~From out of the Desert~
“It’s rare to see a man foolish enough to brave the desert alone, rarer still on foot,” the merchant noted as he urged his team forward.
“Something urgent came up that needed tending to,” The Traveler said. “There was no time to arrange proper transport.”
The merchant snorted. “Nothing could be so urgent as to make a man risk such a journey. Not two weeks ago, a caravan of nearly twenty men was attacked on its way to Iron Town. All but one was killed, and that one allowed to live only so he could spread the story. And the fear.”
“I heard,” The Traveler said simply.
On the dawn of his third day with the caravan, The Traveler at last caught sight of Iron Town. It was a large city, a strange city, and there were a great many, both human and not, who called it home. The distant towers shimmered in the heat, writhing on the breast of a crystalline sea. For the weary, sun-parched traveler, it was a blessed haven.
Yet it was no less dangerous than the desert surrounding it. The caravan guards would be even more watchful there than they had been out amongst the dunes. For in that place even the cobblestones were haunted by nameless and formless evils that had existed since the foundations of the world were laid. Iron Town was the meeting point between the world of man and the world of darkness, where things crawled and slithered that had no name and no mortal had ever laid eyes upon. It was no paradise to soothe the weary who’d come in from the wastes, rather it was merely a different sort of Hell.
This may be my favorite of the short stories I’m including in Fragments of Mind. There’s just something about the darkness of this place, the surrealism of the images and characters, that perfectly encapsulates the kind of story that I like to write the most. I’m very proud of how this story turned out and I’m really excited about being able to let other people read and experience it, too. Over the next week and a half or so, I’ll be posting an excerpt from each of the stories to give you an idea of what it’s about.