Abacus Jones, Soulless Cowboy in:

Where was I?  Oh yeah, my Indian wife, prearranged while I was celebratin and smokin, was now about pregnant.  Just a couple months shy of dumping the thing out if I weren’t mistaken.

The chief musta felt I needed to stand now, so he nodded in the direction of the fellers that was carrying me and they pulled out a couple of knives and I was on the ground.  Course that meant some of the arrows were now in me further.  But again, the chief being so nice a fella, nodded and them two same Indians went at me and started pulling out the arrows.  I waited a few before moving, and then I slowly got up, my body screaming in pain, but I knew it’d heal so I wasn’t too concerned. 

“Um…” I stuttered as I looked back to the chief who’s daughter seemed to be carrying  my unborn, “Maybe I should be taking someone, uh…less…uh, sick?”

“What now you say is sick, white Devil?”  One of the taller Indians asked me.

“Well, where I come from, the city and all, this sort of thing means a lady of the baby carrying sort ain’t exactly of the inclination or physical nature to be riding atop a horse and such.”

“This is her decision.”  Came the Chief’s voice.  “I am not of the people that can refuse it.”

“Well, that’s mighty nice of y’all.  Really.  I can just as easy find another moon-walker.  Just a few days ride…um”  I fumbled around with my finger off in one direction then the other, and not knowing exactly where I really wanted to go, landed somewhere just the opposite direction of where my wife was standing and staring at me.  “That way?”

“You are wrong, husband.”  Came that voice I barely knew.  “The Keo’wa people are to the West.  They are closest at three days ride.  You need guidance now.  I will accompany you.”

“Um,” I started  “Can’t you just tell me now?”

“I need to read the skies.  So I will accompany you.”

“That’s mighty obliging of you, of course, but—“

“I am going.  You will ride ahead of me, and once out of this valley, you are never to return.  Now we will go.”

“Fair enough.”  I said with the slightest elation.

I lead us over to a couple of horses just past all the angry faces all looking like I was a buffalo that needed skinning.  I grabbed the reigns and put my foot in the stirrup, but was grabbed on the shoulder before I could mount.

“Not that horse, husband.”

“Why not?  Is this one sacred too?”

“You owe us deeply for what you have already taken from us.  You will not ride another of our gifts.”

“Well then, what am I supposed to ride?”

Before she answered I heard the yelping cry of the mule that was being shoved our way.  I was guessing this was why they weren’t so concerned on her riding a horse.  With me on the mule, we’d barely even be taking that horse for a walk.  As we rode off with me in the lead, I could only hear the sound of laughter at my back.  If my wife was riding behind, I didn’t know, and I didn’t care.

We rose out of the valley slowly.  At times I had to jump off my mule and pull it over some small rocks it was afraid of.  Other times I’d have to push it from behind as it angrily yawed back at me.  Hours later we finally got out of the valley.  But by then the mule was too tired to be ridden, so again I was on foot and tired of dealing with the beast.  I was ready to cut the thing loose, knife in hand, when my wife finally spoke up for the first time since we left the valley.

“You are to care for the beast.  This is your punishment as well as your redemption.”

It was at this moment I recollected something my pa once said ‘When a woman speaks, a man will ignore her, as is his nature.  But the man will always obey the woman with what he is told to do, that too is the nature of a man.  And Goddamned if it ain’t fair.’  So I steadied my blade and started walking with the mule’s reigns in my hand, and my wife on horse at a slow walk behind.

“So,” I began.  “Why’d you come along anyway?  You could have just given me the answer down there in the valley.  Couldn’t you?  I just need to know when the next full moon will be so that I can stop wasting time.”

“Not all paths are sought for a single reason, husband.  You and I were meant for this journey, and I will tell you about what you desire in time, when it is suited best for you to know.”

“That’s not an answer, wife.  So if you ain’t gonna answer me straight, then tell me what we’re doing.”

“We are traveling West.  I will let you know when to stop.”

“What the hell for?  The town is to the North, and I need to know when the full moon is coming.  That’s what I came to you for in the first place.  What could I possibly need in the West?”

“I told you, not all paths are sought…”

“Yeah, I heard you the first time.  Fine then.  We’ll go this way for now, but as soon as my boots start aching then I’m stopping.”

No other words were said between us as we kept heading to the West.  The mule never again let me on it’s back, seemed it was sore at me for pushing it out of the valley or something.  But as the sun began to fade into the ground before us spreading a deep red over the land, I heard the horse’s hooves behind me stop.  It weren’t my mule that stopped, it was the wife that done so.  I looked back and she was hunched over on the saddle.

“What’s the problem?”  I asked but didn’t receive an answer.

“Hey, you okay?  You got a belly ache or something?”  I asked again.

Again there was no answer so I walked over beside her and stared up at her.  She was still breathing, deeply and quickly.  Her dark hair was fallen in front of her face, but I could see her hands were trembling.  I reached up and put my arm around her waist and slowly pulled her off the horse’s saddle and put her on the ground.

“What’s going on, wife?”  I asked as I brushed the hair from her face.

What stared back at me wasn’t the sweet face I had known.   Her eyes were nearly bulging from her head, unblinking and staring straight up at the sky.  Her mouth was stretched wide and barring her clenched teeth.  If I didn’t know better I’d thought it was a possession, but I knew it weren’t.  Her eyes were still hers, just lost somewhere.

“Hey!” I shouted snapping my fingers in front of her face.  “Snap out of it!”

“The time,” she started saying behind an unmoving mouth.  “it’s time!”

“Time for what?  Is there going to be a full moon?  What the hell?!  I was supposed to be in the town to help them with werewolves on the next full moon!  I ain’t anywhere near there now!  How was this supposed to be helpful?!”

She had started laughing.  Something eerie and cold behind her unmoving mouth.  I’d a felt a shiver up my back if’n I weren’t the type a thing that I was.  But just under the cackles of my wife, I heard a repeating thud in the ground.  I listened harder, it was coming this way.  I starred behind me to the setting sun.  Just through the haze, I saw the movement of something coming this way, and it wasn’t human.

“What the hell is that?”

“Your death!”  came the voice of my wife between cackles.

Without another thought I pulled at the reins of the mule and started running off to some rocks on my left.  I got behind and peaked over the side and watched as a large Wildaterran ran up to my wife, stop, and then kneel down as she began to scream.  I pulled my gun and aimed for the beast’s head, but it didn’t attack her, in fact, it almost seemed concerned with her.  That’s when I noticed that she was having the baby.  She screamed and writhed until finally I heard the cry of something small, but it weren’t the sound of no baby.  At least not any I was familiar with.

The Wildaterran had been silent and steady the entire time.  I had my gun still trained on the thing’s head in case he tried to kill what was unfortunately mine.  But I knew that one bullet wasn’t likely to take the thing out at this distance, so if he didn’t move, I wasn’t going to shoot.  Even as my wife sat up to grab our baby, the beast didn’t move.  She coddled it and rocked it while it made it’s odd cry.  I started wondering what an offspring of something like me could be, but I didn’t have to think for long before she raised the kid up toward the Wildaterran and I saw that it wasn’t human at all, well, not really anyway.  In the fading red light of day, I saw the long tussles of hair coming off it’s back and thinly bowed legs.  It was a baby Wildaterran, and there was no part of me that was sad that it wasn’t mine.

The Beast held the babe up high in the sky and howled it’s beastly call to the coming night.  As the call of the man-beast faded, only the yelping whine of my mule could be heard in the expansive night sky.  The Wildaterran’s eye quickly fell on my position, and now I knew the baby weren’t mine, I didn’t hesitate to shoot at the beast.  But of course I missed.  It was dark.

My wife quickly grabbed the baby from the beast just before it took off toward my rock.  I fired another couple of shots, one that hit in it’s shoulder, before running from my cover.  I was prey now with my predator at my back and just at my heels, but no one ever called Abacus unprepared.  Well they do, but this time I weren’t so much so.  I was close to a gorge and I was running right for it, at least, I think I was.  Even my eyes took some time to adapt to the sudden loss of light.

I could hear the monster’s breath just behind me, could almost feel it on my neck.  I could only hope that I’d ran far enough, so I fell to the ground turned over and started firing.  I heard the shots, the sound of the bullets as they passed into flesh, and felt the small warm globs as they sprayed over me.  Finally a slumping sound as the Wildaterran had passed over me and now lay dead just past my head.   My eyes were now adjusted to the dim light, but nowhere around me was the gorge.  In fact I eyed it a ways the other way from where I’d run.  Guess I got turned around.

I made my way back using the small howl of the baby to guide myself back to my wife.

“You?”  She spoke startled.  “Why are you alive?  You weren’t supposed to live?!”

“Don’t know who you got your future stories from, but as you can see I’m still alive.  More or less.”

“This was not the foretelling!  The abomination will be no more!  The spirits were clear!”

“When is the full moon…Darling?”  I asked as I squat down in front of her.

“It does not matter!  You will die this evening!”

“Then you got no reason not to tell me what I want to know.  When is the next full moon?”

Something seemed to pass over her face, because now she was smiling.  “Silly Husband, you know nothing.  You may have killed this child’s father, and his father before him.  But you should know, the females of their kind are far more unforgiving.”

“That what this was all about then?  I already figured the babe weren’t one of my own.  So this was revenge?”

“Yes, for the same night that you were made of my family, so was I met by this one’s father while you were passed into sleep from the pipe.  But you would meet him as you cowered from my tent.  It was he that you killed that day of our marriage!  After that day as I wept for my loss, I fell to the spirits who told me that you would again come and on the night before the full moon, the abomination will be no more!  This is that night, Abacus Jones, when your end will be met!”

She moved quickly, a lot faster than I’d thought a woman who just bore a monster child could, pulling a gun from where she cradled the babe in the other arm.  The barrel quickly leveled at my face just as she pulled the trigger.   The sound rang out over the soft plain, slowly fading as the bright hint of a near full moon shone down all around.  I stared at her and watched as that smile on her face died away, her eyes fixed on my hand, the gun she held in hers beneath it, pushed from my face and to the now silent and motionless baby in her arms.

“Guess you’re spirits weren’t lying.”  I said as I stood up and began walking away.  “The abomination is no more.”

I went back to my mule, took his reigns and started walking off in the direction of the town I was supposed to be protecting with my mule in tow.

“Oh, and thanks for the information, Darling.”  I said.

Moments later, I heard one final shot ring out over the plains.

“And that’s about the end of that tale.”  I said looking down at the boy still by my side with his eyes staring up at me vacantly.  “Oh, guess I should tell you about the Werewolves, huh?  Well, there’s not much to say in that story.  See I traveled all night back to the town and that mule still wouldn’t let me ride it, though we’d become good friends by then.

It was a quarter or so past thenoonhour so I didn’a have much time to set up traps and such, and my horse with my supplies was still downed somewhere in the valley by the Indian’s camp.  So I figured I’d just play it out as it came.  So to spend my day, I went to the bar, left my mule tied up by the trough which it seemed to take to like a starving man, and I went in and had a few drinks before heading upstairs for a long nap.  It wasn’t the most preparatory day mind you, but it had been a long night.

When I woke up it was nearly nightfall.  I took to the streets which were nearly emptied now, and loaded my gun with the three silver bullets I had on my personage.  Why three you may ask?  Because silver was expensive, and I couldn’t even afford one.  So the three I had were all stolen.

Hours went by.  I listened as men laughed and talked in the bar, but other than that, nothing else was stirring in town.  The moon was bright and full in the sky, so my wife hadn’t been lying to me when she said this was a full moon night.  Around three is when I finally caught sight of the monsters.  It was a quick flash at the end of the town road, like a dog running between shadows.  If I hadn’t been on the look for what I was looking for, I would have ignored it.

So I took to the shadows and made my way to the end of town.  I started hearing the racket the beast was making in one of the houses, busted in and found it ripping into some poor feller, took aim while it was startled at my appearance, then shot.  The bullet sunk in his heart and the thing quickly fell over and reverted to the naked human form it originally was.

I walked over beside it to make sure my bullet had done its work, flipped the man over, and there staring back at me was the Indian chief’s face.  This would have got me wondering if’n I weren’t just shoved from behind by the other monster.  The beast took one look at the chief, then turned it’s eyes and barred teeth to me.  I didn’t waste a moment and pointed my gun and shot.  It landed in it’s arm which only dazed it a little, but just enough for me to jump through the window.

There was a part of me that thought to run.  Another that said to hide.  But I had this sudden thought pop in my head, and so I lay right there below the broken window with my gun drawn and pointed upward.  Sure enough the other Werewolf came leaping out the window after me.  As its chest passed over me, I took my aim, and fired my last bullet.

The Werewolf hit ground and collapsed.  I watched as its mass grew small in the shadow, then I got up and made my way over to its side.  Down at my feet, was my wife.  And here I thought I’d killed her.  But no, there she was, shot through the heart by my gun.

“I thought you shot yourself?”  I asked.

I saw her spitting up blood and shaking, but she still had enough in her to tell me what she wanted to.

“You were supposed to die.”  She was saying mostly to no one.  “Why didn’t you die?”

“Dear,” I said as I knelt down beside her and leaned in close to her ear to whisper, “I’m already dead.”

She must’a liked that answer because she just started laughing that creepy laugh again.  More of a cackle spurting blood now that she was dying.

“Okay, I guess it’s a funny thing.  You making me think that you shot yourself just to try and get the drop on me.  You knew I’d be here.”

“No,” She said between convulsive fits of laughter, “I did shoot myself!  But we cannot die from normal bullets.  We can not die!”

And then she was dead.  I couldn’t ask anymore questions, but I had one left hanging.  What about her son?

“And that’s the end of it really.  I left town with a pocket full of bills and the reigns of my very own mule.  He was a great companion, shame what happened to him later.”  I said looking down at my side to the boy, only no one was there anymore.

I looked all around for the kid, but he was gone.  Only the girl I wasn’t supposed to chat at and the vampire in my hat in front of me as the sun was fading just beyond the mountains ahead and the slight glimmer of lights from a town just in front of us.  Behind me there was nothing but our footprints.  I stood for a moment and stared looking for any sign of the kid.  Maybe he was just playing.  But I didn’t catch anything, no movement, and as my eyes fell back to my own feet, I noticed that as far as I could see in the fading light behind me, there were only three sets of footprints.

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