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Eric Red: For a little something different I give you, “THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE”… This is a werewolf western, a tale told in three parts, with a new chapter appearing on the site every two weeks. This isn’t a movie, isn’t a comic, it’s a serial, like the old pulp novels used to be. It’s kind of an experiment, but hopefully a fun one.
The story is 100 proof action western with some pretty twisted and nasty spins of lycanthrope lore. Hell, even Fallon said he was disturbed, so we must be doing something right, eh folks? It’s not for kids. Each chapter will feature a vivid dime novel cover graphic by ace production illustrator and concept designer John Gallagher who provides the startling visual accompaniment to our horror horse opera.
So saddle up and ride hard for the full moon, gang!
Story: Eric Red Art: John Gallagher
PART 3 of 3
The gunslingers exchanged laconic glances. “This is bad.”
The other bandits were disrobing, their bodies convulsing.
The cowboys’ frightened horses suddenly reared, neighing in raw terror, nostrils snorting, hooves pawing the air, pitching the gunfighters out of their saddles to the dirt. The force of the impact knocked the wind out of Tucker, Bodie and Fix. As they crawled to their hands and knees and looked around, what they witnessed was beyond comprehension. Mosca and his men were going into seizures, screaming and howling, frothing at the mouth, their entire bodies spasming. Beneath their skin stretching elastically and growing thick black hair, their bones were lengthening and rearranging with cracking, ripping, squishing sounds. Their lower legs began to bend and extend like the hind legs of dogs or wolves, kicking up the dust, which filled the air and turned them into nightmarish silhouettes. Long talons popped out their nails in splatters of blood as the claws cut through the flesh of their fingertips. Their hands curled and elongated into foot long talons. Tucker grabbed for his fallen pistol that lay by the foot of one of the bandits and saw that foot sprout fur and the toes grow pads and bloat into a paw. The three horses belonging to the gunfighters rolled and tumbled down the hill, throwing up huge clouds of dirt, until the steeds rolled themselves upright and stood outside the perimeter, rearing and watching the action.
Scrambling to his boots, Bodie drew both revolvers, silver bullet tips glinting in the cylinder, and stood to face the bandits. His eyes widened. The gunslinger was staring right in the furry face of Mosca whose skull jawbone dislocated as the front upper teeth stretched forwards, cartilage crunching, further and further, jagged white fangs slicing through the gums like rolls of razors, as the nose became a black snout that jutted two feet out of the face to give him the head of a gigantic wolf. Hairy, pointed ears twitched. Saliva and froth spewed from the mouth on the head of the werewolf as its long tongue slathered and swept hungrily. The spine stretched and bullwhipped as the rib cage became narrow and deep and hollowed like a dog and on its huge back paws with its long arms and massive talons, the werewolf towered eight feet over Bodie. A thick, bushy and furred tail swept behind its haunches. The full moon splashed down on the scene like a searchlight, silhouetting the creatures the bandits had become. They had all turned into werewolves and fifteen of the hissing, snarling, roaring monsters surrounded the gunslingers on all sides. Their horrific transformation complete, the wolfmen crouched, ready to pounce.
“Aim for the hearts!” Shouted Tucker.
Barrages of bullets exploded as the gunfighters’ pistols blazed away and they pumped silver into the chests of eight of the werewolves. The cowboys were dead shots and punched ragged holes into the beasts’ rib cages over their beating hearts. Instantly, several werewolves roared and howled in dying agony, dropping to the ground, huge paws and talons slashing the air until they stiffened, fell still and died in the dirt, blood jetting like fountains from their wounds.
As soon as they were dead, the werewolves instantly transformed back into men. The inhuman shapes of the creatures’ awful physiognomies shrunk, reverting to the small broken filthy naked bodies of the bandits sprawled on the ground.
Immediately, their werewolf brethren set upon the human carcasses of their comrades and ate them whole. The beasts’ savage canine jaws ripped and tore flesh and muscle from bloody bone and gulped it down viciously, eyes red coals, clawing and slashing one another to get at the chow. The werewolves were distracted in their cannibalistic feeding frenzy long enough for the gunfighters to get to cover for a few short moments. The cowboys tightened themselves into a circle, facing the werewolves who again closed in on all sides, shrieking and spitting in mad eyed rage. The hairy creatures reared and crouched, spitting and slavering, glaring at the gunfighters, and then they attacked.
Tucker, Bodie and Fix blasted away with their irons, unleashing gunshots that leapt like bolts of lighting their muzzles as they fired into the mob of wolfmen, sending a few more straight to hell. As eight of the beasts clambered over one another to tear the cowboys to ribbons, the three men hit the ground and rolled on their stomachs through the open doors of church, talking the battle into the belly of the beast that was Santa Sangre.
Inside the pueblo chapel, the gunfighters ducked behind a blood-smeared pew, emptied their guns into the wall of monsters. Tucker unslung his Winchester repeater and gave Bodie and Fix cover as they reloaded their pistols with silver rounds from the belts strapped on their chests. They were instantly surrounded as the fearsome hairy creatures advanced on them through the open doors of the church and closed in right and left through the pews like a pack of titanic wolves. The air was rent with a supernatural cacophony of throaty roars. Bodie and Fix rearmed and spun their cylinders shut with a whizzing whirr, a Colt pistol in each hand. The gunfighters took deadly aim at the werewolves who leaped for them just as they unleashed lead with their guns.
Pumping a shot smack into the heart of a wolfman, Fix saw it slammed back into the pueblo wall and sink to the floor smearing a snail trail of gore as it reverted to dead human form. The other creatures hungrily devoured the corpse and tore at one another to get a mouthful of a ripped off severed leg, tugging the limb in their jaws like mongrels fighting over a bone.
Twin inhuman shadows fell over Bodie who whirled to see two creatures pouncing towards him. With a gun in each hand he shot them in the hearts and it was two dead stinking bandits that landed on him before he shoved them off and fired at the other monsters over the pews.
The close quarters of the church rang deafeningly with the roars and snarls of the creatures and the deafening gunblasts reverberating off the walls. Combined with the horrid fetid stench of the creatures, the smell of gunpowder and cordite and their own sweat of fear, the gunfighters were nearly overcome.
One of the bullets ricocheted in a shower of sparks off a holy water fountain and the sparks quickly ignited the hanging curtains by the busted windows. A snake of flame slithered up the curtains and coiled across the wooden beams of the ceiling, a viper’s nest of fire quickly spreading over the roof.
Tucker raised his rifle to his shoulder and squeezed the trigger just as a werewolf dived on him, slavering jaws spread wide as an open bear trap. The creature landed mouth first on the long steel barrel of the Sharp’s rifle and when the weapon discharged it exploded its skull in a gory raining galaxy of brain and fur and bone fragment as its head was blown clean off. The heavy carcass of the monster landed on the gunfighter, who yanked the barrel of the rifle out of the grisly trailing viscera of the blood jetting neck stump still dangling a loosely attached lower jaw.
But the werewolf was not dead.
Its decapitated torso became violently animated and its sinewy forearms struggled to slash at the cowboy pinned under it with its very sharp and still intact talons. Tucker pulled the trigger repeatedly but he was out of bullets, silver or otherwise. Desperately, he quickly brandished the Sharps rifle gripping it by the stock and the hot barrel that seared his palm as he braced it against the wolfman’s powerful limbs, pinning the talons away from his face the claws slashed viciously at. “Boys!” He yelled in panic. The haunches of headless creature’s hindquarters pumped, its rear legs climbing against the floor, padded back talons digging into the blood slippery wood, pushing itself and the cowboy trapped below it forwards with terrible strength. Tucker struggled, his grip on the gun keeping the monster off him weakening as the jagged claws whished through the air by his face to claw it off. Suddenly, the cowboy felt an awful searing pain in his shoulder and winced as blood sprayed his face from a ragged wound. He was going to die, he knew it, and gave a last hopeless sidelong glance across the floor to see Fix drawing one of his pistols from his holster and tossing it skidding around and around in circles across the floor right into Tucker’s open hand. That same hand closed around the handle of the Colt Peacemaker and jammed the muzzle of the long barrel under the left side of the chest of the werewolf where the heart was and his forefinger squeezed the trigger, blowing the still pumping heart out the back of the monster’s spine and the creature fell across him, very dead.
Santa Sangre was engulfed in flames by now and angry tendrils of conflagration plumed across the wooden rafters of the church as smoke billowed through the fulgurations of fire. Pieces of blazing timber dropped from the ceiling inferno onto a few of the werewolves and they instantly ignited, fur spewing flames, but still the burning creatures attacked. Hell had come to earth.
“Get those people the hell of out of here!” Tucker yelled to Bodie as he cranked off shot after shot with his Winchester rifle at the wall of hair, fangs and claws. Fix gave his buddy cover as Bodie leaped over the pews, scrambling across the burning alter. Bodie could already hear the muffled screams and cries for help of the trapped villagers inside the back room. Reaching the door, he crisscrossed his arms, firing the pistols in his hands on opposite directions, smoothly shooting two werewolves coming at him on either side straight through the hearts. The twin beasts fell, swiftly transforming back into men and were quickly devoured by three wolfmen resembling eight-foot tall fiery torches. The stench of burning fur and rank canine flesh choked Bodie as he jerked back the wooden beam bolting the door and flung it wide.
A flood of grateful peasants poured out of the room like a tidal wave of water from a burst dam. Bodie held them back but they froze in their tracks when the people got an eyeful of the spectacular horrific tableau of the fiery church swarming with werewolves that blocked their way. “Give ‘em guns and ammo!” Yelled Tucker but Fix was already on it, grabbing a belt of silver bullets and shoving them into the waiting hands of the villagers. He grabbed an armload of rifles and pistols from the bandits’ weapons stockpile and dumped them on the altar. The peasants swiftly took up arms and grabbed fistfuls of silver bullets and stuffed in the breeches and cylinders of the firearms. The naked women, the fight back in them, also brandished weapons. “Shoot for the hearts! El Corazon! El Corazon!” Tucker yelled, and put a round square the left side of a rampaging wolfman, dropping it in his tracks, to demonstrate. The Mexicans crossed themselves in awe as they saw the corpse go from beast to man but then they got busy shooting werewolves. The air filled with gunfire as bullets screamed and ricocheted. Fangs and claws and fur flew. All was chaos. A final battle of good and evil was taking place as side by side, the gunslingers fought with the villagers as one army, delivering the relentless hordes of werewolves to perdition. They fired until their guns were empty, hammers clicked uselessly on spent chambers and they were out of silver bullets.
More monsters reared out of the flames. Forced back, the humans retreated to the vestibule. The creatures blocked their escape through the doors of the church and advanced on them, enraged.
Then Tucker saw it on the floor.
A last canvas ammo belt filled with silver bullet cartridges.
The cowboy leapt forwards and picked it up, falling back into the huddled group of his fellow gunfighters and the villagers cornered against the vestibule. Even though he had the ammo belt, but knew in the time it would take them to reload their guns, the werewolves would tear them asunder.
So Tucker pulled his arm back and heaved the last ammunition belt as hard as he could at the wolfman leading the pack.
The creature caught it in his talons.
It was the beast whose eyes Tucker recognized as Mosca, the bandit leader. Its black rubbery lips pulled back in a drooling leer over the rows of bloody fangs as it held up the ammo belt as if to display it triumph. Flames licked across the fur of its arms but it paid it no notice.
The other ten werewolves stomped forwards through the burning pews, their hind legged paws collapsing the cindered wood in showers of sparks and timber as the creatures gathered right and left of the leader of the pack. Mosca threw his snout back and roared savagely, clenching the canvas strap lined with silver slugs.
The werewolves did not see that the canvas belt had caught on fire.
Flames were licking the metal casings, turning them red hot….
Just like Tucker planned.
He winked at Bodie and Fix.
“Get down!” The three gunslingers shouted as they jumped up and dragged the villagers behind the altar, shielding the peasants with their bodies.
The air was rent with deafening gunfire, as every single one of the 75 silver bullets in the burning ammo belt held in the wolfman’s paw fired in staccato sequence like a string of firecrackers going off, bullets flying in every direction, the rounds peppering the werewolves and making them dance spastically as they were riddled with silver bullets. Bloody eruptions like red flowers appeared in their heads, arms, legs, and stomachs.
With final despairing yelps of defiance and pain, the remaining werewolves dropped dead, crumpling onto the incinerated pews and floor of the immolating chapel.
As their bodies returned to human form, the flames cremated the corpses until all was ash.
The men who walked like wolves walked no more.
The people raised their guns and cheered.
The open doors to the church lay open, beckoning out to the bright moonlit fresh night air and safety. There wasn’t much time. The gunfighters and villagers saw Santa Sangre was coming down on their heads. Pieces of the roof fell in burning piles of torched timber. “Go!” The gunslingers grabbed the villagers and hauled them through the smoldering aisles, ducking the fiery debris raining down and exploding in showers of flame and sparks all about them. The people plunged headlong through the open doors of the church and they ran and fell and tumbled down the hill. Behind their fleeing figures, the roof and parapet of the pyre of Santa Sangre collapsed in on itself and the blazing steeple crashed to earth.
The heavy mission bell hit the ground and sounded in a last single ringing gong that sang over the town and the desert echoing across the land.
The only silver left was one bullet in the chamber of Tucker’s gun.
In the final hours before dawn, the gunfighters had scoured the rubble of the church, searching in vain for the slugs they’d slammed in the hearts of the werewolves, but the bandits were ash and unaccountably so were the bullets that killed them. Bodie said it didn’t make any damn sense. Fix said it was just part of a whole lot of things that didn’t make any damn sense and never would. “You win some you lose some,” Tucker said.
Tired, wounded and downhearted, the three gunfighters trod down the hill. The whole village stood waiting for them. The gratitude and respect in their faces sobered the gunfighters, who watched as the men bowed. The peasant who had first walked up to them the day before and brought them here with promises of silver now bid them farewell with no silver, yet something of greater value. “You are men of true honor. There is no price to this or measure of our people’s thankfulness,” he spoke softly. “We will never forget you and your legend will be told by our children’s children.”
“Hell, we didn’t have nothing better to do,” said Tucker, who always said something.
The villagers brought the gunslingers their horses and saddles and they mounted up. As the three gunfighters rode to the top of the ridge, they were bathed in rosy dawn light. The men sat in their saddles wearily, looking behind them down into the valley. Santa Sangre lay in ashes, but the tiny villagers were already sifting through the smoking rubble, like ants on a dirt hole. Fix shook this head. “They’re rebuildin’ the damn church. Don’t got money to eat but they already rebuildin’ the damn church.” He took a pull of the bottle of whisky and tossed it to Bodie, who had a swig and chucked the bottle to Tucker.
Opening his gloved fist, Tucker held out the last silver bullet that was all that remained of the treasure. “This silver wouldn’t buy us a drink, boys,” he spit. “We’re as broke as when we rode in.”
“Somebody had to kill them son of a bitches. They had it coming,” said Fix.
“Boys, we done some bad stuff before, maybe tomorrow we’ll be bad guys again, but today we’re the good guys,” said Bodie.
They all smiled at one another, nodding. “Good deeds could get to be a bad habit,” added Tucker ironically.
“So what we gonna do about you, Tucker?” Said Bodie, indicating his fellow gunslinger’s bandaged shoulder. “You got bit. That means you’re gonna turn into one of those werewolves.”
“Don’t know if it was a bite, mebbe it could have been a scratch, I disremember.” Tucker eyed his companions with a wry glint in his eye. “Reckon I got a month before the next full moon and you boys find out.” He eyed the lone silver bullet in his hand then chucked it to Bodie, who caught it. “Which case, you’ll know what to do with this.”
“We’re friends until then.”
They laughed, their friendly voices carrying across the rough badlands.
The Guns Of Santa Sangre rode off.