She was crying.

Mathis watched the man and the woman face each other across twenty paces of dead, empty ground. Sand bleached white by a thousand years of hard sun, surface marked, visible only through the tiny shadows at its edges, by a pair of trackways running off to very different horizons. Crossroads. A place for meetings, and for partings, and it was the latter he’d come for. Standing, unmoving, desert breeze teasing his shirt, watching.

She was crying. Jaw clamped tight, holding herself taught even as the tears smudged the sweat and dust on her cheeks. Keeping the gun held, level and firm, out in front of her, her posture an exact mirror of the man’s.

The words drifted to Mathis, hollow and already turning to ragged streamers in the iron-baked air.

"I’m sorry." Mathis, mouthing it from where he watched, as the man spoke. "I’m sorry. But it has to be this way."

He almost called out, gave himself away, broke the spell. Told them this wasn’t worth it, that what they were willing to kill for was less important than the dust sighing past their feet, that they could still do it, could still change the world. Their world.


The gunshot was oddly flat when it came. Nothing for it to echo from, free to just roll on into empty air and void beyond. The woman slumped to the floor. Didn’t make a sound, didn’t look away either.

Mathis, watching from five years later, crying too.

By me. “Wakes” is (intended to be) an occasional-regular writing exercise, fragments out of nothing, inspired in part by whatever cycles through iTunes as I sit down to work.