This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge required genre meshing. I rolled Haunted House and Weird Western. After Googleing Weird Western, I found that I got a pretty lucky roll!
Horror isn’t really my thing, so I probably won’t expand on this idea. But I like what I came up with. It was a cool concept.
The smoke from the smoldering bodies would be seen for miles and days, and the smell of them would last a few lifetimes. It permeated every last corner and fabric of the tiny new town, and there was no one now to do the work to aerate the homes and businesses. The rosewater that the wives dabbed on their lace-collared necks did nothing to alleviate their disgust. They could practically taste the burned bodies in their now ill-prepared food.
“I do hope that you have sent for more help,” Mary said the day after the massacre. She had been fanning herself in the front parlor, over exerted after a day of housework. “If we don’t get someone here soon, I fear that dust will begin to settle and my fits will start.”
“We must see to our safety first, my love,” Richard replied with a little impatience as he could. He blinked and shook his head before he drew back the lace curtains of the front window, peering out onto the deserted road. Orange and purple streaked the sky and his heart grew heavy. “We should retire for the evening.”
His wife yawned and fanned a bit harder. “The night is young, dear,” She said without care.
Richard balled his fists, taking in a deep breath before relaxing and attempting again. “I should like to,” he turned and put on fresh smile, “spend time with you this evening.”
Mary’s ears perked up at this. It was the first time in weeks that he had shown any interest in her. A curl came to her lips as she thought of much needed release. “I’ll…freshen up,” she stammered. She practically tripped up the stairs toward their marriage bed.
Richard returned his focus to the window, looking to make sure that there was no one out. Henry had patrol duty tonight, requiring at least three rounds around the tiny town before sunrise. The ten remaining men had drawn straws and Henry’s was the shortest. “Fair is fair, my good man!” Henry had laughed too loudly, clapping the shaking man on the back. Richard crossed himself when he saw him go by, reigns of the horse in one hand, long rifle in the other.
He prayed no one would die tonight. The fifty deaths the morning before should have been enough.
Richard shook his head and paced away toward the kitchen in hope of a quick bite before retreating upstairs. The clean but otherwise empty kitchen filled him with dread. If only they could have kept a few trusted slaves alive. How were they going to meet their basic needs now?
It was made clear at the meeting three days before that every single one needed to die. “There were heavy chains around their legs and feet, man! It’s madness to think that anyone of them can be trusted!” Patrick had lead the meeting. It was his best friend, Colin, and his wife Loretta who had been found that morning. They had been the fourth couple to die.
“How can slaves manage to drown people in their beds, gentlemen?” Richard asked his friends, his fellow investors. “Marshalls are going to be here soon enough, and as mayor of this town, I’m going to have to tell them something.” The bodies and bed, indeed, the entirety of their bedroom, had been soaked in salt water.
There was no answer for this.
“I’ll tell you what, Richard, you said that this was an investment. That the money put into this town would set up our families for generations of wealth,” William, the richest man among them, spat in the street. “I didn’t come out to this territory to die by the hands of some rogue slave. You need to make a decision, or else Millie and I, will be leaving New Hope, Nevada at first light!”
The others nodded in agreement.
“You should never have named this town after a slaver,” Henry had concluded, gravely. “I don’t care who your grandfather was, or how you got your riches.”
Only half the group nodded at that. The others shrugged.
“You act like your money didn’t come from the same deeds. All of our money is wet, gentlemen,” Richard scowled. “It’s settled, then. Round them up. Tell the wives as little as possible.”
The slave population was dead by nightfall, their bodies put in a pile just outside of town and burned for practical and superstitious reasons.
William and Millie were found dead the next morning. Bound together in rusted chains with algae and plankton crusted on them, their bodies and faces contorted in want of air. The entire house smelled like the ocean.
“What have you done, Richard?” Henry had asked when he walked in to view the bodies.
“Did we miss a bastard?” Patrick had asked, flabbergasted.
“Possibly,” Richard answered, but he knew that it wasn’t true. Every slave had been accounted for.
“What now? What do we do now?” Many of the men were asking at once.
Richard went to draw straws and prayed that his wouldn’t be the shortest. “I’m putting in a post tonight for the Marshalls. Justice will be here in three days. We just need to survive until then.”
They had drawn straws. Now Henry was on his horse.
But the smell of salt was filling his nostrils. The sound of drums strumming in the distance filled his ears. He chuckled to himself as he thought about his short mayoral tenure.
Still in the kitchen, he poured himself a glass of fine bourbon and took a long swallow. He refilled it and strolled into his sitting room, where a picture of his grandfather, the captain of the doomed New Hope, stared at him in triumph. The family fortune closely tied to the burning of the cargo ship under his control.
“From the deep to the desert, Grandfather,” He said, lifting a glass in salute. “Your cago follows us wherever we go.”
The sun sank below the horizon.