RANKED 1st BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #24!
|Date||The Legend of Johnny Smokers #1||View||Read the...|
|04/09/15||The Beginning||(Blog) (Forum)||Disclaimer|
|M||Violence- guns, knives, teeth and claws|
The Appaloosa meandered slowly along the trail, its rider sitting straight in the saddle. He had his hat pulled low over his eyes to shade from the setting sun, and was slowly rolling a cigarette for the end of a long day. The last few nights, something had been tearing the cattle apart, eight or nine heads at a time. They’d heard wolves from that general direction, but the animals were gone by the time they got there, and the tracks they found were nothing they could explain.
His men had quit on him earlier in the week over bogus pay disputes, so each night he had moved the small herd closer and closer to the ranch. His wife’s brothers had been helping him out, but they went home just before sundown. Or they went, anyway. They were good men, but he had never really been sure of their ways.
He tamped the cigarette on the saddle horn a few times, then lit up and took a long drag. He held it for a moment, savoring the taste, then exhaled slowly. The smoke hung heavy with the lack of wind, hugging the curve of his face to the back of his head, then sinking along the line of his duster until it seemed to blend with the gray-and-white coat of his horse, seeping around the black, leopard-like spots like water around rocks. He reached down and rubbed the horse’s neck lightly. “Almost home, Graycloud.”
The horse tossed its head and snorted lightly. Then it stopped dead still and pricked its ears up. “What is it, boy?” The horse snorted again and pawed the ground uneasily. The rider said, “Ho, Graycloud, calm down.” He reached to pat the horse again, but then a scream rang out. Horse and rider both tensed, and the rider said, “Maria?” He heard the snarl of wolves and then another scream. “Maria!” he shouted, and Graycloud was running before he could get spurs into the horse’s sides.
The wind kicked up as they rode, and by the time they covered the short distance to the ranch, it was pushing a full blown dust storm ahead of them, making it hard to see the house from the road in. He could just make out the porch ahead of them, the silhouette of his wife struggling with someone much bigger than her, and…were there more? Was that a man walking towards the house, from across the field? Where were the children? He wasn’t sure, for the storm. Then Maria screamed again, and he didn’t have time to worry about it.
Graycloud charged the house, ran alongside the porch, and the rider leapt from the saddle, losing his hat and hooking Maria’s attacker around the neck, throwing both of them to the porch floor. The rider hit the porch on his back, taking the brunt of the fall, but the attacker snarled and rolled with the fall, rolling off the end of the porch. “Johnny!” Maria shouted, terror in her voice. Johnny looked up at his wife, then his eyes got wide, and he drew a pistol and fired just beyond her, catching an attacker in the shoulder at the other end of the porch, spinning it backwards, out into the dust storm.
“What the hell is that thing?” he shouted, drawing his other pistol. Maria didn’t have time to answer before another crashed through the roof of the porch, landing between them. It looked down on Johnny, who was still on his back, and all Johnny could do was stare. This creature stood like a man, but its body was covered in fur, its hands and feet ended in claws, it had the head of a wolf, and something hung from its neck that looked like Indian beadwork. It breathed heavily as it growled, and when it took a step towards Johnny, Maria screamed. The creature moved swiftly, swinging backwards without looking, knocking Maria away. She bounced off of the cabin wall and fell forward, landing hard on the porch, her long black hair falling over her face.
“Maria!” shouted Johnny, and he unloaded several shots into the gut of the creature, knocking it backwards until it stumbled over Maria and fell backwards off of the porch, one leg still propped on the porch. Johnny moved then, starting to scramble towards Maria, when something snarled and grabbed his ankle. He was startled, but he twisted quickly and put two bullets in the head of the wolf that had rolled off his end of the porch, knocking it into the obscurity of the dust storm again. He got to his feet, and took two steps before the front door exploded outwards, and he found himself just a few feet from another creature. It was snarling, fangs and fur dripping with blood, and then he saw something that chilled his blood. It was holding… Johnny sobbed involuntarily, frozen in place by the horror of it.
He didn’t move when the wolf gripped the doorframe and began to crouch. His breath caught in his chest as he stared at the growling beast, blood running from its chin. They locked eyes for a long moment, until the beast’s ears laid back on its head. When it’s lips curled, Johnny snapped back to himself with a scream and he shot the beast again and again, backing it into the house with each shot, until he was standing in the doorway, pulling the triggers on empty chambers, still screaming as much in anger as in horror. Once his breath ran out, his scream died.
Slowly, he lowered his guns, focusing only on the fallen wolf, because he was afraid to look into the cabin. He trembled as he took a step backwards, back out onto the porch, and then another. He reached to his belt for a bullet, and began reloading. He had one reloaded and three in the chambers of the second gun when he heard a low growl.
|Next Issue: Stranger in the Storm.||-|
|Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cb||Originally Presented In: CCC #24.|