07 January, 2013

self-measurement (the kind you can tell your ANYbody about)

Eight years ago, a friend of mine told me about a writing competition, in which you weren't actually competing against anyone, there were no prizes, and all you got at the end was the novel you worked on. I think it's a fitting metaphor, don't you? Anyway, I decided to check it out and see what sort of stories I had locked inside of me. This is, according to the dividing scheme I was using, the first quarter of chapter one.

I think it's a little cringe-worthy, but I was also eighteen. I had just graduated high school and thought I was the man. I present it to you here, now, to show progress. This is where I was, this is where I am, and here's where I hope to be. This story was called "Reckless Abandon" and when I found out about Firefly and Serenity later on, I would be so incredibly disappointed by my now-apparent lack of creativity.

Oh, by the by, I never did wind up finishing this story, but, if it's enjoyed, I have the other three quarters of Chapter One, and the first quarter of Chapter Two. And so, without further ado, may I present to you, unedited any more than it was when I originally posted it to my nanowrimo-livejournal, all the way from 2005, Reckless Abandon, Chapter One, Part One: Bounty Hunter.
"Nothingk against you, personally. I vould like to conteenue thees des-gussion, I just am in mood to be alone right now, so I vill have to feenish you off, da?" mumbled a figure to the drink he was holding in front of him in a Russian accent that grew more and more pronounced with every drink he finished. His most recent drink, in response to his drunken, hardly decipherable statement, sloshed around inside the shot glass and then calmed itself, allowing his gaze to stare unapologetically at itself. He at first thought this lack of a response was rather rude of his drink, which he paid good money for, then settled on the idea that it didn't really matter ('Nothingk deed aynymore,' he reasoned.) and emptied the glass.

Heavy drinking aside, there was something about this man that automatically distinguished him from other men. If you saw him standing in a crowd, you would instantly remember him. It's that he has two circular scars on his cheeks. When he was a few years younger, seven, to be exact, he went out for his twenty-first birthday. He and his friends went out for drinks, then went and played in a construction site. He had climbed high up on a ladder that wasn't sturdy. After one drunken lurch too many by it's occupant, the whole ladder tipped over and he fell down, impaling his face on a metal pole that was sticking up out of the ground. He considered himself lucky to have had his mouth open at the moment of impact, or he might have shattered his skull.

Starting to think about that night again, he slammed his glass down onto the bartop and ordered another, requesting that the bartender to leave the bottle. It was going to be a long night. It was much drearier in the saloon than usual. He just sat at the bar in silence, his black mantle draped over his midnight blue shirt (he had been very particular on the color in the store) and the bottom half of a black jumpsuit. His knee-high black boots with three silver buckles going up the calf rested on the brass footrest beneath the bar.

In fact, the saloon was more than just drearier than usual, it was downright macabre. A couple dead bodies (looted, of course) were strewn about the floor, randomly. One of the swinging doors leading into the saloon itself was missing it's top hinge. Someone had programmed the self-playing piano to play only the gloomiest songs. There were men with various limbs missing sitting at tables, drinking their problems away. Even the bartender, a nice fellow with always a humorous anecdote to share, seemed affected by whatever caused this dreariness.

Someone outside had just been shot, and the victor stumbled in through the swinging doors, bumping into the one missing a hinge and knocking it to the floor, giving a couple tables a good view of the dead body, lying in the middle of the torch-lit dirt street. Up to the bar he shuffled and sat down without a word, staring at the bartop.

His eyes were wide and his face somber. He was a young lad, no older than twenty, and this had been his first drunken duel. The small amount of booze he had wasn't enough to hide the fact of what happened. After a couple minutes of staring at the bartop, he slowly raised his head and told the bartender to bring him a bottle of the strongest liquor available, for he needed to forget what he had just done.

It was at about this time that the first man, the drunk with the Russian accent, came under the delusion that a gang of thieving babies were going to come around and steal his vocal chords. He decided to beat them at their own game. Somehow, he rationalized that by using his vocal chords, he wouldn't have any, so the voice thieves would skip him. Don't ask me, it's a drunk's logic.

"Hey, braht. Brahtver," he waved at the boy sitting next to him, and when he received no response, he pushed the seemingly catatonic boy lightly with a black-gloved hand. The boy fell from his stool onto the ground. No sooner had he swayed from his perch at the bar did a gun fire, the bullet missing both him and the drunk's hand by millimeters. It exploded a bottle of whiskey behind the bar and finally stopped when it buried itself in the back of the cupboard. The room was instantly silenced.

The boy, now standing himself back up, looked around, bewildered, as though he had just awakened from a deep slumber. At the sight of the drunk with his arm still reached out towards him, he started to run towards the door, but stopped in his tracks when he discovered he was facing down a shotgun barrel. The rest of the saloon started chatting again, seeing as how this was almost a daily occurance, someone being on the wrong end of someone else's bad side and gun. People get shot and died. So it goes, as they say.

"Don't move a muscle, kid, or I'll blow yer brains out!" screamed the owner of the shotgun barrel, which was attached to a handle and assorted other parts normally found on this brand of shotgun. He was actually a rather clean man. His hair was slicked back and he was clean shaven, not that you could see either. His hair was covered by a bandanna and the bottom half of his face was covered with a metal plate, with a hole for talking, through which you could see his solid gold teeth. From what little of his face one could see, it looked as though he'd been through Hel and back. He wore a white cotton shirt over a thin layer of body armor and under a black vest. Bounty hunter--that was his title, even if it was self-given.

Swiveling around and facing the drunk man (with his arm still stuck out) he pointed the shotgun in his direction. This was the man who had single-handedly brought the world--all worlds--crashing down around him wherever he went. And yet, here he was, completely wasted and pushing guys off their barstools. It seemed sad, almost. Until you realized what he's done, that is.

"Often Caoine! This day was s'posed ta be glorious fer meh! But I found yeh in a stinkin' bar. Not even a classy 'un, either. Things en't lookin' up fer yeh, are they? Ha ha ha!" He levelled the shotgun at Often's chest. He actually didn't want to kill the bastard this way. He had hoped that Often would have been able to put up at least some resistance.

Having an idea, the bounty hunter turned the gun back to the young boy.

"Often Caoine! Yeh'll fight me or I'll shoot th' lad!" He looked around for the teenager, who had started creeping out the door, and at this new statement, bumped into a table and started to run. Before he could get more than a step beyond that point, he was clubbed over the head with the butt of the shotgun.

"Yeh can't go nowhere if I'm ter use yeh as bait, kid. Even you shoulda known something as simple as that." After making sure the kid was out cold and wouldn't start running off again, he turned back to Often and aimed the gun square at his chest. Or, he would have, if Often wasn't standing right in front of him.

"Heh. Ваше оружие не загружено," <"Your gun is not loaded."> Often said, unaware that, due to his drunken disposition, he had lapsed back into his native tongue. "Слушайте, этот свет, который должен быть хорошим оттенком темно-синий, уродливый желтый цвет. Это означает, что ваше обвинение мертво." <"Look, this light that is supposed to be a nice shade of blue is an ugly yellow color. That means your charge is dead.">

At the confused look on the bounty hunter's face, he realized what was causing this miscommunication. As he opened his mouth to sloppily translate, a shot rang out, silencing the saloon once more, as they once again tried to figure out who let the bullet fly, and who the unlucky sod was on the receiving end of it. It had harmlessly buried itself in the floor, but before anyone had figured that out, the unknown gunslinger let another one ring out. In this bullet's fury, it hit the shotgun and sent it flying out of the bounty hunter's hands, much to all involved's surprise.

"Nah boys, I know y'all wasn't fightin' in my saloon, were ya?" said a feminine voice with a very noticable drawl. "T'wouldn't be very gentl'menly of y'all, y'know. 'Spesh'ly with a lady such as m'self present. Ah might get skeered 'r somethin'." She spun her pistol around on her finger and then slid it into it's holster at her hip. And what a hip it was, Often later wrote, beautiful in it's curvature. It wasn't the only thing on her most men considered beautiful. Her face was heart-shaped and posessed lips that always seemed to be pouting. Her eyes were the most unnatural shade of green that anyone in this area had ever seen. When she let it down, auburn hair framed her beautiful, bronze face and flipped up a little, just above her shoulders.

She walked up to the two men and looked from one to the other as she crossed her arms and waited for an answer to her question. The bounty hunter stepped up, cleared his throat, and began to speak.

"No, ma'am. We was just talkin' 'bout the ramif'cashuns of havin' much too much to drink, as in this poor boy layin' on tha ground, here," he said, gesturing to the boy he had knocked out just before she had entered the saloon. He smiled as innocently as he could, although that's not saying much with his sharp, angular face and pointed eyebrows, making his innocent smile seem a little creepier than it should.

She looked from the bounty hunter to the drunk and back again, sighing. She sized up both men, winked at Often, and told the bounty hunter to take his guns and put them in the safety-deposit box at the door, just like everyone else, or leave. It was there to stop incidents like this from happening. The only time people actually used it, however, was when they heard that the sheriff, this petite, almost Southern belle of a woman, was approaching.

The bounty hunter took up her offer to leave, after coming to the conclusion that he didn't want to share a bar with "some Russian, old Earth punk," to sugarcoat it some (and by some, I mean greatly). However, he didn't depart before offering up a final warning to Often.

"You lissen up, fool. There're bounties on all of yer crew for what yew did, and I be fixin' to claim 'em all. They say yer all worth more together, so I'll be gath'rin' you-all up, as I heard some of yer crew're only a few towns over. Then I'll be comin' back fer you."

"Bounties? Awn this fella? What fer?" asked the sheriff, putting her hands on her hips.

"Heh," laughed the bounty hunter. "Wouldn't yeh like ta know, woman." Curling his lip, he picked up his shotgun, rested the barrel on his shoulder and walked out the saloon, planning on getting his bounty on Often Caoine, even if it was the last thing he ever did.

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