KAREN: T.L. Ryder writes quirky Speculative Fiction, often spiced with romance. Her FLASH FICTION, Date Night, may give you some ideas about your next night out with your honey... or not.
***Giveaway: Three lucky readers will receive a copy of the Undead Embrace anthology Ebook. Read on and find out how you may add this treat to your goody bag.
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The angel of death has many guises. William Robert Travis is one. But when he's in human form, even he needs a little help with a chupacabra.
Date Night by T.L. Ryder
“When you said we were going out, I thought you meant dinner and a movie,” Columbine said.
Billy Bob looked over at her. The pink-tipped ends of her hair ruffled in the blast-furnace wind as she sat on her black mare. Her face was expressionless behind her black-rimmed sunglasses. He wasn't sure whether she was serious or not.
“You should wear your hat,” he said after a moment, touching the brim of his own. “Don't want to get sunburned.”
He gave his horse a nudge and she walked on with a dispirited snort. Evidently Bone was no more happy with this errand than Columbine. But a promise was a promise. William Robert Travis always kept his.
“Billy Bob!” Columbine called out. “What are we doing out here? You can't just drag me to the bottom of Texas, toss me on a horse, and call it a date!”
“You're the one who keeps calling it a date,” he pointed out with a grin. She glared and he relented with a sigh.
“There was that guy the other day, the one named Wallace. He made me promise to hunt down the thing that killed him.”
“So we're going hunting?” Columbine asked. “What killed him? Coyote? Javelina?”
“Great. We're riding through hottest part of Texas, looking for a figment of a dying guy's imagination.” She rummaged in her saddle bag and pulled out her canteen and hat.
Billy Bob scanned the parched chaparral. Skip and Clem were out a ways, digging. By the time they rode up, the dogs had excavated an abandoned coyote den. They sent up excited yelps in greeting. At least the dogs were having a good time.
He dismounted and crouched down to examine the den while Skip and Clem swarmed Columbine for treats. Something white glinted in the red soil by the heel of his boot. Tiny bones lay in a jumble in the decimated den. Behind him, Columbine and the dogs were silent.
“Maybe the mother was poisoned,” he said.
“No.” She pointed, but all was silhouette and shadow in the setting sun. She led him to the female coyote lying under a juniper shrub. Blood and entrails were scattered around her, but there were no scavengers. No flies buzzed, no caracara circled overhead.
“Poor thing,” Columbine said.
He gave her a hug and checked his his pistol. “This is how I found Wallace, too.”
“And he was still alive?” Shocked eyes peeked at him over the rim of her sunglasses.
“I can't even imagine.” She shuddered. Skip and Clem pressed their long noses into her hands to offer consolation and cadge for more treats.
“There's been worse.” The sun was almost gone. They'd have to camp soon, and he wasn't sure if camping by a previous kill was strategy or suicide.
“La Bahia,” he said as they led the horses what he hoped was a safe distance from the dead coyote.
“What?” She looked looked over at him as she pulled the saddle bags from her mare.
“You kids today. No real history. Just Alamo this and Alamo that. Never mind..” He busied himself with making camp and avoiding bad memories.
Later, as they sat by the tiny fire under the stars, she kissed him. “Now this is almost like a real date. Except for the part where we get killed by Wallace's chupacabra.”
“Skip and Clem will protect you if anything happens to me.”
She settled her head back against his shoulder. “Great. You take first watch.”
The night grew colder as Columbine dozed against his shoulder. It was too quiet. No night predators lurked, and not so much as a single moth flitted by the low fire. Skip and Clem paced just outside the firelight, only their eyes aglow. The stillness grew foul and black around them. He stood, and Columbine slid from his lap, bespelled.
Clem gave a strangled yelp and Skip let off a howl that set the horses dancing in their hobbles. Something dark slithered with demon speed from one bush to the next, just outside of his line of sight. Even in the still air he could smell its carrion stench.
“Honey, we've got company,” he said in a low voice. He poked her hard in the shoulder, thumping her until she broke free of the chupa's sleep spell.
She signed at him, but he couldn't read her frantic fingers in the dim light. She gave him the bird and dove toward the horses. If they lived, he would pay more attention to Columbine's signing lessons.
The stench grew stronger. Across the fire, a nightmare made flesh materialized. Part canine, part demon, its glowing eyes gloated. Billy Bob aimed. Even as he pulled the trigger, he knew it was a mistake. A wave of darkness rushed over him, and then the Chupa was at his throat with its razor-bone claws extended. He punched and kicked as it snapped his jugular. Its acidic drool dripped on his flannel shirt, leaving a smoking trail. Skip and Clem circled, baying and snapping as they tried to drag the monster away from him. Suddenly, the chupa let off an anguished howl.
“Expellerumdum!” Columbine yelled. The chupa yelped as she kicked it in the ribs. Her next kick booted it straight into the campfire. The flames shot up blue, green, purple as the creature burned.
Billy Bob sat up cautiously while Skip and Clem washed his face.
“What was that?”
Columbine grinned at him in the dying firelight and held up her canteen. “Holy water and Harry Potter.”
“I don't think Expellerundum is a real word,” Billy Bob said.
“What do you care? It worked,” she pointed to the dead chupacabra in the campfire.
Billy Bob hugged her tight. “Next time, run.”
“What, and miss all the fun?” She wrinkled her nose at the odor of burnt chupacabra. “I think we're eating vegan for a while!”
ABOUT THE BOOK: Undead Embrace
"From the warped minds of Brenna Lyons, T.L Ryder, and Terri Pray, comes this collection of deliciously different zombie stories. Within these pages you won’t find a single ‘Brains’ uttered from undead lips. Crawl into the mind of one zombie and find out what her preferred choice of food truly is. Do you dare to find out just deeply the love of a mother might run? Find out just what happens when the wrong spice is used during the preparation of a Thanksgiving meal. And – just how can Zombies be of use during a long, boring road trip when you have two young children in the car?"
Link to buy book: http://underthemoon.org/undeadembrace.html
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