Just before dawn, scads of them drop from the ceiling and surround their host to feed. Without conscience, and acting solely out of evolutionary instinct they inject the host with the anesthetic agent inducing it into a deeper slumber, then feed fervently on its blood. This infestation, this manifestation of animal interactions in an intrinsic world. Man is an animal, be damned! he would often tell the clergy. One of the reasons why Douglas Wyatt joined the priesthood at such an early age. The rectory, with all his misgivings was still a step up from what his father would call, his childhood home with the dilapidated roof, a home with a view to the heavens. There were many a night he would awake feverish and wet from the rain. Though it wasn’t him that would succumb to pneumonia and infection, it was his elders.
“The markings of the devil!” she yelled as he passed her carriage. Wyatt’s horse raised its heads and snorted. “Utter nonsense, Miss Russell!” he retorted and felt his neck making sure there wasn’t any more welts since last inspection. This was a historic day. A day when justice would prevail and drunkards would finally have reason to celebrate! The Nagalsty sisters were to be hung for reasons of sorcery involving the murders of 12 local children. Wyatt, among the many other spectators, was there to witness and partake in the event, but first there was another matter that needed attention. Wyatt dismounted from his carriage and went inside the saloon.
The dreary Snake-Eyes saloon reverberated from the sound from Rosemary’s chair as it rocked back and forth on the irregular floor. Through the dusted window she could see one of the drunkards regain some level of consciousness, all the while making an ungraceful attempt at reclaiming some lost sleep whilst in the vertical position. His urine soaked pants reminded Rosemary of an dispossessed child without their mother. A sick Collie, abandoned and unable to fend for itself in the wild. The saloon reeked of whiskey, cabbage and gunpowder. In the distance, Ignatius sat at a table loading his pistol in preparation for his rendezvous at Red Rock with the village idiot.
“Father Wyatt, a pleasure for you to finally join us,” Rosemary said. “A drink? Perhaps I can get you something to clean your wounds?”
“Unnecessary, thank you.”
“Will you be joining in the outside festivities, Ignatius?” Wyatt asked.
“His mother is frightened, Father Wyatt.” Rosemary said before Iggy could reply. “He’s in heaps of trouble with that village idiot, Cooper.
“Rose…” Iggy tried to interject.
She continued: “Whilst in a sudden state of delirium Cooper brazenly accused Iggy of filching some of his gold dust off of the saloon floor. Stubborn and drunken, he challenged him to a duel at Red Rock.”
“Yes, I see.”
“I implore you Father, I implore you to talk some sense to the boy.”
Sammy burst in through the parlour doors taking in with him the foul stench from horse defecation: “Ohhh an assembly, such a grand assembly!” Sammy’s daughter, the sole survivor to be pulled from the well. It was rumoured around town that the Nagalsty sisters captured and murdered only the purest of children for their reproductive organs. Only the scurrying of rats could be heard after Sammy’s latest grandiose entrance. Father Wyatt, trembling in his speech, but authoritatively said slowly: “What did you do?”
“It ain’t about killing a man, it’s about honour,” Ignatius said to Father Wyatt as he put the final bit of powder in his pistol. They both sat at the table engaged in conversation, but the crowd outside was becoming tumultuous.
“I’m afraid I’ve over stayed my welcome.”
Ignatius took a final swig from the bottle and visualized himself in a warm morning sun surrounded by wildlife in desert vegetation. The dreary saloon with its clanking whiskey bottles, glasses and an old piano morphed into a serene landscape with a vibrant array colours. He found himself in the midst of nature—with the sound of hooves approaching from the distance.
Cooper with his second, Reuben “Fist” Baker, were approaching by horseback. The sun peeked over their broad shoulders casting a long, narrow shadow over the desert sand. Ignatius spat due south, noting any change in wind direction and speed. His second, Sam “Toothless” Horn completed marking the sand where Ignatius would either cross as a victor, or lie across as a bloodied victim.
“B’hoy you look dusted and in to the dynamite again, you sure you right in the head?” questioned Cooper whilst he dismounted his horse.
“Ain’t the time, Cooper, I’ve still got work to do. We need to getiton,” retorted Ignatius.
Baker positioned himself between the two and commenced with the final instructions:
“Gentleman, you have both agreed to the rules prior to our meeting today, so I trust that there are no grievances at this time? As agreed upon, I will proceed with a count from the number one to ten. Subsequently, Mr. Sam Horn shall drop the handkerchief signalling you to draw your pistols and fire.” Cooper’s horse raised its head and snorted. Baker looked both of them in the eye, to ensure that his words were being understood. “Very well then gentleman, please proceed to your positions.”
Ignatius faced south, Cooper north—thirty paces between them. Cooper slowly wiped away beads of sweat from his brow, whilst Ignatius stood dormant in anticipation of the count.
Ignatius drew his weapon and fired a single shot striking Cooper’s neck. Cooper’s left hand clasped at his neck, whilst blood spewed from between his fingers, the loss of blood inevitably causing him to drop to his knees, and the rest of him to fall forward into the sand. Baker and Horn exchanged fire. Baker hit Horn in the chest, but before falling he was able to send a bullet into Baker’s forehead. With two dead, and one barely clinging to life, Ignatius made his way over to Cooper. With his left hand he grabbed a tuft of his Cooper’s hair and with his right—his blade. After removing a portion of Cooper’s scalp, he climbed back onto his horse then stuffed the bloody skin into his pouch. At that very moment, about 2 miles south, The Nagalsty sisters swung back and forth at the bottom of ropes as an unkindness of ravens flew overhead, eventually to find and feed on the remains of those who have perished at Red Rock.
Ignatius rode into the distance, he was tired, but there was still more work to do.