Windswept Part One: Oasis
A lone figure walked through the windswept desert. The villagers saw it coming from miles away. They had little in the way of defenses; all they could do was wait for it to arrive at the arch, and hope that it meant no harm. The curious or nervous ones watched the black dot on the horizon inch closer. The more keen-eyed among them could see that it was much larger than the average person. It was at least seven feet tall, and covered from head to toe in brown rags. The handle of a weapon protruded from behind its back. It was followed by the lingering scent of oil. By the time it reached the threshold, the adults had taken their children into their homes.
The figure stopped to scan the area. Humble huts of mud and thatch lined the empty street. A few people stayed outside their homes to stare daggers at the stranger, daring it to try something. It met the eyes of a child who had been spying on it from the comfort of his dwelling. The boy’s face turned pale, and he leapt from the window to his mother. A small rock was hurled from another house, which bounced off the side of its head. The figure stopped to see a young girl whose expression turned from mischief to dread. She disappeared into her house, and the figure continued walking.
It reached a large pool of sparkling clean water surrounded by benches and vegetation. Some townspeople were using bowls to gather water for their homes. A hubbub of laughter and shouting carried from the saloon that overlooked the oasis. The water-gatherers stopped to watch the giant approach the establishment. Before entering, it stopped to examine the sign by the door. A symbol was carved into it, imperceptible to normal passers-by. It meant “Safe Haven”.
The stranger entered the saloon. The drunken conversations were halted by its emerging shadow. Dust hung in the air, catching light off a pair of dim gas lamps. Scattered tables were occupied by local regulars. A few travelers in nomad’s garb had taken seats near the staircase. A bar fashioned from driftwood was staffed by an old man with a nasty scar on his face. The bartender eyed the cloaked giant.
“Anything I can help you with, sir?” He asked.
The stranger’s voice resonated from a deep place within its cloak. “I am looking for a three-armed man.” it said.
He gave the figure a bemused look. “Three arms? Sorry sir, can’t say I’ve seen anybody like that.” he said, “Anything else you need? A drink, maybe?”
The stranger said nothing. It towered over the bartender without moving. A ragged hood cloaked its face, but he knew it was looking straight into him. He was strong for his age, and had faced every sort of belligerent drunk and hothead gunslinger. But he hadn’t met anyone -or anything - like this before. The old man dropped his eyes, his face flush with embarrassment. The figure turned away and continued through the tavern. It walked past the regulars, who kept quiet and fixed their eyes on the floor. When the nomads saw it heading for the staircase, they picked up their things and scurried out the door.
At the top of the steps was a set of guest rooms. It walked to the first door, and knocked. There was no response. The conversation in the bar began to pick back up. It tried the second door, waited, and continued to the third one. It raised its hand to knock, but stopped just short. It turned its head toward the stairs, and its hand moved toward the weapon on its back. A floorboard creaked, and the second door burst off its hinges. Standing atop the door was a rail-thin man in a tattered white jumpsuit. He was covered in sweat and sand. Slick brown hair, stained with blood, stuck to the side of his head. One of his arms was twice the size of the other two, the skin taut around the strange musculature. He bolted for the stairs. Before he made it to the first step, his third arm was caught in the stranger’s cold grip.
“James Theodore Whitney. I am taking you into custody.” it said.
James’ eyes were wild and determined. “I’m not going back!” he shouted, “Just try and make me!” He struggled against its grasp.
The figure stared.“Are you resisting?”
James swung up at its jaw. “What do you think?”
His fist met hard metal. The blow knocked its head back, throwing off the hood. Instead of a face, he saw his reflection. In the center of the thing’s head was a single eye that gave off white light. James looked at his freshly skinned knuckles, and the robotic hand that still held him. He let out a frustrated roar, and grabbed onto its arm with his free hands. He gritted his teeth, planted his feet, and pulled. His extra appendage bulged with unnatural muscles. There was the sound of metal rending and wires snapping, and the thing’s arm was torn clean off. The figure saw its own detached limb, the hand still wrapped around the target’s forearm. Black oil began to drip from its empty socket. James turned and ran.
He got three steps down when he fell. He landed hard on the tavern’s dirt floor. James tried to get up, but his arms wouldn’t move. There was something cold in his chest. He looked down, and saw a metal pole going through him and into the dirt. He looked behind him, and saw a single glowing eye.
The lone figure walked through the silent village. The wind picked up, carrying with it the smell of oil and blood. Having abandoned its rags, onlookers could see the mechanical workings of its body, and the pointed metal rod on its back. In its remaining hand, it held its own broken arm. The torn appendage maintained its grip on the fugitive’s limb. The lifeless body was dragged through the sand, past the huts where people were holding their loved ones. A rock flew from a nearby window and bounced off its reflective face. It continued through the arch. The villagers opened their doors, watching with bated breath as it began to disappear over the horizon.