My Whole Life
Jim staggered off the front of the Bullet Train and wiped the dust from his tattered clothes. His head was spinning and his hands were trembling from the shock of the ride he had just sustained. He couldn’t believe what had just happened back in the thunder storm with all the boulders. He couldn’t believe that he had actually stopped the Bullet Train without anyone telling him what to do first; if only his Uncle Frank could see him now. Maenad had told him to stay put, but he just couldn’t help it. There was no one on the train and it seem like he had a good opening to stop the engine by blowing up the steel horse. He had thought of the whole thing himself after seeing what had happened to the last horses back in the storm before they got to the Bullet Train. He figured since the plan was to stop the thing for Smash and his men, blowing up the engine would do the trick just as much as unhinging the carts. Sure, he had disobeyed Maenad’s orders to stay in one place, but here he was, alive and well. He even had the revolver Maenad had given him back on the ravine.
I am an outlaw just like Maenad, thought Jim proudly. Maenad knew I had it in me to stop this train. He smiled and turned to see the fruits of his labors. The train cars looked thrashed and damaged, as if the metal boxes had been dropped into a giant industrial blender and set to massacre for a few seconds. The cars were all contorted in a zigzag fashion across the desert landscape. Giant black scrapes lined the outer shell of each car. Thick black smoke was now pouring out of every facet of the useless machine and escaping into the afternoon sky.
In the distance was heard a clinking sound from somewhere inside the steel beast. It sounded like someone was hitting a sledge hammer on a rusty old nail. The gritty sound gradually gave way to men’s voices; from somewhere inside the dark wreckage there were actual survivors waiting to get free. Jim’s heart sank deep in his chest as he thought about what this might mean. I could be caught, thought Jim. I could be killed if they found out it was me that blew the train! He staggered backwards as the wind howled loudly in his ears.
Jim held his cowboy pistol up and froze dead in his tracks; there was nowhere for him to hide. He watched quietly as large men in dull green uniforms began exiting the smoking wreckage one by one. They were all holding semi-automatic rifles and yelling out orders to form a perimeter around the Bullet Train. Their hurried voices seemed to fill the air like a bad smell as they scouted the area for any hostiles.
One of the men in the green suits spotted Jim standing a few paces from the head of the Bullet Train and started yelling. He pointed his long range rifle at the boy and walked toward him cautiously.
“Drop your weapon!” He demanded.
Jim dropped his weapon obediently; it hit the dirt at his feet with a thud.
“Put your hands in the air and get on your knees!”
Jim didn’t ask any question; he did as the man told him to and got on the ground. Once Jim was in the appropriate position the man ran up and kicked his pistol under the train. He grabbed Jim by the wrist and tied his hands behind his back with a thick rope. The whole time the cowboy was coughing out tobacco smoke and curse words. Jim could see that the whole company wasn’t pleased with what had just happened to the Bullet Train; some men were even being hauled out of the wreckage on stretchers, other men were wrapping their wounds in white ace bandages and leaning against the cars. It looked like a war zone.
“Bring that little lizard turd here, I want to ask him a few questions!” yelled a very big man who was standing by one of the train’s openings. His suit was not like everyone else’s; he looked more like their commander.
Jim was taken forcefully by two guards and dropped before the guy.
“I bet you think this is funny, don’t you?”
Jim’s heart was racing now.
The big man pulled out his .57 long rang magnum and started loading it in front of Jim slowly. His face was cut up and bruised from the crash. The bullets he placed in the chambers of the gun were big and nasty looking. Each one had some kind of needle-like spike sticking out of its tip. Jim knew exactly what they were used for; he had seen his Uncle Frank sell a few cases of these particular bullets in the city to an arms dealer from the East. The guy was from a place called Wakefield were they manufactured weapon for the local governments around the Tarmac. He insisted on trying a few bullets out before he bought the whole case from Uncle Frank.
Jim remembered the terrible sound each bullet made as it left the chamber of the massive revolver; it sounded like God himself had clapped his hands together in applause of the new weaponry. He also remembered the kick of the heavy pistol and how each watermelon had shattered into a million pieces from the impact. The rounds that tore through each melon only seemed to explode and leave behind a fine mist of juice and black seeds. The man bought three more cases after the demonstration.
“I bet you think that you are some kind of a hero, huh?”
Jim swallowed the knot forming in his throat. “Please let me–”
“Silence!” yelled the man as he backhanded Jim across the face; he was in no frame of mind to be reasoned with. The force of the blow caused Jim to topple over and smack the ground at his thick leather boots. Blood splattered against the side of the Bullet Train as the capillaries in Jim’s left cheek ruptured all at once. It felt like his skin had been torn from his bone, “You will talk when I let you talk, boy.”
The big guy looked over to a few soldiers, “pick him up.”
The soldiers came and picked Jim up; they set him in front of the commander. When he was positioned just right again they retreated.
Jim’s face was a mess and his eyes were watering with pain.
“I have been working on this train for over fifteen years and never in my life have I seen it down like this. Today is the worst day of my life because today is the day I have to report the bad news to Governor Whitecliff.” He finished loading his massive gun and cocked the hammer into the firing position. He grabbed Jim by his tattered button up T-shirt and threw him up against the wreckage. His back went tight as the man pressed him into the dented steel of the train. The man shoved his meaty elbow into Jim’s chest and watched as the boy struggled for breath under his weight. Jim had never dealt with someone so strong before in his life. It felt like he was being crushed to death by a bulldozer.
“My whole career was this thing, and you took it away from me.” He pulled Jim away from the train car then slammed him back into the wreckage again, and again. His voice was getting violent and coarse as he continued. “A little bastard like you took it away from me! Why I bet you haven’t even reached puberty yet, huh?” The big man began to laugh darkly as if seeing some kind of morbid humor in the situation. He didn’t seem truly happy though; it was all to give the men in the group a show before he fragmented the kids head into a million pieces. Jim knew that today he was going to die. His lungs were screaming for air!
“Who are you working for?” yelled the man.
Jim muttered incoherently, “Sm– Sm– Smash”
“What was that?” yelled the man again as he forced his arm deeper into Jim’s ribcage, “did my beating make you retarded?”
“Sm– Smash, sir!”
The guy laughed again at the apparent fear in Jim’s eyes.
“So, fat man, William T. Smash likes to send kids to do his dirty work, huh?” He shoved the massive barrel against Jim’s head and rested his finger on the trigger. He wanted nothing more than to end the kid’s pathetic life right here and now, but he had to have answers first. He had to know what to tell his employer when he gave him the bad news, “I guess I am going to have to send Smash a message with your blood. Maybe then he will get the point that you don’t cross the Governor of Balballing City,” he grumbled darkly and smiled. “I am going to send him pieces of you in the mail. I am going to start by sending him your brain.”
All the men in the company laughed, they were watching the scene unfold from their stations around the train. The big man took Jim by the shirt and threw him at the ground as hard as he could. Jim landed on his stomach and nearly threw up all over himself as he slid on the rough sediment. His head was throbbing from dehydration and stress. He strained and coughed as he sucked air back into his body. The sun was beginning to shine through the dust and gloom, giving the sky a musky look.
“Who was the outlaw you were with, boy? Smash should know better than to send just a kid on a man’s mission! I know there was an outlaw with you; I know it because Jessica was getting her panties in a twist about it all.”
Jim lifted his head off the ground and coughed out a wad of spit and blood. He muttered as loud as he could, “I was with Maenad. He’s the outlaw that led me to the train.” he sucked in another volume of air and clinched his teeth, his side was throbbing now. It felt like his stomach had exploded in his gut.
“Maenad, huh?” said the man pensively, almost cautiously. His brown eyes shifted upward and surveyed the landscape all around them for anything out of the ordinary; desert outlaws were crafty little buggers when put in the right element. Dust and dirt was still floating in the air totally obstructing his view of the horizon. The wind was howling over the smoldering wreckage causing an eeriness to form over the countryside, “I’ve heard of the fool before. How did Smash get a big name like Maenad to come out here and do his dirty work? The last time I checked Maenad was in Wichita prison with the death sentence.”
“I don’t know. He just came on the trip.” Jim rested his forehead on the ground.
“Lies, no one like Maenad just comes on a trip like this. He had a reason to risk his life coming out here. It was probably for the gold and if that’s the case he’ll be back to claim it. All outlaws are attracted to gold and fame. It’s like their life source.” He looked down at the boy and thought for a minute upon his own words. If the desert outlaw was still alive it could mean trouble for his men. “Where is he now?”
“I don’t know,” Jim turned slightly. “He fell off the train when it hit the desert.”
“Like hell you don’t know where he is,” He knelt down beside Jim and grabbed the back of his T-shirt tightly. He pulled the kid up off the ground and whispered in his ear just so that he could hear him and no one else. His breath was hot and dry as it escaped his lips, “If you tell me where he is, I’ll let you go free. I’ll let you live.”
Jim started to cry; he didn’t know what to say to the man, “I don’t know where he is. The last time I saw him he was on the train.”
“Enough of the theatrics, Brock,” yelled a man from the group suddenly. He was trying to get the rest of the men in order so that they could secure the Bullet Train until help arrived, “Kill the boy and let’s get a move on. We need to hide this Balballing Gold before Smash’s men show up and kill us all; their bound to have more outlaws than one when they show up. I know he always has that scary outlaw bodyguard with him, you know who I am talking about, Jesse, the guy that supposedly killed 300 men single handily.”
Brock shrugged the man’s words off and let go of Jim’s shirt. He pushed himself back up to his feet with a grumble. He brushed the dirt from his pants and shrugged with frustration, “I suppose where Maenad is doesn’t matter right now. Governor Whitecliff will hear about your little friend and have him killed in no time. Heck, he’ll probably spend the rest of his life hunting the poor fool down just to kill him for what he did to this train.” He slammed a massive boot against Jim’s back and forced his body into the ground. He pointed the massive gun at the back of Jim’s head and took aim. This was going to be his favorite part of the whole demonstration; he liked it when the head evaporated into blood.
Tears started to stream down Jim’s cheeks as he closed his eyes tightly and waited for the end to come. The only thing he could think about at the moment was the watermelons back in Balballing city during the demonstration. He hoped his death would be quick and painless; he had never had his head torn into a million pieces.
Brock was going to pull the trigger when a massive hunting knife tore through the crowed of soldiers and slammed straight through his meaty wrist. The steel blade severed all the tendons in his right hand and caused his thick fingers to go limp instantly. The massive gun dropped to the ground and landed by Jims head with a deep thud. Red blood began pouring out from the open wound in his arm and dripped on the Desert Tarmac. Brock cried out in pain and gripped the wounded appendage in horror. The long knife was now sticking out the other side of his wrist in a perpendicular fashion. The hand was hanging from his appendage like a dead fish as he stepped back and surveyed the crowed with bloodshot eyes. The soldiers looked just as surprised as Brock at what was going on.
“Which one of you fools threw that?” barked Brock heatedly. He gritted his teeth to try and control the pain shooting up from his wrist; his face was turning red. He was going to kill someone for this! The whole company was quiet; they were just as confused as Brock was at the moment. The guards looked at one another for answers but nothing seemed to present itself. Brock pulled the blade out…slowly and gripped it tightly.
“Which one of you threw it!?”
An unfamiliar voice spoke up from the company at that moment. It sounded firm and unshaken. “I did you ugly son of a mule.”
The men around the Bullet Train parted quickly revealing a single man in tattered clothing. His cowboy hat was worn low so that no one could see his defined features. He didn’t look like any of the guards they had brought along on the trip with them; he was new to the company in a lot of ways. Brock could see blood pouring from the stranger’s left shoulder and right thigh. His shirt was cut open at certain places in the fabric. It was as if he had appeared out of nowhere. He looked like he had been through hell and back.
Jim turned to see what was going on.
“And who are you?” demanded Brock as he pointed the blade at the stranger.
“My names Maenad and I am here for the boy.”
Brock’s courage wavered a little at the name; hadn’t anyone seen the man walk into the group? He hated how outlaws were always so sure of themselves when I came to a fight. “I knew you’d show up sooner or later for the gold and the fame. Well, I am not handing it over without a fight.” He spat out a wad of mucus and snarled angrily “That’s the thing about you filthy desert outlaws, you’re all like cockroaches, absolutely impossible to kill.”
“I don’t want the gold”
Brock was quiet; he didn’t believe the fool one bit.
“I already got what I came for,” stated Maenad.
“Oh really?” asked Brock “and what might that be?”
“The death of Jessica Maxwell.”
The guards started to whisper amongst one another.
Brock laughed, “You expect me to believe that?”
Maenad reached up and pulled off his brown cowboy hat. He dropped it in the dirt at his feet and smiled a bit, “here’s her hat for proof.”
Brock looked at the thing lying in the dirt; his heart sank a bit as he recognized the gold emblem on the brim, “you’re a dirty liar...”
“Give me the boy and I’ll let everyone here live.”
Brock laughed at this stupid request; he was trying to hide his nervousness. It didn’t matter whether Jessica was alive or not, they had more men and resources. It was apparent that the outlaw Maenad wasn’t too bright in the head; the sun was probably getting to him, “you’re surrounded and wounded buddy. On top of that you have no weapon to fight with. What are you going to kill us with, your hands?”
“I’ll find something to kill you with,” said Maenad as he reached out with lightning speed and tore a gun away from a suspecting guard. The man let out a yell as he toppled over in confusion. Maenad swung the gun around his left side and pulled the trigger habitually. The desert air lit up with hot gun fire as he took aim into the crowd of soldiers standing around him. The man saw the hostile action and barley had time to think before bullets were tarring through their ranks like hell fire. Men started collapsing almost instantly as they fumbled with their equipment; training had never really prepared them for this moment.
Stunned soldier scattered left, right, and center as they tried to stop the angry outlaw from advancing on them too quickly. Maenad weaved in and out of their disordered assault, dropping guards as he went along through their defenses. It had been a while since he had played this kind of deadly game with normal men; it was almost sad to see how slow they all were compared to his abilities. One man stepped in front of Maenad and managed to unleash a volley of bullets from his long range rifle. Maenad saw the motion coming from a mile away and maneuvered around the guard’s back before the hot lead could even come close to touching him.
Maenad stood behind the guard now and wrenched his aiming arm in the opposite direction. He gripped the man by the neck and turned him around in a circle. When he was in position Maenad slammed his knee into his lower back causing pain to ignite in the guard’s brain. Maenad smiled as the frantic guard screamed with surprise and shot his own men who were charging them both from behind; several soldiers hit the ground before they knew what had happened to them. Their bodies writhed in pain for an instant then went still forever. The guard yelled a second time and pulled himself free from Maenad’s grip. Anger was brewing in his eyes as he turned to face the outlaw. Maenad stepped to one side just as a straight bullet zoomed past his arm and smacked the unsuspecting guard in the chest. Blood misted the air from the impact and the guards fell backwards.
Maenad reached out and grabbed the guard’s gun before he hit the dirt. He swung the rifle around his arm and back handed another approaching guard across the face. The blow stunned the man just enough for Maenad to maneuver around him and take a different position at his side. He kicked the guard’s feet out from under him in one smooth motion. The man let out a yelp as his back made contact with the ground. He managed to get off one loose shot before Maenad booted him into unconsciousness. Bullets were now being fired in his direction from different parts of the landscape. The men were retreating to a safer distance.
Maenad looked up in time to see two men taking their positions on the top of the Bullet Train. He swung his long rang rifle around his back and fired off a few shots before they could take aim at him. Their bodies went limp and fell off the wreckage as the gun in Maenad’s hands locked up with a cold hard clink. Maenad knew that sound far too well from past experience; his gun was empty now. Before anyone else could register the sound he grabbed the barrel of the gun he was using and swung it around so that the butt made contact with the skull of an approaching soldier. The man cried out in shock and flew backwards into the group. Blood splattered all over the place as Maenad released the automatic rifle into the air at a second man who was taking aim at him twenty feet away. The man barely had time to think before the stock of the long range rifle smacked him unconscious right between the eyes.
Maenad dropped to the ground at the same time and grabbed for a gun that was resting on a dead body two feet away. He turned and pointed the deadly weapon at the remaining men in the group. He pulled back the bolt action with one smooth motion of his fingers. Maenad fired a few shots at three individuals standing in the front of the line. The bullets ripped off their hats and caused their scalps to bleed. Maenad had killed over half of the guards in just a matter of a few seconds time. The remaining men saw the deadly action and dropped their weapons almost simultaneously. Fear and amazement flashed in their eyes like wild fire.
They had never seen something like this before in their entire lives. It was as if the outlaw was a mind reader and could tell what they were going to do next before they even did it. The rest of the company threw their hands in the air and ran into the desert. Their dark silhouettes disappeared into the dust of the landscape beyond the range of the Bullet Train. Maenad let them go without a word; the desert would take care of the rest of them. He stood up quickly and faced Brock; the big stupid man was still holding the dagger in his good hand. He looked dumbfounded at what had just gone on. His men had just looked like chickens with their heads cut off. He was trying to compose himself now.
“Real men fight with knives outlaw!” he barked finally as he took a step forward. “You think you can handle a real man Maenad?”
Maenad smiled at his attempt at manliness and dropped the automatic rifle in his hand without hesitation. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a long hunting knife he had stolen off a guard he had killed previously. He held it firmly in his right hand and studied the way Brock held himself. It was obvious this man had never used a knife before to fight with. Brock was going to use his strength over his skill to try and win this battle.
“You move first, Big Foot” said Maenad.
Brock growled and charged forward at the outlaw. His eyes were all blood shot and deranged. Maenad caught the man’s thick arms and fell backwards simultaneously. His feet pushed up into Brock’s stomach and threw the heavy man into the air behind him. Brocks back hit the ground with a thud. Maenad was still holding onto the large man’s arms as he swung back into the air and landed on the massive mans chest. He shoved the blade deep into Brocks throat and twisted. Maenad watched as the man struggled to get breath underneath him. His arms were flailing. After a few minute of struggle the man passed out and died.
That was easier then killing Jessica thought Maenad as he dusted himself off and stood up slowly. The day events were now catching up to him; His whole body felt like it was going to give way under the pressure of his own body weight. He had never felt so tired before in his entire life. He felt like he could sleep for a thousand years and still be tired when he woke up at the end. His mouth felt dry and sticky.
“Maenad!” yelled Jim as he came off the ground into a kneeling position. He paused for a minute; his head was throbbing with heat exhaustion. It was almost heard to think straight at the present moment. His eyes were blacking out slightly and the side of his face tingled with nerve damage. Jim pulled his hands free and wiped off the blood and dirt from his face. After a while Jim came to his feet slowly. He ran over to the outlaw and nearly fell over when he hugged the man. In some strange way Maenad felt like a father to him; no other man would have risked his life to save a dirty old farm boy.
Maenad patted the kid on the head; he didn’t know what to say.
“That was amazing, Maenad! I have never seen something like that before in my whole life! You were all over the place. How did you move that fast? I bet you were like that at The Battle of Pone Brook. I told the others that the legends were real, I told them!”
“Let’s hope you never have to see something like that again Jim,” said Maenad as he pulled away from Jim and clutched his side tightly. Blood was now coming freely from all of the wounds he had sustained during the day. He was feeling extremely light headed and weak all over as if something were sucking the soul right out of him. He dropped to his knees and closed his eyes in frustration. The day’s proceedings were now flooding to his head like a bad tasting whisky. He hated how he felt inside still; he hated how he still felt empty even after all that had happened to him. It felt like he had sold his soul to the devil and lost the bet. Where was the peace? Jessica’s death had brought nothing to him but more anger.
“You were right Bonny” he whispered to the dry air around him. Maenad could hear the sound of defeat in his own voice; it scared him a little. The image of a beautiful brunet with deep green eyes came to his mind at that moment. “Her death didn’t bring closure. You were right the whole time Bonny. I should have stayed.”
His brother was still dead.
“What’s the matter, Maenad? Are you okay?”
“It didn’t feel good, Jim.” He whispered.
Jim looked down at the bleeding man in wonder. He didn’t understand.
“What didn’t feel good, Maenad?”
Tears started coming to the outlaw’s eyes as he thought about what he had done. All these years of hunting and killing had brought him nothing but emptiness. He thought about his brother’s death back at their hideout, over and over. He thought about all the things that Jessica’s death didn’t bring to him. It just didn’t seem right; he wanted closure for the torment in his soul. He wanted the nightmare to end.
“Do you still believe in God, Jim?”
Jim looked puzzled at this. He answered, “Yeah.”
“I knew one of his angels once, Jim” said Maenad flatly. He didn’t quite know why he was telling Jim all of this information right now, but he felt like he just had to get it out. He hadn’t told anyone about his past in over five years, “She lived in Wichita City, in the rich part of town on Dover Street. I met her there while I was hunting Jessica down three years ago. She worked as a teacher in one of the universities.”
“What was her name?” asked Jim in wonder.
Maenad smiled a little, “her name was, Bonny”
Jim sat down next to Maenad, “was she beautiful?”
Maenad laughed slightly. His head was hurting, “Yeah, she was beautiful and she had everything figured out too. She wanted me to stay with her and start a new life in Wichita City. She was running test to figure out why outlaw were so different then everyone else. She said science could find the answers to life’s mysteries.” Maenad closed his eyes “Her skin was the softest thing I had ever touched; her voice was so calming.” Maenad got somber, “she wanted me to do something that at the time I couldn’t do.”
Jim was quiet for a minute, “what did she want you to do?”
“She wanted me to stay with her, Jim.” He looked over to the boy and studied his features for a minute. He wanted to see how much of the conversation the boy understood, “she wanted me to give up what I was doing and stay with her.”
“Why didn’t you stay with her?” Jim seemed concerned.
“I thought I had something nobler to do than stay. I guess I was wrong the whole time. I left without saying goodbye.”
“Can’t you go back to her?”
There was a long pause.
“It doesn’t matter now, kid. It’s all done with.” He shifted from his knees and sat down in the dirt. He spat out a wad of spit onto the Tarmac and watched as the sweat dripped off his nose. He looked back at the train that was smoldering behind them. It looked like it had fallen from the sky.
“Good work with the train, Jim.”
Jim smiled and looked back at the wreckage. “Thank you.”
Maenad sat quietly.
“What do we do now?” asked Jim
There was a slight pause.
Jim looked confused, “We wait for what?”
“For them” said Maenad as he pointed in the distance. Jim turned and looked in the direction that Maenad was pointing. A huge caravan of soldiers was coming their way. It seemed that Smash had brought an army with him to gather the gold; just like he promised.