(This is a short story created in collaboration with my newsletter subscribers. I provided the first paragraph, and they submitted proposals for each following paragraph. I selected the following paragraphs from among the submissions, reserving the liberty to make minor edits, and placed the name of the submitter whose paragraph was chosen. We’re still looking for a title.)


The clouds in the summer sky burned in the red-orange rage of a dispossessed sun crashing below the horizon. The dark hills–recumbent silhouette–shielded the landscape from the final fury of the sinking disk. Seven riders passed along a narrow trail away from the shadow and into the flat expanse separating them from the village. Sharp noses and the harsh lines of many campaigns marked their faces. Neither kindness, mercy, nor remorse found place in the experience etched in their features.

Across the plain, a warm breeze carried the lingering scent of suppers long-eaten and the murmur of people and livestock settling down for the night. Only a few windows still flickered with candlelight, and no sentries were posted. The villagers drifted toward slumber, unaware of the storm rolling toward them on horseback. By the time the seven reached the village, every hearth was cold and every window was dark, save one. (Michael B.)

Sitting by his lamp, the old gunman sipped his coffee–strong, bitter and black as death. His weathered face showed the track of miles on horseback, worn but with eyes as sharp as blue sapphires. Strong hands with long fingers, like a pianist–hands that played symphonies of death. Razor sharp knives, a Sharps .44 rifle and a well oiled Colt 45, rested on a table with a small silver locket. He picked up the locket and gazed upon the face of a native woman. She was lovely, with an enigmatic smile and large expressive eyes. His face softened briefly and then, closing the locket, grew grim. “You died too young and I wasn’t there for you.” Rising, he donned his gun belt and grasped his Colt. He checked the cylinder and slipped it smoothly into his holster. He sheathed the knives into his boots and under his arms. Grasping the buffalo rifle with its sling of cartridges, he blew out the light and walked through the back door. (Budd T.)

Revenge tore at his heart and soul as he headed to the barn. He recalled the rumors passed on by the traveling peddler about a group of rough looking men asking about him in another town. Were they the men who had taken the love of his life? He had not forgotten his vow that he would find them before he died. (Emily H.)