Sand kicks up across the land, a gentle breeze flowing through the quiet town as the ever-cliche' tumbleweeds blew through the road, leaving me dead-center in the town as I looked on at those daring to wander the streets under the scorching hot sun of mid-day summer. Despite the heat and sand, however...it truly did seem like a peaceful place, even despite the fact that I knew what I was here for.
Nevertheless...it was peaceful, and I liked it. Just a shame that not too long from now the air'll be lit up with gunfire.
The name's Styles. They call me Quick Draw, because in every duel I've been in...I was always the first man to draw his gun. When things get bad...they call on me. I've killed many men with this here gun of mine...I'm not like your typical cowboy. I ain't here to save ya', I ain't here to break the law, to rob trains or to save the sheriff's wife.
I'm just here for the sake of it really. I'm a wanderer y'know, never stay in one place for too long. Always out and about, lookin' for somethin' to do. When death stares me in the eye I stare right back at it, I ain't never backed down yet. Hell, had I blinked it woulda been a bullet to the chest for me.
I've got enough scars on my arm to show the times where death almost out-lasted me in the starin' contest...a few nicks where a bullet grazed my face. I've cheated death more times then I can count on any of my fingers, let alone addin' in my toes.
I read the wanted poster, a straw of hay hangin' out of my mouth. I was wearing a black cowboy hat, worn rugged from all the places I'd been, the places it's seen alongside me and the dust and rocks that've worn the ol' thing away. This hat, however, was given to me by my dad 'fore I left from home, and I ain't stopped wearin' it sense. Amazin' it still fits me, I guess all the wear an'tear makes it stretch out easier for me.
On the poster was a black man, his name emblazened across the bottom as "Iceman Raab". He was famous for his closed-eye shooting style and cool as ice demeanor, something I myself adapted long ago. It was better not to look at your opponent before you riddled'm with a bullet, at least in my mind anyway.
I surveyed the area, I wasn't the only one dressed like this. My boots with spurs, faded and a bit torn up jeans...white shirt you can't even tell used to be white 'cause of the dust it had on it tucked into my pants with a brown leather vest over that.
I hadn't shaved in awhile, I had the whole rugged look goin' on...didn't really care much; to be honest.
I'm just a lone cowboy in a way...one guy lookin' out for number one, and fightin' death like it 'twas a game. Me an' the reaper are ol' friends ya' might say...my gun an' his scythe make quite the couple when we fight.
So why am I here, ya' might be wonderin'? For the challenge. For the thrill. I know this may be my last showdown, it may be my last sunrise and sunset...but hell, I've faced death and won so many times, maybe it's time the ol' boy got one up on me.
I've fought outlaws like Raab before, y'see...never really cared much for the guy I was up against. I just got out there and did what I had ta' do, no questions asked. There were a few times where I missed my mark, nailed the guy in the arm or the stomach...didn't kill'm right away but he fell. 'reckon that's lady luck for ya'...there were draws I've been in where I won but didn't kill.
Don't think I hesitated, I jus' misjudged my aim. Can't be perfect, y'know? No one gets their shot everytime. Though I'm sure whoever walks outta this here competition'll have all the braggin' rights in the world for bein' the quickest draw in the west.
I've faced indians, cowboys, outlaws, the law itself...and lemme tell ya' somethin', when you're fightin' for your life, the luck of the draw doesn't always help. How quick ya' can pull a gun from it's holster won't aid ya' when you're up against them indians with their arrows. It takes'm a few seconds to string up one and let it fly, and another for it to hit and it all be over.
Ya' gotta think fast...not just draw fast, y'know?
So I head on over to the bar, figure I might as well catch a few drinks 'for I go around town searchin' for the outlaw.
"'Iceman Raab...reckon' he probably knows I'm here by now.." I muttered to myself.
I pushed past the bar doors, lookin' around at everyone in the bar. Without sayin' a word, I strode over to the counter and sat, waitin' for the bartender to come around. I was a patient fellah', I could wait if I needed to.
"Mighty fine hat ya' got there mistah'" a heard a lady call to me. I turned my head, tipping it towards her.
"Thank ya' ma'am." I nodded, my voice soundin' cold. I hardly showed emotion 'less it was needed. Figured the lady was jus' bein' nice talkin' to me, but right now I didn't care for much talk. I had alotta' thinkin' to do.
This'll be an interestin' ride...I just hope ol'Raab didn't forget his saddle.
"'Iceman' Raab..." I muttered again, pullin' the straw outta my mouth.
I chuckled the lightest of chuckles, I smirked the lightest of smirks. When I did show emotion...it was very little, or it was just enough.
"Another one bites th'dust...I 'spose." I placed the straw back in my mouth.
It was a whisper that lasted in my mind, the last man I drew against...he'd said th'same thing, an' he was right. I made sure he bit th'dust.
I never did start sayin' "Not even the messiah 'imself could save ya' now" for no reason, y'know?
The sounds of a barfight broke out towards the entrance of the bar, as two drunken cowboys tore into each other like wildcats thirsty for blood, tumblin' through the swingin' doors an' back outside again.
It's funny how quick chaos happens around these kinda' towns nowadays. Ya' got ol' boys gettin' shot up with arrows...riddled with bullets. Fightin' over a spilt whiskey or punchin' each other's teeth down their throats because some girl winked at one of'm and they couldn't figure out who she winked at.
Troubled times...troubled people. It was gettin' outta hand.
Awhile back I started helpin' out with the law for awhile, takin' out the garbage and livin' up to the nickname 'Dominator'. Then some slick fellah's from northwest came on down lookin' for a draw with me. When I took out one of their boys they decided I was good enough and asked me to help'm out. I figured, 'Why not? Might as well make s'more money.'
No one really knows what it's like to be me...no one realizes the hardships I put myself through.
"What'll be ya' poison, son?" I heard the barkeeper ask, interrupting me from my thoughts. I looked up, surveying the choice of alcohol on the shelves before makin' a motion for the whiskey. The bartender nodded, going over and taking it off the shelf. I made a motion with my hand to gain his attention.
"Add a little ice too...an' make it a regular glass, no shot glass. Thanks." I said, practically emotionless. The bartender stared for a moment before nodding, getting to work on my drink.
My eyes surveyed the many cowboys and possible outlaws throughout the room, talkin' and carryin' on like old friends reunited. I gave a slight smirk at this, rememberin' friends an' family back at home as I went out chasin' my dreams of bein' a big, bad cowboy in the wild, wild west. They always think I've got it easy, out on th'road like this...I just choose not to tell'm all the times I've spent sleepin' outdoors, no shelter to find in the cold desert nights.
That's the breaks though...the life of a guy like me ain't all that easy. I might as well be playin' Russian Roulette with the Devil while the Grim Reaper calls blackjack on me and lady luck goes and sleeps with another man, 'cause everytime I step up to the draw...there's the chance that someone's gonna get the quicker draw.
I saw the glass slide in front of me and looked up, tippin' my hat to the bartender in appreciation.
"Thank ya' sir." I said, pulling out the money for the drink. The bartender took it and walked off, noddin' his head. I took a sip of my whiskey, my eyes, surveying the area for the man I was huntin' for. It wasn't long before I saw him; white hat with a black vest, blue shirt and brown jeans...so that was the 'Lunatic'.
Taking a swig of my whiskey, I watched him with curious eyes, watching as he laughed it up with one of the women sittin' 'round his table. Boy thinks like he's the big man in town...guess I'd have to cut'm down to size soon enough.
Standin' from my spot and takin' another swig...I knew what I had to do. It was time to let this boy know I meant business, an' that I'd never intend on backin' down.
"Ya' really wanna do this, fella'? You know what yer' gettin' yerself into, don'tcha?" called the arrogant voice of Konrad Raab from across the town center, the townsfolk lining the streets to watch the legendary outlaw take on the newcomer cowboy to town. Waitin' on the sheriff of th'town, a damn fool who couldn't see this outlaw was walkin' round like he owned the place, to come out and declare the draw.
6 o'clock in the evenin', the sun goin' down in the distance as the desert skies darkened overhead. Nice little scene for a final battle, wouldn't ya' say? My eyes closed as I looked to the ground, trying to ignore the stares of practically every single townsperson lining the streets. It was as though all of Redemption had came out to see one of us die today, stopping their every-day activites just for the occassion.
Finally, it was time. The sheriff, a portly man wearin' a gleamin' badge, his face lookin' nervous as he held the brim of his hat with some sense of anticipation for the events that'd follow. I could tell by the look in his eyes...he was afraid of this Raab fella', knew better then to risk his life and cushy sheriff position.
Damn cowards runnin' these towns nowadays, I swear...
"Ya'll sure about this now? Ya' really wanna..."
"Th'boy says he wants ta' duel me, an' he damn well's gonna do it, sheriff!" demanded Raab, casting a glare over at the portly man, "It's either duel or die, sheriff...I ain't called a lunatic fer' nothin'."
An audible gulp sounded from the sheriff's throat, as I rolled my eyes and frowned, continuin' to stare at the ground in front of me. I could hear the nervous mumblin's of the townspeople, who were obviously just as afraid of this man as the sheriff. Had I mis-judged the worth of this bounty, then? With this whole town at his feet...th'man must be somethin' feirce--maybe he was the one destined to be my final duel?
The glint of a pistol in the corner of my eye, the sheriff slowly lifting it into the air...
"Alright then gennelmen, on my mark," he began, his voice trembling with fear and anciety towards what may happen after the duel's completion. Should I fail, he knew that he'd be next in line to face the outlaw lest the townspeople ridicule him fer' bein' a coward. After all, there was only so long the sheriff could hide 'fore the challenges start hauntin' him.
The clock ticks foward, the crowd along the streets completely silent now, their mumbles fading off with the breeze carryin' the tumbleweeds out again. No doubt there were bets n'wagers on this draw...money an' booze all served up at the cost of one man's life. That was the way of the people in this world though, somethin' I'd learnt to live with years ago.
Most of th'time I'd be thinkin' of things to get my mind off the duel...the fact that I was about to kill another man usually in the back of my mind. Yet for some reason this time...there was nothin' left to think about, 'cept that I could very well die facin' off against the man standin' all those paces away from me.
A quick prayer for forgiveness, a single bead of sweat dripping down the side of my face.
My entire future, riding on the time spent drawin' a gun from its holster...
I woke with a start, nearly falling off the couch in the main room as a gunshot sounded over the television, drawing me instantaneously from my slumber and forcing my heart into a marathon race. I could feel my pulse ringing throughout my head as I stared, dazed, towards the television screen with both a sense of momentary fright and partial hatred for the abrubt awakening it forced upon me.
"Jesus f'ing Christ..." I mumbled under my breath, grabbing for the remote and lowering the volume on the old western playing on the TV.
'Atleast it explains the dream...' I sighed, looking to the ceiling fan spinning around overhead. I could hear the groans of a dying man coming from the screen as I sat and thought, before casting a glance back down towards the television. On the screen, the antagonist was on his knees clutching at a bleeding wound in his chest, as the lone cowboy protagonist stood with emotionless eyes, before slowly turning and making his way off into the sunset, a young lady pulling at his arm to stop him from leaving.
It would appear that, as to be expected, the good guy won again.
Turning off the television, I stood from my spot on the ground and stretched myself out, yawning loudly and then turning towards the open bedroom door...ready to make my way off to a more decent place to sleep.
However, the dream continued to play over in my mind. That final gunshot continued to ring in my eardrums, as I wondered briefly just who won in the altercation before myself and Raab. If one were to follow the classic story of a western movie, one might assume that in my shoes, I would have won. Being the protagonist of a story does, in fact, have its advantages.
Of course...the CWF was far from a classic story. I I’ve taken down every person set in front of me in this tournament 4 up, 4 down, 8 points and the top of the Alpha block. 4 matches after this one, but none more important than this one. No opponent more important than Konrad Raab, who would indeed be yet another test on my quest to reach the top of the CWF mountain.
Stepping to my bedside and looking down on Aurora, who was lying silent as she slept, gave me time to rest my mind and prepare to go back to the land of dreams that so often entertained my mind.
For a short while, the CWF wasn't registering in my brain, nor was the names of Raab, or anyone else. It was all blank, but as I drew back the covers it was as though I'd unleashed the storm of information to flood back into me. My mind was preparing to pick through a select number of things to entertain itself with during my slumber, and I could only pray that this time it wouldn't be based on my surroundings.
Konrad Raab is not a person I'd like to wake up next to in the morning, that's for certain.
Lying down on the bed and drawing myself closer to Suki, I closed my eyes and heard one final gunshot go off within my eardrums, a final reminder that my dream was warning of what may happen at Evolution. The old vet is definitely no slouch, and after going 0 for 2 in his hometown, he’ll definitely be a bit more ornery and eager to get back on track. So I can’t let you get out of the blocks on me Konrad. I will bring the pressure from the opening bell, and I’m going to put my boot to your face. Two points gets you back in the game, and two points for me keeps me on track. Konrad, you’re a trusted vet in this game, but I cannot and will not let you stop me. At the end of the day, I’ve got the quicker draw, and when you feel that bang Konrad…you’ll know its….