Disclaimer: I do not own anything Rango related.
The Mojave Desert was once more in the middle of a drought. The sun's rays shone mercilessly down to the hot sands of the ground, heating the individual grains all the more. One could take a glimpse and see a barren wasteland, unable to support life of any kind. But such a person would be looking past the cacti scattered distantly across the landscape and fail to notice the many creatures that lived under the surface. Life was everywhere in this desert environment, you just have to know where to look. And that's just what a young rattlesnake was doing.
Slithering along the baking ground, the snake was unfazed by the heat bearing down from above and rising up from below. His wide hat, while black in color, provided his head enough shade to compensate and the scales along his underside was perfectly adapted to tolerate the hot dirt that would cook the soles of any stranger's feet. Within the shade provided by his head piece, blazing eyes flashed like fire as his long forked tongue flickered out frequently. His name was Rattlesnake Jake, and he was on the hunt for a nearby town. He was hungry and someone was going to die soon enough. Normally, he would restrict his hunting to the evening and night, to avoid those dreadful hawks. But this was a drought and hunger can drive any creature to take risks.
He was a young adult and living in the prime of his life. He left home to live on his own just before the drought began and despite the hardships, he was doing very well. Every inch of his body, from his moustache-marked muzzle to the tip of his rattle was brimming with shining scales and rippling with muscle. Although he lacked a firearm, his large size, powerful coils and potent venom was enough to make his very presence strike fear in the hearts of even the toughest gunslingers. Such a reputation has given him confidence that matched his menacing appearance. The only creature he feared were hawks, and that was more an instinct than anything.
Finally locating a town, Jake smirked at his luck and wasted no time in paying a visit. Seeing a sign, he only glanced at it long enough to learn the name of the unfortunate settlement. Dirt. With a calm but threatening atmosphere, he slinked along the main path that ran down the center of the town. There was silence in the road, but he caught sight of many residents peeking out the windows of their homes. They were afraid, he knew, and they were smart to hide. In menacing casualness, he turned his attention to the saloon and barged his way inside. His large body almost filled the entire place and his smirk widened as everyone inside fell quiet, watching him as if hypnotized. Stopping and coiling up in front of the bar, his body pushed aside any chairs in the way and his tail gave a slight rattle as if to announce his presence to the stunned bartender and snap him out of his frozen position.
"Cactus juice." Jake hissed in amusement, the many sharp teeth in his mouth flashing as he did so. The toad behind the counter instinctively took a bottle before pausing and looking to the snake, unsure of the predator's age.
"How old are you, exactly?" he risked questioning, as it was part of his job. Despite this, it immediately earned him a glare as the snake's rattle began shuddering and filling the saloon with its trademark sound of an angry serpent.
"Old enough to swallow that alcohol bloated, amphibian body of yours if you continue to question me." Jake growled, his piercing eyes boring into the frog. His irritation wasn't much about the frog mistaking him for an underage miscreant. He just didn't like it when people second-guessed his actions. The bartender, thankfully a quick learner when it comes to this, gulped and slid the prickly bottle to the snake. Jake's tail curled itself around the bottle, unfazed by the spines as he sampled the drink. Not bad, but he certainly had stronger. The others in the saloon were still tense in wariness of this stranger, knowing he was a threat but unsure of his intentions. Finally, one of them had the guts to ask the queston that was on everyone's mind.
"Who are you?" asked a mangy cat with a long dirty beard.
Ahh, seems the folks in this town have yet to hear of him. Well, he'll be sure to change that so that soon, they would practically drop dead just from hearing his name uttered. With a dark chuckle, he let his eyes sweep across the many faces of the frightened critters before staring straight at the cat, his voice cold enough to send chills down anyone's back. "Jake. Though you'd all be wise to refer to me as Rattlesnake Jake."
"And where're you from, Mr. Rattlesnake Jake?" asked an owl with a monocle and fancy clothing, speaking in a sophisticated accent. Silence filled the bar as everyone anxiously awaited the answer, noting how Jake's eyes were practically flashing as this was his favorite question to answer, which he did in a low voice that conveyed an unsettling calmness.
"I'm from the deep fire pits you all know as Hell." he started, hearing a few gasps as he rose the upper part of his body in a tight S. "I'm the Devil's incarnate and I won't be leaving this town without taking one of your pathetic souls with me."
At this instant, he heard a click coming directly from the left and he wasted no time lunging and tightening his coils around a lizard. Seems his sharp hearing and lightning reflexes saved him as he jerked the fellow reptile from side-to-side and forced the gun out of his hand. Everyone else jumped away with various cries, astonished at the surprising speed of this serpent. It seemed almost unnatural. Jake ignored them and looked his victim over, noticing a shining badge on the critter's chest.
"Well, sheriff, thought you could kill me that easily?" he spoke tauntingly. The lizard tried to wriggle out of the coils, but this only earned him an even tighter restraint and he gasped, trying to breathe, forcing a few words out as he did.
"See here...Jake...We don't want no...trouble..."
"Well, I do." Snickering, he looked straight into the sheriff's eyes and muttered. "Seems I have my soul already." With that, he tossed the unfortunate critter into the air, right into his mouth. This earned more gasps of horror as he swallowed the struggling and screaming reptile without much of a problem, enjoying the feel of prey wriggling down his throat before their movements eventually halted in his stomach. He didn't usually eat his prey live, so such a sensation was a special treat, plus the added bonus of scaring the crap out of any witnesses. Snickering, he took another shot of Cactus juice to 'wash down' his meal before turning and slithering out of the saloon, everyone fearfully making way for him.
And just as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone.
But that wasn't the last the town has seen of this snake. It seemed as if they had attracted unwanted attention as Rattlesnake Jake made frequent returns to the town, indeed keeping to his word and never leaving without causing the death of someone, whether it be another sheriff or a gunslinging challenger or even an innocent bystander. No one would be spared and this terrified them. Men, women, children...They were all equal game as far as this terror was concerned. He really was the Devil's incarnate. But luckily, or perhaps unluckily, things was gonna change as Rattlesnake Jake made one fateful visit to Dirt, as he had been doing for the past couple of years.
Passing by the graveyard dedicated to his many victims, he grinned as his forked tongue slipped out to run across his jaws, his menacing rattle vibrating as he made his daily rounds about the town, searching for some poor idiot that refused to take cover. There was always that one lunatic who thought they had what it took to take him down. Most of them were drunk when that happened...
But this time, the town was unusually quiet, even compared to how it was when he arrived in the past. This didn't bother him, however, as it seems like the town was finally getting smarter and either barricaded themselves somewhere, or left altogether. Either way, the serpent's sense of smell and tracking skills were more than enough to ensure him a meal. But not this time...
A large wide shadow passed by overhead. Jake immediately stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes widening as they followed the shadow that was unmistakably that of a-
"Hawk!" Jake yelped, feeling instinct grab hold of his body completely and it wasted no time in jerking him into any means of shelter, crashing him into the side of a building, cowering under an overhang, but it was too late. With a screech that made the reptile cringe, the wind picked up and the bird of prey landed on the dirt path...looking right at him. For a long moment, everything was frozen as predator and prey stared at each other, one sizing up its meal, the other shivering under its gaze. However, the stop-in-time didn't last long as the bird lunged with a shriek and Jake immediately threw himself out of the way. Knowing there was no place to hide, he tried to make a run for it when he felt something grab hold of his middle.
He was caught, but he wasn't going to go down without a fight. He struck, barely missing as the bird jerked back out of range, letting the snake go as it did. The rattlesnake instantly took up a defensive position, ready to strike and tail shaking faster than it ever had in his entire life. And as he hissed and bared his long venomous fangs, he was slowly backing up. The bird circled its prey, eyeing the defiant snake as it plotted for a way to take the reptile down without getting itself killed in the process. It was clear the snake was frightened out his mind, and animals tend to do crazy things when they're scared.
Taking that into consideration, the hawk spread its wings and lunged. Jake immediately struck out, not caring where he was aiming so long as he bit into something. But biting wing feathers wasn't going to do anything and he felt a terrible pain on the nape of his neck, causing him to cry out. The bird has clamped its half-metal beak into him and he writhed and struggled as hard as he could, wrapping his body around his enemy and attempting to squeeze the life out of it. This got the bird to let go of his neck, but an instant later, he felt the same pain on his tail. He unwrapped himself from the bird and made another attempt to slither away, not getting anywhere. The pain was growing as the bird tightened its beak and-
Jake practically screeched in agony as the tip of his tail, rattle and all, was sliced right off. But regardless of the pain, he knew this was his chance to make a getaway. Not caring which building it was or who lived there, he threw himself through the door and slammed it shut, gasping for breath as he risked a peek out the window. The hawk nibbled a bit on the piece of snake tail it held in its claws before looking about. Seeing its prey was gone, it spread its wings and took off to disappear out of sight. Feeling his heart racing to the point where it felt it would explode, he gave a sigh, finally taking control of his body back from his 'fight-or-flight' response, now growing more conscious of the pain.
Wincing heavily, he looked to the end of his tail. His rattle and the black-and-white striped markings that preceded it was gone and the rest of his tail was bleeding heavily. He knew he had to get it fixed before he bled himself to death. There was a doctor in this town, he knew, and very cautiously, he opened the door of the building and peeked out, scanning the sky for his predator. It was clear. Quickly, he slithered for the doctor's quarters, ignoring the other townsfolk as they began to walk out, each watching the snake curiously as most had witnessed the whole struggle. Arriving to the doctor's home, he found it locked and, as a result, he spat his words angrily.
"Open the door! Now!" After a few seconds, the door creaked open and Jake shoved himself inside unceremoniously, coiling up as he glared at the elderly doctor and his sons.
"M-May I-" The doctor's stuttering words weren't fast enough to finish when he was furiously cut off.
"I ain't got no time to chat!" Jake snarled as he lifted the remains of his bleeding tail. "You're going to fix this, and you'll replace the rattle. Now!"
At the snake's demanding bark, the doctor cringed, practically on the verge of a heart attack. He nodded and shuffled over to the injured tail, putting on his gloves. "I-I can stop the bleeding and all...B-but I'm afraid I don't have no rattlesnake rattle to replace yours..." He shuddered as the snake leaned his head down, eye-to-eye, his voice dangerous.
"Then what do you have, old timer?"
The old doctor thought fast. He knew the snake wasn't going to leave this house unsatisfied and a rattle is what it would take to satisfy him. But rattlesnake rattles were extremely difficult to obtain; you don't exactly meet a rattler willing to give up his rattle on a regular basis. But... Voice shaky, he answered with great meekness. "The closest thing I have is a gatlin' gun, but that isn't really for-"
"A gatlin' gun, you say?" Jake interrupted, his thoughts already beginning to race off. A gun for a rattle... That certainly sounds like an interesting concept. He's feared enough as it was, but imagine the terror that'll strike if he actually had an additional weapon at his disposal. He grinned, despite the pain still shooting throughout his body. "Consider it a deal."
"But... Mr. Rattlesnake Jake...sir, I can't exactly give it to you." He tried to ignore the ominous hisses rising from his client's throat. "Y-you see, it's for something else and really not made to be attached to your tail and-Gaw!" He was cut off by coils tightening around him and he was quick to add to his statement. "...and I'm sure I can make the adjustments real quick. Doc, why don't you and your brothers get that there gun from the basement...?"
"Good man." Jake said as he released the rabbit, Doc and the other boys rushing down to the basement to get the item in question. And when it was brought up, it was like love at first sight for the snake. He certainly knew from this second on that he was leaving town with more than a soul this time. It didn't take long for the doctor to make a few new adjustments to the weapon so it'll be able to firmly attach itself to the end of the snake's tail, his work sped up from the frightening presence of the giant reptile. His eldest son, meanwhile, was cautiously cleaning the rattler's injuries, at times trembling under the serpent's gaze.
"All done, sir... I can't say for sure if it'll work, though." the doctor muttered as the snake shifted over to the gun.
"Then we better hope it does, for your sake." Jake threatened as he pressed his cleaned tail into the base of the gun, wincing as he felt metal prongs sink into his flesh. Lifting the tail, gun now firmly attached, he gave it an experimental shake. It made a sound very similar to the familiar rattle he was used to; sure it was a bit off, but it was close enough to be satisfactory in that department. In fact, he found that unlike a natural rattle, he can control each segment, rotating each with a series of clicks.
"There's ammunition in there already." Doc muttered shakily, hoping that being helpful to the snake might reduce their chances of being killed next time he came around. "And I hear that for a few pints, the next town can give ya more." Rattlesnake Jake smirked, knowing what the kid was trying to do and he'll give him credit for that. Unfortunately, that plan was to be ruined as there was a question haunting the elder doctor's mind that he couldn't help but ask, in good-nature, of course.
"Mr. Rattlesnake Jake... You're scared of hawks, ain't ya?"
In an instant, the old doctor was in an especially tight coil that was only growing tighter with each breath the rabbit took. The snake glared hatred into the lagomorph's eyes; how dare this pathetic creature even dared to bring that topic up! "Mind askin' that question again? I don't think I heard you right!" he hissed, his new tail accessory clicking threateningly. The old doctor knew he made a mistake; he didn't mean it to be taken so harshly as he was only curious. Gulping and struggling to breathe, he choked out his words with much strain.
"I...I was just sayin'...y-you sure showed that bird who's boss..." he covered, hoping that'll cool the reptile's anger. It seemed to have worked as the snake released him and even smiled a bit.
"Nice recovery, I must say." he started, looking over his shining 'rattle' casually and with great fondness as he did so. "Unfortunately..." Now the air was getting even more threatening as the snake narrowed his eyes and sneered. "That was a lie. And just so you know, ol' Rattlesnake Jake here doesn't take too kindly to liars. Tell me..." He cocked his weapon expertly and finished his sentence, aiming right at the doctor. "Do you fear death?"
Before anyone could even react, he tested out his new firearm by emptying a few quick rounds into the doctor, grinning as the old man fell dead to the floor and the sons jumped a clear two feet in the air before rushing to their father and trying to revive him in vain. Having taken a soul, Jake was fully satiated with his visit and it showed when he blew the smoke rising from the gun's muzzle, speaking quite cheerfully.
"Well, whaddya know. It does work after all."
I couldn't resist! This was haunting my mind ever since I watched the movie for the first time! Rattlesnake Jake needed a story all to himself, so I wrote this! I hope you all liked this little one-shot!