584 – Dragon

The desert heat, the long wait, even the blazing sun didn’t bother him. But his Corona was getting warm, and that really pissed him off.

“C’m on, Ralph. I know you’re there. Stop playing Rambo and come down already. My beer’s starting to taste like warm iguana pee.”

Three supersonic blurs went thru him, one of them smashing the bottle in his hand.

“Now see what you’ve done. And… did you just try to kill me with copperheads, really?”

A hoarse voice answered from somewhere behind the rocks above.

“Those were dipped all night in holy water and blessed by the bishop himself!”

“Well…” He answered, glancing over the rim of his mirrored aviators to study the three fresh indentations on the granite wall behind him. “I’d really ask for my money back if I were you.”

A pair of wild eyes wearing an unkept beard and a frayed priest’s coat, climbed down the hill to where he was. Clutching a shiny AR-15 with black crosses painted on the hilt.

“What else do you want from me!? I’ve already lost my parish and been de-frocked because of you! All I have left is my immortal soul, and you’re not getting that without a fight!”

“What do *I* want from you? You’re the one who’s been on my tail like a damn stubborn horsefly for the past year.”

“And I will chase you to hell itself if that’s what it takes to rid God’s world of your demonic influence. I swore it since the day I knew you roamed the earth.”

He laughed so loudly the broken man before him stumbled a couple of steps backward and clutched its rifle tighter, startled.

“Ok…” He finally managed to say between occasional chuckles. “I’m sorry but, have you actually heard yourself? Dude, you were sick to your gut of your faith and that sad little parish long before you met me. You were practically begging the universe for a good excuse… for ANY excuse, to leave.”

The man lowered its eyes for a moment, as if struggling to find the right words.

“Perhaps I had really lost my faith.” His eyes became fiery and defiant once more. “–But hunting you has given me a reason to become a servant of God again!”

“You were never a servant to that old fool, none of you are. I made sure of that the day I gave your kind free will, remember? Everything and anything you do with your life is your own damn decision taken by your own fucking will.”

“That’s blasphemy!”

“Nope, just the truth. If you drop the all holy bullshit mask for a moment and really listen to your own heart for once you’ll know it’s true.”

The man’s shoulders and head dropped as he muttered. “Chasing you in the name of God is all I have left to live for. Now you tell me I don’t even have that? That it’s all futile?”

“Hell, no! Look at yourself. I’m not exactly easy to follow, yet you’ve managed to chase me around like a damn bloodhound. That’s pretty impressive.”

“Yes, but what have I become?”

“Ever heard of this guy, Nietzsche? He said something about people who fight dragons having to beware not turning into dragons themselves.”

The man finished the quote, in a bitter and almost reverent voice. “For when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

“Yup, that’s it. But let me share a little secret with you. That abyss you’ve been staring into? That’s not me, that’s what’s always been inside of you.”

He walked back to his black and chrome Harley and saddled up, breaking the silence with the soft purr of its engine.

“Go back to town, Ralph. Sell the gun, take a nice bath, drink a couple of cold ones, and have a good look at the mirror. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find someone interesting looking back, you might even find a life.”

He revved the engine and tipped his cavalry hat at him before driving off, shouting. “And leave me and my Coronas alone! Ok?”

The old canyon echoed with the fading sound of a roaring engine. For a moment, Father Ralph O’Malley could swear it sounded like a dragon, laughing.

• • •