Continuation of The Gunslinger, by Stephen King
It takes him a time, but eventually the gunslinger finds a way down the mountain that will allow him to avoid the darkness and the tracks.
He does not fail to realize that he will also bypass the way station, and whatever remains of Tull because of this decision. He feels no small amount of relief.
Hedging his demons does not come cheaply. The way down the mountain is a treacherous path, marked by loose stones, tiny rock slides, and a distinct lack of footholds. There is no food, either, and what vegetation he might chew on to stifle his grumbling gut consists of short, tough weeds with sharp leaves like knives. There is water enough, but it tastes like dust and rock, a cloudy, disagreeable flavor that lingers in his mouth and beneath his tongue.
The long, downhill trek also presents an opportunity to evaluate his body, now fully a decade older. He is still a young man, but during the slow-going hike he notices more aches, sharper pains. His bones creak and complain of strain. His back and knees tire easily, and his hips pain him so that, no matter how tired he is, sleep is long in coming each night.
The gunslinger's food bag is weightless flap against his leg when he reaches the green place at the bottom, his stomach a hollow he cannot help but be aware of. He catches a rabbit, but his hunger makes him impatient. His skinning and gutting is a quick, messy job like he hasn't done since he was a child, and his first bite fills his mouth with sour blood and the flavor of undercooked meat.
He wakes violently in the middle of the night to his stomach rejecting the meager offering.
The gunslinger takes his time in the green place, not looking forward to the dry air and unrelenting sun of the desert. There he knows the landscape is daunting in its size and unsympathetic in its homogeneity, and with his hunger so recently sated he does not happily anticipate its return. But the green place is small in comparison with the rest of this dying world, and however shortened his stride may be from ten years of night in company of the man in black, he notes the green and living life around him getting thinner, and thinner, with each day's travel. Too soon for his tastes, the gunslinger finds himself greeted with bright, unerring sunlight, and hills upon hills of cracked desert.
He started his course through the desert so long ago with a beast and a comfortable number of water bags friendly and heavy. Most had been abandoned as they emptied, some when his animal died. Two were lost with the boy. Now he has only the two crossing his body.
He remembers those times him came so close to death for lack of fluids on his first crossing. And as he makes his first steps out from beneath the shade of the green place—more yellow, this close to the edge—he thinks upon the ocean, so far to the west.
The gunslinger knows that the odds of surviving this next leg of his journey are stacked against him in quantities he does not care to consider. However, something makes him believe, in the far reaches of his unconscious mind, that he will make it to the other side of this hellish place, and to the sea beyond it.
About this, he is not happy.
Written for an English assignment :)