Finally! Another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction prompt! It’s the first one in a while, more than a month, I think. This time he pulled out one of my favorites, the Subgenre Smash-and-Grab, where he lists 20 different subgenres and we penmonkey acolytes are supposed to somehow randomly select two of them and write a story combining those two subgenres. I’m going to be honest, Mine isn’t random.
A few weeks ago I heard a song by the mighty Jason and the Scorchers called “Bible And A Gun” and I thought, there’s a story somewhere out there with that title on it. It’s a western, but I wasn’t sure what else. It’s been sort of percolating ever since. When I saw “Weird West” on the subgenre list, I decided it was time. I looked them over and tried to figure out what it was going to be. I didn’t want to get all Jonah Hex or Wild Wild West, so in the end I picked something that I hoped would keep me out of those particular territories.
The word limit for this one was 1,500 words, and I came in at 1,445. Please to enjoy my Weird West/Vampire story, “Bible And A Gun”
BIBLE AND A GUN
“Now I hear her whisper soft and low
Through every mile I run
As I travel through this world of woe
With a Bible and a gun”
Sitting astride my horse, I once again check the chambers of my six-shooter. They’re full, for all the good it’ll do me. I have a more potent weapon at hand, anyway. My hand touches the cross around my neck.
I rode out from Shumate less than six hours ago. The Marshal had tried to stop me, and Preacher Mike, knowing that I wouldn’t listen, had pressed the cross into my hand. “In the end,” he had said, “trust in the Lord.”
I brought a couple weeks’ worth of food and a canteen that I will keep filled from little ponds and creeks out past the city limits. I’m not going back to town any time soon. I can see it in the distance as I write these words—but I know it now for what it has always been: a place of danger, doomed to haunt me for the rest of my life.
My course takes me in circles around the town, ever widening, in a searching pattern. Searching. Searching for my life, for the light that was taken from my world last night.
In my head I can still hear her sweet voice as she sings, see her radiant face as she smiles, feel the gossamer touch of her caress. I can also see those magnificent eyes glazed over in death, the ivory skin of her throat incarnadine in the flickering light of the doc’s office.
I see those angel eyes snap open and the devil that looks out at us from behind them. The smile—oh God, the smile. The pointed teeth, the flickering tongue. The shot from the Marshal’s pistol going into her forehead and still she stood up. She rose before us like an apparition from a nightmare. Before we could move, she was gone.
“So fast,” said the doc with a gasp.
“What is she?” I asked, “What happened to her? She was dead!”
“She is a vampire now.” Preacher Mike came in. “A demon, a creature of the night who kills and drinks the blood of mortal men. She is no longer alive.”
We looked at each other nervously. We had heard of such things, of course. One didn’t live in Shumate City and not hear of vampires. For years there had been occasional murders and disappearances and the bodies invariably had damage to the throat when found. None had ever come back to life, though. Not before tonight.
“What makes this different?” I asked. “Why did she come back?”
“Perhaps the old vampire is dying,” said Preacher Mike, “and created a new one to take his place.”
“Maybe he thought she was beautiful and turned her to be his companion,” said the Marshal. “Surely not even vampires are immune to beauty such as hers.” He looked at me apologetically. “I’m sure you can understand that.” I nodded. I had fallen under her spell years before. I can well imagine that even an undead monster would find her captivating.
“We have to find her,” said the doc. “Both of them, if we can.” We all looked at him. “If there are two, there may be more. Who knows?”
“Maybe they’re raising an army,” said Preacher Mike. We all shuddered, picturing a horde of vampires swarming into town.
“There’s nothing more we can do tonight,” said the Marshal. “Tomorrow, in the light of day, we’ll get the town together and get up a posse to look for them.”
“What good will that do?” I asked. “They are creatures of the night. We need to be looking for them at night.”
“Not at all,” said Preacher Mike. “if we find them in daytime they will be sleeping, defenseless. At night, they have the advantage.”
“How can they be killed?” I asked. The preacher spread his hands and shrugged eloquently.
I could not sit still and, against the advice of the Marshal and others, rode out on my own to look for them. Several hours of night remained. I knew I was at a disadvantage, but how could I sit there, knowing that she was dead and doing nothing about it?
Now I sit here on my horse, wearing a gun that I know will do nothing, scared to death, hoping against hope to find them, hoping against hope that I do not. What will I do if I see her again? What can I do?
I holster my gun and reach into my coat pocket and I pull out the small Bible I brought with me. I always have the Word with me. It is a comfort to me, and I turn to it often in times of need.
I open it and turn to the Gospel of Luke. I read aloud from chapter 8, verse 52. “And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.” I read it again, in a louder voice. And still again, even more strident. Trying to deceive myself. Armoring my heart against the reality of the situation.
Soft laughter behind me. I dismount and turn, but it is not her. It is another. A man that I do not know. He is ragged, unkempt. Irregular patches of what was once wavy auburn hair clings to the figure’s desiccated scalp. His face is dried and shriveled, almost as if his skin had been baked under ferocious heat then scoured with some sort of sand. The eyes are clear, however; blue and slightly slanted. He smiles. His teeth are sharp.
As his smile widens, I see bits of flesh flake off and drift away in the breeze. He speaks, and his voice is not as I expected. I thought it would be harsh and rough as were his features. Rather, it is soft and melodious. Enticing. Tempting. “Come to me,” he says. “Do you miss her? I can give her to you again.”
Despite my resolve, I feel my knees begin to buckle. I reach up and grasp my cross, clutching it tightly in my left hand. My right hand holds my Bible, brandishing it, holding it aloft, and I cry out like Jesus on the mountaintop. “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
He laughs at me. “I am not Satan,” he says. “I am just a man trying to reunite another man with the woman he loves. Come.” He holds out a hand. “Come to us.”
I close my eyes, trying desperately to maintain my composure. I feel control slipping through my fingers, though. It is as if my heart is betraying me, taking my feet forward. I try to resist, the Lord’s Prayer upon my lips.
Then I hear her voice. A single word. “Please.” I gasp. My Bible slips from my suddenly shaky fingers and falls to the ground at my feet. I am powerless to bend and retrieve it.
In spite of my entreaties not to do so, my eyes open and I see her, radiant in her undeath, her throat still crimson, a single bullet hole dry and empty above her left eye. It is her, though, and she is as she always was: everything I ever wanted, in life or in death. They begin walking slowly towards me. My internal struggle escalates as they approach.
She stands back as he moves forward to stand directly in front of me. He reaches out a hand. I know I will never forget the sight of that hand—the grey, rotted skin; the gnarled, twisted joints; the bits of flesh coming loose and drifting away in the air as the hand moves up towards my own; the papery thinness of the skin as it touches me, brushing across my fingers and uncurling them from around Preacher Mike’s cross. He closes his own hand around the cross and nothing happens. “You see?” he asks. “The Cross accepts my touch.”
With that, I am defeated. My faith has been my bulwark throughout this night and I see now that it is no defense against such as these. There is nothing I can do. I bow my head, tears streaming down my face, then I look back up. My eyes find hers, shining as they always have, and I say her name. Smiling, he stands aside, and she approaches me.
“And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.”