WANTED: DEAD

Bill couldn’t believe Cal had dragged him out to the middle of nowhere. The sun was setting and the air was turning bitter cold, too cold for any man to sleep outdoors.

“I told you this was a wild goose chase,” Bill said. “Ain’t no such thing as ghouls. That wanted poster was a farce.”

Cal slowed his horse and took a good look around. Bill pulled up alongside him and checked every rock, tree and shadow around them. Nothing. No sign of any trail nor creature near. Just the stillness of the wild and the breath of the horses puffing up in front of him. 

“Did you hear me?” Bill said. 

Cal lifted his hand to shush Bill. “Listen.”

Bill scowled. He was tired of entertaining Cal’s belief that there were monsters in the West. Frost was accumulating on the whiskers beneath Bill’s nose and he was in no mood to sleep in a ramshackle shelter next to a fire while hoping his toes wouldn’t freeze off.

“Damn you, Cal. I’m turning home and I swear to ─ ”

And there it was. A low guttural growl echoed through the woods toward them. It wasn’t like any noise Bill had ever heard before. It was like a hog’s snort and a bull moose’s bellow put together, but heard backward. Like it was inverted. A few moments later, Bill could hear the sound of a panicked heifer and then a juicy, wet crunch.

“OK, Cal, I hear it. But it ain’t nothing more than wolves,” Bill said trembling. “Let’s go now, you hear?”

Cal calmly climbed off his horse and pulled a long rifle from his scabbard.

“Bill, you still got those silver bullets?” Cal asked. Bill nodded.

“You’re gonna need ‘em,” Cal said.

🔬📖 Microfiction entry 11.30.2020
🖼 Art by 5ofnovember on DeviantArt

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