Whether anything approached behind him in the uneven twilight Tanim wouldn’t know, his ragged breathing and pounding pulse too loud in his ears to catch any other sounds. Even in late evening with the sun already bleeding out beyond the mountain ridges it was hot as hell, and as he pressed on he blinked away stinging sweat from his eyes. Above him the dark anvil of a thunderhead loomed, brief flickers of lightning illuminating the edges as if some unseen god hammered a doomsday weapon into shape on its surface. The air below sat hot and heavy, unmoving, and Tanim wondered if blood would soak the parched ground before rain ever did. Though he had feared the threat of a flash flood just hours before, now he almost prayed a deluge would come and wipe the world clean away, him included. Put at end to this business once and for all. It had worked before, hadn’t it?

Something caught his foot and he tumbled hard, stones and cactus spines scratching at his bruised, sunburned skin. He managed to rise once more but a bolt of pain lanced up his leg as he put weight on the injured ankle. Well, he accepted with a sigh, no place better or worse to make a last stand. Footsteps crunched on dry earth and Tanim spun, fingers sliding by habit to the revolver at his side, but he’d already wasted its bullets back when it’d been fight on his mind, not flight. The weight comforted him, though, so he hadn’t the heart to abandon it to the desert. Dying with an empty gun still seemed better than dying unarmed.

Lightning broke its heavenly confines and cracked across the purplish sky with a concussion of thunder, illuminating the thin silhouette which seemed stuck to Tanim’s shadow no matter how far or how quickly he traveled. As the figure approached, pale hair occasionally lit by the flickering overhead, Tanim settled onto his throbbing ankle. Though he no longer held any delusions over how this moment would end, he refused to face the other like a cowering child. Not after he had fought so hard, fled so long, sweat and bled and suffered to last another day. The least he could do was stare the bastard in the eyes while the deed was done.

“Oh, sinner man, where you gonna run to?” Daren inclined his head with a gentle smile and spread his arms. “Don’t worry; the Devil is waiting.”

The blade in his hand gleamed like a sliver of moon brought to earth.


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