by Mer Whinery
They say Death rides a pale horse.
Not this time.
Today, Death was a woman and she rode a stallion the color of cold basalt, as if it had been mined from the quarries of Hell’s deepest hollows. From head to toe she was garbed in a long flowing day-dress of crimson, arms sheathed to the wrist and hands holstered into matching gloves. A swath of crisscrossing bindings wound about her face concealing everything but the eyes which burned at him from beneath the brim of a blood-spattered bowler. Raab stood his ground, stalwart. There was nothing to fear. He knew all about her.
“So, this is what it’s gonna be like, huh sport?”
"Who in the unholy hells do you think you are? Robert E. Howard?” The scarlet apparition scoffed, a curl of golden hair escaping the bowler. “What we do is serious work. This ain’t no penny-dreadful-dime-novel horseshit. We kill monsters, goddammit! Monsters, Raab. Real ones. Not this moronic made-up garbage from you.”
“To be fair, miss, that was another writer. The dime novel thing,” Raab said, calm as ever.
“Well, he did right by us. But back to you.”
She leaned forward in her saddle. The odor of cloves and old books radiated from her.
“Really, Jonathan… frog people? Hogwash about lesser gods? Do you know how ree-damn-diculous that sounds? In all the years me and my brothers been beast hunting we never seen anything like that around these parts. Not even close.”
Raab shrugged, offering a sheepish grin. “It’s what I do, ma’am. I write about the unbelievable. Horror.”
“Yeah, it’s horror alright. A horror to read!”
“So, you’re concerned about that quality of the writing more than the accuracy?”
“You made everyone who lives down here look like a goddamned hayseed. Like we’re have brains stewing in pigshit.”
“It’s weird fiction. You amplify the absurdity to accentuate the grotesque.”
“What you said, just now, sounds like the sort of thing a man would say if he wanted to sound educated but was really just trying to get something from people.” She rested her hand on her chin and cocked her head. “I shudder to think what will happen should you try your hand at something else. Like fantasy. Reader beware, Ator Versus the Frog Folk Volume One, soon to be released on Muzzleshit Press.”
Raab didn’t respond or indicate any emotion. Better to keep his thoughts close to his vest.
The apparition leaned back into her saddle, lifted her arm and stabbed a finger at the young wordsmith.
“I’ll be watching you, Mr. Raab. I can watch you without you knowing I am doing that watching. I see any more funny business in the written word from you, I will come for you. I will come and it will go badly for you, son. Most badly. I will bring my brothers next time. One of them, he likes to cut things.”
With that she turned her mount on his hoof and rode away in a midnight blast. Raab smirked but felt a discernible heaviness lift from his shoulders. He had learned from previous experience she was mostly all scare and no bite.
But there was always that off chance.
As Raab walked back to his car, parked in secret behind the abandoned Git N’ Split, his cell buzzed at him. A familiar buzz. A ringtone assigned to only one person. With a resigned sigh, he pulled the phone from his pocket and swiped with his thumb to answer. He already knew what the conversation to follow was going to be all about. It was always the same with this guy, and it always spelled bad news.
“Evening, Sheriff Kotto. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Mer Whinery is a storyteller and peddler of the rural macabre. He is the author of Trade Yer Coffin for a Gun, Phantasmagoria Blues and The Little Dixie Horror Show. You can follow him on Twitter at @MerWhinery.