The Dallas Damsel

It’s interesting how versatile the Western genre and the Western Hero archetype can be. You can put them in space, of course, and that’s been done very well on numerous occasions, from Outland to Cowboy Bebop and Firefly. I still have a bit of an itch to write one of those. But you can also do a lot of fun stuff with westerns right here on Earth. Western comics were big back in the ’50s, when nobody was really making superhero books, and of course that was their heyday on the big and small screens.

I wonder, has anyone done a western underwater?

Westerns have kind of made a comeback recently, with some fantastic movies and a few comics. I’m loving the new Lone Ranger comic, and I hear Zorro is quite good as well (both from Dynamite). There’s the fun Daisy Cutter series from Viper, one of which I picked up at a Free Comic Book Day a year or two ago. DC has Jonah Hex, supposedly one of their best titles at the moment. Marvel has a history of old western comics, like the Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, and Kid-Colt (sensing a theme here?), that they don’t really use anymore. It’s good stuff.

So here’s mine, the Dallas Damsel. No doubt her adventures will include aliens and steam-driven robots and mad scientists. Making her a red head kind of feels cliche, or at least wrong. I may change that. I dunno.

This was my first writing prompt of the month, and as I was chugging through it I realized I was revisiting my time traveling supervillain. I wrote a couple of little exercises about him a while back, then totally forgot about his existence. I changed his name (though I’m sure I’m not the first to use “Epoch” for a time-hopping bad guy), but otherwise he’s very similar, even hanging out with the same incompetent henchman. I realized when I reached the end that I should have written it from an entirely different point of view, which would have allowed for a really great ending and actually explained why Epoch was there to kill her to begin with. Oh well.

Prompt: Create a story using

  • one of these settings: Luau, western bar, funeral, big city, construction site
  • One of these people: comic book villain, DJ, poet, damsel in distress, business tycoon
  • And one of these things/objects: nail polish, magic door knob, cancer, samurai sword, banana

(I played it a little loose with the requirements. About 600 words.)

The Dallas Damsel, 1876

The boss waxed intellectual again. I kept my gun trained on the Dallas Damsel. She was slight of frame, but the Damsel had been a renowned hero of her time, fighting off any number of threats, from bandits and brigands to the Old West equivalents of, well, us. Rumor had it the Graxians had invaded a hundred years before they’d invaded in the ‘70s, and that she’d averted the assault. I wasn’t going to underestimate her, no matter how good she smelled.

“So this is how I imagine the conversation,” Epoch said. He paced across creaky saloon floorboards, waving his pistol. “Dave Grohl says, ‘So, Rivers, we can have you on this tour, you know I love you guys. But I saw your last show. It was like staring at a photo for an hour. We need you guys to really rock out. Move around a little. I used to play with Nirvana. That guy blew his own head off. You can’t bring that weak sauce in here.’ This is what Grohl says.”

I glanced at the two men we hired after popping into this town from a hundred and thirty years in the future. They barely speak English, so they don’t really know what the boss is talking about even when he’s not making 21st-century pop culture references. But they shouldn’t care—they’re getting paid a lot of money.

Even they looked confused. The Dallas Damsel’s eyes narrowed. She’s not looking at me, but I can tell she’s judging the distance. Any moment now she’ll make her move. Will I mind? She’s gorgeous. Is her hair naturally that red?

“And, as much as I love Weezer, Grohl would be right,” Epoch continued. “Anyway, when you hang with the big boys, you can’t screw around.” He spun and fired. The Damsel gasped, then staggered back against the bar, gripping her shoulder. To her credit, she did not cry out. I have to admit I jumped a little—the boss usually wasn’t so vicious.

“Boys is right,” she growled. She leapt at me faster than I could follow, faster than I remember any of the dozen heroes I’d been pummeled by over the years. She twisted around behind me, then wrapped one hand around my throat as her other arm guided my gun hand.

“Thank you, ma’am!” I croaked.

I squawked in pain as she clamped down on my fingers, forcing me to squeeze the trigger. Even in these extreme circumstances, her aim was impeccable. The metal band around Epoch’s wrist shattered with a shower of sparks.

“Shit! Damn it!” he cried. He raised his pistol toward my head, and I had no doubt he was willing to fire through my skull to get to his hated enemy. But temporal physics kicked in, and Epoch flickered and vanished from our space-time continuum.

“Well isn’t that fancy,” the Damsel whispered in her adorable accent. “Figured those things were important. Guess I was right.” Her fingers tightened on my throat, her own blood running off her fingertips like too much nail polish. The smell of her hair overwhelmed my senses. The two hired thugs looked uncertainly at each other, then sprinted for the door. Typical.

The Dallas Damsel twisted her leg between mine, and we tumbled to the floor. She hammered my arm against the floor, once to send my gun skittering away, again to shatter my own temporal anchor. I heard a snap, dim but crisp. The irresistible tug of the infinite wrenched at my body and mind, and as her dusty world whirl pooled away, the Dallas Damsel smiled and wiggled her fingers in farewell.

3 thoughts on “The Dallas Damsel”

  1. “no matter how good she smelled.”
    Ha! Great!
    I also enjoyed Epoch’s rant. So random.

    I highly encourage you to submit to Space Westerns. I’ve got another story coming out on the page soon (a three-part serial!). I can tell you that the editor is really good at what he does, and the site gets a lot of hits. Recommended.

  2. I definitely have Space Westerns in mind. The editor actually dropped by here a while back when I wrote a little space western exercise. I’ve had westerns on the brain lately, so it’s something I’d like to do.

    Would this sort of story work for them, I wonder? I’ve read a few stories there. I need to read some more to get the full breadth of their selection.

  3. Well, the lackey viewpoint, while fun here, might be a bit too gimmicky over a full-length – I’ve had some comical pieces published there, but they’re more serious stories with jokes in them than farces. Not sure what you mean by “this sort of story”, exactly – that it’s set in the past-West rather than the future of space? My next novella that will come out there… later… is set in the 1870s. So you can have the Dallas Damsel, no prob. Pulpy is a safe bet.
    Actually, now that I think of it, the very first piece they published, “Bat Durston,” is an outright farce. So do what you like! If it has space and western in it, I’m sure it’ll work.

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