Inside the Writers Corner is a new series that the Green Rover will be doing. We’ll be publishing the short stories of aspiring writers for all to see. Our very first entry comes from James Antonov, who you may remember under a different name as he wrote another article for us a while back.
Here is his short story down below, enjoy;
The gunfire rattled up the shale floor of the valley. The men, carved as fossils out of the ground, where slow to react and seemed not to dive but lay to the ground for cover. The cracks of bullets came over them in a hail of swooping sound and screeching. Some of them thought they were mad birds. The old ground seemed forgotten, the creator had become bored and seemingly left it to chaos, it was a land of untilled rock and slate and roots. Crushed by fear they crept over it, cutting hands and knees on its predatory features. Even hidden they were in danger. They saw the light chasing them over the horizon, virginal creatures caught in the throes of escape.
The noise of madness from beneath quietened, or perhaps, had destroyed itself in its own fury. The life and the blood came for they heard the whooping and screams of the Apache as they slinked up the parapet-like side of the valley. They seemed naked to the white men, their skin as buffalo hide, their faces a haze of paint and terror. They carried guns and clubs and axes and seemed led not by sight or smell or touch but by blinded craziness, men wrought of an alien element and thrown upon these whites to test their brutality and nature. The calm white men looked down from their position and did not speak to one another. They loaded their steaming rifles and levelled them on the ebony braves. The splitting glare of the sun blinded them as it rose, shedding the sky of the cold night and draping the tones of the new day. At this sign the white men opened up with a volley that picked the natives apart, some were flung unto their winded selves or others were torn to bits by the dum-dum bullets the whites liked to use. This was the schedule of the day for some time.
In the party of the whites a man slunk away from the battle crawling along the ground as the smoke drifted in all directions, consuming the stillness of the morning with acridity and depth. He was a scorched man but young and unlike the specimens he fought with. Across the ridge he stealthed in a gait of a crippled nature. He was shot and trundled along in a childish waddle. A creature burnt beyond paradise, he went to reckoning about fate and such things that may have led him to this moment. He dribbled and spat as if spiting the liquids that were so vigorous to him. The noise chased him across the ridge and so, eventually, did the screams and the whooping that seemed to pierce eternity, a cry that carried on with tempestuous countenance and ragged tone.
As he came to a gorge that led into a minor valley below the screaming and gunfire died down but not the whooping and singing. The savage orchestra continued as he imagined some costumed Apache tear the hair and testicles and eyes out of each man, props in their mad stage play. The stage; the prehistoric wasteland on which such deeds where acted and lost to time. He slipped down into the gorge. Scraping his knees and hands as he went and stopping at the bottom like a primal tuboggonist escaping creatures long forgotten. The indifferent whites where gone and would be like the skeletons of deer and bison that dotted this lunar landscape. The man saw before him a dried up river bed and made for its mouth. He crouched and darted and heaved and jolted as he juggled comfort and longevity of life. He heard the whooping and singing of the Apaches. Tracking a shot man would be an easy task. He had no weapons yet full of spirit. He continued to flee.
As he moved a native came into view ahead, he held a rifle and was lathed with paints that seemed taken from the bowels of the earth. A distance that would not frighten such a man. He moved slowly towards the white man and as he did so the rest of the party encircled him, looking down from the sandstone reaches of the gorge or jumping down into the sandy carving below. The man straightened as some rebelling child against a parent, he looked over them and judged them men of the landscape and nothing else. Not born or made but simply existing as if nothing else had decreed it. They looked back at him with different eyes and judged other things lost in their black gaze. They were strangely familiar except for the scalps and blood that bedrenched their dark skin, a new paint to their canvas of war.
In an act of seeming defiance the white man sat down, cross legged and stopped looking at them. They were not surprised yet looked at one another in a confused manner. Some crouched trying to look into his eyes to see something else. Others glared over the rock and sand with eyes that seemed made of the same material. The cloudless sky seemed not to move above them all and the crimson blood of the rising sun made way to the dead blue of the day. The stillness in time seemed meant for them and not even thoughts progressed, no utterance of words and as the world turned for everyone but these men they thought not of how it would end but how they had come to this.
A native entered and sat ten foot or so from the man. He wore a sash tied over his head like a bandana and was hung with a black jacket and brown leather trousers. Smoke came methodically from a clay pipe that grew out of clay like lips. He was older than them all, much older. His face was more a knot of wood than flesh and he looked as if he had seen more than any grand tree or preserved log. He glanced down at the white man’s wound, gutshot and bleeding. He looked back up at the white man’s eyes and then into them where he saw regret and nothing else. His searching lasted time immemorial. The smoke seemed to go out. The first wind disturbed his last few hairs like blades of grass. He blinked and then looked back at the wound and then the sand and the rocky wall. His gaze seemed to search for a connection between all these things, in them he found no purpose and had not for the entirety of his life, he thought he might reconcile these things together but failed in this deed, as said his eyes. He stood up swiftly and looked down at the white man one last time and at the wound. Then he walked away back up the riverbed and twitched his head to signal the others to follow. They disappeared in the disturbed dust.
The white man remained seated. He knew he would die the wound was too serious and no one could have saved him regardless of where he was. He leaned back against the stone and looked at the break between the land and the sky at the top of the sandstone gorge. Through this he could perceive the moving of the sky that he could not see by looking directly up. Anchoring himself to the earth he sat and breathed and sniffed and jerked as time passed. The throbbing became like the movement of the glowing blue cosmos above and as it moved in cycle he died under it, dredged like all the other things in oblivion, to death not unlike his conception.