The oppressive heat of the high noon sun beats against her back. A drop of sweat slowly traces a path down her neck, smearing the dirt and dried blood on her skin and catching on the smoothness of her leather vest. Her body’s discomfort at having been riding for so long makes itself known; her muscles burn and her eyes itch. She keeps them forward regardless.
After days, months, years of relentless searching she finally has her target in sight. She squints against the sun’s light, the relatively wide brim of her hat providing a semblance of shade. Fortunately for her and unfortunately for the white man, crusading through the hot, danger-ridden desert has made an infallible marksman out of her. She could make her shot with her eyes closed.
She makes Blaze slow her galloping the closer they get to the saloon. Even from this distance, she can tell the wooden siding of the structure is rotting. Upon reaching the striped swinging doors that welcome her inside, she dismounts her horse, caresses her white coat and doesn’t bother to attach the rein to a nearby wooden pole. Blaze knows not to move.
Once inside, her eyes land on the silver six-pointed star glinting on her prey’s chest and she beelines for it. She halts as her focus is interrupted by a hand on her forearm. She yanks it out of the person’s grip and turns to face them in one swift movement. The whore is wearing nothing more than a leather vest and chaps, no cotton shirt or trousers underneath, leaving very little to the imagination. Mae scowls at him as he drawls, “Evenin’ there, miss, lookin’ for some comp’ny?”
She doesn’t spare him a second glance as she sidles past him without saying a word, and by the time she’s several steps ahead and glances at him out of the corner of her eye, she sees he’s already moved on to seducing the next person.
She scans the swaying crowd, trying to locate her prey once again. Lively music fills the saloon bar and there is a surprising amount of people drinking and toasting and dancing, considering the time of day.
Among them, she catches a glimpse of him again. He’s making his way toward the exit and Mae doesn’t think he’s spotted her yet, but right as he reaches the swinging doors, he turns and smirks right at her for a moment, before throwing the doors open with both hands and sauntering outside.
He turns again, before the doors close behind him, to make sure she got the message. He even has the sand to smile at her and beckon her forward.
She gives him a deadly smile back and follows.
When she was twenty-six, the white men attacked her village.
They came at night; that’s why they caught them off-guard. They wouldn’t have stood a chance in broad daylight.
Her uncle had been a cowboy. Mae only ever knew him as the person in charge of keeping up the ranch and herding the cattle, but he had been a legendary gunslinger back in his day. He taught her everything she knew.
But not even his quick draw was enough to save them that night and Mae had been forced to watch him die right in front of her.
All she knew during those dark hours was chaos and confusion, but as dawn broke, things became clearer. She saw her friends and family lying on the ground and raged until her throat hurt from screaming.
The only thing that got Mae through her devastation was her thirst for answers. She tirelessly searched for information, for something that would give reason to the unspeakable violence she had witnessed. In the end, her suspicions had been proven right; the white men had wanted their land. It’s what had made the most sense to her; her tribe had the best damn ranch in the entire Midwest if she did say so herself. But the white men had been after something else that night too. Glory. They wanted victory against people who were too different from them. They decided that having dark skin and speaking a foreign language was enough of a crime to warrant eradication. Mae learned, eventually, that the attack on her tribe hadn’t been the first and it was far from the last.
That’s when she started tracking them down. The group of men who took everything from her. Most of them stayed together and went on to destroy other tribes, so they were easy to hunt down. It turned out to be very convenient for Mae that they all traveled together.
But there was one white man she hadn’t seen since the raid. He was never among the others and it began to consume her every thought. It became an obsession; to find the blue-eyed killer. She spent years searching the desert, asking deceitful people for information, resorting to unconventional methods of tracking, until one day, she got her answer. The white man had fallen out with his company and spent a few years as a saddle bum until eventually settling down as the new sheriff of a town called Deadwood. Finally, she had a direction to go toward.
One by one, Mae had killed the white men that attacked them that night, and after what felt like a lifetime, she had managed to put them all underground. All except for one. She saved the sheriff for last.
It was his bullet that pierced her brain, after all. She’s spent ten years looking to return the favor.
In five long strides, she’s out the door and walking towards him through the middle of the open town square.
He comes to a stop, takes off his hat and points it in her direction in mock greeting, before cradling it against his chest.
Quicker than lightning, she draws her pistol and aims. The man’s eyes go wide.
The shot rings out throughout the square.
The white man falls dead at her feet.
She approaches him slowly, reaches for his fallen hat and places it gently atop her own head. It’s not her first spoil of war, but she thinks it’ll be her last. She turns around, not needing to look at his corpse to know the bullet hit his side, puncturing his liver. Years of searching the world for him, and his life ended in the blink of an eye. It hardly seems fair.
She walks away from him, feeling like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders now that a grievous wrong has been righted.
Around them, some of Deadwood’s inhabitants have gathered, looking stonily at her. She doesn’t think they much appreciate her having killed their sheriff.
Steadily, she goes to retrieve Blaze from the spot where she left her. She smoothly mounts her saddle, and the townspeople gape at her with open hostility and distrust.
A young blond boy, no more than sixteen, raises one frail arm and shoots at her with his engraved pistol. The bullet goes right through her stomach and she smiles, unscathed.
The boy’s eyes look like they’re about to fall out of his head. His eyes are blue. Mae holds them for a few more seconds and then turns to regard the rest of the crowd. Some are confused and some are angry but most look like they’ve just seen a ghost. The corner of her mouth ticks up. “What? Y’all ain’t ever seen a dead Native American frontierswoman through these parts before?” she calls out.
The petrified look that blooms on their faces makes her chuckle softly.
Mae addresses her horse gently, “Let’s get out of here, girl.”
The crowd parts for her as she clucks and steers Blaze forward, leaving Deadwood behind. The brim of the dead man’s hat is wider than hers had been, finally shielding her from the sun’s glare completely. Mae exhales the breath she’s been holding in since the day she died.
She rides off into the sun, never once looking back, flickering like a mirage until she’s so far away from everything she disappears.