Here, in it’s entirety, is a story from our upcoming Weird West anthology, TALL TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST – Coming Spring of 2015 from Coffin Hop Press. This book features tales of prairie madness, weird west science gone awry, ancient aliens, plains magic, bad mojo and all kinds of hoodoo juju. TALL TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST includes stories by Jackson Lowry, C. Courtney Joyner, Scott S. Phillips, Rick Overwater, Craig Garrett, Grady Cole and Axel Howerton. As well as this little ditty from the mysterious El Cuchillo!
Rosie’s Chicken & Biscuits
By El Cuchillo
Zeke had seen all manner of nature’s savagery during a lifetime on the trails – Death and dismemberment, cannibalism, all manner of killing – this was different. These were no bloody wolves, no mountain lions, no coyotes eating their own dead, no giant Tenochtitlan eagles sweeping down on the cool night breeze to carry off a tup or two. These were goddamn monsters from hell.
Q was twisted up, long legs stretching out with his boot heels in the dust, body low to the ground and his shoulder up against the edge of the trunk that was shielding them. Q had grown up hunting cougars in West Texas. He knew how to creep out, get a clear shot at a rabid heap of teeth and claws. Rosie called Q Ol’ Dog and Zeke was the Young Pup. The Ol’ Dog had hunted damn near everything that could be killed with a knife or a gun, but he didn’t look like a hunter now.
Zeke could feel Q next to him, trembling like an autumn leaf, the oaty smell of fresh piss wafting up to mingle with the stench of slaughter.
He ain’t never shot no Chupacabra. Zeke thought to himself. He remembered Rosie saying it, crossing herself over those big, sweet caramel teats and mumbling in her queer backwoods Spanish. Chupacabra. Goat-suckers. Demon Dogs.
The things had fallen on them quicker than anything Zeke had ever seen. They came dive-bombing out of the black night like eagles, but bigger. Black and huge and hungry. Goddamn panthers with wings. They came with an unearthly banshee howl and the sound of thunder behind them, picking animals from the ground with hooked talons and muscular arms, dropping them from high, the sheep wailing through the darkness as they plummeted back down to the rocky earth to burst like sloppy meat piñatas. Zeke had dropped to his knees, hands over his ears as livestock exploded around them like mortar shells. Q was half deaf already and still ducked his head, his face twisted up with the agony of the shrill blast of noise. The things had already picked off a half-dozen animals before either of the men had time to open their mouths in surprise. Zeke had screamed, and felt a rush of warmth down the front of his legs, when Ol’ Dogs hand hooked in the back of his collar and yanked Young Pup from the dust, scrambling for cover behind the rotting hulk of a fallen tree. Now Zeke was clear-headed and Q was the one cowering in the dust.
Zeke pulled himself up and steeled his resolve to look out on what had turned a hard old cowboy like Q into a scared child. He thought better of it, remembering Rosie’s stories of the dreaded goat-suckers. Twisted alien monsters that would just as soon gut a man as blink an evil, night-red eye. Creatures of the pit she’d called them.
Zeke looked at Q – body still as stone, hard and unforgiving – but his lips twitching like a hell-bitten dog. There was no reason left in the Ol’ Dogs pale blue eyes, just panic.
Ought to leave him here, Zeke thought. I ain’t dying here. I can take care of Rosie. Rosie and her big warm tits, and those thick ruby lips. I can’t carry the old bastard outta here, can I? Won’t be my damn fault he lost his nerve. He’s old and weak and…goddammit…
Zeke clambered to his knees, demons be damned, and grabbed Q rough by the shoulders and cocked his arm back to lay a slap across the old man’s face.
“Fucksakes, Quentin! Snap out of it!”
Zeke’s hand flew out in a wide arc, but found nothing but air and he tumbled forward, face down in the dirt. Zeke reached out to the darkness. There were no screams from Q. There were just his eyes, wide and white and mad with fear, fading into the black night on the rhythm of beating wings, leaving Zeke alone and trembling under the blood red moon.
Zeke felt his legs moving under him before his brain registered the thought to run. The muscles were knotted hard as his legs pumped and his vision shook, barreling out of the clearing towards the cover of the clutch of pines standing on the east side of the clearing. The confused screaming of the sheep and the high-pitched wail of the demon-beasts was a furious wind blowing at his back, but all Zeke could hear was his own heart pounding in his ears and the rush of air in and out of his throbbing chest. So close. So very close. Zeke reached out to grab the thick green salvation of the branches, and felt the world spin as his foot caught on a stump and he flew forward, crashing to the rough ground a bare couple of feet from safety.
Zeke sat up and froze, realizing how deadly silent the night had become. Hot, moist breath, reeking of blood and rot, played against the skin of his cheek. The corner of his eye registered a shape, dark and thick, and as he turned, the terrible pieces of his ill-digested glances came together like a horrifying puzzle. It had a long, grey face. Skin stretched tight over hard bones, thick brow shrouding glassy eyes of hellfire red. It had a flat snout, like a bat, and a mouth full of serrated teeth, jagged and horrible, yet dwarfed by the two long dog-teeth that curved inwards of the gaping maw of the thing. Zeke felt another one moving in on his left. It nuzzled its snout into his neck, sniffing, and Zeke jerked away, causing the monsters to jump back, snapping in panic. There were three of them, half the height of a grown man, but twice as broad, and more heavily muscled than any ranch-hand Zeke had ever known. Zeke pulled himself into a crouch and began backing away from them, edging slowly toward the brush. It was a few short feet to the trees.
The creature on the right jumped at him first, head shooting forward, long arms waving through the air, fleshy cape pulled flat against it, lunging with one sharp talon, flailing at Zeke’s face. Zeke ducked and lashed out a boot that caught the thing full in the side of the head, knocking it back in the dirt with a squeal. It was only stunned for a second before jumping into the air with a whip-crack of its wings to disappear into the shadows. The other two advanced, creeping forward with their awkward waddle, arms dragging behind them. Both bared their fangs and screeched, their voices combining to create a single ear-splitting sound that bore through Zeke’s head and blinded his every sense. He rolled, desperately trying to crawl free of the clearing and bury himself in the thick wall of trees. Two feet. Just two feet. Zeke forced his hands away from his ears and reached out for the trees, shaky legs moving an inch at a time beneath him. The wail of the beasts was replaced by a high-pitched whine inside Zeke’s ears and he put a hand to the side of his head, fingers coming away sticky and hot.
He didn’t hear the thud as Ol’ Dogs body exploded in front of him like an overstuffed garbage bag, blood and meat and god knows what else, spattering up into his face. There was no head and, perhaps worse yet, the torso was wide open and empty, like a gutted turkey in a torn denim shirt. Zeke could see the inside of the rib cage, little notches and chunks missing from the short ribs, where one of the damned things had taken a bite. Zeke felt his gorge rise up in his throat and a tight lump form in his chest. The meat-husk was wearing Ol’ Dogs boots, the tooled leather ones, with the big letter ‘Q’ just above the ankles, the boots Rosie gave him for their anniversary last fall, just before she started taking Young Pup to her bed instead of the Ol’ Dog.
The thought of Rosie brought Zeke to his senses. He stood and dove past the carcass of his oldest friend, rolled over his shoulder and took to his feet, tumbling into the hard scrabble of the underbrush, branches tearing at his shirt and his skin, and he’d never been so happy.
Safe, Zeke thought. Need a goddamn coffee. Whiskey. Some of Rosie’s good chicken and biscuits.
The last thought lodged in his throat, with the sound of pine trunks cracking and a pressure at the base of his spine as one hooked talon sliced through his backbone and his face hit the dirt with no feeling.
Rosie? Rosie. No! I made it to the trees! Rosie?
He only felt the blood rush to his head as he was pulled up into the treetops, and he felt nothing more than wind in his eyes as the the ocean of green and the hard ground below rushed back towards his face.
I’m comin’ Rosie. I made it to the…
©2014 Coffin Hop Press