Jan 29, 2013
Anthony Elmore

TerribleMinds Flash Fiction Challenge – Choose Your Motif

Justice has come to Terriblminds.com, and a Hellstorm follows at its heels. This week’s challenge was to choose a motif, a subgenre, and a setting. I’ve  always wanted to write a cowboy story, so hunker by the campfire and listen to the tale of Frost’s Hellstorm.

The Sherriff’s posse chased Frost as far as Lindsey’s hell, through the Fang Canyons and the into deepest chambers of Sinner’s Cave. The chase ended at the abandoned Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

Without thinking Frost ran inside the funhouse. Too tired to run, soul tapped of all will.

“Richard Frost, In the name of Nevada Sector Colonial Marshals, come out with your hands up,” Sheriff Blaze bellowed through the dormant barrel at the exit.

Frost ducked behind a curved mirror at the sound of the Sherriff’s voice. A layer of dust covered the concaved mirror. On the walls the dayglow images of contorted clowns were dulled by age. “I’d like to discuss terms of negotiations,” Frost yelled back.

“Negotiations?” Blaze’s nicotine tarred voice answered. “You killed two of my deputies. The only negotiations that will occur is between us and the caretaker.”

“I swear on my life. I shot the deputies in self-defense. They had been extorting homesteaders and dishonoring men’s wives and daughters.”

“There’s an old Earth song about that situation. Honestly, I don’t care a blessed damn if you’re innocent. I’m sick of this chase. Sick of you.”

Frost found a thin slit between the mirrors and viewed Sherriff Blaze. Deathly thin, build of rebar. Face darkened and wrinkled like a dry riverbed.

A band of frightening words shot through the barrel – Burn it down.

Fear bolted up Frost’s spine. He backed into the maze, bouncing from wall to wall, hoping for an exit. Through the thin walls, he heard a whoosh as something caught fire. He found the end of the maze to meet a  distorted room. Its angles all wrong, tall where it should be short and its perspectives either too wide or too near. He dashed for the odd jagged framed door and the room shifted to the right. He fell against the padded wall. He ran up the incline and the floor shifted left and he stumbled into the left wall. An odor snaked into his nostrils – smoke.

He crawled along the wall to the jagged door threw it open. A ten foot gangplank was suspended over a fake cliff. He walked toward the middle, but the gangplank dipped and swung wildly.

A mocking laughter barreled through the funhouse. “We found the power switch to this place,” Sherriff Blaze said. “You’re in for some fun.”

“Go to Hell, Sherriff,” Frost bellowed.

Frost dashed across the buckling gangplank and entered a room painted with wild flames. He faced the Devil. The plaster devil’s face was as tall as the room and in its mouth, a doorway. Eye’s yellow like a cats and white curved horns caked with dust, it cackled like a buzzard. Dust shook from its flames and red lights illuminated his face.

This is where I belong, Frost thought. He’d never been a good Christian, but he knew the righteous path was narrow and hedged with thornbush. No better than a raider, the Sherriff’s tin star was a blasphemy is the sight of God and Justice.

Hell. Nevada Colony.

The toil hardened settlers deserved better. Damned to a near barren world resistant to the seeds they planted, but through back breaking effort, people were fed.

Be damned if he was going to lie here and let the Sherriff bleed them dry.

He rose and stared the Devil in the face. On his right side, fire chewed through the wall and soon the walls would be true flames. He ran through the Devil’s mouth and into the spinning barrel at the exit.

The Sherriff, two deputies and a couple of off-world mercs stood at exit. “Finally came to reason,” the Sherriff growled. The posse chucked rifles and pistol hammers clicked.

He would die. Frost accepted the notion and was at peace. The Sherriff knew that his crimes would not go unchallenged. Soon others would stand up to him, like fronts of cold and heat, joining together to make a –

The ground rumbled and the posse jostled on their feet. A blood red cloud formed in the sky, issuing bolts of pink-white lightning. “Hellstorm!” bellowed one of the mercs. Among the banes Nevada hosted, the Hellstorms were the most despised, admired. The confluence of arctic cold, desert heat and equatorial volcanic gasses, they often occurred in the wastes. No one forgot when a Hellstorm landed on a settlement.

The Sherriff spat. “We finish this, then we run for cover.” The mercs fled as the ground under them darkened as the Hellstorm closed on them.

Frost laughed and stumbled through the spinning barrel, and stepped out of the funhouse. “Take me in Sherriff.” He outstretched his arms. “I surrender.”

A pink-white lightning bolt touched the ground behind the Sherriff, setting the two deputies ablaze.  Only the Sherriff and the Frost remained and the deputies flailed like drunken mummers. Lightning hit the old Ferris wheel, and it slowly spun like a fiery mandala.

The Sherriff leveled his gun at Frost’s head. “You self-righteous bastard. So we take a little extra in exchange for our protection. You think we’re the worst. Do you think you can protect them?”

“Look above you. Fire is raining from the sky. The day of judgment has come,” Frost said.

“Enough!”

The Sheriff’s finger closed around the trigger, and Frost closed his eyes. An explosion rocked the ground as a bolt hit the funhouse. The gun fired and a bullet caressed Frost’s cheek as charred wood rained on them. Seizing the opportunity, he kicked the Sheriff in the gut, and then elbowed him in the jaw. The Sherriff fell onto his back.

Frost grabbed the Sherriff’s star and tore it from his lapel. Frost and Blaze’s eyes met, enmity thick between them.

Frost escaped to the wastes, evading the Sherriff for the last time. He looked back at the burning Miracle Strip as the Hellstorm dredged onward.

At that moment, his chase had ended. At their next meeting, Frost would summon the wrath of the Hellstorm, and rain Judgment on the Sherriff.

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