Sweet Providence.

rating: +18+x

« It's Good to Touch the Green, Green Grass of Home || Save My Soul ||

The night was still, save for the occasional lizard skittering through the shrubbery. It wasn't usually this quiet alongside the Rio Grande, but nightfall brought along with it a sort of calming effect, forcing people back into their homes or shelters for the long night's rest.

The corpse next to the river's bank lay there, limp and unmoving like most corpses ought to be. A skink came up to the body, eyeing its decomposing fingers as a potential late-night snack. Before it could stuff the body's thumb into its mouth it heard a noise coming from a nearby bush and skittered away.

Nothing else disturbed the body that night.

The following night was the same as before. The Rio's waters were still, nothing except for the small critters of the night were about, and the body still laid there, with its tattered European coat. It seemed that, unlike the night prior, nothing of note would occur. No lizard would crawl over to try and take a bite from the dead man, no vulture would swoop down to claim the body as its own, no coyote would find it during its—

There was movement from the corpse.

A small twitch. It wasn't much, but it was movement nonetheless. One of the man's fingers, on the same hand as the thumb that the skink had tried to eat, twitched. Something that corpses were not supposed to do.

The body did not move for the rest of the night. Perhaps it had been a fluke, an unseen creature scurrying underneath the man's hand and moving it in the process. That must have been it. That had to be it.

The third night was much of the same. No rushing water, no animals, no passing boats and certainly no movement from the bod—

Its hand moved. The cadaver dug its nails into the loose dirt, trying to find something to hold on to. After a bit of weakly clawing into the ground, it fell limp again, falling back down onto the ground as though it had never moved before.

The fourth night the body tried using the same arm to push itself up to no avail.

The fifth night the body used its other arm as well. It managed to get a few inches off the ground but buckled under its own weight. A sound escaped from the man's mouth, almost like a muffled scream.

The sixth and seventh nights the body got accustomed to its legs, wiggling its toes and bending its knees to get a sense of where they were.

The eighth night, the body used its legs and arms to get up from the ground. It managed to stand up for just a moment on wobbly legs before collapsing once more to the ground. After a moment of laying on the floor in defeat, the corpse hit the dirt with its fist, angry at itself and at the world.

The ninth night the body began to slowly pull itself towards the water's edge. Perhaps to refresh itself, or to drown itself, freeing it from this torture.

It reached the water's edge on the tenth night. Slowly, but surely, it cupped its rotten hands and scooped up some water, bringing it to its chapped lips for a sip. It spent the rest of the tenth night doing this, each handful of water seemingly bringing some colour to its ragged face. It almost seemed relieved, savouring the feeling of water going down its dry throat. As the sun rose, it fell limp at the riverbank, its forearms still submerged under the river's surface.

On the eleventh night, the body, with what seemed to be reinvigorated strength, began to rise from the river's bank, quicker than it had before. It managed to stay standing for a few seconds, before falling. It managed to land on one knee, holding itself up with a decomposing arm. After a moment, it rose back up and stood, waiting to see if it fall once more. After ensuring it had the strength to stand, it began to limp towards its tattered coat on the ground.

The body grabbed the coat and slowly put it on, checking the pockets for its revolvers. Surely enough, there they were. Dirtied, but still there. Its stiff demeanour seemed to soften a bit as it felt the revolvers, the cold metal of their barrels offering it some relief.

The body stood there for a bit, looking out on the river it had laid next to. It thought back to what had happened, why it was here, who had put it here. That bird. It remembered now. It had been sent on a damn mission, by that damn Consortium, to deal with that damn bird that man had stolen.

As dim moonlight shined down on the vast desert, Elias Everest began his journey, walking with vengeance on his mind.

The postman scrubbed the grime off his counter, left by a man coming for his mail. Working at a postal office, especially one out here in the West, was an interesting job, with… curious people, to put it kindly. He just wished those people knew how to wash themselves. The postal office had closed just when the sun vanished below the horizon, but the postman was usually up till the late hours of the night cleaning the dirt and mud that his patrons would track.

As he got on his knees to scrub a muddy footprint away, he heard the door to the building open. He sighed. A late pickup. They weren't uncommon, but they were never this late. Or this smelly.

"Take off your shoes, would you? Been scrubbing this floor for too long for someone to just show up and dirty it all up."

The postman groaned as he got up, walking behind his counter. As he bent down to grab the remaining mail from the day, he heard the patron sit down at the counter.

"Mind tellin' me your name? So I can find your mail?"

"You know damn well who I am, Cole," responded the man. Cole scratched his mind, trying to pin a name to the voice. It sounded familiar, alright, but something about it felt… Wrong. He stood back up to get a look at the patron, and-

"Oh my lord! Elias! You're—!"

"Dead? Yeah, already heard it from everyone else in town, Thereven. Don't need it from you too."

Cole stood there for a moment, in complete shock at the person in front of him. Last he had heard of Elias, he was seen dead by a passing ship on the Rio Grande. Yet, right in front of him - decomposing and rotting - was Elias.

"But I thought you had died… Heard that your body was laying next to the river. How are you… Alive?"

"Your guess's as good as mine. Thought I was dead too, but seems like I thought wrong. Any news from HQ? 'Bout the warrant?"

"Um, Pebbler seems to have returned to his home, and we're keeping close eyes on him. I know that Al Fine was writing an obituary for you and that Be—"

"I don't give a rat's ass about what they're doing. The bird. What's gone on with the bird?"

"Last I heard, Pebbler had let the bird go somewhere out there in Mexico."

"Shit…" Elias looked down at his damaged coat. It was dirtied and filled with holes from his encounter with the bird. It had barely kept him warm on his walk back to town, not that he had felt it.

"Did, uh, did HQ want that coat back?" asked Cole.

Elias laughed, shaking his head. "Doubt they'd want it back now. That bird messed it up good. Real good."

Before Cole could ask another question, the door to the post office flew open, slamming against the wall next to it.

From outside, three figures entered the office.

"Detective agency. Sorry for bargin' in like that, we're following a case."

The first one to talk was a woman, slightly shorter than Cole. Her long, pitch-black hair was put up into a messy bun, which was threatening to come undone at any moment. She proudly displayed a shiny silver revolver on her belt. A piece of cloth she wore on her shoulders hid her arms, with her hands covered by black gloves.

"We were directed here to you by some of the other townspeople, Mr. Thereven."

The second one was a tall, somewhat lanky man. He had long shaggy brown hair which perfectly framed his soft face. Heavy eyebags gave him a sad sort of look. The muted and dark colors of his suit didn't help with this.

"Was hoping we could ask you two fine gentlemen some questions."

The third man was a bit shorter than the second one. He had short black hair and some stubble. He carried himself with a vague air of self-importance and held a smug look on his face. He had one hand in his pocket, where he was playing with what seemed to be a deck of cards.

"What type of detectives wait till the dead of night to ask questions?" asked Elias.

"We were only just told about the case and it's best that we close it up as soon as possible," responded the brunette.

"Mhmm… What even is the case?"

"Heard rumour of a walking corpse."

Cole stiffened up at that, sweat beginning to drip down his face. The woman, picking up on this, turned to him with a slight smile.

"Know something about that, Mr. Thereven?"

"N-No, Miss… umm…"

She slowly walked across the room to the counter, keeping her eyes on Cole the whole time. She rested her arms on the countertop, leaning forward towards Cole.

"Darke. But you can just call me Iris."

"Ms. I-Iris, I wouldn't really know anything about that. Just, erm, spooked me a bit. You know, what with that rotting disease further out west. Wouldn't want that spreading out here, hah…"

Iris eyed him with some suspicion, before nodding and turning to Elias. She flashed him the same smile she had given Cole before jumping up onto a stool.

"What of you, sir?"

Elias shrugged.

"Heard some talk about it, but people only started gossiping 'bout it today. Surprised it got to your agency this quickly."

The black-haired man shrugged at Elias, mocking how he had done so a moment ago. "Just found us some good gossipers, is all. Ears to the ground and all that."

"Y'all don't look like you're from around here, either. How you three get here so quickly too?"

The brunette let out a small laugh, sitting at the stool on the other end of Elias'. "We got our Ways of getting around."

"Anybody say where the corpse was heading?" interjected the black-haired man. He had taken out the deck of cards and had begun playing with them, shuffling and reshuffling them.

"Nah, just that they say it shambling 'bout near that river."

"Interesting," said Iris. She held up her hand and began examining her nails, digging out the dirt from underneath them. "Heard from the people at the saloon that they saw it heading this-a-way. To the post. Said it was wearing a shitty-looking coat too."

She paused, looking Elias up and down.

"Kinda like yours, I'd reckon."

The air grew tense with this last remark as the five people in the room stared each other down. Cole tried to stealthily inch into the backroom, but a glare from both Elias and Iris stopped him in his tracks.

Elias rested his hand on his revolver as he opened his mouth.

"I'm not quite sure what you're implying with that, Ms. Darke."

"I think you know exactly what I'm trying to say."

Elias suddenly stood up and pulled out his gun, pressing down on the trigger. Before he could fully press down on the trigger, the three detectives pulled out their own guns and shot at him. One bullet hit his wrist, knocking the rusty revolver out of his hand. Another bullet hit his right knee, knocking him to the ground. The final bullet went straight through his skull, splattering rotten gray matter on the counter behind him.

Cole screamed and ducked down behind the counter, covering his mouth with his hand. He had just watched a dead man die. He almost vomited, both from the scene he had just witnessed and the smell of the gases escaping Elias' body.

"Come on out, Cole," called out Iris. "Promise we won't hurt cha."

"We already got the corpse we came here for. Just need to make sure you're alright, buddy."

Cole shuddered, whispering a small prayer underneath his breath. He closed his eyes and slowly got up, holding his hands up. He turned around to face the three detectives.

When he opened his eyes, Cole was met by the barrel of a gun.

"Sorry, buddy. Can't be leaving no witnesses."

He closed his eyes and braced himself.


Cole breathed in and…

He was still alive.

He slowly opened his eyes. The barrel was no longer in front of him. He saw the black-haired man on the floor, laying in a pool of blood. A decomposing hand was coming out of Elias' coat, holding a smoking gun.

"Shit, Robby!" The brunette ran over to the bleeding man - Robby, it seemed - and got down on his knees to check on him.

Elias reached up and grabbed the side of the counter, pulling himself up with some effort. He almost fell back down when he stood on the knee that got shot but managed to balance himself. A tentacle came out of his coat and grabbed his revolver, placing it in his good hand. The hole in his head was visible from where Cole stood. He could see Iris staring down at Elias.

Elias checked the chamber of his revolver before pointing it at Iris.

"You wanna try that again?"

Iris grabbed the grip of her revolver, pulling it up to match Elias'. It wavered in the air for a bit before she cursed and threw it on the ground. She took a moment to calm herself before reaching down and grabbing her gun.

"Let's get out of here, Skit."

"But Rob-"

"Look at him, Skit. He's gone. We need to leave."

Iris put her revolver back in her holster and mumbled something under her breath. She walked over to where Skit was kneeling over Robby and yanked him up, pushing him towards the door. She looked down at Robby's body for a bit before following Skit outside.

"A… are we going to follow them?" asked Cole.

Elias shook his head as he slumped against the counter, sliding down to the ground.

"Too tired for that… Let them go. Chances are they were just a bunch of kids sticking their noses where they weren't supposed to. What harm could they cause?"

Cole hesitantly stepped out from behind the counter and to where Robby's body lay on the ground. He slightly nudged it with his foot, causing a card to come out from the man's pockets. He reached down and picked it up, his eyes widening when he saw the name.

"What's the problem, Cole?"

Cole handed Elias the card.




"God fucking-"

On the twelfth night, Elias Everest angered the three wealthiest criminals in the West.

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