This is pathetic, the scorpion thought. He didn’t think much of the old man, and really, why should he? The old man was on the floor, gushing blood from a bullet wound to the stomach, unable to crawl, only to scream.
But he didn’t.
He didn’t react to the scorpion, or to the young, barrel-chested peacekeeper at the top of the stairs, the one that had pulled the trigger. The old man didn’t even flinch at the bright glint of the sheriff’s badge.
The scorpion had seen these displays of bravery before. His sting had been the terror of the west back when you could still call it wild. He had relished the days of fighting with cattle rustlers and bad hombres, but he could feel the age in his stinger and knew that it was time to settle down.
The old man followed the scorpion with his eyes. The scorpion knew that daring look. He examined the man’s muscular structure, looking for the right place to strike. The man had to be in his seventies, but his body was lean and firm. The scorpion could read the past that he must have had. He was probably dashing once, uncompromising. He was the kind of man who should never be beaten in a fight. Age was the only enemy a man like this couldn’t outgun. This man was a killer, just like the scorpion.
A killer’s fearless gaze.
As he looked into the old man’s eyes, the scorpion felt that arthritic pain in his stinger again. Age had taken away the only thing that he loved. He tried to keep his youthful enthusiasm, but each killing strike ate away at him like his own poison ate away at his victims.
The sheriff descended the steps, all boyish exuberance and physical fitness. He knelt next to the old rogue with a chiding smile and put his gun against the man’s temple. He was so pleased with himself that he didn’t notice the scorpion. Instantly, the scorpion hated him; he hated honest men with their white hats and pristine spurs.
He thought, what a pathetic way to go. It wasn’t a fair fight. It used to be that law men were worthy opponents, now they’re just the clean-up crew, shooting down tired outlaws for sport.
For once in his life, the scorpion felt the urge to do a good deed. He’d only do it for someone as wicked as him.
It was excruciating to embed his stinger into the sheriff’s thigh, but it felt better than any kill before. He felt joy when he saw the sheriff hobble away in terror. The coward didn’t have long. The old man’s eyes met the scorpion’s as he bled his last. The scorpion knew that it was finally time to really settle down. He rested next to his dead colleague and embraced the blackness as the shining light of civilization enveloped the west.
ALLINA NUNLEY is a writer and filmmaker. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in English at California State University, Los Angeles, and she holds a B.F.A. in Film from Art Center College of Design. Her work has previously appeared in Foliate Oak and Eunoia Review