Here is the first runner up entry of the story competition. Congratulations, Jonathan!
A Different Kind of Snake
By Jonathan Garner
At first Jessica thought the knocking sound was her father’s foot tapping as he played guitar. She smiled as he played. But when he finished the song, she heard the knocking sound again.
Someone was at the door.
Jessica remembered when they used to welcome visitors. Her mom had always been a charming hostess, and now her mom was dead, but that wasn’t the only reason few visitors came to their country home any more.
Her dad put the guitar in its case and went into the hall. When he returned, Jessica felt as cold as the barrel of the shotgun he held. Silently, she followed her dad to the front door, knowing what to do.
Six feet from the door, her dad stopped and raised the shotgun. Jessica walked to the door, and with her hand shaking, turned the dead bolt. As the door swung open, she hid behind it.
She had done this many times before. They never looked to see who was at the door, because the people they were afraid of would look normal, so they wouldn’t be able to tell who was good and who was evil.
All the other times, it had turned out to be someone good. There had been no gunblast. She closed her eyes, praying that this would be like those times.
Then the gunblast came.
She heard a gasp and the sound of a body tumbling off the porch onto the ground. She was too scared to cry. Besides, she was sixteen, a young woman, not a little girl.
“Daddy?” she whispered.
“Close the door and lock it,” he said softly.
She did as she was told.
“Now,” her dad said. “There’s going to be at least one other man around back. You stay here in the hall where there are no windows, and I’ll go see.”
Her dad headed down the hall and out of sight. A moment later, she heard a shotgun blast, followed by several pistol shots, and finally another shotgun blast.
She started slowly down the hall, terror and curiosity getting the best of her. Her dad appeared in the hall in front of her, holding his side, his hand red with blood.
“You’re hurt!” she cried.
“He got me once.” Her dad grimaced. “But I’ll live, if I get treated soon enough. He’s beyond the help of doctors.”
“I’ll call the police and an ambulance.”
“You know we can’t trust the police, at least not until the government has decided whether I’m a hero or a villain. As for an ambulance, the phone’s out. I checked. They must have cut the line.”
“We’ll have to drive to town, then.”
Her dad started to nod, then his face grew pale and he toppled to the floor.
“Daddy!” She ran to him and knelt by his side.
“I’m fine,” he whispered. “Just hurt worse than I thought. I guess I won’t be driving.”
“I can ride Strider to the Williams’ house.”
“No. There might be another man.”
“It’s the only chance. Otherwise you’ll die.”
Her dad sighed. “All right. Just be careful. I’ll go with you outside.”
“But you can’t--”
“I can do whatever it takes to make sure you’re safe.”
Her dad slowly got to his feet and started down the hall, holding the shotgun with one hand and leaning against the wall with the other. Blood dripped onto the ground.
“Let me bandage the wound,” Jessica said.
“No, I’ll do that once you’re gone.”
“Oh, just so you know, the papers the government wants are in a secret compartment in the guitar case.”
“I’ll remember that.”
Her dad made it to the back porch. A dead man lay on the ground nearby.
“I’ll cover you,” her dad said. “Be careful.”
Jessica nodded and stepped off the porch, then ran across the yard to the barn. Inside, she quickly saddled Strider, the family’s beloved horse, whom her mom had chosen and named long ago.
As she rode Strider out of the barn, she heard another shotgun blast, and saw a man nearby topple to the ground.
“Go!” her dad cried.
She urged Strider to speed up, and he galloped across the yard and onto the trail that led through the woods to the Williams’ house. Near the end of the three-mile-long trail, she slowed Strider down.
A figure burst out of the woods, and she screamed. But as the figure pointed a gun at her, another figure appeared behind the first and shot him in the back. The other figure was Tom, the Williams’ eighteen-year-old son.
Jessica brought Strider to a halt on the trail.
“I heard the gunshots and knew what they meant,” Tom said. “Then I saw a stranger go through our yard and get on the trail to ambush you.”
Jessica stared at the gun. “Is that your family’s snake-killing revolver?”
“Yeah. I just killed a different kind of snake today.”
“I didn’t want you or your family to get involved in this.”
“I know. But we’re not afraid. We know your dad is doing what’s right by holding the government accountable for what they did. Soon the government will realize they can’t get away with it, and throw a few people in jail. Suddenly your dad will be a hero. If he survives. We keep telling your dad to let us help guard you two. Maybe he’ll listen now.”
“Oh, you know him.” Jessica rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I need to call an ambulance. I just hope this is all over soon.”
“I hope so, too. But until then, our family will stand with yours, and God will watch over you and your dad.”
Jessica nodded. “And the truth about my mom’s death will finally come out.”