I’m starting to get the mental gears greased for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and decided to try to write improvised stories of varying length and likely questionable quality as part of the process on a daily basis for the days remaining until NaNoWriMo starts in earnest. The inspiration for each piece will come from scrolling through my Home page on Pinterest until I find a picture I feel (for whatever reason) to be inspirational as my prompt. The length may vary, but each piece will have a target length of at least 1700 words, as that is near the minimum required on a daily basis to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge. Only minimal edits are done with the results below and the work is the effort of a single writing session.
I always welcome people who want to be “buddies” on the NaNo site. My user name is Michael_Raven, if you want to link accounts.
[Length: 970 words, a bit pitiful in terms of length…]
“Witch!” shouted the preacher man, finger pointing.
The gunslinger had emerged from the ruddy umber hills of the badlands to the forbidden West of town, black hat pulled down low against the dust dancing on the wind, dark scarf pulled up to her eyes against the same and saddlebags thrown over her shoulder with no horse in view. The walk was the weary kind, the kind that spoke of more than a few clicks afoot in the valley of the dead.
Drunk Billy looked up from his bottle at the preacher’s shout, long enough to start a fit of giggles that devolved into outright laughter. A strange one, Billy was. But that’s why he drank like a fish, his head done broke back when that bull kicked his damn melon in ten years ago. Boy had never been right since.
“Witch!” the preacher man shouted again, to make his opinion clear, as if there was room for any doubt as to how he’d feel. If you weren’t married, a youth, or bedding him on a regular basis, you were a whore — so it followed that a women coming out of the badlands, well, she’d be a witch. Obviously. A man might be a witch too, for all the townsfolk knew, if he came from the forbidden West. But no one went, nor came from the badlands, so the people couldn’t rightly say what the preacher would call a man doing the same.
The gunslinger had seen better days, it was obvious to the folk who started to look out their windows at the accused witch. Her riding leathers were beyond repair, and on closer inspection, her shirt torn ragged in a number of places, but none so risqué as to prompt the padre into adding “whore” to the list of her crimes.
“You need us to send someone out fer yer ‘borg, ma’am? Blow out a servo?” John, the stable owner offered, though he had the fervent hope she might decline his offer. If she came from the badlands and agreed, well… he might have to see if Drunk Billy needed the coin and could be sobered up enough to send out. Billy was never one to care about the taboos, and folk were never one to deny Billy making some cash, even if it meant going to the forbidden places.
He needn’t have worried.
“Ain’t much point except for salvage,” the gunslinger replied, her voice harsh from lack of use. “An’ the risks ain’t worth the salvage.”
John didn’t know what that meant, but he supposed it had something to do with why the badlands were forbidden. He breathed a sigh of relief and Drunk Billy laughed again from across the street as if he could read John’s thoughts and knew what dangers lay in the wastes to the West.
“Witch!” yelled the preacher man once again, just in case the whole town hadn’t heard his other two cries. If nothing else, he left no stone unturned when it came sin. Excepting his own, of course. He answered to God, not the town.
“Yes, yes,” replied the gunslinger. “I heard you the first two times. Should I assume you have the kind of work needing a witch? Are you announcing it so that others know of my arrival, so I can find work?”
The preacher man drooled though his bad teeth at the thought. A witch who admitted to being one? There would be a grand ol’ bone-fire this evening, he got to thinking. The Good Book said not to suffer a witch, and he meant to take care of this one at the stake. It’d put the fear of God into this town of sinners, it would.
The preacher man opened his mouth to issue judgment, as was his right, but found the barrel of a gun blocking his mouth.
“You’re Lucius Harrington, right?” asked the gunslinger. “Just nod if I’m right about that.”
Panicked by the gun in his mouth, he didn’t know what else to do but nod. He’d almost forgotten that name, forgotten the man back East who wore it.
“I thought so,” said the gunslinger. “It appears like I finally found what I was looking for all these long years.”
Drunk Billy laughed, breaking the hush that had filled the streets since the preacher man, once known as Lucius Harrington, started eating steel.
“You done found him,” shouted Billy from the place where he cradled his bottle of whiskey, taking the occasional sip. “You done found that man you be looking for.”
“I am Logan Hoarfrost,” the gunslinger informed the preacher man. “You remember the name Hoarfrost?”
Lucius started to shake his head, but the taste of oiled steel on his tongue brought the memory back in a tsunami. Him and his old gang had made a pretty penny back in the day hunting witches. Hoarfrost was the name of one of the last before the government back East had declared such extrajudicial killings illegal.
“Yeah, I thought you might. Ellen Hoarfrost was my mother.”
Lucius felt her squeeze the trigger, watched the hammer pull back on the revolver with wide eyes, shaking his head —
There was a loud thud as the back of his head exploded outward. He slumped, boneless to the dirt road running through the center of town.
“Now she can rest a little easier, motherfucker.”
Logan walked the rest of the way to the saloon to get a drink, maybe a bite to eat. Judging from how the townsfolk went back to their daily business without lingering, no one would miss the witch-killer.
She only had three more on her list before the dirty work of vengeance was done and she could finally rest. She could see if the stable owner had ‘borg horse for sale tomorrow. Tonight, she’d sleep.