The Battle, by Michael A. Kechula
This story was previously published in Flashes In The Dark Magazine.
“Circle the wagons,” the wagon master shouted. “Get ready to fight for your lives. That’s an Indian war party up there on top of that hill.”
Within minutes, two dozen wagons formed a circle. Women and children poured out and hid underneath, while men prepared for battle.
Clayton, the Wagon Master, walked around checking their defenses.
“Mr. Clayton,” shouted the prettiest woman in the group. “Is there some way we can prevent them from attacking until dark?”
“None that I know of, Miss Elizabeth. Why do you ask such a strange question?”
“Well, if they don’t attack until it’s dark, I can assure victory with no casualties to our group.”
“What makes you say such a foolish thing?” he said to the only single women traveling from Kansas City to California.
“Come closer, and I’ll tell you in your ear.”
An invitation from such a stunning woman was a gift from heaven. Clayton imagined her lips brushing his ear as she spoke. Maybe she’d even press her body ever so slightly against him as she got close enough to whisper.
His heart pounded as he approached her. The closer he got, the more he could smell lavender—so unlike the aroma of the other ladies who reeked of brown laundry soap.
The delicious, delicate fragrance of Elizabeth’s slender form made him think of things forbidden between married men and beautiful single women. Things he craved for ever since waving goodbye to his wife and children back in Kansas City. Things that made him momentarily forget the impending danger from hostile natives.
His blood pressure shot up when her breasts brushed his arm, as she spoke into his ear. But he went cold as she spoke.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” he snapped. “What does that word mean?”
“It means you’re saved. All of you.”
“Woman, I think the prairie heat softened your brain. Don’t waste any more of my time with your crazy talk. Go over to that wagon and stay by Granny Higgins. Do you know how to shoot a pistol?”
“Then take mine,” he said, passing the weapon and a handful of cartridges. “And make every shot count. Don’t shoot until you—”
“See the whites of their eyes,” she said. “My daddy was a captain in Lee’s Army. He used to say that all the time when he taught me how to shoot.”
The hot afternoon ended without a single attack by the hostiles. Everyone figured the Indians would make their move when the full moon rose.
As it grew dark, Indians imitated coyote yells. The sounds unnerved everyone in the wagon train, except the wagon master who’d fought Plains Indians during previous continental crossings.
“Don’t let them get to you,” he whispered, as he made the rounds again, reassuring the folks under his care. “We’re lucky the moon is full. Keep a sharp eye out for moving shadows. They’ll sneak up on us in groups of two or three. If you hear a sound, shoot at it.”
He kept Granny Higgins’ wagon for last, hoping to speak a while with Elizabeth. He felt the need to inhale her aroma and hear her soft voice before the battle began.
“How you doing, Granny,” he asked.
“I was fine until she left me here by myself.”
“What do you mean she left?”
“Five minutes ago, she said she’d be back later on. Next thing I knew, she was flat on her belly and crawling in the direction of the Injuns.”
“What! You sure?”
“Yep. Left me this here pistol. Told me how to use it.”
“Give it to me,” he said. “You might end up shooting yourself. Follow me. I’ll put you in with the Fiddler family. You’ll be safer with them. Mr. Fiddler told me he won medals in the war.”
After settling Higgins, Clayton went back to his own wagon. That’s when the howling began. Terrible night sounds that the fifty year old never heard before. Sounds that made his blood curdle.
An hour passed. Still no attack.
Once again, Clayton made the rounds. “Just because you ain’t seen them yet, don’t mean they ain’t coming. They’re hoping you’ll get real tired and fall asleep. Don’t even let yourself close your eyes for a second. The minute you do, one of them will sneak up on you and slice your throat.”
When he reached Higgins’ wagon, he was surprised to smell lavender.
“What the hell’s going on, Miss Elizabeth,” he whispered. “I looked all over and didn’t see you anywhere. Why did you leave Granny? Where’d you go?”
“For a walk. Everything’s fine now. You can tell everybody to relax. Tell them to build fires and make supper.”
“I never ran into such a crazy women like you before. You smell good and look good, but your brain is soft as corn mush.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave, they’re dead. All forty-seven of them.
“How can you say such a thing?”
“Because I killed them.”
Clayton spat and went back to his wagon.
The night passed without an attack.
At dawn, Clayton and three others rode toward the hill where he’d first spotted the Indians. Well before he arrived, he found bodies torn to pieces and scattered everywhere. He counted forty-seven decapitated heads.
“What on God’s Earth happened to these varmints?” he said aloud, covered with chills. He’d never seen such horrendous destruction, even during the most savage battles against the Confederates.
Returning to the wagon train, he ordered everybody to resume their journey.
“What happened,” some asked.
“They’re all dead. Thank the Lord. We were saved by warriors greater than the Indians. Hopefully those brave souls are up ahead. Maybe we’ll spot them so we can thank them for saving us.”
As the wagons headed toward the Rocky Mountains, Clayton pondered what Elizabeth had whispered in his ear the day before. And once again he wondered what the word meant. Going from wagon to wagon, he asked if anybody had a book that told the meaning of words.
“We got one,” said Fiddler.
“Can your missus read?” asked Clayton.
“She reads pretty good.”
“How about asking her to look up a word for me.”
“What’s the word?”
“Come to think of it, it might even be two words: where and wolf.
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.
Posted on December 28, 2012, in Issue 6: Big Bad Wolf in a Big Bad Universe and tagged e-zine, flash fiction, genre blender, horror, science fiction, The Were-Traveler, werewolves. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.