Dennis E. Power


T hat the goat was eating the old man’s face was a shock, even to me. I am not a shepherd but even I know that goats generally do not eat people.

As the large black goat looked up from its dinner, a pair of big yellow eyes met mine and the power of its gaze nearly unseated me from my horse. Red stained incisors sheared and scooped a portion of lip and nose as the goat slowly chewed, regarding me with placid malevolence.

Since I no longer have a functioning nose, my sense of smell is not as strong as it used to be. How I still have one is beyond me but I somehow do. Even my shadow sense of smell found the stench roiling through the mountain air to be overpowering. It was a pungent, musky earthy scent tinged with the coppery tint of spilled blood.

As I rode closer I saw that the old man had fallen face down on the road with his hands wrapped up in a thick rope net, the kind used for fishing. Since most of his face was gone it was hard to tell his age, but judging my his gray hair, the state of his hard callused hands and his general build I gave a rough estimate of early sixties. He wore a black coat with what looked to be a pastoral collar and black pants. The goat glared at me as I approached, an uncharacteristic snarl rising from deep within its throat. I do not know what I found most disturbing, the odd snarl or that its beard was so sodden with blood that looked like it had been dipped in red paint.

The black goat leapt at me with a roar, dark stained teeth flashing in the late afternoon sun. My left hand twitched and the fingerbone pulled the trigger of my Colt. Aimed by my mind, the bullet punched through its skull and exited through its lower jaw. The goat collapsed at my horse Brimstone’s hooves and twitched as it died. The goat’s hooves were, I noted, oddly barbed looking, like bobwire. There wasn’t a great deal of time to examine the goat since it began to decay almost immediately collapsing into a foul smelling goo almost a moment after I shot it.

I could not spare the energy it would have taken me to lift the old man’s body out of the road so I urged Brimstone forward. The musky, goatish stench I had smelt earlier grew stronger rather than weaker. In another half a mile I saw why. A group of ten or so black goats were up ahead of me. They were not inside a pen or grazing on the mountain fields however, they were surrounding a church. The church was made of wood and granite and looked as strong as any fort I have ever seen. Two stories high, it had granite walls, a flat slate roof, an oaken door and clear glass windows. A stone cross topped its small steeple.

The goats were gnawing their way through the stone and wood and had chewed huge dents in the stone and wood.

Several pale faces peered out of the windows of the church; all set in various permutations of terror. I wondered if they were frightened of the goats or of me. Although it has become second nature for me to shield myself in illusion, sometimes the illusion will faltered or fail and people will see me as I truly am. A monster: a bodiless head wearing a cavalry hat sitting upon a horse’s saddle.

Without ego, I can claim that most people have heard of me and my various deeds, I am El Head who some have had called the Disembodied Avenger of the West. I don’t care much for that title. While it is true I am a head detached from a body and I did seek vengeance against those who had killed me, that moniker makes me sound like I go around righting wrongs or acting like a dime novel hero. I stick my neck out for nobody. Figuratively speaking of course.

In case you are hermit or something, in a nutshell, I was a Confederate solider and was captured by the Yankees. Rather than waste away my life in a pest hole prison I became a galvanized Yankee and was sent out West to fight Indians. After the war I stayed west. I was commandeered into a posse looking for a lost prospector in Nevada. We were attacked by Apaches and five us took shelter in a canyon that the Apache’s would not go into, thinking it had bad spirits. Considering what happened, maybe it did. It also had gold in it, not a great deal mind you but enough to give us all a nice grubstake. My partners were convinced I had hidden away most of the gold. They got greedy and decided to kill me for my share. They scalped my beard, broke my knees, shot my arms off at the shoulders and decapitated me with a shotgun blast.

They left me for dead, but I did not die. I could move my head about with the bit of spine and backbone sticking out of my neck stump, moving somewhat like a snake. My detached arms and hands obeyed my commands like trained animals. I could also summon and control my horse. One limitation I had was that I could not move very far from my body or I would fall into a state of torpor. Using my hands and arms and my horse I was able to build a hoist and lift my body onto the horse and tie it on. Once that was accomplished, I set out on the vengeance trail.

The men who tortured and killed me all died within the next decade. They died horrendous deaths and deservedly so. I had expected that once my vengeance had been finished I would finally die. When that failed to happen I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I tried becoming a rancher but that did not work out too well, and so I am now a hunted outlaw. Avoiding the various bounty hunters, Sheriff and Marshals is what brought me to the Montana territory in the hopes that I could find some peace in the low populated wilderness.

Enough about me for now, back to the goat surrounded church. I checked my illusion’s energies to see if it had faded, but found it still in place. Everyone who saw me should see a middle aged, rather average cowpoke dressed in trail worn gear. Nothing memorable or out of the ordinary. So if it was not me that terrified the people inside the church, it had to be the goats.

Now I have seen a lot of weird, wild things in my existence but I have to say seeing a bunch of large black goats chewing their way through the granite walls of a church has got to be among the weirdest. Although as it turned out that was the mildest thing I would see in the next few days. Generally I am the sort of fella that let’s nature take its course so I never, unless it is to my benefit, interfere in the natural order of things. So my intention was to pass on by and let whatever odd drama was transpiring in this town to play out without my interference. However as Brimstone and I cantered on past the Church, the black goats stopped gnawing on the granite wall and oaken doors and turned to face us. They were identical to the one I just killed, right down to their malevolent yellow eyes.

Half of the goats turned and sprang towards me. I could see the folks inside the church waving at me, shouting in terror as my handbones lifted my guns and aimed them at the charging goats. Since they would have seen a lone cowpoke raising his six shooters I did not figure they were afraid of me. Turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong, or as close to dead wrong as I can be.

My slugs unerringly found the skulls and brains of the black goats and sent them to goat hell. They collapsed onto the ground, and like the previous goat I had killed, began to decay almost immediately, skin sloughing off of bone like melting ice revealing the ground underneath. As fascinating as this display was, my attention was diverted when I heard the snarling baa of more goats. The rest of the goats interrupted their church supper to attack me. My guns fired again. Six more goats for Hell’s stewpot.

I sort of figured that the folks inside the church would come piling out once the strange goats had been killed. When they didn’t I shouted out or at least gave them the illusion that I shouted out, by shouting inside their heads.

“Hey folks they is all gone! You can come out now.” I shouted, affecting a folksy accent.

A middle aged, stocky fellow dressed in a business suit of fine cloth, and cut I might add, pointed at me and shouted. “You fool! You, stupid jackass, you have doomed us all! Look!” He backed away from the window in abject terror.

I turned about a bit and saw that the goo that the goats had become had collapsed into large mud puddles. These mud puddles began to rise up from the ground like baking loaves of bread, taking on a black color as they also sprouted thick black hair. I reloaded as I watched the black blobs rise and take shape. In a few moments the blobs had nearly finished shaping up into more black goats, twice as many as I had killed. My first impulse was to blast them before they had fully formed but I restrained myself, not wanting to create more of the strange beasties.

I rode over to the church door and shouted inside, or at least created the illusion I was shouting my screaming inside their minds. “How do you kill these things?”

“We don’t know. We tried shooting them, stabbing them and even using dynamite. Whatever way we tried, they came back twofold,” shouted one of the men inside the church.

Now I knew why the dead man on the road had a fishing net. He had wanted to restrain the goat without killing it. However if these goats could chew through granite, restraining them would be a tricky proposition.

The heads and muzzles of the goats had formed, and twenty sets of malevolent yellow eyes burned like coals in the in the waning afternoon light. The black sludge into which the killed goats dissolved into reminded me of something.

“Somebody throw out a lantern!” I shouted.

There was a commotion inside. I heard people arguing and then furniture being moved aside. Finally the door opened a crack and a hand put out a lit lantern through a crack in the door and placed it on the steps. The door slammed shut immediately thereafter.

I threw the lit lantern above the goat that seemed most developed. The lantern shattered as my gun spoke once and sprayed the goat with burning oil. The goat-thing screamed as the fire spread across its hairy form. Soon it had the appearance of a goat made of fire. A foul black pungent smoke arose from the burning hair and flesh, which did not smell like burning hair or flesh, but rather like burning garbage, or tar. The thick black smoke enveloped me me in an impenetrable cloud. Had I needed to breathe, I would have been overcome by the thick haze, if not simply from the choking density but also by the stinging, acid stench.

When the smoke cleared however I saw with some relief that the goat had been reduced to a small lump of burning material which shrank as it was further consumed. Its agonized capering had also set several of the others on fire which set up a chain reaction as the flaming goats set fire to others around them. Soon most of the black goats were engulfed in fire. Yet ten or so managed to elude the flames and charged towards me.

Urging Brimstone into a gallop we hurried further down the road. We passed by several homesteads that appeared to have been ravaged. Houses and barns had splintered walls or doors. Fences were broken, splintered apart and falling down. The half eaten remains of animals and people littered yards and roads.

Despite my hope that they would soon give up the chase the odd black goats kept after Brimstone. Instead of tiring they incrementally gained on us as we lost seconds of time wending through the unfamiliar mountain road. The goats snarled a nerve wracking sound that seemed reminiscent of a goat’s bleat and yet also of a leopard’s hunting scream.

The sound of rushing water in the distance inspired me to have Brimstone head for it, hoping perhaps to throw off our scent. Brimstone ran into a wide mountain creek without pause, hooves splashing mud and stone. The goats followed without pause. The snarls behind us transformed into cries of pain and agony. At first I thought that the stones Brimstone had kicked had hurt the oncoming goats but I saw instead that it was the water that caused them pain. As the water coursed past their legs inky streamers floated in the clear, running water. Yet as I moved into more calm water the liquid black strands ceased.

Quickly I urged Brimstone into an area of fast but shallow rapids. The black goats followed me and began bawling in pain, proving they were determined but stupid. As I had surmised the rapids ate at their weird flesh like water eroding a clay bank, their flesh lost cohesion and liquefied. When they collapsed into a noxious goo when “killed” on the land, the dirt and vegetation kept the goo from dispersing and I believe also provided the substance for them to create a duplicate. The water however diffused and diluted their flesh preventing them from reforming; much less create an identical copy.

Despite their swift erosion the black sheep came me with single minded determination. A few well placed shots killed them and hastened their destruction as they quickly decayed into a black slime that washed away down stream.

Admittedly I was torn between going on my way and returning to the church to discover what the hell was going on. In the end my curiosity worn out, I turned Brimstone back towards the church.

By the time I reached the Church night had fallen. A few of the braver souls had exited the church and were walking about the yard with lanterns extended. The fires had consumed the goats leaving behind a black, oily residue.

The three men with the lanterns snapped their heads up at my approach. They were rather shocked I had gotten so close to them. Brimstone moves rather quietly for a horse.

One of the men gaped at me, squinted his eyes and shook his head as if he could not believe what he saw. I knew him to be either the town drunk or a tippler of some renown. Those who over indulge in spirits can often get a glance past my illusionary veil but so can children and the insane so even if they said something about my true appearance no one would believe it.

“Where’s the rest of those devil creatures?” He asked eyes narrowing with suspicion.

“Fire and Water, gentlemen. That is how you kill them. Fire consumes them and running water erodes them. Now what the hell were they?”

“Demons of some sort, that’s all we know”, said one of the other men. He spoke a bit too quickly I thought. He was nervous about something. He was a young man in his late twenties, from his muscular build I thought he was a miner or blacksmith. His eyes were sunken with deep rings and his eyes seemed fever bright. A haggard, haunted look was stamped on his face, as if he had not been sleeping or eating very well for quite a while.

A closer look revealed that one of the other men also had this same haggard, haunted look. He was a middle aged man who I took to be an older miner or homesteader.

The third man was the elderly man in the business suit who had rebuked me for shooting the goats. Compared to his two companions he looked as though he were the picture of health, albeit corpulent health. Piggy blue eyes glared up at me for a second with a look of utter hatred. When he believed I was looking at him his face transformed to a cheery, false mask of congeniality.

“Thank you for having saved our lives, Mr. .. I don’t believe we caught your name. I am Mr. Beeze”

“Hadn’t given it. It is Eli Head. You can call me Eli.” I replied, pointedly not calling him by his name and ignoring his extended hand.

His eyes flared with rage at my snub.

“We would like to pay you back for your service but unfortunately the goat things have economically devastated the area. We have very little in the way of food and what money we do have will be needed to rebuild our fair community. Thank you kindly.”

The younger man frowned at Beeze giving me the brush off. “Mr. Beeze, I am certain that we can spare enough food to at least give Mr. Head a meal for helping us out. Besides we don’t know if it is over. We may need his help tomorrow.”

Beeze pursed his puckery lips and shook his head slowly as if exasperated by an unruly child.

“Jerome, a little faith please. I am certain that all the things are gone and I am certain Mr. Head has more important things to do further on down the road.”

I had intended to move along once I my curiosity about these goat things had been satisfied, however Beeze’s none too subtle hints for me to vamoose stuck a burr under my saddle. Knowing it would irritate him for me to stay, I decided to stay. Besides I was a mite curious as to why he wanted me out of there so quick, never having met the man before.

“I don’t want to take any food away from you folks, especially your kids, but I would not mind keeping you company for the night.”

Although I did not note it at the time, both Jerome and the other fellow’s heads jerked as if they had been slapped when I said children. It is a tremendous chore to fool folks that I am eating so I rarely do it, except when absolutely necessary. It is not so much the illusion part but rather hiding all of the food that I really do not consume that is the real pain. Besides I had to use a great deal of my mental abilities to project the image of me walking into the Church with these three men.

Usually I travel with my companion and manservant, Dio who wears a special hat in which I ride. Dio carries me around in this hat and I mask Dio and I in the illusion of a cowpoke. However when I travel alone I usually stay on Brimstone since it is a major operation to dismount and remount. So when I supposedly get off of my horse I have to create the illusion of an empty horse and also create and maintain the illusion of the young cowpoke moving around, sitting down and all the associated gesturing while also getting all of my sensory information from the minds of everyone in the room. It sort of like riding a horse, chewing tobacco, braiding a rope, listening for the approach of any hostiles, keeping your eyes on the trail and trying to find the scent of fresh water, it sounds difficult but with practice you and do this all of these at once almost without thinking about it. So riding on the senses of these three men I entered the church.

It took a second for me to locate every mind inside the church and then send the illusion of my cowpoke form to them. In cases like this it is easier for me just to send the idea of a young, disheveled cowpoke and let the person “seeing” me fill in the details from their own minds. So everyone saw me differently which was alright, so long as they didn’t start comparing details.

There were forty seven people in the church aging in age from early teens to late middle age. Beeze it appeared was the oldest person around. It did strike me odd a bit that there weren’t any children but I thought that they might have hidden the children away elsewhere. Before you say anything else let me say that generally I can not read minds, I can get impressions from them such as sensory information and to a certain extent influence them as with my illusions but I cannot peer deep into their brains to discover secrets. Generally that is, when someone eats of my flesh that is another story entirely.

Everyone inside the Church had the same haggard and haunted look as Jerome and the old drunk. Their clothing was also raggedy, even the women had dresses that were disheveled, soiled and torn. I wondered just how long they had been holed up in the Church. The church was dimly lit with candles and a few oil lanterns. Half of the pews had been pulled up from the floor and were piled up near the front door.

Mr. Beeze took charge as we walked inside. “We can rest for a bit. This young man seems to have driven them off for now.”

“What about the Padre?’ one of the older women asked softly. From her dress and remains of her hairdo, I could tell that she had been one of the more well to do citizens of the town, wife of a wealthy rancher perhaps. Now however her dark blue silk dress was stained with grime and her upswept coiffure hung askew in wild strands and streamers of graying black hair. Her voice was weak and dispirited.

“We did not go that far.”

“There was an older man up the road a piece,” I said. “One of them black goat things was eating him. I shot it.”

A gasp went up and Beeze swung his head towards me, his head hung in a display of remorse. However I could see a small smile upon his lips and the glint of delight in his eyes.

“So they aren’t all gone!” shouted Jerome in despair. A young blond haired woman in a stained blue gingham dress came over and hugged him tightly.

I suddenly realized that even though I had destroyed all of the goats surrounding the church the one I had killed earlier duplicated itself, so there were at least two of those damned things still out there.

After hearing my news the people inside the church began to move the pews near the front door in front of it, forming a barrier. After they had finished this they seemed exhausted and filled with despair. I believed this was motivated by grief over the death of the Priest and the continuing state of their ordeal. They drifted apart into small groups sitting or laying on the remaining pews. The obvious couples held each other in their arms or held hands. Others sat alone and stared off into space.

Mr. Beeze sat on the steps of the altar and took out his pocket watch. Bunching his hands under his head, he lay down and closed his eyes.

“So would anyone mind telling me what in the hell is going on? “

Of those people who even turned to look at me, most regarded me with fatigued sorrowful eyes. None spoke.

“What were those goat things? Where did they come from?” I persisted.

The older woman who had asked about the priest listlessly replied “Demons from Hell! Why they are tormenting us we don’t know.”

“Bullshit! You know Sarah, you know damned well and good,” shouted one of the other women. It was the wife or girlfriend of Jerome. Her brown eyes regarded Sarah with utter loathing and disgust.

“Mrs. Beeze, if you please. Furthermore, Miss Jacobs, I will thank you not to curse, especially not in the House of the Lord!” replied Sarah.

“We know what was behind your piety… and your tutoring.” screamed Miss Jacobs. “Your unnatural lust! All the time you were taking in those poor benighted savage girls, all the time you helped us poor ignorant women with our reading and writing you were waiting and hoping to have your way with us.”

Jerome took Miss Jacobs by the shoulders and shook her hard. “Enough Louisa,, enough! It was Madeleine, we all agreed! “

Mrs. Beeze face reddened and she turned away. However Louisa Jacobs was not finished. Louisa turned her hate filled eyes upon Jerome. Her brown eyes blazed with disappointment and anger. “Was it Madeleine? Was it really? She is gone and still it continues.” Turning back to Mrs. Beeze she said, “Yes we all blamed the Indian girl you had taken in to be your maid. We decided she was a witch of some sort that put a love spell over the whole town. We whipped and drove her out of town like a scapegoat.” Louisa Jacobs twisted herself loose of Jerome’s grip on her shoulders and stood up. She gripped the pew railing with such force the wood creaked and her hands went bloodless.

“Yet who seduced who? Was it Madeleine whose savage wanton Blackfoot ways turned our prim and proper church going school marm into a foul creature of disgusting and unnatural vice and lust. Or was it the other way around?”

Mrs. Beeze’s eyes blazed like blue suns as her face went white with rage. “If you found Madeleine and I so unnatural and disgusting why did you join us!”

Louisa gasped and her face went white with shock. “You promised…”

Jerome jerked back his hands at Louisa’s admission. He gave his hands a look of revulsion as if they were covered with manure. He gave Louisa the same look and backed away from her. Tears immediately formed at the corners of her eyes. She reached for Jerome but he avoided her touch. A horrified sob escaped from her and she hung her head.

Mrs. Beeze let loose a strangled noise I barely recognized as a laugh. Louisa Jacobs looked up her eyes dark with fury. With a scream she launched herself out of the pew and at Mrs. Beeze. The two women locked together in a flurry of slapping, punching scratching, hair pulling, kicking and cursing. Rolling around on the wooden floor of the church. No one was sufficiently motivated to stop the fight. Very few even watched it.

The floor show went on for a few minutes before it broke up more from exhaustion than a willingness to call a truce. While Louisa may have been younger, Sarah was more solidly built. Louisa Jacobs pushed off of Sarah Beeze and went to sit by herself at the corner of the church. Both women’s faces were scarlet from rage and blood seeping scratches, their already torn and soiled dresses now ripped and stained with blood.

The man who I had taken to be the town drunk had consumed three bottle of sacrificial wine during the course of the evening. He sat on the dirty floor of the church with his back against the wall, the bottles lined up between his extended legs.

He regarded me the edge of the bottle as he took a deep drink from his fourth bottle. “Welcome to Shabby Rocks, the Sodom of the Rockies, Mr. Head. I know what you are. You can pretend otherwise but I know what you are. I’ve heard of you and about what you’ve done, both good and bad. Are you going to help us or just let us die? I am sort of hoping for the latter, since we deserve to die for sins”

“What sins would those be? I asked trying to get a handle on this bizarre town.

“Licentiousness, lewd conduct, unnatural lust, bearing false witness and …mm…murder” His hand shook as he said the latter. “We were a happy, small community of miners, ranchers and small homesteaders. The mine was small but large enough to provide work and wealth, the soil was fertile and rich enough to provide food and sustenance. Why the Blackfoot considered it cursed we did not know. Two months ago we found out.” He took another pull at his bottle of wine and gave me a knowing wink. “Oh, like all towns we always had our little secrets, our hidden sins. A boy and girl cannot wait for the marriage ceremony. A husband tells his wife he was playing poker when he was actually poking her best friend. There was always an undercurrent of lust running through the town but over time it grew. Perhaps if there had been more chil… perhaps if there had other responsibilities, we would not have been led down the path of wickedness.” Tears ran down his face streaking his grimy face and gathering in the gray stubble of his chin.

“Gradually the lust overwhelmed us and sin triumphed. Men and women coupled without regard to marital vows or social convention.” A stricken look covered his face. “Eventually even familial relationships were not taboo. Yet it did not end there, men lie with men, women with women and everything in between. When the lust faded we were filled with shame and disgust. People tried to leave town but found that they could not. A few killed themselves. We knew we were cursed and we found the witch that had cursed us. It was Mrs. Beeze’s maid, Madeleine, a young girl of the Blackfoot whom Mrs. Beeze had educated. We drove her from the town and she cursed us further. Or must have, because shortly after that is when the goat demons came forth. They ate our cattle, our crops, anyone unwary enough to be caught outside. We soon discovered that if one was killed two would take its place. As we took refuge in our homes the goats ate their way into the homes and killed indiscriminately, although having a special taste for the young. As they drove us from our lands and our homes the goats herded us here, to take refuge in this Papist house. We may have fallen under a witch’s curse but our sin has doomed us because it is so vile.”

“Speak for yourself Reverend Jones”, said Mrs. Beeze. She sat on the floor, hugging her knees to her chest, not too distant from him. “Sure I had always secretly loved women but I suppressed it and even married. We all agreed it was Madeleine who was the witch but to be honest she was not the initiator of our relationship, I was. She not only resisted me but the advances of everyone else. It was not until the lust had become overwhelming that she finally succumbed. So maybe she cursed us for being on Blackfoot sacred lands or just out of spite and got caught up in her own charm. Even I know that for a curse to work there has to be an existing evil for it to latch onto. What is more evil that a corrupted man of the cloth? When you were caught with Abigail, you said the evil lust that had taken you over. Yet we all heard the stories, … but did not want to believe it. Stories that circulated even before the Lust came to town. A man of the cloth carrying on with his ten year old daughter!” She sputtered with disgust. Her hard blue eyes bore into his. “Exactly what did happen to her mother? Died all of sudden, wasn’t it?”

As I said before I generally cannot read people’s minds. However I can sometimes see clear images from a person when they are in a state of high emotion. I saw a rapid montage of the Reverend Jones being discovered by his wife as he molested his daughter. I also saw the Reverend grab his wife by the neck and strangle her.

I do not know if the images came from Sarah Beeze or the Reverend himself.

“Sapphic whore!” spat Reverend Jones who turned away and filled his mouth with the bottle,

I pieced together what had happened. For some reason the people of Shabby Rocks lost their sexual inhibitions and became driven by a lust powerful enough to overcome strong religious and social mores. They began to have sex with whomever they desired despite what age or gender that person might be. Yet these spells only lasted a short time and once satiated their normal personality would reassert itself. They were shamed and disgusted by their fall into sin and so sought to place blame. Naturally they chose an outsider, this Blackfoot girl named Madeleine. They drove her out of town. Shortly after that is when the goats began to appear.

I resolved to be shut of this town at first light.

Unfortunately I did not get that chance.

At midnight Mr. Beeze stood up and whispered “Showtime.” What happened in the Church after that I do not know for certain. A red hot poker of pain skewered my head and everything went red and black. When the pain had subsided a bit I found myself outside the church still mounted on Brimstone. I could no longer even sense the minds of the others. There was only silence accompanied by agonizing pain. A thousand claws thrust into my brain; digging, squeezing, pulping, churning anguish.

The church door swung open and the good citizens of Shabby Rocks filed out, led by Mr. Beeze. With the exception of the aforesaid Mr. Beeze they all had expressionless faces but strange glimmering eyes. They followed Mr. Beeze with ant-like precision trailing after some strange siren call that I could not hear. Although I could not hear the siren call that does not mean it did not compel me. The thousand spikes of pain pulled at me like a thousand fishhooks caught in the meat of my brain. The pain reeled me in and the small portion of my mind not blanketed with screaming agony urged Brimstone to follow the trail of people.

We ended up at a mountain hollow surrounded by thick trees. The townspeople ringed the hollow in a single line. In the center of the moon lit hollow a she-goat reclined on all fours. Black haired and yellow eyed it was almost identical to the malevolent goat things I had encountered earlier. It bleated showing teeth the color of arterial blood. This difference and its twenty foot height set it apart from the other goats.

The pressure in my head increased and my mouth opened in a voiceless scream.

Mr. Beeze prostrated himself before the giant goat. He stripped of clothing and crawled over to the barn sized udders. Squeezing a teat he anointed himself with a greasy, black oil. It had the musky goatish scent of rut. Walking down the line of people he rubbed a greasy palm across their foreheads and lips, swabbing oil off of his body when needed. Once the substance had touched their lips a person disrobed hastily and grabbed the person next to them no matter the age or gender.

What followed was a bacchanalian orgy that would have fit well at Sodom and Gomorrorah or at least the court of Emperor Caligula. How long the random, frenzied coupling went on I have no clear idea, perhaps hours, perhaps only moments. Coupling soon became only a descriptive term and one not entirely accurate since the orgiasts began to join together in groups that seemed biologically and physically impossible.

After a time Mr. Beeze walked over and ran his finger down the naked back of one of the orgiasts. It was his wife, Sarah Beeze. She abruptly stood up and followed Beeze. Her expression never altered, remaining blank all during her frenzied coupling and did not even change when she abruptly ceased her activity. What was even more disturbing was that her former partner continued to move his hands, mouth and groin as if they were still joined.

Mr. and Mrs. Beeze approached the goat melted and shifted shape until standing before Mrs. Beeze was a black youth so handsome that even I without a living body was affected by his manliness and raw sexuality. When I mean that the youth was black I do not mean he was a Negro but that his skin was pure black, black as onyx or obsidian. Yellow eyes glimmered out of his beautiful face like distant suns. Bright crimson teeth smiled as Mrs. Beeze supplicated herself before him.

After Mrs. Beeze had lain with the black youth, she returned to the orgy. Mr. Beeze then touched Jerome on the back. Jerome followed Mr. Beeze back to the dark form which became that of a voluptuous and beautiful ebony woman with piercing amber eyes and sunset red teeth but with the same uncanny attraction.

One by one the townspeople all serviced this demon or dark god. After the last one was finished they all collapsed into a senseless stupor. The young lady shifted form once more returning to the shape of a giant goat only now her sides were swollen. The great black goat stood on its hooves. This brought its height to nearly forty feet. There came the sound of a ripping sheet, like the start of a sudden rain storm. A thick deluge of black sludge covered the ground of the hollow and then sank into the mud.

Bulbous shapes rose from the dirt. Forty-six in all. One for every man and woman in Shabby Rocks, save Mr. Beeze. These shapes slowly rose from the ground. I knew what they would be.

Once the horrid birth had taken place the goat’s large yellow eyes turned towards me. The fullness of the she-goat’s gaze hit me with a psychic force like nothing I had ever experienced before. Imagine standing naked before a blast furnace door and you may have some inkling of what it felt like. Indescribable and unfathomable alien thought washed over me intermixed with impressions of curiosity, arrogance, domination, lust and oddly enough, l ove. Unable to comprehend me the she-goat sought to compel me. Perhaps because I had already died and no longer had flesh to tempt or perhaps because I was unique, beyond even the experience of this vastly ancient creature but she found me not so tasty a morsel as she supposed. Some infinitesimal portion of me refused to be sucked into the maelstrom of her mind. I fought back, digging in my psychic heels as I was inexorably drawn into the vast maw of her consciousness.

The battle for my soul was fought on the psychic plane and was pure will pitted against pure will. There were no metaphoric or symbolic constructs as in a dream, no visual or allegorical representations to show me how the battle went but I knew I was losing. The thread of my will shredded from the nearly omnipotent force of the she-goat’s will. I knew that like a fish being played I would eventually end up in her net.

Although nearly omnipotent the creature was not infallible. Just as I felt that I was about to disintegrate into the void, a scream shattered the air and ripped through my mind like a cyclone. What ever had bound me to the she-goat’s mental shackles snapped and I was once again in the physical world.

Sunrise peered over the mountains’ rims and sunlight crept towards the she-goat. With a baleful glare that nearly unhorsed me, the she-goat melted, sinking into the earth of the hollow like poured water into desert sand.

As soon as the goat was gone and sunlight touched unconscious townspeople they immediately came awake as the influence of the she-goat ended. Finding themselves naked and intertwined in compromising positions they began to shout and scream in shock. The screams turned to anger and fear when they saw the nearly fully formed bodies of the black goats. I quickly surmised that the reason that there seemed to be an endless supply of the goat things and the reason that the townspeople were so fatigued and listless was because the dark rite I had witnessed probably happened every night. The townspeople unknowingly created the very enemy that was destroying them, The she-goat was stealing their energy to create her children. Usually the townspeople were back in the church long before sunrise but my battle of wills with the she-goat had distracted her enough that she did not release them from her spell in time.

Beeze seized the opportunity to get rid of me once and for all. Although I was able to get my illusion produced before they came to full consciousness, they all realized there was something odd about me. Pointing a finger at me, Beeze screamed, “It was him, he is in league with the witch!

Reverend Jones added his voice. “Yes, he is a demon in the flesh.” He picked up a large rock and hefted it at me. Although I dodged that one, rocks began flying at me from every direction. Normally I would have revealed myself and raised a mental shield to keep Brimstone and I from harm however the protracted mental battle had left me weak. I urged Brimstone into a gallop and hurried away from the stone throwing mob. The more determined chased me on foot for a mile. I heard screams behind me and realized that the black goats were awake and chasing after the townspeople.

I galloped down the mountain and away from this sad, doomed town.

Such at least was my intention. Near the foot of the mountain a thousand fangs clamped down on my brain. With the small portion of my mind not inundated with searing agony I bade Brimstone back up the trail. The pain faded after a moment or so. The she-goat was determined not to let me go. I knew it was her or me and frankly, I did not have much hope that I would win.

I slowly returned to the site of the hollow and found that most of the people and goat things had gone. Two goats were busily chewing on the remains of one of the women, one of the many whose name I had not learned. A pair of malevolent yellow eyes looked up from its feast. This goat apparently decided that instead of sharing it wanted a whole dinner to itself and charged me. I did not want to blast it and create another one but there wasn’t any fire or water nearby. Fortunately my mental abilities had returned by this time and as it charged I surrounded it with a wall of mental energy and held it fast. As I was holding the one however the other decided to charge. I tried to also imprison the other but was unable to do so while holding the other one.

My handbones lifted my guns. At least I would buy some time by shooting one. However a streak of flame came out of no where and plunked into the side of the charging goat thing. A burning shaft stood out of its side in stark contrast to it black hide. The flames spread engulfing the goat thing. I gave the one I held a mental shove into its burning brethren until it too burned with a bright orange fire.

My rescuer was a young Indian woman dressed in a deerskin dress and a Stetson. She carried a bow and a quiver of arrows. Yet there was something quite odd about her. When I looked at her I kept getting a flickering image of white fog or smoke covering her body. At times the wisps of fog swirled into discernable shapes, part of a face, a hand, bit of an arm or parts of clothing.

In a deep, baritone she said, “That is a nice trick. Too bad you could not do that to all of them. I supposed that the way you held it is also how you stay in the saddle.”

By this I knew she saw me as I really was. This was confirmed when she gazed at me intently.

“You are more skeletal than I have heard. The way I heard it you were a rotting head, two rotting arms and a rotting corpse. Your head and arms are mostly bone.”

“How have you heard of me?”

“The crows told me.”

I knew by this that she did not mean the Crow Indians but rather the birds themselves. I have a special connection with the Corvidae family, Crows, Ravens, Rooks, jackadaws, magpies and certain jays. I can communicate with them and to some extent control them. During the past few years I have read up on these birds and discovered that they were known as pychopomps, messengers of the dead, which is why I can talk to them. This girl also must have had some connection with the dead to talk to them so freely.

“You are, I take it, Madeleine—the witch who cursed the good people of Shabby Rocks.”

A scowl came over Madeleine beautiful face and she spat at the ground. “This land was cursed before they came, not they ever listened to the words of the savages” She remarked with bitter sarcasm. “Madeleine did not however activate the curse or summon the Beast, it was one of their own, a judas goat.” Along with the bitter sarcasm there was a tinge of dark humor in her last words.

“Beeze.” I guessed

Madeleine nodded. “Beeze is the judas goat leading his people to slaughter. Once a warrior he has become the lackey of the Beast, a temple dog for the Black Goat of the Woods. Recognizing Madeleine’s heritage and her purpose, Beeze set the town against her.”

Finally I understood what the floating mist surrounding Madeleine was, why she spoke in a baritone in the third person and how she was connected to the dead.

“Where is Madeleine? Is she still here”

“Only in her memories. The good people of Shabby Rocks beat her to death. However she was more forgiving than I, she gave up the ghost and went on to her final reward. Perhaps it was only chance or perhaps it was fate that allowed me to occupy her body when she departed. Her memories are important for they provide the key to defeating the Black Goat and her odious offspring.”

“So you just happened to be haunting the area where she died?” I asked flippantly, trying to focus on the face of the ghost and see if I could recognize it.

“No” Madeleine’s eyes glittered with dark amusement at my sarcastic jibe. “She was beaten to death with the rope that hung me. Our blood mingled and so a connection was made. The injustice of her death was enough to free me from the rope.”

“Who exactly are you?”

“You may have heard of me, my name is Henry Plummer, lately Sheriff of Bannack. I was murdered by the Committee of Vigilance on January 10, 1864.”

That’s not how I heard it but I did not want to spend time arguing with a ghost. What I wanted to do was figure out how to get rid the Black Goat of the Woods and get on with my life, so to speak. So I asked him directly how to get rid of the goat and why he hadn’t already done it.

“For one thing it took quite a while for her body to heal and by that time the She-goat had manifested and was creating her young. Madeleine had tried without success to quell the early stages of the Rut. Realizing that her efforts were fruitless she tried to disrupt the Rut by allowing herself to become an active participant. Her participation delayed the Manifestation since she could drain the accumulated energies and prevent them from reaching the necessary level for the Manifestation to occur.”

My head spun from this nonsense. “Want to explain that in English, partner?”

“As you may have guessed the Black Goat is an ancient fertility demon. In order to physically manifest on the mortal plane, she has to absorb the various energies created when people mate. An acolyte of hers will use an object or incantation as a Summoning of her. Once she has been summoned she sends forth her power to create the Rut causing everyone in the area to mate indiscriminately. Doing this builds up energy like an electrical charge. Once this energy reaches a certain point the Black Goat can manifest. Once she manifests she uses those who had been involved in the Rut to help her bear her offspring. She eventually kills all of her mates much like the black widow or preying mantis.”

Which would explain why Beeze had not participated in the orgy, I thought.

“Madeleine knew certain charms that allowed her to drain the built up energy of those involved in the Black Goat’s Rut. However Beeze eventually realized what she was doing and so blamed her for the Rut, using her Indian heritage and status as an outsider to make this plausible and more palatable to the people of Shabby Rock. Stripping her naked they drove her out of town whipping her with a thick rope. The same one that hung me. Beeze kept whipping her until he was certain she was dead. Once Madeleine was gone the Rut proceeded without incident and the Manifestation quickly followed.”

“Okay, that’s a nice history lesson. Now how to we kill the damned goat.”

“We can’t kill it we can only force it from the mortal plane.” Feeling my impatience, Plummer continued. “To do that all of her offspring must first be destroyed. Her mortal enemy must then be summoned, another demon worshipped by Madeleine’s people.”

“I have never heard of the Blackfoot worshipping a demon before.”

“Madeleine was not a Blackfoot she belonged to a tribe called the Tsiah Tsiah. They used to live in this area and worship the Black Goat but she betrayed them and they found another God. They have ties to the Blackfoot but are an entirely different group.”

“So we have to summon another demon to get rid of the first one? What happens after She-Goat is destroyed or sent back to hell, whatever the case may be?”

“Madeleine does not know. She thinks it will go away on its own.”

So it is possible that by doing as Plummer-Madeleine wanted, we could be making a bad situation worse. On the other hand I knew that I probably would not survive another encounter with the Black Goat and that she would try to eat my soul that night.

“Okay, let’s go goat hunting” I rode off towards the Church figuring that the remaining residents of Shabby Rock would hightail it back there once the goats started chasing them. Along the way to the Church We found four more bodies on the road. One had been completely stripped but the red tincture of the bones showed how recently the bones had been covered with flesh. The next three bodies were in the process of being eaten, Plummer disposed of the seven goats with fire arrows. The remaining thirty-nine goats were clustered around the Church once again chewing holes into the

As we rode up I could almost hear a collective gasp inside the Church as they spied Madeleine. The door opened but quickly closed when the black goats came running over to it.

“After we kill all the goats we also have to make certain that the mates cannot interfere with our disposal of the Black Goat of the Woods.”

“So we have to kill them all?” I asked.

Plummer-Madeleine’s face twisted in shock at my matter of fact delivery and said with some revulsion, “No, we have to keep them locked up until after the Black Goat is gone. I suggest we barricade them inside the church.”

I looked the church over. The windows were small and might have allowed a child out but not an adult. The only real exit was through the front doors. Using my mind I felt out the door and its mechanisms. Applying a judicious amount of mental force I caused the hinges to swell and the latches to freeze up with metal fatigue.

“That should do it” I said to Plummer-Madeleine. At the puzzled look I explained what I had done. Using a combination of fire arrows and my mental force we herded the black goats down to the creek with rapids. By late afternoon they had all either been incinerated or eroded to nothing. I asked why if the Black Goat could not bear the touch of sunlight the smaller black goats could.

Plummer-Madeleine curt reply said it all, “Because they are of the flesh of man, the goat’s offspring can bear the sun”

We made a quick exploration of the mountain to make certain we had not missed any. It was evening when we returned back near the church. We heard the people pounding on the doors and screaming curses. Plummer-Madeleine was satisfied that they were secure. We traveled down to the creek once again where she ate a meal of rabbit. After this she bathed in the cold river of the creek and washed her clothes to be clean of the stench of the goat before starting the summoning of the other demon. Plummer also admitted that it was enjoyable to take a bath again.

Madeleine’s body was shapely enough but horribly disfigured. Her entire torso was marked with deep welts of scar tissue like the whip scars you might see on a freedman’s back. I could see why she had died from the beating they had given her.

As midnight approached, Plummer let me in on a key piece of information he had previously withheld. The Black Goat’s enemy demon had to be summoned in her presence. Usually the warriors of the Tsiah Tsiah would harass the Black Goat and keep it occupied while the Summoning was made. Since Madeleine had to do the Summoning I would have to keep the Black Goat occupied.

Plummer-Madeleine gave me a grin of dark humor, saying, “You would have had to confront her tonight one way or the other anyway.”

We arrived at the hollow where the Black Goat manifested the night before. Since I was not certain what the outcome of this battle would be I relaxed the mental force that I used to adhere my head and my arms to Brimstone’s saddle. I sat on the ground on my neck stump with my arms on either side. I sent Brimstone back as far as I could. I must keep within a certain distance of my body’s remains otherwise I fall into a state of torpor.

Madeleine disrobed again and stood naked in the moonlight, the darkness hid her scars showing only the dark silhouette of a well proportioned woman. Wide-stanced she placed her hand into a part of her feminine anatomy, one I would not have thought would be suitable as a storage facility, and drew out a talisman on a thong. Now I understood how she was able to drain the Rut energy from whom she had mated.

Placing the talisman on the ground about ten feet in front of her, she returned to where she had stood and knelt down.

The grass of the hollow turned black as the night sky. A black cloud arose from the ground, a thick, noxious darkness that blotted out the stars. As the cloud grew and shimmered there were hints of hooves and horns shifting in and out of the mist in a random, formless manner. Shining in the center of the almost palpable gloom were twin golden suns, blazing with cold, dispassionate lust and an undeniable ancient hunger. There suddenly before us was the form of the giant Black goat, reclining on all fours. The ancient demon’s stare hit us like physical blow. Although I could not sense much from the vast alien intelligence I got the impression of amusement, of a patient predator waiting to play with its prey.

A goatish musk filled the hollow wafting on the winds to cover the mountain. In Rut the Black Goat of the Woods waited for her mates to arrive. I felt her impatience grow as her mates failed to arrive. The fullness of her attention fell upon us. The immensity of her gaze felt like a sledgehammer blow to my fragile skull. My vision went yellow as the immensity of her eyes filled my consciousness as she began to eat my soul.

Once again I found myself in a tug of war of wills with a God.

Miles away I heard Madeleine start to shout out some gibberish.

An eternity passed with my will being stripped away particle by particle. My consciousness was whittled, eroded, sanded and chipped away. There was no thought of winning, there was no hope of overcoming the demon’s vast cosmic will. Even survival was beyond the realm of possibility as I was slowly but inescapably sucked into the immeasurable yellow gaze.

Fate interceded in the form of a high piercing scream. The Black Goat’s concentration waned for a split second allowing me to pull back my essence. Although I knew I needed all of my concentration to fight against the Black Goat’s hypnotic gaze I could not help but look to see what was going on about me.

The Black Goat’s call to Rut had been too strong and the townspeople had broken out of the church. Once at the hollow they had immediately, under the direction of Mr. Beeze, attacked Madeleine by stoning, pummeling and kicking her. Knowing that if she died I would have no hope at all against this demon I diverted another part of my consciousness to Brimstone. He charged into the crowd of the people knocking them over like ten pins, bucking and kicking to keep them away from Madeleine.

Madeleine’s nude form was covered with dirt, saliva and blood: her breath came in racking gasps. Crimson froth stained her lips and nostrils.

My mind felt like two wedges had been driven into my mind as I staved off the Black Goat’s mental assault, controlled Brimstone and watched Madeleine sink towards death. A rasping baritone issued from her lips. “If the summoning cannot be… be finished, a blood … blood sacrifice of the Tsiah Tsiah,”

Time was of the essence since Brimstone was still occupied I sent my arms crawling along the hollow’s grass towards Madeleine’s talisman. Beeze tried to stop them and grabbed one of the arms. I twisted it in his hands and latched the hard, finger bones into the soft, flabby flesh of his neck and squeezed. Choking he dropped back.

The other hand reached the talisman and dragged it towards Madeleine, tugging it through the meadow’s grass by its rawhide cord.

All the while the Black Goat’s psychic maw was munching on my soul, slowing sucking it down as if were a savory noodle. Picture a precipice jutting out over a sea of molten rock then imagine yourself dangling over the edge, hanging on only by one finger and you may have some idea of how I felt. The finger was weakening and I knew I was close to Atropos cutting my thread.

A high pitched shriek, a scream of rage and a thunderous bleat of fear sounded and suddenly I was free. The sudden release of my consciousness shook me and it took a few seconds for me to become aware of my senses.

Madeleine lay still with her eyes open, the talisman clutched to her bloody mouth.

Beeze and the townspeople were lying on the ground, rolling in the dirt like Shakers.

The Black Goat of the Woods and an animal attached to its neck. This animal was 14 feet tall with a large head, a lip less mouth, fangs and lid less red eyes. Its body was compact and it had scrawny clawed arms and webbed batwings and muscular hind legs that appeared to be shaped for leaping. It mouth was clamped onto the throat of the Goat, its claws sunk deep into the Black Goat’s hide. There was a loud gurgling as if gallons of water were being spilled.

The Black Goat bucked and capered in the hollow, knocking down trees and smashing to pulp several of its unwilling mates. It transformed shape several times in a frenzied, seemingly random fashion. Transforming into the black man, the black woman, the black mist, and shapes too bizarre and outré for the human mind to comprehend. Not even mine. Yet the monster held on throughout the shape changes and kept on sucking. Although it seemed only minutes their battle must have went on for hours for the sun began to rise.

The Black Goat transformed into mist and sank into the earth of the hollow yet the other demon held fast and prevented the mist from completely sinking into the Earth.

The sunlight touched the ebon mist and it began to shrink and harden. After the hollow was completely covered in sunlight, the sucking demon dropped the husk of the Black Goat. The goat-sucker let out a horrendous scream and scampered off into the woods, it belly swollen like a satiated tick.

Weeping like a child, Eric Beeze crawled over to the black object that the goat sucker had dropped and hugged it to his chest, wailing hysterically.

As if the events of the night had not been weird enough, the body of Madeleine suddenly sat up straight as it made deep retching sounds. A few droplets of blood fell out onto the grass but then a thick, ropy translucent jell poured from her nose and mouth. Once it hit the ground the slimy fluid turned into a thin, milky vapor which coalesced into the shape of a man. I saw a finely dressed young man of about twenty seven years of age with a Sheriff’s star on his lapel. He doffed his hat at me and the surviving residents of Shabby Rock, most of whom turned tail and ran screaming back towards their church.

With a slight smile the ghost of Henry Plummer shrugged. Turning towards me, he saw Beeze clutching the dark object and began to frantically gesture towards me, shouting something. Without a host he could no longer speak and I could not understand him.

It would not have mattered if I could understand him or not, since I could not have done anything about it. My energy was drained, I could not move my head much less my arms.

Five of the townspeople had not run screaming back into town, these were Mrs. Beeze, Jerome, the Reverend Jones and the Taylor brothers.

Watching Beeze clutch the dark object, which I could now see was a shimmering black statuette of a she-goat, they began to comprehend and remember what had transpired. Rage replaced horror. Ignoring me they rushed past and fell on him, pulling him away from the black statuette. Beeze was carried off down the road, thrashing and screaming in fury and grief as he went.

For most of the day I rested and waited for my splitting headache to fade away. For some reason the ghost of Henry Plummer kept me company. I wondered why he just did not go on about his spectral business. I made a point of ignoring him despite his frequent attempts to communicate with me through various combinations of hand and facial gestures.

After several hours I had gained enough strength to move my arms towards me. I called Brimstone over to where I was resting in the grass and created a small pillar of mental force that raised me up from the ground even with Brimstone’s saddle. My hands and I crawled over to the saddle and used a minute amount of mental force to adhere my skull and arms to the saddle. Even this small amount fatigued me and I knew it would be several days before I was back to full strength. I would not be able to maintain my illusion and traveling with my real appearance tends to cause problems.

The people of Shabby Rock knew what I really looked like now, so I decided to stay in town for a few more days. I was curious as to how they would deal with the aftermath of the Black Goat of the Woods. To my irritation the ghost of Henry Plummer walked beside my horse.

The human mind is a complex yet often delicate mechanism. Often when people are traumatized by something horrific they blank the incident from their mind. When they encounter something so beyond their realm of understanding that they cannot begin to comprehend it, they rationalize it into something they can deal with on concrete terms.

By the time that we had reached the remains of the Shabby Rocks Church the few remaining residents were already starting to remember things much differently than they had occurred.

Eric Beeze was standing on a wooden crate, a rope tied around his neck. The rope was attached to a tree limb.

Mrs. Beeze charged Mr. Beeze with willfully raping and murdering Madeleine Smalltooth, beating her to death with a braided rope. He was also charged with worshipping a demonic idol and inducing the town to worship the same idol through a combination of mesmerism and narcotics. The twenty remaining citizens of Shabby Rocks sentenced Beeze to death by hanging with the very rope that he had killed Madeleine Smalltooth.

Reverend Jones kicked the crate from underneath Eric Beeze feet. The portly former mayor slowly strangled to death.

The crowd then broke apart, drifting off to whatever remained of their homes. They ignored the ghost as if he was not there which was not too odd considering that they might not have seen him. However they also ignored me as if I was not there.

Reverend Jones walked towards the church and turned to look at me. He stared at me for a moment and then with a look of shame quickly whispered “Thank you” and hurried through the smashed oaken doors. I could see pile jagged and splintered wood just inside the doors. In their need to answer the call of the Black Goat’s Rut, they had used the pews as battering rams to break down the door.

I waited until daylight before deciding to move on. There was a crowd gathered around the tree where Eric Beeze had been hung. Ed Taylor lay on the ground, his face twisted in a frozen tableau of agonized death. There were thick rope burns around his neck. The body of Eric Beeze was no where to be seen.

As I passed by I heard one of them say… “was supposed to cut the body down. Now he’s dead and the body is gone.”

The ghost of Henry Plummer sat on the panniers containing my remains, he was gesticulating wildly and silently screaming at me. I had my handbones give him a shove off gesture which he ignored. Tired of the spastic ghost I thought of how I might be able to tell Plummer to be on his merry way to go to heaven or hell or just to haunt another mountain, so long as it was far from me. I summoned a crow which flew down and perched upon the top of my cavalry hat.

Finally, the crow said. “We have go get after Beeze, he still has the Rope and the idol.”

“I wish you luck with your quest, partner. Now shove off, I am not in the hero business nor am a freight company.”

The ghost frowned and the crow said, “It is not that simple we are stuck together. When your hand touched Madeleine’s dying body, my spectral form made a connection. We have to share your body for the time being.”

“For how long?”

Plummer grinned and the crow laughed. The crow said “Until we get the Rope away from Beeze and purify it in flame, releasing my blood and spirit. Besides with the Rope and the Idol he can do all sorts of mischief”

I cursed and had my hands crawl up Brimstone’s body and swat at the ghost who grinned mockingly.

Gritting my teeth, I accepted that for the moment, I had no other idea of how to get rid of him. I kept hoping that we would run across the body of Beeze as we rode down the mountain. No such luck. We did however find the body of the large goat sucking beastie. It lay on its back and its belly looked like a burst balloon. Unfortunately I did not see any signs of predation and wondered if it, like the Black Goat, had given birth to a bunch of little goat suckers.”

The crow screamed “Rest in piece, Shubacabra”

I took for granted that was the name of the dead monster.

“Are you sure Beeze is alive? How is he even alive, I saw him die?”

“It was the Rope, he is its current Custodian and it keeps him from harm.”

“You keep talking about the rope like it was some special rope.”

“It is. It is the rope of Iscariot.”

My dead heart sunk, knowing that even more weirdness was on the trail ahead.

Editor’s note:

You won’t find Shabby Rocks in any atlas it has long been deserted. It is not even one of the many ghost towns listed in any of the hundreds of Guidebooks for Montana. The only dwelling that remains to mark its existence is the granite shell of a Church whose interior was gutted by fire. The other homesteads were also apparently torched and knocked to the ground and eventually covered by the mountain’s foliage. There is no record of why the town was abandoned, although legends of a curse still linger in the area. Interestingly the name of the town does not appear to derive from a geographic or geological origin but is derived from an Indian word Shuba N’krath, meaning Fertile Mother, from the language of the long vanished Tsiah Tsiah people.

2006 Dennis E. Power All rights reserved.




All the material on these web pages or any other material relating to the character of El Head are copyrighted by Dennis E. Power
©1996-2009 Dennis E. Power. All Rights Reserved.
Concept of El Head ©1996 created by David Rush. All Rights Reserved.
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