Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


The Badlands

“Bar the doors, Clea.”

Nodding, Clea grabbed a large piece of wood and secured the barn door with it. Looking back, she saw Sterm closing the shutters on the upper windows and locking them shut. “You think they’re going to send carrier pigeons to kill us?” she asked dryly.

“Y’ can’t be too careful,” he replied, fastening the last window. “I’ve been around the badlands for more than my share of hunts. People get mighty creative when… shit.”

Clea could hear it too. In twos and threes, horses were galloping towards them. Amidst the clopping of hooves, there were also excited murmurs at the promise of a good kill and a hefty reward. From the sounds of it, there were seven of them and they weren’t going to leave empty-handed.

“Guns are in the bag,” she said quickly before running towards their supplies. Sterm didn’t waste any time and jumped straight down from the rafters, his fall cushioned by a mound of hay. Reaching the bag of weapons first, he tossed Clea her six-shooter which she immediately started loading from her belt. Her boots skid on the dirt as she abruptly changed direction and ran to the wall, pressing herself against it.

Yeah, they were coming from the woods in the Southeast, all right. From the sounds of it, though, they weren’t heavily armed, probably hoping that their numbers would overwhelm the two of them. Good. That gave the two runaways a small chance.

Shimmying across the wall to the window, she looked over at Sterm, who had just rushed up to join her on the other side. “I don’t suppose they’re just stoppin’ by for a rest?” she asked

“Can’t be. It’s too far off the beaten track.”

“So it’s going to be a fight?”

“Yup. How’s your aim?”

“Bad. How’s yours?”


“Wonderful. See you on the other side.”

With that, Clea and Sterm split off in separate directions. She could hear Sterm climbing up the rafters to get a better vantage, his rolling block rifle slung over his shoulder. Seeing as Clea was still wearing a skirt, she opted to stay low. Slipping out the back, she snuck into the abandoned pigpen and ducked behind the trough, waiting with baited breath. Sure enough, two of their pursuers came around the corner, each one drawing out a revolver. Both looked toned and light on their feet, their trigger fingers twitching. Clea gulped quietly. This was going to be tricky.

Rushing straight at them would be a recipe for disaster, but moving cautiously ran the risk of her being spotted on the open ground. And if she shot at them, it would be an open invitation for the others to close in on her. There was another option, though, and as risky as it was, it was probably worth a shot. Picking up a handful of mud, she threw it straight at the fence of the pigpen, then laid herself flat in the mud.

“What was that?” one of them said suspiciously.

“Could be a squirrel,” the other replied, “or it could be one of our marks.”

She gritted her teeth as she heard them both moving towards the pen. Any minute now, it was sink or swim. Hopefully, her legs weren’t sticking out from behind the trough. Sure enough, one of them climbed over the fence followed by his companion, looking toward where the noise came from. Now was her chance.

Slowly getting to her feet, she rushed the five feet between her and the closest thug and struck the back of the head with her pistol. The sound of his body hitting the mud attracted the attention of the other, who turned around to point his gun at her. But no sooner had he taken aim than Clea had grabbed wrist and tackled him. The two of them fell to the ground, each wrestling to get their gun pointed at the other. But this wasn’t a fight Clea was willing to lose. Wasting no time, she kneed him in the groin, causing him to cry out and lose his grip for just a second. But that second was long enough to squeeze off two rounds point blank into his chest. As he slumped, dead, she got up and promptly shot the first ruffian for good measure.

From the other side of the barn, she could hear gunfire, meaning that Sterm had found his own trouble. She quickly picked up the guns from her fallen foes and loaded whatever ammo she could into her belt. More gunshots, this time from inside the barn. Cursing their luck and adding bullets to the empty chambers in her revolver, she rushed back inside as quick as the devils themselves.

Inside, she found two bounty hunters inside while a third one crawled in through a window, shoving a dead companion out of the way. Sterm could be seen in the rafters on his stomach, trying not to get shot. Hearing Clea come in, the others looked straight at her. In response, she brought up her gun and emptied her chambers at them before diving behind some hay to reload. Of the six shots she fired, one of them hit a man’s leg and another hit the furthest one back in the head. Peeking out, she could see the last two advancing, as well as a previously unseen corpse outside being dragged along by a horse and Sterm lining up a shot on the one closest to her. He fired, instead hitting the man further back in the chest, who fell to the floor and crumpled.

Deciding to throw caution to the winds, she rushed out from behind the hay at the last survivor, firing wildly at him. He fired back, hitting her in the left shoulder, but not before she tackled him. This one, however, seemed a lot more physically adept than the other one she had tussled with and threw her off almost immediately. He pounced on her, pushing her into the hay, and made to shoot her.

His attack was cut short by Sterm, who began to choke the man from behind with his rifle. As the man sputtered, gagged and dropped his gun, Clea rushed up and shot the man under his chin. With that one shot, the man went limp. Sterm released him and wiping off the blood from his own face. “Bastards,” he muttered.

Clea could only respond with a nod. Finally, she let herself relax against the bale of hay. Finally, she thought as the hay prickled her back. It’s done.

It was then that she heard the heavy footfall near the barn door.

Her jaw dropped as she looked up at the figure silhouetted in the doorframe. The man, if it was even male, stood about seven feet tall and wore a thick, heavy duster. The hands and feet were almost entirely bandaged, there were no shoes on its feet, and what little flesh peaked out from beneath the bandages was puffy and gray. Many scarves and bandanas obscured the face, except for the eyes, which were hidden under the enormous black Stetson adorning its head. The little of them that could be seen, however, was enough to know that they were staring coldly and emotionlessly at the prey before their monstrous host.

Clea’s heart started to beat like a rabbit’s twitchy leg as the thing started walking towards them. Backing away, they unloaded their remaining bullets at it. Six pops. Only one hit. It didn’t even flinch as it kept walking. Sterm muttered something indistinguishable and probably obscene under his breath and ran towards the back door, but the thing picked up its pace slightly, its long stride making up for its mild speed.

Clea made to move, but not quick enough; its hand swooped down and grabbed her around the neck, lifting her up as it kept walking towards Sterm. She let out a rasp as she felt the thing’s titanic grip crushing her entire neck, pain shooting out like champagne corks from the pressure points. Dropping her gun, she started to claw at its fingers apart, but it was as futile as trying to rip apart a train. That thought was driven from her mind as she heard a scream, and a crash. The thing had caught up to Sterm, grabbed his head with its other hand, and was currently splintering the wall with his head.

For one agonizing second, it felt like the bottom dropped out of her stomach as she watched her friend get brutalized. Then it felt like the pit opened up to Hell itself, as a roaring fire erupted within her. Reaching back, she grabbed the thing’s fingers and pulled with all her might. After a second of nothing, they started to separate and relieve some of the pressure around her neck. The thing looked perturbed (or as much as something showing no emotion could) and tried to fight back, but luck was on her side; she had pulled its fingers enough apart that she could force her neck out of them and drop to the ground.

Almost immediately, she felt its fist catch her across the head and send her flying. The wind was knocked out of her as she landed near the support beam (change – was formerly “She hit the ground close to the supporting beam, the impact knocking the wind out of her.”). Getting to her hands and knees, she shook her head and looked around to get her bearings. She saw their bags by the hay… and her mind suddenly snapped to action as she remembered Sterm’s secret trinket. Scrambling to her feet, she rushed over and started digging through his bag, throwing all manner of things on the ground until she found it: a small brown pouch that vibrated to the touch.

“Sterm!” she called out, running forward and tossing the pouch. It soared through the air and then skidded across the ground until it hit his feet. Perfect, she thought, stooping down and picking up her empty six-shooter. Within a second, she had chucked it straight at the back of the thing’s head. It bounced off its left shoulder blade instead, but that was enough to give it pause. Not wasting any time, she ran right up to it and kicked it as hard as she could in the back of the knee. It felt like kicking solid stone, but it was enough to get its attention.

Slowly, the thing turned around to look at her with its dead eyes. Dropping Sterm, it reached both arms towards her and started advancing. As she backed away from it quickly, she could see Sterm, bloodied and bruised, opening the pouch and shaking out a single rifle bullet that glowed an ethereal blue. With that, he scrambled to pick up his rifle and load it in. Gotta buy him some time, she thought, ducking down and attempting to scramble under the thing’s outstretched arms. This part of the plan didn’t work so well, as she felt a large hand grab the back of her shirt (and some of the skin off her back) and lift her to face the thing. The other hand grabbed her around the thigh and started to pull in opposite directions. Clearly, it had decided that she was too much trouble and that it should just rip her in half and be done with it. She felt her sides screaming as her flesh was resisting the opposing directions her body was being forced. Her teeth gritted, she barely had a second to think that she’d had a good run when she saw a familiar rolling block rifle, now sporting glowing blue lines that spread the length of the weapon, press its muzzle to the thing’s head and fire.

The reaction was instant; the thing’s head started twitching as its eye sockets and the bullet hole started glowing bright blue. The sounds of miniature angry screams that seemed like they were down a deep, echoing cave could be heard as wisps began to emerge from the glowing points and dive back under the scarves and skin. Within the wisps, Clea could swear that she saw faces and hands. Five seconds passed and the thing continued to convulse violently, until finally it loosened its grip on her and collapsed to the floor.

Clea dusted herself off and got to her feet, wincing at the aches in her bruised knees. She looked at the thing’s form, waiting for it to jump up and strangle them both. It didn’t. It was dead still. Sterm, meanwhile, was trying to turn the body face-up, his face contorting under the effort of its weight. “A bit o’ help, please,” he grunted. Clea bent over and, through their combined strength, flipped the behemoth on its back. Without a word, Sterm went to his bag and pulled out an enormous knife. He then went back to the thing, stabbed just below its chest, cut a slit all the way down to its groin, and plunged his hand in. Her stomach leapt to her throat and Clea turned away, her hand suppressing a gurgling burp.

“Empty,” Sterm said. “No organs.”

As soon as it had jumped, her stomach dropped. “Th-that a fact?” she replied, hoping she sounded calm.

“Yup,” he said. “Probably was a commission by the Ralatuk or the Nabji.”

“Or maybe the tribe that made your special bullet?”

He simply nodded. “I just hope he was a willin’ candidate.”


“So what now?”

“We burn the body and keep moving.”

She nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

Within five minutes, they were packed and riding some newly appropriated horses away from the blazing barn. With any luck, their change in direction would throw off any other bounty hunters tailing them. There was a saying out in the badlands: You can either fight, run, or lay down and die. They couldn’t afford to do the third, so they just had to keep choosing the second until they had the power and the opportunity to do the first.

Goto Home Page
Posted under

Social Widgets powered by