Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the FANTASY and/or SCI FI Genre (10/16/14)
- TITLE: Keechi Critter
By Virgil Youngblood
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A hooded man stepped around a tree shaking water from his hands, rolling down the sleeves of a faded butternut-brown robe that covered him from head to ankles. A thick yellow-and-black braided rope served as a belt.
He must have been washing-up in the creek, Reece thought. He’s the strangest looking dude I ever seen, that’s fer dern sure.
Whatever was being grilled didn’t appear enough to put a dint in a good appetite. Reece pulled his .44 snake-charmer from its holster, thumbed a shell into the empty chamber under the hammer, and eased the pistol back down. Well, let’s find out what this is all about.
“Hello, the camp” he sang out.
The robed man was squatting before the fire with his back to Reece.
“Hey, didn’t you hear me? Hello, the camp. I’m coming down.”
Urging Boots down the bluff, Reece kept his eyes on the stranger, darting searching glances for others and the man’s horse. Reaching flat ground he stepped out of the saddle and looped the reins over a branch. The man, still squatting, had buggy eyes as green as a bullfrog’s hide. He had a strange look about him. Reece didn’t know what it was. He wasn’t Texican, or Mexican. Chinee, maybe?
“Feller, if you don’t want to talk that’s okay. But, out here it’s customary to acknowledge a greeting. What’cha doing here, anyway?”
The man opened his mouth to speak and began gulping rapidly. His eyes flared wide as a spooked calf’s, darting between twelve painted-up Indians filtering like smoke through the brush. Some had arrows notched to bow strings, others brandished clubs or iron-tipped lances.
Boots flared her nostrils, not liking their smell, or the stocky Indian that had his eyes on her.
Reese gripped the bone-handle of his six-shot revolver, praying the Indians wanted food instead of scalps. If a fight started, he’d be lucky to get out alive.
Their leader was a stout Indian with a red-tailed hawk feather in his hair; a jagged white-lightening streak slashed across his pock-marked face. He jabbed a finger at the stranger, jabbering gibberish. Yanking his palm upward, he motioned for the robed critter to stand. Before he could get upright, the Indian sprang forward and jerked the hood down.
If Reece lived longer than Methuselah, he would never forget what happened next. The Indians dropped their gear and fled through the brush yelling like banshees. In the hullabaloo, the robed creature vanished. Reece quickly gathered the scattered weapons.
After a sleepless night in a cold-camp downstream, Reece pointed Boots toward the line shack on Turkey Ridge. His partner, Rainbow Jones, short of stature and boot leather tough, would likely be there. Rainbow ain’t gonna believe none of this, but he can’t argue with the bows and tomahawks behind my saddle. Heck, I don’t believe what I saw, and I seen it.
“I missed sum’pin,” Rainbow said. “How was it that dude got away and you didn’t see him leave?”
“Yuh can blame Boots for that. Those Indians scattered in every direction when that two-faced feller screeched with both his mouths. Boots threw her tail in an curve hollering backwards, pitching and scattering horse apples everywhere. By the time I got her settled down it was grave-yard quite.
“I’d swear on a stack of Bibles, that hooded thing was a two-faced man, uh, woman. I seen it – he had uh old man’s face to the front and a woman’s face to the rear. She looked like an old crone. Both mouths could talk and yell and look at you and – and – Rainbow, I know what’cha thinking, but I ain’t had nary a drop.
“Lookee, here.” Reece handed Rainbow a worn leather sandal. “Ain’t nobody around here wears one of these.”
“Well, partner,” Rainbow said, examining the strange shoe leather. “Let’s ketch it. I’d pay six-bits for a look-see. You would to, wouldn’t you? Think of the money we can make.”
Reece scraped some sourdough crumbs together and doused them with honey. “Sure money is putting a K-Bar brand on those calves, like we said we’d do. In the morning, I’ll heat up the irons; you make a double batch of these biscuits.”
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