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Jesse stood in the middle of the rotting cattle he'd been missing.

"3 days" he said, spitting at the ground and drawing his revolver. He had foregone setting camp and tracked into waning hours. His cigarillo illuminated a face that had seen too many sleepless nights. He’d made a mistake coming here. Finding the cattle dead and gored would have been a blessing, but these cattle were virtually untouched. Their necks were cut with precision. A quick and mostly painless execution.

“Well, you done it. You got me where you want me. I’m the dumb son of a bitch who walked right into your little trap.” Jesse said calmly.

A shaking howl erupted from the tree line 400 yards from where he stood. He knew the type. This was a pack howl. It was calling to its friends.

“Well...now ain’t that something. You brought the whole clan along with you.”

Now Jesse reckoned that he'd gotten used to it. They're usually more afraid of the tool in his hand and a warning shot would disperse them. But deep down every time he heard that shriek he’d shudder under his cool demeanor.

It's the way it sounded too close to human.

"ÀoooUUGHhaaaa!" Again, it called.

He knew they'd been watching. The daggers in his back felt all too strong throughout the day. Hitched up on his quarter horse he would traverse days with their eyes on him. The trees, coyotes, and even the infrequent settler couldn't be trusted. They were getting too courageous. He knew they weren't scared of his Colt anymore.

The howl turned to a blatant scream, yet it remained unmoved.

With an unnaturally steady hand he pulled the last bullet out of his pocket.

"Dear father, I beg of thee to protect me on my journey." He started, pulling his weathered Stetson low on his brim.

The scream became continuous as it started to approach Jesse. Anguished. Covered by the tall vegetation of the field he stood in, he couldn't make out the forms of 5 more screams that picked up like a riled pack. The sounds of men and beast screaming in the night echoed through the flat land.

"Forgive me father, for what I do to consecrate this unholy scene."

Now they say a named bullet always finds the mark of its namesake, and Jesse had been saving this one special. He pulled it from his breast pocket. Carved crudely by the likes of a pocketknife, the name glinted in the moonlight.

Approaching closer, but at a slow pace, the screams of the creatures grew into low, guttural, stalking growls. He didn’t dare look up, but they were surely surrounding him. They like to play with their food. Make you sorry you ever came upon their land. But he wouldn’t give them the pleasure of taking his face. He couldn’t bare the thought of his daughter looking into the eyes of her father and seeing ghost white eyes staring back at her.
"Lord, help this bullet find it's mark as I name it in your holy blessing. "

Jesse thought of his beautiful wife and daughter. A crisp fall morning wrapped up on the porch swing in a blanket sipping coffee. Working long into the night before, he knew today was a day of praise and rest. A day of love and care for the two ladies that make his life and struggle worth living. Now that’s a nice memory for a cowboy.

He held the bullet up to his lips and closed his eyes. He whispered only the name that would protect his family.

"Jesse."

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Ketara Hinman · ago
Incredible! Certainly gave me the spooks.