Even if he could get through it where would he go? They lurked outside, waiting for some fool to wander out. He had no desire to encounter them, again. Too much running had nearly broken him. He couldn’t do it any more, especially now that he was alone.
Her ghost drifted through his memory. The warmth of her body, the tenderness of her touch. He found it hard to remember how she felt in his arms, the taste of her kiss. She had faded like an echo.
The stench shoved him back to reality. Coppery and rancid, like a charnel house in Hell, the putridness permeated the room. Despite the darkness he knew the source of the foulness. Her corpse’s pallid flesh laced with blue-gray veins. Eyes as murky as stagnate water. Coagulated blood on her thin lips. A bullet hole just above her left eyebrow.
It amazed him that such a simple circle had ended her life. Standing back and squeezing the trigger proved simple and quick. Like flipping a switch. At least from the physical aspect, but the twitch of his trigger finger had gouged a hole in his soul the size of the Grand Canyon.
But what choice had he had?
None. Choices didn't exist, not in this world, only instinct and fear.
But her death was his fault, not the act of shooting her, she was long dead before that. He’d failed to protect her from them, despite his promises.
“Until death do we part,” her voice said from somewhere within his tattered mind.
But no one had told them that death wasn’t a permeate thing. Witnessing her death was bad enough, but when her corpse rose up and tried to devour him it drove him to the brink of madness.
The gun in his trembling hand was an anchor dragging him down into the fathoms of despair. He pressed the barrel of the revolver against his head, just below his ear. A simple squeeze of the trigger and it would be over. The bullet would tear through sinew and shatter his skull. Pulverize his brain stem to pulp. Unlike her, he wouldn’t slip through the ice-cold hands of death. He wouldn’t come back as one of those things out there.
They had found him, somehow. It came as no surprise.
He tightened his grip on the gun. How many bullets remained?
Thunderous thuds filled the room. The wood door creaked and groaned under their assault.
He lowered the antiquated revolver from his head and fiddled with it. One bullet left. He rummaged through his pockets.
The door burst open, a flash flood of light filled into the room.
He squinted, the intrusion of light felt like shards of glass digging into his eyes.
Six silhouettes lurked in the doorway.
His fingertips brushed against the cool metal of five more bullets. His heart leapt in his chest like a startled rabbit. His trembling hand scooped the bullets up.
Six silhouettes shuffled into the room.
He backpedaled toward the far wall, into a pool of pallid light below the window.
The silhouettes stood in a semi-circle before him, blocking off the door.
The gun rattled in his shaky hand as he struggled to load it. The revolver's cylinder spun like a roulette wheel.
They rushed toward him like a pack of wolves.
A jolt of fear seared his spine. He gasped through his clenched teeth as the bullets fell from his hand.
The pallid light illuminated the silhouettes. Gaunt men in tattered clothes with ashen faces laced with blue-gray veins. Their murky eyes narrowed. Their mouths bloody scowls.
He jammed the gun barrel under his ear and squeezed the trigger.
The metallic click of the revolver's hammer striking an empty chamber was as loud as thunder.
The gaunt men pounced on him like ravenous beasts.
His warbling screams were drowned out by the sickening snapping of his bones and the tearing of his flesh.
Gunsmoke & Ghouls