Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride by Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed is making quite a name for himself in the SFF short fiction field. His work has been nominated for the Nebula, the Campbell, and the Haper's Pen awards. And though we'll probably never agree on anything related to politics (if you have friended us both on Facebook, you know!), he appears to be an all-around good guy.

A few weeks back he mentioned that he had a new short story available and that people could read it for free on Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And with a pitch like this, how could anyone not want to check it out!?!: "Black magic desperado ex-preacher vs. superpowered Muslim Man With No Name. Round One, Fight!"

I mean, come on!

To learn more about the author and his work, head on out to his website.

Here's a teaser from "Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride":

“...and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”

—Qu’ran 5:32

The toughest man I ever met? That’s an easy answer to give, but a tricky tale to tell.

Mister Hadj was from the same place as my rattlesnake of a Pa. Araby, or someplace like, though I don’t rightly know the name since neither him nor my Pa ever said a blasted word about the Old Country. You’d ask and ask, and all you’d get back was a look as hard as rocks. No use digging after that.

I’ve ridden with good men and bad men, but I never rode with a man like Mister Hadj. That wasn’t his proper name. Just a way of calling the old man respectful-like. My Pa taught me that, if I ever met a man from the Old Country, to call him ‘Hadj.’ Damn near the only thing that sonuvabitch ever taught me.

Anyhow, a good few years back now, when I was a young, full-of-hisself bounty hunter, I fell in with Mister Hadj in the Black Hills. We rode together about a year. He was a little leather-brown knot of a man with a moonlight-white beard, and he took an immediate and powerful shine to me on account of my Pa’s being from Araby.

Now, understand, I’m a bastard. I carry my momma’s name—O’Connor. But the way I look—little darker than the average man, I know, and you can see the hatchet nose—well, I get taken for a lot of things. South of the border, I’ve fibbed that I was half-Mexican. Lived a summer trading with the Cheyenne, claiming to be part redman. Even got chased outta town once when I winked at the wrong girl—they was sure as could be that I was a mulatto!

It can be hell, sometimes, being different things to different folks. But it can be right useful, too.

Well, Mister Hadj musta smelled the Old Country in my blood, somehow. Like I say, he took a shine to me. And my knowing how to call him respectfully seemed to seal it for him. I can’t say I ever understood it, but Mister Hadj was the kind of man you wanted on your side, so I wasn’t about to complain.

For what it’s worth, I was the last man ever saw him alive.

* * *

You can read the entire short story here.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online magazine dedicated to publishing the best in literary adventure fantasy. They publish two stories per issue, with a new issue every two weeks. So if you are a short fiction fan, be sure to check them out!

6 commentaires:

Larry Nolen said...

He's certainly a talented writer. Loved his story in Clockwork Phoenix 2.

Lookf4r said...

Enjoyed it. I could go for more!

Marian Perera said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I like trying different types of fantasy, so I'm going to check this story out.

amysrevenge said...

This was a really fun story. Thanks for pointing me to it.

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Saladin Ahmed said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, folks -- they mean a lot to a new writer. And big thanks to Pat for the signal boost!