Disclaimer: Probably not necessary, but here it goes anyway. I am not receiving any profit from this one-shot, nor do I claim any rights on the movie. I do not own Colonel Tavington or The General, but any other characters in this particular story come from my own imagination.
He walks alone.
The dust, kicked up by the heavy heels of his boots, is swept up into his mouth, his nostrils, his lungs. He is used to such dryness and does not cough – there is no need. These new particles are simply building upon the adobe castles already constructed inside his body, layers upon layers assembling with the passage of time.
Around him, the town burns.
The people have all been captured, are all being transported, will all be delivered to justice for their rebellion. The buildings are nothing now; mere charred skeletons of the community they once comprised, rubble in the grand landscape of destruction.
Only the church has been spared (this time); courtesy of deliberate instructions from The General.
The structure is small and neat. There is only an old beggar man sitting outside, spared from the others' fate by his utter uselessness. The sun has crossed the zenith and is now descending, conscious of its waning light. It is the time of day when churches are abandoned; forgotten until the next moment when morality is remembered and guilty souls request salvation. The old man holds out his tin plate for alms, his thin, vein-riddled arms grotesque in the afternoon light. The Colonel walks by the man's shadow without a glance.
The old man looks after him, leaning over to watch him enter the building, alone.
The air inside the church is clean and stale. The wooden floor cries quietly as he walks, but he pays no mind. His eyes see nothing but a bald tree, floating above the altar. Fastened to its branches sleeps a familiar man, he thinks, a man he hasn't seen in some time.
He stops walking and lowers himself onto one knee.
He kneels on the creaking floor and a banner of light shines across his eyes, entering from the small arched window behind the altar. He opens his eyes for a moment, staring out at the light, and moves his head lower; shadow covering his face like a tide over thirsty sand.
The Colonel remains on his knees, his lips chanting a low, monotonous song; the words muted beneath his breath. His lips move fluidly, knowingly across the words. His mouth betrays the quietness of his face.
A piece of ash floats in from the door. His breath makes it dance for his lips.
He stops his chant and opens his eyes. Blue meets white as he raises his head once more to be blinded by the window's light. He stands, his eyes meeting those of the man resting in the tree. His hands move mechanically, first up, then down, then left, then right, mimicking the invisible tree across his skin.
He walks to the open doors of the church and looks out for a moment. The beggar man holds out his plate once again, myopic eyes pleading for a moment's consideration. The words come out mumbled and gnarled from underneath his knotted beard.
The Colonel turns to look at a spot of dried blood on his jacket shoulder. He scratches the blood off, as if it were a bit of old paint, and turns his head slowly to look at the haggard man. He considers him, and reaches deep into his pocket. His hand retreats, clenched, and the beggar man's eyes follow his movements, hopeful. He drops the coin into the plate, straightens himself and walks towards his horse. He mounts, glances at the church for one last, molasses moment and rides off.
The old man's grin is distorted by his twisted lips, but present. He scrambles to look at the coin the man has tossed into his plate. The old man swore it had felt heavy as it landed, and his bones tremble, thrilled. He searches, finds the coin, and picks it up in his murky hands. He leans closer to look at it and his eyes narrow.
He knocks it against the stairs and cries at the hollow, wooden sound.