Authors: R.J McCabe
Joel approached the body, John was still moving slightly, beginning to shake until the whole body was in spasm. Suddenly the body exploded, gore and mush flying everywhere covering Joel’s clothes and face. It should have disgusted Joel but instead, a huge smile appeared on his face. He had no idea what was going on but something was very wrong and that meant killing and that was something he was seriously good at.
He looked up just in time to see the man who Big John had just took a chunk out of now running towards him. He had one bullet left in his gun, his other bullets and second pistol were both in his tent. He aimed at the screaming man’s head, a smile on his face,
‘Take this you fuck.’ He said and fired. At that very moment he was knocked off his feet by someone, or something which had charged at him from his blindside. He flew back into the side of another tent, the pistol flying from his grasp as he went but Joel wasted no time in lying still, he couldn’t, not with that thing closing in on him.
It was then something grabbed Joel’s feet, pulling him across the floor, whatever it was it felt strong, the hands like vices around his ankles pulling him with ease. He looked up and saw the face of the once prone, dangling man, his eyes alive with white rage, the teeth were gnashing and they seem to of grown larger. Joel then realised that it was more the fact that the gums had withdrawn.
He couldn’t believe a person could transform so much in such a small amount of time. The man seemed to have altered and began to rot in the matter of minutes. The rotting teeth continued to snap at him but he saw the man was still wearing his gun belt. Joel reached quickly in the man’s right holster and snatched the pistol before lifting it and pointed it at the man’s forehead before firing. Brains and flesh flew out of the back of the man’s head and he let out an ear piercing shriek before falling backwards. Joel heard the things body bubbling and then a loud squelch.
When he got to his feet he saw the red mush the creature had become. Joel found his pistol on the floor and then went into his tent and collected his other gun and made sure both were fully loaded.
He walked out in the chaos that had, only minutes before, been a relatively peaceful camp. Some of the tents were now on fire, horses seemed to of gone crazy, some were attacking other horses and others were trampling on people and biting them. The horses faces were different, distorted.
Joel walked through the chaos and took shots at anyone or anything he thought looked out of the ordinary, sometimes taking them down straight away, other times just stunning them in a bid to give their victims, or intended victims, a chance to get away but there didn't seem to be any getting away. When one of those rotting things were dropped, two more would come running out into view, it was utter chaos.
Then something caught Joel’s eye amongst the madness and moving, rushing bodies. Something that, in its stillness, was in stark contrast to everything around it. Joel looked towards the figure and the figure stared right back. It took Joel a few moments to realise what or who he was looking at.
It was the chiefs son, the very man he had watched die in that Apache tent at his hands. Only he was far from dead, he was standing tall, his shoulders different, somehow more muscled and lumped and the jaw hung low with drool seeping out of the sides of the mouth and the glaring eyes were white, lit up from the light of the fires around them.
Red Bear was not looking at anyone or anything except Joel and Joel shivered with that realisation. He had seen some strange shit in his time, but never anything like this, a dead man walking and now he, or it, was walking right towards him.
In any other situation Joel would have pulled his gun and shot the son of a bitch dead, but he had already watched this man die. He did something he could never recall doing in his life, he turned and ran.
Joel reached the edge of camp and heard a blood curdling cry from behind him and so he upped his pace. Joel wasn't familiar with the feeling he was experiencing, his heart raced and he was scared to look back. He ran into the night, not sure where he was heading and the more he thought about it, the more stupid it seemed. He was being chased by the undead and he was running into the fucking dark but run he did, that was until he saw something ahead of him, a shadow within the dark. He slowed and within seconds the shadow became human forms, familiar human forms. Apache human forms.
The animalistic, screaming sound of his pursuer had ceased now and even though Joel stood still, nothing came from behind him. He looked up to see the Iron Dog on his horse and the chief was looking down at him, his face as stern and expressionless as ever. The old warrior got down from his horse with surprising speed for a man of his age and walked towards Joel until the men stood roughly a foot apart.
‘What the fuck you done old man? What you bought here?’ asked Joel.
For the first time, Joel saw a smile appear on the old mans face and then Eskadi began to laugh.
Joel felt like he was losing his mind and be fore he knew it, began to join in the laughter. The two men stood there with tears welling in their eyes as the Apache people on horseback looked on. Finally the old man placed a hand on Joel’s shoulder and Joel, rather than shift away from the contact, simply looked at the hand and then looked back at the chief with wonder in his eyes. Eskadi looked around him, looked to the stars and then looked directly in Joel’s eyes before saying a single word. 'Revenge.'
Joel then felt a pain spread through his back, causing him to arch his body forward. That was followed a second later by another pain in Joel’s chest as Eskadi plunged in his dagger. Joel looked down at the blade and then back to the chief, a look of total bemusement on his face.
'You son of a bitch!’ Joel said before falling to his knees and then slumping face down into the dirt. He didn't see the knife, his knife, that had been plunged into his back by the hulking, drooling, undead Red Bear behind him.
The chief took the knife from Joel’s back, it was important and had to be kept safe. Then he looked up and stared at the thing that was, at one time, his son. The two of them regarded each other for a moment, and then the undead Apache turned towards the camp and ran in that direction, screaming in a voice that was anything but human.
Eskadi got back in his saddle, looked once more at the body of Joel, and then turned his horse and rode back towards his village followed by his people. As he went he continued to hear the screams and shouts of the white people who were being turned to rotting things back in the railway camp and again, he smiled.
Bill was woken by the sound of a cockerel, doodle do-ing. He stretched out his arms, his body sore from the fight with John the day before and that caused him to remember his nose. It hurt like hell, though it would have hurt a whole lot more if he had ended up the loser of that little battle, victory always numbed the pain, just a little.
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. He hoped the coming day would be calm and quiet. He could do with that settling in time, some nose healing time. His thoughts then shifted to Gina. She was a good looking lady and she had that inner steel that he liked in a woman. A woman being womanly and taking care of herself was all well and good but that alone had never been enough to catch Bills attention. He liked a woman with balls, obviously not the physical type, he'd heard tales of such women over in the orient but that wasn't for him. He liked a woman who would stand up and be counted, a woman who wouldn’t be too afraid to tell things how they were. The world needed more women like that.
Bill stood up and walked over to the window. The house in which he was staying wasn’t too far from the town but far enough that he couldn't really here anything from across there and it was nice to have the choice of peace and quiet.
Once Bill was dressed, washed and fed, he walked outside and sat on his porch. He had been sitting there mulling things over around ten minutes, when he saw a figure in the distance, it was approaching from the town and before long he could make out the shape of Gina. Bill thought about going to meet her but then decided to play it cool pretended not to notice her until she had gotten a lot closer.
‘Good Mornin' Sheriff,’ said Gina, a smile on her red glossy lips.
‘Please, it’s Bill to you, seein' as you're the deputy’s daughter and all.’
‘Come now Sheriff.’ Gina said standing at the bottom of the porch stairs. ‘You can’t go giving me special treatment, not in a town such as this, people will talk.’
‘Well,’ Bill said shifting his eyes to the surrounding landscape. ‘From my experience, people are going talk no matter what, cause some folks mouths are just made for rumours.’
Gina laughed. ‘I guess you're right. So if they ask why I get to call you Bill, what do I
‘Oh, well we can nip that in the bud by comin' to an agreement. When it’s just you and I, you can call me Bill but when there’s even so much as a dog around from that town, then its Sheriff Bill. Hows that?’
Gina pretended to consider this for a moment and then nodded her head. ‘I can see why you are the sheriff with a way of thinkin' like that.’
Bill tipped his head in a thank-you gesture and then quickly looked Gina up and down. She wore another of her glamorous dresses which hid most of her figure but Bill thought if her neck, shoulders and arms were anything to go by then the rest would surely be divine.
‘So, what brings you here so early in the morning?’ He asked.
‘I came to tell you somethin’ one of the girls mentioned to me this mornin'. Might be nothin' in it, but might be somethin' in it. A whole heap of shit tends to get talked in my place, but now and again things get said that turn out to have a ring of truth to em.’
Bill considered this for a moment
‘If somethin' is bein' said then its always worth me hearin' about it. I find then even the most outrageous stories tend to have a bit of truth to them, even if it’s just the tiniest little bit. So why don't you tell me what it is you've heard.’
‘Well, I was talking to Lizzie this mornin', one of my girls and she told me that a man came in last night and apparently he'd been ridin' through Sundown yesterday evenin'. He said he’d heard some strange noises when he was bout eight miles out from here. He told Lizzie that he was real tired and thought that he might have been imaginin' it but he said what he heard sounded so real and he wasn’t likely to forget it in a hurry. Now by the time he got to our place, Lizzie said you could practically hear the liquor swishin' around in his guts, so maybe it was the whiskey talkin' but after he’d gotten his way, she said he just lay on the bed lookin' up at the ceilin’ said he looked a little touched in the head. She asked him what was wrong and she said he just kept goin' on bout this sound he’d heard, so then she asked what sound it was and he looks her dead in the eye, says it was a mixture of noises but in his mind they all added up to one thing, the sound of hell.’
Bill watched Gina as she told the tale and he thought he saw her give a little shudder as she spoke that last line. Her eyes looked a little distant for a moment before clearing and she looked back at him.
‘Like I said Bill, maybe it was just a man and his liquor talkin'. Lizzie said the bed was empty when she woke this mornin' and there was no sign of him.’
‘I see. When he said eight miles from here, which direction did he mean?’
‘Lizzie never said but if you go eight miles from here in any direction you ain’t likely to run into nothin’ much, that is unless you go north. If you go north then you're gonna run into the Blackwater railway camp. They are creatin' a track that goes from Austin all the way to Sundown and it’s gonna take em a hell of a time to finish it but they reckon its gonna help little towns like this flourish with new trade.’
Bill thought on what Gina had said, not so much about the purpose of the new railway, but about there being a camp eight miles from here and about what that drunken man had told the girl. Maybe it was worth checking out. There was a chance it was a pile of horse-shit, but it might still be worth taking a look just to make sure everything was okay.
‘Well,’ replied Bill, rubbing the stubble on his chin, ‘If today proves to be a little quieter than yesterday, then I'll get your dad to ride out with me over there and make sure everythin' is as it should be and I really do appreciate you comin’ and tellin' me this. Like I said anythin' you hear that you think I might be interested in, just come tell me. Its good to know what people are sayin', specially when you are new in a town, as people don’t tend to share a whole lot of news with you.’