The story so far:
Amidst all of the blood and the horror, the strangest thing happened deep inside my soul. I couldn't explain it if I tried, but I had peace. I thought about my wife and children - our fulfilling lives before - and the emptiness now. I remembered the day we met, our first date, our wedding day and night, and both nights in the delivery room at the hospital.
I remembered the day we moved to this quiet village with the quiet people. I remembered having to get used to the grocery selection, and the five-o'clock curfew for the few small businesses. I thought about hours of conversation with the neighbors, the mailman, the milkman, and the newspaper boy.
And even though I knew that a terror awaited them all, inside I felt calmly assured that this beast, this monster, this "Preacher" could do anything he wanted, but he couldn't take away their beauty. I had a wave of serenity that washed over me, and cleansed me from my past and from my present. I raised my head and looked into the darkness of his eyes.
"No, I'll be holding on to this picture even if you eat my ****. What have I got to lose?"
Harsh laughter filled the bar but it didn't come from the Preacher. We both turned to look in the direction of the back door. There, in full uniform, stood three-star General Jonathan Treize. His M-16 aimed at the preacher. The Preacher grinned yellow and red.
"Excuse me, Preacher, for interrupting your dinner," Treize said in his grizzled way. "But I thought you might like some dessert."
The Preacher's grin was short-lived as the M-16 roared and ping'd sending a slug into his black-robed shoulder. He staggered backward several steps and then righted himself. The grin returned.
"Please, sir, may I have another?" he mused sarcastically and then coughed. He coughed again and the expression on his face slowly changed from disdain to concern. As he pointed his finger at Treize his shoulder began to smoulder with wisps of brown smoke. The stench of it made me gag.
"How?" coughed the preacher.
"How did I know?" Treize smiled. "Or how did I make these silver rounds?"
With that the Preacher snarled like a rabid dog. His hat flew off of him as his entire head elongated into a snout. His ears and fangs grew to three times their normal size. Treize fired again but missed as the creature hopped up onto the bar. The third shot missed as the creature sprang off of the bar and bounded for the front door.
I moved away as I found myself in the line of fire. Trieze ran forward toward the bar as the creature opened the front door. Instead of firing some more, Treize grabbed a bottle and toasted the heap of flesh that was once our friend.
"Here's to you, buddy." he said to Gareth, and then to me, "Duck." Treize blew a whistle and disappeared behind the bar.
The creature snarled and took a step outside. I ducked just in time, as the bullets from six more M-16's tore through him faster than a unripened habanero through a sphincter.
The firing stopped. Treize came around the bar and helped me up off of the floor. We walked to the doorway and Treize nodded to the six old-timers that came to attention as he approached. We all gazed at the creature who lay writhing before us. Just before he turned back into whatever man he once was, he gurgled some final word that escaped us.
"What'd he say," I asked Treize.
Treize just shrugged his shoulders and took another swig from the bottle. I was just about to breathe the heaviest sigh of relief when we heard the sound. One howl and then another and another and another. There were so many they sounded as one.
"You got another rifle, General?"