Father Enrico rode slowly next to the two strangers. He wasn't sure what their deal was, the young girl, Ally, walked with a limp and her face was bruised. She stayed close to the big Cavalryman, never far from him, though the girl seemed scared, almost withdrawn. She was the easy one to read. The Cavalryman though, he was another story. He loomed tall and hard, his face a stony mask. The revolver and hatchet on his hip looked well worn, he seemed a hard man. He'd seen men like him before, men born to war and bloodshed. Haunted men. Men he'd once left behind.
When they had ridden up on him by the riverbank, his hand still holding the smoking gun, they'd been wary. After all, you had to wary of everyone in this damned new world, and a preacher with a gun was no exception. He'd told them his story, or a version of it at least. He told them how he had left his parish to seek help from Desperation and that he'd found the old pistol as he fled the monsters. He left out the part about leaving his brothers, and his flock, to die. Lying was the least of the sins he'd committed this day.
The pair had agreed to travel to Desperation with him, the big man, Morgan, saying that they were better sticking together than traveling alone. Since they only had two horses, Morgan had dismounted and lead them by the tether. Enrico felt as if he'd aged a hundred years in the past day, the soreness seeping to his bones. He hadn't felt this old, this tired, since his days in the camp during the war. The only thing that was same though was the pain, the regret....and the failure. The failure was always the same.
Ally rode beside him, half asleep in the saddle. She'd shared a little of her story and the poor thing seemed to be beyond the limit of her endurance. Morgan just moved with a limitless resolve, never faster, never slower, just a steady pace. His eyes always scouting the horizon, always watching the trail for signs of recent travel. He seemed to take in every detail as he moved and Enrico could tell this man had been a scout at some point. Enrico wasn't sure what kind of a man he had been, but he had a feeling he would know before to long.
Morgan called for a stop as the river banked hard to the right. The right shore was mostly rock, a tall cliff overlooked the river. The sandy shoreline had thinned immensely as the river had picked up speed at the bend. They would have to lead the horses around the treacherous footing of the coast, the walls of the cliff to their back and the trail was just too narrow. Just around that corner though was Desperation, laying at the bottom of the cliff face, a grassy peninsula that met as another river flowed into this one. The opposite side of the cliff ran a soft ascent back up to the main road they had left behind earlier in the day and the access of both the road and the river had made Desperation a key stop on the trade route to and from old Mexico. No one was quite sure why the town had been called Desperation, though the name seemed quite appropriate now. It seemed like desperation was all they had left.
Morgan told them to make a small camp, warning them against starting a fire as it might bring unwanted attention. Enrico and Ally unsaddled the horses as Morgan scouted the bend on foot. A chill had fallen as Enrico looked to the sky. The dead sun had long since settled in the west and the moon was full and bright, though you could still feel the unrest in the air. He wasn't gone long before coming back. He placed a saddle blanket around Ally shoulders and offered the other to Enrico, who gladly took it. They settled down and broke out their meager rations before Enrico finally broke the silence.
"How does Desperation look?"
Morgan didn't say anything for a long while, instead taking a short pull from his water skin as he studied the dirt at his feet intently. When he finally looked up and spoke his eyes were hard, glinting with such intensity that they seemed to spark.
"The towns there all right, with the gate up. I can see lanterns and torches lighting the city. But the valley floor is covered in those things. Hundreds of undead monsters roaming outside, blocking our way."
Ally gasped and bundled herself under the blanket as Enrico looked down. He softly caressed his old rosary beads in one free hand and wondered what fresh hell awaited him now. He thought about turning and running right there, but where would he go, alone, low on ammo. With no friends, no family....no faith. It wasn't just him that God had forsaken, it was the whole damn world. Like it or not, his lot was with these two strangers for now. Enrico took his own swallow off the water skin, before speaking again.
"Then what do we do now?"
"Simple, for now we rest. In the morning we ride."
Enrico took one last look at the moon and let go of the rosary beads, his hand moving towards the pistol, rubbing the butt of the gun softly. Moving from his old faith, towards the only one he had left.
End of Line.