Saturday, March 03, 2012

30 Day Writing Challenge - Day 3

Image (c)  2007 Jim Emery Photography
The challenge today was to write in a genre you've never written before and, even when I first thought up the challenge I had an inkling that this would be the genre I wanted to have a go at...

Not sure I managed to pull it off but it was great fun to write all the same.

A Meeting in Desolation

The sky above them was a lurid purple and filled with fading stars when they first caught sight of the town of Desolation, a jagged silhouette framed against the yellow horizon of the dawn.  Five days hard riding to reach this, little more than a godforsaken collection of ramshackle houses and barns on the edge of the desert. The name seemed appropriate; Desolation wasn’t much of a town at all. Not much of anything, truth be told.
                “How far out are we?” asked Little Jake, wiping hair from his brown eyes as he stared off into the distance.
                “I say less than half a day’s ride if we get a wiggle on,” smiled Ike the Knife thinly. “Why, we’ll be all done here in time for lunch.”
                All of them apart from Six Finger Bob laughed at this. Not the natural kind of laughter, not the kind you make at a good joke; this was the kind of laughter a man makes when he’s nervous and he’s trying to use it to stoke up his courage some. All the men who laughed were nervous, but not one of them would admit it.
                “I’m ready for this,” said Big Jake, eyes hidden beneath the shadow of his hat’s brim. “This day’s been a long time coming.”
                “Hell, what we waiting for then?” said Slim Decker, spitting a mouthful of brown tobacco to the dusty ground. “Let’s go do what we came here for.”
                “No.” said Six Finger Bob. It was the first word he’d spoken to any of them in hours.
                They all turned to look at him as he reined his horse in with his one good hand and slid smoothly from the saddle. They were bad men, all four of them, but they knew better than to speak out of turn around Six Finger Bob.  He looked at them each in turn, his cold black eyes boring into them as if seeking a challenge to his command.
“We rest up here a while is what we do.”
 There were a few seconds of silence as the men shared glances between themselves before Ike finally spoke up.
“Why rest though, Bob? We can ride down there and finish this right now.”
“That right is it, Ike?” said Bob, taking a drag from his quirly and blowing a cloud of blue smoke into the air, black eyes on Ike. “So, how long is it you been waiting to get your hands on Ringo then, Ike?”
Ike turned his head away, unable to meet his stare for more than second.
“Well I’ll tell you, Ike,” he continued. “You been waiting a long time, just like the rest of these fellas.”
He took a long drag on the quirly, its tip glowing red in the early morning light.
“Now, we all of us here got good reason to be wanting Ringo dead and we all of us been looking to make it happen for some years. But yet none of us ever managed it, have we?”
He threw the remains of the still smoking quirly to the floor.
“I’ll tell you why.”
He placed the heel of his boot over the quirly, watching the tendrils of blue smoke that coiled from it.
“Because we got sloppy.”
He ground his heel hard into the dirt.
“Because we got lazy.”
Ground again, twisting his heel left and right.
“Because we took us the easy path when the path we should have been treading was the path that required us to show patience.”
He looked up at them, pushing the brim of his hat up with the one finger he had remaining on his left hand.
“Now, today we’re gonna do it right. Today, we’re going to rest up and then we’re gonna ride into town and kill Danny Ringo. ”

                           *                            *                              *

The man who once went by the name Danny Ringo was in the saloon, fourth bourbon of the night in his hand, when he heard the horse hooves echoing in the street outside. Five horses walking slow by the sound of it. No one else in the saloon had even noticed, let alone cared, but the man hadn’t lived as long as he had without coming to trust his instincts. Five horses in this town, on this night, felt wrong.
                He drained his shot glass in one mouthful and placed it on the bar, eyes fixed on the street outside the saloon door. Five men on horseback cantered slowly by; too dark to see their eyes but he could feel their ill intent as something tangible. He had always known a night like this would come, he just hadn’t expected it to come quite so soon.
                “You still got that old shotgun under the counter, Stu?” he asked the barman, gaze flickering to the older man for but a fraction of a second.
                “Surely do,” smiled the barman with a grin that exposed his wooden false teeth. “Why you asking, Sheriff?”
                “I’m going to need you to make sure you keep it there,” he said, his black eyes glittering in the dimly lit room and, for a moment, the barman saw not Lionel Dobbs, who’d served as town sheriff for  the last year, but the face of a man whose name was still spoken in reverent tones in three different states. “You keep it there, no matter what happens.”
                He cast his gaze across the room; a couple of prospectors already half roostered and some ranch hands playing out a hand of cards on the far side of the saloon. He stood up and walked to the centre of the room, right hand perched on his hip, fingers dangling close to the Remington 1858 in his holster. He knew he could send them out, make sure they were out of harm’s way, but to do so would tip his hand to the men outside.  So, instead he took a seat at a table at the back of the saloon, deep in the shadows, and waited.
                He didn’t have to wait long.
                Four men entered the bar, swinging the saloon doors open wide and strutting in, kicking up handfuls of sawdust with every step, their coats tucked back behind their holsters to show they were all heeled. The saloon instantly became deathly silent. The card game stopped mid-game, the men shrinking away into the corner. Stu, the barman, stepped further back behind the counter.
                “Where you at Danny Ringo?” said the shortest of the four. “We want a word with you.”
                “Ain’t no one of that name here,” he said from the shadows, “so why don’t you boys save yourselves some trouble and walk on out of here?”
                “That’s him,” said Ike, hand twitching at his side, “I recognise that voice.”
                “And I recognise you, Ike Stinson.  But that is a life I’ve put behind me and I suggest you try and do the same.”
                “Listen to this cocksucker,” spat Big Jake, “talking like he’s the one in control. You ain’t in control here Ringo.”
                “All I can do is offer you my friendly advice. Now, up until this point, I’ve had no cause to have beef with any one of you four gentleman, any debts we might once have had have been long since settled to my mind.”
                “You killed my brother,” said Slim, his face reddening. “You killed him dead up in Abilene. That is a debt you are going to have to repay today.”
                He said nothing for a few seconds.         
“I killed a lot of men in Abilene.”
He pressed his knees up beneath the rough wooden surface of the table, his left hand motionless on the tabletop, his right on the grip of the Remington.
“Now, I am thinking the talking here between us is at an end. So you boys have a choice. You can turn around and walk away from this or you can continue with a course of action that I am certain will not end well for you.”
A moment, frozen in time. And then chaos reigned.
Little Jake went for his gun first, the movement betrayed by a twitch in his shoulder and in one fluid motion, he was pushing the table up and towards the four of them with his knees while his other hand was sliding the Remington smoothly from its holster, bringing it up in an arc. One shot and Little Jake went stumbling to the floor, his hand never quite managing to reach his gun. Two shots and he took Big Jake in the chest, the big man’s face frozen in a permanent expression of surprise. And then he was moving, leaving the table behind even as Ike and Slim opened up with their pistols, both firing wild and wide. A sidestep and suddenly the angles were all wrong for them both. Third shot tore away half of Ike Stimson’s face. Fourth and fifth shots took Slim Decker in the chest and shoulder, spinning him around and sending him sprawling across a tabletop like some kind of ragdoll. Smoke curled upwards from the barrel of his gun. Less than five seconds gone since Little Jake made his ill-advised move.
Slow clapping echoed in from the street.
He flipped the revolver open and smoothly changed the cylinder out for a fresh one. He knew who was outside waiting for him; the only man who’d ever been faster than him.
“You send them in to try and soften me up. Bob?” he shouted through the saloon door.
“Nah, I just wanted to see if you still had it. See, if that bunch of shave tails had done for you then you weren’t the man I remembered. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t wasting my time here.”
“So you sent these four boys to die for your amusement?”
“Well, listen to old Danny Ringo, preaching to me. Surely not that the same Danny Ringo I rode with for nearly four years? Surely not the same old stone cold son-of-a-bitch that killed more men than I could count? Why you have changed, Danny.”
“I’m a different man.”
“Well, surely that’s a coincidence. Because I’m a changed man too, Danny. Last time I saw you, you did a good job of changing me.
“I guess that means you’ve not forgiven me for what went down in Wichita then?”
“Lost me four fingers that day. A man, he doesn’t tend to forgive a thing like that.”
                “Day could have gone a lot worse for you.”
                “You know what they call me now, Danny? They call me Six Finger Bob. Not to my face, you understand, because I’d kill them. But I know that’s what they call me behind my back. And that’s on you, Danny. So what say you step on outside and we dance one last time.”
                He took a deep breath, holstered the Remington and stepped out through the saloon doors and into the cool night. Bob was standing on the far side of the street. He was clearly the same man he had once known, but he seemed far older, his face haggard and his moustache flecked with grey. He was wearing the same blood-dark waistcoat that he had always favoured, the same mother-of-pearl handled Colt in his right holster. The left holster was conspicuously empty.
                “Took a long time to track you down, you know that Danny?”
                “I didn’t leave no forwarding address. Wasn’t expecting no visitors.”
                “Oh, I’m sure you always knew someone was going to come calling one day.”
                “Yep. And I always figured it would be you.”
                He took two paces across the street and into the moonlight, hand only inches from the Remington at his side.
“Sheriff?” laughed Bob, seeing the badge on his chest for the first time.
                “Times have changed.”
                “Surely they have, Danny. But I’ll tell you one thing that hasn’t changed. I’m still faster than you.”
                “Guess we’ll just have to find out.”
                “Guess we will.”
                They stood facing each other at a distance of twenty paces, the pale silvery light illuminating them and casting papery shadows along the length of the street. Hands at their sides, coats swept back from their holsters. Eyes narrowed, neither man blinked.
                And then they moved.
The motion was faster than the human eye could follow, little more than a blur as two guns were drawn in tandem and two shots cracked loud in the still night air.
One body hit the ground, hard.
The man that had been left standing touched his right hand gingerly to his left shoulder, where his opponent’s bullet had struck home. Warm blood pulsed from the wound, seeping through the material of his shirt. He winced at the pain that stabbed hotly at him and walked across the street to where his opponent lay, twisted and broken in the dirt amid blood that pooled, black beneath the moonlight.
“You were always faster,” he said through gritted teeth, picking the pearl-handled Colt up from the ground. “Shame you never could aim for shit.” 


Esther Zuidgeest said...

Then ending sentence rocks!
Here's mine. In 2 parts,

30 day writing challenge:
A genre you've never written in before

This story turned out longer than I expected. I've learned i like using animals in stories^^

Animal Story

The mouse and the Ferret
Today is a bright and sunny day for Maxwell the mouse. He scitters through the brush, stopping now and then to sniff the wiffs of nearby seeds. The ground is covered in leafs but it doesn't stop Maxwell from finding those tasty seeds.

'Sniff Sniff! Ah.. somewhat to the left... a bit back... Found it! One more for my storage chamber. This will certainly impress Angela.'

Maxwell is in love with Angela. Sassy Angela. No other mice dare to come close to her. She is a big mouther. But for Maxwell she is the love of his life. He likes a girl who speaks up and he likes the rewards of this challenge; her love is as big as her mouth, but no other mice know that. If he has enough seeds at home he can invite Angela to stay at his place during winter. All female mice pick their men for his ability to scavenge. His pile is growing larger. 'I hope I have enough for Angela, I think she will want more than the other females. She always expects more from men.'

Maxwell speeds back to his home. Happy with the sun in his back he pretends he is dodging the attack of a hawk. He dodges to the left, he dodges to the right. He jumps the last stretch into the tunnel that leads to his home under a big oak tree.
He speaks out loud while straightening his back:
'thunderbolt has reached his destination. Soldier requesting drop off, over. Kggg'
With a sligtly lower voice:
'Roger, roger soldier. Permission granted.'
Maxwell elegantly throws the seed on the big pile in the back of his room.
He lets out a big sigh of proudness, looks around the room and realises the state it's in: Not something to be proud off.
'What a mess, i better clean it up. If Angela would see this...'

He just got started when he hears a voice coming outside his home. 'Sir!.. Sir! Are you home?
Maxwell goes outside and sees before him a ferret with a monicle.
'Good day sire, my name is Franciss and I am here to make you a rich man. Please let me explain'
Before Maxwell can even refuse he is pushed on one of the tree's roots.
'What is your name?'
'Maxwell. Maxwell the mouse, sir.'
'Ahh maxwell, well i've got a special offer for you. First let me know, have you been collecting seeds recently?'
'Yes, I have'
'That is very wise of you, sir Maxwell, a mouse can't do without during winter. However, it has come to my attention that this winter is going to be more harsh and profoundly longer than normal. You know what they say; a warm late summer predicts a harsh winter. To help my fellow rodents I've come up with a special deal, you give me the seeds that you have now and I will double them by the end of this mooncycle.
'Double them? But how?'

'Well it goes like this: I take your seeds and i visit other mice and rodents like you who've had less luck scavenging for seeds. I lend them a number of seeds to make it trough the week. This gives them energy and time to search for more seeds. At the end of the week they return me the seeds I gave together with some interest. This is how I will make your seed supply grow. What do you think of that?'

Esther Zuidgeest said...

'Wow that sounds like a complicated but clever plan'

'Yes indeed. Well what do you say?'

Maxwell feels a bit uneasy, can he trust this guy? He looks like a nice guy. If he could have twice the amount of seeds he would definatly impress Angela.

'Ok I'll do it. Let me get the seeds packed up.'

Maxwell packs up the seeds an returns outside.

'Here they are Franciss, see you back at the end of the mooncycle!'

'You too sir, have a nice day!'

Maxwell goes back inside to finish cleaning. He feels excited, twice the amount of seeds! That'll be awesome! He goes to bed and imagines Angela's face when she sees the big pile of seeds.

The next day Maxwell scavenges for some seeds. He doesn't search as long as usual for he only needs the food for today. Why work so hard when Franciss is doing the work for him?

2 Weeks pass and the wheather starts turning colder. Maxwell's exitement has passed and has made room for some worries. 'I hope Franciss is back soon and doesn't get caught up by the bad wheather.'

One week after the end of the moon cycle Maxwell is desperate. He started scavenging again last week when Franciss refused to show up. However, most seeds have already been taken by other mice and Maxwell is struggeling to get by. Ofcourse he didn't tell Angela, he doesn't want her to think he is a bad scavenger. Somehow he knows she suspects something, that is why he didn't see her as much as he used to. What if she would find out?

Suddenly Franciss shows up.
'Franciss?! Where have you been? Why weren't you here at the end of the mooncycle?

'I'm sorry Maxwell. Business went well but I got robbed just before the end of the mooncycle. All the seeds.. they're gone.. I just recovered from my wounds. I am really sorry Maxwell but i can't give you back your seeds. I don't have them anymore.'

'But! But! How could you? How will i survive winter now? How could you be so careless?'

'Calm down your behavior Maxwell. I am also a victim. I just recovered from my wounds and you are being angry at me. I know when I'm not wanted. I'll go now'

'Stay here you filthy ferret! You're probably lying and keeping them all for yourself. I never should've trusted you!'

But Franciss is already gone. Mentally beaten Maxwell sits down in a cold bed of leaves. What is he going to do now? He doesn't have enough food to make it through winter. He can't invite Angela into his home. At this very moment, she is probably sitting near the fire of another man's home engorging herself with seeds.
He starts sobbing. Although not too loud, men don't cry and if they do, they make sure no one hears.
His hairs jump when he hears pawsteps behind him. He turns around.
'Maxwell! What is wrong with you? I've been trying to talk to you for days but you keep avoiding me. I want to hear what is wrong. And don't pretend its nothing. Men don't cry for nothing.'

Maxwell sighs and decides to tell her everything. He is lost anyway.
Against his expectations Angela doesn't run away. She is angry, oh yes very angry, but after her speach is over she hugs him and comforts him.

'Maxi, you can stay at my place during winter. I know its not the usual thing to do for a female, but I've scavenged for seeds as well. Please, I'd like your company. Tell me all the stories you can come up with to help me through those boring times. Most important of all, keep me warm.'

And with that said the two kissed and held eachother untill there bodies got cold.
'Lets get warm at my place Maxi' She smiled.
He never felt so happy and loved.

Gemma Neeleman said...

Oliver Davies writing challenge

Day 3 write in a genre you never wrote in before

It was a nice springday, Mary was taking a walk in the park with her dog, she choose to call Miss Piggy for it was a female dog and she looked like a pig. A very cute one but nevertheless a pig. The sun glasses Mary was wearing werent really needed, since the sun was just watery glaring through. This were the first rayes of sun Londen had seen this year. She just got a call from her best friend Ray, asking her to meet up close by to just have a drink in the park. As Mary wasn´t really focussing on the steps she took on the way (she always relayed way too much on Miss Piggy to wake her up if something disturbing would come up) and so she tripped over some balls rolling over the road and dropped her bag on the ground as she tried to save her sorry ass from falling, nevertheless she fell down. At the same moment she fell she saw someone running to her and Miss Piggy was no where to be found of course.. Ouch, that hurted she fell quite hard and was ready to get pissed at the person running towards her, since it seemed like that was the one causing her problems. Hi! I am so sorry, are you okay, did you hurt anything, sorry I am rambling words, I am Dean. Of course I am not okay! Then she looked into his eyes and the glare she saw made her words weakening. As she tried to rephrase the words so they wouldn´t be sounding as mad as they did before, she ´a little embaressed´ softly said, but I will be, I am sure. Trying to make the conversation a bit softer Mary gave him a hand, Hi, Mary she said while she still sat on the ground of the park. Dean smiled and asked her again, so, are you hurt? As she smiled back she said, No, I am not, but tell me, what does someone need with so many balls around for only himself? Well actually they are not mine, Dean blushed a bit. A friend of mine was supposed to come back soon, but he kept me waiting for an hour already and I was calling him. That is why I did not see you in time tripping over them. Sorry it has been a messy day, let me help you up Dean said and Mary could not stop looking in his eyes....

Yasen D. said...

As a connasseur and an amature appreciator of the revisionist Western, I hereby declare this a successfull addition to the genre! ;]