A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.
Not even a lone tumbleweed blew across the empty streets of downtown Wheatfield.
Even so, Reed could feel the presence of humans all around him. Humans watching. Humans waiting for... what? He walked further into town, always keeping an eye behind him to his horse, Abe, who was still slurping noisly from the water trough, his tail swatting flies. Every little noise sounded so loud in the silence.
A fierce wind howled through the streets, his boots sliding over the crackling dirt. He spread his arms, extending vines to the brittle ground, but they found no cracks to dig in and take root. He fell back, his body spinning, ramming into one of the buildings, tangling in his own limbs until the wind finally died down as quickly as it had come up. He retracted his vined arms, rubbing them, watching the small bruises heal up.
He sat up to get his bearings until a door behind him swung open, rapping against the back of his head. He bent over, groaning, as hands grabbed onto him and yanked him inside into the darkness. He struggled. A hand clamped over his mouth. He kicked out and knocked something over. Feet pounding against hardwood floors, scampering. The sound of a match scraping and a flash of fire. Someone holding it too close to him, removing his hat. A chorus of gasps like a blast of quick winds.
Hushed words from all directions. He could barely see faces in the low light of the match that flickered. He could only pick out bits of conversations. Is he alone? What is he? A fairy man! No, a Xylem you idiot. He's green as a cabbage! Don't touch him! No weapons on him. One voice rose above all the rest, "Heaven sakes will you leave off him already!?"
A lantern appeared, illuminating like a firefly, followed by several more, each hung onto a nail, swinging slightly, giving enough light that he could see the people gathered around him. There were at least twenty but he could sense more on the outskirts, watching in the darkness. The hands that had grabbed him released as a woman bent down towards him. "See? He's harmless."
"Did they hurt you, Stranger?" Her fancy bonnet bounced lightly. He had never seen a woman dressed so elegantly as her before. Her dress covered her whole body in ruffles and bows, all the way down to her tiny pointed shoes, which he could just barely make out in the low light. She handed him his hat, and he carefully replaced it on his head. For some reason he felt very odd when he didn't have it on his head. It felt like a part of him.
"Stranger?" Little Miss Ruffles repeated, waving a hand in front of his face. He hadn't realized he'd been thinking so deeply. He pulled the hat down a little more in a nod he had seen many of the men give the women.
"Howdy," he returned, though the word felt foreign on his tongue.
"Name's Lacey, Lacey Lucas."
"What brings you to Wheatfield, Mr. Reed? You got any news? You're the first outsider we've--"
"You back off!" A shotgun barrel nearly jammed up his nose. The short man holding the other end of it looked old, but obviously he was a lot quicker than he looked, his head bright and bald, but his steely eyes gleaming like a hawk's in the flickering light.
Thankfully the gun wasn't in his face for long. Lacey shoved it away, "How dare you, Troy. He ain't done nothing wrong and here you are treating him like a criminal!"
He didn't lower his gun but backed off, still pointing it, "How do we know he's not behind the tornadoes and the kidnappings? Lot a strange things going on and he's just strange enough that I bet he's involved somehow."
"I have no control over the winds." Reed said, though not defensively.
"Maybe if you'd just let him talk!" Lacey urged, "Put that away before you shoot someone. It's too dark in here anyway."
"Even in darkest night... I never miss my target."
A silence came over the room that was almost as oppressive as the silence outside. Reed could almost hear his heartbeat pounding.
"No one's calling you out, Troy," she said at last, "But we can't shoot a man til we know if he's guilty."
He lowered his gun, but kept a tight grip on it. "Alright you, what do you want here?"
"I am searching for someone. A sheriff. His name is Daniels."
The gun rammed into his jaw. "What the hell do you know about Sam!? Start talking you leafy freak!"
"I do not know," he backed up and got to his feet, but Troy advanced on him. "I need to keep searching."
"Oh no, you're not leaving here, Stranger. Tie him up boys."
They descended on him from all directions. There were too many and though he scrambled for the door, he never made it. They had him pinned and he felt his limbs being twisted and snapped into place, coarse rope cutting through his skin.
"Troy!" Lacey protested, "Leave him be! He's just passing through."
"Quiet Lacey! This is the first lead I've gotten in two months and I don't aim to have it just walk out on me."
"I do not know anything about him!" Reed shouted.
"You know enough," Troy said. "You'll talk alright. They all break sooner or later under old Troy's hands." He cracked his bony knuckles one by one, the veins popping out on the back of his hand.
Continued to Part 7?