Equinox – by Ian

The Lonesome Outlaw dismounts and ties the reins around a large boulder. He sits with his back to the stone, legs pulled up to his chest. Taking the cheroot from his mouth he flicks it into the depths of the canyon and watches as it shoots up past his eyes on the hot stream of air rising from the valley floor. The light is starting to fade.

The screams chill me as I watch from a bush some distance from the henge. The green robed figures shift amongst the towering stones within the circular earth mound as four naked men, smeared in mud, carry a woman by her limbs. As they near the perimeter of the henge she struggles and screams again. One of the men holding her shoves a piece of cloth in her mouth.

Although he knows they are a couple of hours behind he still flinches when a creature moves behind him. He needs some rest before he continues up the canyon, which marks borderline. It’s not the first time he’s moved up the trail to the crossing point but it will be his last. The big decision is whether to take some rest and move while there’s still light or wait to the next day. Undecided, the Lonesome Outlaw tilts his hat over his eyes and takes a deep breath.

I had heard that these ceremonies take place but never believed it. As a young girl the threat of them was used to keep my  behaviour in line, but no one had seen them. The henge is some way from the village and no one was brave enough to go and see for themselves.

Afraid of being discovered I keep my breathing shallow as the mud caked men step over the lip of the henge into the stone circle, their burden still fighting to be released.

He wakes to a sound from some distance behind him. The Outlaw keeps his hat in place, listens. There it is, the sound again. Definitely four paws, not his pursuers. Relieved he moves his hat up and looks out to the other side of the canyon, at safety. However, it is not that which holds his attention but rather the two moons. He has never seen them so close. As he watches their dusky blue magnificence they are clearly moving towards each other, slowly but noticeably. The Lonesome Outlaw stands, understanding their significance.

The sun is starting to rise so i check that the bush is a secure hiding place. I feel slightly exposed so adjust my position, this change affords me a better view. The naked men place the woman on a dark stained lintel balanced on an upright stone between the men clad in green. As she lies there the woman’s head moves from side to side. Two of the men holding her use a hand each to secure her head. Chanting rises, building as the rays of the sun start to kiss the dark monoliths that stand within the boundary of the henge.

The moons are starting to overlap in the sky. He has heard that one never fully covers the other but the degree depends on what has happened. Few people have witnessed it but everyone knows about it. The portent it signals is powerful and fatal to those who witness it. The time when day and night are of equal length comes rarely but when it is does the consequences for those who see its heralding are life changing. This is not lost on him as the soothsayer had told him that he would face the consequences for what he had done to his family. He hadn’t paid heed until now. 

The brightness increases and the rays of the sun are funnelled through an avenue of stones to the altar the woman has been placed upon. Despite the danger I want to get a better look and move, as discretely as possible, to the small boulder in front of me. I make the stone unseen, the men in green are too busy with their incantations whilst the others still struggle to hold their determined victim. As the chants rise the woman kicks out, one of her arms is released and she momentarily twists her body towards my hiding place. Despite the look of fear and her fixed stare the face of my mother seems to implore me for help.

He lights another cheroot and stretches out his legs towards the borderline as he contemplates the fate of his family. The people chasing know nothing of his past or the pain of his future. The moons overlap more and cast an eerie glow over the landscape. An eagle dips and soars on the thermals flowing from the canyon floor. He watches the bird for a short while before reaching for his holster. He weighs the gun in his hand before checking the ammunition, all good. Smoke curls,  as the Lonesome Outlaw takes a long drag, then he puts the gun to his temple and curls his finger around the trigger. 

The mud covered men have secured my mother again and those in robes move towards her. They spray blood from a goblet over her with their fingers and the chants are feverous as a long ray of sun illuminates the scene. One of the green men raises both of their arms and holds a long dagger in both hands over my mother’s breast. I shout as loudly as possible as I run towards the henge trying to distract the man with the blade. He doesn’t waver but his green acolytes move towards me. I try to evade them but they grab hold of me. I watch, crying and screaming, as the dagger plunges towards my mother. 

The screams aren’t just mine. The naked men have stepped away from the altar and the robed men have released me. The blade is stationery above the prone figure of a man dressed in strange clothes and a wide brimmed hat. The sun glistens on a silver tube held to his temple.

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