The Traveler and The Game
by Paul Liadis
An old man stopped me on my way to the mountaintop. He had a beard as black as coal stretching to the tops of his feet and a long flowing robe so filthy that tiny green buds sprouted upon its surface. A rock, a stick, and a gun lay before him. "Stay for a game," he said to me. "If you win I'll let you pass."
"And if I refuse?"
The man said nothing, instead turning his eyes toward the gun. I got the message.
"Well, what's the game?" I said.
"Using any one of these items, rid me of that wicked creature," he replied, pointing a crooked finger at the raven circling overhead. "In one shot."
I considered the objects at hand.
The rock. Too light and insignificant, it would do nothing but agitate the bird.
More substantial, but terribly inaccurate, the stick was not worth the risk.
The gun was my only true option. Lifting the weapon, I trained my sights on the winged creature. Moving the barrel just to the left of my target, boom click boom, I emptied both chambers. The creature departed.
"Thank you," said the old man, fading like mist in the breeze, the shot still ringing in my ears. The rock, the stick, and the gun followed.
The land compelling me to rest, I sat in the very spot the man had been. And there I remain, seated, watching the raven fly above, waiting for an unfortunate soul willing to play my game.