The music never stopped … it kept playing even while he was dying. This time it was Middle Eastern Music characterized by deep chanting and accompanied by the Oud and tabla. Rangle Ditmouth was not the one who fired the guns – he was the one who watched … the one who was blamed for the debacle – found guilty and condemned by a judge who resembled a man from Rangle’s past. The judge sent him on his quixotic journey to find and retrieve the Harlequin-beat Angel. The judge (smoldering with a malevolent energy and violence) controlled the young man. Rangle had always been the helpless pawn, owing his existence and allegiance to other, more powerful people. It no longer mattered – the smothering sand of the Red Desert blotted out Rangle’s meager existence. The names, voices, and images that plagued his mind (images from another reality or dimension) no longer held sway as they quickly melted like burning celluloid. All that remained was an incessant question: did he really discover the Harlequin-beat Angel?
The poison-sand folded over Rangle like a possessive mother devouring her son. Tiny mites and chiggers invaded his body, eating his flesh. A storm suddenly formed with the ferocity of a “haboob”: sand decimating everything in sight. The music stopped. Even the sounds of jittering insects stopped. The sand receded. When Rangle opened his eyes he was blind. He wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead. He was blind, but he still could see as if a sixth sense provided a form of enhanced vision. He rose from the desert-floor like a zombie. Everything changed. He carried the Harlequin-beat Angel inside his body, within his mind. He was possessed. He no longer needed a protective suit or breathing apparatus. The Red Desert flowed within his veins – the poisoned sand created his new flesh. Rangle was as naked as a throbbing infection. He walked back to the Red City. He was impervious to the assaults from guards who were supposed to protect the city from any encroachment from the Red Desert. Every weapon and magic sigil was trained on the approaching apparition to no avail. Rangle floated across the border like a nightmare invading the mind of a helpless child. He was returning to his master, his judge, Ransumm Rotobar. He was returning to deliver the prize, the Harlequin-beat Angel. Ransumm was hungry and he believed the Angel was a source of incredible power and energy. He intended to consume the Angel just as he consumed everything he ever desired. In truth, he didn’t expect Rangle to succeed. It was a fool’s mission to retrieve a treasure that was more than likely a simple myth. Ransumm merely wanted to assert power over his servant. He wanted to humiliate the boy by giving him an impossible task. He was looking forward to a good laugh while casting insults at the young man. He never expected Rangle Ditmouth to be successful, but he’d soon discover he made a terrible miscalculation. (to be continued)