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El Nomada

By Sam Wood


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I cried...oh yes, I cried. Before, when I would look out over this ocean of

sand and listen to the whispering of the wind.


Now, I bask in the radiant sun and feel the sting of years--like myriad

scorpions--consuming my soul in the fiery disparity of a life on the

threshold of a new dawning.


I am the personification of the desert. My skin burns, my lips dry and

cracked, I am desolate and forsaken. My worshipers are all dead.

The people of the desert.


I am alone...and rightly so, for I have given it all up for eternal life,

cursed though it may be.


Who am I?


The Spanish call me el nůmada, the wanderer. Condemned by the Great Spirit,

to meander across the wasteland for a thousand years, collecting the souls

of the dead.


But once I cried, maybe a hundred...or a thousand years ere. I can't recall,

but the souls I have taken haunt me still! The voices scream and fill my

being with anguish.


I follow the sands and some have mistaken me for the whirlwind, the dust

devil. I'm am a devil...yes it's true, but I'm a shadow. Not tangible. You

can't see me coming. You only know I've been there.


Perhaps you may glimpse me as I steal your soul.


You lie on the desert choking, your body blistered and weak. Unable to go

on. The sun beats down on you and your skin cracks. You gasp for breath, and

just as life begins to leave you glimpse me...just a glimpse mind, and I

take your soul.


There! A shadow on the shifting sand, a wagon. Oh joy! I float on the hot

wind towards the shape, I moan and they infer it's the wind.


I study them, the horses are almost gone! I flit around them, sand in their

eyes, their ears and mouth. The woman speaks. "Joshua...the horses are

played out, we have to stop and rest them."


"Yesssss...." I whisper in her ear. She hears me and yet she doesn't.


"Martha we can't, the sun isn't even at noon, already the heat is baking us

and the water is almost gone." The man looks into the wagon, and I follow

his eyes and discover two children asleep. Two young souls for my

collection. I caress their fair hair, I will take them and they will wander

with me.


"Damn you Joshua, we never should have left the wagon train, we'll die out

here." She weeps dry tears.


The man looks to the horizon, the shimmering heat waves. I breath and the

sand stings and blurs his eyes. "The fever was running rampant, it would

have killed us all eventually. Better to take our chances out here."

But he is afraid too, I can sense it. I leap with joy. I will add this

family to the moaning souls that the living mistake for the desert wind.

"Mommy...." The little girl chokes, "I'm so thirsty." The little boy doesn't



"Here sweetie...take some of this," the father offers the last meager supply

of water.


One of the horses collapses. "Yesssss...." I shout, and the souls shout with

me. Only they say "no!"


"Cory...Cory...." The little boy stirs listlessly.


The time is approaching. The man climbs down and begins cutting away the

harness. He's weak, but finally manages to free the downed horse. He climbs

up into the wagon, and begins throwing out all their possessions. "Joshua

no...." the woman sobs.


"We have to Martha! The one horse can't pull it all."


The woman watches as the man discards the remains of a life they'd left

behind. I spin and dance around them, coating their skin with my essence,

purging their minds of hope. Inviting them into the sweet embrace of el

nůmada. I take the boy, I had him all along. His soul joins the others.

The sun continues to climb, the heat melts the harness causing it to stick

to the yoke. The woman and the girl are almost ready, I watch them, waiting.

I realize that the horse will smell the river soon. I continue to beleaguer

the animal, trying to slow it.


Suddenly, the man does something unexpected. He stops!


"It is time..." I hiss. He climbs slowly down from the wagon, and cuts the

horse loose from the harness. Then, he takes the woman, and drapes her over

the horses back. He goes back, and does the same with the girl. He realizes

I've already taken the boy, and slaps the horse.


In shock, I watch as it runs a short distance then smells the river. I

curse, but do not follow. I have lost them. I watch the man. He collapses

and lies still, struggling for breath. Very well. He opens an eye and

glimpses me. A choking scream rises in his throat, I grin wickedly and take



I relish in the horrified screams of his consumed soul, but something

disturbs me--then, I realize the soul I have just taken contains the shadow

of satisfaction--of comfort.


"Noooo...." I moan and the sand swirls around my essence like a monstrous

tornado, darkening the sky and shrieking across the desert.


My senses stretch forth across the hot sand to a place beyond human sight. A

small town of weathered shops and empty saloons. Tumble weeds dot the

wind-swept main street like pieces in some long neglected board game.

The dull wit of a hagridden horse suggests another soul to be taken. A

pleasant thought and I travel the distance to the desert town unhindered by

time or distance.


A gunman in a black hat leans against the glistening flanks of his horse.

Exhaustion causes his shoulders to droop. Strands of sweat-soaked hair stick

to the sides of his head and neck, giving up the precious moisture that

might sustain him.


The voices of the souls cry a warning. A moaning sound that echoes down the

empty street and bounces off the swaying signs and boarded up windows.

The man looks up. "That's some wind eh Chico?" he comments wearily. "At

least maybe it'll cover our tracks."


"Sooo...someone is after you." I chuckle, and the man looks to the desert



With a weary sigh, the man steps up onto the weathered boardwalk. His silver

rowels jingle with each step. A gun hangs in a black holster from his waist.

I know guns...yes they have been useful tools at times. Especially once I

was able to get them into the hands of the desert people.


I can smell gunsmoke--yes! It is also the smell of death.


"Bob!" Another figure appears at the end of the deserted street. I shiver

with anticipation, but something disturbs me and I realize I hadn't sensed

the other man's soul.


"Frank...." the man with the silver rowels answers.


"Face it--there's no place else to run."


"Was I running Frank?" Bob smirked. "Maybe I just wanted to have you all to

myself. I knew the others would give up, but not you." Bob walks out to the

center of the street. He tips the hat back.


"That's because I know I'm better," Frank answers.


I recognize this scene as the two begin walking towards each other. Blood

would flow and a soul would be ready for the taking. Which should I choose?

I could watch and perhaps gain them both, or I could manipulate the hot sand

into the eyes of the one--but which one?


An evil aura surrounds the man Bob. He would be stronger, yet his soul would

taste sweeter.


"Jessie was a fool to turn his back on you."


"He died the way he wanted...and besides, I gave him a chance to face me,"

Bob answered angrily.


"You're a yellow bellied liar!" Frank shouts.


Bob's hand darts down to the black handled gun at his side. In an instant,

Frank's own gun is up and both fire in a blur of gunsmoke.


For one horrified second Bob sees me and tries to scream. It isn't his voice

that echoes from the vacant walls of the deserted town, but his soul. His

body pitches forward into the dust.


I drift towards the still standing form of Frank and decide--no, I will not

take you today, but I will be waiting.