It was too late.
I don’t know what killed the man, but whatever it was, the dog was terrified of it.
The dog had lost the power of speech due to his fear. His mannerisms and actions, however, told us something was amiss.
I left the Spencer at home and took after the dog with my own hounds and the Colts on my hips. It didn’t take long to get out to the pasture beyond the older orchard, and it was there we found the dead man.
He lay on his side in that mockery of sleep. Some would have believed him alive.
I knew better.
There was a curious stink about the body, and the mute dog, once he pointed out the dead man, slunk back to stand with my hounds.
I drew the Colts, thumbed back the hammers and watched with growing disgust as something crawled beneath the man’s skin and clothes. Close to his collar, the flesh tore open, and a single eye blinked and fixed its gaze upon me.
I didn’t wait.
The Colts roared and took the man’s head off at his shoulders, a geyser of black ichor spraying up and coating the body. Something insect-like tore free, and then it was followed by four more.
They were damned fast and cut corners back toward me with the speed of racing dogs. I heard them chitter to one another, and as one raised up to direct its companions, I put a round through its carapace.
The violence of the slug tearing the creature apart caused its colleagues to pause, and that was all I needed.
My Colts thundered, and I cut the little bastards down.
They were tenacious, though. One of them, despite being legless, dragged himself toward me. I saw a thin blade in his hand and heard the hatred in his voice.
Raising the Colt, I blew his head off his shoulders.
I can respect a creature that tries to kill until its last breath.
Hell, it’s how my father raised me.
I dragged the corpses to the body of the man, piled them up and then found a good bit of kindling.
With the dogs around me, I set fire to the dead.
There are worse ways to start a day and better.
But I didn’t mind this at all.