- Upon the Watchtower
Dylan T. Miller
The field outside had been empty for weeks, save the occasional caravan or courier. They would lay overnight, sometimes staying through the next morning, but never longer than that. I know because I watched them from the old lighthouse, rifle at hand. That field was the sole barrier between ocean and Corel, the settlement I called home, and my nerves were always shot when bedrolls appeared around a campfire. Yesterday, though, I couldn't sleep, couldn't close my eyes because of the scene that replayed in the darkness.
It was a calm and quiet morning, two days ago, with but a single messenger sent ahead, weary and worn from the road, to foretell the arrival of a traveling casino. It was quite a buzz in the city to warrant someone relaying the news to my door. Yet my fears were all the same, and the child laughed when I voiced them before running off to his family. Someone luckier than she should ever know. They arrived as the sun set, and I watched all of Corel watch them. There had never been so many of them in one place. Once the tents were up and the switch pulled, the field became like day, full of light and life and energy. The night went by without consequence, with Corel reveling to stacked decks and quick hands. It was a party I was not invited to, for I had no coin on me, so I did as I would have any other night of the year. I sat and watched, rifle at hand.
I slept as the sun rose, through midday and awoke only as the sun once again fell. Vermin scurried about, so I killed one and set it to roast. The stairs were torture, old wounds upon my legs deciding to flair up at such sudden activity. Curiosity fueled me, curious if the casino had left, if someone had arrived early, if some townsfolk had enjoyed the night so much as to stay and force my hand in relocating them. Yet once I was at my perch, I had to lean against the tower itself, afraid that if I collapsed the railing would fail and let me fall a full six feet into the ground.
The casino remained, the lights off but otherwise still plying it's trade. I know not how long I stood there, paralyzed as I was, but by the time I could move again the field was alight and the smell of burning raked my nostrils. Adrenalin surged, and I grabbed my rifle before running downstairs for all the ammunition I could find. It was only then that I recalled my breakfast, but it was past saving, so I kicked the spit over before loading boxes of 30-06 into my arms. I used my rifle as a brace to hold it all, legs on fire with pain as I tried to get back to my perch. I arrived just in time, rifle at hand, to be useless.