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Embers swirled through the hot wind as the town of Sepulcher burned. Out on in the street, two men stood at twenty paces, surrounded by Perdition’s flames come early. Their eyes were locked as the second hand inched its way toward twelve o'clock. Soon, the deadly feud would be settled, only the quickest draw left alive.


A sound like thunder rocked the gunslingers. They watched as the clock tower leaned out over the street, the giant hands coming loose and spearing the ground below. Old beams splintered, flames licked the sky, and the tower crashed down into a smoldering heap. Through the billowing smoke and ash, one gunslinger called out to the other, “Looks like noon’s going to be late!”


The other took a long look at the inferno and sighed. “Maybe this has gone far enough,” he said. “What say we set our differences aside? No sense both of us getting killed over it.”


“How ‘bout you set that Schofield aside, then we’ll worry about our differences.”


At the count of three, both men tossed their revolvers and met in the middle, looking for a way out. “There,” one of them, pointing to the saloon. Through the smoke, daylight shone through an open back door, left ajar by a terrified barkeep as he ran for his life. If they hurried, they might make it through before the whole place came down.


On the steps of the Pied Pony, one of the cowboys stumbled, gripping his chest. Blood stained his shirt, and he died with a confused look twisting his features. His old enemy stood with a similar expression, almost too shocked to realize that he'd been shot too. Moments later, both men were sprawled out for the buzzards.


Gunshots continued to ring out as the fire heated the ammunition in their discarded weapons, sending bullets ricocheting throughout the burning ruins of Sepulcher. In the hills above, the townsfolk shook their heads, ashamed of the stubborn old cowboys still going at it in the streets while their homes burned.


Copyright (c) 2015 Robert Esckelson

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