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SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


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Sep 30, 2006


Come Hell or High Water
1495 words

"I wish I could be more charitable to you stranger, but I got my own to look after. When them flood waters come nipping at our heels I got one eye for my woman and one fer my boy."

"Sheriff, I didn't do nothing to that little girl. That shop keep... It's not what it looks like. You can't leave me behind these bars with them waters coming this way."

"Even if you is innocent an' honest, I can't see ya sticking around after the flood to get yer neck stretched come dawn. I wouldn't. If you ain't honest, I wouldn't want you near my kin or anyone else's."

Jericho pounded his fists on the wrought iron bars of his cell. They rattled loudly, echoing inside the old dry interior of the sheriff's office. The noise was underscored by the sound of rain and distant rushing water coming from his window. "Just shoot me now then and be done with it. Civilized like, not like a lost mangy hound."

The sheriff shook his head mournfully. "Sorry son, I ain't the hangman. That would be unlawful."

"God drat it!" Screamed Jericho as he futilely pounded at his cell before giving up and slumping his head against the bars.

"I wouldn't be cursing god if I were in yer position." said the sheriff, "It's not that I ain't got sympathies fer ya, there's just nothing I can do. But I'll tell ya what, I'll leave the lamp on the table. It should last the night if this place does."

The sheriff knocked on his desk with the lamp on it. He stood thoughtfully for a moment, then slowly opened a drawer and pulled out a pistol. Jericho's eyes followed it with interest. The sheriff pointed it down and spun the cylinder, causing the small round lead pellets to fall into his other hand. He tossed the weapon at the cell.

"Just in case, here's my old powder pistol. I can't give ya no lead, but that pistol still has the powder in it. If ya hold it to yer head tight, it should do the job. Try an last the night foremost, if only fer your immortal soul."

The door slammed shut behind him. Jericho rubbed his face and reached between the bars for the weapon.

"Should."

He walked to his window and stared into the rain. The moon peered between the clouds, it's full face trapped in horrified expression. He was just passing through. Something tempted him to stop in Brimbleton a day back but he pushed on to Fiddler's Crossing. Stopping early wasted time. Home was a ways away yet. He looked down at the water lapping at the sheriff's office. Getting further all the time.

The water began lapping at the edge of the building, seeping in through cracks and edges in the wood. The old dry wood underneath him creaked and groaned as the moisture soaked it's old bones. He sighed as the water began splashing at his boots and stepped on to his wooden bed bolted beside the window.

He had just stopped at the general store. All he needed was some food. The sun hadn't shone itself all day, a pale colour washed over everything and turned the dirt into mud. A small stream lazily trickled down main street. It was quaint then. The shop was closed, but nothing a good word and a coin couldn't solve. He remembered the faint notes of a child crying almost drowned out by the rain.

The water was much higher now, it was almost at the top of the bed. The current slammed the door hard to and fro. The flowing water shook the sheriff's desk and his lamp, sending the shadows of his bars flickering across the room. Turning the gun over in his hands, maybe there was a way to open the lock with it. He hopped down into the knee high water, pushed the pistol against the lock, and pulled the trigger. There was a thunderclap. When Jericho looked back, he found scorched iron but little else. He checked his gun. Five shots left.

The door burst like a drat and water came pouring in furiously. The desk flew across the room and smashed into the far wall, smashing the oil lamp. The desk and the wall caught fire. The open doorway revealed a torrent. A small shack sailed down main street faster than any sheriff would've allowed. A large piece of driftwood flowed inside his prison with the current. The rafters of the office were still dry and the fire was spreading upward quickly in a race against the river.

That was when he noticed the driftwood was staring at him with cold reptile eyes.

Jericho's eyes fell back to the gun. The water was high now, past his waist, and it took vigilance to keep the weapon high and dry. He was running out of time. Drowning was no way to go, nor as foodstuffs for an alligator. He could just end it all now. He closed his eyes and held the gun to his head.

The girl flashed through Jericho's mind. Broken and bloody. Her cries were no more, swallowed by a pale pallor. The way her father calmly put his clothes back on as he spun his lies. He had no weapon.

No man would take a drifter's word over a respectable member of the community and no god would judge him for deliverance.

No. He would not condemn himself to death. By man or beast, water or fire. Especially not by his own hand. His soul was clean and he wouldn't allow it to be tainted on passage from this world to the next. He eyed the crocodile's toothy grin with contempt.

"You're gonna have to fight for your meal." He snarled at the gator as he slammed the gun against the bars. It made a loud clang. Something was different. It was wobbling slightly. He looked down. The wood had swollen significantly and had began to crack and warp. He grabbed the bar and began to shake it vigorously. Smoke clouded his nostrils and burned his lungs. Water had risen to his chest. The fire crept into the top of the cell. The alligator watched him with it's crooked smile.

The bottom of the bar came out and it sunk to the floor of his cell. The gator lunged through the opening and before Jericho could react the beast snatched the arm holding the pistol dry in it's mighty jaws. Pain shot through his bones as soon as the jaws snapped shut like a bear trap. He dropped the gun in shock. He could feel the tip of the handle in the lizard's gullet. The water was up to his neck and leaving the tips of his toes struggling to find solid ground as the gator began it's death roll. His bones cracked and his flesh tore from his arm as the half ton serpent struggled to pull Jericho under. His vision disappeared under the water for a moment until he was able to push up with his feet again. All he could see was the gator's teeth intermeshed with visions of dark emptiness and hell fire.

With the last breath in his lungs and using all his might he stuck his thumb into the beast's eye. The demon recoiled in pain as the pistol slid back into his hand. He pressed the end of the gun barrel into the back of the beasts throat.

Five shots rang out in rapid succession. The mortally wounded animal spasmed and went limp. Jericho released his weapon, as did the gator. It rolled on to its belly and the current pushed its limp form against the remaining bars of the cell, it's blood mixing in the flood with his own.

Just as he was beginning to catch his breathe, the rafters began to crack loudly as the fire sapped their strength. The current was massive, he hung on with his good hand for dear life. He could feel the entire building begin to shift under the pressure. He had come so far.

"Okay, just a little more and you can go home." He said to himself. Jericho pulled himself out of the cell and along the wall against the current. The rafters buckled and tore great holes in the roof. Moonlight poured in with the rain. The walls started to tilt sideways under the current. He was close. All he needed was to pull himself through the submerged doorway with his one good arm. The rafters finally gave out and came tumbling down. He fought the temptation to yell. He stole a final breathe and pulled himself through in agonizing pain. The current mercilessly pummelled him, sending his vision spiralling. His vision began to darken. The last thing he could see was his prison being swept away and a tiny slice of orange peeking out above the river.

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


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SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006


crabrock posted:

CRIT DOWN HERE \/

Thanks! Future judges will appreciate having to read less bad stories.

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