I’m Looking for Blue Eyes by Matt Wall
Subgenre: Magical Realism
Google Trending Prompt: National Pretzel Day
She rode her horse across the last of the wide open desert as she approached the town in the distance. Her face was dirty and her hair was tangled and matted. There was a time when she tried to make herself look like a man, but those days were long gone. There was also a time when she dolled herself up to look like a woman, those days were even farther behind her.
She could feel the caked on dust on her teeth and the grime under her nails was the deepest that she could remember. Her throat was dry, she hadn’t had water in days. She tried not to think about it, but when she saw the well in the center of town, off in the distance, her thirst rose and her tongue seemed to swell up in her mouth, sticking to the roof. She was cautious. She didn’t want to seem too eager. If this was a trap, she wanted to be prepared. If it wasn’t a trap, she didn’t want to seem weak in front of whatever townspeople saw her.
A heavy breeze, the first one she had felt in weeks, blew towards her and knocked her dirty hat off, to hang around her neck at the string. She closed her eyes, only briefly, to enjoy the coolness of the wind on her sweaty skin. She took a deep breath, exhaled, almost smiled, then got off her horse, just a few steps from the well.
She cranked the bucket up and was elated to find it full of water. She pulled it close and drank from it mercilessly, splashing herself in the face as she did. She rubbed wet hands all over her face and the front and back of her neck. She did this not to remove the dirt from her travels but to just cool off. The cracks in lips stung now. Fatigue was finally allowed to slowly set in.
“Are you a lady?” said a tiny voice.
She looked to her right and saw a small boy squinting at her with the sunlight in his face.
“Does it matter?” she asked in return.
“Gosh, I guess not.” The boy motioned for her to pass the bucket to him.
“Drink up, kid.” She turned her back to the well and leaned up against it. “Where are we?”
“Fabulism?” She tilted her head questioningly. “Never heard of it.”
“That don’t matter. You’re here, aren’t ya?” The kid chuckled.
She attempted to chuckle back, but didn’t have the strength for it. “I guess I am.”
With great effort, she got herself up, dusting off the shirt she wore that at one time was a vibrant red and grabbed the horses reigns. She looked for a trough, but the boy beat her to it and pointed the way before she could ask. The boy’s eyes grew large. She knew what he was looking at.
“Don’t you go trying to grab at it.”
“I won’t,” the boy said. “I know you don’t touch another man’s…I mean person’s, revolver.”
She placed her hand on the turquoise encrusted grip, keeping it out of view of the boy’s lustful eyes. She tied the horse to the post at the trough, and asked, “Where is everybody?”
“What do you mean?” the kid asked.
“You’re the only person I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
“Well, it’s hot out and most people are probably trying to keep cool.”
She nodded. “Okay, kid. Where’s the saloon?”
“It’s right there.” He pointed just a few feet away. “I wouldn’t go in there though if I were you.”
“And why not?” She looked at him disapprovingly.
“Because every time someone new shows up and goes in there, they end up dead.”
“Well then, thank you for looking after my safety.”
The boy smiled. “You’re welcome.”
“Let me ask you a question then. If you can answer it, then maybe I won’t need to go into the saloon.” She knelt down to be at his level. “Have you seen a man come through here, probably in the last few days? They call him Blue Eyes.”
“Blue Eyes?” His voice shook.
“Yes.” She squinted her eyes slightly, trying to read the boy’s face. “His eyes, their blue like mine, but they are brighter and clearer than mine or any eyes that you’ve ever seen. Anybody that sees him, knows those eyes and never forgets them. There’s nothing like them in the world. Do you understand?”
The boy nodded.
“All right then, think hard, have you seen him?”
The boy stood completely still, eyes locked with hers. Suddenly, he looked down at his feet, sucked his lower lip in his mouth and shook his head in the negative.
She sighed. “Fair enough. Can you keep an eye on my horse?”
He looked up, his face told the story of how he knew he disappointed her. He forced a grin and nodded.
“Good boy.” She messed up his hair, worse than it was, stood up straight and walked into the saloon.
The doors creaked as she swung them open. Her boot heels clicked on the rickety floor boards as she walked in. The place looked like music should be playing, but there was none. It looked like games of cards should be taking place, but again, there was none. There were a few people in there. Dusty ol’ outlaw types. Long dusters, big mustaches. Dirty, scruffy men, drinking whiskey. Their heads turned towards her as she walked in. The fat bartender looked too as he pretended to clean a dirty glass with a dirtier rag.
One of the grizzly outlaws spoke up, “Either that silhouette of a cowboy has child bearing hips, or that there be a woman!”
She walked to the bar, looking down the line of men, and said, “These hips work just fine for holding up my guns and that’s all these hips do. Get that straight.” She fingered her turquoise grip. “Get me a whiskey, barkeep.”
“Would you like a pretzel?” he asked.
“It’s National Pretzel Day.”
“I don’t care.”
“It’s free.” He smiled and his jowls swung back and forth.
“I said, no!”
The bartender did what she said while the men laughed and guffawed. “Listen here, little lady, Fabulism ain’t a town for pretty girls to play tough guy so…”
Before he could finish his sentence, she pulled her revolver, shoved the barrel into the man’s mouth, with the hammer pulled back, breaking his front teeth in the process. “Now, you listen to me.” With her free hand, she drank down the whiskey that the bartender poured. “I’m looking for Blue Eyes. Has anyone seen him?”
The men at the bar, including the bartender, had their hands up nervously. They all met eyes with each other and shook their heads. The man with the gun in his mouth, whined and drooled blood down his chin.
“Barkeep?” she shouted.
After jumping in fright, he answered, “Yes, miss?”
He slowly handed it to her. She pulled her gun back, pieces of teeth fell on the bar, and she wiped the barrel off before holstering. “This man will pay for my drink since he bled all over my revolver.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the bartender.
She turned her back, knowing what would happen next, almost relishing it with anticipation as she headed to the swinging doors. The sound gave it away. Their heavy asses sliding off the stools, the hammers of their pieces cocking. She counted to three in her head and then dove to the left, knocking over a small round table hide behind, just as the air filled the explosions of gunshots. The men unloaded rounds into the table and it splintered relentlessly, but not a single piece of lead or wood hit the female gunslinger.
She quickly got to her feet, leveling her gun and spinning around, all in one fluid movement. She fired three quick shots. Blue flame escaped from the end of her barrel as hot lead darted away and into the chests of the men at the bar.
The bartender stood in total fear, shaking, sweating, his eyes ready to pop out of his head. They were the only two standing. His palms were so wet that he almost dropped the scattergun he held. She clenched her jaw and gritted her teeth. Her eyelids narrowed.
“No. No. Please,” the bartender begged. Slowly, as if he were fighting it, he turned the double barrels of the gun under his wobbly chins. “Please!” With a simple tug of his finger, his head exploded and painted the mirror behind the bar red and pink.
She walked to the bar, stepping over the corpses on the floor and finished their drinks for them.
The boy was sitting on the edge of the trough and sighed in relief when she walked out of the double doors. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“What happened to them in there?”
She shook her head.
The boy smiled, then frowned, then smiled again. “I guess that’s okay.”
“I figure so.” She studied his movements. She made a guess. “They can’t hurt you now.”
He looked down to his swinging feet. “I know.”
“So now, you can tell me what I need to know.”
He squeezed his eyes shut tightly. “What do you want to know?”
“Have you seen Blue Eyes?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’ve seen him.”
At his words her body reacted as if the air had been forced out of her lungs. “Where?”
“I saw him a couple days ago. He came here asking questions. I think he was looking for you.”
“He probably was.” Her voice changed and now had an immediacy to it. “Where was he going? Did he say?”
“Well, he went in there, like you did. But it ended different.”
She swallowed hard. Her throat felt as dry as it did when she came into town. “Is he…”
“They took him away. He’s probably in the jail.”
“The jail? Was he hurt at all?”
“I don’t think he was hurt bad. He was kinda walking with them. Not that he wanted to.”
She looked around. “Where’s the jail.”
“I’ll show ya, but if the sheriff comes out, I’m running.”
“That’s okay. I don’t want to put you in any danger. You just stay behind me.”
He led her down the street the best he could as he hid behind her, nudging her to the left. Soon, she was able to tell which building it was.
“You can run off now.”
“No. It’s okay. I feel safer with you.”
“All right, but if I have to go inside there, I want you to go hide until I come back out.”
He nodded again.
Before she could get up the steps to the jailhouse, the door opened and a tall, slender man, very clean, dressed in black walked out. The only thing that was cleaner than his appearance was the star he wore on his coat.
“Howdy, ma’am.” He chewed on a toothpick. “How can I help you?” The emphasis that he put on certain words made her skin crawl.
“I’m looking for Blue Eyes.”
The sheriff smiled and nodded. He moved the toothpick to the other side of his mouth with his tongue. “I wish I could help you…”
She cut him off. “I got to find him!”
“Now, hold yer horsies there, little lady.”
“I don’t have time for this.” She grabbed her gun by the grip, but didn’t take it out.
“Who told you that I would know anything about anyone?” he grinned. “Was it little Billy? It was, wasn’t it.”
She reached her other hand behind her, feeing for the boy, but to her relief, no one was there.
“Billy likes to tell stories.” He leaned up on the post holding up the awning. “Billy has quite the imagination. He also likes to play with people. Ain’t that right, Billy?” He looked passed her.
Feeling it was a trap, she didn’t want to take her eyes off of the sheriff, but quickly drew her gun, leveled at him, and turned sideways so she could glance behind her. She looked and just a few yards away, the little boy stood.
The sheriff laughed and said, “Don’t point that thing at me, darlin’. That won’t help you at all out of this one.” He grabbed the toothpick, laughing, and turned and walked back into the jailhouse.
She turned to Billy, “What’s he talking about?”
Billy held his stomach like he was about to be sick. He moaned loudly in pain. His arms quickly dropped to his sides and as they did, they transformed into large, thick, growing tentacles. His shirt and pants ripped apart as his body multiplied in size until he was nearly as large as the buildings around them. The crunching of his bones breaking echoed down the dirt road. His skin changed to grey. His face bent and contorted. His eyes turned a deep, dark black and his head grew into a point. A shrieking roar came out of what once the kid’s mouth.
Her jaw dropped. The color fled from her face.
Tentacles slammed on the ground, raising dust and the creature rampaged toward her. In shock, she slowly turned the gun on the beast, but a wild swing from a tentacle knocked it from her grasp. The silver revolver with the turquoise grip sparkled in the sunlight as it flew behind some barrels on the other side of the street.
She rolled out of the way, just in time as the marauding menace stampeded by her. It screamed in frustration. It spun around, tentacles flailing, more tentacles than she originally thought. It picked up speed and chased after her, sending up more dust into the air.
She ran and dove into the alley next to the jailhouse. There was so much dust that had been kicked up, not only was she unable to see across the street, but she couldn’t even see the street itself! The sound of the thing that was once the little boy could be heard, it’s tentacles slapping the earth, it’s cries of anger, but she couldn’t see it. Even though the beast was now larger than the building she was next to, the creature was hidden in the cloud of dust. Then, something caught her eye…
It wasn’t the creature, it was something much more beautiful than that. It was the blue gleam of the turquoise grip on her gun. It was only about ten feet away from her. Could she reach it? Could she get to it before that monstrosity found her?
She held her breath and ran for the gleam, she stretched out her arm and suddenly the wind was knocked out of her as the impact of a tentacle hit her, launching her more than a hundred feet away. She may have gone farther, but the outer wall of a now busted building stopped her.
She was dizzy. She felt like she was waking up from a horrible dream. An awful sound filled her ears. What was it? Where was it coming from?
Suddenly the roof of the building she lay in was ripped from the walls around her and the suction of the vortex cleared the dust for only a second, but it was long enough for her to look into the glowing black eyes of evil incarnate. It looked down at her and screamed. Multiple tentacles shot up in the air. She knew they would be coming down upon her quickly. She lift her hand up and to her surprise, was holding her revolver. She had only three of the blue bullets left.
They had to count.
The sheriff sat at his desk with his feet up. “Woooo-weeee! That sounds like a barn burner out there!” The door flew open and startled the sheriff who choked on his toothpick. He tried to get to his feet, but she walked in before he could. She was covered head to toe in a black viscus liquid. She didn’t even look at him. She raised her hand up in his direction and his body, as if by magic, was lifted forcibly towards the ceiling, which hid head hit, cracking and breaking his neck.
She stopped and looked in the small cell. She couldn’t believe it. Tears filled her eyes.
“Blue Eyes? Is that you?”
The body of a man slowly turned over. He looked towards her.
The man’s face was covered in dried blood. It was swollen. He was injured and injured very badly. But as soon as he opened his eyes, she knew it was him. It was Blue Eyes.
She ran to the cell and pulled the door open with no trouble. She hugged him tightly and cried. “I never thought I would see you again!”
“Jessi? Is it really you?”
“It is!” She held his face and stared into his crystal blue eyes. Beautiful lights and stars swirled around in them. “We can finally go home.”
“It’s been so long.”
She kissed him. They laughed through their tears and she pulled out a knife from her pocket. She smiled and stuck the blade of the knife carefully underneath his eyeball and popped it out into her other hand. She quickly did the same with the other eye. Blue smoke and mist bellowed out of his eye sockets and he shriveled up into a strange little lizard type creature and crawled up her shirt and rested on her shoulder.
With an eyeball in each hand, with the blue facing the blue, she slowly had the eyes meet and in a puff of blue smoke and flash of light they were gone. They were finally on their way home.