One Piece at a Time
The small gun barely moved in his great mit as he fired at the bottles sitting on rotting bales of hay in the barn.
He fired until he could hear the clicking of the pin against the spent cartridge. Gage looked down range to see that all five of the bottles were untouched and only the inside of the barn had been injured in a wide dispersal.
“Damn son, if you weren’t inside the barn I reckon you would’ve missed that too” He chuckled.
He took the gun away from Gage and emptied out the spent cartridges into his hand. He stowed them in his pocket reloading the gun and then taking a look down the sights and then at Gage’s eye.
“Don’t get much depth perception from that one eye do ya boy?” He sighed and looked at the revolver and said “Other eye probably doesn’t work so good neither”. He sighed again and sucked his gum before shooting one of the bottles looking out of the corner of his eye.
The old man sucked his gums again and said “I think we can work something out.” The old man turned went over to one of the empty horse stalls and drummed his fingers on the fence. “Why don’t you get yourself some more coffee and try and get some rest. I’ll see if I can change the odds a little” He said smiling.
Gage breathed out frustrated but nodded and found his way out of the barn and slumped into the farmhouse sitting in one of the chairs. He supped cold coffee staring at nothing for what seemed like an hour maybe two. The ragged mad thoughts came screaming back as each second that dragged more of the booze sweated out of his system.
Then there was a whistling sound which didn’t come through at first over the sound of the wind outside. Something of a dust storm had kicked up and it had mostly swallowed the horizon. But then over the whooping wind he heard a cracking sound like rolling thunder. He walked out into it, his huge hand over his one good eye as he made his way back to the barn.
He entered the barn slowly, the smell of gunpowder in the air. The old man stood looking at a giant hole in the barn the whistling wind was coming through. He turned as he heard Gage shut the barn door.
“I guess you weren’t born in a barn afterall.” He chuckled. He paused and thought a minute before putting his hands on his hips and pushing his bottom lip out. “I got something for ya” He said smiling.
He turned and nodded at a bale with a lambskin tarp over it, atop the tarp sat a sawn off shotgun. Gage went over to it and picked it up.
“Justice herself couldn’t miss with that thing, or god be my witness” The old man laughed.
Gage took it in his large hand, it was a good weight. The old man noticed him shaking it for the weight and said “Even if you miss you could just hit’em with it”.
Then he noticed the etchings along the barrel and how abrubtly they stopped at the choke with crude tools marks. The stock had been roughly sawn away and sanded down, it was the same gun that was hanging on the wall of the storm cellar.
Gage looked down at it and breathed heavily and said “Why?”
“I aint done nothing for for you”
“Not yet, could be you’re the one we’ve been waiting for and we didn’t even know we’d been waiting.” The old man smiled and said “Come on try it out, it might just back up and blow your damn hand off, ruin that pretty face a’yours”. He laughed.
It was a couple of months before Gage was ready to move on. His head clear, his mind focused, his body taught and strong like a drum like it was those years ago when he swung iron on the rail road. Doubts cleared from his mind he rode west on a horse the Carpenter provided.
What he intended to do he wasn’t quite sure of yet. Like some kind of apostle or prophet he was sure it would occur to him as if it would ride out of the clouds to greet him.
It was getting dark, and when it gets dark in the desert it gets cold. He could stand the cold but something on the horizon caught his eye. He’d been riding all day and the only place for miles was this odd two story ramshackle what looked like a coach house. But it turned out to be some kind of brothel built out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it was put there by a mining company for the workers or could have been a ways out from an actual town put out of sight from the decent folk.
Either way Gage wasn’t gonna pass it by.
He was sure the place would be occupied with all sorts of riff raff being so far out here. He wasn’t ready to be picked up by some Cyclon agent who might find a handcannon on him. Things could turn really bad really quick.
So he took the gun the old man had given him, oiled it and wrapped it in a canvas sack and buried under a tree about a half a mile out from the whorehouse. So if it turned bad he could just ride out and get it. Marking the tree with a knife so it wouldn’t get lost in all this nothingness.
He rode in slow as the sun came down over the ridge, laying down behind the mountain range. The sound of crickets and birds whipping up into a frenzy as he hitched his horse.
His heavy footfalls on the rickety porch stopping the tinny piano music inside for a moment before he entered. He ducked under the door frame and pushed the saloon doors open and the smell of the place hit him first. It smelled like filth, like it covered the walls. Unwashed woman wafting around never seeing water between countless uncaring drunken customers. Rat faced sneering men that smelled like blood.
The whorehouse itself was a simple wooden construction with a wide fore area with a piano on the right surrounded by tables and chairs. Where various scraggly ner-do-wells sat drinking with their shoulders around their ears.
“Looking for some company de-ar god” A woman’s voice said as he turned his face to look at her. She was old by any standard must have been late forties but gussied up to look half that with a face painted white like an eggshell. Her rotund belly bursting the seems of an off white colour corset. Her speckled and spotty sunburnt breasts popped up like flabby rising dough propping up her chin.
“No” He answered.
He stepped over a slightly raised mantle that felt as if it were a stage and made his way towards the bar.
Above the smell the place seemed like a good start. The tubeloscope played in the background reporting on some kind of explosion that happened near the capital. Some terrorist group claiming responsibility for it. The news woman, some kind of alien half breed of her own was walking around asking people leading questions. Like ‘what kind of monsters could have done this?’ The dirty people sitting and drinking didn’t look shocked. In fact some were smiling, some even laughed or were in silent support of the action.
He had heard on the tubeloscope that there was a rebellion somewhere. Some band of revolutionairies carrying out bombings and raids on convoys of Cyclon good. They were branded terrorists and scorned as the worst of the worst to be as despised as those that had killed and subjugated alien kind in the past. Those evil men who had tried to wipe them out as they would say ‘just for being different’.
There seemed to be an air of disdain for the current system and a general attitude of undirected animosity to it.
This gave Gage some hope that he might in the right place and he sat down at the bar and tapped the bar tender on the shoulder.
The bar tender swung around aggrieved at being disturbed from whatever it was he was doing behind the bar. But he stopped before saying something he’d regret seeing Gage’s face. A dirty faced young girl stood up and wiped her mouth. Gage looked at the girl who couldn’t have been older than fourteen barefoot and almost naked and then glared at the bartender.
“Wha dya want?” The fat sweaty man asked.
Gage said nothing, he looked above the bar and saw a large copy of the bible sitting on a shelf.
The bartender turned to look at it and scoffed, “Oh yeah that’s for the whores to piss on”.
He couldn’t rightly understand it at that point but for some reason that angered him greatly. He grabbed the bartender by his sweaty dirty shirt and pulled him close to his face. Not sure if he could even think of the words that would surmise his feelings of pure hatred towards the repulsive character.
But even if he had thought of something he was stopped in his tracks by a clicking noise. The feeble prodding of the barrel of a six shooter behind his good ear.
“Now I’d drop him if you don’t want to get even uglier.”
Gage turned to see the old whore who spoke to him when he enterned. He dropped the bar tender hard against the bar, knocking about a half a dozen bottles of liquor on the floor.
The women held the gun on him with her two hands as she looked around the bar at the other patrons and smiled nervously. “Get him” She squealed.
Before he could do anything the entire bar descended down on him. A chair was smashed over his back and a bottle over his head and he was kicked and rolled and hit with anything they could get their hands on. The whores too beat him with rods from the fire and even the teen girl from the behind the bar was biting at his legs as she pulled his boots off.
The attack was so fast and savage and by surprise there was no way he could have stopped it. And if he had had his gun they would have no doubt taken it and used it on him. But as it stood he was dumped a quarter mile out and left to die of dehydration and his injuries.
He lay there face down in the dirt awoken by the sqwarking of a buzzard deciding whether to peck at his good eye.
It didn’t hurt, nothing hurt anymore, only his pride was injured. His boots took, his coat, his money and whatever else he had on him. He was stripped down to his undershirt and left to rot and get picked at by the coyotes and the vultures. He felt nothing but the soft tight feeling of the broken and the mending and a stiffening of his muscles.
It made more sense to him now, these weren’t the revolutionaries he was looking for, just general criminals. A putrid scum that only laughed at the misfortunes of the state powers as far as they enjoyed any such misfortunes of others. They only opposed the system as far as it got in the way of their of own, degeneracy that exceeded that of what the state itself was willing to promote.
They were common criminals and had no right to live on this earth he thought as he staggered to his feet. His one good eye almost closed up with swelling as he tried to find his way to that tree and the justice he would bring, buried at it’s feet.
He found it within an hour of searching and trudged his way back to bar in the wee hours of the morning. Following the vile scent of the inhuman garbage that had left him to the carrion to be picked apart like some bloated pig.
He pushed through the door and was greeted with a silence and dull humming and the sound of snoring. The bar looked frozen, like a den of sleeping hogs, the drunks who had taken joy in beating and robbing him the night before were passed out on the bar. The whores passed out drunk in the booths along the side.
Gage could have easily killed them all in their sleep with his bare hands. But he wanted them to know the face of the man that would send them to the devil one at a time.
Pulling up a chair near the entrance he waited for the first to stir. The bartender appeared behind the bar like some kind of vole or rat sensing danger. Poking his greasy bald head over the bar as if he were sleeping on the floor. He rubbed his eyes like a child and thought he saw Gage and grabbed a drunk at the bar and tried to rouse him.
“Hey, wake up, is that- It’s him!” He squealed like a stuck pig and the drunk reached for an iron feebly slow and was cut down by the blast of Gage’s gun. The shot; hot and hard, hitting the back of the bar, splintering it and bursting open the bottles of liquor and lighting it on fire. The liquid flame exploding and splashing on the bartender who shreaked like a washer woman. He waddled falling over the bar and jumping out of the window partially on fire.
A pistol coughed at him hitting the doorframe and then once in his arm but it wasn’t powerful enough to move him. He swung around to where the noise was and emptied a barrel of his shotgun into the stairs. Cutting the old whore from the night prior in half just under her corset. The top half of her popping out of it and rolling down the stairs while her legs remained, the gun tumbling down and breaking open.
The bar was awake now, skittering like cockroaches under the eye of the sun, stinking rats fleeing a sinking ship. They piled over eachother to get away into the desert. Which was fortunate since anyone with the balls to draw a weapon and fight had to clamber over the cowards who tried to flee to pop a shot off. A foot to the groin or a hand in their face not helping their aim any as people literally climbed over them to escape.
Gage fired his last shot into the crowd tearing a wide hole in it and leaving men and some women writhing around in their own putrid entrails.
He emptied the spent shells onto the wood floor putting the shells in his mouth as he slowly reloaded. Occasionally some dishevelled miscreant would pop out from behind a table to fire a poorly aimed shot at the furniture. Only to duck down behind it again if they didn’t just fire blindly over the top.
He slid the final shell into the gun as he felt a tapping on his back as if someone were insistently prodding him on the shoulder.
Swung around to see a dirty young lad with a whispy mustache standing with a 22 pistol smoking in his hands. Gage snapped his gun shut and picked him up by the jaw and slammed the hard wood handle of his gun into the kids face. The first blow loosening all the teeth in the front of his head, the next shattering his jaw entirely. The next knocking his nose in and the next shattering his orbital cavity. After that there wasn’t much left to break and he threw his lifeless body over the tops of the overturned tables the cowards were using for cover. He heard a womanly shriek.
He fired into the crowd of overturned tables and turned them into kindling almost instantly. As if they were made of leaves and a strong gust blew them away. Men that weren’t killed by the shot were caught by shrapnel. Men shrieked with thick table splinters gouged into their eyes and throats and hands. Any that weren’t dead and maimed ran to escape the sound of the dying men’s screams.
Gage trod over the desolation barefoot, glass and splinters sticking into his huge hard feet but he couldn’t feel any of it. He walked over their corpses stamping out those still gasping and gargling for life. He saw the young girl from before lying on her back a big piece of table sticking out of her throat and her eyes glassy staring up at the ceiling. He spat on the floor in disgust and walked over to the stairs.
Stepping over the corpse of the old whore he made his way up to the second floor, kicking her legs off the side of the stairs.
The second floor was just a balcony overlooking the bar and a series of doors leading to bedrooms for the whores to ply their trade.
Coming to the first door his heavy footfalls gave him away and a burst of two succinct revolver shots bust through the door. Cutting Gage along one of his arms but not deep enough to knock it out. He fired back splintering the door and sending a bald man flying out of his boots with a hole the size of a donkey’s head in his chest.
A blonde whore was prone behind the bed with a long schofield revolver in her clasped hands. Her arms laying across the bed. She looked at Gage filling up the doorway covered in blood the righteous hogleg hanging heavy at his side. She hesitated and threw her gun down on the bed and it slid down and hit the floor.
Gage said nothing before firing the last barrel at her. Tearing up the bed with a burst of feathers and blood as her head split in two and plastered against the backwall.
He stood for a moment as the gun smoked before putting three more shells from his pocket in his mouth. Breaking the gun open again and letting the spent cartridges hit the floor,
Another whore with raven hair and green eyes sprang at him from the adjacent room with a pair of taylors scissors and stabbed Gage in his raised arm. He grabbed a fistful of her hair with his free hand and slammed her head into the side of the door with a cracking squelching noise. Her knees buckling instantly and he tossed her body off the balcony with a crash of glass and wood.
He finished loading the gun and snapped it shut again and fired into the room she came out of. Knocking her customer right out of the window with a thunderous clap and a tinkling of glass.
He kicked the door down of the last room and fired both barrels without even looking. Making it nearly impossible to distinguish what remained in the room. Just a paste of blood and feathers and bone.
When the whore house was still he went outside lead by a pathetic mewling noise. Following the sound it lead him to the bartender face down in the dirt smoke rising off of him as he whined quietly with as he breathed in dust.
Gage put his foot on the back of his greasy bald head and pressed it into the mud until the mewling stopped and he heard a cracking snapping sound.
When it was done he sat on the porch in a rocking chair looking out on the horizon with the gun on his lap. After about an hour of sitting there and thinking about what he was gonna do. Maybe just burn the whole thing down and moving on. But he thought better of it and decided to start moving bodies.
He assembled all the corpses and the largest pieces near the entrance. Then finding a shovel in the back he started digging a big hole behind the building.
He spent an hour or two digging a mass grave a few feet deep. Without the pain in his muscles he found he could work much harder and longer and it didn’t seem to bother him. The only thing he felt by the end of it was his thirst. When he’d finished burying the bodies and the parts he went into the bar and dumped out all the liquor and took a drink of water from a nearby well. Then he collected up all the guns and ammo that were left lying on the floor. All in all he got six or seven pistols, ranging in size from tiny derringer meant for hiding up ladies skirts and long army schofields. There was a rifle in the back hidden behind some barrels of beer and a short double barrelled shotguns as well as a set of brass knuckles and a bowie knife. The quality of the guns was fairly low as the legality issue had made choosers into beggers. They couldn’t even steal anything that mightn’t not explode black powder back into their faces.
After that he started to tidy the place up. Getting rid of the broken furniture and mopping up the blood and picking up the brains and bones and other parts he missed. Throwing out all the soiled burnt and ripped bedding.
At the time he couldn’t say why he did it, it was more ritualistic. Feeling as though cleaning the place up, the necessity for it would be made clear when he’d finished. Or somehow the act itself was like cleaning up an especially filthy corner of the earth and this would signal the start of a great cleansing. A small part of a greater design taking shape and growing one piece at a time.
He felt some slight clawing regret at killing his own people because that’s not what he’d set out to do. All that dirty work that seemed pointless had given him time to reflect on it and as he thought of those twisted ugly dirty faces he knew. That the horrible truth of it was that the decay was too far along. The moral and social and cultural decay of his own people had been had been ingrained in them long ago. By a people that sort their disorder to form their own from the chaos.
They had indulged these vices and even promoted them telling people of the one life they had to lead. Encouraging them to lead it only for the selfish asquistion of the basest pleasures of drink and women and violence.
And the majority had done so. As the spiritual and moral values they had founded this country on had given way to material wealth and physical pleasure. Turning men into nothing more than greedy eating machines whose only purpose was to buy bigger mouths.
He’d initially thought he might excise the cancer of his society surgically. But now he knew that even those not associated with the system were just as vile. And where he might have used a scalpel before when what he really needed was a hammer and shovel to knock it loose and dig it out. Pull it out by the root and he’d have to pile the corpses of his own kind higher than his eye before he could save his world.
A million faces like his would have to be smashed before they’d be free, before his kind would seek their own freedom. Talking never worked, the Cyclon were the masters of talking and nothing changed when it was left to a vote. the Cyclon loved voting everything. His people needed to be shaken forcibly from their dream, they’d fight and cling to their chains before being free.
The word seemed like a joke to Gage. Looking at this place he saw what people did with their freedom. He didn’t want to free his people, not from morality, not from god. Just from the Cyclon. It was their freedom that lead them to this. Man was not meant to be free, not from himself and not from God.
The beasts were free and man was not meant to be a beast.
It was his place to find good men and lead them against those that would die to protect corruption and decay. A system that would stifle their good and promote their worst degenerate tendencies would have to taken a part piece by piece. By the most righteous men unfaltering in their tasks. Driven by a firey passion and slaked with an icy determination they would drive their thumbs into the skull of the system and leave it blind.
When it was all done to the best of his ability, cleaner and brighter and lighter. That dank smell of human vice gone he felt he could breathe. It was a clean open room now waiting to be filled with what he couldn’t say but it was a step in the right direction. The sun was coming down so Gage took up a blanket with a scotch hatched pattern and sat on the rocking chair on the porch. He sat with the blanket over him the gun in his lap underneath it and with a lamp at his side and waited.