Abacus Jones, Soulless Cowboy in:


From back a ways, the town looked like any other town that looked the way this one did from far away.  It was nightfall now, the moon was already high in the sky without a cloud in it’s way.  We was just coming in on the outskirts when we noticed there weren’t a single light in any window. The place was damned quiet.  It ain’t often when you’re walking past a person’s living place and all you hear is the coyote’s in the weeds out yonder.  No, that’s something for ghost towns, which was something I was a little too familiar with.

I hated ghosts.  They make for the worst stories.  They play with things at first.  Knock things over.  Breathe their frozen ghost breath on the back of your neck just to irk you.  Finally, after they had enough of teasing, they show themselves.  But the only way to get rid of one is to help it out; finish what they started when they was alive.  The problem comes when it’s a whole dad blamed town that done up and died.  Then you gotta help em all with their problems.

And it’s just like me to get roped into taking on such a job.  I spent a whole month of my life solving things for them ghosts, and do you know what was troubling the most of em?  Eachother.  See there was a gold mine just a few miles south of em, and so they started panning and mining for gold.  With gold comes greed, and so they started killing eachother.  One man takes another man’s gold and then another takes it again and so on until ain’t no one really left in town. And the biggest problem was that after a while no one was left to cook, so them fellers that was still panning, they starved to death, or got eaten by bears.  Hell, a few of em even ate their wives.

So in the end, instead of solving their problems the way they wanted, which was impossible, I dug em all up and burned all their corpses.  Thinking about it afterward I shoulda just done it to begin with.  So that’s why I hate ghost towns.

But this wasn’t one of em.

There weren’t a thing moving or falling over.  No ghosts playing tricks, no nothing.  We made our way around town, looking  in houses for anyone, or any reason why it’d be emptied.  The houses still had beds and food, pots left before they was done cooking anything, and what was left had grown mold.  So it’d been a while since anyone was around.  But as we moved toward the center of town, we heard the plinking of piano keys, so we headed towards the saloon.

The Vampire lead the way, followed closely by the wide eyed girl thing.  I fell in last with my pistol drawn so I could load in some more bullets that I’d found in one of the abandoned houses along with a new hat.  Now it wasn’t nothing I was proud of or nothing, but I’d always wanted a big hat, the kind a rich man had.  I saw it sitting there, and seeing as how ain’t no one else was in town, didn’t figure it’d be a problem me taking it and all.  Especially seeing as the vampire seemed to take a liking to mine, seemed a right bit fair to me.

The piano was definitely coming form the saloon, which seemed to have a tiny flicker of light shining from one of the windows.  Whoever it was that was playing, he weren’t bad or nothing.  It seemed a shame to have him stop, but that’s what we done, we needed to know what was going on before we took a rest.

The swinging doors swung closed behind us after we entered.  I kept my pistol trained on the man with his back to us at the piano, and I kept my hat from sliding down in front of my eyes with my free hand.  The man didn’t seem to take any notice of anyone else being around.  I looked at the vampire who seemed to be quite hungry for the fella, so I ventured over and tapped him on his shoulder with my piece.

The man screamed something fierce as his hands shot from the piano to cover his face instead.

“Please! Don’t eat me!”  He cried.

“We ain’t—”  I started and then looked at the vampire. “I ain’t gonna eat’cha pardner.  I just need to know what’s a matter with this town?  Why are you the only one here, playing a piano no less?”

The man pulled his hands from his face and looked back at me.  His face looked quite surprised really, so I took it he didn’t expect to see anyone walking around.

“Who-who are you?”  he asked.

“I’m Abacus Jones, perhaps you heard of me?”  When he shook his head I continued with a bit less enthusiasm.  “This feller behind me is…er…well, pay no attention to him just yet.  What’s going on with this town?”

“Is that Sam Marshall’s hat?”  The man asked looking at the hat that was trying to fall in front of my face.

“Who’s Sam…nevermind.  Answer the question already!”  I said shoving my gun near his nose.

“Okay, okay, it’s just, if he sees you in his hat, he’s going to murder you first.”

“First.  Right.  Now answer the question.  My friend here is really hungry.  And I’m starting to think I should let him eat.”

“Okay, okay.  They’re all gone.  For now.  But they come back at night.  Every night.  The only thing I can do is play this here piano.  It seems to calm them or something.  It’s the only reason I’m still alive.  I have to play, you see?”

“No, I don’t rightly understand.  What do you mean they come back every night?  I’ve been in some of them houses, ain’t no one been in there for days.  Now start talking sense.”

“You have to believe me.  Something happened here.  Something like Hell opened up and took every one of the townsfolk.  Sends em back here every night to finish the job.  They’re here for me!  I have to play the piano now!  It’s all that I can do!”

The man turned around and started to play his tune again.  But I’d had enough of his speech.  I ain’t never heard of Hell claiming whole towns for nothing.  Well I had, but this wasn’t it.  How did I know?  Shut up and let me tell the story!  And I knew because it didn’t smell like burnt souls, which is something I know the smell of.  So there.

“Why not just leave then?  You know, in the daytime?” I asked.

“They are here for me, and me alone.  If I leave… they could just follow.  I have the piano here, not out there.  Can’t you understand?!”

I spun him around away from his piano playing and shoved my gun against his temple.

“You need to make sense right now, or a bullet is going to be your—“

Before I knew it, the Vampire was suddenly beside me.

“Here, let me handle this—“  he said before barring his fangs and ripping into the poor saps neck.

I watched as the man’s eyes rolled back in his head.  He seemed to be mouthing something, probably don’t eat me again.  A lot of good that would do him now.  His skin quickly went white as he stopped breathing.  The Vampire, satiated, dropped the body to the floor and stretched himself to his full height, which seemed somehow larger than before.

“Ah, that was exactly what I needed!”  He shouted.

“And what’d you go and do that for?  I had this taken care of!”

“He was worthless, scared from stories.  A worthless piano player in a town of no one.  I did him a favor.  And I fed my ailing body.  It was necessary.  What else did you think we were coming to this town for?”

“I thought we was coming to take a rest.  I don’t know about vampire bodies but these boots is starting to tear at my heels!”  I took a moment to catch my breath before continuing.  “So what now, huh?  We just gonna shack up here for the night and move on?  what about what that feller was talking about?  Do you know how to play a piano?”

“You are an idiot Abacus Jones.  Such a story is just that: a story.  This feeble human was just insane.  Probably killed everyone in this town and buried them or burned them days ago.  His story was too ridiculous to conceive.”

“Well,” I began as I looked to the girl who seemed to be looking at the Vamp with intrigue “Well, yeah, I was thinking the same.  But something had that feller spooked and I don’t want to be the one to find out he was telling even a little bit of truth.  Do you?”

“It does not concern me, I am immortal.”

“Except in the sunlight.  Hell if it weren’t for my hat you’d be a pile of dust out in the desert.  Care to give it back now?”

The Vampire seemed a little more subdued all of a sudden.

“You already have a new hat, Abacus Jones.  I will keep this one.”  He said adjusting it to sit atop his head just right.

“I’ll bet.”  I said.  “Well, we might as well get a drink.  We are in a bar after all.  I’d offer you something, but I think you’ve already had your fill, Vampire.”

“Indeed.”

I found a few bottles of whiskey still behind the counter, dusted one off a little, pulled the cork and started drinking.  I downed a few gulps then extended it toward the lady.

“Come on now darlin’, you could probably use a drink.  Travelin with the likes of us and all.”

“…” was all that she said before turning away from me to look out the swinging doors.

I took a few more gulps making sure I could feel the slight squeeze in my head from it before stopping.  It’d been a long day, and all I wanted to do was crawl in a bed somewhere and sleep for a few days.  Maybe I’d find the town jail house where I could put the bars between me and any possible devil thing.   That’s what I was thinking when I realized the girl hadn’t just turned away from me because of me, but because she was trying to find out what that noise was.

It was coming from outside somewhere, but it seemed to be all around, even coming through the wall behind me.  It was like the sound of countless insects buzzing and plowing through the dirt.  It wasn’t normal, I can tell you that much.  Still holding the bottle in my hand, I made my way over by the lady to look out the door.

At first I couldn’t see anything in the dark of night.  But the moon being so high, I finally saw in its dim light a number of human bodies slowly moving toward us.  They was all around surrounding the place and coming closer every second.  They were shuffling their feet and moaning as if they was in constant pain, but their arms were just fallen at their sides, loosely, it was damned peculiar, especially seeing as how they’re weren’t zombies.  Zombies I could smell because of all the rotting flesh.  I couldn’t smell anything from them, any of em, which meant that they was probably still human.

“Well, Vampire.  If you know how to play the piano, now’s the time.”

He came over to where we was, and eyed the slow moving tide of people heading our way.  He seemed speechless, or probably just confused at what he was seeing.

“You can play the piano, right?”  I asked really hoping his answer was yes.

“No, Abacus Jones.  I cannot.”

“And I don’t suppose the lady—”  I asked as I looked over to her shaking her head.

“Well that’s a damned shame.”  I said as I downed as much of the bottle as I could without gagging before stumbling over to the piano and sitting down.  “Guess I’ll just have to give it a shot.”

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