Wacky Wednesday – “Patience”

27 Jun

Half an hour ’til sunset, and my left leg starts cramping up. I was taught the mental control, the discipline, the patience – but nobody ever mentioned the leg cramps.

I shake it loose, keeping my upper body still. I look through the scope’s glass eye at the sliver of canyon fifteen hundred metres away. A tiny gap, perhaps six feet wide. Through my eye, it’s as though I’m standing right there: I can pick out the individual wrinkles in the blasted sandstone, the tufts of yellow liongrass struggling valiantly to burst free from the arid ground. I pull out my pocketwatch. Forty seconds have passed. So much for patience.

I take my face away from the scope and flip the cap shut. This nest was less than ideally placed, directly facing the setting sun. In a few moments, its rays would shine straight at my face. When the target emerged at the canyon mouth, I’d be lit up like Christmas. It was certainly a challenging job.

I like a challenge.

I suppose that’s why people hire me. That and the fact I can shave a man’s cheek at two thousand yards. The client had been unctuous, polite, offering a fat stack in return for my unique skillset. Not my favourite kind of deal. I tend not to trust politeness.

The money didn’t matter. I took the job because it sounded impossible.

I take a long drag from my canteen, and a much shorter one from my flask. I begin the process of slowing my breathing, inhaling deeply into my nostrils and whooshing it softly out my lips. My pocketwatch says it’s time.

As if on cue, the tawny rays of the sunset flash hotly in my eye, illuminating me and my pitiful little nest. I’ll wait as long as possible to flip that cap open. Damn it. My leg’s cramping again.

A moment later I spot movement at the canyon mouth, flashes of darkened colour smudging around behind the pale shadowed stone. I remain motionless, trusting that one more scar on the chasm’s face will go unnoticed. The smudges blur about at the far limit of my vision.

Minutes pass. The smudges continue to move, sometimes disappearing completely. Then they gather into a clump at the fissure, and their motion becomes slower and smoother. Good. They’ve moved to single file. They’re walking toward me.

I wait, thigh muscles seizing painfully. I don’t move. The sun’s warm on my face. My breathing is so slow I feel like I could fall asleep. I wait until the smudges form defined edges, becoming the shapes of mercenary guards and the caravan trader they’re protecting.

I wait.

They’re close enough now that a single look upward would reveal my position. They’re moving fast, wasting no time through the canyon pass. My training says to wait. I decide that my moment is now.

In a fluid motion, I flip the scope open and settle my socket against it. I can see the sweat trails running across the trader’s face, his misshapen hat flapping in the breeze. I exhale.

My finger moves away from the slide and I pull the trigger through the initial slack, feeling it tighten as I squeeze.

My face erupts in pain, stung by hundreds of rock fragments. The bullet caroms off the stone I’m resting on and buries itself somewhere behind me. The noise is terrifying, shattering my focus. I look back down the scope and watch the trader fall as my round stabs through his neck. A blur as my shoulder shifts up, and I can see the black needle of a rifle’s nose poking out through the canyon mouth. I fire again, my report bouncing off the canyon walls, and see the rifle jerk sideways.

I pop my eye loose of the scope, and see the four mercenaries pointing menacing automatic weapons directly at me.

So much for patience.

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