A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... Everything...
Outside the cell, Deputy Richter was asleep; feet propped up on his desk, his shotgun lay next to them. On the floor, Richter’s tail slowly swept the floor in time with his snoring. At the center of its arc, the tail passed within arm’s length of the holding cell. Lake watched the tail until he was sure its movement was smooth and consistent, then he glanced at his prize: the keys on Richter’s belt.
He turned to Tom Putnam. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” The shopkeeper rubbed his palms together, careful to do so quietly.
“All right then.” Lake knelt so that his knees filled the spaces between three bars. He looked over his shoulder at Tom. “Let’s do it.”
Putman stood over Lake, bent at the waist, and wrapped his arms around the deputy’s chest.
Lake slipped his arms through the bars, careful to avoid touching them, and lowered his hands to within six inches of the ground. “We get one shot at this. You ready?”
Tom swallowed hard, his voice reduced to a whisper. “Ready.”
Lake gave a single nod and locked in on the patch of floor between his hands. The world around him fell away until a square foot of floor, his hands, and the scaly tail passing between them every seven seconds was Lake’s entire universe.
OK, there it went. Three more passes and I go for it.
There’s the first one.
There’s the second.
And…now! No, wait! Two more passes, then we go.
Not this one.
Lake’s hands stabbed at the passing tail...and found a perfect grip.
With all their strength, Lake and Tom Putnam threw themselves backward, Lake holding the tail, Putnam holding Lake. Both men fell on their backsides near the back wall of the cell, but the deputy’s grip remained strong. Richter was wrenched from his chair. He sailed the short distance to the cell and crashed against the bars.
In the cell, Lake scrambled for the bars, kicking Tom Putnam’s legs and stomach in his haste. Richter sat holding the back of his head. Lake slid to the bars on his knees, straddling the tail. He ripped the keys from Richter’s belt, then reached around and pulled the deputy’s revolver from its holster. Lake stood up, pinned the now thrashing tail under his boot, and reached around the lock, key in hand. “Let’s go!”
Tom Putnam got to his feet, hopped Richter’s tail and dashed for the door. Lake had it unlocked and held it wide open for Tom to pass. Putnam ran for the office door as Lake slammed the cell door on the pursuing tail. Richter shrieked, or the tail did, and Lake ran for the front door.
Tom yanked on the knob, but the office door was locked. He looked to Lake, who waved him away from the door. “Look out! Look out!” Tom leaped to one side as Lake fumbled with the keys.
His head throbbing, Richter got his legs under him, and pushed himself to his feet.
Lake rammed the office door key home and cranked the lock. He yanked the door open and waved Tom through it. “Go!”
Tom Putnam nodded and stepped in front of Lake. There was a blast from behind and the shopkeeper’s heart splattered across Lake’s shirt. Lake looked from the four-inch hole in Tom Putnam’s torso to the shopkeeper’s eyes and found bewilderment. Tom collapsed face down.
Richter stood behind his desk, cruel mouth in a sneer. He giggled and pumped the shotgun.
Lake raised the revolver and emptied it into Richter’s face and chest. He stood for moment, then lowered the gun, and threw up all over Tom Putnam’s body.
Grady O’Halloran’s pearl eyes caught the glint of light from the roof of the post office. He twisted his body with an audible grind of bones and arced toward the flash.
On the roof, Grady saw the light again, this time from round the chimney. He pulled his rusty revolver and stalked to its nearest corner. Dr. Bullshank and Mr. Johansson sprung from the other side and seized him, one at each arm. They dragged him away from the chimney. The doctor’s magnifying glass lay shattered at its base.
“Now, Mr. Muggs!”
The hulking stable master stepped from round the other side of the chimney holding Avery Cobb’s typewriter aloft. O’Halloran’s white eyes went wide. He wrenched his right arm free and elbowed Johansson in the stomach with surprising strength. The slim undertaker doubled up and fell over. Grady shoved his gun into Bullshank’s face. Before O’Halloran could fire, the doctor released Grady’s arm and twisted away in a spasm of panic. The bullet struck Bullshank in the back of his left shoulder and he spun into a heap on the roof.
Muggs bellowed and rushed at O’Halloran. Grady leveled the revolver. Muggs gasped and lowered the typewriter to chest level. The bullet entered the machine between G and H and rattled the typewriter out of Muggs’s hands.
O’Halloran smiled and cocked the single action for another shot, but Johansson pounced. He grabbed Grady’s wrist and tried to pry the gun free, but the ancient man’s grip was too strong. O’Halloran’s breath almost knocked Johansson down, but it was a head butt from Grady that did the job. The dazed undertaker rolled to his back, placing his heart squarely in O’Halloran’s sights.
A large ebony hand gripped Grady’s chin, another the back of his head. The hands flew in opposite directions in one severe motion. Grady O’Halloran dropped to his knees, then to his face; his neck reduced to bony gravel. The new wings draped over each arm, already withering.
Johansson’s vision cleared. Muggs stood over him, staring at the palms of his own great hands, a single tear rolling down each cheek. His voice was a deep croak of grief. “What’d I do, Mr. Johansson?
The undertaker checked his forehead for blood as he got to his feet. “What you had to, Mr. Muggs. Only what you had to.”
Johansson staggered to the fallen doctor. Muggs didn’t move.
The black tornado of magic twisted into a wisp and was gone. There was a moment of absolutely stillness in Serenity. It was the only time Raven shuddered.
A round chasm thirty yards wide yawned in place of the black tornado. Raven leaned forward from her position on the ground, but couldn’t see its bottom. Elizabeth Brynne traced her big toe along the massive hole’s rim and sauntered over to Raven and Boxer. “Anything you’d like to say? A farewell? A greeting, perhaps?”
Raven looked at the dirt, then up. When she spoke, she faced Brynne, but her eyes were locked on Boxer. “It is better to rule in hell than to serve in Heaven. I think I read that somewhere once.”
Elizabeth Brynne smiled. “I quite agree.”
Raven nodded at Boxer, but now looked at Brynne. “What about those who serve in hell?”
Brynne followed Raven’s nod. “Oh, him?” She sidled up to Boxer and dribbled a fingertip over his lips. “He’s a good puppy. He knows his place. Don’t you, puppy?”
Boxer smiled, but it melted as soon as she turned away. Elizabeth Brynne returned to the lip of the chasm and knelt. Boxer looked to Raven and rage welled behind his eyes.
She was smiling at him.
The knocking on the door was loud and rapid. Harriet Putnam and Elsa Benjamin crept close to it. “Who…who’s there?”
“It’s Deputy Lake, Mrs. Putman, open the door please.” The woman exchanged a glance. “Please, it’s important.”
Harriet Putman stepped forward and unlocked the door. She jerked it open and hopped back to Elsa’s side. Deputy Lake stepped inside and locked the door. He turned into the room and his mouth fell open when he saw the schoolteacher. “Elsa! What’re you doing here?”
She ran to his chest. “I didn’t want to be alone.”
Lake wrapped his arms around Elsa’s shoulders, but he was looking at Harriet. “Just as well. I don’t think I would have had time to come see you before it happened.”
Elsa looked at the flaky blood on her fingers, then up at Lake. “Before what happened?”
Lake held her at arm’s length and stepped to Harriet. “Mrs. Putnam, I don’t know how much longer any of us has left, but I have to tell you something and I wanted it to come from me. It’s about Tom.”
Elizabeth Brynne screeched something in a language that made Raven’s ears hurt. There was a rumble that sounded so deep in the earth Raven wondered if it came from the other side of the globe. All too quickly, the rumble grew louder. And closer.
Brynne, spinning with glee, tip toed to Boxer. “Dance with me. Dance with me to welcome Them.”
Boxer took a step back and nosed his gun at Raven. “Shouldn’t I keep an eye on her?”
Brynne dismissed Raven with a wave, “They’ll get her sooner or later. They know I want to watch. I won’t miss anything.”
Boxer grinned. “You mean we won’t miss anything.”
Brynne cocked an eyebrow, then cackled in his face. She grabbed Boxer’s arms and started a waltz. Boxer moved with the motivation of a marionette.
The rumble from the pit grew louder all the time and there were now distant screams and wails mixed with the steady hum of approaching Armageddon. Raven thought about running, she wanted to run, but she pulled herself to the edge of the pit on her belly instead. Raven closed her eyes, pushed her head over the lip of the chasm, and looked.
She could see movement.
All over Serenity, groups were huddled and prayers were said. Few had any idea what was happening in Town Square, but all knew they hadn’t long to live. The rumble and roar pressed at their eardrums and rattled their bones. No one thought of fleeing. It was too late for that.
On the roof of the post office, three men gathered round the chimney. Dr. Bullshank looked at his wrapped shoulder and snorted a blast of laughter. He’d never seen anything more pointless.
Johansson felt a tug at his shirt. He looked down at Muggs kneeling beside him. “You think I’m goin’nuh hell fo’ what I done?”
The undertaker got to one knee and placed his hands on the other man’s shoulders. “Wherever we end up, Mr. Muggs, it will be my honor to go there with a man like you.”
A claw appeared in the darkness, then a wing, when a horn. They were huge. Raven scrambled away from the chasm, thinking for the first time, for the only time, that all was lost.
I love you, Lili.
Boxer, now a willing waltzer, favored Elizabeth Brynne with a smile. “So, the town will be mine when They come, yes? Like you promised?”
She kissed his chin. “Of course, for the few seconds it stands.” She giggled and pecked his nose. “Silly puppy.”
“That,” Boxer cocked his gun, “is what I thought.”
The first shot ripped into where only Richter, O’Halloran and McCallum had been since The One Elizabeth Brynne took human form. She screamed. Blood bathed them both.
Boxer stepped back. The second shot pierced her right nipple, the third shot her left. Elizabeth Brynne spun to the ground and landed on her back, spread-eagle.
Boxer advanced, expressionless. The forth bullet splashed Brynne’s navel. The fifth shredded her larynx, snaring her final scream in the air. Boxer straddled her hips and cocked the gun for the last time. “This town is mine.”
The sixth shot turned her skull into a jagged crater. Brynne was dead. Now there were None.
The wails and screams from the pit were cacophonous. A red scaly arm the size of a birch tree crested the rim of the chasm and dug into the earth near Raven’s feet. Boxer holstered his gun and picked up Elizabeth Brynne’s remains. He pressed her over his head and hurled the body into the chasm.
“This is my town!”
Elizabeth Brynne’s body tumbled into the pit and burst into purple flame. The flame ensnared the things ringing the chasm and pulled them down, back to the depths. Back where they belonged.
The wails in the great hole turned to those of anguish and despair as the chasm closed in on itself. In far less time than had taken to dig, the pit in Serenity Town Square rushed to meet itself and was no more.
Raven pulled herself from the dust and tottered toward Boxer. He greeted her with a broad grin. The marshal drew his gun, twirled it round his finger and holstered it. “Looks like you were right. Surprised?”
“No.” Raven snatched the derringer from inside her shirt and blasted Boxer in the chest.
He dropped to his knees, eyes wide. His mouth hanging open, Boxer’s lips could only vaguely frame the word. “Why?”
“Because Serenity belongs to them.” Raven cocked the gun
The second shot stopped his heart. Marshal Aloysius Boxer flopped backward into the dust and was still.
Three months later...
“And so, it gives me great pleasure to dedicate the brand new Serenity Hotel and Betting Parlor!”
Mayor Brubaker smashed the champagne bottle on the corner of the building to great applause. Hired hands pulled the cord and the tarp fell away from the façade. Over the ornate entrance was a simple sign.
Art & Carrie’s Place
In later years, townspeople would shorten the name to one word, “Artncarries.” But, for these citizens, those who knew what the name meant, the words were always pronounced with precision and respect. (Art and Carrie died back in Season One, Episodes 7 & 8: "Fire" ~ the ed.)
There was a ribbon strung across the double doors. Brubaker held a pair of oversized scissors aloft. “And now I’d like to ask our new marshal to cut the ribbon, officially opening our new hotel for business. Marshal?”
Stu Lake stepped forward, took the scissors and clipped the scissors without ceremony. He would be Serenity Town Marshal for the rest of his days.
The second round of applause faded. The crowd started to pulse toward the door, but Brubaker held up his hands. “Just a minute folks. Before we all go in and take a look, I understand the proprietor has something to say.”
Seamus McCallum appeared on the front steps of the hotel, his head still lightly bandaged where the horns had fallen out. He cleared his throat, his voice laced with a tremor. “I was a terrible preacher. I wasn’t a real preacher at all, in fact. You all know that now. You also know I gave back all the money I stole from you for the chance to run this place for the town. Gambling and hotel rooms are things I know a lot about.” He touched his wounded head. “Maybe too much. I just want to thank you all for this chance. I hope to do right by you.”
After the smattering of applause for McCallum, Mayor Brubaker declared Art & Carrie’s Place open and the crowd surged inside. When he noticed Raven Clark keeping her place to one side of the crowd, Marshal Lake let everyone pass him at the door. Once everyone was inside, he met her in the street. “About that time?”
“Yep.” She nodded, rocking back on her heels, hands in her pockets. She wore the trousers she’d had on the day she met Nolan Paige. (wa-ay back in Season One, Episode One - remember? ~ the ed.)
Lake glanced at the pants and smiled. “I never did get used to those.”
She tapped his arm with her elbow. “You were pretty busy.”
“Heh, I reckon I was.” He peered at her from under his brim. “Help you pack?”
She kicked a pebble at him. “Sure.”
Most of the packing had been done for days, but Raven threw some essentials into a satchel. Lake sat on the bed. “Are you sure you won’t reconsider?”
She flipped him a look. “Haven’t we been over this?”
He put up his hands in surrender. “I know, I know. Just thought I’d make real sure.” He twirled his hat in his hands. “You’d make a great mayor, y’know.”
“What? You would. Branson’s not even going to stand for it again. We’d just vote you right in.”
“Come on.” She pegged him with a barrette. “Do I seem like the mayor type?”
“Naw.” He tossed it back to her. “I guess not.”
Raven flipped the barrette into her bag and closed it. She glanced out the window at the cemetery beside the church. There were new graves for Bump Richter, Tom Putnam and, finally, Grady O’Halloran. Away from the other graves, under a tree, was a simple tombstone. Raven had written the epitaph.
It read: Boxer. Never Again.
Raven shook her thoughts away and picked up the bag. Lake was on his feet, her suitcase in hand. “Ready?”
She glanced around the room one last time. “Ready.”
Raven locked the Serenity Star office door for the final time and turned to Lake, but he was gone. She glanced around, the key still in her hand at waist height. “Stu?” Raven stepped down the lopsided steps to the street. She gasped when she saw them.
The population of Serenity filled Town Square. At the heart of the crowd was a stagecoach, Raven’s suitcase already packed on top. Marshal Lake stood at the front of the crowd, smiling.
Above the crowd, a painted banner spanned two poles across the entire square. Its message was as simple as it was clear.
Thank You Raven!
She walked toward them, her eyes clouding with tears. As she drew closer, Marshal Lake began to clap. There wasn’t a shout or a cheer, but by the time Raven reached the crowd, every citizen of Serenity was applauding her. She stopped in front of Lake and put her head on his shoulder. The new marshal, a little teary himself, wrapped his arms around Raven in the warmest hug she’d ever known.
Lake took Raven’s satchel. The crowd passed it to the coach driver as Raven wiped the tears and hair from her face. “I have no idea what to say.”
The crowd laughed. First time for everything.
Mayor Brubaker stood nearby, but it was Mr. Johansson who stepped forward and spoke for the town. “We didn’t want you to leave without knowing how we feel about you.”
Raven sniffled and put her fist to her mouth. “Ok…”
The gaunt undertaker took her other hand. “Miss Clark, you saved us. Without you, we’d never have known what was happening to us, let alone found a way to escape it. We owe you our lives, our memories, we owe you everything, and we know there is no way we could ever adequately repay you.”
“I dunno,” Raven laid her hand over his. “This is pretty good.”
“Still,” Marshal Lake stepped forward. “We’d like to try.”
He held out a small box. Raven took it in both hands and opened it carefully. There was a small bundle inside. Johansson took the box from Raven as she removed the cloth. Inside was a weathered old pocket watch, the cover charred, the bottom scratched.
Lake spoke, but Raven was already crying. “It was Art’s. They found it while they were building the new place. Some folks thought we should gild it for you, but I thought you would want to have it that way.”
Raven nodded, and hugged him. “Yes. It’s wonderful.”
Lake squeezed her tight and whispered in Raven’s ear. “You can give it to Lili someday.”
She kissed him on the cheek and pressed her forehead to his. “Take care of them.”
“I will.” He stepped back and smiled. “Now git.”
Raven looked into Lake’s eyes and mouthed the words good-bye. He gave her a single nod.
“Show you to your couch, Miss Clark?”
Raven looked up at Muggs, the newly minted star on his chest caught the sunlight from every angle. “It would by my pleasure, Deputy Muggs.”
Muggs lead Raven through the crowd; she waved several good-byes along the way. The hulking deputy opened the stagecoach door and she climbed aboard.
With a last look at Marshal Lake, who clutched Elsa Benjamin to his hip, Raven Clark called out to the driver and left the town of Serenity behind her. She was asleep before the coach crossed the town limits.
Raven Clark would return to Serenity just one time.
To save it again.
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Serenity is copyright by Jason Chirevas. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)