The Man Who Couldn't Cry
It was sometime after that in the hours past midnight that Gage would stumble home to his lodgings. Which was little more than the floor of a store closet in a rundown church which had been long abandoned and burnt out.
*Note to the reader; at the time of writing the religion of men in the western world was Christianity. A religion celebrating a man who sacrificed his life to end all sacrifices. But at this late time in the Cyclon occupation it had fallen into a state of stagnant degradation. The alien media branding it as Speciesist or partial and depicting it in their tubescope programs as inherently morally corrupt. Lacking any sense whatsoever and thus it had become wholey unfashionable for those to practice it and instead were encouraged to ‘enjoy their lives to the fullest’. Which usually meant indulging in debauchery such as excessive drinking, sex and gambling of which the Cyclon made a profit off of all. This lead to a great and unyielding erosion of morality and virtue in man, creating a confict between the spiritual and bodily existence culminating in what we in present time call the ‘wild west’. Any remnant of Christianity in the more affluent suburbs was horribly bastardised. Usually changed to fit modern social norms and practices and used to disseminate any morality the system wanted for the people at the time.
He stumbled home barely able to walk as he carried all his ill gotten winnings now in his gut in the form of high proof liquor. Pickling his senses his limbs large and dull and rounded without points as he attempted to carry himself. He’d spent a little longer than he wanted as it had started to rain by the time the game had finished and he was running out of money for drink. But the rain hadn’t subsisted and when the landlord eventually tossed him out with the help of a lug that worked with him. Otherwise even in his current state Gage wouldn’t have been so agreeable.
So now he trudged home in the dead of night with only the moon as a source of light and rain pouring down turning the streets into a soupy cold mess of black tar mud and horseshit. He pulled his collar up and trudged through it. His feet sticking in the sucking wet muck as he weaved drunkenly in the middle of main street. Heading out of town to the church on the hill where a warm pile of vestments waited for him to curl up on and pass out upon.
He’d only traversed about ten twenty feet from the saloon in his drunken stupor before he heard a loud cowboy whistle. The whistle drew his attention to the otherside of the street and a darkened alley. He could hear the whineying of a horse but couldn’t see it for the shadow of the buildings.
Then there was a high pitched whispering he could hear as if it was all around his head but he couldn’t understand it. The noise penetrating his drunken stupor only for a moment before it went silent again. It filled him with a strange familiar feeling like someone was scratching at the inside of his skull but it was different this time.
Gage stopped cold, frozen like a rabbit starring into the night and the shadow cast by the livery building where he heard the first noise. Some time past as the rain pelted down and then something hit the moonlight. Something metallic glinting and then a squelching tromping sound came from behind. Something hard and big hit him and sent him reeling gasping for air into the thick mud. A viciously strong gargoyle claw pinned his head in the thick wet mud and he took it in as the thing pressed down on him. The mud in his mouth and the dirty water in his lungs.
He was held there, unable to move, the booze in his system making his limbs heavy and useless and his senses dull and pointless. All he could do was try and hold his head up and not swallow his tongue. There was no noise but the sound of the rain and the slight squelching noises drawing closer.
And then they stopped and a high pitched voice said.
“Hold his head up”
The clawed hand grabbed fistfuls of his hair and yanked his head up so it could be rained on, his body still pressed flat against the mud. His face was covered in mud and the metal frames of his prosthetic were bent and it hung off his face like the mask it was.
“What do we have here?” The voice said.
“Face” Gage sputtered feebly.
“Well let’s get a look at you” The cold voice said as he bent down letting out a curious little laugh. He lifted the prosthetic off and stood back up remarking on it. “Very interesting” He looked down at Gage and then dropped the mask in the mud. “My god, that face”. He bent down again squatting with his hands on his knees.
Gage’s head lolled forward.
“Keep his head up!”
“Sah” The thing on top of him said. As it reached it’s rough clawed hand under Gage’s head to keep it in place.
“Well you are ugly aren’t you and you’re terrible card player” He tutted “Quite a brazen little cheat”. The cowboy with the pristine hat bent forward trying to get in Gage’s field of vision and said “Do you remember me?” He waited and got no response and sighed.
Gage could barely keep his eyes open, he gurgled mud and babbled incoherently to himself. “I’m gonna have to teach you a lesson.” The man from the saloon took out a device from his coat he recognised, it was a Cyclon control rod. “Now we’re going to try this again, it didn’t seem to work the first time. Must be something to do with that booze turning your brain into horseshit, speaking of horse shit”. He chuckled as he turned it on and held it to his throat and said in a buzzing tone “I want you to eat mud until I tell you to stop”.
“Well let go of his head you idiot!” The man from the saloon said as he kicked angrily at the thing holding Gage in place.
The beast yelped almost like a dog and let Gage’s head slump forward into the mud.
“There you go” The man said as he squatted next to Gage’s head. “How does that taste?”
Gage with great difficulty lifted his grotesque head out of the mud with a sucking squelching noise “Well, how does it taste?” The man asked again.
Gage opened his one good eye and glared at the man before spitting mud in his face. Splattering his nice clean cowboy hat.
The man hissed angrily as he looked at his nice clean white shirt ruined by the mood and blood and spit of a human.
“Hold him!” He ordered.
The thing on top tensing and gripping him, his claws biting into Gage’s flesh through his clothes.
“Why isn’t this damn thing working all of a sudden” He sneered glaring down at Gage who looked at him with a righteous air of defiance. “Rip his arms and legs off, slowly.” The man said without any inflection whatsoever.
“Sah” The beast grunted.
Then thunder, a righteous hammer of god striking steel and cleaning away the filth of this world with a great wind, a mighty anger.
The beast was tossed aside by the blast of the thunder and lay twisting in the mud, it’s entrails splayed out and rained on.
The man in the cowboy hat spun around reaching for his gun, a cute little six shooter with an ivory handle and silver inlays. He aimed all around as he had no idea where the shot came from, there was just the sound of the thunder and the strike from the dark.
He fumbled for his control rod and tried to put it to his throat and command the night and god himself to heel but god couldn’t hear him from all the way up there. There was another shot, nicked his arm and the control rod fell into mud and was gone for good.
Then another shot and it put him on his knees and he let out an inhuman screeching noise. Then the waterworks and the begging, he pleaded with the wind and the rain and storm clouds themselves to save him. Have mercy on him and be like brothers once again but they couldn’t hear him and a final shot cut him in half like ripe fruit.
And then there was silence, nothing but the metronome of the rain beating down on their corpses. His brand new cowboy hat sinking into the muck.
Gage lay on his side gasping for air and coughing up dirt. The sound of spurs and clomping muddy feet drew closer and then the neighing of a horse as he started to lose consciousness.
He awoke again not knowing how much time had passed, only that he was drier and warmer and not covered in shit. He opened one eye and could see a fire roaring in a real fire place, the crackling embers setting his mind at ease as he stared into them.
“They like to do that sometimes”
Gage groaned as he moved quickly to find the voice. The pain in his ribs apparent now. The strain in his neck made moving his head feel like there was dirt and silt between all the joints in his neck grinding against the bone.
He crumbled on to the bed, which was made of furs and wood and smelled like wet dog. He groaned again after a pause letting the words trickle through his brain and he said in response “Do what?”
“Rough it with the locals-“ The man’s voice was rough and deep and he spoke slowly and powerfully like he was making some kind of speech. “Cyclon dignitaries, mostly their kids, it’s like a vacation for them. Wearing a disguise pretending to be one of us, walk on the wild side, live on the other side of the fence, know what I mean?” He chuckled. “This one was a real mean bastard”.
Gage just lay there looking at the light from the fire dancing on the wood beams of the ceiling. By the looks of it he was in some kind of big cabin on the outskirts of town. He couldn’t of travelled too far since it was still dark outside.
The man let out a breathy laugh and said “Dead now. Maybe he was writing a book or something. Some of them like to watch us, report back, just to gauge our response to things. Some try to influence us, organise human groups, make it seem like they just sprung out of nowhere.”
Gage tilted his head to find the source of the voice, it was a tall grey man, thin and gristled. He stood shirtless with his back to Gage, he couldn’t make out his features, just that he had shoulder length grey white hair. He spoke not looking at Gage, staring off at the mantle. By his side resting against the fire place there was what looked like a makeshift long rifle with some kind of scope attached. The fire glinting off it’s barrel.
“Sometimes they even make anti-alien groups to create fake crimes against aliens they can use to pass new laws. They’ve been running both sides of the game. When you control your own opposition no one can stand in your way.”
The tall grey man turned and said smiling. “But with a face like that, I reckon you already know all about it.” The man was older in his late fifties maybe but he was long and lean and weatherbeaten.
Gage snarled, too weak to say anything cutting in return.
“I don’t mean no offence by it partner, just making conversation.” He was gristled old coot with big thick white mustache and rough white stubble on his chin. “I don’t get a lot of visitors out here-
Especially not ones that got a face that looks like a cayotes leftovers.” He laughed.
Gage swung at him with one of his huge booze softened fists and tumbled off the bed like a giant dumb baby. Lashing out angrily coming out of the other end of his mean drunk.
“Woah there partner” The stranger laughed.
Gage rolled onto his back and looked up at the ceiling again and said “Whiskey”
The stranger laughed and picked Gage up with ease and dropped him back on the bed. “I think you’ve had enough son, sleep it off and we’ll talk some.”
Gage fell asleep again and awoke some time later when the sun was up. The light through the shutters burned his one good eye and filled his head with a painful crackling.
He pulled himself off the bed and tried to stand, he got up on his two feet using a rough bedpost and got his head to stop spinning long enough to look about him. He was in the same room as before, but alone and the fire was out, the gun was gone. The room was a single room cabin that was quite large. A bed covered in furs and a few chairs, all the furniture looked rough and unfinished. And there was a crude cooking pot over the dead fire where a few embers still cracked.
Gage stood there for a moment trying to stop the room and spinning just staring at a single point in the room and then at the mantelpiece. There was a single photo of a young girl in a crude wooden frame whittled by hand.
The door creaked open and the tall Grey man came taking off his hat and coat hanging it on a rack next to the door, resting his rifle next down next to the door. Gage eyed it and then back at the grey man.
The Grey man smiled and curtly said “What does a big fella like you need fer a gun?” He laughed and lifted up a pair of dead rabbits and said. “Thought you might feel a little better if I got some breakfast in you.”
“Where’d you get that?”
“The gun?-“ The old man smirked and said “I made it.” He took Gage by the arm and sat him down on one of the crude chairs covered in fur. “Now you just wait right here and I’ll whip us up something and we can get to waggin our chins like a couple’a school marms” He chuckled.
It didn’t take him very long to skin and gut the rabbits and although he wasn’t a great cook after eating Gage did feel a lot better. But even after they’d finished he kept his eye on the rifle near the door.
“I hid some after that thing happened up north, I knew they’d come take’em away sooner or later. Its funny, all those in town, said they’d die before they gave up their guns. They were some of the first to hand them in willingly, fucking cowards. Clinging to their flags, and their constitutions, following along mindlesslike. Not knowing this aint their country, not no more”
He got up and went back to the pot where he was brewing some coffee and poured two tin cups full and brought them over and handed one to Gage who drank it gladly.
“I used to make things, outta wood and sometimes metal, folks around here just call me the Carpenter.”
“Pleased to meet you.” He laughed.
“You made that alien brat pretty mad pretty damn quick, must have a knack for it, hell it’s written all over your face” He chuckled.
Gage sneered but continued to listen.
“I say I used to, not much call for it now, not now them got them new-fangled machines spit out a chair like it was a loose tooth from a drunks mouth. Looks like hell and about as comfortable as sitting on a boney mule but it’s cheap and fashionable- whatever that means.”
The old man took a sip of the coffee and made a face, it was good and bitter and never would touch sugar.
“Used to make toys too but much the same. Kids don’t want no old wooden toys if it don’t make noise or lights or steam don’t come out of it. Aint got no kids of my own after my woman run off to become some whore in new york city”
“Call’em ‘actresses’ just gussied up whores you ask me. Put any alien piece in their mouth if’n they set’em up right. Make a fella wanna burn it all down- I don’t go near those goddam talmoscopes, whatever they’re called, goddam garbage.”
“Been alone up here ever since and I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
He inhaled deep and said nothing for a moment, Gage just looked down. Their stories echoed eachothers but there was no certainty that this man knew what Gage knew. Nevertheless a silent bond was forged, an unspoken realisation that something was wrong with this world. Something that was broken that only men of a different age could fix. Men completely outside this new alien world watching with bitter disdain as everything their ancestors had built was torn down and replaced with something unholy and disgusting. Their women whores to alien entertainment, their children slaves to alien industry. Every ideal humans had forged, twisted and manipulated and bastardized beyond all recognition until it was a shadow. Turned inside out and made sick and hollow for the amusement of an uncaring race who saw humans as cattle.
And they didn’t do it with a show of force strong arm fascist take over but by using our own ideals against us. Attaching the chain to our throats one link at a time. They tricked us into voting ourselves into servitude through conditioning and constant subtle manipulation. All the while the humans were the frog in the pot complaining about the heat but never jumping out.
Gage had long listened to the bellyaching of men he worked with about the system of government they lived under. It had become a hobby to complain incessantly about it all with the idea of using the systems own mechanics to change it from the inside. And now as he recalled them he realised that not even they believed that was possible. That even these people he now considered to only be partially conscious knew their struggle to be pointless. For how could a system so inherently corrupt and given over to an alien consciousness ever serve humanity ever again. How could we hope to allow a people who’s mind had been jellied with alien media for this long to vote themselves out of their own slavery when they had been taught to love it? How would they even know the words to declare it? To Gage it was like a chicken in a pot asking for a lower flame or less garlic in the broth.
“Living up here grants a body lots of privacy though, not much to care about for them big wig aliens up north. They raided me one time, took a bunch’a irons but I made do making some of my own. Bullets too, gotta keep it hush though all them folks in town’ll rat me out, go shooting mainly at night or in the early hours. Good fer when it’s thundering out, if’n I don’t get struck by lightning” He laughed.
“I tell ya you need a good iron if’n them freed lugs come around, only reason they listen to is at the end of one of those. Rape and kill anything that get in their way. Without them that control them they’re as bad as wild beasts. Worse, some can even use an iron if you’d believe it, some of’em aint even smart enough to tie their own boots, if’n they wear boots.” He snickered.
*Note from the editor, there was a spreading trend of the kaftas breaking free of their control or having masters who passed away and did not dispatch their beasts or in some cases Kafta’s that killed their masters and roamed free creating savage bandit gangs preying on the human population. All criticism of the use of these beasts and the rampant and disproportionate crimes commited by them, were batted away as speciesist and then ignored.
“I don’t know about you, but I’d sooner shoot one down than look at’em, no beast like that should be here in the land of men, nomatter what no one says. We can carry our own damn steel.”
“But folks don’t wanna believe it, most folks just wanna go along to get along and they’ll take as many licks as they need to. As long as they can keep their bellies full and their hands clean they can live like dogs getting scraps off the table. Not me, I’d rather be out here alone than in all that muck.”
Gage nodded in agreement as he had nothing to add, the old man in the crudest sense had echoed Gage’s own reasoning in some small simulacrum. They were both outcasts to be sure and there was no world for them that existed except one they made themselves.
A silent minute of contemplation passed over the two men and they realised there was no disagreement to be had, a silent pact formed.
The old man chuckled and said “Lemme show you something.”
He took gage around back. Gage getting a look at the place could see it was a small farmhouse with a barn and one out building but nothing seemed to be grown there at all.
“Soils no good here” The old man said “Too dry”.
He lead Gage into the out building which was small ramshackle shed or shack. The old man opened the door and went in first Gage followed shakily as his eyes adjusted to the darkened room. It was cool and smelled of dust and was rammed full of useless looking junk and broken tools. Old bicycle parts, and even what looked like an coal engine from an airship.
“I dug that out of the sand after that crash in 41” It was hydrogen, no helium I think, burnt up like hell fire”. He said sounding somewhat satisfied. “But that aint it”.
He signed and his knees creaked as he moved a heavy calfskin rug off the dirt floor revealing a wood storm door in the ground.
The old man opened it up with a creak and made his way slowly down the wood stairs which bounced with his heavy footfalls. He lit a lamp and poked his head out of the hole beckoning for Gage to come down there with him.
Gage was hesitant at first but had followed through on his assumption that the old man was harmless to him. He descended the steep rotten steps and reached the earthen floor of the storm cellar.
“I used to use this place for keeping fruit cold” The old man said. “Now I use it to keep these hidden” He said gesticulating with the lamp. He waved it around him illuminating a stack of wood stocked long rifles and an assortment of junky looking revolvers. Gun parts on wooden racks built up off the floor and some shelves higher up with ammo of varying calibres.
He took the lamp further and set it down on a small workbench which looked like it had a bullet press on it. Newer looking well kept tools hanging in a specific order in regards to their size and use.
Something on the wall caught in the corner of Gage’s good eye as the light just brushed it for a moment. A colossal hunting shotgun resting on two bent nails dug into the wall. A breakaway action with two triggers, no there were more than two. It struck him He’d never seen a gun like this even in pictures. It was long with three etched barrels and a long ornate looking stock made of mostly wood with some engravings. Also horn and leather closer to the shouldering point.
It was for hunting that was for sure, but not for any dear or rabbit, this was for hunting something much larger.
“You like the elephantman gun huh?” The old man chortled “Pretty special aint it?”
Gage looked at him and then looked back at the gun.
“See I call it the Elephantman gun cos you could shoot right through an elepant to kill the man behind it if you needed to” He laughed. “You wanna try these first” He said as he held up a small break action schofield revolver.
Gage looked at it and said “Sure”