I wrote this story a while back, based on a couple of quick writing exercises I had done (if you go back a bit in the archives you’ll find them in their infant states). I like the story, but I don’t think it really worked all that well–rather, I didn’t tell it properly. So I’m rewriting it, perhaps to send out to a few places next month.
Here’s the initial rewrite of the beginning. Survivors
Lacey cracked once, twice, and the ghast howled. The thrice-blessed bullets passed through the beast’s pale shoulder and emaciated stomach. Ichor thick as tar spattered across the dusty old Chevy and the creature fell, sprawling across the roof of the old truck. Echoes of the gunshots faded among the empty buildings.
Marcus Oni eyed the ghast’s smoking corpse for a moment, then cast his gaze to the rooftops. Ghasts, the lanky grey-skinned creatures that comprised the bulk of the town’s population, never prowled alone. Just enough sun peeked over the horizon to see, but it cast everything in a harsh crimson. Main Street stretched away to the north, lined by dilapidated wooden and brick buildings. Battered cars, abandoned decades past, lay rusting in the same parking spots they always had. The buildings were as empty as always. If the creature had friends, they were shy.
Oni holstered Lacey and continued his journey. In his palm he carried a matchbook, brought to him less than an hour before by a young woman named Valeria. He’d found her, shaking and terrified, frantically scrambling at the gates of his heavily fortified home at the edge of town.
“I found this,” she said. Valeria dropped a matchbox on his kitchen table. It was old, the lettering faded almost beyond legibility. Nevertheless, Oni recognized the logo.
“Jordey’s,” he grunted. “Over on 5th. Been closed as long as everything else has.”
“It was my father’s,” she said. “I found it with some other things, from ages ago.”
“That’s the last place he was at,” Oni said, “he’s prob’ly dead.”
“I have to know,” Valeria pleaded with large, brown eyes.
“Nothin’ in this town but vermin,” Oni said. “If your pop is here, it’s as one of them, or as what that fed them. Nothin’ but vermin and me for twenty years.”
“Please.” Her eyes sparkled with tears. “They say that…before…you found people who needed to be found. That’s all I’m asking. I…I brought payment.”
She pulled an oblong shape, carefully wrapped and padded, from her backpack. Oni had not seen a full bottle of whisky in years, but he recognized the contours instantly. He scooped up the matchbox, and Valeria’s face lit up.
“Do you need anything else?” she asked eagerly. “I have pictures, and—”
“All I need,” he said. “Don’t get your hopes up. All I promise is to find what killed him. No more we can do for the poor folks of this place. Haven’t found a live person in years.”
“You found one today,” she said. “Maybe you’ll find another.” He just grunted and headed for the front door.
“Why do you live here?” Valeria asked. “There are safe zones, beyond the mountains.”
He hesitated, hanging his head for moment. The he looked up and opened the door. “It’s home. When the neighbors are assholes, you just gotta deal and hope they get sick of you first.”