Mountain Bill said he saw them runn'n down the trail a ways. Four of them grab'n jugs of moonshine. Probably looking to drink some and sell some. Get money for that weed they like. Make'em crazy. Stupid they already is. When Dan heard he nearly flipped his kettle. Started wave'n his gun around say'n he's gonna shoot somebody. The man's got four hundred jugs in his shed, but he still kill his mama if she took a sip without pay'n.
I recognized one of the boys, Miller's son. Cursed with the ugly ass orange hair of his. Make him stick out like turd in a soup bowl. I think Clayton is his name. Clayton or Connor. Not sure. He tends to stick with the Irish. And the Irish stick among themselves. But I get along fine with Miller and wanted to let him know what his son had done. Let'm know Dan would be look'n for him and the other boys. I suspect they Irish too.
Miller live at the end of Smelter's Holler. About halfway up the mountain or so. He and ten other Irish families live among the pines near the old coal mine hole. I brought my gun and about ten shells, but if I be need'n it I won't make'n it home.
When I walked in Smelter's Holler I could see that somethin' was wrong. This one feller was covered in the pox. I know the disease can kill out a holler in a couple days, but never seen it this close before. Man opened his mouth and it had all gone black. Not a tooth in sight. He let out this scream that made me think of hell. Before I knew what I was do'in my shotgun had blasted his head off his shoulders.
Then they came.
I saw about ten of them, staggering around, covered in something that smelled like the devil himself. Same pox, same black mouth. I recognized one them as Miller. His eyes all gone dead. White as a fish's underbelly. Damn pox got'm all. Whole holler infected.
I reloaded, tried to step back into the woods, but they's on me pretty quick. I shot one woman with long black hair, stale blood covered her face and in her hand I swear to god she had a half eaten arm of a child. The buckshot knocked her back a good twenty feet. Hit in the belly. Even though she was nearly in two she still came at me just the same.
When Miller swiped at me I dropped the shell I had in my hand and hit'm in the face with the stock. It staggered him, but he kept a com'n. Soon there were three. I turned and ran. I'm not a light footed fellow at all and can't tell you how I did it, but when I reached the bottom of the mountain, I dropped to the ground think'n my heart was gonna explode.
There was Dan, with his dogs and his boys. Ready to charge up there and get his payment in blood. I warned him. Warned long ago. His stuff was the only stuff that could stop the pox. Charge'n people like he did was wrong. People was dy'n and changing. It weren't right. Before I could say much, Dan had his boys light the torches and they headed up. Gonna cleanse the holler.
My chest was still ach'n. I put my hand on my heart and that's when I seen it. A part of the old boy's skull in my arm. Never even felt it. I plucked it out, it felt like chalk, crumbled to dust between my fingers. Now as I see it I gots two choices. Head down to Dan's shed, shot the boys he's got guard'n, probably get myself killed. Or go home, get one last meal. Say good-bye to Blue, make sure the neighbor I'll take care of him. Then go walk'n in the woods. Take care business myself. Not gonna let Dan burn me.
I can't say I'll miss it all that much.