Read A Fistful of Horror - Tales Of Terror From The Old West Online

Authors: Kevin G. Bufton (Editor)

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A Fistful of Horror - Tales Of Terror From The Old West

BOOK: A Fistful of Horror - Tales Of Terror From The Old West
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A Fistful of Horrors: Tales of Terror from the Old West

 

 

 

A FISTFUL OF HORRORS

TALES OF TERROR FROM THE OLD WEST

 

 

 

EDITED BY KEVIN G. BUFTON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A CRUENTUS LIBRI PRESS ANTHOLOGY

 

This anthology © Cruentus Libri Press 2012

 

Cover Art © Steve Upham 2012

 

Individual stories © their respective authors

 

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

For Claire and Kieran.

CONTENTS

 

Foreword

 

The Angel of Solitude
by A.R. Aston

Medicince Man
by Lisamarie Lamb

The Gun of El Lobo
by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

Cracklin’
by John Hunt

A Change in Fortune
by Paco

Dead Man Walking
by Allen Jacoby

Zombies at Red Rock
by Roxanne Dent

Howling Moonshine
by David Thomas

Roots
by Kevin G. Bufton

Dances with Snakes
by Jon McAchren

Marshal
by Jay Wilburn

The Knock on the Door
by Tim Tobin

The Devil You Know
by Rony Blechman

A Town Called Hangshaw
by Jody Neil Ruth

Where Are They?
by John Pirog

Last Chance Saloon
by Cameron Johnston

 

About the Authors

 

FOREWORD

 

When I was a little kid, I used to play Cowboys and Indians. There’s nothing s unusual about that; when you’re eight years old, there are few things cooler than a cowboy – and that was the problem. Everyone wanted to be a cowboy and nobody wanted to be an Indian. Even at such a tender age, we knew how the Western narrative went. The cowboys were brave and diligent, crack shots with a rifle or a revolver at a hundred paces. The Indians, though superior in numbers, couldn’t hope to match the cool, collected posse of badass gun-totin’ frontier warriors. Their job in the story was to run towards the cowboys, whooping and hollering, and to fall down when one of the cowboys pointed at them and shouted “BANG!”

All that changed one day when, fed up of the short dash and the long rest that was the invariable lot of the make-believe Indian, one of my friends decided that a spell by the tribe’s medicine man had saved him from the sheriff’s bullet and brought him back from the dead. This was such a great idea that we all jumped at the chance to become a mindless, shambling Native American zombie and swarm towards the remaining cowboys. Their bullets no longer affected us and, though we hardly had the element of surprise we had the benefit of numbers and we knew what we wanted…braaaaiiiinnns!

That was my first experience of the world of Westerns being blended with the world of horror, but not the last. There was that episode of
The Twilight Zone
, where Lee Marvin visited the grave of a man he had been tracking for four months only end up dead in the cemetery before the sun came up. There was the truly appalling
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula
, starring John Carradine as the King of the vampires and it’s companion piece
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
, which managed to plumb even greater depths of ineptitude. On the flip-side of the coin, I had the excellent Guy Pearce vehicle,
Ravenous
, to entertain me with its take on the legend of the wendigo, not to mention
Gallowwalker
, featuring Wesley Snipes as a cursed gunman.

Now, of course, I have this – the anthology that you hold in your trembling hands. Sixteen authors have contributed their stories of the Old West; stories that they have laced with horrors best told around the campfire or perhaps in a crowded saloon, but always in company. You don’t want to be alone with these tales.

So what do you say we saddle up, partner and see what’s down the road a spell?

 

Kevin G. Bufton

Birkenhead

June 2012

THE ANGEL OF SOLITUDE

A.R. Aston

 

Bartholomew was tending his garden in the bright morning sky. The flowers were in bloom, kissed by the golden light that flooded from the sun that crested over the hills like a crown. Beyond the cliffs was a desert of grass and dust that seemed to trail off to the end of the world. In many ways, this dry ocean of scrubland was the end of the world; a frontier from which anything was possible.

He looked up from the plant he gathered soil around and realised that a man was approaching from the steep hillside. His clothes were burnt, trailing from his naked body. Bartholomew rushed to the man’s side, yelling for his wife as he did so.

“My god man, what happened to you? Where did you-” he began.

He stopped when he realised the man had no face.

The faceless thing looked to Bartholomew.

“What…am I?” a perfect voice asked.

Bartholomew fell to his knees. The sun shone through the translucent flesh of the being and its head was framed by the halo of the rising sun.

“An angel…my God…an angel…” he whispered in awe.

 

***

 

The rider’s prisoner was hog-tied and draped across the back of his horse like a satchel. The prisoner writhed and moaned, but the rider cared not. He rode the desolation with the same stoic disdain he had always maintained.

“You should kill me lawman,” the prisoner said, his voice a shuddering gasp behind grey teeth. He spat as he spoke.

The rider said nothing as the prisoner continued to buck upon the back of his great black charger. The horse trotted at an unhurried pace; goaded onwards with the occasional kick of a spur in its ebony flank.

“You should kill me right now. As soon as you close your eyes, I’m going for your piece; I’ll put a bullet in you before I off myself you sonofabitch. I swear,” the prisoner growled, his voice edged with a pathetic desperation.

For a moment, it seemed the rider would once more keep his silence. Instead he replied in a slow, measured voice.

“You’ve barely even got one eye Buxtan. You can’t see for shit.”

“I don’t need to see to shoot you. I can smell the reek o’whiskey on yer breath!”

“You try to escape and I’ll shoot you…” the rider trailed off.

“Yeah?” Mister Buxtan replied expectantly.

“…in the foot. Then the other foot. Then both your thumbs. Then I’ll tie you back up and sling you back across this horse. One way or another, you’re making it alive back to that town. You’ll face a judge

“I can’t go back there! I can’t see them again! Please, you hard-assed bastard! Shoot me here! The bounty is dead or alive, I’ve seen the posters! Just say I resisted! Plug me between the eyes!”

“Eye,” he grunted, spitting from the saddle into the dry dirt of the trail.

“What?”

“I’d be plugging you between the eye. You’ve only got the one.”

“Screw you Abel Keen! You’re the devil himself!” Buxtan snarled with unremitting hatred.

“I could shoot you in the head, but I am not losing this bounty old man. That’s not my style; you’ll be meeting those that you wronged soon enough. Pray if you like, or keep cursing me. I don’t much care either way,” Keen almost cracked a smile.

Buxtan simply groaned in utter misery. “You’ll wish you’d shot me out here,” Buxtan whimpered to himself.

 

***

 

The evening air was as chill as a grave’s mouth; as cold as the day was hot and stifling. The dried shrubs and powdery sand whispered beneath the hooves of Keen’s horse. In the moonlight, the sand looked like frost.

Keen pulled his furs closer, while Buxtan shuddered as the cold pierced his bones. The stars and the moon bathed everything in silver and white, but they could not disguise the warm glow of torchlight ahead, just beyond the next hill. This was too close to be the lights of the town.

“Could be bandits; give me a gun lawman. I’ll have your back.”

“Shut up.” Keen growled at his captive as he quietly reached for the holster beneath his fur cloak. He eased the hammer back, his intense eyes glowering beneath the brim of his black hat.

It wasn’t bandits.

Over the next rise, he saw a wagon, set on its side like a stranded turtle. The light came from oil lamps scattered across the ground like fallen stars. The tanned hide of the wagon’s top was shredded. The wagon’s guts were spilled in the dust; great tins of beans and molasses, jugs of strong drink and the various pickaxes and tools of a roaming homesteader, searching for a place to call their own.

Keen’s face remained set in a mask of scowling indifference as he took in this strange sight. He brought his horse to a halt with a tug upon the reins, hopping down with his pistol in his left hand.

“There aren’t any bodies,” he grunted, partially to himself. His bewilderment didn’t reach his features, but was clear in his gruff voice.

Carefully, he walked through the fallen detritus of the destroyed wagon, picking through the ruins with the long barrel of his Smith and Wesson. The tangy scent of spent gun powder clung to the air. Keen spotted dozens of shotgun shells nestling in the mess, and whole packs of shells left unfired in their cartons inside the wagon. But there was no shotgun. What in the hell did that mean?

It took him a while, but eventually he searched the whole wagon. Nothing of use.

But then he noticed, not far down the road, there was illumination, but this time a shape moved in the shadows cast by the flickering flames. Keen grabbed the reins of his horse and led it onwards, walking ahead of his beast.

“Don’t. Please Keen, I’m begging ya…” Buxtan whimpered, before his voice descended into violent sobbing.

Keen rooted through his pack, sliding his Winchester discreetly from the folds of the cloth. His pistol was holstered, but his rifle would more than make up for it.

He advanced slowly, his rifle raised to his shoulder warily. The sight before him gave him pause, for the second time that evening.

A man stood, stripped of his breeches at the centre of a crudely drawn five pointed star, evidently etched into the grey soil with the butt of the double-barrelled shotgun the man held in one quivering hand. Gin had been poured into the pattern, and had been set alight, bathing the man in a flickering hell light. In the other hand, he clutched a mirror. The bald old lunatic was frantically peering around the shallow valley, using the mirror to look around instead of his naked eyes. The man’s few remaining clothes were torn, as if savaged by a cougar. Desperately, he turned on the spot, jumping at shadows that formed as the light danced against the stone rise behind him.

“What you see lawman?” Buxtan called out.

“Quiet!” growled Keen, before returning his attention to the deranged man before him. His voice softened fractionally as he approached.

“Calm yourself old fella; what’s transpired here?” Keen called out in a clear voice.

The man spun around, pointing the shotgun towards him. “No tricks! It doesn’t like the scourging fire! I copied the pattern from a book! They took the others to see it, but they wouldn’t touch me. Took their dead. They don’t like the light whatever they say. Must be quiet though; the light took their eyes!”

BOOK: A Fistful of Horror - Tales Of Terror From The Old West
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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