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Western Horror Fiction

By the time we reached Widow’s Gorge, my fingers were numb, my breathing was labored, and it was all I could do to fend off thoughts of giving in to the White Sleep. My bandana barely kept the snow from chilling my nose, mouth, and jaw, and my hat was soaked through. The sight of the tiny cabin nestled into the side of the embankment—like a solitary tooth in a rotten mouth—had me dangerously close to becoming a God-fearing man once more. I held my sidearm secure, summoned my last scrap of strength, and kicked the front door into splinters. A quick scan of the shotgun shack revealed no inhabitants and I yanked the rope trailing behind me until my new acquaintance appeared.  

‘Easy there, big fella!’ he said. 

‘Anytime you got something to say... Don’t,’ I replied. 

‘Let’s get inside and start the fire. If we can.’ 

‘No.’ 

‘No?’ 

‘The smoke will attract unwanted attention.’ 

‘You have got to be kidding me!’ 

I was not kidding. There were all manner of undesirables in the gorge; it was common knowledge. Folks more than willing to steal a man’s bounty right out from under him. I had Marlene at home waiting for me. Sweet little Marlene, with a laugh like blue jays at play. Pearl was five-years-old and had the Devil in her; I loved that about my eldest daughter. Belle was only three and given to frequent bouts of illness. It was her that had me bounty hunting again and I would have brought down every last maggot, from one side of the county to the other, if it meant slightly better health for Belle. 

‘Can you at least untie me so we can look for some food?’ 

'You think I came down in the last shower?’ 

‘Alex!’ 

‘Brock! My name is Brock!’ 

‘Okay... Brock. Can we please look for food?’ 

Bobby Hite: a tall drink of water with eyes like a muskrat and the smell of one too. He was wiry but strong with it, and a more mean-spirited son-of-a-bitch you’d never want to meet. Not only was he a known raper and killer of women, he’d burnt down the church down in South Temperance not three months passed. Worst thing was, the parishioners were all inside a-worshippin' at the time.  

‘Brock! Where do you go, man? You just sorta’ zone out sometimes, like you’re listening to voices in your head or something.’ 

I tied Hite to an armchair beside the damp-looking fireplace and gave him a backhanded smack for good measure. ‘Sit here and shut up!’ 

‘Okay, that’s going too far, Alex!’ 

‘Brock!’ 

‘No! We’re not doing this anymore!’ 

I came in close. ‘Your goose is cooked, Hite. You will act as befits a man brought to his knees by the likes of Brock Duggan or you’ll taste my hand again... or my steel.’ 

‘David James! My name’s David James!’ 

Poor crazy bastard. He’d been holed up in that cave for far too long—devoid of the warmth of civilized humanity. He’d forgotten who he was and what he’d done too I expect. Given enough time, solitude will fan the Hell-fire in a man’s head and give rise to the worst of his demons.  

‘You’ll be at peace once your neck is good and stretched out.’ 

‘YOU-FUCKING-MENTAL-CASE!’ Hite spat and swore and blasphemed. Once he’d exhausted his rage, he spoke once more, but a mite more rational. ‘Okay, look... You do a stressful job and you’ve got issues at home. Live-Action Role-Play is your escape... I get that. You’ve just gone a little too deep this time, buddy.’ 

I sat beside the maniac; tried to put us on equal footing so maybe I could work at earning his trust and possibly discover where he’d buried his victims. ‘You trying to bamboozle me, Hite? You don’t need to do that. Let’s speak as friends awhile. See if we can’t clear some of the dense forest in your head.’ 

‘Alex, we’ve been out here for three days. I was meant to be home over twenty-four-hours ago. Just... Just fish my phone outta’ my back pocket and message Lindsay. Let her know I’m okay and that I’ll be home soon. And I WILL be home soon, Alex.’ 

‘Phone?’ I indulged the man temporarily, fishing the small keepsake box from the back pocket of his trousers. It suddenly glowed like a lantern and my heart skipped a beat. 

‘Is there signal? Surely this cabin has wifi? Send an email!’ he yelled.

‘You can keep your insane ramblings down to a minimum, Hite. This here is some kind of thin lamp? And the mail don’t come this far out.’ 

‘You’re killin’ me here, Alex!’ 

I stared at Bobby Hite with contempt I could scarcely mask. ‘Not yet, I ‘aint.’ 

The crunch of snow underfoot outside caught my attention and I sprang to my feet.

‘We expecting the other guys? I thought they’d all gone home,’ said Bobby. 

‘Shut up. I didn’t invite nobody.’ 

I drew my guns and approached the doorway. I suddenly wished I’d taken it easier on the door on our way in. One figure appeared, then another. Before long, there were five of them, just standing there, swaying in the icy breeze. They were thin and clad only in torn coveralls or patched breeches that had seen better days. ‘This here cabin’s on our land. Whatchoo doing out here?’ drawled the largest of them. 

‘I’m just here with my friend,’ I lied. ‘Sorry, I didn’t know this place belonged to anybody. We’ll be on our way.’ 

‘I don’t think so, long-shank.’  

‘What’s going on, Alex?’ yelled Bobby from his chair. ‘I don’t recognize these assholes. Did you set this up?’ 

‘Quiet down! I didn’t set anything up. These good folks and I are just conversing.’ 

‘Is that what we’re doing?’ said the leader. ‘Now, once we’re finished jawin’, you’re gonna’ give up your highfalutin ideas and accept the fact that you and your friend are ‘bout to feed the McPyle family.’ 

‘Well, I’m just not that good a cook,’ I answered. 

‘No matter,’ said the leader. He pointed a bloodstained thumb at the gnarled boy beside him. ‘Lumpy here is. He’ll make y’all taste better n’ squirrel n’ taters.’ 

That’s when they all came at me at once. A mess of bony limbs and open mouths.  

I could hear the blood coursing through my veins and pure instinct kicked in. I fired my weapons into the fray, yet, some evil gave extraordinary resilience to these wraiths. Not a single one fell. The noise of my irons gave them pause, however. Sufficient pause for me to escape into the snowy landscape with the speed of a man on a mission. I was not going to bring Bobby Hite to justice, I was going to get home to my family—to Marlene, Pearl, and dear little Belle. I just had to block out the sound of Bobby’s screams coming from way behind me. 


I’m sorry Bobby. You deserved the measured hand of justice, not the horrors you faced in that cabin. I failed you.


But I will never fail my family. 






January 22, 2021 01:42

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19 comments

Michael Boquet
22:07 Apr 03, 2021

You alright my friend? Just realized you haven't posted in awhile and wanted to check in

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JASON PARKER
04:22 Apr 12, 2021

All good, sir. How are you?

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Michael Boquet
14:04 Apr 12, 2021

Hey! I'm doing good.

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Michael Boquet
04:48 Jan 26, 2021

Holy smokes! I started out thinking, a western is the perfect genre for this prompt. Then I got to the twist and wow! Well done. The ending has me a little confused though. Are the cannibals in his head? Or are they a regular gang his delusion is making into cannibals? I'm just confused as to where they fall between delusion and reality. This is my favorite story I've read of yours. Nice job. I went a different route for my submission this week. Trying out semi-autobiographical romance.

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JASON PARKER
00:07 Jan 27, 2021

Hi Michael, Thanks so much for your excellent comments. I was in two minds about the ending, to be honest. I left it open to interpretation. Having said that, I favor the idea that the cannibals are actual hill people that Brock/Alex didn't count on as part of his internal narrative, even though they fed (pun absolutely intended) into it all the same. I toyed with the idea that they were engineered in, or that they were a figment (leaving poor old David to the elements and a fairly grim fate in any case). Your idea sounds brilliant and I...

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Michael Boquet
01:56 Jan 27, 2021

Interesting. I almost suggested in my first comment that you should of had Hoit say something like, "who are you talking to?" when Brock is talking to the gang, but I love the idea of it up to the reader's interpretation.

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Cassandra Durnin
17:48 Mar 24, 2021

Hey, you haven't updated in a while. I know that things get busy, but I just wanted to check in and make sure you're okay.

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JASON PARKER
21:03 Mar 24, 2021

Thank you, Cassandra--that's very thoughtful. I'm fine. How are you?

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Cassandra Durnin
01:57 Mar 25, 2021

I’m good, thank you for asking!

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JASON PARKER
09:35 Mar 27, 2021

That's great. I'll be submitting again soon. Just in a bit of a slump at the moment. Little flashes of inspiration here and there, though. : )

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Cassandra Durnin
21:11 Mar 27, 2021

Ah, I totally understand. Can’t wait to read your next submission!

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Michael Boquet
18:34 Feb 11, 2021

Dude, you okay? You haven't submitted anything in awhile. I need more quality horror / genre stories my friend! Also, this week I finally submitted a comic book script for a prompt. It's called "Past Americana - Issue #4". Would love to get your thoughts on it. Hopefully you see this message...either by checking in or via the "You've got new comments" email. Hope all is well.

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JASON PARKER
20:42 Feb 13, 2021

Hi Michael, Yes, all is well. Thanks for checking in. I've been on holidays (still writing in my head most days--do you do that too?). I'm going to check out your script. I'll be back in the chair in a few days. J : )

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Michael Boquet
22:21 Feb 13, 2021

Glad all is well. Hope you had a good holiday. Yes, lol, I write more ideas in my head then I ever manage to get down on paper as a finished story.

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Ruth Porritt
06:54 Feb 07, 2021

Hello Jason, I wanted to send you a brief note to let you know that this is one of the best opening paragraphs (of any book or short story) that I've ever read. (LOL, I just realized that I have been reading fiction for 34 years!) You immediately pulled me into the story, and I felt compelled to find out what happened next. Also, this story reminds me (a bit) of The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. Have you read this book? (If you haven't, you must.) Anyway, can't wait to read the rest of your work, and have a great weekend, Ruth

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JASON PARKER
02:50 Feb 09, 2021

That's such a wonderful compliment, Ruth. I'm so glad you feel that way; I've been consciously eliminating fluff from my writing (adverbs, flowery adjectives etc.), and this story was an exercise in restraint, so I'm pleased that it panned out. I will certainly check out The Hunger; I just nicked off and read the blurb, and it sounds right up my alley--thank you for the recommendation. Your comments are immensely encouraging and inspiring. J : )

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Ruth Porritt
14:24 Feb 10, 2021

The hard work really shows. (i.e. I was instantly drawn into the story, and didn't notice any work, Lol.) Wonderful! I read that volume on a long flight (pre-Covid) and couldn't put it down. Enjoy! 🙂

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Cassandra Durnin
21:47 Jan 25, 2021

Wow, the loyalties and the description in this are wonderful. I especially love the attention that you payed to the accents! It made me smile, and brought the story to life in my mind’s eye. I love it.

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JASON PARKER
00:10 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you for your very kind comments, Cassandra. I'm so glad you like the accents. I went against the pervading ideas of writing dialogue devoid of accent and letting the reader 'hear' it in their own mind. Writing the accents in is so much more satisfying! : )

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