Full Moon Nights

Just like they always did on full moon nights, the marked men got together at Clarence's saloon, waiting for the devil to come choose the next victim.

The day before, they had buried Euzebio’s body.  He was killed during a stick-up. 

For eight months, they had been meeting to wait for death to arrive. On each full moon night, shortly after sunset, Enrico returned from hell to seek out another one of the thirteen men in the posse that tracked him down and killed him. His crime consisted of the cruel slaughter of an entire family. After they were all dead, he set fire to their house on the isolated ranch. 

He left thinking he had killed everyone. But he was mistaken: Breno had escaped. The young man wasn’t home when the crime took place; when he returned, he found nothing but ashes. Mad with despair, he formed a posse with twelve other men from the village and took off after the murderer. Thinking he got away safe and sound, Enrico hadn’t gotten far. The men soon caught up with him.

It was a night with a full moon.

Even after his barbaric crime, Enrico slept like an angel, stretched out by the campfire. Suddenly, he was surrounded by thirteen enraged men.

With his arms tied up, there was nothing he could do when Jamil punched him right in the kisser. He didn’t see any stars, as he expected; on the contrary, they all disappeared and even took the full moon with them. Everything in front of him went black, and all he felt were the blows that came one after the other.

Before Enrico lost consciousness, Clarence came over and broke his arms. Feeling stronger as they saw how powerless the outlaw was, they all wanted to have a turn at punishing him. Tulio rubbed Enrico's face in the coals, but Breno stopped him, asking him to simply hold the outlaw good and tight. He picked up a glowing stick and wielded it to burn out Enrico's eyes. He was almost dead, but when he felt the coals toasting his eyes, he drew strength from hell to scream out in pain. The twelve men cackled with laughter; only Breno remained somber in his grief.  

Finally, they tied Enrico to their horses and dragged him back to the village. A bag was all they needed to bury what was left of his body. However, none of the men could forget Enrico's promise to come back from hell and take revenge on his torturers one by one.

Now he was fulfilling his promise. All of them were being hunted down on full moon nights. After the latest murder of Euzebio and the accidental death of Tulio, only three men were left. 

Tulio, who thought he had the powers of premonition, had confided to Breno that he saw him in a vision bringing flowers to the graves of the other twelve men in the posse. Might he be mistaken? Could Breno be the next victim?

*****

From the moment they sat down at the table, the men hardly spoke. Clarence tried to start a conversation, perhaps to distract himself, but it didn't work. 

"Who is that fiend going to take this time?"

"...?..."

"...?..."

"I don't want to die! If I survive this time, I'm going to get ready," Clarence said. 

Jamil said nothing. Breno looked at Clarence and asked, "Yeah, what'll you do?"

"I'll shoot myself!"

Jamil, his eyes staring off into space and looking at no one, said, "We need to do something to stop that demon."

"Sure, but do what? Ask him to forgive us?" Clarence replied.

"All these deaths are my fault!" Breno blurted out in grief. 

"No, it's the fault of that damned murderer!"

Jamil backed up Clarence. "Hunting down that fiend was the best thing we ever did in our lives!"

"But because you helped me, all of you are now being hunted down."

"Because we're sitting ducks, doing nothing. The two who survive this time around have to do something."

Breno agreed with Jamil. "That's right. When none of us is left, he'll go after others in town until no one's left alive. I'll do anything to stop that bastard, anything!" 

He barely finished speaking when Enrico's chilling, macabre laughter echoed throughout Bello Valley. The three froze. They waited, their eyes staring at the saloon doors, fingering the breech of their Colts—as if guns could do anything against the demon of death.

Their fright was worse than ever before. This time Enrico came through the back way and grabbed Clarence from behind, maybe just for fun. In the past, when the victims saw him coming through the saloon doors, they fired shots at him, but the bullets merely passed through the emptiness of the ghostly body and got lodged in the wall behind him. How could a murderous ghost be stopped?

Jamil and Breno turned around quickly, weapons in hand, and saw the saloonkeeper with his arms stretched over the wooden counter, held tightly by the steely hand of the demon. Under his other shoulder hung a lumber saw, which he used to shear off Clarence's arms. The man screamed at the top of his lungs as blood and bone sawdust fell upon the floor planks. Enrico sawed away slowly, savoring each bellow that erupted from the saloonkeeper. When each arm came loose in his hands, the ghost raised his empty eye sockets toward the survivors and threw it at their feet. Terrified and unable to move, the friends stared at the limbs, which were still pulsating frenetically.

Clarence died before his arms were completely sawed off. Like the others, his body was carried off by the criminal, who, mounting his black horse, took off toward hell.

Now only two men remained.

*****

It had been a month since Clarence was killed, and the new full moon was approaching. Time was of the essence. Once again, the village was deserted, waiting for death to arrive. Neither Jamil nor Breno wanted to be the next victim. No one knew how to restrain Enrico's murderous fury.

At the saloon, Jamil seemed calmer this time than before. Could he possibly be resigned to his fate? Although he didn’t take his eyes off the saloon doors, his expression reflected a kind of serenity that made Breno wonder. The minutes ticked by slowly. All waited in silence. In the distance, the sun bade farewell to the prairies as it slid behind the mountains. Night was falling, bringing along the full moon…and, with it, Enrico.

Once again, sinister laughter could be heard through the streets of the town, curdling everyone's blood, even those who were safe.

When he heard the laughter, Breno fingered the handle of his three-eighty, a reflex response to danger, even though he knew nothing could save him if Enrico chose him this time. Jamil heard the sound too, but sat motionless. In fact, he hadn't budged from the moment Breno entered the saloon and exchanged a few words with him; he just sat there by a full mug on the table.

Then the saloon doors swung open, and the deeee-monnnn entered.

With his empty eye sockets, a spent cigarette between his lips burned by Tulio, his broken arms hanging by his sides, he still managed to move with the strength of the demon he truly was. As silent as a breeze—or as a jinx—he strode over to the last two survivors of the tragic saga. Silent as well, the two waited to see which one would be singled out by the mute finger of damnation, confirming his fate.

Enrico approached, raising his hand, his finger readied...and pointed to Jamil.

Seeing himself chosen, the man immediately launched into motion. In a split second, he grabbed the mug beside him and tossed its content—acid blessed by a priest—at the disfigured face of the hitman.

The liquid splashed all over him, making him come to a halt as if he had run up against a wall. Perplexed, he looked toward Jamil. With a scowl of hatred, he took a step forward, then another. 

Enrico stopped again, then took another step toward Jamil. The two stood face to face, almost glued to each other.  

Suddenly, the flaccid arms of the criminal reached up and grabbed Jamil by the head. Using his hair drenched with the blessed acid, Enrico rubbed the face of the man who, months ago, had dared to break his nose with his fist.

When he felt his face burning from the acid, Jamil bellowed in pain. His scream was as horrifying as any laughter from the demonic ghost. Within seconds, his flesh started dissolving, like a plastic doll held over fire. His mouth seemed to melt and his eyes disappeared. The ghost slammed Jamil's head up against the wall, holding it with one hand. As if he remembered the punch in his nose months ago, he pounded the man's face without pity, indifferent to his screams, smashing in his eyes, nose, and mouth.

Even after Jamil was dead, Enrico kept on pounding away furiously until he was exhausted. He brought the bloodied body to his horse and carried it off to hell.

*****

Yet again, the town of Bello Valle fell into silence. Soon it would be another full moon night...the hour of death. Breno was the last of the marked men that Enrico would carry off—the last, that is, unless the butcher continued his reign of terror by deciding to turn the place into a ghost town. Many residents had already moved away, so “Beautiful” Valley no longer had the same lively comings and goings of old times.

Everything was silent on the small town's main road, when Enrico suddenly appeared from nowhere on his black horse, uttering his ghastly laughter. Once again, he pushed open the saloon doors, a spent cigarette in the corner of his mouth, two Colts swinging menacingly from his hips, with a long, black cape flapping in the wind. It was time for death to sing.

Tonight, however, Enrico stopped in his tracks, looking disconcertedly at the empty table. Breno wasn’t there. The ghost vowed to hunt down the wretch, no matter where he was. He had powers to discover his whereabouts.

"Are you looking for me, you scoundrel?" 

The young man's voice, coming from behind, pierced the ethereal body like an avenging bullet. Enrico froze, taken by surprise, and then swung around to face the other man.

"Well, here I am, you snake!" said Breno. "This time, I'm going to send you off to hell once and for all!"

There was something strange in his voice, but Enrico couldn’t tell what it was. He hadn’t expected Breno to surprise him from behind, even though it was futile.

"You bastard! You can't kill me, I'm already dead!"

"Then why are you afraid? Move those rotted arms of yours, go on, draw..."

Breno held his ground firmly. His gaze was also firm and cold. He stood still, legs akimbo, ready at the draw.

Enrico couldn’t figure out what seemed so strange. As if he were transported back to his days as a gunslinger, his hands moved like lightening toward his weapons, ready to kill.

Before he could even touch his guns, however, he was stunned by a sharp impact to his head as a bullet passed between his empty eye sockets.

His draw aborted, he looked toward the young man, unable to understand how he pulled off such a feat. Breno had hit his mark.  Enrico lay dying—killed for the second time by the same man. 

Too late, he realized what was wrong: since he was a ghost, how could they have communicated if Breno were alive?

"Be damned, you...you..."

But he couldn’t finish his words. Gusts of wind picked up as a thousand demons emerged from the darkness and, amidst maniacal howls and screams, carried Enrico off to hell once and for all. 

Breno put his gun back in its holster and turned around to walk toward the black horse left behind by the defeated ghost. He mounted in a single bound and took off.

On his way out of the town, he stopped for a moment at the end of a deserted road. With a bitter smile on his face, he gazed at the body that hung from the end of a rope, swinging to and fro.  Then he said goodbye to himself and prodded his horse to gallop off into the distance.

The full moon emerged on the horizon.


ALEXANDRE LEÃO was born in Diamantina, State of Minas Gerais, in 1959, but has been living in Belo Horizonte since 1973.

He is a poet and writer who makes his poetry and short stories available at his blog Águia de Ouro (“Gold Eagle.”)

Some of his work has been published by Shogun Artes, Crisális Editora and, more recently, Editora Regência.


Translated by


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