As Shane began to fall, a second gunshot pierces his chest puncturing his lung; a third creates a valley on his left cheek. And the fourth, well Guillermo decides to save that one for his opponents head.
“I’m dying!” Shane thought. “I’m really dying! But Shane Saunders doesn’t die — I am a reaper, a taker of souls and lives this was my curse for all eternity and no mere man can take that away from — “. As Guillermo fires that last shot and the bullet begins to race towards Shane’s leathered and weary face things just — stop.
An elegantly dressed woman carrying a parasol weaves her way through the crowd of frozen shop keepers, banditos and horses occupying the late evening air looming over the town of Peyton, TX. Shane could feel her approach more than see her. He could however see her in his head or maybe it was that he was just plain dying and his vision was waning. No — no he felt her.
She was the only thing moving here. The hem of her dress barely disturbed the dirt road where she walked but she wasn’t just walking; she was almost bounding towards him. “That woman is so familiar” Shane thought. “Why do I know…?”
“You know me because we were here before Shane. You and I were in this town so long ago now.” She whispered.”I am saddened you don’t remember.” Then like a flood it all came back to him. It came so hard and fast it made his body convulse. Blood and vomit trickled out of his quivering mouth and onto the parched road.
Shane Saunders was the son of a wealthy American rancher who made his home in the heart Mexico. One of Shane’s passions was horses and his father had nearly 100. Many of them were used by the crew when herding cattle to take across the border for sale. But, there were five very special horses in a small corral a quarter mile from the big house. These horses could not be touched by anyone but Shane.
Estrella was one of the horses in the small makeshift corral. She was bold, independent and completely out of control but he loved her. When he was alone he sometimes thought he could feel her breathing or hear her heart beating within his own chest but that was crazy. One night the connection was unbearable. He had to be near Estrella. Shane needed to touch her. If he didn’t he felt he would go out of his mind. When Shane reached the corral she was waiting for him. Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight and she appeared to say “Let’s go it’s our time now. Run with me”.
Without hesitation, Shane jumped on her bare back and the horse began to run. She moved faster than any horse Shane had ever ridden. Their movements and breathing were synchronized. As their synchronized hearts began to race, connections began to form. They became as one being riding faster into the night. Far away from his father’s ranch and everything he knew.
Like a flash the images began to appear before his eyes.
As a young orphaned child, Estrella was approached by a man that gave her food, a home and bequeathed her his abilities as a reaper. Estrella took to her new powers quickly and soon she and she alone controlled the outcome of every drunken gun fight, bar brawl, heated testosterone filled shoving match or birth that occurred in Peyton. But, she grew ill from her calling. With each death, she would wretch violently. More and more violently with each passing day, week, month —
Estrella longed for the freedom that was once hers; the freedom taken away from her by “that man”. Her longing turned into a craving so deep she could taste it. The taste was so overwhelming she couldn’t focus. It was infuriating. No, no it wasn’t. It was delicious.
The taste of it turned into fleeting glimpses of something out of the corner of her eye. Soon Estrella’s desire for freedom took form. It took the form of a horse running free and wild. She was no longer a reaper but a horse. A spirited, bold, bounding horse with a great secret.
Unfortunately, there must be a reaper and Shane’s love proved to be the perfect vehicle for this transformation.
By the time Estrella stopped running, the images were no longer bouncing around in Shane’s head. He knew what he was now and what he will be — forever. Estrella was no longer a horse but the woman she would have been; free, graceful and elegant.
They walked together into Peyton’s only saloon feeling wasted and weary. Their hearts and breathing still moving in unison. They didn’t speak but quietly held hands as the noise of the place enveloped them and they disappeared into the chaos. After a moment, Estrella stood up, turned and simply walked through the swinging doors. Shane walked up to the bar and quickly had two shots of the worst thing he’d ever tasted. He then turned and walked through the same swinging doors that Estrella walked and began a period of death and destruction like no one had ever seen. He cut a path north through Texas influencing the outcome of events that were already decided by “others”. Gunfights that had no winners, towns that were enveloped by flood and children left orphaned and alone just because he could.
Shane never “settled” into his role as reaper as so many others had done before him. The fiery emotions that left Estrella unsettled in her role and desiring to break free left Shane craving for more. He wanted more death, more disease, and more destruction to fill the life ripped away from him so abruptly.
Something was calling to Shane begging him to return to something? What? Where? Ahh yes, Peyton, Texas — where it all began.
When he got off the stage in Peyton a group of men caught his eye. They were staring at him, looking at him as if they knew him. Their heads turned to follow his progress. Shane stopped and looked the leader in the eyes and hissed “you don’t want to know me.”
As the stage pulled off, it crossed between Shane and the group of men cutting off his line of sight. When he could see again it was too late, their guns were drawn and they were on top of him in a flash. That is when the leader of the group Guillermo fired his revolver. The bullet struck Shane in the knee, rupturing it and caused him to begin to fall —
As Shane lay on the hot, dry earth bleeding, Estrella walked over to him and caressed his tired and now beaten head. “This must end my dear, I am so sorry. I brought you back to this place to stop the destruction. Death is a normal part of life but you have perverted your role. This is not as it should be. I brought you here to give you some peace. I did this to you because I wanted my freedom with no concern for yours. It is too late for you to return to your life but I can allow you to pass to the next unhindered.” Shane smiled for the first time in a very long time. He thought about the time on his father’s ranch and how much he loved his horses and Estrella.
Estrella kissed Shane and he closed his eyes slowly. As the world began to revolve once more, he felt so peaceful so very peaceful at last.
“There must always be a reaper,” Estrella thought as she walked through the saloon doors.