Alrighty, CONJURING MISERY is mosing on up early, pardners. Jami is currently engaged in the Great NANO War of 2016. She’ll be back live on 12/1, battered, bloodied, and probably half crazed, but she’ll be here with a status update. Until then, enjoy the first half of Chapter 10 from CONJURING MISERY, the Urban Fantasy-slash-Western serial as retold by Jami, Camille Douglass, and Dave Benneman.
The shadow hovered over me chilling my bones. A shot echoed through the canyon. I turned in time to see the witch’s bird spiral out of the sky. That should make a tasty morsel for the scavengers of the desert. Gently, I eased Daisy Bell to a halt, praising her for her part in the ruse. Turning her back we jogged back to find the weird sisters. I chuckled as I approached. “The Weird Sisters, appearing nightly at Kittie’s Cabinet Of Amusements. Step right up, for the paltry price of one thin dime, ten cents, one tenth of dollar, see the unusual, the strange, the otherworldly. They’ve come all the way from the dark side to entertain, delight, and amaze.”
“Smoke warned me about giving you full artistic license.” Snake shifted the stogie around her smile .
“Never interrupt the pitchman honey.” I whirled the end of my red scarf over my head. “That’s right folks! She walks, she talks, she throws fire like a volcano. Fun for the whole family…”
Smoke grabbed the end of my scarf as it passed her and gave it a yank. “You can stop the full hillbilly yahoo act now.”
“Who’s acting? You’ve pushed me over the edge.” I raised my shotgun over my head and urged Daisy Bell on. “Yeehaw.”
Another tug nearly dismounted me. “Whoa Daisy. Are we going to kill us a witch or not?” I tugged my scarf out of Smoke’s hand and repositioned it over my scar.
“Not so fast, cowpuncher.” Smoke moved her ass in close and helped fix the scarf she so ruthlessly dislodged. “One of these days you’re going to have to share the story behind that.”
Snake nearly choked. “A blind miner couldn’t miss it.”
“Don’t we have something we should be doing besides jawing about my fashion accessories?”
“He’s right,” Smoke muttered. “We oughta git.”
“You ain’t off the hook gambler man.” Snake ejected her spent shell and replaced it. “You owe us a story.”
At that, the two of them rode into the slot canyon. With me trailing slightly behind. Snake traded hats with me, then dismounted. With her ass tied to a sage brush, she ran in a crouch up the right hand side of the canyon, keeping to the shadows.
Smoke motioned for me to dismount. “Keep the mule on your right and your head down.”
She did the same and I followed her deeper into a certain trap. The hair on my neck danced a jig and I twitched at every imagined sound or movement. Snake had long since disappeared, but we kept plodding along. My eyes ached as I searched the cliffs for a sign of Donoma. I had nothing but itchy skin. The walls got closer and steeper.
Smoke stopped. “Something’s not right.” Her hands started to glow. “MOVE! MOVE!” She pushed me ahead of her.
Leaving the mules to fend for themselves. We kept our heads down as the canyon walls collapsed around us. We stayed just ahead of the worst of it. One good sized stone knocked Snake’s hat off my head and deadened my left shoulder. I dove into a crevice. Smoke followed, landing on my back. Scree rained down around us.
When the noise stopped I couldn’t stop coughing. With Smoke on top of me and choking on dust, breathing became a battle. I twisted to get a hand free and pulled my scarf over my mouth and nose. “I think you can get off me now.” I sensed Smoke struggling. With my free hand I started to dig us out from under the loose stone burying us in the landslide. I pulled and crawled out from under Smoke pushing piles of rock as I fought. Finally, I was able to turn over and sit up.
I grabbed Smoke’s shoulders, pulled her free of the debris, and turned her over. She was blue. The hand was wrapped around her throat. I grabbed the disgusting thing and tried to wrench it off. It refused to be dislodged. I reached for Dragon Breath. Getting her free of her sheath in such tight quarters proved a challenge. Smoke wasn’t moving and I feared the wrath of her sister if I didn’t do something and do it darn fast.
I unbuckled my belt, pushing the sheath toward my feet and managed to clear Dragon Breath. Without another thought I impaled the unholy thing strangling Smoke. A scream echoed through the canyon. The hand shriveled, turned to dust and fell to the ground.
I shook Smoke’s shoulders. Risking my life I slapped her face. The second time I hit her I may have gotten carried away, but she sucked in a large breath and her eyes fluttered open. She went into a coughing seizure that wracked her whole body.
When she got it under control she looked at me with a question in her eyes. “What happened?” she wheezed.
“The ha, han, hand.” Words were failing to form in my mouth so I used my own hand to illustrate.
I nodded. “It choked you.”
“That bitch.” Smoke looked around. “Which way?”
“I pointed the way we’d come.”
She turned, then turned back giving me a hard look. “Where is the cursed thing now?”
I held up Dragon Breath. “I couldn’t pull it off you so I stabbed it.” I swallowed hard. “It shriveled up and turned to dust.”
She gave me a forced smile. “Fascinating.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Thanks. Now we got to git. Snake’s facing down that powerful bitch alone. I won’t underestimate her again.”
I nodded grabbed my sheath and started digging us out. My gloves were shredded in seconds and my hands bled soon after. Seeing a small beam of light penetrating the dust I dug harder. Smoke at my side. I pushed her out the small hole we created. My view improved as she wriggled out, Once clear she drug me through. The canyon looked completely different than it did before the hammers of hell dropped on us.
I stared up trying to spot the landmark we used earlier.
Smoke spat out the dust that accumulated in her mouth during our frantic digging. “Where’s Snake’s hat?”
I shrugged and pointed at the impossibly small opening we just crawled out of. “In there?”
She grinned and climbed over a pile of loose stone.
“What?” I followed after her.
“And the shot gun?”
“You’re in for a beating when she hears you lost her hat.” She kept moving up the side of the canyon. “You might have assuaged her loss with the shot gun, but you don’t even have that.” She shook her head and moved higher.
I heaved myself up to the ledge she stood on. “But, but I…”
“A beating, that’s all I’m saying.”
“I’ll get her a new hat.” I panted climbing in Smoke’s wake.
“She was pretty attached to that hat. Even I don’t know why.”
Smoke looked down to me a finger pressed to her lips. The playful expression gone from her face. Her hands started to glow. I drew Dragon Breath and held my breath.
Join us again next week for the last half of this exciting chapter…