The Dead West

Ticked Off!

by James Pennington

The sandstorm kicked up pretty fast. There was enough daylight left to see it in the distance, but it was obvious we were going to have to find shelter from this storm. Jasper’s sharp eye spotted a hill not too far away that we may be able to get out of the brunt of the storm. We turned the party that way and discovered a building structure near the bottom of the hill. Upon getting closer, it was an abandoned mine, the Sullivan mine.

We rode up to the building. The wind was picking up and we probably had only about 15 minutes before the storm was on us. Jasper investigated an area that looked like a stable. I went through what looked like a front door. The front room was quiet, save for the wind. I opened the door to the adjoining room. It was a bunkroom, but something was very wrong. The beds had sheets, but there appeared to be blood on them, and some possible bone fragments. I heard Jasper made a commotion in the stable and retreated from the building to find him explaining that we were possibly looking at some sort of infestation, maybe prairie ticks. Nasty.

With the storm bearing down, however, we had little choice by to bring the horses inside the first main room and tie down the wagon. Jasper and I went through the bunkroom and into the adjoining room. We found what had to be a supply area. We find a box of dynamite which we pulled into the main room. We then took the 2nd door out of the bunkroom. Jasper told everyone else to stay in this room until we checked out the whole building. The door led into a dining area where there was rotted food still on the table. We continued into the large room and found a door that led to the stables. We opened the door to see a horse, slowly dying. It was obvious something was in its stomach, eating it away from the inside. It was bloated. Jasper put the animal out of its misery, but that appeared to anger whatever was inside the animal. There wasn’t much time. Soren came running at the sound of the gunshot as Jasper and I grabbed the legs of the animal and quickly dragged the carcass out the door of the stable. We then used kerosene to burn the carcass and the tick that was inside. It tried to escape but the fire killed it.

We re-entered the main room to find that the others were no longer there. Even though they were told not to go anywhere, the two women in the party ventured into the supply room. Apparently, Jasper startled Miss Sara who fired a shot into the wall in Jasper’s direction. We all assembled to discuss the situation. We still had a couple areas to explore and make sure they were safe. The group moved through rooms and ended up at the mine shaft with a pulley system that lowered people into the mine.

I heard a faint sound. It could not be what I thought, but then I remembered the bassinet in the dining area. It was the sound of a baby crying down in the shaft. There was no hesitation. The group went down into the mine.

Once inside the mine, we started moving toward the sound. A group of prairie ticks moved out of the darkness towards us and attacked. We finally defeated them, though Soren had been injured by a couple of them. He said he was fine and we continued onward. We came upon a large chamber. Again, the ticks moved toward us and attacked. Soren moved out and noticed the large queen type tick and started firing at it. Rowena moved quickly through the room and picked up the child as Soren finished off the queen. The rest of us finished off the other smaller ticks. Both Sara and myself had been ‘infected’ with a tick that was now latching on to our insides and starting to draw blood. We decided that staying in the mine was not a good idea and we would take care of issues once up in the mine. We retreated toward the lift, and were attacked one last time. We quickly took care of them and went up the lift. Soren was unconscious by this time from damage taken. Sara, not having enough castor oil for all of us, removed the tick from me through a bit of painful surgery with myself getting drunk enough to not feel it too badly. Soren and Sara used the oil to get the ticks out of them. By the time the storm had passed, I had awakened from my drunken state, still in a bit of pain, but okay. It was surely going to be a hell of a day ahead.

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