The rider wiped the sweat from his forehead in the hot midday sun, swore that it was the last time that he traveled those desolate roads, and spurred his horse. The old and weathered building was already in sight, an unusual oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert.
With a few yards to go, he gave the animal a break and dismounted. He walked the last stretch, taking the horse by the reins and tied it to the entrance of the lonely building, next to a trough with fresh water, in the shade of an eaves. He dusted off his baggy trousers, removed his Stetson hat, opened the swing doors, and entered the Jolly Molly Saloon.
He was greeted by Emmy Lou, the local madame, a plump-figured woman in her fifties.
“Howdy, stranger? Welcome to my place!”
Immediately the old automatic piano kicked into action and a Scott Joplin ragtime began to play. The bartender resumed cleaning his whiskey glasses with a bored expression. Several young women in gaudy and provocative lace dresses approached the newcomer.
The stranger made himself comfortable at the bar and motioned for the bartender to pour him a whiskey. The aforementioned obeyed in the same spiritless manner. The newcomer drank the whiskey in one gulp and ordered another, which he did not finish. He noted that the liquor was of moderate to poor quality.
Emmy Lou, like a bulldog, leaned closer, smiling.
“This is the first time we see you here, Mister… “
“Lancaster. George Lancaster. I’m not into wandering around. But I had to come to this place. How is everything?”
“We can’t complain. Now and then, a client like you arrives. Though it’s not the same as before. Fortunately, the Zeds don’t come here very often –there are many miles of scorching desert and they don’t like to walk a lot. They prefer to go to other more accessible places.”
“You seem to know them very well.”
“Sure I do. I spent four months locked up in Carson City in the middle of the chaos. It was a real mess, a massacre. Luckily, I was able to escape and get here, where I now take care of the girls. And where do you come from?”
“From a city similar to the one you know, but bigger.”
“I’ve never been to L. A. They say it’s very interesting. And more fun. Although here we have our thing.”
The woman waved her hand, snapped her fingers, and an old black man in a striped jacket appeared, sat at the piano and began to play “Let’s Do It” by Cole Porter. He began to sing in his worn voice; he was soon joined by several of the girls.
George Lancaster frowned, not overly impressed. He made a mental note: “lower the grade by two more points.”
Emmy Lou, who was turning into a real nuisance, approached him again.
“Are you thinking of spending the night here? We have a couple of rooms reserved for visitors like you. I can keep you company, if you don’t take offense. But if you prefer, there are also Jolene, Annabelle, Gertrude and Hannah.”
The lady pointed to the girls, who smiled revealing a multitude of rotten and never repaired teeth.
George Lancaster, better known as George Dimitriadis, Head of Quality Control at Digital Entertaining Enterprises, of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, turned and spoke into his wireless microphone in a low voice.
“Send the zombies. Every one of them. In half an hour. I want everything to be recorded in full detail.”
He tossed a fifty cent piece to the bartender, smiled at Emmy Lou, and left the Jolly Molly Saloon. He put on his hat, untied his horse, and climbed onto it. He began to ride at a steady pace, slowly but surely moving away from the site. He had almost half an hour to get to his extended-range Tesla Model S.
From above, a drone filmed the entire scene, while twenty more drones were on the way.
It was going to be an episode worth showing. That location was not a total loss.
Marcelo Medone (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1961) is a medical doctor, lyric tenor singer, painter, journalist, screenwriter, composer, poet and fiction writer. He has written poetry, stories, flash fiction, novels, plays, songs, scripts for short films and feature films. His fiction and poetry has been published or received awards in reviews and editions in various languages in 20 countries, in Latin America, USA, Canada, Spain, France and Australia. He currently lives in San Fernando, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.