Spirit of the Harvest Moon

Rumors circled the town of Old Eng. Talk of magic in the soil and spells in the air. Stories of a time, long ago, when the market filled with the fruits of the farmer’s toils.

Not all spoke of the joy the old farm once brought.

“A curse,” Rhett said, frowning at the Mayor.

“Aye.”

The farmer stared at the old man before shaking his head. “I don’t buy it, Lincoln.”

“How else would you explain the mystery surrounding your predecessors?” Lincoln asked, nervously tugging on the key hanging around his neck as he eyed the rickety farmhouse. “This farm is cursed.” Continue reading

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City of Ashes

Nobody remembered much of the events nearly two decades ago. These days, there were few people old enough to remember the Fires first coming. Sara was one of them. Born and raised in Charleston, she’d been elected to join the Scavengers. For her knowledge of how the city had been, if nothing else.

Not that it made much difference anymore. Landmarks disappeared after the first Fires and now everything looked the same. Where there once stood corporate towers and busy malls, now there was only ash. Nobody dared wander far from the Sanctuary, not even the Elders, who’d lived in the city for longer than she could even dream of.

The Fires would return soon. Sara could feel the encroaching heat prickle against her spine. Continue reading

The Beast

“The deed is done.”

Standing in the foyer of her small home, Irene frowned at the man in her hallway, his hand outstretched to take her coat. She hesitated before setting it in his palm. When he’d first appeared in her kitchen, sword drawn and bloodied and several hundred years after his lifetime, she’d known letting him stay was a bad idea.

“Deed?” she asked.

“Thy home is safe,” Leo said.

“Good to know… but I wasn’t aware it wasn’t.”

He nodded, his expression serious, his hand dropping from the coat rack to rest on the hilt of the sword he kept strapped to his side. “The beast hath been vanquished.”

“The- I’m sorry. What?”

“A creature of darkness lurked beneath thy floor. ‘Tis gone.”

“Leo, you know there’s no such thing as ‘creatures of darkness’ right?”

Calloused fingers curled around the swords hilt, keen eyes narrowing. “Thou would’st not say that if thy’d seen the creatures of my home. They-”

“We’re not in the sixteenth century anymore,” Irene said, eyeing the sword. “I thought you were going to put that away.”

Leo lifted his chin. “The beast is vanquished.”

Worried now, Irene frowned, scanning the hallway. “You killed the cat didn’t you?”

“Marry!” Leo exclaimed, offended. “To hurt such a creature would’st be a crime!”

“The dog then?”

The knight spun on his heel. “Forsooth! To be accused of such disgrace!”

“Leo, okay, I’m sorry,” Irene said, catching hold of his arm. “I thank you for taking care of my home, but I have to ask. What ‘beast’ are you talking about?”

“The one beneath thy floor. An angry creature. An ugly creature.” His stance relaxed, his chin lifting in pride. “It is dead.”

“Beneath my floor? You mean the basement?” At the nod, Irene strolled passed the knight, making a beeline for the stairs to her basement. “Let’s go see this beast.”

She heard Leo follow her down the steps and stand guard at her back. Without looking, she knew his hand was back on his sword.

Rolling her eyes, she searched the wall for the light switch, hoping she wasn’t about to see the remains of some poor creature who’d crossed Leo’s sword.

As light flooded the room, she froze.

“What the Hell did you do to my washing machine?”

 


Author’s Note:

Another competition on Deviant Art and this is my entry for the final round. I tend to struggle with comedy but, despite my reservations with the prompt, I reckon this turned out okay.

Since I’ve been neglecting my blog (again) I figured this was a good piece to upload, so enjoy.

~ Nim

Santa’s First Day

The barn door slid open with a rattle, the arctic wind outside swirling snow into the threshold before the door was heaved shut. A match was struck, illuminating the features of a young man dressed in red as he set about lighting the lanterns spread throughout the barn, chattering as he passed the stalls on either side of the building.

“Hello Donner. Good morning, Blitzen. Looking handsome as ever I see, Prancer. Ready for breakfast, Dancer? Did you sleep well, Vixen? Rise and shine, Comet. Easy there, Dasher, I’ll let you out soon. Mind the antlers there, Cupid! How are we today, little Rudolph?”

At the end of the barn, he spun on his heel and clapped his hands together with a big grin. “Who’s ready for the big day?” Continue reading

Yours To Keep

A small park, a few blocks from her apartment, served as Zoey’s favorite place to run. Preferring to listen to the wildlife wake, she only ever jogged in the mornings and never with headphones.

Finding herself sat on the ground, her bum and lower back aching from the sudden fall and a vase sitting in her lap, wasn’t something she expected. Least of all for a sleepy Sunday morning. While she couldn’t really tell through the canopy of leaves, Zoey was sure there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

So why, was it raining vases? Continue reading

Secret Keeper

Maybe it was the heavy atmosphere inside the saloon that made the patrons so eager to blurt out their secrets. The tobacco smoke flooding the air acting as a truth serum nobody could fight off.

Behind the bar, Jesse scowled at the glass he dried with a cloth that had seen better days. He shot a dark look over his shoulder, watching as the stranger slammed an empty tumbler back onto the scarred wooden counter. Tobacco smoke or not, the alcohol definitely leant a hand.

Resisting the urge to tell the patron to discuss his latest conquest with someone else, preferably someone in the next state over, the barkeep set the glass on the shelf with several others and reached for the whiskey. A gesture Jesse wasn’t even aware of making until the cowboy was urging him to fill the tumbler a little more.

He’d given up listening long ago, somewhere between the stranger’s birth and first word. Like he cared about the man’s life story. Resting his weight on the bar, he sighed, reaching down to rub at his left knee. The ache spread up his thigh, curling around his hips and into his spine. Even the smallest movement was a chore and listening to the rambling idiot wasn’t helping.

In business for little over two weeks and he was sure he’d heard every story anyone could tell him. Locals and strangers alike.

Straightening up, he turned back to the patrons, scanning the room for trouble. As he did, the talkative man paused his tale. With one hand resting on the counter for balance, he leant back on his stool and spat a wad of tobacco into the nearby spittoon.

Glad for the reprieve and the accuracy of the drunken man’s aim, Jesse turned his attention to a group playing poker. Another round ended to a chorus of groans and the smug look of the winner. He’d cheated, but then it wasn’t Jesse’s business. If the other players were too wasted to see the cards peeking out of the man’s sleeve, the barkeep wasn’t about to start a brawl. So long as they paid their due, he didn’t care.

The drunken cowboy started talking again. Jesse tuned in long enough to judge how drunk the man was by his slurring. He caught the tail end of a lengthy tale of a mid-life crisis and promptly zoned out again.

One of the poker players stumbled over, offering a much needed distraction and tossing a curse over his shoulder when his comrades laughed at his inebriated state. He slammed several coins onto the counter, slurring out his request.

Amazed that the patron still had money to pay for the drinks given his losing streak, Jesse replaced the payment with several glasses. The gambler gathered the drinks with reverence, making his way back to his game with more care than he’d demonstrated before. Jesse rolled his eyes, grabbing another glass to clean. At least he didn’t have to mop up wasted whiskey.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the drunken cowboy down the rest of his drink and slam the tumbler onto the counter again. The silent demand making Jesse flinch. He really didn’t want to buy more glasses because of a heavy handed oaf who talked too much.

Could he be any more boring?

Jesse sighed, he was stuck with the man. He didn’t seem the type to have many friends. If any.

Ready to put an end to the blight’s presence on his property, Jesse turned to dismiss him. As he did, the cowboy leaned forward, crooking his finger to beckon him closer.

“Got me somethin’ to tell ya,” he said.

Did this guy ever shut up? The barkeep set down the glass he was cleaning and folded his arms on the counter. He caught sight of the six-shooters hanging in the holsters either side of the man’s waist. The leather sported a design that looked more expensive than he expected the cowboy to be able to afford. Part of him mourned the missed information as to their origin while the other wondered whether he could borrow one and silence the stranger for good.

In the far corner, laughter caught his attention. The sheriff’s table.

Pity. Of course, if he did shoot him, he’d have quite a mess to clean up. Blood always seemed to stain. He quite liked the dark wood flooring as it was.

“Got a stash in the caves few miles west,” the cowboy slurred. “Gonna gather it up and ride further north come ‘morrow…”

Jesse considered himself a decent actor, if not one of the best. Walking a knife edge between friendliness and sending alarm bells ringing was a dangerous game, but it was one he was good at. The locals learned to trust him easily enough.

He offered a crooked smile, expressing his ‘sorrow’ at the early departure. Now he remembered why he’d settled in a saloon instead of riding through the plains.

Jesse reached for the bottle again, pouring a generous measure in the stranger’s empty glass. It wouldn’t do for him to leave just yet.

“Drink up,” he said. “It’s on the house.”

Sort of, but the drunkard didn’t need to know that.

By the time the man’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and he toppled backward off his stool, Jesse had all he needed to know. The thump as the cowboy hit the floor drew the attention of the other patrons who soon turned away again. People passing out wasn’t anything new.

Jesse glanced at a duo preparing to leave. They knew the drill and didn’t protest to dragging the wasted man out and forcing him conscious by dumping him in the nearest water trough. As the stranger spluttered awake, the horses hitched to the railing skittering in fright, the sheriff wandered over.

Amusement shone in his eyes as he set down an empty tumbler and Jesse shot him a dark look. The sheriff’s lips quirked into a small smile and the barkeep dropped his attention to filling the glass. He wouldn’t admit he was happier knowing pretending to listen had paid off. Not when the man already knew. Instead, Jesse set the whiskey bottle on the counter, tipping his head in the direction of the storeroom.

An imperceptible nod was the sheriff’s response and Jesse moved away as the man drained his glass. He looked back when he heard the sheriff leave and, through the window, watched him lift the drunken cowboy to his feet, steering him down the dusty street.

* * *

Closing time found the saloon locked tight and Jesse sat in the storeroom, drinking straight from the bottle at his side. When a figure emerged from the shadows, he held the whiskey out in a silent offer.

The candlelight gleamed off the six-pointed star attached to the man’s shirt, the shadows dancing across the metal when the flame flickered. Jesse spoke as the sheriff drank, sparing no time for pleasantries. Unlike the stranger earlier, he knew the dangers of talking. He knew who he was dealing with.

“We’ll go tonight. Bring it back ‘fore anyone else,” the sheriff said, handing the bottle back. “‘Bout time. Almost figured you’d gone soft, boss.”

“Watch it,” Jesse warned. “Y’all know why I bought this place.”

The older man dipped his head. They both knew what their last adventure had cost them. Jesse rubbed his knee. The bullet had missed him but his horse hadn’t been as lucky. He could still feel the weight of the dead animal crushing his leg.

It’d taken almost a month to get back on his feet but he’d never be useful out on the prairie again. He took a gulp of whiskey, closing his eyes at the familiar burn. Didn’t matter any. He was too young to retire.

“Y’all get your due, boss,” the sheriff said. “The men and I, we ain’t givin’ up on ya.” He paused. “Oh, got a gift for ya. The owner don’t need ‘em.”

The barkeep realized as he accepted the offered object that he’d been handed two six-shooters tucked into a leather holster. He traced his thumb over the intricate design on the material and heard the quiet squeak of the hinges on the backdoor.

Outside, hooves pounded against the dust track and Jesse blew out the light. In his room, he set the dead cowboy’s weapons on his writing table.


Author’s Note:

I figured not all barkeeps could be completely willing to listen to drunken strangers rant about their problems so this is a play on the whole ‘friendly ear’ bartenders offer.

My first attempt at a Western and my entry for the final week of the 3-week challenge I took part in at the start of August. Unlike The Fingerprint Killer and Thunder-clowns this one didn’t win but, to my happy surprise, got Daily Deviation on Deviant Art instead.

Thunder-clowns

Thunder scared him. Not that he’d ever admit it. He was used to keeping it secret.

It was just his luck that lightning chose tonight to light up the sky. Bringing with it the loud rumble of thunder rolling overhead. Which, okay, was fine. He could handle it. Headphones and his music was all he needed. There was, however, one problem.

Date night.

Or at least, it was supposed to be. Currently, she was in the living room and he was sitting on the edge of the bath, head in his hands. Flinching at every crack of thunder.

Continue reading

The Fingerprint Killer

Three candles rested in between the rigid fingers of the hand sitting on the dresser. The flames flickered, casting eerie shadows on the face of the fresh corpse sprawled on the floor. A single red fingerprint was the only mark on the otherwise undamaged face and it was thrown into sharp contrast with the pale features as a camera flashed.

“Alex Callahan,” Luke Carter said, approaching the medical examiner kneeling beside the corpse.

“The copycat,” was the response. The man looked up as Luke crouched opposite him to examine the body. “You took your time.” Continue reading

The Watchman

Little could be said about the lone man often sat against the subway wall. Dwarfed in a thick coat and settled on a ratty blanket, he sheltered from the weather and watched people pass by. At his side, an old dog dozed away the hours, occasionally knocking an empty tin can with his foot.

Effectively invisible to the crowd, the man sat and observed. He could count on one hand the number of city folk who saw him and lingered, petting his dog and dropping much needed coins in the dented can at his side. But he stayed and keen eyes scanned each man, woman and child that wandered passed.

Continue reading

Cursed

“That’s ridiculous! You can’t have a female pirate! It’s unlucky!” a young teen exclaimed, furious with the storyteller sat before the gathered children. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Many have said the words you speak, lad and have seen how wrong they are; for there were female pirates.”

“Prove it!” the boy challenged.

The storyteller, an ageing lady with tangled grey locks and braids, studied him. Her eyes sharp and, despite a youthful glow, they held wisdom gained from watching the century pass. She remained silent, studying the boy sat before her.

His brown eyes fixed on her, dedicated to proving her wrong. With a soft sigh, she set down the basket she was weaving and lifted the black cat sat at her heel onto her lap, revealing a small white patch over his heart. As the animal curled up, she stroked his fur reverently.

“You wish for me to tell you a story? Then a story I shall tell. Tell me children, do you believe in the creatures of the deep, magic and curses?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” the boy demanded, though his eyes sparkled with excitement.

The woman laughed. “Patience child, you’ll find out in time. This is a tale of a captain who met an unlikely fate. You see, she was subject to the lavish attentions of a fellow pirate, his devotion knowing no bounds.” Continue reading