Random Picks – Horror, Space Opera, Classic Western, Transgressive
This was entertaining, but definitely too short for what I was seeing in my head. “Transgressive” can really just about be anything outside the norm, and I’ll argue with you that there’s plenty of that here, muted as it may be. Read what I suggest, not what I write.
Oh, and 1600 words: so sue me, Flash Nazi.
As Jeremiah choked the last bit of life from the lawman, the rest of his gang mounted their horses and began the job of rounding up their stolen cattle anew.
Sheriff Carter went limp in Jeremiah’s grasp, but the criminal cattle thief kept his vise-like grip tight until there was no doubt their pursuer was dead. The lawman fell heavily to the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust.
Casually, Jeremiah wiped his hands on his chaps, and mounted the ornery paint he called Ringo before galloping off to catch up with the rest of his gang.
They rode through the night, pushing the cattle past as few settlements as they could. With Sheriff Carter out of the picture, it would take the local ranchers a while to assemble the inevitable posse, but Jeremiah was not the one to take chances.
Reaching their mesa hideout, the gang quickly set to rebranding the cattle and making camp for the night.
Jeremiah was in a foul mood, from what irritation the rest of the gang knew not. Without a word, he shot the youngest of the gang, a gaunt, freckled man named Toady. The gang didn’t question the act. Jeremiah was a visionary among criminals in their opinion – a renaissance man of mayhem, a polymath of particularly pernicious passion.
He raped the dying Toady before settling down in the small cave he claimed for himself.
The ship’s captain, Jerik Thrane, tapped the console with concern. The incessant red light blinking there gave him pause. Typically, his interstellar craft, Infidelios, was prone to the occasional faulty power conduit, even a shot energy coupling from time to time. This particular warning light was coming from the cargo hold. While Thrane would not normally find the light distressing, on this day the cargo hold contained something that no man in his right mind would want to hear the words “fault” in connection to.
“Surely, it’s just a coincidence,” his first officer said, leaning over from the co-pilot’s seat.
“Shut her down, Kale,” Thrane commanded. “Put us on Red Alert.”
“Cap, maybe we should just keep going,” First Officer Kale pressed. “We’ve come this far without trouble. If we stop, they may find us.”
Captain Thrane turned to his first officer and narrowed his eyes. He did this not so much to intimidate the boy, but to get his focus back. So much was riding on this delivery. “You assume they’re coming after him. I happen to think that without them, they’re directionless. Their loyalty was out of fear of him.”
Shortly after Kale shut the engines down and initiated the alert protocols, the comms console erupted in a series of quick beeps, indicating an encoded message from their home world’s central government was coming through.
“Captain Thrane,” an authoritative voice began. “We’ve received a transmission indicating that your ship has stopped. Is there a problem?”
Thrane sighed before answering. He was beginning to feel foolish for his fears.
“I’ve got a warning light in the cargo hold,” he explained. “Probably just a glitch. I’ll check it out and get us back on our way shortly.”
“I want that monster here as soon as possible, Captain. We lost forty-three million men just to get you inside his system, and there are probably just as many dying there as we speak. We need to end this war, and execute that demon before we lose everything. I need him alive – we all need to see proof that this deadly menace is destroyed once and for all.”
Thrane looked over at his first officer, and pursed his lips. “I’m putting Kale at helm for the time being. I will go back and personally guard the prisoner until such time as we reach the home system.”
“Make sure nothing happens, Captain. You’re in an uncontacted system with only primitive intelligence, and no spacefaring capabilities to speak of. It would take a while before we could get reinforcements to you.”
Thrane rose from his seat and signaled for Kale to shut off the comms unit. Before proceeding back through the ship, he removed a primed plasma rifle from the security locker.
The posse had come quicker than they had expected, but Jeremiah did not seem concerned. He very nearly took the entire group of lawmen and angry ranchers down alone. He saved as many as he could, alive but wounded. The horses he ate in one sitting, mostly alive.
Upon their return to the hideout, Jeremiah had his men string up the captured lawmen and ranchers upside down from a few large oaks.
Before he mutilated them, he gave a short speech:
“Men. That is what they call us. Evil men. I tell you that I am something much worse than an evil man. I am balance, and I am chaos. I am the devourer of souls. I am the rapist of order. I exist not because good men must die, but because everything must eventually perish. If you follow me, you will die. But first, I will show you the pleasures that chaos can birth. Revel, my children. Revel and become more than evil men.”
Thrane’s body was spared the worst. If he had not died from the trauma of being pushed physically through the ship’s bulkhead and into space, he might have been witness to the worst atrocities his former prisoner had ever exacted upon living beings.
The captain’s frozen eyes bore the reflection of a blue planet on their glassy surface.
Beyond thievery, beyond pillage, beyond rape, there was this.
The small frontier town lay in ruins. Several buildings still crackled and popped with the intensity of the hungry flames, and the wagon-rutted dirt street was puddled with blood, bile, and gore. The smoke grew in a mushroom from the floor of the valley the small town once sat in.
Jeremiah’s men, possessed with the ecstasy of chaos that their new master had opened their inner eyes to, ran amok through the living hell, covered in the blood of innocent people and animals.
Jeremiah watched them, smiling to himself as he ate a woman’s liver from her body.
He was distracted momentarily as a fiery ball descended from the sky above. With his black eyes, he followed its path, marked by the trail of black smoke behind it, until it crashed to the ground a few miles outside the remains of the small settlement.
Letting the woman’s body fall from his lap, Jeremiah stood and went to investigate.
The Dark One pulled himself from the wreckage of the escape pod unharmed. He flexed his arms and felt the indestructible material that served as his skeleton pop as the heat of his entry into the atmosphere dissipated from his body.
He pushed aside a large piece of flaming metal from in front of him to reveal a man, not unlike those he had fought on so many planets before, standing before him.
“What system is this?” the Dark One asked what was sure to be his first victim in this new frontier.
The man drew a primitive pistol and fired. The bullet pierced the first two layers of the Dark One’s flesh, but crumpled against the beast’s skull.
The Dark One smiled and then sprang. To his surprise, Jeremiah did not fall when his massive body collided with it. Looking down into the compact mortal’s face, the Dark One saw Jeremiah smile evilly.
The battle lasted for seven days.
On Chedia VI, the Plasma Knight Commander, Fel Dathon kicked away another of the Dark One’s minions before blasting it to vapor. The Chedian Princess in his arms, he fought his way through the onslaught of Chaos soldiers in a desperate attempt to reach his ship, a converted freighter, to exact his group’s escape from the besieged planet.
Behind him, his mentor and former Plasma Knight Dren Lobus protected the two data droids that held the encrypted time map that would lead them to the last stronghold of human resistance in their galaxy.
As the bodies piled up around them, twice as many of the Dark One’s minions pushed into the fray. Fel could see the ship in the distance, and on the ramp descending from its belly, his close friend and smuggler Brin Ordos was covering them with blaster fire.
Suddenly, the Dark One’s minions froze and then fell to the ground, quite dead. The palace grounds were littered with the dead bodies, and as far as Fel could see, the only beings still standing were the Chedian defense forces and his own group.
The four thousand year conflict had ended just as suddenly as it had begun.
The papers never made mention of the massacre. Before long, Jeremiah and his band of outlaws became nothing but dark legend in those parts. The settlement was rebuilt and the ranchers continued their hard lives in a hard world on the frontier of a hard future.
Some people still tell stories about that particular place in the pernicious past of the Old West, and every blue moon some stranger, claiming to be a descendant of one of Dark Jeremiah’s men, says that one day the devil fought himself to death in that valley long ago.