Limited Business Hours

The conversations the locals brought into her bar over the past weeks only added to her unease. Annie had been closing earlier every night. 

 “Time, gentleman, please,” she declared again, her eyes shifting to the door. A regular at the bar, and a young pair in the back. Two she’d not seen before. Newcomers made Annie nervous. 

 This winter everyone about the frontier towns told the same tales. Of gangs arriving in midnight hours on the backs of brutalized automobiles. Or by packs of routing sled dogs fed on human detritus. Of the shrines that rose in the corners of the smaller hamlets decorated in harvested digits affixed on strings and necklaces of palms. All for deals sworn over human entrails to beings reawakened on the sun’s long and unaccomplished dying. 

 “You leave it any longer and youse are going to catch your death,” she cast a glare and dragged the breechloader shotgun from beneath the bar, her heart in her throat. That soon got all seats clear. 

 She patrolled the empty room and set the latches on each of the frost-clouded windows. Extinguished the wicks of table lamps, weapon in hand. A sound rose behind her from some darkened corner and stopped her dead before she locked the door. 

“That old smokewagon you got,” the regular spoke from the edge of his lips. She turned on her heel and saw in his hands a pair of dull handcuffs, painted black in ash out a hearth. “How quick do you think you can jam in another shell once you’ve fired?” 

From outside came the braying of hounds.

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