James is led into the desert by a fraud of a priest to find a man named Po and a mysterious Well…What’s it all for? Phil Partington and I thought it’d be a fun exercise to start a Campfire story, so few days ago he got the ball rolling by posting Chapter 1. Today, I throw my hat into the ring with…
Chapter Two: Laughter in the Desert (674 words)
“What’s your stake in all this?” James suddenly asked. He had no idea where the question came from, or why he dared ask it—he suspected that if he got on the man’s bad side that Mr. Smoke would have no trouble cutting his throat and leaving his lifeless body for the desert animals.
“Besides the money?” Mr. Smoke grinned and jingled the coins—James’ coins–in the leather purse attached to his belt. “I want to see if you can do it. Many have tried. All failed. But I figure someone from up there—“ he jabbed a fat finger at the clouds, “should have the guts and skill to get it done.”
“It’s because I’m from…beyond…that I’m…sick. Anyway, it`s got to work; there’s no other option. The Well is the only thing that can help me. And the others.” James hated telling the man anything more about himself than the little he thought he should know, but Mr. Smoke had the answers he needed which gave him the power. Besides, James thought, maybe the more he talked, the more Mr. Smoke’s lips would loosen up. James wished he had some strong liquor and a good pipe and smoke-weed on hand to help with the job, and cursed the fact he didn’t.
Mr. Smoke, though, appeared intrigued. He watched the clouds passing over the amber sky and the suns as they sunk lower in the west. “The others, huh? How many are you talking?
James thought fast. How much should he tell? How much did that fake priest already know, and if he lied, would the imposter know? “About a hundred,” he answered, deciding to answer as close to the truth as he dared.
Mr. Smoke closed his eyes. “That many, huh? And will you all be coming down if you find this Well and if the rite works?”
Again, James hesitated. “That’s the plan.”
Mr. Smoke grinned, but not in a nice way. In fact, the humorless expression and the bared, broken teeth sent a shiver through James’ chest. “You know Po won’t like that one bit. Nope, not at all.”
“How could you possibly know that?” James asked, backing away. “You said you’d never met this Po character.”
“Well, dunderhead, in case you haven’t yet figured it out, Po is the Well’s guardian. You think he wants it taxed like that? The Well is what maintains the planet’s balance. You upset it and–“ Mr. Smoke didn’t finish, but kept his eyes on the sky. Shadows were starting to deepen and skulk across the desert sands as the sleepy suns finally met the horizon.
But James wasn’t paying attention. He was thinking about how his gamble had worked: Mr. Smoke had talked. “Well, yes, the Well is energy—“
Mr. Smoke whirled around to stick a finger in James’ chest. “More than mere energy, idiot! What do they teach you morons up there, anyway?”
“Care to educate me?”
Mr. Smoke eyed James for a few moments, and a look bordering on understanding pinched his face. “No,” he answered, pulling away. “I don’t.”
Seeing the moment of opportunity passing, James blurted, “You still didn’t say how you know any of that. You know, I think it’s time I met Po for myself!”
Mr. Smoke started to laugh. The sound rumbled from deep within his chest, growing louder and louder by the second until rude guffaws exploded from his mouth. “You stupid, dumb, idiotic, fool of an ass,” Mr. Smoke said when he regained his breath. “I am Po.”
At that, a searing flash like lightning streaked from the sky, striking Mr. Smoke dead on. His body instantly disintegrated and billowed into a cloud of what looked like black powder. Then, rolling across the desert, louder than the constant grinding of the shifting sands, James heard the maddening notes of a mocking laugh; its volume made the standing stones rattle. Then a blast of wind bore down on the spot and all signs of Mr. Smoke were gone.
Care to join in? What will James do now? Who are the people living in the clouds? What the heck is this Well and how or why can it heal? Only YOU can fill in the blanks! 500-700 words isn’t much–give it a go! Click here to see the rules and here to read Chapter 1.