Walter Padick gathered his gunna into a coarse weave sack and slung it over his shoulders, wincing as the welts his father laid on his back stung. The Huntress Moon slatted the beaten earth of the Padick residence with cold light. It was in this light that Walter paused to look over his shoulders at the drunken lumps that were his kin. Wouldst thee leave us penniless and starving? his mother’s voice sounded in his mind. He saw her toothless mouth very clearly. He would. A pox on you! hissed the voice. He slipped from the crooked cottage and ran down the road, purloined coins tinkling in his gunna against the bread and dried meat he had also stolen.
He found jobs swabbing after drunkards in inns or shoveling shit in farms along his ceaseless wanderings. Something called him forward on the road, always urging his hands to lace up his dusty boots and move on whenever he stayed in one place too long. One night in the seedy dive Hung Crooked, dodging the blows of drunk blind patron, ka flung his soul to the winds. From a dark corner extended a hand glittering with doubloons, a scimitar glittering from the shadows. His laughter seemed to slice through the ragtime tune the weedstalk pianist thrashed from his piano. “Fix up my horse for me?”
Walter lay in the foul smelling straw, fighting to choke back the sobs threatening to rip through him. The hot splat of spent seed on his back had turned cold, like his heart. The man had stolen something from him, that spark of goodness that remained despite his father’s drunken beatings and his mother’s insults. That chance for a life not exactly love and light but something close was shattered by an act of violence and theft. The eyes that burned out of the head that turned against the shit crusted straw to look upon his violator was full of hate. The rapist curled his lips into a sensual grin and ran the back of a hand along it.
But, of course, ka is a wheel.
Walter Padick was not to know it at the time, and would never know for the memory was driven to the deepest recesses of his dogan, never to resurface, the face that leered above was the very same as the one which provoked a certain apprentice gunslinger into an early rite of passage.
Walter, always damned, as ka wills it, was not to know that he was to poison his very own soul. Many-faced Marten drew his hood over his cruel features and fled cackling into the night. The boy lay there for a long time, not caring that his pants were pulled to his ankles, not caring about the cold that swirled in with the season’s first snowflakes. Then he slowly drew himself up, pulling at his clothes with leaden fingers and stood shivering against the barn door as the horizon grew pink with dawn.
Walter started laughing, very well remembering the laughter of his assailant as he took and took, filling and filled with a blackness that would reverberate within his soul to the grave.