Soulless Cowboy Pit fighter
By: Andrew Thomas Prenger
The screams and cheers all around me made it damned hard ta’ concentrate. One a’ the zombies in the pit with me took advantage of my disorientation ta’ take a giant bite a’ my arm. I yelped in pain which made the crowd above me shout for more. They’d come for blood and were gettin’ their money’s worth.
Far as I could figure I’d been in the pit a little more’n an hour now. During’ that time I’d killed eleven zombies. I was only supposed to fight two, but the organizer, my manager, was a cheatin’, no good, yellow backstabber. I already had a few bites taken outta’ me. For any other person that’d be more of a concern, but thanks ta’ my condition I didn’t have ta’ worry about turnin’ into a flesh eater. Somethin’ my manager was keen ta’ take advantage of. I did have ta’ worry about blood loss, though, which was fast becomin’ a concern a’ mine.
My knuckles ached. I was down ta’ usin’ my bare fists ta’ kill the monsters. I started out with a hammer that broke too quickly. No coincidence there. Usin’ the shaft as a club I managed ta’ pummel two more ta’ death before I had ta’ stab the handle inta’ the eye of one who was about ta’ chew my throat out. Since then I’d had no weapons. Now my hands were broken, swollen up and slowly becomin’ useless.
Grabbin’ the zombie by the head I pulled him offa’ me. He took a fairly large hunk a’ my arm meat with it. While it was chewin’ I managed ta’ gather up enough strength ta’ break its neck. Soon as it slumped to the ground I followed. If they dropped another down I was done for. There was no way I’d be able ta’ fight off more.
My manager musta’ seen it the same since he called the fight to many disappointed groans. Buncha’ bloodthirsty ghouls, worse’n the zombies in some respects. I could understand the appeal of watching a fight, but ta’ have the climax be a weary, defenseless man eaten ta’ death was beyond the pale. I had ta’ wait for some of the townspeople ta’ shoot all the zombie corpses in the head before they would come down
After that it was a trip ta’ the horse vet for me ta’ get the finest medical care.
Three Weeks Later…
Except for my fingers I was mostly healed. Every time I moved them I had some pain. I hadn’t regained full mobility a’ them yet, which was a shame since it stopped me from bein’ able ta’ fiddle with my shackles. Weren’t like I woulda’ been able ta’ do anything if I did get them off. I would still be locked inta’ my compartment on the stage coach.
I found it a bit funny how quickly I’d gone from star attraction ta’ prisoner. Well, I was still the star attraction, just not by my choice.
I’d started fighting ta’ make some scratch. It’d been kinda’ hard for me ta’ get much paying work killing monsters lately. Word was getting around that I brought more problems than I solved. Of course none of it could be proven. No one ever saw first-hand what happened ‘sides me. Except for one a’ the towns I burned down. Plenty a’ witnesses ta’ that one except they were all evil so their word was circumspect.
So I took to fighting ta’ keep some coin in my pocket. I healed quicker than normal men so I was able to fight more often. My problem was thinkin’ people were stupider than they really were. I figured if I kept on the move, something I was inclined to anyway, then no one would twig onto the fact I weren’t exactly normal. I also didn’t count on con men with their sharp eyes for deals.
Enter Jason P. Jenkins. Now I could sense all sorts a’ evil and malfeasance but his sort a’ scum didn’t make itself known ta’ me. I decided I needed a manager to handle my money for me since often I was too punch drunk ta’ remember to collect all my winnings. After a few times seein’ me fight he recognized I could do more so it was him who suggested that people would put up more money if I fought monsters rather than men. That sounded alright ta’ me. I’d been fightin’ evil for years so doin’ it expressly for money didn’t seem like too bad a deal.
A brighter man than me woulda’ seen that Jenkins was only in it for the short cash. He wanted ta’ make as much money as quick as he could. I was a gimmick ta’ be exploited until he could go back ta’ his normal routines, whatever those were. That meant the stakes got higher and higher very quickly. The fights went on for longer, the number of zombies and whatnot increased, the vampires were better fed.
Jenkins didn’t care about me. I was just a tool for him ta’ use. For the past six months I’d been a prisoner. After one particularly brutal fight that took me a long while ta’ heal from I woke up in a small cage Jenkins built inta’ his stage coach. All my belongings were locked away in a trunk. I had nothin’ ta’ my name except a pair a’ pants ta’ cover my shame. The only time I was let outta’ the cage was ta’ piss or fight, those events always supervised under the watchful eye of Jenkins’ golem, Patricus.
Through the barred window I started ta’ see more people which meant we were approaching’ a town. Soon I heard Jenkins’ on top a’ the stage coach announcing’ our arrival, getting the townsfolk excited for his brand of entertainment.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather ’round, gather ’round, we are proud to be given the opportunity to bring action and excitement to your fair town! Inside this stage coach, locked safely away, is one of the finest pugilists on the planet! But not against any normal men! No! He is a creature of the night who has taken it upon himself to kill his own kind!”
The stagecoach stopped. I knew what was expected of me next. Patricus opened the door ta’ my cage. When I stepped inta’ the sun the onlookers gasped as they saw my scarred body.
“Now don’t be scared, folks, he’s a lamb…unless ya got some evil in ya’! He can sense it!”
Patricus kept close ta’ me in case I tried ta’ escape, which was unlikely. Having my legs broken, twice, was enough ta’ learn me.
“Shore looks evil!”
“He’s so vile!”
“God will truly punish him!”
“Look at those black eyes! The devil’s in him!”
I couldn’t quite understand why this happened every time. Everyone looked at me and saw a devil meanwhile no one ever mentioned the seven-foot tall man next ta’ me made out of stone. It was ludicrous that he got a pass while everyone gawked at me.
Patricus was an oddity. From what I knew about golems they were commonly molded outta’ clay. Patricus was made of shale. The marking on his forehead was carved in, not a simple task ta’ wipe it off and revert it to an inanimate state. Back when we were true partners Jenkins told me he’d won it off a rabbi during a game a’ chess in New York City. Jenkins was its master and could order Patricus to do anything within its power. As a warning Jenkins told me that he first ordered Patricus to protect him at all times, at all costs.
That’s why I hadn’t made my move and escaped. Besides bein’ too injured or tired ta’ actually kill Jenkins I knew that Patricus would then crush every bone in my body. I had ta’ remove the golem before I could get my retribution. Until then I would just have to suffer.
The whole situation made me feel like livestock bein’ judged. Mothers pulled their children close to their skirts, fathers hovered protectively around their daughters like I was a dangerous pervert. They shunned me, spit on me, most cursed my very existence. Except tonight a bulk a’ them would be cheerin’ me as I beat some monster ta’ death. Or not. Lookin’ again at the crowd I didn’t like what I saw. They looked mean. Their hate fell outta’ their eyes just as much as their mouths. I got ta’ thinking that I’d be lucky to only fight monsters tonight.
I looked around, past the crowd, checkin’ out the town. It was a decent size, though oddly lackin’ a prominent saloon. The town centered around a pretty intricate church. Much fancier than the plain ones I was used ta’ seeing in this part a’ the country.
I had a feelin’ that perhaps Jenkins’ made a wrong choice by choosin’ ta’ have a fight here. Odds were poor that these folks would let me live even if I won. But…maybe that’s what Jenkins wanted. Have these people take care a’ me while he skipped town.
After a sufficient amount a’ rousing the crowd Jenkins wrapped it up. Patricus herded me back inta’ my cage.
Outta’ the barred window I watched the sun crawl across the sky until it disappeared behind the mountains. Nighttime meant fight time. The door opened and Patricus motioned for me ta’ get out. He unlocked my shackles and lead me to the pit.
It weren’t the fanciest fightin’ pit in the world. I’d been in better. Nothing much more than a hole in the ground with some crappy stands erected around. By tomorrow it would be dismantled and filled in. This town wasn’t up for regular fights. This was a special occasion.
Patricus lead me through the crowd until we got to the edge of the pit where I was dumped unceremoniously inta’ it. My opponent was already there, a scrawny little Mexican with a shaved head and a black eye. Like me he was stripped down to his pants. Suspiciously he had no scars on his body. I got a feeling in the pit a’ my stomach whenever I was around supernatural creatures and he was sending out a pretty bad vibe.
Neither of us moved. I had no idea what was goin’ through his mind, but I was still trying ta’ figure out what he was so I could fight accordingly. He definitely wasn’t human. Strangely, he didn’t seem ta’ be payin’ attention ta’ me at all. He just stood there and gazed at the sky. The feeling in my stomach got worse when I realized what was happening.
The moment a beam a’ moonlight struck him he started ta’ change. I leaped across the pit as fast as I could. I grabbed the Mexican around the throat and started punching him in the face as hard as I could. I felt him growing under my hand. Even while I smashed his face he laughed. As his face changed the laughter turned ta’ barking. It was clear ta’ me then that I’d missed my chance ta’ knock him out before he was fully transformed. His neck was so large I couldn’t keep a hold on it. Fur grew in lightly at first, then coarser, thicker. I heard his bones crack as they broke and reformed. His joints snapped violently inta’ new formations.
I gave up on hittin’ him and started looking for a weapon. Jenkins wasn’t just gonna’ let me get eaten by a werewolf. No sport in that. Hell, even with a weapon it weren’t exactly sporting. Anything he threw me was gonna’ be only for show.
Sure enough what he threw me might as well have been a pointy stick.
A rusty cleaver clattered to me feet. I looked up at Jenkins with all the hate I could muster. His grin was a reflection a’ my hate. He tipped his hat ta’ me as he melted into the crowd. He wasn’t even gonna’ stick around ta’ watch my death, so assured as it was.
I’d fought werewolves before. Killed quite a few if I was allowed a moment ta’ brag. With the right tools they were relatively easy ta’ kill. Silver bullets worked when ya’ could afford them. If not, all you needed ta’ do was trap one then dismember it. I’d gotten one that’d been terrorizing a town for years by just catching it in an old bear trap then hackin’ at it with a cavalry saber. What was important in all those other situations was that I had the freedom ta’ run and hide. In the pit I was trapped and I only had a small weapon compared to the werewolf’s claws.
The werewolf, now fully formed, three times as big as a normal wolf, hunched low ta’ the ground. The space was small enough that it could leap on me no matter where I went. I stood my ground, didn’t move an inch. The werewolf was gettin’ anxious. It started ta’ pace back and forth, waiting for me while I waited for it. I wanted it ta’ make the first move, hoping that I’d make the last.
The crowd grew restless from the lack of action. Well, fuck ’em. My death weren’t gonna’ be a show. The enthusiastic cheers became angry shouts. It was good for Jenkins that he’d already left. If the people didn’t see blood soon they were likely ta’ start shedding some.
Mostly empty bottles rained down in the pit. The explosions of glass startled the werewolf. It snapped at the noises. A braver, or dumber, man would’ve taken advantage of the werewolf’s distraction. I knew better.
I thumbed the edge of the cleaver. Smooth as silk. It weren’t so much a piece of cutlery as it was the world’s oddest shaped hammer. I had the glimmer of a plan forming. One wrong step and I’d be dog food. Really, the chance a’ me walking outta’ the town was slim ta’ none.
I was so focused on the werewolf that I was nearly knocked ta’ the ground when a whiskey bottle hit me in the head. I stumbled forward. The werewolf took the opportunity to rush me. As I saw its huge shape in the air my long and pathetic and mostly forgettable life flashed before my eyes. I didn’t so much dodge ta’ the left as lurched. I had the presence of mind ta’ try ta’ defend myself so I half-assed swung the cleaver at the werewolf’s mouth.
As the cleaver struck I felt the force shake up my arm. The werewolf moved so fast that I lost grip a’ my weapon. I turned around quick as I could. If I was gonna’ die then I was gonna’ face my death rather than let it stab me in the back.
The werewolf wasn’t leapin’ at me. It wasn’t even paying attention to me. I’d misjudged the edge on the cleaver. It hadn’t done much damage, but it seemed ta’ be fairly well lodged inta’ the snout a’ the beast. It whimpered loudly. The sound had a profound effect on the crowd. Screams of abject pain from a creature were much different from the noises two normal fighters made.
A hush fell over the crowd as they all watched the werewolf try ta’ dislodge the blade. I didn’t have the same level a’ compassion. I ran forward and kicked at the cleaver. It was a glancing hit that drove the blade slightly deeper inta’ the werewolf’s face. It had the side-effect a’ refocusing the werewolf’s attention back on me. But at least now there was a weakness I could exploit.
After we circled each other for a couple a minutes the beast leaped at me in an attempt ta’ force the end a’ the fight. Instead of dodging outta’ the way I grabbed for its front legs while also throwing myself backwards. The result was that I flipped the werewolf onto its back. It gasped for air. While it was still winded I rolled over and stood up, still holding onto its forelegs. I started spinnin’ around and around. The crowd grew louder, the cheering from the stands grew to a deafening level. They had no idea what I was planning.
When I felt ready I let go a’ the werewolf. It flew into the air over the ledge of the pit, knocking a few a’ the fellas in the front row down. I couldn’t quite see what was going on, but from the growls and screams I could figure it out. I heard a blood-curdling scream as most of an arm fell to my feet.
The crowd broke and started running. The werewolf jumped over all the empty stands, trying ta’ get a good angle to pounce on its new prey.
Getting myself outta’ the pit was pretty easy now that no one was payin’ attention to me. Once I was there I had no clue as to what to do next. From all over the town I heard screams and growls and gunfire.
I knew what I needed to do. Needed supplies, needed boots. A horse would be nice if I could find one. It was sickening how often I found myself stripped a’ these things. With all the turmoil it’d be easy ta’ break into a store. Except that’d mean taking from someone else’s livelihood. It frustrated me that I didn’t have my money ta’ reimburse the shopkeeper. Though I knew who had my money.
Tracking was never my best skill. Still, anyone with half a brain could follow Jenkins and Patricus. Especially Patricus. Man made a’ rock left some heavy footprints. Following those indentations I was able to figure out which direction their stagecoach left town out of. Finding those two would be easy, sure, but getting my money offa’ those blackguards would be tough.
I assuaged my conscience of breaking inta’ the store by believing the owner was one a’ the people who paid ta’ watch me get murdered by a werewolf. Hell, the guy was probably dead. I found some boots that fit me pretty well. There were no guns in the store, but in the farming tool sections I found a sledgehammer in pretty good condition. That would serve me better against Patricus than any firearm. It looked like it would give me a fighting chances before Patricus crushed my skull like an egg.
I didn’t take too much in case the shop owner wasn’t dead. Besides, I was either gonna’ die or have my own stuff soon enough. No need ta’ foster bad karma by getting greedy.
I slung the sledgehammer over my shoulder and started off in the direction of the coach. I was almost outta’ town when I heard the werewolf growl behind me. When I turned around I saw it was hunched down, ready to pounce. Its muzzle was completely bloody. It had a few wounds on it that were already healing. Calmly I hefted the sledgehammer off my shoulders.
“Do you really want to do this? Right now?”
The werewolf cocked its head to the side. From what I knew they were basically still people inside. They could understand me, it’s just that most a’ the time their bloodlust made them deaf ta’ logic.
“You think you can still take me? Now I ain’t unarmed. I am the one person in this God damned town that actually has a chance a’ killing you. And I promise that even if you do manage to kill me I will make you regret it for the rest a’ your life.”
The werewolf growled once, then turned tail and bounded off inta’ the town. For a moment I debated following it and killing it for the townsfolk. I normally tried ta’ stop stuff like this happening. The thought a’ killing a werewolf then a golem was too much for me. I’d somehow make it up later.
Out in the desert it was easy ta’ see where Jenkins and Patricus went. They hadn’t gotten very far. I could easily see the lamps on the carriage. I set out on foot so as not to attract any attention. Horses weren’t really good for stealth.
Patricus drove while Jenkins was inside the coach, probably already asleep. I got up as close as I dared without them twigging onta’ me. I picked up a few stones from the ground and started sorting them. After discarding a few I had enough a’ the ones I wanted.
I missed twice before I managed ta’ hit Patricus in the side a’ the head. He stopped the coach immediately and started looking around.
“Why’d we stop?” came Jenkins’ groggy voice from the coach.
“Master, someone just hit me in the head with a rock.”
“Your head’s made a’ rock. Big deal. Let’s keep moving. I need my rest. Tomorrow we have to find a new attraction.”
Patricus made to whip the horses when I hit him with another rock. He climbed down from the coach and started walkin’ towards where I used ta’ be. Already I was on the other side a’ the coach. While he was busy searching the scrub grass I sneaked under the coach and unbuckled the straps to the horses’ harnesses. Quietly as I could I walked over ta’ Patricus. Just when it looked like he was fed up with not finding anything I whistled as loud as I could.
Patricus whirled around, faster than you’d expect a man a’ stone ta’ be able to. I was swinging my hammer before it had any chance ta’ make a real decision as ta’ what ta’ do. The impact made it feel like my knuckles were breaking all over again. It did the trick, though. When I dared ta’ open my eyes again I saw that the golem was stock still. There was a pretty deep indent on its forehead where the magical symbol used ta’ be. Which was great for me since it looked like when I stopped him he was swinging for my head. Probably woulda’ knocked my brain clean outta’ my head.
Jenkins finally opened the door ta’ see what all the commotion was about. The second he saw me standing in front a’ the motionless golem he scrambled inta’ the seat a’ the coach and grabbed the reins. He got quite a shock as the horses started running without the coach. With the reins wrapped around his fist he was yanked off the seat. He landed close enough that one a’ the horses kicked him in the face as it trotted off.
After about fifteen feet he finally fell clear of the reins. He was really still when I walked up ta’ him. HIs face was a mess. His nose was so smashed that it looked like his face was trying ta’ take it back and most a’ his front teeth were missing.
“Hey, wake up,” I said as I kicked him in the balls. As much pain as he was in that got his attention. He sat up howling. I booted him in the face ta’ knock him back down, “I just wanted make sure you were awake for this. I was a little afraid that your horse had stolen our special time from me.”
“Ab…Abacus…hef me…pease….hef me.”
“Don’t you worry. I’m gonna’ help you. I got your help right here.”
I swung the sledgehammer down on his shin. Jenkins shrieked for a good long while before it changed inta’ sobbing. God damned music ta’ my ears after all he put me through. When the sobbing started ta’ ebb I brought the hammer down on his other shin. It was gonna’ be a long night.