A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

Part 10

A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

By Mark Slade

Story Break Barbed

In the dead of night, a scream pierced through the town. An old woman ran down the street, banging on doors and calling out for help. No one opened their doors. They heard the growling, the screeching cry echoing. The old woman saw yellow eyes trailing her, feeling the four-legged beast on her heels. This creature only made appearances at night.

Just as she reached the livery stables, a door opened. Logan appeared, his Colt drawn. He saw the creature leap into the air, inches away from the old woman. Logan fired twice. The creature screamed, fell to the ground, hit in the right eye and chest.

The old woman dropped to her knees, grasping at Logan’s pants, weeping and mumbling a name over and over.

Nat came outside holding a lantern, casting light on the creature. It was a horde – body long, big as a dog with gray, curly hair and yellow eyes. It had an elongated snout with two large tusks hanging from its lower lip. On all four paws were long, gnarly nails as sharp as razors. If anyone survived its attack, it was a sure bet the change to that creature was inevitable.

Nat looked up at Logan. “Good thing you came out when you did,” he said. “Especially when nobody else would.” Logan shook his head. “Cowards! The whole damn town. Wouldn’t even help an old woman.”

“Wait,” Nat said. “Look at it!”

Logan stepped into the lantern light. The old woman followed, screamed, and hid her face in Logan’s shirt.

“My Paul,” she said. “My Paul!”

The horde had transformed back into a frail, naked old man. Logan didn’t know what else to do but put his arms around the hysterical old woman.

“This town is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth,” Logan told Nat.

Nat shrugged, licked his lips. “Nobody wanted to take a chance getting attacked. You can understand that, right, Logan?”

“It’s almost sunrise.” Logan’s top lip curled up. “Take her to the hotel and get her a room. I’ll pay later. Get her some breakfast. And don’t wake me until later. Me and you have to get a stagecoach on short notice.”

The old woman walked to Nat slowly, took his hand. As they headed toward the hotel, she turned and looked back at Logan.

“Go on,” Logan said to her. “Everything is alright… now.”

Logan went in the opposite direction to Doc Abrams’ place, at the top of Joe’s saloon. He ran up the stairway quickly and banged on Abrams’ door. He heard grunting. Someone yelled, “Go away. Can’t a man sleep around here?”

“Open up, Doc. It’s me, Logan.”

The door crept open. Abrams stood there bare, his legs flimsy, his eyelids droopy. “What do you want, Logan?” Abrams’ voice croaked.

“Tell me everything you know about the horde.” Logan pushed past Abrams. Abrams threw his hands in the air and shut the door. “Come on in,” he said. “What can I tell you?” Abrams pulled a chair over for Logan.

Logan sat, rubbing his eyes. “Am I going to change like the others?”

Abrams thought a minute. “I don’t know. Never been around anyone who has eaten a horde.”

“Thanks. You’re a big help.” Logan rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand.

“Don’t get ornery with me. I didn’t tell you to eat one of those things!”

“Doc… a lot of people here in Bedlam have been infested by those things. Any reason for it?”

Abrams shook his head. “I can’t seem to understand it myself,” he said, pacing his tiny room. It was obvious he was a bachelor, with clothes strewn everywhere.

“When did it start?”

“We’ve had a dozen cases since Wellerman moved here. He built a new oasis just outside of town, toward Cherokee Hill.”

“I passed it along the way. Didn’t stop there, was fine at the time on… water. Does he supply the valley too?”

“As a matter of fact, he does,” Abrams said.

Logan stood, went to the door.

“Wait!” Abrams grabbed his pants. “I’m coming with you, but not half-dressed.”

“Just seeing what’s in that well, Doc. Not getting involved.”

“I can’t see Tom Wellerman doing evil on purpose.”

“Some don’t see the doing as evil, but necessary for their own purpose.”