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Tumbleweed Apocalypse

      The shovel hit the earth with a sharp crack as the grave robbers dug their way further into the cemetery plot. The night was hot and dry, the moon hidden by overcast skies creating a darkness to match the deeds of the men who toiled in their own blasphemy. The methodical crunch of the pick axe and shovel wove together with the howling of the wind and the creaking of the trees overhead, creating a haunting melody in the backdrop of their toil. A solid thunk punctuated the morbid sonata as the brigands quite literally struck pay-dirt. The two in the grave plot quickly went down on hands and knees, scraping away dirt from atop the casket, a work of oak with gold and brass fixtures. This was the fourth plot the thieves had disturbed, the other three holding caskets devoid of bodies or personal affects. Strange as it was, the disappointment of those three were forgotten upon the new discovery.

      “We’re gonna be rich, ain’t we Billy,” one of the men in the pit said as he looked up at the leader of the three who stood on the precipice of the burial site. His leather trench coat was muddied from the night’s work, boots covered in a pervasive slime that seemed to cling to anything it touched. He cocked his head, smiling as his henchmen found the locks on the coffin. His eyes lit up nearly as bright as the sparkle of diamonds on the gold locks of the casket.

      “Yes we are, buddy,” he said, his voice just above a whisper, as if speaking too loudly might draw the lawmen from the nearby town or, even worse, competition. “We are gonna be damn rich.” The familiar click of the locks being released was followed by a very unfamiliar chill that seemed to flow from the jarred lid of the coffin.

      “Hey boss, you every seen anything like this before?” came the querying voice of Chuck, the third man in the crew. He was inspecting some sort of inscription on the top of the casket, writing as red as blood the Billy swore hadn’t been there before it’d been unlocked. The straining grind of the coffin lid opening sounded in their ears, a visceral feeling that echoed the dread in Billy’s eyes when he saw the runic symbols in the moon’s light as it finally drifted from behind the clouds. He read them in his mind, not daring to say the words out loud for fear of what was already likely to be unleashed upon the world.

      Darkness of the night shall fall,

      Across the land an evil spell,

      A curse to one, A curse to all,

      The opening of the Gates of Hell!

      The coffin lid sprang wide as he finished the mental recitation, a murky black mist oozing out from it’s bowls. The mist moved out, anchoring the already terrified men where they stood. All sound seemed to have gone out of the world but for a high-pitched keening, sharp and painful. The sound intensified with each passing second, growing not louder, but higher and harsher until the men cowered before the grave, ears covered as they screamed for mercy.
Silence.

      As the three men looked up, a figure now hovered before them, as if suspended by invisible rope from a tree, it bobbed every so slightly. The fact that it seemed not to touch the ground would have made more of an impression on the three men were it not for the fact that the face of the spectre was as black as pitch, two red eyes burning like hot coals. The figure seemed not to move, just staring at them with those harsh, cruel eyes.

      “You have served the master well, thief,” said a voice in his head, a rasping sound that shook his sanity to his core. “Take your place now. Serve Legion!” Billy felt the point of the weapon pierce the back of his skull even as he watched in horror as the figure swept out a sword of the blackest malevolence. It pulsed and radiated evil energy, dripping with the same black mist that now anchored the three terrified men in the places. The blade swept down on the two men in the grave, silent as the death that wielded it. But instead of severing their heads, the men simply vanished, their souls screaming into hellish oblivion. His attention was quickly diverted by a curious sensation; the cold pain in his head had been replaced with the feeling of ice flowing through his veins. His vision began to cloud and he felt himself losing balance as he tried to fight whatever dark power was taking control of his body. As he swayed forward, he realized what was going to happen. He fumbled for his Colt Model 1860, but his fingers were as numb as his mind. As he pitched forward into the now empty grave, his last thoughts went to his son who was surely sleeping soundly by the fire back at the safehouse.

      I love you, Cyrus, was the final thought of Billy Walker as he heard the coffin lid slam shut.

One thought on “Tumbleweed Apocalypse

  1. Hi, Will. Nice atmospheric work; this is definitely going to be something I weave into a campfire tale to terrify my young listeners at night. Some questions, though: is there going to be more to this particular story, as in part of a series? Why are we seeing this from Billy’s standpoint? This, along with the fact the other two men disappear makes Billy the obvious focal point. What happens in the ending is really unclear to me, and I’m not sure what purpose is served by evoking the image and name of Billy’s son. Will readers who are not particularly interested in firearms be drawn into the story enough to either research or infer without research that the pistol is an old one, indicating something about the time period either of the setting or of Billy himself? The story brings up questions that ask to be resolved and not left hanging, and as such I don’t think it fully stands up on its own. If I knew it were part of a series, though, It surely evokes enough interest that I would want to read more.

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