‘Neath Extract: The Man With No Name: Part One

In Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Modern on April 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

The gunslinger trudged across the wasted plain.

He was gaining.

Overhead, a purple sun shone brightly in a lilac sky; the rays of weird light streamed down, casting long shadows that angled off towards the horizon’s vanishing point. Vultures circled in the far distance, beyond the path of the dry riverbed the gunslinger followed, and over the scattering of twisted mesas beyond. The ragged flat-tops warped and pulsed as the light refracted off their bright planes.

Dark clouds slowly gathered in the background.

Freeze-frame: If Salvador Dali and H.R. Giger had been drawing buddies, and had created crazed landscapes together that married both the macabre and the bizarre, then their frenzied sketching would still contain only the merest suggestion of the gunslinger’s surroundings.

Wind blew in sharp gusts around him. It tore at the long woollen poncho, at the twin bandoleers that tightly crisscrossed his tall frame, left grit and dust on the kerchief that covered his face.

The gunslinger wore his hat low.

With each step, the spurs of his boots jangled sharply over the howling wind.

Clink. Clink. Clink.

The comancheros were moving rapidly. The trail was now two days old. A day ago, the bandits had been a clear four days ahead.

He was gaining.

* * *

Xan grasped the wide bars of her moving prison, the hands that clutched at them caked with grit and blood.

She’d managed to escape the night before. Her hand still ached sharply at the memory.

Xan felt her eyes drawn, still unbelieving, to the dirty wrapping tied round the stump where her fingertip had once been.

Diego, the younger one, had taken pity on her while the elder brothers slept. She’d begged to be unchained—had said she’d needed to do her ‘business’—and begrudgingly he had. As he was leading her past the firelight, Xan had shoved Diego’s squat figure in the darkness, knocking him over.

She’d ran.

After hauling Xan back to camp, the elder brothers had smiled their maniac smiles, and had held her face-down by the fire. Xan had never felt such agony. She’d been on the verge of passing out when, with a snick, her finger went numb with a white-hot heat. Grabbing her hair roughly and hauling her up, Alvarez had waved the ragged bit of flesh under Xan’s nose.

The movement had sprayed droplets of blood in a fine line across her features, and he’d said, ‘This. This is what happens to little girls who don’t listen.’

Alvarez and Alejandro had both smiled then. Too wide.

Xan clutched at the bars, but instead of feeling that cold steel, she imagined her hands were wrapped around Alvarez’s neck.

White-knuckled, she squeezed.

* * *

The gunslinger halted at the circle of stones.

Bright flashes of lightning and the sound of booming thunder rapidly approached across the wide plain. Soon, the trail would grow cold.

Slowly, he crouched low, his long body bent at an unnatural angle.

He noted the still-smouldering coals.

The gunslinger started to rise, then stopped. Inhaled deeply. Lowered his face back down to the ground.

He ran one gloved finger across the dry dirt, tracing the rough pattern of drops there, rubbing the dry redness between index and thumb.

Under the kerchief, his features twisted.

The gunslinger straightened, rising impossibly tall against the evening sky, and stared into the gathering storm.

Eyes as implacable as the sea narrowed.

Clink. Clink. Clink.

Update 21/04/14: MacGuffins

In Fiction, Movie, Personal, Romance on April 21, 2014 at 6:51 am

Dear Readers,

I have recently watched About Time, a modern romance directed by Richard Curtis and starring Bill Nighy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Rachel McAdams but with an unexpected twist: time-travelling plays an integral part in the film’s narrative and plot direction.

Enter the MacGuffin, a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. Think the suitcase in The Big Lebowski or Rosebud in Citizen Kane.

The ability to time travel is not really explained or rationalised in ‘About Time’: it just is. Perhaps not a traditional MacGuffin—if anything, true love and a perfect life is actually what is being pursued by Tim the protagonist—but it’s definitely an unexplored vehicle that carries the viewer inexorably towards the film’s finale. I think this one qualifies.

What’s your favourite literary or filmic MacGuffin? Please respond in the comments below.


Update 18/04/14: Every Day is a New Day

In Personal on April 18, 2014 at 8:35 am

Dear Readers,

After much hard work—and months of swearing— I’m finally happy to say that I’m satisfied with the look of my blog. Well, except for the search button. I cannot work out where to put the damned thing (suggestions are welcome).

I’m currently trying to stare deep into that neverending abyss that is the human condition pump out a few more short stories (serialised, which fits my process). I’ve had a really great response to the recent deluge of fiction I’ve been posting, so if you feel like giving me a few writing pointers or feedback, don’t be a stranger. Or any stranger.


P.S. This clip from Something For Kate is currently inspiring the heck out of me. Please enjoy.