A Town Called Bastion
By Inkswitch

Chapter 09

Tobias eyes darted around nervously as he walked across the barricade that blocked Bastion's main road from the outside. While he was meant to be keeping a lookout for any creatures trying to attack the town, they weren't what had him on edge right now. Rather, his attention was focused on the donkey who was stationed at the barricade with him.
Ever since that mob had come after Anthony and himself, the young coyote had found himself in a perpetual state of nervous terror, constantly looking over his shoulder and subconsciously fingering the hammer of his six-shooter.
It didn't help that both Alice and Anthony weren't around. Alice would have scared off anyone trying to make trouble and Anthony would have… well, been Anthony. It was moments like this that Tobias realised how small he was compared to his friends.
At least Dirk was still around. He'd taken his new job of deputy with a grim determinism that had taken everyone – especially any would-be trouble makers – by complete surprise. If it hadn't been for him, Tobias doubted whether he would have been able to keep any semblance of order while Alice was gone.
Another surprise had come in the form Roxanne. The saloon owner, usually known for her easy-going spirit, had almost overnight started closing early and berating her customers into helping out with Bastion's defence. She'd also made sure that anyone caught giving Tobias or Anthony a hard time was made unwelcome at her saloon. Tobias suspected that this more than anything was the reason Bastion had remained mostly peaceful in Alice's absence.
He turned to look out over the barricade into the inky darkness of night. For a moment, he could have sworn he saw a pair of eyes watching him… He blinked and they were gone. Tobias shook his head. All this stress was getting to him. He turned around and left the lone sentinel to his duty. It was time to check in with Dirk.

Alice woke with a start. The stars were still shining brightly and the remnants of the fire were smouldering next to her. It was, some would say, an otherwise peaceful evening. So why was she so on edge?
She strained her ears for any sign of what had woken her up. Nothing but the gentle chirping of crickets. Alice shrugged. It must have been nothing. She was just about to go back to sleep when –
Her head snapped around at the sound of the snapping twig, eyes straining through the dark to try and locate its source. Nearby, Anthony was snoring peacefully, oblivious to the potential danger.
"Anthony," Alice hissed quietly. The zebra mumbled something incoherent and slowly opened his groggy eyes.
"Wha- what? Sheriff?" he mumbled.
"Get your gun ready," Alice whispered, cocking the hammer on her own revolver. This snapped Anthony out of his stupor and within seconds he had his weapon drawn. He opened his mouth to say something but was immediately silenced by a sharp gesture from Alice.
Anthony's skin crawled. His thoughts automatically turned to Tobias and what would happen if he didn't return. Anthony shook his head violently. No, he thought. He was not about to go out so soon. He adjusted his rifle and concentrated on the task at hand.

Benjamin Godfrey was not happy. There were many reasons for this. First: it was two in the morning. Second: he was still sober. Third: he was stuck on that goddamn jack-rabbit's wall, taking orders from her fairy of a deputy.
The donkey gritted his teeth. The worst of it was that he wouldn't even be able to get drunk when his shift was over. Even Roxanne – goddamn Roxanne! – had bought into all this nonsense of monsters. Now, a guy was lucky if he was able to prise a ginger ale out that bitch's paws without having his ear chewed off about "doing their part".
His glum ramblings were interrupted by a low growling on the other side of the barricade. He looked to see what was making the noise and nearly had a heart-attack on the spot. Standing there, so close that Ben could have hit it with the butt of his shotgun, were five of the ugliest creatures he had ever seen.
They looked like a bunch of bald dogs, their pale wrinkled skin almost glowing in the moonlight. And they were big, too. Ben guessed that they could easily reach the top of the barricade if they stood on their hind legs. 'Well I'll be damned," Ben thought to himself. 'That crazy rabbit was right."
Then, as he watched, another group of the beasts slunk into view, teeth bared and growling menacingly. Ben didn't dare take his eyes off of them. All of a sudden, a violent anger swelled up in Benjamin Godfrey. He thought about all the suffering he had been put through because of them – trapped in this godforsaken town for days on end, forced to put up with that queer coyote bossing him around, and – worst of all – no drinking!
All that farmland that was lost was probably also a concern, but Ben could not care less about some dirt-diggers and their precious cows. He had been forced to spend the last day and a half stone-cold sober and, by God, he was going to make those responsible pay.
"All right, you ugly sons-of-bitches," he screamed, taking careful aim. "Let's see how you like it!"

Two hours later and Tobias's six-shooter was thundering repeatedly in his hand, his shoulder screaming in agony from the kick-back. He squeezed the trigger and a pale beast went down, sickly-blue blood oozing out of the new hole in its chest. Another squeeze and another beast collapsed.
And yet they kept coming. God, thought Tobias desperately, how many of these wretched creatures were there? For every one he shot, two more seemed ready to take its place.
Right now, all that was left of Bastion's defences were himself, Dirk, and six others that they had managed to wake at the last minute. The rest had either been torn apart or had taken shelter inside the town hall. Tobias and the others were there now, haven been pushed back by the unrelenting onslaught of the beasts.
The sound of their guns was deafening. They'd looted some tables from the saloon while they fell back and had now arranged them in a circle around the town hall, a last-ditch effort to save whatever remained of Bastion's citizens.
Damn, he was out. He reached into his pocket, feeling around for some more bullets. He fumbled around for a second before the horrible truth finally dawned on him: he had used them all already.
"I'm out!" he cried as he sprinted from his table to Dirk's. "Dirk," Tobias begged desperately. "Please tell me you can spare some rounds…"
"Damn it, kid!" Dirk cursed as he emptied his shotgun into the face of an oncoming beast. He pulled out his own revolver and shoved it into Tobias' hands.
"That's all I have left," he said as he slid the last to shells into their barrels. "Don't miss!"
Tobias was about to resume shooting when a gargled shriek off to the side made him turn around. One of the beasts had leapt over the table and was busy tearing the throat of the elderly billy-goat who had previously been sheltering behind it. More of the creatures were moving toward this new gap in the makeshift barricade.
"They've broken through!" Tobias cried, fear beginning to take hold.
"We need to fall back inside the town hall!" Dirk yelled, yanking Tobias to his feet.
Another cry and Tobias saw two beasts overwhelm a young jackal only a little bit older than him. He felt the bile rise in his throat and forced it down with difficulty. He fired a shot at a nearby beast then turned to follow Dirk.
The two them held the doors open as the four remaining survivors sprinted in then slammed them close, sliding the heavy wooden bar into place. Luckily, the previous owner of this building had been paranoid about stock theft and had built the structure to withstand a runaway train.
Even so, the walls shook violently as the beasts repeatedly threw themselves against the walls. Their assault was relentless. For a brief moment, Tobias was terrified that they would actually succeed in breaking through. If they did, he thought, there'd be no stopping them.
And then… nothing. Without any sign or warning, the attacks stopped. No more crashing of bodies against wood, no more vicious growling. It was if the creatures had just suddenly vanished.
The silence that followed was somehow more terrifying than the sound of attacking beasts. For a long time, no one did anything, instead waiting nervously for the siege to begin anew.
After several painful minutes, Dirk got up and walked slowly towards the door.
"Careful, Dirk!" someone whispered. When he finally stood in front of the giant wooden doors, Dirk leaned forward and carefully put his ear against them, listening for any sign that their attackers were still out there. Nothing. Not so much as a snapping twig.
He grunted softly and hefted the heavy bar out of its rack. Making sure his shotgun was cocked and ready, he slowly pulled the doors open. Tobias followed him outside. The scene that lay before him was almost too horrible to comprehend.
The town glowed a soft orange from the many fires that had broken out during the fighting and the light helped illuminate a truly grisly picture. The streets were choked with bodies, both townsfolk and beast alike. Underfoot, the blood from the fallen had stained the sand a deep crimson.
Tobias shuffled slowly down Bastion's highway, the full reality of the last few hours numbing him to everything but the ground a few feet in front of him. Somehow, he found himself standing outside of Sheriff Alice's office. Or, rather, what was left of it.
The entire area had been consumed by fire and all that remained of the Sheriff's office was a charred husk. As Tobias stared at the smoking skeleton of what had been his life, the last few hours ran up and hit him right in the stomach. Trembling violently, Tobias fell to his knees and began to cry.

Alice was starting to panic now. At first, she had prayed that the first crack of gunfire was just a figment of her imagination. But as the air became increasingly full of distant gun shots, her heart dropped steadily into her stomach. There could be no doubt: Bastion, her home, was under attack.
And still she and Anthony were stuck where they had been five minutes ago – crouched around the fire, guns drawn, waiting for whatever it was that was stalking them in the dark. She could sense Anthony begin to fidget besides her.
"Sheriff," he whispered. "We have to get back to Bastion!"
"There's no way we could get there in time," Alice replied grimly. Anthony groaned quietly but otherwise said nothing.
Alice grunted and stood up. She was tired of this hiding. If there was something out there, she sure as hell wasn't going to stand here and wait for it. She motioned to Anthony to watch her back before moving slowly into the dark grass. She had just enough time to register the growling beside her when something heavy hit her in the head and darkness effulged her vision.