The Horseman By: RJ Newlyn


The Horseman

By: RJ Newlyn


Trying to escape the relentlessly pestering dead, I left the mountains and set off across those wide flat plains, staggering blind-drunk between nameless trading stations. But the ghosts persisted, albeit less often human. Herds of shadowy buffalo drifted in bewilderment through the high cornfields, searching for the rolling prairies they once knew. And obscure native gods – raven- and eagle-headed men – danced around sentinel grain silos, whistling out impotent war cries.

One moonless night, unable to sleep with all that clamouring, I drew my blue-flaming knife, hoping to make a clean end to it. A sheet of deeper darkness streamed out, splitting the air, and all eyes were suddenly turned to me, expectant and pleading. But my courage failed and I sheathed it again, embarrassed and ashamed.

The next day I staggered into a roadside church and knelt before the preacher in desperation. To prove my point, I shot a bullet clear through my head into the opposite wall.

“Please help me,” I whispered.

He fled in terror, of course, and I was left alone at the altar. But the morning sun cast down a beam of light through one of the high windows and I managed to sleep a little.


Why in God’s name did they have to die?

Black rage twisted my gut as I strode along the dirt road – the tawdry frontier town ahead, shimmering in the heat. I caressed the handle of Death’s knife beneath my coat.

They were kind people who’d taken me in from the roadside, sobered me up, fed and clothed me. They were young and hopeful, planning a family. All they did was ride off for groceries. But these are wild and unpitying lands.

The killers were lounging carelessly outside the bar but the laughter faded as their gunshots hammered me without effect. I drew the knife and a strip of lightless screaming Hell engulfed them. Intoxicated, I held the beam there until even the ghosts of their victims were begging me to have mercy.

I was left with bones at my feet and the terror of the townsfolk. Death may have run from me before but I knew that he would not stand for this. Sick-green clouds were already beginning to gather over the prairie and the dust was rising. I yelled at the people to run for their lives and they’d heard enough brimstone sermons to understand.

I waited for him.


The church was the first to go as Death roared past, wrapped in a whirlwind of dust and flame. One minute it was there, silhouetted against the dying light, the next it was flying splinters, its huge iron cross hurtling down the street to bury itself in the brothel wall. The rest of the town was blasted asunder as he bore down on me in fury, but I met that onslaught with icy calm and the ground shook as his blow fell aside.

Then we were locked in a desperate struggle, each one seeking the other’s weakness. Sweeping across the plains, we collided with the mountain peaks beyond, tearing out landslides, cracking glaciers, ripping up forests until we tumbled down again into strange, twisted deserts.

He stood above me in the moonlight and I shook my head, exhausted, waiting for the end. But then with a sound like falling sand, I found myself surrounded by the ghosts that had gathered in my wake, all those he had snatched before their time. He did not stand a chance.

His pale horse bowed its head as I mounted. Wrapping the storm around me, I rode off into the darkness, trailing Hell behind.

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