When last we left our plucky heroes, Chuck Wendig had instructed us to write a cliffhanger, which I did here. This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge is to take someone else’s cliffhanger story from last week and finish it. The usual guidelines about writing “1,000 words or so” apply. In an unusual turn of events, my story is pretty spot on at 1,011 words.
I picked a story by David Coventry for my setup, which you can find here. Go ahead, read it first. It’s a nice mashup of spaghetti westerns and zombies. I do love me something warped and bizarre!
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
“Jefe!” Rosie yelled. “Rápidamente!”
There must have been something in her voice that let the banditos’ leader know that she was not fooling around. While he didn’t get up and run over, his normal nonchalant shuffle was gone. His men followed him, with Rosie’s girls working their way into the crowd, craning their necks to see what was happening.
Rosie handed the looking-glass to el Jefe. She pointed at the crowd of figures, some starting to climb up the base of the bluff, some still moving out from the camp in their direction. He quickly scanned across the mob before settling on one figure in particular.
“Pablo,” he said, not taking the glass down from his eye, “can you see the man in the hat that Senorita Rosie has told you about? El banquero? About halfway between the camp and the hill.”
“Si, senor,” the kid said.
“Shoot him, por favor.”
The shot rang out and knocked down the man in question. His arms and head snapped forward as the bullet caught him square in the stomach. His hat was knocked off as he went sprawling. In less than a minute, as everyone watched, the man rose and resumed his relentless progress toward the base of the bluff.
“What in hell is going on, Jefe?” Rosie asked, never taking her eyes off of the approaching menace.
“It indeed is something from Hell, senorita. That is a great evil down there. I have never seen them, but my grandmother told me stories of the demonio necrófago. They can not be killed and they will not rest until they have fed on our souls.”
“That’s ridiculous. Whatever they are, we must outnumber them. Stop being a coward. We have to kill them.”
“We have to run, senorita, as far and as fast as we can. Crossing many rivers might help. It will not matter. They will follow.”
“You’re kidding! You said that you would not attack immediately because you did not want your men to be shot at. None of those things are shooting, they’re just walking. Slowly! We have to attack them now and take back my father’s mine. How many of them can there be?”
She noticed that the banditos were already heading for their horses. Some of them were sprinting to grab blankets and saddlebags, but many were leaving their gear.
“There are too many of them,” el Jefe said, “even if there were only two.” He turned to go with his men. “You must run or you will die.”
Rosie’s Riders looked to their leader for orders. Pablo also looked at her, torn between his desire to not look like a coward in front of all of the women, and his terror over the approaching demons.
Rosie wanted more than anything to stay and fight for what had been stolen from her. As the banditos started to ride down the back side of the mesa, she saw her girls ready to bolt. The first few of the demons below were nearly half way up the bluff. There was a horrible groaning and gasping chorus coming from them, with whistling sounds from some who had gaping wounds in their chests and necks.
“Let’s get out of here,” she told her girls. They wasted no time, abandoning their tents and supplies.
Before the women could mount up, the banditos came roaring back up onto the mesa. Their horses were lathered with sweat and wild-eyed with fear. Rosie ran over to el Jefe.
“What happened? What’s wrong?” she demanded.
“We are trapped, Senorita Rosie. They are behind us as well. We have nowhere to run.”
“Trapped? Now we have no choice but to figure out how to kill them. What do you remember from your grandmother’s stories?”
El Jefe closed his eyes and thought for a moment. When he opened them, he sadly dropped his chin and shook his head.
“We cannot kill them by shooting them, beating them, or drowning them. It might be possible to slow them down in some other way, but I do not know how.”
“Maybe we could stop them with fire. If we can get the brush below the bluffs and on the hills to burn, maybe that will be enough to get the demons to burn.”
“Si. That might work, senorita. But we will also burn.”
“That’s a chance we’ll have to take. Start cutting all of the brush and pile it on the cliff edges. We can surround ourselves in a ring of fire. We must make the fire spread all the way to the bottom of the bluffs and beyond.”
“As you say, senorita. I think we will die anyway, but at least this way we will die with our souls intact.”
Quickly all of the banditos and Rosie’s Riders were cutting tumbleweeds and brush. It rapidly built up all around their camp, near the edges of the cliffs surrounding them. As the shuffling horror from below got closer and closer, the urgency of their task spurred them on beyond exhaustion.
When the first demonio necrófago were just a few yards below the ledge, Rosie yelled at everyone to start setting fires. Everyone was armed with every weapon they had, ready to fight if the flames didn’t work. Several of the banditos were arguing in rapid Spanish, apparently believing it would be better to die at their own hands instead of being taken by the demons.
Everyone moved to their place around the circle, lighting the tumbleweeds on fire and kicking them over the edge. Once the tumbleweeds were gone, they took burning branches from the fire and began hurling them out as far as they could toward the bottom of the cliffs.
In no time, the air was thick with smoke. Flames shot high into the air all around them. Horrible, guttural, non-human screams came up from the sides of the cliff. A hell on earth had literally been created.
Rosie and her girls, along with el Jefe and his banditos, huddled in the middle of the climbing flames, awaiting their fates.