The wind was cold at that early hour. The streets were empty and a heavy silence could be heard for miles around. There was not a soul in sight, no one to ask for directions, no map in the pocket. The night was still queen and the sun was still a few hours away.
John was lost!
After a moment of total disorientation, he firmly closed his eyes and put his hands on his ears trying to stop all the voices and all the images in his mind. Trying to push all the confusion out and trying to stick the calm silence in. He absolutely had to start thinking straight.
He took a large deep breath and held it for a few seconds, exhaling slowly while focusing on his heartbeat. His heart was like a wild black stallion running in the prairies of the Old West. Spirit of the Cimarron, he tenderly called it. He held to that image again, like he had done some times before. Everything was strangely familiar: the buildings in front of him, the empty 24-7 at the end of the street, the furiously running horse in his chest and the total unawareness of himself. He had succeeded before, he would succeed again. It was a matter of life or death…
Keeping his eyes closed and breathing as calmly as he could, he started whispering to Cimarron while trying to remember something, anything. A clue, a starting point, a first step. The small well in the middle of the desert from where he could start walking towards salvation.
His name was John. He started from there, and the voices did too.
John. Little John. Little Johnie. He had been Little Johnie ever since he was little. The smallest of the group. The quiet, calm one. The weakest, the last in a race, the one beaten in a fight. The protected one, because he was cherished by his friends.
He might be weak, but he was smart and had a strong will: he would never quit anything.
He always knew that, someday, he would no longer be Little. And when the time came, he took his opportunity…
The images slowly rearranged into that turning day. Someone was calling him, a couple of boys running and laughing and saying “Come on, John, you can do it”. He looked down at his hands (keeping his eyes closed) and saw a huge hammer. He looked up and saw the bell on top of the pole, with a metric scale going from the ground to the three meters high. Oh, that was it! He had to punch the platform under his feet and send the heavy red ball against the yellow shining bell. “Come on, John, hit it hard!” Wild Cimarron heard the spell and refrained a bit, now running in circles but still not letting him get near.
He concentrated on the hammer. If he could ring the bell, he would be a hero. He would be safe. But he had to make it quick.
He was shivering with cold. No wonder, because he was in his pyjamas and had one sock on one foot and a pink slipper, 4 sizes down his, on the other, and the whipping wind was slapping him without mercy.
He held his hammer above his head. Cimarron was staring at him, waiting, not knowing whether to stay or to run again. And with a final breath and raging scream he threw the hammer down with a strength he didn’t know he had. His fate was to be decided.
He almost missed the crystal sound of the bell, because his friends started to scream along with all the strangers around them. He had it! After everyone else failing, he was the first one to do it.
“Sledgehammer! Sledgehammer! Sledgehammer!”, they shouted, and that came to be his war name, his cognomen. His mother was the only one that still called him John, but he was Sledge for everyone else. Sledgehammer, Slegde or simply Slee.
Cimarron was waiting. Slee knew he wouldn’t run again, and started to walk towards the big stallion, smiling at those big dark inscrutable eyes. When he got to the horse, he raised both his arms and gently touched the big warm animal.
He was no longer lost.
He was Slee.
Slee P. Walker.
He turned around, went upstairs and got back in bed.
Vitor Hugo Vergilio