The following is an excerpt from a short story I wrote for the 2016 Winter Writing Contest hosted by Short Fiction Break. The theme was “Two Worlds.” This story won first place for fiction. Click here to read the full story.
His guns glinted bright steel in the light of the day, and he squinted up at the sun sitting high and proud in the sky. Hell of a time for a shootout. Mason flipped out the cylinders of both his six-shooters and counted the bullets in each—three in the left and four in the right. Lucky me. Seven’s always been my number.
Bullets cracked and thudded into the brittle wood of the tree he took cover behind. He scrunched down even further, trying to make himself a smaller target. The shooting stopped for a moment.
“COME ON OUT, YOU VARMIT!” he heard from across the grove.
“COME AND GET ME, YA YELLA-BELLIED BASTARDS!” he shouted back. Leaning out from behind the trunk, he popped off a quick shot towards the closest Stetson he could see.
Down to six now.
“Give it up, Mason! You’re outnumbered and outgunned. Don’t make yer mama carry you outta here in a box!”
He heard the outlaws cackle at the man’s words.
“My mama’s been dead goin’ on eight years, McGraw. And how can I trust you won’t shoot me soon as I come outta here?”
Silence. Mason felt the wind on his face and listened to the rustle of the leaves in the branches above.
“You ain’t got much of a choice, Mason.”
He thought to himself a moment before he replied.
“Guess you’re right, McGraw. Aight I’m comin’ out! Don’t shoot!”
Here’s goes nothin’. Mason raised his hands in the air high above his head, pistols dangling upside down on his index fingers. He emerged from behind the tree slowly.
Five guns and two rifles leered at him like steel snakes from behind a stand of oaks. He recognized all of them—the lawless men he’d been chasing across four states, three years, and too many bodies to count. And now he’d been ambushed by them on his own land.
Good thing my grandpappy ain’t here to see this. He’s likely rollin’ in his grave at the thought of a Mason gettin’ bushwacked on his own property.
He obliged, tossing both his pistols to the ground.
A gangly cowboy in a buckskin coat and long shaggy hair slunk out from behind the nearest tree. He smiled yellow and spit brown in the dirt.
“Yer sheriffin’ days are over, Mason.”
“Not ‘til they take my star or shoot me dead, McGraw.”
“Soon as I put a bullet in yer belly you will be. But not for a long time. Not ‘til all the blood in yer bones leaks outta yer gut.”
More cackles echoed from the nearby trees.