Williams smiled and tipped his beer to his lips; it was warm, stale. She was precisely right, of course. Language was contagious. The entire old-time vibe of this place was contagious. He watched as she bent over a bin of beers and began collecting bottles for the shelf. She was contagious.
“But the clothes … that Marshal …”
“The clothes,” She laughed again. “Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that. I guess you would have had to have been here right after the Flashback. We lost power sooner than most, is what I understand. So when the clean clothes started running out we turned toward Fly’s Photo Studio; it was easier than washing everything by hand. You have to understand, things were no different here than they were everywhere else during the Flashback: we were fighting for our very survival. Tyrannosaurs, saber-toothed cats, quill raptors— if it had teeth and claws, it wanted a piece of us. That’s how it all began, anyway. As for why it’s continued, well, look no further than Marshal Rimshaw and his deputies—not Decker, mind you, but his real deputies. The ones who got the illness. Ha! The flu. You should see ‘em: pale and black-eyed as serpents, just lying there in the Rio Grande like zombies.” She leaned toward him over the bar again and he caught a whiff of her fragrance, and there was a stirring in his groin he hadn’t felt since, well, since he couldn’t remember.
“What do you mean, like zombies?”
“I mean like zombies, like men who are dead but still walking, or lying there staring at the ceiling. See, something attacked us only a few weeks after the Flashback … something … new. At first everyone just assumed it was a rogue raptor, because it didn’t have a pack—that was the first thing. But then it started talking, like a parrot, I suppose, saying things like ‘Pig’ and ‘Eggsucker,’” She laughed her contagious laugh. “Can you imagine? A raptor calling you names as it attacked you? Deputies Creebald and Teller put up one hell of a fight, you can be sure, and they did eventually kill it, with Rimshaw’s help, but all of them were wounded in the fight, and the deputies worst of all. After that, things started changing around here. At first it was just Creebald and Teller acting strangely, abusing their power, you might say, telling me not to forget to paint on my mole, or insisting Doc Allen wear that ridiculous little vest. But then Marshal Rimshaw started getting into the act, as well, and before any of us knew it we were living in a kind of police state. Decker was the only one who didn’t pile on, which is funny, because he was the only one not wounded in the fight with the raptor. It all came to a head when Deputy Teller had his way with one of the saloon girls—Molly, was her name—after which there was a full-blown shootout between the Marshal and his deputies—not Decker, he tried to maintain the peace—and the rest of the town.” She unscrewed the cap from a bottle of beer and took a swig, then concealed it behind the bar. “You didn’t see that. Anyway, the town didn’t fair so well, and now there’s a row of graves out by Serpent’s Butte.” She paused, locking her beautiful brown eyes up in his own. “They were good men, Williams. The best I’ve ever known. And now they’re just as dead as that raptor.” She snapped the bar towel in her hands and then wiped the counter. “And that’s why we all talk and dress this way.” She indicated his empty glass. “You want another?”
“Sure,” he said.
She pulled one from the wall and unscrewed its cap, sat it down in front of him.
At last she said, “So what about you? What’s your story? And how did you come to be travelling with an armored dinosaur?”
Wayne Kyle Spitzer (born July 15, 1966) is an American author and low-budget horror filmmaker from Spokane, Washington. He is the writer/director of the short horror film, Shadows in the Garden, as well as the author of Flashback, an SF/horror novel published in 1993. Spitzer’s non-genre writing has appeared in subTerrain Magazine: Strong Words for a Polite Nation and Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History. His recent fiction includes The Ferryman Pentalogy, consisting of Comes a Ferryman, The Tempter and the Taker, The Pierced Veil, Black Hole, White Fountain, and To the End of Ursathrax, as well as The X-Ray Rider Trilogy and a screen adaptation of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows.”
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