11047 words (44 minute read)

Chapter 2 - The Rising Dead

The Rising Dead 

Near the outskirts of the Washoe village, an old woman scraped bits of dried meat and hair from the surface of a stretched deer hide that had been staked in the ground. The sun would soon turn this hide into leather, which the tribe needed for a number of things. She moved loose strands of hair from her forehead and tucked them behind her ear as she continued her work. Her years were beyond count and her tender hands showed many signs of aging, but the Washoe people cherished all who worked hard under the burning sun. As she reached for a sharp bone tool, something caught her eye, a Washoe warrior riding slowly into the village. He was hunched over and clutched his stomach, and blood oozed between his clenched fingers. Two other men saw him and came running out of the village. The old woman watched the rider lose consciousness and fall from his horse as the two men rushed passed her. The three of them ran to the warrior’s aid and carried him into a nearby hut. The old woman sent a small boy to fetch the shaman, a healer whose skill had earned him great admiration among the Washoe people.

Word soon reached Essa-queta about the injured warrior and he rushed into the healer’s tent to speak with him. The warrior had left with Essa-queta’s son, who hadn’t yet returned to the village. The pale warrior lay on his back, and breathed hard from the loss of blood. The old woman dripped cool water on his forehead as she attempted to break his fever.

Essa-queta kneeled down next to the warrior. “What happened?” he asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. The warrior looked at Essa-queta with fear in his eyes. He was afraid to tell the Chieftain what had happened, but knew that these might very well be his last moments alive.

“We confronted the white men.” He said, and then coughed up blood and wrenched painfully. The woman leaned forward and wiped his mouth. The pain from his wound was getting worse and it was becoming harder to speak. “They attacked us…” he took a few deep breaths, “…and we had no time to react.”

Essa-queta lifted the bandage from his wound and inspected the damage. It was a clean bullet hole that passed all the way through his abdomen. It was a slow bleed, but one that would never stop. He could already smell death on him. The old woman shook her head as he looked to her. Even with all his skill, this was something the shaman wouldn’t be able to heal. The warrior tried to sit upright, but the pain was too much for him to bear and he fell back onto the floor mat.

“Where is Itza-chu?” the chieftain asked.

The warrior winced and coughed up more blood. He was trying his best to speak but the pain was overwhelming.

“Where is my son?” he asked again, and became fearful from what the warrior might tell him.

“He was shot…by the white men. He tried to fight them back and they shot him again.”

Essa-queta grabbed the warrior’s hand and braced himself against the bad news that he hoped he would never hear about his oldest child. “He’s dead,” the warrior murmured.

The warrior’s head fell back as he passed out from pain and blood loss. Essa-queta stared blankly at the floor. A few moments passed before he was able to rise to his feet. He stepped back in shock and left the warrior behind inside the hut.

He passed by several people in complete silence as he walked to the edge of the village. The day had grown hot as the sun moved across the sky, but Essa-queta could feel his skin tighten and a cold chill moved across his shoulders and down his spine. His jaw tightened in a spasm as he fell to his knees, overwhelmed by the cruel agony that this news had brought him. His hands began to shake uncontrollably as he held back tears, so he clenched his fists and pounded them into the dirt, trying to beat the pain from his soul. Again and again he threw his fists against the ground and yelled from despair.

His loss turned to misery. And his misery turned to anger, a deep anger that boiled over and exploded out of him. “Fools!” he yelled as he threw his head back and screamed at the gods. “Fools…


•  •  •


The sun drifted smoothly behind white cloud banks that had steadily grown across the sky all afternoon. Rebecca Forred drove a small horse-drawn cart down a winding dirt road outside of town. The cart rattled as the wheels jumped back-and-forth between ruts in the road, and shook Rebecca forcefully in the spring-loaded driver’s seat. She passed by the cemetery and snapped the reins to urge the horses onward. The cemetery had always made her uneasy, especially when she was alone. Thunder rolled in the distance and it began to rain as she cleared a small hill and turned down a long driveway after she passed a sign that read: Doctor’s Office, this way. It was a crudely drawn hand with an outstretched finger that pointed down the driveway toward a white two-story house with blue shutters. A beautiful green garden was nestled next to the house behind a white fence, surrounded at the base by chicken wire.

She pulled the cart up to the barn and tied the horses to a bright blue railing with steel rivets that held it in place. The barn was less than a year old, constructed of heavy pine and cedar, and was something that the good doctor had paid a high price for to please his wife. She pulled the supplies down from the driver’s seat and walked toward the house. As she approached the front door, a greasy miner exited the office. He held his jaw and moaned in pain as he stumbled to his horse. She paid no attention to the man and stepped inside the door. After passing through the waiting area, she entered a cramped office in the back.

The room was small and smelled like cheap disinfectant. A pair of steel pliers rested on a metal tray next to a freshly pulled bloody tooth on a white piece of gauze, the cause of the miner’s pain. Her husband, Dr. Andrew Forred, was sitting at his desk, with his glasses perched on his nose and busily writing in a notebook. He was only a man of forty, but Andrew looked old and worn as he sat hunched over at his desk. These last few years had been hard on him.

Andrew briefly peered above his glasses at his wife, and then continued writing. “How was town?” he said, never taking his eyes off the notebook for more than a few seconds at a time.

“Fine. I ran into a man on the street today. He was quite unsavory.”

“That’s nice dear,” he commented, obviously not listening to her. He continued taking notes and pushed his glasses back up his nose. Rebecca had tried in the past to understand her husband, always finding new things that they could talk about. But lately he had grown more and more despondent, and used his work as an excuse to spend time away from her. When they moved out west to Virginia City he had promised her a life on the prairie. It was something she had dreamt about since she was a little girl. But the town had grown three-fold since gold and silver were found here nearly two years ago, and Andrew couldn’t keep up with the demand.

“How was your day in the office?” she asked him.

“Like any other I suppose,” he said, without ever putting down his pen.

Rebecca stared at him and wondered if he cared that she was even home. She turned and walked through a side door and stepped inside the house. After placing the supplies on the kitchen table she walked into the bedroom and unzipped her leather boots, and then kicked them across the room. She slipped off her stockings and rubbed her toes deep into a thick soft rug in front of the bed. After she changed into a silk blouse and an old pair of jeans, she walked back downstairs barefoot and put the supplies away in the pantry, a large bag of raw flour and sacks of dried beans. She made herself a glass of sweet tea and stepped out onto the back porch to watch the sunset. Her husband was still working as she took a moment by herself to reflect on her thoughts. Thin folds of gray clouds were moving in from the North, trailing a black curtain of rain beneath them. She watched as her horses grazed peacefully in the back pasture, and sipped her tea as a flash of lightening cut across the front of the incoming storm.


•  •  •


The sky grew dark above the Washoe village as a young boy ran down a dirt path and carried a dried deer bladder full of water. He left the village and turned a sharp corner by a large Oak tree, half dead from a bolt of lightening. He hurdled over a broken rock and sloshed water on the ground, and then turned on the path to a steep hill, which he dashed over in a few quick steps. He continued down the hillside into a deep ravine and turned into a clearing. In front of him sat a large round hut with thick smoke pouring ominously from several holes in the roof. He paused at a distance to catch his breath and stole a sip of water from the bladder.

Two Washoe men stood on either side of the door, one tall and the other surprisingly fat for what little he ate. They stood guard and held long sharpened spears at their sides, but neither had ever seen a real battle. The boy approached them cautiously and coughed to make sure that they weren’t caught off guard in the growing darkness. He handed the tall Washoe man the bladder of water, and then stood in front of the door waiting to see inside. The fat one stepped in front of him with his spear held out, ready to back hand him if needed.

“Go back!” he scolded. He was deadly serious and glared at the boy. “Go!” He waved his hand, trying to scare him away like a stray dog.

The boy waited for a moment longer, but soon realized that the two men were nothing but serious. He knew that he had to become a man before he could take part in these sacred rituals. His father had warned him that only men who were trained in the ancient ways could witness them without having their eyes plucked from their sockets. So he finally relented and ran back over the hill and turned toward the village where he belonged.

The tall man opened the leather door of the hut and stepped inside. A great fire burned brightly at the center, surrounded by smooth stones that had shallow depressions carved into their surfaces. It was very hot and humid inside the hut, which was used as a ceremonial sweat lodge. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness as he stood by the door waiting. From behind the fire he heard shallow and guttural chanting, the droning of spiritual incantations.

His eyes finally adjusted and he saw a very old man sitting on the ground on the other side of the fire. His eyes were closed as he waved his hands through the air. A large white buffalo skull sat atop his shaved head and his face was painted half red and half black, with several small animal skulls strung around his neck. The shaman was known to many as a spiritual healer and highly regarded among the Washoe people, but some also feared him as a dark magician who could speak with the dead.

The man bent over and poured water into the depressions on the hot stones, which steamed and hissed, throwing more humidity into the air. He stepped back and watched the shaman, mesmerized by his words.

“Daednuae mortui unstae, daednuae mortui unstae. Estan id a daednuae. Daednuae mortui unstae, daednuae mortui unstae,” he chanted in a tongue that the man had never heard before, an ancient language that only a handful remembered, and even fewer dared to speak.

The fire seemed to grow larger in front of the Shaman. It turned a deep shade of red and spit hot embers into the air. He threw his hand into the hot flames and held it above the smoldering coals, but they did not burn him. As he held it there, the fire turned from red to bright purple and he withdrew his hand from the flames. His incantations became faster and faster, his arm movements more pronounced. “Daednuae unstae! Daednuae unstae!” he said as he started to shake and sway back-and-forth with his arms high in the air.

Fear crept inside the man and he dropped the bladder, threw back the leather door, and ran out of the hut as fast as he could. The other man followed behind him and ran up the hill as fast as his fat legs could carry him, and they both disappeared into the darkness.

The clouds grew dark in the sky as it started to rain. Strange blue lightening cracked and illuminated the village below in a thin halo of light. As the foul clouds twisted and churned into a mass of evil, a cold wind began to blow and the cruel hand of the devil reached down from the sky. As his finger touched the ground, the Shaman grew louder and louder.

“Daednuae unstae! Daednuae unstae!!” He threw his arms to one side and then the other. His body shook violently. Lightening cracked again, now purple and orange. The Shaman stopped, frozen in place at the end of his evil prayer. He opened his eyes, which had turned completely white. “Daednuae--, daednuae--, daednuae--,” he repeated over and over, stuck in a trance. He had become a conduit of pure evil and had brought forth terrible sin upon the earth.


•  •  •


The pouring rain had softened the dirt in the cemetery outside of town. The moist ground bulged upward in front of a broken headstone that was tilted to one side and marked a grave beneath an old tree. Rotten fingers broke through the soil and dug their cracked yellow fingernails through the dirt. An arm appeared, twisted and deformed, and then the other arm appeared, followed by the head with a gaping maw and rotten black teeth. It was an undead man, raised from the earth by the shaman’s unholy words. The exposed undead torso pulled itself from the grave and a flash of lightening reflected in its black lifeless eyes, set deep into its skull. It stumbled to its feet and stood for a moment to take in the surroundings and slowly turned its head from one side to the other. Rotten skin hung loosely from its bones and the foul stench of death lingered in the air. Its eyes fell upon a farmhouse in the distance, with yellow light pouring from the windows. The undead man lurched forward with a desperate moan. The undead curse had begun.

Inside the farmhouse Rebecca was busy preparing dinner. She placed two large white plates on the dining table, both covered in food and garnished with fresh parsley. Andrew was already sitting in his chair reading a thick leather-bound book with his glasses perched at the end of his nose. She placed a wine glass in front of him, but he placed his hand over the glass before she could pour from the bottle.

“Just water tonight, please,” he said, glancing up from the pages. He cracked a half-smile at her and went back to reading.

Rebecca sat down across from him and poured the wine for herself instead. She drank half of it in one gulp, Andrew didn’t even notice. She topped off her glass again and continued to drink.

Andrew cut into his steak with the book still in his lap, and watched as red juice pooled around the warm meat. He took a bite and sighed. The steak was cooked to perfection, but it still couldn’t cure his apathy. He continued to read his book while eating the juicy steak. He didn’t have much to talk about tonight and was consumed by his own thoughts.

Rain continued to beat against the window as they sat in silence. Lightening flashed and illuminated a silhouette walking across the field outside, but only for a moment. Neither of them seemed to notice it and they continued their taciturn dinner.

Rebecca put down her fork and finally broke the heavy silence. “How was your day?” she asked, trying to get him to talk to her.

Andrew still hadn’t put the book down as he ate. “Oh…it was just another day. Treated some workers from the mine…not much other than that.” He forked another piece of steak and continued eating.

Lighting flashed again and the silhouetted figure moved closer, its grotesque evil form outlined in the rain. Loud thunder cracked and the horses in the barn started to whinny. Rebecca looked out of the window and worried that her horses would get spooked and hurt themselves inside the stalls.

“I hope the horses will be okay,” she said, fingering the edge of her cloth napkin anxiously.

Andrew turned a page in his book, still not paying much attention to her. “It’s only a little rain,” he said reassuringly. “I’m sure that they’ll be just fine.”

“Maybe I’ll go check on them after dinner,” she commented. “Can you come with me?”

“Sure,” he said.

She returned to her meal and continued to delicately cut her steak into small pieces. Lightening flashed again, brighter than ever, and this time Rebecca could see the man right outside the window. She jumped up startled and knocked over her chair. The undead man smashed through the window and broke through the glass with his hand and face.

“Oh my god!” Rebecca screamed as she stumbled backward and fell over the chair.

Andrew jumped up from his chair and sprinted out of the dining room as the undead man began to crawl through the window. Its movements were slow and awkward. Broken glass sliced through his rotten skin and black blood leaked from his veins onto Rebecca’s plush rug, but he could feel no pain. He reached out for Rebecca’s leg as she lay there struggling to get up and grabbed hold of a shoe. She tried to kick away his hand, but he held tight and pulled her leg toward himself, mouth agape and ready to bite.

“Andrew!” she screamed as the undead man clawed at her skin.

Rebecca’s shoe finally slipped off and freed her from his decaying hand, but the undead man crawled toward her and cornered her behind the kitchen table. “Please…no! Andrew!” she yelled just as Andrew reappeared through the doorway with a double-barrel shotgun.

“Rebecca, get down!” She ducked as he unloaded the ten-gauge into the undead’s chest, which knocked it back against the wall, but only for a moment. It kept coming toward her. It was relentless.

It reached for her again, but Rebecca kicked it in the face and broke loose rotten teeth that hung crooked in its yawning mouth. It moved in again and grabbed hold of her shoulder and sunk its teeth deep into her neck, ripping flesh and tendons free. She screamed as blood sprayed the wall and bubbled from her lips. She punched it in the jaw, but it was no use as the undead man lunged in for another bite.

Andrew dropped the shotgun and tackled the undead man off of Rebecca. He turned and dragged her from the room as she clutched her ragged neck, still screaming in agony and bleeding profusely. He pulled her across the living room, leaving a red path of fresh blood in their wake as her dress smeared it across the wooden floor. He quickly checked her wound and ripped off a piece of his shirt, and then pressed it firmly against her neck. Her eyes began to widen from shock as she continued to lose blood. Andrew held her shoulder and gently kissed her on the forehead.

He stepped back into the dining room just as the undead man rose to its feet. The shotgun lay on the table between them, both of the spent barrels still smoking. He pulled out two shells from his pocket and grabbed the shotgun. He reloaded it as quickly as he could. The undead man began to move around the table toward him, snarling and moaning. One of the shotgun shells slipped from his grasp and bounced off the table onto the floor. He had never been good with a gun, but with this thing it was hard to miss. With only one shell in the chamber he cocked it shut, and then blew a hole straight through the undead man’s forehead, spraying the wall with fragments of skull and black brain. The undead man fell to the floor with half of its head blown off, finally motionless.

Andrew dropped the shotgun and ran back into the living room where Rebecca lay bleeding. She was deadly pale and the entire side of her dress was now soaked crimson red, like a porcelain doll that had been dipped into a bucket of watercolor paint. He picked her up in both arms and sprinted through the house, and then burst into his office as she still clutched her neck. He threw her onto the exam table and pressed clean gauze against her neck. Her breathing had become rapid and shallow. Her eyes widened and her pupils dilated as she tried to speak. Andrew leaned closer, straining to hear the words coming from her lips, but they were muffled and he couldn’t make them out. Her breathing slowed, then stopped, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Her body became limp and she died in his arms.

Andrew stepped back and fell defeated into his chair. He put his face into his hands, now trembling uncontrollably.

The lightening had ceased, but rain continued to beat against the office window, coming down in sheets and carried sideways by the north wind. Andrew walked over to the window and stared into the rolling darkness as tears streaked down his cheeks.

Behind him, Rebecca’s hand twitched and her fingers curled into a twisted ball. Her fingers relaxed and her arm began to move. She sat upright with torn flesh hanging from her neck. Her body had been bled dry and pale skin was held tightly against her bones. Her eyes were now lifeless and black.

She slid off of the table and knocked over a tray, which clattered to the floor. Andrew turned and saw Rebecca standing there. He was speechless. She stared at him for a moment, empty and drained of emotion.

Rebecca…” he said under his breath, but she only looked at him with her dead eyes.

She lunged forward, now hungry for flesh. Her hand grabbed the bottom of his shirt, but Andrew pulled away and ran out of the office. He slammed the office door shut behind him and grabbed a nearby chair, and then rammed it under the door handle. The undead Rebecca beat against the door from the other side, which cracked and began to splinter. Andrew walked into the dining room as she continued to rip through the thin wooden door. He grabbed the shotgun off of the dining room table and snatched the fallen shell from the floor. He returned to the living room and reloaded the gun just as Rebecca’s arm broke through. She reached out for him and clawed wildly through the air. Through his tears Andrew cocked the shotgun and flipped over the safety.

“I’m sorry,” he said to her as he raised the gun to his shoulder and took aim.


•  •  •


The Gunman stood in his cramped room and splashed his face with water from a white ceramic basin. He looked into a cracked mirror, crudely fixed to the wall, barely large enough to reflect his whole face. He rubbed his hand over his smooth cheek, appreciating the feel of a clean shave.

He grabbed a washcloth and dipped it into the hot water, and then wrung it over his head. After washing his half-naked body he threw the dirty washcloth into the basin, which was now full of grey water. It had been three weeks since he had a bath and it took more soap than he thought it would to clean his filthy skin. She had always poured him a hot bath on the porch when he was done working in the field. Nothing was better than hot soapy water to cleanse his soul after a long day in the sun. But that was over and she would never pour him a bath again.

He pulled on a new shirt he had bought from down the street and slid a small table against the wall. He sat down and adjusted a kerosene lamp that burned overhead, dimly lighting his workspace, and then removed both of his revolvers from their holsters and placed them on the table in front of him. He efficiently disassembled them, placing each part in a precise and specific pattern, and then pulled out a clean rag from his satchel and applied fresh oil, cleaning each part methodically.

Once the pieces were cleaned and shining, he reassembled the guns, and wiped them down with the oily rag. He chambered new bullets and slid the revolvers back into place. After hanging the holstered weapons over the corner of his bed, the Gunman lay down on top of the sheets and closed his eyes, hoping for a few moments of sleep before dinner.


•  •  •


The sun was passing beyond the horizon and the purple-orange glow of twilight crept through the streets. Most of the stores in town were now closed and the streets emptied as people returned home for the night.

Just outside of town a man rode down a dirt road at a furious pace. The horse’s nostrils flared as it breathed heavy and its hooves pounded through the mud. The man whipped the horse’s side and urged it to run faster, pushing it to the limit. He rode like a demon with the devil close on his heels.

Back inside the Bucket of Blood, the piano played loudly and the parlor was filled with laughter and cigar smoke. Many people loitered throughout the saloon, some drinking, others gambling. A woman sat at the bar and spilled beer from her glass onto the floor as she laughed obnoxiously. The man next to her finished his whiskey and scolded her for being so careless, then reached into his pocket and pulled out more money for her to refill her drink.

Emmett was hard at work behind the bar pouring drinks. His daughter, Rose, moved behind the counter and opened the till, getting change for the young couple that had drank too much already. She had black hair and soft olive skin. She was strong and beautiful, a desert flower.

She handed them their money and turned to grab drinks from her father, and then swiftly carried them through the parlor to several men playing poker. Another young woman, Allison Miller, was busy cleaning the table next to them.

“Busy night, huh?” she said to Rose as she wiped breadcrumbs into her apron.

Rose grabbed an empty beer glass from the table and cracked a smile at her. “Just wait until tomorrow night.”

“What do you mean?”

“The shift changes at the mine. Everybody will be ready for a drink.”

“Good tips?” Allison asked her.

“The best!” she said smiling even more. “Especially after the miners have been drinking all night.”

The two of them returned to the bar where Emmett was wiping down the counter. This was Allison’s first night working in the saloon, and she had anxiously followed Rose around all evening, watching her work.

Emmett turned to Rose as she passed behind the bar and handed her two full glasses of beer. “Here you go, dear. Another round for the table in back.” He looked at Allison, who was just starting to get the hang of things. “So how’s the first night?”

“I didn’t know how busy this place could get,” she commented.

“Just wait til’ tomorrow night. But don’t worry, Rose will show you how it’s done.” He said as he turned to pour more drinks.

Rose smiled at her again. “Take these to the men in the back room,” she said. “And don’t leave until you get a good tip,” she winked.


•  •  •


The Gunman lay on the bed with his eyes closed. His breathing was slow and steady. He hadn’t yet fallen asleep. He had spent too many nights sleeping on the hard ground to get comfortable on the feather mattress. Just as he started to slip into a dream, he heard the faint rhythm of the rider approaching from a distance. The horse’s footsteps grew louder and the Gunman moved to the window to peer into the night. He could see the man riding hard into town as he whipped the horse again, cut hard around a corner, and entered Main Street at break-neck pace.

The Gunman grabbed a revolver hanging from the bedpost. He cocked it and returned to the window as the rider turned toward the Bucket of Blood. The Gunman threw on his shirt and unlocked the door, and then peered into the hallway, which carried the noise from the parlor below. He stepped back into the room and buckled both guns around his waist, and dressed in a long overcoat to help conceal them. He had made enemies in the past and had always feared their retribution. Something told him deep inside that this man wasn’t one of them, but he had to be sure.

He walked carefully toward the end of the hallway and paused by the railing overlooking the parlor below. The saloon doors ripped open as the rider fell through the doorway onto the floor. He was drenched from rain and his back was caked in mud. The piano music stopped and the room grew silent. It was Andrew Forred.

He lay there on the floor and could barely catch his breath from riding so hard into town, unable to speak. Water was dripping from his clothes and started to pool underneath him. He tried to pick himself up off of the ground, but he was too weak. His legs buckled again as he stood and he fell down to his knees.

“Dr. Forred!” Rose yelled from behind the bar. She ran forward and grabbed him before he could fall on his face, and then threw his arm over her shoulder.

Andrew turned to her. “She’s dead…killed…I killed her,” he said to her in a quaking voice. He shook his head in disbelief. “I had to. There was no other choice.”

Rose turned to a large man sitting at the bar. “Cutler, give me a hand.”

The barber, now dressed in a buttoned-down shirt and brown pants, quickly stepped from his stool. He grabbed the doctor’s other arm and helped him stand upright. They moved him over to the bar where he was able to sit down. Emmett brought him a large glass of water, but Andrew only pushed it away.

“Whiskey,” he said harshly.

Emmett looked at Rose, astonished that he had asked. The doctor always abstained from hard liquor. “Sure doc, whatever you want,” Emmett said, turning to grab a new bottle.

The Gunman stood above them at the end of the second floor hallway, hidden in the shadows, and listened to the conversation below. He rested a hand on one of his guns, still tense with anticipation.

Emmett poured a shot and the doctor snatched the glass and swallowed it as soon as it touched his lips. His hand shook uncontrollably.

He slammed the empty glass back onto the bar. “Another,” he demanded.

“You sure?” Emmett questioned.

“Another!” Andrew said to him and slammed his fist against the counter.

Emmett poured him another shot, but this time he gingerly placed it to his lips and sipped, savoring the sharp liquid on his tongue. His hand stopped shaking as the whiskey began to take effect.

Emmett replaced the bottle below the counter and turned back to Andrew. “Doc, what happened out there?” he asked.

Andrew set his half empty glass down and rotated it in his hands, staring into the amber liquid that swirled at the bottom. “Rebecca was attacked.” He sipped his whiskey again, nervously remembering the horrible events. “We were just eating dinner. Somebody…a man...he just attacked her. He…he bit her.” Andrew had now gained their full attention.

“Say what now?” Cutler asked, not quite sure that he had heard him right.

Emmett leaned into the counter. “A man? Who?”

“He attacked her.” Andrew looked down at his glass, and then took another sip. “I don’t know who he was, but he killed her.”

“I thought you said you killed her?” Emmett asked, now confused by Andrew’s recollection.

Andrew looked to Emmett. His eyes burned with anger. “I did. She came back….” He took another sip of the whiskey. “…after she died.”


•  •  •


A cold darkness swept across the cemetery as gray clouds moved into the sky, shaking the ground with thunder. Lightning flashed through the blackness, illuminating a maze of headstones, and the rain began to pour once again.

A thin hand broke through the soil, a woman’s hand, but twisted and rotten. Her head appeared, and then her torso. She stumbled out of the wet ground, barefoot, and wore an ankle-length dress now stained from the mud. The undead whore stared blankly toward the distant town. She lurched forward and pulled her broken foot across the ground behind her, her outstretched arm guiding the way.

An undead boy followed close behind her and they moved slow and methodically through the headstones, both hungry for flesh.

Lightening flashed again across the black sky and illuminated the entire cemetery, which swarmed with the undead, their numbers swelling beyond count. The undead horde moved out of the cemetery and started toward the sleeping town, an unholy pilgrimage of death.


•  •  •


Rose and Cutler helped Andrew down the second floor hallway. Rose pulled out a spare set of keys and opened an empty room and Cutler helped him get inside. He led Andrew toward the bed as Rose grabbed a lantern down from the wall. She pulled off the glass bulb and lit a match against the table, and then started the cotton wick and adjusted the brightness. She lifted the sheets off of the bed as Cutler lay Andrew down. He passed out immediately when his head touched the pillow, his clothes still wet from his ride through the rainstorm.

Rose leaned over him and placed a wet washcloth on his forehead, and then looked at Cutler. “What should we do?”

“I don’t know. I’m as confused as you are.” He started to pace at the end of the bed.

“He wasn’t making any sense,” she said.

“I know.” He stood there for moment and stared at the floor. “I’ll get the Sheriff. He’ll know what to do with him.”

Rose twisted the washcloth over an empty bucket and placed it back onto his forehead. “Okay.” She turned down the lamp and pulled a sheet over Andrew. “We’ll let him rest for now, and I’ll make sure he doesn’t leave this room.” They left the doctor behind so he could sleep and headed back to the parlor.

The Gunman slipped behind a table in the corner with a freshly poured mug of beer in his hand. He sat there and sipped on the bitter foam, watching the crowd throughout the saloon. The piano began to play again and men and women laughed, getting drunker and louder as the night moved on, like nothing had happened.

The Gunman drank deep from his mug and his eyes caught Rose and Cutler as they descended the stairs and entered the parlor from the hotel above. He watched Rose walk behind the bar and pour a beer for Cutler. She moved gracefully behind the bar and seemed full of confidence, which made him uncomfortable. He set his half drunken glass of beer on the table, and then moved toward the door and stepped outside onto the saloon boardwalk.

The rain had ceased and the clouds began to clear. A full moon smoldered on the street, reflecting on shallow black pools of rainwater.

The Gunman pulled out a small bag from his back pocket, opened it, and carefully fingered out some stale tobacco. He rolled a modest cigarette and lit it with a broken match he had kept in his front shirt pocket. After taking a long smooth drag on the cigarette his eyes brightened, dilated, and gray smoke enveloped his head and dissipated into the cool night air.

He took another long drag from the cigarette and watched as three figures moved across the street and onto the boardwalk. It was the mine owner Jack Richards with two men in tow, Aaron and Clay, who followed him like well-trained dogs. The Gunman watched them carefully, his cigarette burning brightly in the shadows. Jack and the other two stopped just outside the Bucket of Blood. He could see Jack say something to Clay, obviously angry with him. They all stepped inside, moved through the parlor, and disappeared into a private room in the back.

Back inside the saloon, Emmett continued to work hard behind the bar as he poured drinks and entertained a couple of miners who were drunk on peach wine. Rose stepped behind the bar and poured herself a beer, blew away the foam, and took a deep drink. She smiled at her father, acknowledging the foam on her lips, and then wiped it off with the back of her hand.

“I went home and put Caleb to bed. He should be good for the night.”

“Thanks, sweet pea,” he said kindly. “You do too much for me. I sure appreciate you lookin’ after your brother like this.”

"It’s no problem, dad. Really," she said. "Besides, Elijah was the one watching after him all day. He’s the one you should be thanking." She smiled and took another sip.

Emmett sighed and leaned against the bar as he stared into Rose’s eyes. "I wish your mother could be here to see how much you two have grown," he said.

Before she could respond, someone dropped a glass across the parlor and it smashed to the ground. Rose put down her beer and grabbed a rag, but Emmett stopped her. “No, I got it.” He winked at her, and then grabbed the rag out of her hand. “Better finish your drink. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night.”

She took another sip and smiled, savoring the moment as Emmett turned and left the bar to clean up the broken glass and spilled beer. As Rose finished the dregs of her beer, the saloon doors opened and a tall slender man strolled in with a badge on his chest, Sheriff Timothy Pickett. He was a man in his fifties, wearing a white cowboy hat, sharp black boots and well-ironed pants.

Rose pulled a tall glass of golden beer, poured off the foam, and placed it on the counter just as Pickett reached the bar. He tipped his hat, like any gentleman would to such a beautiful young woman, and grabbed the beer.

“Thanks, dear,” he said with a sweet smile. He took a deep drink, and then wiped beer from his gray mustache. “Boy…now that’s a good beer,” he commented, holding the beer up to the light as cool beads of condensation ran across his hand. He took another long drink and wiped his mustache, again. “How’s the doc?”

“Better I suppose.” She cleaned a dirty glass and placed it on a small shelf behind her. “He’s still in shock, sleeping upstairs in one of the rooms.” She sighed and grabbed another dirty glass. “Did you check out his story?”

Pickett nodded and took an even bigger drink. “Yup. Sure did.”


“Oh. Um. Well…looks like the doc wasn’t lying.”

“Oh my god. So, Rebecca really is dead?”

“I sent Deputy Markley down there to take care of the body.”

Rose placed both hands on the counter and braced herself against the bad news. “This is horrible.”

“Ain’t it though?” Pickett took another drink.

Rose followed his lead and poured another small beer for herself. “What should we do?” she asked, and drank the beer in one long gulp.

“Well…not much you can do at this point.” He finished off the beer and wiped his mustache one last time. “Though, I’ll admit that the doc certainly has a few questions to answer.” He rubbed his wet fingers on his shirt and placed a coin on the counter. “But that can wait til’ mornin’.”

He turned to leave, but paused. “By the way, I heard some stranger had a run-in with a few of the boys earlier. Got into some kind of scuffle here in the bar.”

“Yes. He’s staying here for the night.”

“Where is he now?” he asked. “I need to talk to him before he leaves town.”

“Haven’t seen him for a while.”

“Well, alright. Stay safe, dear.”

“Good night, Tim.”

“Good night, Rose.” Pickett tipped his hat and left the saloon, but not before taking one last glance around the parlor. Like any good Sheriff, he always kept an extra eye on the people in the saloon, more to make sure they wouldn’t hurt themselves than anything else.


•  •  •


The Gunman meandered farther down the boardwalk, hung his arms over a low railing, and stared at the brilliant full moon hanging low against the blackened sky. The clouds had cleared and the dark silence overtook him. He used this quiet moment to reflect deeply on his own thoughts.

He heard footsteps on the boardwalk behind him, so he slid his fingers against the cold grip of his revolver and slowly cocked it. He was on edge and couldn’t shake the feeling that he had earlier.

The figure moved closer behind him and remained in the shadows. The footsteps stopped. The Gunman didn’t move. The cigarette clung to his moist lips and hung loosely from his mouth.

“You left your drink on the table,” Rose said, holding the Gunman’s beer.

He turned around and saw Rose standing there on the boardwalk. He removed his hand from the gun and hung his arms back over the railing. Rose stepped out from the shadows into the moonlight. Her hair was messy and her dress was wrinkled from hard work. But she was beautiful. Stunningly beautiful.

“I wasn’t thirsty.”

She smirked. “You’re not from around here, are you?” she said, taking a step closer to him.

“Far from it.” He flicked the cigarette into the street and watched it smolder in the darkness.

She stared at the side of his face, his chiseled jawline, dark locks of hair that curled onto the back of his neck. He was ruggedly handsome and she shifted her weight back and forth from one foot to the other, uncomfortably trying to push the conversation forward. “You’re not much for talking, are you?”


Rose pulled a shawl over her shoulders, stepping even closer to him. “Here’s your beer.”

He turned and took the beer from her tender hand. Their fingers touched for a brief moment and she felt a chill run up her arm and down her spine.

“Where are you from?” she asked him.

He took a sip of the stale beer. “A long way from here. But I’m just passin’ through.”

“I see. Some of the folks here think you’re trouble.”

“Like I said, just passin’ through,” he said and finished the remaining beer.

“Oh,” she said, not wanting to ask him too many questions, knowing that it made him uncomfortable. She continued to stare at him, looking straight into his eyes. “I can take that glass if you’d like,” she offered. He casually handed her the empty glass.

She looked at him for a moment longer and realized that he wasn’t much more for conversation. “I’ll see you around,” she said and turned to walk back to the saloon. The Gunman watched her in silence, stunned by her beauty. He regretted not talking to her more and turned back to the railing as he returned to his turbid thoughts.

Emmett waited for Rose in the doorway, wondering where she had disappeared to. “You alright?”

“Of course I am. Why?”

“Just checkin’.”

Rose turned back to the Gunman. A freshly rolled cigarette was already hanging from his mouth. “Oh. Him.” She smiled and placed her hand on Emmett’s shoulder. “I can handle myself, dad.” She kissed him gently on the cheek and stepped back inside.

Emmett took a moment to survey the Gunman, then retreated back into the saloon.


•  •  •


Deputy Gerald Markley drove an old wooden cart down a twisted road. A body lay in the back, Rebecca’s undead body, wrapped in a white bed sheet and stained red with blood. When the deputy had entered the Forred home he found Rebecca in the doorway, her head completely blown off. They had been friends since she had helped his wife find a good job in town, and he hung his head low as he pushed the cart forward down the road, unable to comprehend how Andrew could have done such a horrible thing to her. Nothing like this had ever happened in the small town. Sure, people had been shot during a scuffle in the street, but nobody had ever killed in cold blood, not like this.

Clouds swallowed the moon and surrounded the Deputy in darkness. He slowed the cart and peered down the road. He knew this road well, but the deep black night seemed to have a strange effect on him. He was a grown man, well over thirty, but something about the night had always scared him.

Markley could see a farmhouse sitting in the distance with yellow light emanating from the windows. He whipped the horses and pushed the cart forward down the road, hoping to make it back to town as soon as he could.

As he passed closer to the house he heard the sound of breaking glass echo from inside, followed by a scream, and then complete silence.

He stopped the cart and jumped to the ground. He pulled his gun and cocked it as he moved toward the Miller’s house. Deputy or not, Markley handled his gun with unsteady hands, like a schoolboy who had just found his father’s pistol. He snuck up to the front porch near a row of thick bushes and hid behind them. The front door was broken down and the windows had been smashed to pieces. He slowly stepped onto the porch and peered through a window.

He froze in place, horrified, and sweat began to pour from his forehead. The gun shook violently in his hand as his heartbeat penetrated his senses. What he saw was beyond any nightmare he could possibly imagine. He leaned closer to the window, a witness to unbelievable carnage and blood lust. Several undead were inside the Miller’s dining room, devouring the entire Miller family, their bodies strewn everywhere.

The father lay sprawled across the table with his intestines draped across a freshly cooked roast beef dinner. An undead farmer was face-deep in his stomach, consuming his innards. The mother lay in the doorway on her face, ripped apart by an undead boy. The two young daughters lay next to the table, a tender buffet for three undead. And Allison Miller, Roses’ best friend, was in the kitchen, her half-eaten liver hanging from the mouth of the undead whore.

Markley’s jaw quivered in fear. He stepped back from window and slowly turned, ready to run away from this madness, but he stopped instantly when he saw an undead man on the porch in front of him, head cocked, eyeing him hungrily. Before he knew what was happening the undead lunged for his neck. Markley still had the pistol in his hand and he shoved it deep into the undead’s gut and fired three times, but nothing happened. The undead man bit into his shoulder and tore away a mouth-full of flesh. Markley pointed the pistol at its temple and fired the remaining three bullets, showering the porch with undead brain, and then ran back to the cart in a panic.

He leapt onto the cart and whipped the horses forward, steering wildly back toward town. He used one hand to hold the reins and clutched his shoulder with the other as blood ran down his arm. He could see the glowing lights of the small town in the distance and whipped the horses again, continuing to gain speed. As he turned onto Main Street, he overcorrected, and lost control of the cart. The horses broke free and the cart smashed into the front of the general store, throwing Markley forward out of the seat.

The Gunman heard the commotion and stepped from the boardwalk into the street. Cutler, Rose, Johnny and Mason all exited the saloon behind him, with several others in tow. The sound of the smashing cart had drawn them out of the saloon and they stared down the street, trying to figure out what had happened.

“Oh my god!” Rose screamed when she saw Markley slumped over the front of the cart, not moving. She bolted toward him, followed closely by the others.

Markley tried desperately to push himself up, but stumbled, and fell from the cart and landed face-first in the dirt. Rose grabbed him and helped turn him over onto his back.

“What happened?” she asked him.

Markley spit blood into the dirt and held his gut. He had started to enter shock and couldn’t answer her.

Rose turned to the others, who just there stood watching. “Somebody help me!” she pleaded.

Johnny moved in and grabbed Markley’s arm.

“We need to take him inside,” she told him.

Johnny quickly inspected his injured shoulder. “He’s bleeding real bad. He needs the doctor!”

Cutler stepped in and helped them get Markley to his feet. “The doc is indisposed at the moment. Just help get him inside dammit.”

Rose and Johnny held Markley upright and started walking toward the saloon. As the Gunman looked on, considering the situation, and wondering what the hell had happened, something caught his eye at the far end of town, moving slowly down the road.

Three undead emerged from the darkness and shuffled toward them. Their clothes were ragged and torn, their teeth rotten black. Decaying skin hung loosely from their bones. He turned and pulled a revolver, cocked and ready, unsure of what to do.

Cutler could see them as well. “What the hell?”

Before anybody could react, an undead man lunged onto Mason and bit into his chest. It tore flesh from his ribcage and ravenously dug at the wound with its ragged fingers. Mason struggled against the undead man, but couldn’t push him away. “Jesus Christ! Get him off me!”

Cutler kicked the undead in the side, knocking it back into the dirt. It turned and snarled, then bit at the air, dirt plastering its decaying face.

It moved to attack again and boom! Cutler flinched as the undead fell to the ground, shot in the chest. The Gunman stood next to him holding his revolver as smoke poured from the barrel. The undead man kept moving and tried to stand upright. It stumbled back onto Mason and bit into his thigh, blood gushing from its mangled jowls.

“Ahhh!!!” Mason screamed as it tore into the muscle and ripped away more flesh.

Cutler fired his revolver and hit the undead man in the gut, but it kept attacking, ravenously tearing into Mason’s leg. It was unstoppable. The Gunman fired again and the bullet entered the undead man’s temple and passed straight through its skull. Putrid black brain sprayed the dirt and fragments of bone ricocheted off a nearby building. The other two undead staggered straight for Rose, Johnny and Deputy Markley, snarling and moaning as they slowly moved across the street toward them.

The Gunman spun on his heels and fired, sending a bullet that split an undead’s forehead. Cutler fired as well, and hit a second undead in the neck. The Gunman shot again, striking the third undead in the head.

Johnny continued toward the saloon with Markley’s arm over his shoulder. “Holy shit!”

But Cutler waved them forward. “Keep moving! Get him inside!” He turned to the Gunman. All three of the undead lay in the dirt, motionless with lead in their brains. “What the hell is going on?”

But the Gunman could only shake his head as he reloaded his revolver, empty brass shells falling onto the street.

Several people began to step out of nearby buildings, concerned from all the shooting. A thick haze of gun smoke filled the air, penetrated by lamplights that faintly brightened the street. The full moon passed behind a patch of clouds and blanketed them in a veil of darkness.

Sheriff Pickett jogged toward them, gun drawn and eyes aflame. He saw the bodies with brains splattered in the dirt. “I need answers! What the hell happened?”

The Gunman holstered his weapon and turned to the Sheriff. “They attacked us.”


Pickett overturned an undead with his boot. “This man was unarmed.” He inspected closer. “You shot him straight through the head!”

Cutler held pressure to Mason’s bleeding chest with a handkerchief and used his other hand to stabilize the bleeding from his thigh. “They attacked Mason. And something happened to the Deputy.” Cutler picked up Mason and started walking back to the saloon with him cradled in his arms. “He’s inside with Rose,” he told the Sheriff, motioning with his head.

Pickett still glared at the Gunman and holstered his weapon, knowing that he had a lot of questions to answer, but that could wait, and everyone had already stepped back into the saloon.

Inside, Rose helped Cutler with Mason and held a bar towel against his chest as he bled on a table and moaned in pain. Cutler took off his belt and bound it tightly around Mason’s thigh. He notched the belt tighter and blood oozed from the deep wounds, and Mason squirmed in agony.

“Hold still,” Rose told him as she lifted the bloody towel from his chest to check the wound, but blood gushed instantly and she quickly replaced it.

“Go get the doctor,” she told Cutler.

“I’m not sure he’s up to it, Rose.”

“Just get him. He’ll know what to do. He’s gonna die if the doctor doesn’t help.”

Cutler conceded and ran up the stairs as fast as his thick legs would carry him. Rose continued to hold pressure against the wound, trying desperately to prevent him from bleeding to death. Deputy Markley sat nearby on a bar stool, staring at the floor. He was still in shock from his ordeal with the undead, and the gruesome images of the Miller family continued to flash through his mind. Rose turned to him. “Can you hand me that towel?” she asked.

Markley’s gaze was still caught on the floor and he didn’t respond. Mason took deep breaths and gasped for air. He grew pale from blood loss and his lips had lost their color.

“Deputy Markley,” she said, straining to get his attention.

He looked up from his stupor, pulled out of the daze. “Oh…yes, sorry.” He grabbed the clean towel and passed it to Rose, who replaced the blood-soaked towel on Mason’s chest and continued to hold pressure.

Johnny appeared out of a back room with a stack of fresh white towels in his hands. “What in the hell is going on around here?” He said as he set the towels next to Mason.

Rose grabbed a clean towel from the stack and used it to wipe blood from her face. “I don’t know. None of this makes any sense.”

“First the doc and his wife were attacked…and now Mason?” he said, and sat down next to the deputy. “What the hell was wrong with those people in the street?”

“They looked sick,” she responded.

“I don’t know, Rose. I haven’t seen too many dead men in my life, but they sure as hell fit the bill.”

“How could they be dead? That doesn’t make any sense,” she stated.

“I don’t know exactly what I saw out there…but it felt evil,” Johnny said, and handed her another clean towel. “Their skin was just hanging from their bones, like it had rotted some.”

On the other side of the parlor, the Gunman stepped over to a window and glanced through the wooden slats. Outside, several townspeople had gathered around the undead bodies and began to inspect them with caution. One of the men had kneeled down and was looking at the bullet hole through the undead’s temple.

Deputy Markley was still sitting in his stool at the bar, trying his best to regain his composure, but he couldn’t get rid of the awful images in his mind. “Horrible--,” he spoke under his breath. “Just horrible--,” he repeated.

The Gunman turned to Markley, very interested in what he had to say.

“What I saw was horrible. Those people--.” Markley could only shake his head at the thought.

“What people?” interjected Sheriff Pickett.

“I don’t know who they were…but they were eating them.”

“Excuse me? What are you talking about, son.” Pickett stepped closer to Markley and slapped his hands together, trying to get his attention. “Markley!” he exclaimed.

Markley snapped out of it and nearly fell from his chair. “Sorry, Sheriff.” He leveled his eyes at Pickett. “The Miller’s. They’re all dead. All of them. There were people in their home--, I…I can’t explain it…but they were eating them.”

Rose turned away from the bar and shook her head in disbelief.

“My god, no--.” She said, eyes welling with tears.

“What do you mean, eating them?” the Sheriff probed.

“That’s exactly what I saw. It was awful.”

Rose fell backward and stumbled into a chair. “No!” She sat down and began to cry into her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Johnny placed his hand on her shoulder and tried to console her grief.

Cutler appeared with Andrew from the second floor. He was still pale, but seemed fully recovered from the initial shock of Rebecca’s death. He walked over to the table where Mason lay and lifted the towel off of his chest, and then checked the wound on his thigh. Johnny could tell from the look on his face that it was bad.

“What’s wrong?” Johnny asked anxiously.

“His wounds are deep. He’s bleeding from an artery in his leg, and I don’t have any surgical equipment here.” He notched the belt tighter around Mason’s leg. “I’m sorry, but he’s lost a lot of blood, and there’s not much I can do.”

“But, we can take him to your office, right?”

“No, we’d be too late,” Andrew told him, and replaced the towel on Mason’s chest. “I’m…I’m sorry. I really am.”

Andrew walked over to the bar where Emmett and Markley were still sitting.

“Can you get me a whiskey?” he asked.

“Um, sure doc,” Emmett responded.

Andrew turned to Markley. “What happened, deputy?”

“It was awful. Some lunatics attacked the Miller’s--, killed em’. I was just able to get away.”

“No. I mean what happened to your shoulder?” Andrew said, pointing to his bloody shirt.

Markley looked down at his shoulder, just now remembering the injury. “Oh…that. One of them bastards bit me, before I could get a shot off. Just attacked me. Don’t make no sense.”

Emmett handed Andrew a whiskey just as a woman screamed outside the saloon.

The Gunman spun and ran back to the window, his revolver cocked and already in his hand. Several people ran down the street and disappeared around the next corner into darkness. More screams emanated from outside, followed by gunshots.

Pickett and the Gunman both stepped onto the boardwalk. At the end of the street several people lay dead in the dirt with undead already feasting on their corpses.

“Get inside!” Pickett yelled at a few people standing in the street, pulling out his revolver.

The Gunman fired and an undead’s head exploded on impact. He fired again and the bullet pierced another undead’s eye socket. More undead appeared down the street, chasing after people and grabbing them with their decaying hands. One of the undead sunk his teeth deep into a woman’s thigh, another tore flesh from her neck, and yet another ripped into her stomach, pulling apart her skin and digging inside. She screamed in sheer agony as the three undead began to eat her alive, blood seeping into the dirt.

Pickett couldn’t believe his eyes. He fired as an undead approached. The bullet careened straight through its forehead and took it down instantly. “Jesus Christ,” he said as he fired again.

The Gunman let loose four more bullets and all of them met their targets, penetrating skulls, and painting the street with exploded brain. More townspeople were assaulted, and the undead numbers continued to swell as they turned into undead themselves, transforming before his eyes.

Across the street from the Gunman and Pickett, a woman and her son cowered behind some barrels, the undead horde getting closer to them every second. She held her child close and covered his eyes, trying to block him from seeing the carnage that surrounded them in the street.

The Gunman fired and stopped an undead from ripping the two apart. “Cover me,” he told the Sheriff as he fired again, taking down two more undead with a single shot, and then moved across the street. He continued to fire with precision, and three more undead fell to the ground, his revolvers now emptied. An undead woman heaved toward him as he paused in the middle of the street and reloaded without hesitation. It was an effortless task he completed in seconds, empty brass shells falling to his feet. The undead woman was nearly upon him and he fired and struck her through the forehead, and she fell only inches from him.

“Hurry!” Pickett yelled at him.

Undead continued to enter the street and they started to break through windows, and tear down makeshift barricades that had been hastily constructed, ripping into people that cowered in the dark.

The Gunman reached the opposite end of the street and grabbed the woman and the young boy. “Come with me,” he told them. He took the boy’s hand and threw him over his shoulder, and then grabbed the woman’s arm and shuffled back across the street.

Pickett fired wildly from the other boardwalk and covered their escape. Several more townspeople ran down the street looking for shelter. “Into the saloon!” Pickett reloaded and waved them inside the Bucket of Blood. He fired again as more undead approached them, ready to kill. “Quickly!”

Everybody from the nearby street ran inside the saloon and Pickett slammed the door behind them.

Inside the saloon, tables and chairs had already been lodged against the windows, and a number of people had crammed inside, trying to escape the slaughter.

“Out of the way!” Cutler yelled.

Pickett and the Gunman jumped to the side as Eric and Cutler slid the piano against the door, just in time as several undead smashed against the outside and clawed at the boards, desperately trying to get in.

The Gunman handed the boy to his mother. “Here,” he said.

“Thank you--,” the woman said through tears, “Thank you so much.”

The Gunman could only nod as he started to reload his revolvers. “Don’t mention it.” He turned to Cutler, who busied himself securing a long wooden table behind the piano. “That won’t hold them for long.” He finished reloading his revolvers and placed the empty shells into his front shirt pocket. “We have to move upstairs. Get to higher ground.”

“Good idea,” Pickett responded from behind him.

“Sounds good to me,” Cutler added. “But I’m not sure if all of these people will fit up there. There’s just not enough room.”

“And what about the people outside?” Johnny asked. “We have to do something about them.”

“Sorry, son. There’s nothing we can do about that now,” the Sheriff told him. “They’re on their own.” Pickett finished reloading his revolver with sweat dripping from his brow. His previously well-ironed pants were now soiled and bloody.

“But you’re the Sheriff,” Johnny said, “Can’t you do something?”

“I’m sorry. We have to secure the saloon before things get outta’ hand,” he told him.

Johnny conceded the point and started to help Eric and Cutler with the barricade.

The Gunman peeked through a crack in the window into the dead world outside. “If we are going to make it through the night, we need to reinforce these windows, and bar all of the doors.” The risen undead continued to feed outside and sonorous moaning echoed through the streets. The Gunman now faced them in the only way he knew how, with two loaded guns at his side.