Never burn down your bridges, Pappy used to say that. Well, I didn’t burn them down per se, just lit a few kegs of gunpowder under them. Turning in the saddle, I catch the billows of orange flame engulfing wooden frame buildings. The fire probably would spread, all that dry prairie grass. I brush my fingers against the locket grasped tightly in hand, jaw tightening with the action. Collateral damage for sure, but some sins can’t go unpunished, just like some wrongs can never be forgiven. My grip tightens on the locket, its florid ornamentation cutting into my skin. The metal is already stained red, inside and out.

Emitting a low whistle, I shift in the saddle. The smoke raises far into the sky, visible along with the glow against the darkness of night. They would see it in from town. No going back there; no, it being under the thumb of the Brownlow family–they wouldn’t forgive this. I spit off to the side while I brush my hand against the spot where Tom Brownlow had unloaded a slug. God, why couldn’t it have gone lower? Would have been the death of me, but better me to have been the one. I grimace and pull the hand away. The bandages were somewhat moist, but there was no time; I sure as heck don’t have a hankering for a quick drop and a short rope.

I face back to the west. No jury would convict me; heck, some people might even give me a star and a decent wage. Maybe that’s what I’ll do when I make it to Oregon. I flip open the locket; the photograph that had cost a pretty dollar brought forth something of a cross between a moan and sob. To the onlooker, it was ruined, stained with blood, which had dried and already showed signs browning. I press my lips together as they began to pucker and contort. As long as I can see her eyes still just as sharp as her wit, not–not as they were, the photograph would hold value.

I should stay and continue to pull out the venomous weed known as the house of Brownlow. My breaths grow ragged, and I lean forward in hopes of calming them, my head eventually resting against the mane of my gelding. Retribution… that’s what it would be. A series of hiccups shake my frame. No, it’s what I’ve done. I look back at the flames before meeting her eyes, so full of life. It would devour me, but it wouldn’t bring that spark back, never would bring it back.

I nudge the gelding forward. “Goin’ West,” I say aloud while I touch a strand of brown hair secured to the locket. “Don’t worry, Molly, we’ll go together…” A lump causes my voice to falter, leading me to close the locket before the waterworks can begin. “Just like we said we would.” Heck, Molly, I might even get that star, just for you.


Featured Image -- 592Words: 499

For this Tipsy Lit Prompted challenge, I opted to take a major set out of my comfort zone and write in first person. This is, I believe, only the second time post-college that I have wrote in first person as it is not my favorite approach. Additionally, I decide I explore the Western genre, which I’m kind of a sucker for, even if that love is not regularly shown compared to my love for speculative fiction.

This week’s challenge, for the curious, was to write a short story — 500 words or less — about endings and beginnings.


Published by smwright

Sarah Wright is the author of The Heritage Lost Series and several other works of speculative fiction. Professionally, she works as a staff writer and editor at a newspaper/magazine company. She enjoys interweaving her love of history into her writing, even in the most fantastic settings.

8 thoughts on “Retribution

  1. I really enjoyed how you got under the skin of the character, all his pain and his determination to “pull out the venomous weed known as the house of Brownlow” (which is a great phrase btw).

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