The mayor’d lost his sense of jolly. The fat feller’s children growin in his gut were no longer hoppin along to some soundless tune, but were instead jumpin to either side and slammin down in unison with each fat foot the bastard took. Course, it probably looked worse on accounta myself limpin my way behind him.
“Hey, Tiny…” I called to one a’the fellers haulin me, his arms larger than my head. “Ah could use a drop to parch my throat ya know? Been havin a rough day and ah wouldn’a want ta pass out on ya or nothing now.”
The big guy looked down on me. Sorry, forgot to mention that aside from bulging arms, he was a fair head above me in height too. “Raek.” He said, and when I just stared up dumbfounded he continued on. “My name idiot. Not Tiny, Raek.”
“Shit, you stopped my heart for a minute there. Ah done thought you said something else, and ah was startin to fear ah’d ever sit right again from the look of ya.”
“No, we have big burly mule for that. It would be improper for one of us to do such an act upon another.”
I chuckle a bit, my side and such still aching something terrible under it. “Well ain’t you a funny one, Raek? Ah wouldn’a pegged ya for a jester.”
“He speaks truth.” Came the voice on my other side, a smaller man, dark haired and unshaven, spoke. “We are enlightened, and to do such a thing would be an atrocity in our God’s eyes. We leave such doings to the will of him on high.”
“By throwin me in a room with God’s Ass?”
I start chuckling but get a meaty fist stuffed hard in my gut. I fall to the ground, backwards and out of my carriers arms.
“What’s that I hear goin on? Huh, what are you two doin? Thought I said keep him unharmed?” The mayor was in the bigger one’s face.
“It weren’t me,” came Raek’s low voice. “It were Timison.”
“Well? What’s this about then, Timison?”
“This insolent maggot was chastising the name of our Lord. He needed a lesson so I done shown him a good one.”
“Idiot! He has the eyes of a demon, and probably the tongue of a snake. His words are poison just the same as everything it touches. Don’t defile yourself by such actions against it. Let it play it’s duty out, then you may have your revenge upon his words.”
“No! Buffoon, you will follow my words, as they are the word’s of your Lord. Of all of us, our Lord and savior. I alone have been deemed just to carry the burden of his teachings, so you will silence your own tongue before you end up with the same hurt gut this one currently suffers from. Understand?”
Timison’s eyes went wide, and he simply bobbed his head up and down.
“Good. Now, to avoid any future unpleasantries from this one, tie him up good. And put a gag in his mouth. We’ll drag him back to town the rest of the way.”
Townspeople always seem to carry rope. Usually for hangins, but this time they just put the thing around my waist, and put someone’s used handkerchief around my mouth. Raek took the other end of the rope and pulled me the rest of the way back into town all by his giant self.
* * *
Did I ever tell you bout the time there was this fat mayor, his whole town of sycophantic followers, a map to a long forgotten treasure, and the hapless cowboy that done got roped into helping em find that treasure on accounta just tryin to do the neighborly thing and earn a sack of gold. No? Maybe? Eh, what’s it bother to tell ya again right? I mean, it’s not like you got anything better to do with your day right?
So anyway, my name’s Abacus Jones. Some time ago I happened upon bein soulless. A soulless cowboy. I chose to ride around and kill, capture, maim, and even sometimes sell the more undesirable creatures that inhabited this world. Werewolves, ghosts, demons, hell, I was a jack of all trades when it came to dealin with this sort of thing. But the one thing I never really got a handle on, was regular folks. The one’s that I always thought I was out to help for one reason or another. Yep, them’s the one’s that I could never get a handle on.
Werewolves? Hell, they went for you in their animal form, so you’d know exactly what to do with that. Either run or shoot. You’d never stand there in a staring contest with the thing wonderin what it’s intentions truly were. Nope, it’d bare it’s fangs, and try and rip out your throat. That’s the way it should be.
Vampire? Pretty much the same thing.
Mummies…Shit, can’t really say I know what a mummy does, but they’re creepy as all hell so again I say you either run or shoot…or set fire to it. But who ever has time to strike up a fire when a mummy’s chasing you. Alright, I suppose you could riddle it with some loose rounds, keep it at bay while you strike up a fire to get it with. But in the moment one don’t think so much on things.
Slooth demons. Those piggish things are fast and strong, so runnin ain’t much an option. Neither is fire. The thing just comes for you, and then you shoot.
Do you see a pattern here?
This is why folks is so damned confusin. What d’you do with em? Shoot first? Nope, then it’s the hangman’s noose for ya. No, all you can do with a man is wait for him to try and stab you in the back, and just hope you’re quick enough to get out with your life. You know, it’s kinda funny now that I’m thinking about all of this. How much I know on the subject and still end up getting screwed the wrong way so much. Just funny I guess.
From the look of me I’d been dragged all the way back to town. Torn up clothes, dirtier than a mud lovin pig, and missin my hat. Also from the look of things I’d passed out along the way. Cuz I wasn’t rememberin getting put up in a cot in a jail cell.
I rattle the bars, tryn’a see how old they was on accounta the place lookin dustier than a jail should. This one didn’a look like it had been used in some time. But damn my dirty luck, the bars was still as solid as the day they was enforced into this place.
Alright then, way in is blocked, what next? Floor’s got dirt everywhere, probably been blowin in since who knows when and ain’t no one ever come in to sweep. The cot’s still there, lookin like it’s unused self, but still dirty for something mostly new. And then the bucket, at least they remembered it. And yep, I called it, as soon as I peered in, I saw it was a new bucket. Well, not for long, seemed that night a’fore I set into the hills was finally catchin up to me. I did my business and then sat on that cot for near an hour watchin the light through the window bars go from my feet to just in front of the bucket when the jail door flies open and in jumps his royal shit belly, the fat mayor.
“I assume you are enjoyin your comforts, Mista Jones?”
“…” It’s my favorite response to his overly gestured questions.
“Oh, I can tell you’ve used the bucket now. That was Raek’s idea. You be good now and thank him next you see him boy. Not a nother one of us even thought you’d need such a thing. But sure enough, boy, did you ever need it.”
“Now don’t go blamin me for such a smell, from the look of this place you wouldn’a even known what it smelled like before ah done my business.”
“No, I suppose you make a point, Mista Jones. We in fact have never had a use for this here jail. But it just didn’t seem right to not have one. Our people don’t even need a sherrif you see. We are all of us enlightened. But I don’t expect something like you to understand what that could be like.”
“Even if you did, it wouldn’t happen.”
“Well, that’s enough of that talk I think. I didn’a mean to get you all riled up like that now. I just wanted to visit and make sure that you were taken care of.”
“This ain’t exactly all hospitable or nothing you know. It’s a jail. Now the saloon on the other hand…”
“Now now Mista Jones. I believe we’ve already extended the extent of our town’s appreciation for your assistance.”
“Ah could use a might bit more.”
“Tsk demon. Such a bein as you is never satisfied. You bring chaos where there is peace. You bring fear in love. It is only by the guiding words of our God that you still live. That you have been spared your obvious end to lead us onward to our great future.”
“You don’t even know what the hand will do. No one does. For all you know the thing could fry off the faces of everyone lookin on it.”
“Then perhaps I should consider your offer to test it first then. I declare that’s a damned good idea actually. Work out the bugs or so they say.”
“Glad I can be of some help. Now can I at least go have a drink?”
“No, no Mista Jones. You’ll be staying here tonight. Now get some rest, your journey begins tomorrow bright and early.”
And wouldn’t you know it, that sly shit just started a mozyin on out the door to leave me here til morning.
“Hey dammit! What about some food? Ah still get hungry you know. Can’t have me leadin you anywhere if’n ah ain’t got energy.”
“Ho ho Jones, that’s what the bucket’s for. Ta”
And with that the door shut, and all I had in my ears was the shuffling of feet shiftin away. It was gonna be a long night. Once it actually got here that is.
* * *
When I come to again, I was alone. The stink of myself was my only companion for a spell, and I supposed for the moment that I much appreciated it to them townspeople, they’d really started to give me the Willy’s. Specially now that they’re affections had gone dry.
The sun had just faded. I could see the pale pinks and purples against the adobe wall to my right. It was a tattered thing, barely put up straight. Stripes of coupled bits and scrapes and such along with the outside hues made it all look like a giant portrait of what I wasn’t actually wantin to see at the moment. I was dog tired, and I reckoned I hadn’t really slept much yet, probably just gettin up because I didn’a know any better.
But now I was up. For the night. For the long, quiet…lonely… …what in the hell is that sound?
The jumbled sound of a hundred people or more came to my ears all at once. The purple hue from the sun was all that was left on the wall, but that went away quick, burned up by the many torches gathering outside my window. Seemed I had gotten myself in a barrel, and at the moment there weren’t no way out. All I could do was listen.
“Burn the demon!”
“String em up by iz filthy neck!”
“Yeah, ring him out to dry!”
“Bleed em, cut his feets off and let it drip dry!”
I was startin to get nervous. Usually folks just want ta sit me on a mule and ride me out of town without provisions, maybe a quick hangin to watch me flop around and fake death, but this, these folks was out for my blood. In fact I ain’t never heard anyone push for cutting my feet off ta bleed me. That’s just mean. But I didn’a have to worry long, them people’s voices quickly died down as his Royal Fatness pushed his way to the front of the mob and told em to listen.
“My dear sweet people, what praytel is this hubbub all about now?”
“The demon eyes!” Shouted one.
“He’s a vile creature, and should die!” Folks cheered and then quieted down after a bit.
“I say now, people, we are saved. This behavior is not becoming of people of our ilk. You must desist this rabble rousing.”
“But he’s a demon!”
“Aye, that he is. Or part of him anyway. But please be patient my friends, my neighbors. Have I led you astray yet? Of course not, for I alone was blessed with the words of our savior, so that I might be one for all of you. But this will not do for people such as us. And this…demon, he is still necessary. But fret not good people, he will no longer be among you come morning. For we are leaving to find our great treasure, so that all of our dreams might come true. So go on now, back to your homes, your chil…your wives, and sleep well, for soon we will return to reward you for your good merits.”
There was some grumbling, but eventually all the light faded from my cell wall. The crowd was gone, leavin me alone again, to sit and stare at the wall.
* * *
I heard a coyote wailin in the night once the light had gone from my cell. Thing was close too. Like really close. Right outside the damned window close. I propped myself up best I could, but couldn’t get my whole head up in there so I couldn’a see nothing below, but for whatever reason, it got me to thinking bout revenge.
Can’t say for certain why I thought it just then and not before, but just as clear as it was there in my head, so was a plan to make it happen.
I reached in my back pocket, oddly enough not searched by the Mayor or his men, and pull out the Guild that had stuck in my leg. These things was ancient relics really, as far as bullets went. The melted down remains of old single-shot rifle pellets, the ones that done killed a’someone or another. But these pellets, they killed more than one man. And to the ones that done the killin with em, it was God’s work they was doin.
From what I got told, it seemed there were a handful of folks in that Revolution of ours that decided on goin rogue. They called emselves The Guild. They had uniforms for each side of the conflict, and they’d travel around, the twelve of em or so, half of em wearin blue, while the other half wearing those spiffy red coats, and they’d blow away anyone they’d come in contact with. Anyone in the war that is.
They said they was God’s chosen men here to end the war. But with the limitations of them old boom sticks, and them boys bein all rogue and without supplies, they had to make the most of their ammo. Seemed when they’d kill a group or so they’d have to go and extract what they done killed a feller with, along with whatever they could steal and carry from him. They’d pull out their knives and carve up the men until they found the bits of their ammo, and pray for the man they was cutting into while doin it. So, anyway, a handful of them fellas survived that conflict and then went into hidin after it was all over. They said they done their job at shuttin the war down. Said they were goin to become priests off somewhere or another, and vowed they’d never kill another man again.
But them boys saw the rising darknesses in the world, saw the demons come forth from the ground. Conjurers raising the dead. Half man half beast things walkin around by day and killin at night. So they sent telegrams, met up for a spell, and took their old blessed kill shots out to melt em down. Now, they only done made a few handfulls of Guild bullets from all of them kill shots they had collected over the years. Afterward they carved a forgotten language in em, each of em with a different text on it. Now, I couldn’a tell you what any of em said, as that ain’t the way my eyes work, but I know it’s the kinda thing that stings, and turns a feller like mine’s blood more to acid. It boils black, burning, eating, all the while letting that top layer of skin grow back while the thing spreads and eats you from the inside.
It ain’t a pleasant thought. That codger had a few of em. Who knows how he got a hold of em, and if they’re still buried in that valley wall. My count he fired about four, but I was never good at numbers and such. The way I figure he had a six shooter full of em, and I got one in my hand. Now I’d be all about celebratin this rare find if’n they hadn’t a took my gun away. So now I’m a hired gun who’s lost his fee, his gun, his freedom, and all I’s got left to show for it is some ancient bullet.
Well, when you say it like that, maybe it don’t sound so bad. Guess I’ll just have to save it for later. Cuz in my mind that Fat Mayor was owed this one, and I’ll be damned if’n I don’t find a way to deliver it to him proper. But it looked like that’d have to wait til mornin.
* * *
Morning finally came with the bursting sound of a steamengine.
My eyes shot open, having just realized that they’d actually closed sometime earlier when it was still dark. I could hear the heavy plow of the train settlin into the station nearby. The ground rumbled, and shook a bit until the train finally stopped. Soon as it did though, the jail door opened, and in came the mayor and Raek, and a handful of others. Each of em had a pack, their irons, and a full brim hat, even the mayor who waddled over and opened my door.
“Well, Mista Jones. Are you ready to lead us to our great future?”
I waited for a moment lookin at all the boys behind him, big, brauny, lumberjack lookin folk, and then I figgered I’d offer up an answer. “Can ah get my hat back?”
To be continued…