The old, beat-up gunslinger walked out into the open square that afternoon with a gun on his hip that he had fired a thousand times before. The people in the town watched the bearded, dirty-faced man stand alone with a hole-riddled poncho draped over him, and his right hand hung low, vaguely swinging over his holster. Across from him, fifty meters away, five outlaws stood in place.
“You’ve done us a disservice, old man!” one of them yelled.
The outlaw wore a black, short-brimmed hat that looked almost brand new. His eyes were bright and vibrant but tainted by the allure of outlaw life. They glimmered underneath the hot desert sun.
A scar marked the outlaw’s face, colored a bright red, and ran down the side of his forehead like a streak of blood. It hadn’t been there long. The gunslinger could hardly bring himself to notice these details, but usually found himself able to notice anything other than a gun. He stood in place and muttered to himself.
When the gunslinger didn’t respond, the baby-faced outlaw cried out again, “I said you’ve done us a disservice! And you’re about to pay for it.” He signaled behind him. “If y’all could-?”
The four people behind him stepped forward. A thin, wiry man with an aged military cap held a rifle at his side and stood at attention as though the echoes of military life still rang through his skull. Two other men, almost identical in appearance, but much shorter than the wiry man, wore long, dragging coats and had faces burnt from the sun. They each carried dual pistols with long, smooth barrels. The last member, a woman with a partially shaved head and a pair of large, puffy pants, held a shotgun over one shoulder. She spit something into the dirt. They stood in a straight line, completely separate from one another, yet entirely united under one goal.
Their leader smiled again. He kicked the ground, and with a single hand, reached under his short, brown coat. He pulled out a shiny revolver. The gunslinger kept his hand over his holster.
“This is your last chance!” the leader yelled. “We ain’t scared of you any longer! You think you can run us out of this town again?”
With a furious frown that quickly shifted upwards into a toothy grin, the leader whistled. The four members of the gang stepped forward and aimed their weapons at the gunslinger. He didn’t move.
A silence tore through the air while people watched from their homes and shop windows. Complete silence. And then, a bell rang in the distance.
The gunslinger reached for his gun and moved it out of his holster without any sense of urgency. It dragged on the leather. Before he could point the weapon at any of the outlaws, the leader yelled, “Fire!” and they unloaded on him. Countless bullets flew at him and caused him to slip and stagger backwards. Bullet shells dropped from the outlaws’ weapons. The gunslinger throttled back and forth as he tried to maintain his stance, but quickly discovered that he couldn’t. He flopped to the ground like a dead fish as his gun skidded across the dirt. He hadn’t fired a single bullet.
The barrage of bullets came to a quick, sudden end. The leader of the outlaws began to say something, but the gunslinger didn’t hear him. A familiar pain caressed and choked him as darkness shrouded his view. Before he disappeared from that moment, he heard one more word:
The dirty old man laid dead in the town square for at least six hours, untouched by a single person. Nobody, not even a curious child, wanted to poke around his corpse that didn’t seem to rot right away. Instead, he looked like he had fallen asleep, only with eleven holes in his chest and a patch of red dirt underneath him.
Hours later, when the moon cradled the sky and not a whisper of noise could be heard throughout the town, the gunslinger woke up. A terrible pain burned in his chest then gradually subsided.
He laid in the dirt with old blood on his face and clothes. Holes riddled his poncho and shirt, but there were no longer any holes in his body. Instead, spots of new, baby-like skin appeared where the bullets had once entered his chest. The gunslinger felt something trapped in his chest and hacked and coughed as hard as he could until it finally came up his throat. He spit it out. In the dirt, covered in blood and mucus, were bullet casings.
He sighed a breath of relief and rolled over onto his back. He placed a gentle hand on his face. It felt smoother, maybe a few weeks younger. The death had been worth it, he assured himself. And tomorrow, there’d be another one, and another, and another, until he was finally back to his prime. With his body, mind, and soul rejuvenated, he got up and walked away into the distance, completely sure of his destiny. He’d be back.