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Old West One

by on December 23, 2016

This is a story I wrote for the yeah write super challenge #2 a little while back. I didn’t win, but it was fun, nonetheless. I haven’t written much lately, but I mean to try and get back in the swing of things soon. In any event, here’s the story. Our assignment was to combine two genres: horror, and Western. So I did.

Calhoun Jenkins strolled casually in through the swinging saloon doors. The place was crowded, as it usually was on a Saturday night after payday. Every table was full, every seat taken by rough men who were dividing their attentions equally between the beers they sloshed down and the girls who sauntered about the place. Calhoun was an easygoing sheriff who generally turned a blind eye to what the townsfolk did after hours, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Tonight, now, tonight was different. Tonight, he was after Dingy Hal.

The sheriff didn’t attract much attention as he pushed his way through the crowd over to the bar. Miss Becky didn’t attract much attention either as she came to take his order. Miss Becky was the long-standing proprietor of the place. She took no nonsense from anyone, and generally asked no questions either. Calhoun asked for his usual, then leaned towards her. “Is he here?” Calhoun said quietly.

“I don’t rightly know what you mean,” Miss Becky said coolly. “Lots of folk in here. You thinkin’ of anyone specific?”

“You know darn well I am,” the sheriff said. Other men in his position would’ve said “damn’ or even used stronger language, but Calhoun’s ma had been a Sunday School teacher, and had raised him up right. The worst thing he ever had said was a thunderous “by jingo!” That had been two weeks earlier, when Dingy Hal had made off with the Federal gold shipment on the afternoon stagecoach.

Miss Becky sighed. “All right. He’s here. Went upstairs about an hour ago.”

“Fine,” said Calhoun. “Be seein’ you.” He started to push back from the bar.

Miss Becky grabbed his sleeve. It was an odd, frantic action, so unlike her that it caught the sheriff’s attention. In all the years he’d been working the town, he had never known her to be frightened. Even during the war, Miss Becky had faced down rebels and Federals alike with unruffled calm. Now, however, he saw honest-to-goodness terror in her eyes. Her hand was gripping his arm so hard that her fingers had gone white as paper. “Sheriff,” she whispered. “You’d best leave now. I’m telling you. Dingy Hal…ain’t himself.”

“Well, who is he then?” Calhoun said. He couldn’t imagine why she was so upset. Dingy Hal was a mean sort, to be sure, but he wasn’t any worse than the Howland brothers, or that Cooper gang two years before that had shot up the infirmary with the doc inside it. Also, Dingy Hal wasn’t near as fast a draw as Calhoun was. He knew that for a fact.

“I can’t say,” Miss Becky answered. “But there’s things goin’ on up there that ain’t right. Come back later. Monday even. Just not tonight.”

Calhoun sighed. “Ma’am, I’m not going to let a man like Dingy Hal get away just ‘cause you’ve got the flutters. Not when I got him dead to rights. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

He pulled his arm free of Miss Becky’s terrified grasp and headed for the stairs. Calhoun was entirely confident. All the same, he did keep tight hold of his gun. Behind him, Miss Becky slumped to the floor. She hadn’t seen the inside of a church in years, given her profession, but even now she managed a small prayer. “Don’t let him get et,” she moaned. “Not again.”

Upstairs, the sheriff found the hallway unusually quiet. You could normally hear noises coming in muffled from behind the doors. Now, the sheriff could almost hear himself breathing. He didn’t much care for that. Calhoun drew his gun and held it ready, just to be on the safe side. “Hal?” he called, trying to suppress the quiver in his voice. “You’d better come on out. It’s the sheriff.”

One door at the far end of the hallway creaked slowly open. Calhoun hadn’t thought to ask if anyone had gone upstairs with Dingy Hal. Rumor held that Jane was his favorite. “That you, Jane?” the sheriff asked. “You’d best get downstairs. Hal and me-”

There was a sudden gurgling noise. It didn’t sound like Jane. It sounded deep and ominous, like prairie thunder before an oncoming storm. Calhoun paused. “Hal?”

The lights flickered. The dirty wooden floor trembled beneath the sheriff’s boots. The gurgling noise grew louder. A shadow lurched into the hallway. Something came after it.

“What in the hell-”  Calhoun gasped. His gun hand jerked. The Colt revolver banged sharply. The Thing kept on, unfathomable and monstrous, all waving tentacles and luminous eyes. The sheriff didn’t even have time to scream.

Downstairs, Miss Becky heard the gurgling, faintly audible over the off-key piano music. She sighed, and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. The town would get another sheriff, she knew. Maybe the next one wouldn’t get himself et. She kinda doubted it. Dingy Hal had been awfully hungry of nights.

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3 Comments
  1. I’m glad to see you’re back.

  2. Funny twist! They’ll have to change his name to Hungry Hal; maybe that will be a more effective warning. 🙂

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