The gunshot echoed for an eternity, violating the desert's silence and stirring her gods. It had been a long time since they'd heard that noise, but the gods of the desert knew what it meant: it meant death, and no one is more acquainted with death the the gods of the desert.
They appeared as if from nothing, the first god. They circled in perfect unison, the three-as-one, in the sky. Heads withered and red as blood, great horrible wings the of the darkest shadows--as if even the sun itself was afraid to touch their feathers with its scalding rays. This first God of the Desert Skies circled slowly, for time was no object to them.
The second god always arrived next, for he always saw the first gods in the sky, and they showed him the way. He was thin and frail, this god. His ribs were visible through his skin and his fur was brittle and rough from the sun's unending assault. He had a madness in his eye--the one that still worked--that came from only the deepest of hungers. He skittered on his four bony legs, sniffing and cackling to himself about nothing in particular. His ears twitched back and forth, listening to the dim scratching of tiny reptilian claws and insect legs against scalding dirt and rock. This second God of the Desert earth rushed across the hot ground, for he hungered.
Coyote, God of the Desert Earth arrived at the body mere seconds before Vulture, Gods of the Desert Sky landed silently upon it. Both gods stopped and looked at each other. The first Vulture was blind in his left eye, the second had two good eyes, and the third was blind in his right eye. All four of those eyes stared with a terrifying calm into the starved eyes of Coyote as their talons dug into the corpse, as if to claim it.
"Aaagh!" the corpse moaned in pain at the Vulture's grasps.
"Loosen your grip, Sky God," Coyote yelped. "His soul is not yours yet."
"It wasn't." "It isn't." "But it will be," said the Gods of the Desert Sky.
"We both know even your powers don't let you see that."
"What's going on?" the corpse said without moving its mouth. It was an adult man with the tanned face of a ranch hand, and wore jeans, a vest with circuitry running through it, form-fitting body armor, and a black cowboy hat with a blood-soaked bullet hole torn through it.
"You died," Coyote cackled. "In a way we haven't seen for a long time."
"He had a bulletgun. Why did he use bullets?" said the corpse.
"That was." "That is." "That will be an interesting question." "Journey." "Answer," the Vulture said.
"But there's another more important question that we must ask," Coyote hissed.
"Your answer determines whether you come with us," Vulture crooned.
"Or with me," said Coyote.
The spirit of the man moaned. Flies began to emerge from the shadowy wings of Vultures and buzz about the sweltering corpse, already rancid in the desert heat. They sniffed and nibble and babbled at the flesh, in anticipation. His spirit listened and could hear all of the saguaros around him quietly shrieking as their skeletons slowly stretched out as they reached in futility toward the sky.
"What question?" the spirit whispered in pain.
"Not so fast," said the first of the Vultures, who was followed immediately by the third, "first we must know your name."
"Well then, Ganymede, you may know one," said the second Vulture.
"Would you like to know how the world began?" asked the Gods of the Desert Sky. The flies screamed in warning at the spirit, not wishing their fate upon him.
"Or would you like to know how the world ends?" asked the God of the Desert Earth. The cries of the saguaros joined those of the flies.
Ganymede's mind raced, thinking of what he'd been asked, and trying in vain to ignore quiet, deafening screams of the desert. He tried to block it out, thinking one last time of his brothers and father.
"Neither," he said finally.
"What do you mean, neither?" Coyote howled in anger.
"My father always told me that those questions don't matter. All that matters is how to make the world better."
"Interesting," the Vultures said in unison. Their wings flapped in thunderous shadows, and everything went black for Ganymede.