Quarterly Contest Winner: A Gothic Western

Time to announce the winner of last month’s Twisted Fiction Quarterly Contest! This was the big one! Our top entry earned a 100 dollar Amazon Gift card!

We’d like to thank everyone who entered. We had some very creative entries, but we’d like to offer a quick tip. Our contests are about working creatively within limits.We give everyone the same writing prompt to use as their starting point and we judge all the entries based on how creatively they work with that prompt. If you do not use the given writing prompt we will not consider your entry. It would not be fair to the contestants who did follow directions and who tried hard to come up with new ideas using the given guidelines. This is especially important to keep in mind for our paid contests. We do not want anyone to pay an entry fee for a entry that does not count.

On a more positive note, we’d like to congratulate Johnathon Jones for his latest win. He created a vivid story using the writing prompt that was both well-written and creative. When we first considered during a Gothic Western contest we were excited to see what people would come up with and we were not disappointed! Thank you for writing with us Jonathon! Read his winning story below:

Write a story in the style of a traditional Victorian Gothic novel, combining elements from both romance and horror. Make sure to build up a mystery that includes elements of the supernatural or the fantastic. For added twist, trade the location from the gloomy castles and manor homes of England for the America’s untamed, wild west.

First Place

A Gothic Western
By Jonathon Jones

As the stagecoach Adele had chartered neared her destination, she observed the little town. In the middle of the main street were two saloons, each staring at its counterpart across the road. On the right side of the stagecoach was the McClellan, painted a faded blue, and on the left was the Manassas, painted a dreary grey. The buildings on the McClellan side were the same blue, and the buildings on the Manassas side were painted the same grey. Adele could see men with scars and missing limbs and missing arms on the boardwalk. Nobody crossed the road.
At the end of the main street was a little chapel. As there was no stage office, Adele decided to stop there. If anyone could help her, she reasoned, it would be the priest.
The church was empty save a man with a clergy collar, sitting in a pew near the front. He was whittling a piece of wood with a pocket knife. He didn’t turn to look at her.
“Excuse me, Father, I am looking for a man,” she said.
“I am Father Carlos. Who did he fight for?”
“Everyone in this town fought in the War of the Rebellion, on one side or the other. This town’s the last remaining battlefield of the war. Who did he fight for?”
“My father was the colonel of the 11th Infantry of Louisiana. Pierre LaFleur. I was told by a drifter in Abilene that he had heard my father was here in Union.”
The priest thought for a moment before answering, as if he was deciding whether to tell this stranger the truth or not. “Yes, Colonel LaFleur lives in this town, but he won’t be back until tomorrow. He’s on the prairie, hunting buffalo. And you say you’re his daughter?”
“Yes. When war broke out, he left our plantation near Baton Rouge. Because he had been an officer in the French Army before he moved to America, he was made a colonel. He disappeared after Lee surrendered, and my mother is dead. My only family is my father.”
“The South lost the war, didn’t it?” The priest sneered as he continued. “How do you keep so well-fed?”
Adele stiffened. “We may have immigrated to America, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t keep some money back home. And who did you say you fought for?”
The priest’s sneer disappeared. “I was a conscientious objector. I acted as a medic to both sides. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do around the church.” As Adele walked out, she couldn’t help but notice the priest returning to his whittling.
She was anxious about what to say tomorrow to her father, but she had to find somewhere to spend the night. Then she could worry about what to say to her father.
As she had seen before, the Manassas and McClellan both had boarding houses. It didn’t require much thought. She was still a Confederate girl at heart.
She grabbed a bag from the stagecoach and started walking to the Manassas. As she walked, she realized that she wasn’t alone. She had known that men with wooden legs and missing arms and glazed eyes from shellshock were walking along the boardwalk on both sides. She hadn’t known that they had stopped to watch her.
The men on the side of the faded blue buildings started heckling.
“Going to the Manassas, huh? Traitor!”
Adele hesitated. Then, the greys started shouting.
“Go back North, Yankee scum!”
“We beat you bastards once, and we’ll beat you again!”
A man with an eyepatch and a faded charcoal uniform pointed at the sign on the Manassas. “Did you beat us there, bluebelly?”
The shouting grew louder and louder. Adele started to feel the ground spin. Her doctor had warned her about stress. “Not good for the female constitution,” he had said. The men were no longer wearing blue or grey, but red. Everything was red. That was the last thing she remembered before passing out.
She awoke in a bed with tattered sheets. She felt something, or rather many somethings, crawling on her. Probably lice. She blinked once, twice. She stood and walked to the window. She saw the Manassas across the street, so she must be in the McClellan. The sun was rising over the rotted roof of the charcoal saloon. Morning!
Some Good Samaritan had carried her into the room and had been thoughtful enough to carry in her bag. Maybe Federals weren’t all bad, she chuckled as she rushed to get ready.
It was noon before Adele saw a horse and wagon ride into town. She ran out to meet it when she saw Father Carlos walking towards it. There were buffalo skins on the wagon.
“Colonel LaFleur! You have a visitor!” the priest called out.
“For me? Ha, who is it?” The buffalo hunter had his back turned to Adele, facing the priest.
Four years of hurt burst out of her lips when she shouted, “My name’s Adele. I’m the daughter you abandoned!”
The buffalo hunter turned to face her. And in one moment, she knew. The trip had been a waste of time. Whoever this man was, it wasn’t Colonel Pierre LaFleur. It wasn’t her father.
She was about to speak when she noticed something more pressing than an imposter. The grey men with the wooden legs and glazed eyes had crossed the street, and they had crossed the street with torches.
“You think you can steal our women? We lost that war, but by God we’ll win this one!” The men behind the ringleader cheered. They cheered when the rotting boardwalk outside the McClellan started smoking. They cheered again when they saw flames.
Federals started a bucket line. Adele was frozen in place, watching. She watched as the bucket line failed to stop the fire from spreading to another building, another. She hardly noticed the spark that blew across the street. Grey buildings burn just as well as blue.

Jonathan Jones is an amateur writer from Central Florida.

When I saw the prompt was “Western Gothic” I was extremely excited. I have been fascinated with decay over the past few months, and Gothic is all about decay and rot. Furthermore, I have always had a deep love for Westerns, from spaghetti Westerns to Roy Rogers to the radio version of Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke specifically was a heavy influence on this story; particularly the episodes “The Guitar” and “Bum’s Rush”. Both episodes feature Civil War veterans for whom the war never truly ended. Going back to my earlier premise of Gothic being about the decomposition of things, I could think of nothing more appropriate than a decaying ghost town filled with decaying victims of a never-ending war. From there, I thought about how to emphasize a “breaking away” from the old and the decaying, and a heiress of the French South looking for her Confederate father (and eventually giving up, thereby rejecting both him and the rotting South he represents) seemed perfect. This was clearer in my original version, which had to be cut for space. Naming the protagonist “Adele” (meaning “noble”) was probably overdoing it, however. One note: the priest was not originally written as antagonistic. In my original outline, he perished trying to save the town from the fire at the end. I still don’t understand why I wrote him the way I did!

Missed the contest? Don’t worry, we have more!