Devil’s Canyon

Prompt: The shadows on your wall are speaking. Write about the conversation that follows.

Genre: Western

A shriek swept through the canyon, trailed by the fainter slap of bare feet on the dusty ground. The still night of Carston settlement swallowed the sound, tucking it into a tense pocket of hesitation. Sheriff Hawkins jumped into action a moment later, gripping his double-barrel as he reached for his weathered hat. His finger itched for action involuntarily, but this was more than a coyote scare. That was the pitch of Rose Spencer sinking into his pores, and she was no stranger to gunpowder and shrewd aim.

Squinting into the thin night, Hawkins caught a bare hint of white lace in the distance. He hunched down as Rose approached in a frantic, labored run. Something was very wrong indeed. Seconds later, Rose collapsed, still a few yards out, twitched once and exhaled her last breath. A brief chill breezed through Hawkins. Cautiously, he crept towards her, noting a tang of iron mingling with the ever-present color of Carston grit. Her once white, lace-trimmed skirt was darkened with the reddish-brown of canyon dust and the tell-tale red of human blood. Rose Spencer was gone, replaced by a clothed mass of flesh and bone.

Quiet descended into the canyon once more, oppressively final. A drop of sweat stumbled over Hawkins’ scruffy jaw. A whispered curse escaped his raspy throat, propelling him back into action. “Huston, what have you done?”

Half a mile out of Carston, a nightmare yanked Huston Murphy out of a dead sleep. “Rose?” He called out to the vacant cabin. Galloping in the distance answered his call. Clumsily, he rolled out of bed and onto his knees, banging the side of his head on his bedside table.

“Huston!” Sheriff Hawkins barked out from the fence post. “Come on out here!”

Huston grabbed his lantern in one hand while pulling his pants up with the other. “Alright, alright,” he muttered. He winced with the harsh creak of his door, regretting last night’s liquor, and froze when he was greeted by the business end of the sheriff’s gun.

“Nice and slow now Huston. Nice and slow.” Hawkins chanted.

“What’s goin’ on, Sheriff?”

“Have you seen Rose?” Hawkins questioned.

“N-no. I guess she went back to her ma’s some time ago. She weren’t too pleased last night.”

“Is that so?”

“Well, you know how these womenfolk get. Just a sip an’ they get all upset. Can’t be helped though.”

“Grab your boots, Huston. We need to have a sit down.” Hawkins instructed.

The two men trudged into Carston a little while later, one on horseback and the other on foot. Not a word accompanied them till they approached the small jailhouse. “In you go, Huston.”

“Wha-“ Huston began.

“In you go,” Hawkins repeated.

Huston ambled into the cell, turned, and sank heavily onto the straw mattress. Before he could work through his molasses thoughts, Hawkins had left the building, locking Huston up in quiet measure.

By morning, Doc Lawrence had carted what was once Rose Spencer away. By his assessment, Rose had been brutally attacked, covered from head to toe in cuts, scraps, bruises, and burn marks. Her body was so extensively abused that he wasn’t certain how she managed to run as far as she did. Sheriff Hawkins merely stated that “Rose was a spirited one,” as if that explained it. From what anyone else in the small settlement could tell, poor Rose had been the victim of a drunken lovers’ spat, and Huston fit the bill.

At noontime, Hawkins was finally ready to face Huston again to see if he had any last defense for himself. “Alright Huston,” he began as he unlocked the jailhouse, but odd mutterings gave him pause.

“She was evil. It had to be done.”

A low sob fell across the room, weighted by the gravity of the situation. “Rose! Rose!” Echoed amidst the sobs.

“She wasn’t alone though. There are others. They must all pay for their deeds. There is no rest, no peace until they have all paid.” The voice slithered through the space, twisting in malevolence.

“Huston?” Hawkins didn’t recognize Huston’s voice, but no one else had a key to the jailhouse.

“NO!” Huston screamed. “No more shadows!”

Hawkins burst through the door with his shotgun at the ready right as Huston threw an oil lantern at the wall next to the door, narrowly missing the sheriff’s head and crashing down onto stores of oil and gunpowder. Hawkins lurched back out of the jailhouse, stumbled, rolled to his stomach and quickly covered his head. Moments later, a massive explosion shook Carston, knocking loose the canyon walls and raining rock, dust, and death upon the settlement.

Prompt is from Love In Ink’s “A Year of Creative Writing Prompts”

Thoughts? Musings? Pertinent ramblings of your own? Please share!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s