The old timer started his story, “The desert was cold, not much but sand and saguaro cactus for nearly 20 miles round’ there.” He paused for but a second to finish his whisky, he waved for the bartender to bring another.
“I awoke to my horse slain and laying on its side a few feet from me, I was buried to my neck in sand. The fire had burnt down to a few embers and aside from the gentle crackling there wasn’t a sound.” I shivered, it was January in Arizona and the nighttime temperatures were lower than the life expectancy in those parts.
The old man coughed, itched his beer gut and continued on. “The first thought was who the hell killed my horse, the damn thing and gotten me through a barrage of Indians one time! Any who, out of the darkness I heard a damn near deafening screech. The kind the schoolhouse teacher did to get me to pay attention!” He started laughing uncontrollably; the whiskey must’ve gotten to him. He got up and stumbled towards the door, “This story’s for another time, gunslinger.” I grimaced. Damn miners gone mad from gasses.
Almost as soon as he left the saloon, a screech so loud my ears rang came from a short ways away. “CURSES! HELP ME!” I stood up quickly and ran out the swinging doors to see if the incidents were related. “Who put these blasted stairs here!?” The drunken old man was in the dirt, I stepped over him, allowing my spurs to grace his tired face. I walked as quickly as I could towards the source of the sound, only to hear it again, ten times louder in the opposite direction. Beginning to question my sanity I heard a chorus of screams from a brothel down the road. I sprinted to my horse, Fritz, a trusty old steed. I hoped this would not end with my trousers full of sand and ol’ Fritz laid to rest. Trotting down to the brothel, I noticed all the lights were out. The normally vibrant and busy place appeared eerie.
Sliding off my horse I rested my right hand on my father’s .44 and slowly crept up the stairs. Being the first building to go up in this settlement, each stair creaked loudly with each step. I anticipated what I would see as I opened the door.
But it was pitch black inside. Maybe the whiskey was affecting me a little, too. I called out “Who screamed?” A cricket trilled it’s slow desert tune. As I inched my way up the stairs trying not to clang my spurs or rattle my gun belt, I cursed the old man for not describing what the beast looked like.
Stumped, I wandered back to the saloon. It was comforting there. The bartender nodded as I came through the swinging doors and sat down next to my bottle of whiskey. Damn, almost half done in one night, may as well finish it. Maybe it will drown out the awful screeching coming from outside. I wondered where the old man’d gotten off too. Could the monster’ve gotten him?
“Say, Leroy, where’d the old fella that smelt like cheap moonshine go?”
“Which old fella?” he said, eyeing me. I shrugged, looking into the flame. I hoped I’d never end up like that old man, lonely, drunk and haunted by a violent past. I downed the last sip of whiskey.
A loud bell interrupted my short-lived reverie. “Everyone out of the mines! Birds are dropping dead!” I blinked wildly and coughed. I tried to pick up the pace with the screeching of mine carts and bells echoing in my ears, but my beer gut slowed me down.
“I should go get some rest in the saloon.” I said loudly to myself.