face shaded, the bandana keeping the dry sandy air out of his mouth, and his horse walking him for miles over the harsh terrain. He was getting close to Braverock, he kept replaying his story, his new name, why he left his old life, all the nuanced details he needs to remember in order to settle down. He wished he could be honest, live a normal life, not build his new beginnings on a foundation of lies and deceit, but he knew this was the only way.
There it was, he noticed a clocktower peaking above the horizon, as he got closer, he saw the town, the railroad running perpendicular to where he was heading, the mill, the horses, the cattle, but most importantly, the people, as he approached he felt a warmth like no other, he felt connected again, in his heart he knew this was the home he’d been searching for.
He headed towards the border of the town, nobody really paid much attention to him, they were just going about their daily lives, it was rare they got visitors, the town was only small, nothing major nearby, no oil, no gold mines, no decent farming land, just a small town of good, honest, god-fearing people, just the way he’d imagined.
He hitched up his horse at the nearest post and walked through the old town, he noticed a woman carrying a wicker basket covered over by an old linen cloth, he approached her to ask for directions to somewhere he could get himself some food, and a few necessities. “Excuse me Miss?” he said with a quiet confidence, she turned to look to see who was behind the unfamiliar voice, she was a beautiful young woman, long blonde hair tied up, a dainty, petite figure, soft pale skin. “Can I help you?” she questioned. “I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the nearest convenience store?” he replied, unphased by the girls good looks and abrupt response. She said to him “I’m just on my way their now, here, I’ll show you, what’s your name?” She looked at him with a smile as she waited for his answer, “George.” He said, as he tried to remember the alias he’d devised “and you are?”
“I’m Madeleine, it’s nice to meet you George.” She turned to walk away and motioned for him to follow her. “What brings you round here George?” she asked, making polite conversation “Just the usual he said, I’m looking for a fresh start.” He tried to avoid the questioning as much as he could. “Ooh mysterious… Running from something?”
“ahaha aren’t we all?”
“I suppose you’re gonna need a place to stay?”
“Yeah, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead to be honest with you.”
“My dad owns the inn, its only around the corner, I can take you round to talk to him after this if you’d like?”
They went to the inn after the store, and George explained his situation, that he had little money, but he’d work in return for a lodging. The owner agreed and told George to put his belongings in his room and he could start cleaning the following day.
George settled into his room, he lay there in his bed, and his good mood switched, everything turned grey, he felt lifeless, he was in the position he had been wanting for months, yet he just couldn’t snap out of this sudden low feeling, he left his belongings piled up next to his bed, and the two litres of water he’d guzzled as soon as he got to the inn needed to come out of his body desperately, but he just didn’t have the energy to get up. The world was carrying on outside as it always does, but inside George’s room, there was just rainclouds and a dark, gloomy atmosphere, his eyelids started to get heavier and heavier by the second.
George’s eyes pinged open “Fuck!” he thought, he was in desperate need of the toilet, he’d fallen asleep out of nowhere, it was pitch black outside, he could still hear some muffled voices coming from the patron’s downstairs. He wasn’t in the mood for social interaction, but he thought it best to show face seeing as the owner and his daughter had been so nice to him. He got ready and changed his clothes, battling with himself to move, and went down to have a look what the people were like that he’d be living around.
Each step he took down the stairs, the voices got louder and louder, he turned the corner and saw the room, it was full, the far wall seemed like it had disappeared off into the distance, and he felt that every eye was on him. He made his way through the crowd, vision going blurry, so much noise he couldn’t hear himself think, he was sweating, shaking, heart racing, fifty percent of his instincts were telling him to do everything he could to get out of their as quickly as possible, the other fifty begging him not to dash out and draw attention to himself, playing in his mind over and over again what people were thinking of him. He was in a sensory overload; he didn’t know what to do. Cry? Laugh? Scream? Panic? Shout? Then just as he was about to reach his breaking point…
SMASH! A glass got dropped two tables away, a drunken man stumbled, spilling his drink down George and knocking him six feet back against a table. Suddenly, George closed his eyes and went really, really, really, calm. BANG! George’s eyes opened in a panic, a wave of flames erupted from around him, destroying everything in their path as they radiated from his body, the drinkers were knocked to the floor, the timber frame of the building disintegrated in the immense wave of fire and heat. George dropped to his knees. This is what he was running from. This wasn’t going to be the new start that he’d hoped for, the barely audible whimpers produced by the dying breaths of the customers of the inn reduced George to tears. “Why me?” he asked “Why do I have to ruin everything? What did I do to deserve this?” He was hoping for some divine intervention, some omniscient, omnibenevolent being to come to him and answer all his questions and cure him of this curse he’d been lumbered with. But that isn’t how this story ends.
In fact, this story doesn’t end, the story is still being written, I can tell you the story up until now, because that’s how much of it I’ve lived. But what tomorrow is going to bring, can’t be written. You see, I’m writing this, because I’ve heard a lot of legends and folk tales about myself in my many years of travelling, and I worry that if I don’t settle down soon, I never will, but if I don’t get to share this story with somebody close to me, and let it be passed down through generations, I don’t want it to get lost in history and be laced with false information and myths.
And I’m not going to rewrite the same story a thousand times, because that’s what I’d be doing if I tried to explain the battle that I go through with myself, in my own head, every single day. Some days can be good, some days I ponder if it’s even worth carrying on, but every day is a battle. And when you’re at war with yourself, you lose every single time.
It’s a lonely life when you can’t stop yourself from harming the people you care about, there gets a point where you start to feel the world might be a better place without you in it, and you distance yourself as much as you can, but the more distance you create, the more you begin to crave humanity. It takes a special kind of person to enjoy complete and utter solitude, and that person isn’t me, but for now, it has to be. And the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that one day I’ll be able to fix myself just enough to live my life like a normal person. Maybe one day I’ll be able to stop this mental battle with myself.
I just need to keep my faith that that day will come, however long it takes.
*** Author’s note – I had the idea for this story a while ago, where the phantasmagoria of magic and elemental control is used to portray the ongoing battle inside the protagonist’s own mind, and I did originally want to make this longer but I think I’m going to leave it like this for now and see what kind of a response it gets before I make the decision to expand on this story. ***