Authors: R.J McCabe
John knew his soul was dying, but something else was here now, here to use his body and command him. Blackness came for Big John Duggan and his soul was finally crushed under the weight of this new being.
Joel felt pissed. He hadn't had a drink all day and he wanted his whiskey. Where the fuck had those two idiots gotten to with the liquor? All they had to do was ride into town and collect some goddam drink but the pair of fuck-wits had disappeared and the card game had to go down with everyone being pretty much sober. Joel new no-one really bet much when the liquor wasn't in em. He hadn't made any money, he was sober, and he was in a bad mood. He felt like he needed to hurt somebody, to take some fucker out of this life, but who?
The workers here were decent folk hand picked by his father, so that only left his men, the enforcers but there hadn't been any unrest amongst them, and since the incident at the Apache camp, no-one seemed to be able to look him in the eye.
No doubt they all thought him crazy, just like the other men his father had employed had ended up thinking and his father employed some bad men, men who would smash you in the face as soon as they look at you. Tough, fearless men but Joel was different.
People thought him reckless, but in his mind, he did whatever had to be done to set things right, so if others couldn't see the reason in it, then fuck em, were his thoughts.
There wouldn't be anyone to kill on that night so he needed to put it to the back of his mind but if those two idiots didn't hurry up back with the liquor that could easily change.
He walked over to a man who was dozing against a tall wooden beam and kicked the sleeping man in the side of the leg. The men let out a loud snore and then opened his eyes.
‘Wake up Stowford, you ain’t off shift until I say so, I got somethin' for you to do.’
The man shook his head, unsure of what was happening, until he saw Joel standing in front of him at which point he got groggily up to his feet. 'Sorry Joel, not sure what happened there.’
Joel sniggered and spat onto the floor.'I know what happened you lazy bastard, you fell asleep before you was off duty, and you know what that means, don't you Stowford?'
Stowford, a short, meaty man with a handlebar moustache, began to look sheepish, before speaking, ‘Sir it’s just, I ain’t been sleepin' so good and…’
‘Turn around.’ Joel interrupted, his face like stone.
‘Joel listen, I didn't mean to…’
‘Will you just shut the fuck up. Take off your hat.’
Joel knocked off Stowford's hat. He took one of the guns out from his belt and pointed it at Stowford's head before cocking the trigger. The hatless man jumped at the sound and began to shake and murmur.
'BANG!' shouted Joel into the man’s ear, causing Stowford to jump out of his skin and let out a peculiar high pitched squealing noise. Joel kicked the man in the ass and sent him flying forward before letting out a huge roar of laughter. The man fell flat on his face whilst praying to Jesus, thanking him for not having a bullet in his head. Joel took a deep breath and slapped his knee, ‘I got you there you stupid son of a bitch! I ain’t gonna shoot you for falling asleep now am I? I think you guys got the wrong impression about me.’
The man got to his feet, dusting himself down
‘Yeah, you sure got me there Joel. Almost shit my pants.’ He tried to join in Joel’s laughter, his though, was forced.
Once Joel had managed to calm the laughter down he put his hand on Stowford’s shoulder. ‘However, if I find you asleep a second time whilst you meant to be workin’ then it will be the longest sleep you ever take and the last. You got me?’
‘Yes, Mr. Blackwater, I got you.’
‘The name is Joel. My father is Mr. Blackwater. I don't want you gettin' us confused. He's the one with all the money, the manners, and the calm demeanour, I'm not.’
‘Okay Mr Bl… I mean Joel.’
‘Right, enough silliness. I sent Big John and Davey Doolan out to pick us up some liquor an age ago. They should have been back by now. Take a light out over that way and see if you can see anythin'. If not then some of you might have to ride out and see where they at. If you find em drunk and sittin' on their asses, I want you to put a bullet in both of em, I can’t stand selfishness. Now go see if you can see em out there.’
‘Right, I’m on it Joel.’
With that Stowford ran in the direction of the nearest lantern and then off towards the direction the men would be approaching from. Joel spat on the floor and watched him go, he let out a small laugh. ‘Stupid asshole!’
Stowford made his way through the camp and out towards the barren land on which the men would be traveling, He was glad to be away from Joel as the man was in a strange mood and had been so since killing that Indian chiefs son. It was as if he was itching to go to war, only there hadn't been no sign of those Apaches. Maybe they had got the message after-all, Joel was a scary bastard, the kind of man that would slit your throat in your sleep if you ever got the better of him.
There wasn't any point in messing around with someone like that, not unless you were willing to go the whole hog and there weren't too many men who would be willing to risk the wrath of Jack Blackwater by killing Joel. Jack knew men all over the country it seemed, in fact he seemed more like all over the world, he had a goddam Japanese Samurai with him these days so they said. If you were gonna try and kill Joel then you had better be ready to find a good fucking hiding place because him or his father would get you in the end. Those Blackwater’s there unforgiving sons of bitches, they never forgot.
Stowford climbed a small dirt bank and held the torch out in front of him looking out into the night. He thought it was a stupid idea as he wouldn't be able to see shit out in the dark, but it kept him out of camp. He strained his eyes against the dark but saw nothing. He decided he would have to venture out further to get a better look. He could still hear the bustle of the camp behind him and it wasn't helping him concentrate so he began taking steps out into the night.
Stowford had been walking for around five minutes when he heard the rumbling sound of hooves on the ground. The sound was slightly irregular, but it was a sound he had heard many times before. He hung the lantern towards where he thought the horses might be approaching from and stood watching. In the distance he could make out a shape, blacker than the night.
‘That you John?’ he called out.
There came no reply, only the sound of the horse or horses moving towards him, towards the camp.
‘Davey? That you out there? Better answer me if it is, Joel’s none too happy about the time you've taken. You got the liquor?’
He turned his head to try and hear a response but none came. There was only the sound of the horses stomping towards him and then he made out the shape of a man riding the cart, not two, only one.
‘Hey how come theres only one o’ you?’ There was no reply. Stowford began to feel a little edgy about this approaching cart. Why weren't they answering? Where was the other man? Something felt off. He began to slowly walk towards the cart, the lantern in one hand and a pistol now in the other.
‘If thats you John, or Davey, you had better answer. If you ain’t them then you had better answer all the same and state your business. I'm armed and its pointed right in your direction.’ No reply but something had changed, the sound of the horses hooves, they were…faster.
Stowford watched, transfixed as the silhouette of the wagon became larger in the night. Then panic started to set in. He let off three shots all aimed at the cart but still the wagon came. He let off two more shots, one of which he heard hit the wood of the cart, the second sounded like it hit flesh, one of the horses made a sound but it was a strange sound, an angry sound. It was guttural and was damn right scary.
The cart rolled on, now just feet away from him. He turned and let out a scream and began running back towards the camp, the horses were now right behind him, the mouths seemed to be snapping at the back of his head. Then one caught him, taking a chunk out of his neck. He felt the pain surge through his body and that was right before he fell forward onto his face for the second time that evening.
He felt the weight of the horses hooves on his back as they passed over him, followed by the crushing of bones in his leg as the cart rolled over his body. The cart continued forward towards the camp, Stowford watched in agony with eyes that were swimming with dots and colours. Shock was taking over the pain, he was bleeding heavily from the neck. He was dying and death sure was coming fast. Everything began to fade and darken and then …all was black.
Then he awoke, crawling and struggling up to his feet, bones cracking. No fear, no mercy, no memory. Only hate. Then a smell came to him and it filled him with rage and with the urge to rip, tear, bite. It was the smell of the living and it was in that direction Stowford ran.
Joel was lying in his tent, thinking over what had happened with the Apaches, part of him wished there had been a war, wished the Apache’s had stormed the camp. A bit of savage shooting, target practice would have been nice. Then a scream came from outside.
Joel leapt off his bed and looked out through the gap of his tent into the camp. Men seemed to be running in different directions, bumping into each other, knocking each other over, some running through the small fire that was still alight in the centre of the camp and not batting an eyelid as if something much worse than fire was after them.
A wagon was on the far side of camp, one horse still strapped to it, shaking its head as if mad with some disease. The other horse had broken free and was biting into someone, into their head.
A man caught his eye, a big man who had another man by the scruff of the neck and was lifting him off the ground and then the biting began. He bit into the dangling mans cheek and neck before releasing him. The big mans face was smeared with blood and he grinned, then roared. The bloody, bitten victim fell into a heap onto the floor.
Joel reached into the tent for a pistol and then aimed it at the bloody faced, man mountain and at that moment the big man turned towards him, as if sensing his aim. The face was odd, a strange angle, the jaw hanging open to a degree that didn't seem natural. The man’s eyes were piercing and they seemed to be pure white. Joel then recognised the man, it took him a moment but he realised it was Big John Duggan, only he didn't look like the Big John who set off for town earlier that day. He looked like he had a demon inside him.
‘What the fuck?’ Joel said and then something else caught his eye.
The man that Big John had bitten was rising up off the ground, bent over at first and then uncurling back to his natural height. The man breathed heavy and his face had changed. Joel was hypnotised, just watching and having no clue what the hell was happening.
Joel snapped back into life and fired off a shot that hit John in the centre of the chest, it staggered him and made him take a few steps backwards but he didn't fall. He continued looking at Joel, drool coming out of his, too far opened, mouth. Joel felt his confusion overcome by excitement and he shot again. The big man, in turn, began to move towards Joel and Joel fired another shot, hitting the oncoming hulk in his stomach but it had no effect. John was only around ten feet away, his face a mask of rage, when Joel fired once more and the bullet hit John in the neck, he slowed, but only for a few seconds.
The camp seemed to of gone into complete madness. The people were screaming, shots were being fired and Joel vaguely registered this but his main focus was on the mountainous thing that was now charging towards him.
‘Why the fuck aren’t you dying!’ Joel shouted.
The man was going to hit him hard with the pace he was running but he had time for one more shot. Joel aimed directly at Johns forehead and fired. The shot stopped the colossus dead in his tracks and he stood upright, mouth gaping and a look of confusion on that big broad demonic face. Then he was falling and landed flat on his back.