Running from the law again, Clinton found himself heading west to California on his horse Two-Bits. She stumbled as they slowed their momentum from a run, to a trot, then finally a walk. The reason Two-Bits was such a good horse was because of her endurance. A few hours of rest a night is all they needed. Clinton knew they had at least a day’s lead on the posse they were trying to shake. Besides, the man he gunned downed wasn’t worth a damn. They probably weren’t riding as hard as he was. They wouldn’t be chasing him at all if it weren’t for one of the deputies recognizing his face from a wanted poster.
Two-Bits felt the pain of travel, but a gallon of whisky kept Clinton numb from the hunger and being saddle sore. The whiskey always kept him numb. Even in the mornings there were seldom times he woke up sober. Whether he did—or didn’t, the bottle was the first thing he reached for. His numbness didn’t keep him from worrying about his horse though. They would have to stop at the next town they came across. If nothing else for another bottle of whiskey and some food and water for Two-Bits. A good night’s rest would have to wait. As luck would have it, they came across a small town.
With a gallon of whisky and the reigns resting on the saddle-horn he rode through a make-shift arch with “Davelis” etched on the top. He listened for some sort of life in the town. Children playing, a blacksmith, the bar—anything. All he could hear was the evening wind whistle between the closely constructed wooden buildings.
Clinton found a trough outside of a saloon and tied Two-Bits next to it. He looked inside. There was barely enough water to cover the bottom and mosquito larvae wriggled inside fighting to survive to adulthood. It looked like the rain was the only thing replenishing the water source.
Clinton pet two bits on the neck. “Sorry girl. We’ll get you something to drink. Sip on that if you can and I’ll be right back.”
Clinton barged through the doors of the brothel.
“Hello!” No answer.
He noticed dust caked on the bar. Damn it. He had heard of ghost towns before but never came across one. Well, ghost town means free whisky. He hopped over the bar. All he found were empty bottles. Who takes the whiskey if they’re in such a damn hurry? I do. He chuckled to himself out loud.
Clinton hopped back over the bar and made it to the saloon doors when he heard a shuffling upstairs. Clinton pulled out his pistol. He snuck up the stairs. His body tensed from the unavoidable squeaking wood. If there was somebody else there with a gun, he didn’t want them to get a lucky shot knowing where he was at. As he climbed higher, he could smell something dead.
At the top of the stairs, a hallway extended to his right. There were five rooms. He approached the one closest to him and tried to turn the handle. It was locked. He knocked on the door and heard something shuffle again.
It was probably a coon or a possum but taking chances is why people die.
“Alright, you have on the count of three to open up the door or I’m kicking it in.”
“One.” A small voice echoed.
“Who’s there?” After a pause with no answer, Clinton continued to count. With nothing but whisky on his belly and little sleep he summed it up to hearing things.
“Two.” The small voice repeated.
“Alright, who’s there?”
“I don’t know where here is.”
“At the end of the hall, please help.” The voice was now audible enough so Clinton could tell a little girl was speaking.
Clinton walked to the room at the end of the hall, and put his ear to the door. “Who are ya?”
“Patty. You better get indoors.”
“Why’s that sweetheart?” Clinton holstered his gun.
“If you don’t the Teras will getcha.”
“What the hell is that?”
“It’s a hungry devil that’ll kill whatever it comes across. No need in fighten it. Nothing hurts it.”
“There’s nothing I’ve ever came across that I can’t kill.”
“You say that till you see it. If you see it. It seems like the only thing keeping anyone safe is stayen indoors.”
“So, is that’s what’s wrong with everyone out here. They’re just indoors and not coming out? You’re all just a bunch of cowards?”
“No different than you. The liquor on your breath is strong enough to smell it through the door.”
“I should slap you for saying something like that. Nobody calls me a coward. Not even little girls.”
“Well you’re runnin from something aint ya? That’s the only reason anybody ever comes here.”
“I was in the right. I cut a man down for trying to steal Two-Bits. He couldn’t so he started whipping her. Nobody lays a hand on her or I’ll take it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“She’s my horse. It doesn’t matter. Where’s your parents?”
“They’re dead. Much like most around here.”
Clinton wanted to help her, but ridiculous stories deserve a condescending tone, “I guess the monster got them.”
“No. Most people starved or thirsted to death. The same thing that happened to Ma and Pa is the same thing that happened to my brothers and sisters.” Clinton heard sobbing on the other side of the door.
“What happened baby sister?”
“I don’t wanna say. I’m going to hell.”
“Now there’s no reason to say that.”
The door unlocked. Clinton slowly opened the door. The pungent smell of death lofted over him. He gagged but gathered his composures and stepped inside. A pale, blonde little girl slouched in the middle of the floor with her hands behind her back. Five half eaten and decomposing bodies laid piled on the bed. Three of them hardly bigger than her.
“What did you do?”
“Ma and Pa did it themselves. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten Mister.”
Clinton heard the hammer of a pistol fall back. When he saw the girl pull the pistol in front of her, he kicked it out of her hand hard enough the pistol flew through the window behind her. Not only did the glass crash but something else crashed.
She held her hand from the pain and screamed, “Damn you! Damn you! I had it set up for water! Now I’m gonna thirst to death!” She reached for his gun. He pushed her to the ground. He tried to help her up but she pushed him away. “I’m sorry. Don’t reach for my gun.”
During the commotion Clinton heard Two-Bits let out an agonizing neigh.
“I’ll be back to help. I’m sorry. You just stay put.”
On his way downstairs he noticed the first room that he came to. Its door was wide open revealing bones picked clean scattered across the floor. Clinton flew down the steps and out the bar door. He fell to his knees at the sight. Two-Bits lay on the ground torn to pieces with hardly any meat left on her.
For the first time in a long time, he felt sober. Everything the little girl seemed to be the truth. He stood up and his pulled his gun out of his holster. As he pulled his hammer back claws grabbed him around his neck and killed him instantly.
As the beast devoured Clinton’s corpse, Patty walked downstairs. She stood beside the Teras and pet its smooth green skin. “We got lucky on this one. We’re gonna to have to go to another town.”