This week I want to share a little taste of what I’ve been working on. An excerpt from my current work in progress, Bitter Hollow. I hope you enjoy, and would love to know what you think, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
“Is everything okay, Harold?” I stepped onto the deck, unsnapping the strap that kept my pistol secure.
“I tried to warn him,” Harold said, turning his head to look at me with a distant stare. It was the same thousand-yard stare I saw every morning gazing back at me from the mirror while I shaved.
“Who did you try to warn, Harold?”
In the yard Harold’s German shepherd barked again, a high-pitched whiny sound I knew so well. The dog sat at the top of the yard, keeping its distance while favoring its left paw.
“It doesn’t matter.” Harold turned his attention back to the German shepherd. “It’s gotten into all of them, and there’s only one cure for what they’ve got.”
“What have they got Harold?”
“I told him to stay away from that place.”
“What place Harold?” I had to keep him talking, as long as he was talking everything would be okay.
“Bitter Hollow, you’re not from these parts,” Harold said, “you wouldn’t understand, you’re from down around the city, I’ve heard about you, and why you came here.”
“Why did I come here?” I’d eased my way onto the deck and was carefully moving towards Harold when he spun his head around and stared at me. I’d seen such fear before, in Afghanistan when the shit hit the fan, and everything went sideways. It burned in Harold’s eyes, flowing across his lined face like the touch of a shadow barely seen. It was then I spotted the revolver in his right hand hanging at his side.
“Doesn’t matter,” Harold said, bringing up the revolver. I took a step back, pulling my own weapon. But Harold didn’t turn his pistol in my direction. Instead, he aimed at the German shepherd.
“We can’t let it get out,” Harold said as he drew a bead on the dog.
“Put your weapon down.” I took a two-handed stance and settled the forward sight on Harold’s chest.
“Fuck you,” Harold said before squeezing off a shot. The German shepherd darted to the right as a spurt of dirt was thrown up to his left. The sharp crack of the shot rolled away into the distance.
“I said put your weapon down.”
“Or what?” Harold said as he abruptly swung the muzzle in my direction. Instincts, fine turned by the brutality of the war, took over. I squeezed off one shot as Harold fired. The sound of our dual reports echoed through the forest like thunder. My bullet hit Harold high in the chest, above his heart, and a surprised expression replaced the terror lurking on his brow.
My left shoulder was driven back. It felt like I’d been hit by a sledgehammer, and my entire arm went numb. My calm, rational half, took a step back while the more primitive side took over as adrenaline flooded my system. I knew the feeling, had experienced it several times on the battlefield. It was a survival mechanism, a throwback to our distant past when reasoning with one’s enemy was not an option. When the only thing you could do was fight to survive. I knew I’d been hit, my left arm was useless, hanging dead at my side. Thankfully, I was right-handed.
Harold stood his ground for a moment, weaving back and forth on his feet. The color draining from his face as understanding dawned in his eyes. He was about to die, and he knew it. He staggered towards me, the pistol still clutched in one hand, the muzzle weaving back and forth as his own blood mingled with the other blood on his clothes.
He squeezed the trigger, the sharp report echoed through the shadows as the wicked sound of the bullet slamming into the post behind me came to my ringing ears. I flashed back to another time and place when I’d been confronted by an enemy that refused to die. There was no time to dwell on these memories and I pushed them away as I steadied my weapon, and the old man took another step towards me.
A shadow washed across Harold’s face, contorting his features. The dog barking in the back yard came to me as if from a million miles away. The old man smiled and opened his mouth to speak, darkness escaping the prison behind his teeth as I fired again, aiming higher this time. Harold’s head whipped back, a bloody wound forming a third eye in the center of his forehead. Something old and terrifying crawled through my belly when Harold lowered his head to look at me with those flat, dead, eyes. A wicked smile bisecting the bottom half of his face.
What do you think?
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