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I wrote this short back in 2005, in my Weird West days. I liked the idea of an occult six gun shooter story.
It’s funny, the things you notice as you are about to die.
Time slows down. Things seem to move slower, and it gets quiet.
Really quiet. Not really sure if that’s true for everyone.
I didn’t really notice the moonlight on the trees, or sound of the Sabine River as it wound its way thru the East Texas night.
It wasn’t the claws that had hooked into my left shoulder, or the Manitou’s fetid breath filling my nostrils as its fang-filled maw came closer and closer to my face.
No, it was the stupid rock being driven into the small of my back by the weight of the creature squatting on my chest.
That’s what was bothering me.
It was really pissing me off.
I silently cursed myself a fool.
Someone had been dogging my trail since I crossed the Texas border coming in from Louisiana. I thought I could out pace ’em.
Took a fair bit of effort to run down a Manitou, much less someone chasing one.
But for the past 3 days, whoever it was had clung to my trail.
Maybe it was another hunter, looking to pick up a cheap bounty after I did all the dirty work.
I had been distracted, and the demon spirit took advantage of it.
It was a smart one, sneaky.
It had hidden in the tall grass down the side of the river bank.
Normally, they shied well away from moving water. I expected it to still be in the tree line. It caught me flat-footed.
Now I was on my back, it’s right claw was mauling my left shoulder, my left hand clenched around its throat and my right holding back it’s other clawed arm.
Its breath reeked of rotted meat and outhouse.
Nasty beasts, roughly man-like in form, but covered in oozing sores and bristly patches of hair.
Strong, fast, though usually not this cunning.
I would have to ponder that later, if there was a later.
It had been summoned for a vengeance.
But what the summoner, an old Cajun half-breed shaman, didn’t realize was that while it would fulfill its dark pact, it was free to do what it wanted while it was here.
So it began with pulling him apart, rending him like a hog in a slaughter house, then moving on to his family.
I gathered up what was left of the shamans charms and spell gear, and an old hexing book.
Must have been where the fool got the summoning ritual from.
It was odd, the more I had thought on it.
That book was out of place.
From the looks of the old mans casting stock, he never dabbled in more than love spells and healing poultices.
From the words of the ritual, I knew the creature still had 3 more days here until is was sent back to the Otherside.
That would make it a full week being here.
Very powerful spell indeed.
The Manitou had been easy to track. It left a trail of carnage, carving its way thru the Western part of Louisiana and into East Texas.
It had stumbled across a wagon train of entertainers heading west.
Some kinda traveling circus.
It hit them like a tornado of butcher knives.
I had to ignore their pleas as I rode after it. The beast was more intelligent than most would give it credit for. It left the wounded, to slow down any pursuit. It must have known that there was a hunter in the area.
Most of them were dead, or would be soon.
Any delay on my part would have given this abomination a further lead and cost more people their lives. None of the potions or charms I had would deal with this much carnage.
Best I could do was ride on and run the devil to ground, before it could kill again.
I hoped having fed itself, it might move slower and I could make up ground.
Now, I was in a wrestling match with a monster than outweighed me, was faster than me and invulnerable to most any weapon ‘cept the hexed bullets in the gun on my side.
I tightened my grip on its throat, it’s breath coming in wheezing gasps.
I knew it could outlast me. It would be content to make me expend my strength wrestling it, until my arms felt like lead and I gave up.
Fire burned in my shoulder, claws ground around, tearing deeper into the muscle.
Liquid pain filled me, the beginning of exhaustion coming on.
Mustering what strength I had left, I was going to show this thing I was not going out without a fight.
A ball of hate swelled in my gut, the kind of hate that’s blacker than a moonless night.
A hate that came from a life of struggle and hurt.
With a low growl, I began to push up with my left arm, squeezing my hand, trying to make my fingers meet in the middle of the beasts iron-like neck.
Pain seared me, and I took it.
I thought about what this thing had done, and what it would do.
Took it all, misery, suffering and hurt and made it mine.
Used is as fuel for a burning hate engine.
Pulled up every bit of rage I kept balled up in me.
For a moment, I thought I saw something in its coal black eyes.
A glimmer of…disbelief?
I pushed the beast until it was upright, its head arms length away.
We stayed in that position for what seemed an eternity.
The blood roared in my ears, like a storm on the plains.
The pounding of my pulse was all I heard.
Finally, my strength began to sap, slowly ebbing out of me.
The Manitou’s lips curled back in a knowing smile.
It had outlasted me.
As everything began to go black, as my lips turned numb from the exertion, I heard one final crack of thunder and felt something wet hit my face.
The beast on my chest jerked hard, then eased up its pressure.
Hell of a time for rain.
The thunder was so loud I reckoned for a second it must be my heart exploding.
Rain? No, not rain.
Something dark, sticky and foul tasting.
Through the haze, I saw something that didn’t make sense.
The top half of its head was gone, leaving only slack jaws and a drooling tongue.
I rolled over, shoving it off me, gasping for air and reaching for my Colt at the same time.
Two rapid cracks of a revolver stopped me, bullets scoring the ground inches from me.
I looked up at the source.
Even with the lingering gun smoke, you couldn’t mistake the form.
Dark hair framed the face, which was obscured by the shadows.
It was a woman, and judging from the Sharps rifle laying at her feet she was no stranger to gun play.
The rifle explained the damage to the beast.
A .44 caliber buffalo rifle, it would stop a 2,000 pound bison in its tracks.
“You left us to die, you son of a bitch” she said in a low voice.
“Now it’s your turn.”
The gloved hand cocked the revolver.
Its funny, the things you notice as you are about to die.
But at least that damn rock was out of my back.
copyright 2013 Jason Heath. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used without express written consent.