ROW80-3 - check in 08/21 - edititing again
ROW80-3 - check in 08/25 - trying to not get carried away

Straight to the Heart

This week’s challenge from Terrible Minds was another mashup. Given a list of 20 sub-genres, pick two at random and mash them together into a 1500 word story.

The list:

  1. Dystopian Young Adult
  2. Slasher Film
  3. Weird West
  4. Zombie Apocalypse
  5. Paranormal Romance
  6. Ancient Myth
  7. Fairy Tale
  8. Spy Thriller / Espionage
  9. Haunted House
  10. Erotic Horror
  11. Low Fantasy (“Grimdark”)
  12. Dieselpunk
  13. Time Travel
  14. Murder Mystery
  15. Southern Gothic
  16. Noir
  17. Alternate WWII History
  18. Kaiju
  19. Comedic Fantasy
  20. Psychological Horror

I got 3, 5 - Weird West and Paranormal Romance. Here’s my story, at just over 1400.


Straight to the Heart

Dwayne sneered at himself in the mirror. He curled his fingers at his side, paused, then grabbed for the Colt .45. He was smooth now, after weeks of practice and the help of a custom Gunslinger Mark II holster. Fast too – he could draw, cock, and shoot in under a second. Not as fast as the pros, but fast enough to qualify for Tombstone.

He’d been at his desk last month, processing files, ignored as usual by all in the office, when he’d got the note from his mom. She’d just heard of the new theme park in Tombstone, even bigger and better than the Dallas one. Instead of the JFK simulation, this one had a gunslinger program, where you could test your skills against life-like replicas of the heroes of the past – and look like a hero yourself.

For years he’d talked of leaving home, and complained of being ignored and passed over at work.

“Now’s the time to change,” she said. “Time to do something different, get out of your shell and grow some.” Then she added she’d met a new guy and was selling the house and moving to France. She’d even paid for both Dwayne’s vacation and the gunslinger training package.

So here he was, outfitted in a Stetson, denim shirt, faded jeans, and trail-worn boots, with a sweaty bandana around his neck. His holster was at his side, slung just right, cradling his authentic pistol right at his fingertips. He was ready for his battle with the Game, with whatever gunslinger it picked for him two days from now. He just had to figure out first how to deal with the ghosts.

He’d noticed them as soon as he arrived, at first as vague shapes in the corner of his eye, that vanished as soon as he looked at them. Withing a few hours those wisps had formed into people, translucent but still there, figures from the old West, ghosts from the past. There were farmers, cowboys, housewives, shopkeepers, and gunslingers – lots of gunslingers. They seemed to ignore him as they went about their day of walking, shopping, talking, and shooting one another. The brochure had mentioned them as part of the simulation, but was vague as to whether they were something new or an existing feature of the town, a part of its history that had stayed ‘alive. Apparently some people were more sensitive to them than others – the desk clerk had said he was just one of the lucky ones.

Dwayne felt nothing as he walked through the ghosts, and would have just ignored them except for the fact that he could barely see where he was going. He’d end up missing his robot opponent at the shootout and go home with a failing score, no trophy, no bragging rights in the office, and nowhere to live.

He was working his way through the bar fridge, feeling sorry for himself, when he noticed a woman sitting by the window.

“Hey! I mean, evening ma’am,” he said.

She smiled back. “Good evening sir. Excuse me for intruding, but I was drawn to this room by such a sense of sadness. I wondered, what could be troubling such a good looking young man? Why don’t you pour us a couple of shots of whisky and come and talk.”

They talked well into the night, about his problems at work and home, about her own issues here in Tombstone, her job, a jealous boyfriend. What started as a bitch session ended up as two friends laughing and teasing each other. By midnight Sadie had let down her thick dark hair, and loosened the bodice on her vintage dress, Dwayne had pulled of his boots, and they sat beside each other on the settee, fingers entwined, gazing into each other’s eyes. He felt a strong attraction to her, not just sexual, but more, something new to him. He was in no hurry, he had time to see what would develop. He squeezed her hand then closed his eyes for a moment.

When he woke up it was daylight, and she was gone, leaving only the faint scent of violets. And he realized he didn’t really have time. In one more day he’d lose his gunfight – and his room – and head back to life in Des Moines. He had to find her. He started with the front desk, but nobody had heard of a Sadie Marcus. The old bellhop had seemed startled at the name, but refused to say more. Dwayne spent the day scouring the town, pushing his way impatiently through all the ghosts, but couldn’t find her anywhere.

He was standing in his room, staring at the evening sunset, when he caught the scent of violets again. He turned and there she was, sitting on his bed.

“Sadie!” he said. “I looked all day for you, I’m so glad you came back.” He paused. “But how did you get in?”

She patted the bed beside her. “Come and sit here by me Dwayne, we have to talk.”

She took his hand in hers, then gave a sad little smile. “I had such a great time last night with you, just talking and enjoying your company. I never felt that way with any of the men I’ve known.” She paused. “And I’ve known a lot. Never mind. I’m just so happy to have finally found a connection with someone.”

He pulled her to him and kissed her. “Oh Sadie, I feel the same way. But what about your boyfriend?”

“Wyatt?” she said. “He’ll be angry at first but he’ll forget me and move on – there’s no shortage of women that would be glad to help him off with his boots.”

“Wyatt?” said Dwayne. “Wyatt who?” He was getting a bad feeling about this.

“Wyatt Earp,” she said. “Dwayne, I’m not from your time, from your world. I don’t know how this happened, but all I know is that come sundown I change somehow, and can be with you like this.”

“Let’s leave tomorrow, then,” he said. “Come back with me to Des Moines. It’s not as exciting as here, but I’ve a good job. We can get a little place together and start a new life. ”

She shook her head. “I can’t leave Tombstone. I tried. No, you’ll have to stay. Go ahead and do that shootout you described, with those machines. This is a busy town now, with all these people from your time, I’m sure you’ll find some sort of job. Now, please just hold me.”

They'd finally stopped talking and fallen asleep in each other's arms. It was noon now, his moment of truth. The simulation was focused on him, boosting the reality of a frontier day. Even the ghosts had faded slightly – maybe he’d have a chance after all. There was the trickle of sweat down his neck, the creaking wheels of a passing wagon, the smell of hot dust. The sounds faded as he eased his pistol in his holster.

There was a voice in his ear. “Dwayne, this is the coordinator. We seem to have a minor glitch. Sorry. We'll have you opponent in another five minutes.”

He was about to relax when he noticed the gunslinger, glaring at him from only a few storefronts away. Dwayne knew this one, and smiled at the irony of the system’s choice. Wyatt Earp. Wyatt had been one of the several Dwayne had practiced against. He was fast, but Dwayne had beat him 7 out of 10 times.

They nodded at each other. Dwayne waited a moment, took a calming breath, and drew.

It was painful. He knew the system was supposed to give him a tap – like a paintball hit – but this felt worse. Much worse. He looked down at the red stain spreading on his shirt, then fell to his knees.

“Wyatt, no! How could you?” It was Sadie’s voice. Suddenly she was cradling Dwayne in her arms, her tears falling on her face. He tried to talk, but all that came out was a bubbling wheeze. He watched as the other ghosts gathered around him, quietly watching. One of them picked up Dwayne’s hat. The crowd parted and Wyatt stepped through, holding a blood soaked bandana to his arm.

“Good shooting,” he said. “I think you hit first. Just need to work on your accuracy. You’ll have time for that now, you’re one of us.” He smiled at Sadie. “I guess that’s it for you and me too. I only meant to wing him, but maybe this is for the better. The way you look at this guy - well, I wish that had been for me, but I guess it's not meant to be. Looks like you've finally staked you've claim."





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