Do You Believe in God?
“Maenad,” whispered Jim fairly loudly over the roar of his steal horse. The desert outlaw didn’t respond; he appeared to be in his own little world right now thinking about who knows what. Jim hoped with all his heart that he wouldn’t die today. His palms were sweating profusely now and his stomach was doing summersaults in his chest. He looked down at his legs; they felt lifeless and dead under his weight. His body was shaking with all sorts of anticipation. He felt like one of those display mannequins in the beauty shops back at Balballing City, as if he was being held together by glue and copper pins. He had never done something this extreme before, usually his days consisted of loading and unloading giant storage bins for his uncle Frank. He wished he could write to his family and tell them what was happening.
Jim looked over to Maenad again, “Hey, Maenad!”
Maenad didn’t turn to look at the current state of his young companion. His dark brown eyes were focused on the expanse of the valley below the company. They had all rested their horses at the edge of a massive cliff face to get a better view of where the Bullet Train would come from. Frank had explained to them that the thing should appear near the opening in the canyon called ‘Dead Man’s Pass’ and Maenad had half a mind to believe him. Everyone on that bloody train knew he was coming to get them, because everyone on that train had been warned by Bill. It was another one of Jessica’s well thought out traps to try and kill him; only this one would fail just like the one in Ponebrook.
“Maenad!” yelled Jim.
“Yes Jim, what do you want?”
“I’m scared.” His mouth went dry as he spoke the words, “and not just a little scared.”
“It’s okay, Jim. We all get scared sometimes.”
Jim swallowed the gorgon knot forming in his throat and looked down at the green flashing button on his brute. He was trying to keep himself from having a mental break down in front of one of his heroes. “I think this is a little more than just a little scared, Maenad. I feel like I am falling apart at the seams. I feel like I am going to pass out.”
“I’ll keep a watch on you down there,” Maenad turn. “Do you have your gun?”
Jim nodded his head and let out a valium of air.
“Keep that close to you, kid, don’t let anyone take it from you. That’s one of the first unspoken rules of being an outlaw. Your weapon is your life!”
“I won’t lose it.”
“You’ll be okay.” Maenad turned and looked out over the valley again. His keen eyes followed all the little movements of the shrubs on the plains. They were all waving back and forth in the morning breeze. The Bullet Train would appear at any moment now from the mouth of the canyon. He could sense that something was heading their way. The air didn’t feel right any more.
His voice was trembling. “Do you believe in God?”
There was a long silence between the both of them. Maenad had heard about the concept of an all powerful God before; He just never really had the chance to discuss the topic with anyone he deemed important. A lot of loud mouth preacher in the Cities up north talked about him as if he were a celebrity. They told stories about how God created the Earth and the stars in the heavens from something called Dark Matter, which no man could see, but which existed around orbiting bodies. Religion was nothing but a big waste of time in Maenads eyes; no one could prove jack about human existence.
“Jim, you’ll be okay.”
“My dad was a big believer in God.”
Maenad had to smile at Jims tenacity, “yeah, was he.”
“Yeah, he was.” Said Jim, “and he was a big believe in doing what was right so that you could get back to live with him in the clouds.”
“God lives in the clouds?” Maenad was puzzled by this new update in secular theology. The Tarmac Desert only got cloud cover five percent of the time out of the year; that would make the land he grew up in a Godless land ninety five of the time. He felt like laughing at this absurd thought. Plus when it got clouds they were usually huge rain clouds which brought monsoons and flash flooding.
“Yeah, he lives in the clouds” Jim looked up into the sky “but you had to be good in order to live with him.”
“I suppose that sounds good,” said Maenad.
Jim directed his gaze over the cliff face and studied the valley bellow; he started fidgeting as he thought about life and death a little bit more. He felt along his thick lather bet until he came to the heavy revolver resting at his boney hip. His hand gripped the stock of the gun lightly. His thumb ran over the firing hammer a few times before he spoke again, “do you think we’re doing the right thing in robbing this train, Maenad? Do you think that there’s room for second chances in this world?”
“I would say it’s debatable”
“Do you think God likes to debate?”
Maenad laughed sincerely for the first time sense his brother died. He was burning in side now with questions of his own about human existence, “I certainly hope it’s debatable before God and I hope that God has a sense of humor if it’s not.” He looked at Jim and frowned; it was as if he were seeing the kid in a new light. The boy reminded him of his brother in so many little ways that he couldn’t quite grasp. “If there is a God, and you have to do the right thing to get into that cloud heaven, then I would say that I am done for. I’ll tell God that I put you up to all this so that you’ll stay out of trouble.”
“Do you think that will work?”
“I hope so.”
“I hope so too, Maenad.” Jim looked down at his machine, “I hope so too.”
Maenad couldn’t tell whether what he had said to the kid was helping the situation or hurting it. Maybe it was a little bit of both, but one thing was for sure, the kid’s legs stopped shaking and his voice sound more calm.
In the distance a high ominous purr was heard screeching out over the valley. It sounded like the souls of the damned were escaping from the bowels of hell. Lightening began to erupt from the mouth of the canyon on the southern end of the Tarmac Desert. It looked like hundreds of giant electric eels where now burrowing themselves into the iron sediment and letting off their charge all at once. It was like nothing that Maenad had ever seen before in his entire life. In seconds the whole valley was alive with electromagnetic discharge. Huge rocks in the valley began to raise high above the earth as if standing to greet the creature that gave them life. Small bushes and grass began to wilt and turn to ash as the electromagnetic current ravaged their limbs and roots. The piping hot ground began to pull the air out of the valley quickly creating a low pressure system. A turbulent wind kicked in from the north at that moment as dark storm clouds gathered overhead, blocking the sunlight completely from view. The smell of dry air was replaced with the smell of burning weeds and shrubs. It felt like the end of the world was taking place and Maenad would see it all unfold.
“Be sure to watch out for the big rocks coming out of the ground, Jim. There are bound to be craters the size of barnyards down there and loose stones all over the place. Remember what Frank told us: the turmoil will kill you if you’re not careful,” yelled Maenad over the electrostatic clamor in the air. “When that Bullet Train comes it’s going to be a mass of chaos and confusion down there. Don’t get knocked off your horse for any reason. This landscape will not be friendly to a man off his horse.” Maenad lifted his red handkerchief over his mouth and nose. He tied it firmly against the base of his skull so that the high speed winds wouldn’t rip it from his face. The last thing he wanted was a mouth full of dirt before he got to the Bullet Train and all that gold.
Jim didn’t respond to Maenad’s council. He was trying to decide what was louder; the nuclear machine he was strapped to right now or his heart thumping in his chest. The landscape below whirled with confusion as the Bullet Train exploded from the mouth of the canyon in a flash of bright light. Its metallic frame tore through the valley like thunder on a dark night. Its long white boxcars seemed almost snake-like as it weaved through the massive, electrically charged obstacles in its path. It was moving faster than anything that Jim had ever seen. It was like a shooting star against the back ground of infinite space.
“Remember, Jim” yelled Maenad. “Follow me closely and don’t fall off your horse.”
Jim nodded slowly.
In the distance Jim and Maenad could hear Paco’s iconic scream as his horse plummeted over the cliff face and into the valley bellow. Soon the plastic cowboy would meet the terrible nightmare moving through the Tarmac. His voice seemed only a whisper compared to all the action happening. The atmosphere was now dark and ominous.
“Here we go, kid!” yelled Maenad as he pressed down hard on the bearings at his feet. The machine launched him off into the air. The horse roared loudly as it shot downward off the cliff and into the turning mess below.