NATE WITHERS - OPEN FIELDS
The clanging of the bell still rang in Arthur’s ear even as he grasped it. The package the carrier had left sat on the ground, wrapped in brown paper and tied in a black ribbon. He kneeled down close, his eyes darting over every inch and corner of the package. It was no larger than a ledger and had no visible markings. With a hard swallow and a shaky hand, he grabbed the package and retreated back in to the wagon.
“I’ve damned us all,” he said, returning to his cot inside. He sat down and reached for his cup of Arbuckle’s. “I’m sure of it this time.”
With a trembling hand he untied the ribbon and pulled out an envelope from the package. Nothing was written on the front, but a wax seal elegantly pressed the back. Within the wax sat a crescent moon cradling the letter “D.” Tearing through the wax Arthur revealed a note;
You’ve seen inside my crypt, stolen my documents and my personal works. Man has no place for the advancements I can imagine. For the wrongs committed by your ancestors I vow to you, your knowledge of me will be your undoing.
-Vlad III Dracula
“Well this ain’t the pan out I was expectin’,” Arthur kicked the side of the wagon scraping the floor with his spurs. Belle’s parrot reeled from the sound and started squawking in frustration. Arthur grabbed a tattered sack and put it over the creature’s cage, “Go back to sleep Willie, I need to figure this plunder of a mess out.”
Arthur rose to attention as the door to the wagon opened fast. His shoulders quickly eased, and a half-cocked grin came to his face when he saw the brunette in front of him. He looked in to those eyes that reminded him of being out in the fields. They’d been through the mill, the two of them, yet she still radiated a sense of comfort over him.
“I’m sorry ‘bout Willie. Was in here just airin’ out the lungs a bit and I must of woke him,” Arthur said extending his hand to Belle. His grin turned when she neglected his assistance entering the wagon. “Yeah, I guess you’ve got the right to be upset.”
“I told you,” Belle wheezed as she closed the door behind her. “I vow to you.”
“Not you,” Arthur was barely able to notice the two wounds on her neck before she had her hands around his throat. “Come on Belle! His problem – with me -.” His words were stuck, and his heartbeat racing. He felt his eyes burning as he looked at her face. The muscles in his face spasmed as the tears fell on to his coat.
The snap being undone on his holster echoed over her snarling. Arthur’s hand trembled as it hovered over his Colt. His other hand placed on her chest where he would have once felt her heartbeat, but now it was just a shell of who she was. Why did I seek out this evil? Why didn’t I just ride off with her and settle down? We could have started a family, a farm. Arthur’s hand grew worse as he held her off, looking in to those eyes.
“I did this to you,” he cried out as she lunged forward again. His arm buckled as she forced herself on him. Wood splintered and Willie’s cage fell to the floor of the wagon as they hit the wagons wall. His lips curled and the blacks of his eyes grew, as the weight landed on his shoulders. He drew in a deep breath as he listened to his revolver skittering away in retreat.
As he returned his gaze to Belle, his muscles loosened and his breathing eased. Belle’s mouth hung open, slobbering and wheezing some more. He dropped his arms as she lunged at him again.
“I lov-,” was all he was able to choke out.
His muscles jerked and rose him from his sleep. Arthur sat up in his cot as he recalled the events that took place in his mind. He let out an unending sigh as he holstered his Colt, and thumbing through the remaining silver bullets he had left in his bag.
“Maybe it ain’t to late to quit chasing these demons.”
His words were interrupted by the sounds of something scratching against the wagon, and then the metallic clanging of the bell outside the door.
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