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by Indiana Jones

Hi again. I've got here a genuine entry into Phaedrus' contest and I am hoping beyond hope to get at least an honorable mention. Sorry about the naming convention I just wanted to fit everything in there so that it would catch Mr. P's attention. Well without further ado, let's get on a really big shoe (and become a clown! ;^)

The sun blazed hot over head with an intensity that none had ever witnessed before. The small zephyrs and small dust devils did nothing to help. In fact they served to whip the dust into the air and make breathing a chore.

All was quiet and the tension hung over the town like a miasma that was almost as stifling as the dust. The townsfolk looked nervously about waiting for something to happen. Then someone spotted the lone rider approaching the town of Wicked Gulch from the west.

The rider was coming hard blazing a trail of dust and rocks that made it almost seem as if he were trailing fire. The rider stopped just in front of the saloon and dismounted. He hitched his ride to the post and sniffed the air. Yes, he thought, this was a perfect day for a showdown.

He walked into the saloon, appearing impossibly comfortable in a long black duster. He removed the coat and slung it over the bar as he pulled up a stool. He was dressed all in black from his boots to his Stetson.

"What can I do for ya today?" the bartender asked nervously.

The bartender almost fell over from the strangers breath as he said, "Whiskey, no glass and leave the bottle." He grabbed a coin from his vest pocket and tossed it on the counter. The bartender was a little leery, the stranger's breath smelled like he had already been drinking karosene. He left the bottle then returned to his duties.

The stranger picked up the bottle and gulped greedily at the contents. He slammed the bottle down with a resounding, "Ahhhh!"

The town became silent like the night before the sun would break for the open sky. The stranger tensed like a coiled spring. He knew what was coming. The town clock chimed slowly. It sounded like thunder and the twelve chimes seemed to take forever to sound. Time stood still.

"Magus!" came a cry from outside. "Magus Rex, you lilly livered sidewinder, I'm calling you out!"

The stranger took one last swig and turned to the door. He moved slow, but determined, to the door. He looked out at the street over the doors and saw his nemesis. He was dressed in all black as well, but he had a star on his vest. He tipped his hat up a bit as he looked into the face of his enemy.

Their stares locked for a moment, as one sized the other up. Finally the tension was broken as the Stranger pushed open the swinging doors and proceeded to the street. He spit on the street as he stepped down to face the lawman.

"Long time no see Merle. I thought you were dead."

He spat. "You only wish, did you think that ambush could take me out in Wessex?" The lawman snarled.

The stranger put on a wicked grin, "One could always hope."

"It's time, you gonna come peacefully or am I gonna have to get nasty?"

As if in answer the stranger in black circled the lawman and both backed away slowly. They both reached twenty paces and stared each other down. The lawman was the first to blink as he saw a shadow on the roof to his right. He jumped to the side and rolled. He came up with his gun drawn and fired a shot towards the source of the shadow. He heard a gun drop and an Inhuman cry of agony as the would be assassin fell to his knees in agony. The lawman turned back towards the stranger as the assassin's shape blurred and rippled and became something else.

"Leave your henchmen out of this Magus, this is between us!" he shouted down the street. Magus was calm and collected and didn't seem worried. "That was my last man Merle. Must have got here just before I did. I had nothing to do with it!" The stranger shouted back. Somehow the lawman didn't believe him. He holstered his gun.

They stood again ready for the contest. The duel to see who was faster. Who was better. The heat was almost unbearable, the sweat and the dust forming layers of grit on the two men. They kept their calm.

The stranger was nervous and twitchy. The lawman was a cool drink of water. The pressure mounted. The townspeople who dared look were mesmerized. The tension was unspeakable.

Finally, the stranger couldn't take it any more and grabbed for his weapon. The lawman did the same. Time slowed down once again. The lawman felt as if he was trapped in water and the stranger felt mired down in a bog.

But the stranger was faster his gun cleared and his aim was true. It hit the lawman square and his body rippled. He felt his whole body tug and twist. His hair grew long and his clothes changed. When it stopped a young woman with fiery red hair stood where the lawman was. She was still dressed in black, but now she was wearing a skirt, a silk blouse which had a plunging neckline and leather fringes hanging off the sleeves. She was also now wearing black fishnet stockings.

But the lawman wasn't finished, she dropped to one knee and fired off a shot at the stranger. His form began to change. He began to grow and rise. He bent over double and his hooves hit the ground. His face stretched out and his clothes seemed to become a thin layer of black hair.

The lawman walked cautiously over to the horse, which whinnied and neighed as she drew near. She calmed him down with a touch as magical energy leapt from her fingers.

"Oh don't be a sore loser Magus, I beat you. This game and setting was your idea!" She said then walked to the post where she hitched her horse. She quickly untied him and led him back over to the stranger. "I'll bet you're wondering what went wrong." She said laughing. "You thought my powers would be negated by turning me into a woman, but you forgot that women in my discipline are just as strong if not stronger in power than the men." She said as she mounted the stranger bare back. "I told you I'd take you, it was just matter of time. Now I truly am the best wizard in all the world."

She gave him a slight jolt and they began to walk. The horse neighed again. "Don't complain, I just returned the favor. If I'm gonna be stuck like this for a century then so are you!" she said and rode off into the west. She put her fingers in her mouth and whistled and a dog wearing a cowboy hat ran up to her and began following. She looked down at the dog who had a sad looking scowl on his face. Of course that could have been because it was a bulldog. "Next time I hope you learn to play fair, at least you're not going to a circus like the rest of his men in Wessex. But it's all a part of the game." She said then smiled. They continued on their way out of town.

The townspeople were stunned and shocked. They couldn't believe what they had just seen. They slowly trickled out of their homes and businesses to watch the strange parade leaving their town.

"Who was that magic man, I mean woman, I mean. Ah hell I need a drink!" the Bartender said.

The town agreed and filed into the saloon after him. "Imagine Merlin as a woman for the next hundred years, odds, I hate playing by the rules!" Merle said scowling as they rode. "We need to get you a saddle you old mare!" She said looking down at the female horse that had been a man. She laughed and started singing a song as they rode into the west. Of course she was whistling the theme to `Rawhide'.

The End.

Copyright 1997: JJONES@valhalla.csf.edu (Jones Indiana) . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first.       Thank you

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