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  • Grant Stoye

HOLD FAST Part 2: A Layer of Dust


The shadow stretched out in front of the rider, shivering on the baking earth.

Gem narrowed her eyes, but she knew it in her gut that this wasn’t a lost member of their town returning home from a hunt. Could it be? Was it…a stranger?

She began taking steps backwards, torn between the instinct to hide and her natural curiosity. Each footfall begged: which would win?

The stranger came closer, and soon she could make out a lithe figure sitting atop a bedraggled horse. Wait, was it a horse?

Her feet stopped moving and Gem focused intently on the mount. It was her kind's nature to use their incredible sight from afar, and damned if she wouldn’t use it now.

Though it was certainly large enough to be a horse, this creature was anything but: it had scales. They were intricate, like the play chain mail Arn would craft for the kids. In the harsh glare of the sun she reckoned it had a brownish-green color, this lizardy thing, with long strange appendages at the ends of its feet. No ears (that she could make out), no hair, and it had a long thin tail swinging at its hindquarters. Little spiny things popped out of its head and grew smaller and smaller down its neck before fading away completely. It’d be kinda cute if it weren’t so ugly, she thought.

And while she was lost in her analyzing, soon that stranger was coming up to her, the gait of the creature so even and ample and silent.

“Hey,” it said in a voice which sounded like molasses felt.

Gem snapped out of her intense examination of his lizard (she decided it just had to be a lizard if it was in the desert like this) and looked up at the figure.

It wore a wide-brimmed hat like a lawman, a beautifully patterned scarf covered its face and shoulders, and it had tinted goggles over its eyes. It wore a sarape with reds and yellows and browns of various hues, with two arms sticking out that were sheathed in pale yellow sleeves, and two hands snugly fit into dark leather gloves. Its legs were tightly clad in sandy denim, and its boots were buckled and stylish. Of course, every inch of it was caked in a layer of dust and grime.

“Y’all have a well in that town?”

Her white hair bobbed as she nodded.

The figure returned her nod, a short smooth motion. It gently thudded its heels against the lizard, and then slowly it trudged towards the town.

Gem stood there, transfixed, for a few moments. Then she exhaled and ran off after them.

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