I've got a real jealous envy for those who feel secure enough to have no need to own firearms, and far more so for those who can't possibly imagine why someone would want one.

Secure enough to believe that, out of all the Bad things that can happen to a person, or a person's family, that they could never encounter anyThing that would make them wish they were armed.

But if you've ever been Out, Out on a freezing night even the Moon has absented, a night with no light at all from above the clouds, one of those nights where the air hangs still and every sound you make seems to travel for miles, one of those nights where some sounds don't travel at all, where maybe you hear someThings that make you think, or wish, that you didn't actually hear them, then maybe you're familiar with the cold reassurance of blue steel and walnut grips, as I am. The kind of weight on your hip that can keep even the cold, sinking weight in your gut off your mind for awhile.

If this is a feeling that entirely alien to you, or perhaps already disturbing, then I must tell you that the story I am about to tell is not for you. If you have not been exposed at all to the real dark of the Night before, if you have not felt, yes felt the touch of the Night, or seen that which does not step into the light, or if what I speak of confuses you, or is not immediately familiar, then you must understand that you can hear no more of this story. For know that as my story is told, you are not the only one listening, and those who also listen will know what you have heard. Should you even hear of things you are not previously prepared to know of, understand that you will be inviting into your life that which you can not hope to be ready for.

Man was not meant to see many things in this Universe, and what I describe in this story, you may wish to forget.
Know that I am not able to.
There will be no further warnings.

The story begins with brick alley walls blazing alive with a burning orange-blue glow, the product of the still flame of my Zippo casting a lonely light into the piercing darkness which envelops me. I light my Kamel calmly.

Cigarettes aren't like other drugs. They don't intoxicate you, don't impair your judgment. A cigarette smoker on a night like this is Out for business. Not pleasure.

Business. The thick blue smoke of business helps keep the Scavengers away. It's important to know how to keep the Bad kind of attention away when you're Out. Cigarette smoke keeps the Scavengers away. If they don't see the shotgun.

The shotgun is hanging from my hip. Two shells loaded into it. Shells and slugs strapped to the sides of it. It's hanging from my hip as I walk through this alley smoking my Kamel. That's where I prefer the shotgun to be at all times. Hanging from my hip.

That shotgun has been hanging from my hip every night I've been Out for the past eight years. And I've had it with me on every night I've Returned.

The shotgun helps keep the Scavengers away too.

If they don't see the revolver.

Two guns. Haven't had the need for more. Always with me. Long arm and side arm. Ammo for both is common.

Ammo for both is high-caliber. And inexpensive. Conservation is not a priority.

My cigarette is getting short. I take a final drag from it and toss it behind me.

I touch the gold cross hanging from my neck.

And that's when I start to hear the voices.

And footsteps.

Off in the distance now.

Growing closer.

I pull my zippo back out and click it open.

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