Friday, July 29, 2016

#TheCrux #Sciencefiction you deserve #Dreamcast

Todd Brown as #Ronin

www.thecruxseries.com

From #TheCrux

From Chapter 14: The Preacher

“But there always has to be one…right Marshall,” Kalos chides. “One who has just enough principle, the right mix of piss and vinegar, to believe that integrity and courage will win the day. The same mantra etched on so many crumbled tombstones or grievously whispered over unmarked graves. Like a bad apple, riddled with a gnat’s offspring, they gradually rot the whole bunch, decaying common sense through the fermentation of festering bravado. A lone voice gnawing at the collective rationale as it tears away at the last bits of logic until the raw nerves of spirit are bitterly, immutably incited with delusions of hope and triumph. It is the call of death that desperate men can’t help but answer.”

“So the man of God, whose faith quickly, unknowingly became a noose, ignorantly dragging him to his destiny, became that voice, not of reason, but of bold insanity. He riled the men in secret meetings where they plotted their half ass revolution and then waited for just the right moment to rise and undoubtedly fall. He knew these outlaws loved their booze more than blood or bosom, so they set their strike to occur at the edge of night, when their libations flowed like the Mississippi River during a long autumn rain. He firmly believed in their drunken state they would be easy pickings even for the haphazard posse.”

“So as the midnight hour rode the evening air like a warm spring breeze, they arose from their hiding places and covertly but clumsily encroached upon the small saloon to invade their oppressors nocturnal celebrations.  Unfortunately, these detestable creatures of habit had opted out of their usual orgy of overflowing whiskey and stagnant bodily fluids, to figure out their exodus from the town with the gold and the most giving of gals in tow. Crisp and clear as winter’s morn, they sat at a large round table and concocted their next move with the sober but limited brain pans nature had given them. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but as you, the Marshall, and I know, there is no such thing…is there? Coincidence is yet another attempt by mankind to defraud itself into believing it has a microscopic hope of control and free will.”

“As the men crept through the back door with the few weapons they scrounged up, drawn and cocked, ready for their attack, one of the eight headed for the bar and retrieved a bottle of aged scotch to celebrate. It took him all of a minute to notice the skulking hodgepodge of teetering and twitching muzzles. Before he could call out, one of the townsfolk fired, more out of abject fear than predisposed aim, striking the bandit straight through the heart, killing him as his limp body fell to the grayed, weathered floorboards. It would be the last bit of luck that would find them throughout that brutal night. The echo of the gunshot took a nanosecond to reach his accomplices as they sprung from their rickety chairs, casting them to the ground where they shattered and splintered.  As they spun around, the unfortunate posses sprinted forward and blasted in all directions, the billowing smoke from the spent powder wrapped around their heads like white, vaporous turbans.”

“They managed to hit walls, bottles, window panes, furniture, and an assortment of vessels and bric-a-brac, at the same time missed any hint of flesh and bone. Within a few seconds, they had exhausted every round.  Now they stood, like blind sheep, before their enemies, who had patiently waited for their frantic foolishness to end. The outlaws now glared confidently at their quarry, untouched by their misguided intentions and aim.”

“Before the slowly snickering outlaws reached for their firearms, the posse’s members fell to the floor, prostrate before the vulgar crew. All but that darned old pastor who brought them to such a lowly state with all of his high talking bravery and faith. They made sure, in unison, to let the outlaws know just that. After all the chuckles, Henry stepped forth, and profanely, methodically narrated his intendment for not only these woeful do-gooders, but for the entire town. He then rounded up every man, woman, and child and brought them to the church. None resisted in the futile hope of mercy. He had them sit in the pews, line by line, with the preacher’s wife and two young daughters in the very front row.”

“Enough Kalos…Enough!” I cry out.

“Too late now, Ronin,” Kalos refuses to yield, “the cat is too far out of the bag on this one.”

I want to sprint towards him and rip his useless tongue from his worthless skull, but I am paralyzed by Sasha’s gaze. I can’t describe it; I only know it has penetrated my heart, like the edge of a jagged blade, rotating without remorse. It has been a long time, but the wounds feel as fresh as that very day! Every word is like a new set of voracious maggots viciously masticating the ravaged tissue, excruciatingly extracting every droplet of blood, setting my soul’s flesh ablaze with a hellish agony. It is that torment that has eradicated my resolve left me frozen in place, caught between the polarization of Kalos’ exposé and Sasha’s reaction.

“So, returning to my tragic tale,” Kalos arrogantly continues. “He lined them up, with the pastor kneeling and facing them on the stage.  His crusty companions then handed out hymnals, one for every member of the congregation, as he ordered them all to turn to the page containing the verses to that oldie but goodie, Amazing Grace. After he growled for them to begin, he slowly walked over to the preacher. As the trembling melody filled the air, he stopped and leaned into the kneeling minister who was held down by one of Henry’s cronies with the muzzle of a gun pressed firmly against his temple.”

“Well, Rev,” Henry began, his voice grizzled, breath tormenting the pastor’s nostrils with the smell of bourbon and steady decay. “Seems like your little plan failed but I gotta give it to you, you got some serious stones, more so than any of the other lily-livered cow pucks in this here church of yours.”

“The choir began to wane as fear filled their minds and throats.”

“You better keep singing,” Henry turned and snarled, “it’s the only thing keeping you garbage alive!”

“The chorus picked up again as it wobbled through each refrain in fragmented harmony filled with terror.”

“That’s better maggots,” Henry cackled and then returned his attention to the rector.

“Bruised and beaten, the preacher peered back at him through a swollen and blackened eye. Blood caked on both cheeks and around his neck as he favored his right shoulder with a mud-soaked hand. You see, they had already dragged him twice through town from the back of old Ed’s nag. The fact he didn’t succumb to that was impressive enough.”

“Now Rev, back to you,” Henry gruffly began again. “You got moxie, I’ll tell you that, but you ain’t’ got the good, common sense of a barn rat. You should’ve left it alone, preacher man. If you had just given it a couple more days we had been long gone and all it would have cost you was for my boys to enjoy a couple more rides on your eldest’ ass and she is a mighty fine filly at that.”

“The preacher tried to lurch forward but the pain of his broken ribs dissuaded him.”

“ Now…now,” Henry reprimanded as he placed his hand on the preacher’s bad shoulder and squeezed.

“The preacher grimaced but did not have the strength to sigh, let alone scream.”

“Let’s not get all uppity,” Henry hoarsely chastised and pushed him down further until his nose scraped the stage below. “You see where that gotcha and where it’s gonna getcha!”

“Henry released his grip and then removed his hand as the preacher groaned in agony. He turned back to the congregation who were now midway through the last chorus.”

“Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages,” Henry announced with all the fervor of a carnival hawker, but a tone and husk that bellowed like a roar through hell’s caverns. “Since the preacher man here has balls the size of boulders and the rest of you don’t have enough dignity to match a two dollar whore, me and my boys here think that he should live through this night.”

“The Bannister gang chuckled in unison and smiled widely with what was left of their rotting orthodonture.”

“But you ain’t!” He growled, as he slid his Colt smoothly out of its tattered holster and raised it in the air. “So I gave you this song, to make right what was wrong to whatever god you snivel too!”

“The rest of his gang rotated around the room, a line of three stood behind the first row of pews. The next two stood on either side of the second row. Two more did the same for the third.”

“Whether you move or not, you are still gonna die,” Henry gravelly admitted. “So better to die quick, than resist, and make my boys kill you slow and painful like! As for you preacher, you’re gonna watch each one of them take a bullet to the back or side of their worthless skulls. So you can remember the night you rose up, just like the song, and learned who god really was! The man who death himself fears, good ole Henry Bannister,the scourge of the south, wind of the west, the only one whose prayers matter. Cause he makes them happen!”

“Without hesitation or utterance of another word, he slapped the preacher square across the front of his face and grabbed him by his dirt and dust ridden hair.”

“Oh, no, you gotta watch this Rev,” Henry maniacally scoffed, “wouldn’t want you to miss this god’s work!”

“With that and a quick wink, the echo and soot of gunfire violently filled the air. The blood spewed in every possible direction and decorated the snow-white walls with crimson Rorschach patterns and grotesque crumbs of bone and brain. The few tears the preacher had left crawled from his eyes and dropped as thick as milk onto his tattered and torn knees. As horrific as the sight was, he refused to look away. Anyone else would have, and no one would have ostracized them for doing so, I guess he believed he owed them all at least that much.”

“The massacre continued among the faint sobs and ominous gasps of the victims, most with eyes closed tight before their cruel demise but few stared accusingly at their rector. Their unyielding glare filled with the flames of guilt baked his flesh and cooked his soul. It only took a matter of minutes, but it felt like a hundred lifetimes and in the end, that is exactly how many they took.”

“They murdered all but three. Three lone souls that sat in the very first row, desperately focused on the man who gave them everything and cost them the same. He could say nothing to them. Even if it was possible, what words could bring comfort in the midst of the fires of Hades.”

“And now preacher,” Henry snidely grumbled, “I have saved the best for last, but there is a catch to this one.”

“Henry’s sarcastic smile engulfed the bottom part of his face, chin and all.”

“Hell, I’ll tell you what, preacher since I am in such a good mood,” Henry unscrupulously began.

“His heinous gang chuckled and wiped the remnants of their prey from their dirt tanned faces.”

“Let’s give you a choice,” Henry continued, “this god is gonna cut you a break, how’s about them apples.”

“Suddenly three of his gang took positions behind his wife and two daughters.”

“Just a simple thing and these three fine young things will live, and so will you,” Henry sardonically explained. “Since I proved to you that I am god. All you have to do, to save these three women, those you claim to love so much, hell, were willing to risk your useless life and the lives of the entire damn town for.”

“The tortured form looks up at him as his lips trembled, the etched trails of his tears mixed with blood and sand covered his face.”

“All you have to do,” Henry bent down and leaned in, nose to nose with this broken quarry, “is deny your futile god, and give praise to me.”

“The preacher’s one good eye widened.”

“Call me god, preacher!” Henry mockingly demanded.

“Henry straightened and raised his arms, open palms to the ceiling.”

“Call me god, and every one of you lives, you have my word!” Henry laughingly reiterates.

“The preacher suddenly convulsed with anguish, not from the throes of physical pain, but from the agony that resonated in the very depths of his soul.”

“I’ll even give you to the count of ten,” Henry bellowed. “That’ll give you enough time to say goodbye to either your god or them.”

“The preacher looked over to his family, soaked in their own weeping. He knew there will be no salvation tonight. He had already mourned their deaths. To give this abomination the satisfaction of taking his last possession was never an option. It is the real price of faith, the true cost of foolishness.”

“Henry began his slow, gruff countdown as his minions reveled in the suspense. The preacher’s wife left him with one final, silent sentence, but he heard her scream it within his heart. Two simple words each formed without the presence of time.”

“But…why?”

“Then Henry reached one, and in the blink of an eye, the preacher was showered in the essence of his reasons for existence.”

“There was no pause; no second warning, just three lonely, haunting gunshots and the faces that reminded him of the graces of heaven were shattered before him in a brilliant flash of light and unimaginable carnage. Their now limp bodies’ slumped down to the floor and formed a terrifying mound only inches from the preacher’s muted lamentations, his body fiercely seized in his immeasurable sorrow. ”

“Well god wins, don’t he, on both counts,” Henry scoffed as he placed the muzzle of his pistol against the top of the preacher’s head. “They’ll meet theirs; you have already been punished by yours.”

“And with that, Henry pistol whipped the preacher and his unconscious body fell forward into the pile of death and despair.”

“That night they rode away, leaving the little, unimportant town to burn. They set every building ablaze, except for the church, the tomb of its population. When the preacher awoke, he held the corpses of his wife and children for days until the stench of decay became too much to bear, even for unconditional love. He single handily buried every man, woman, and child, and it took weeks. When he was done, he set the church on fire, and walked away into the fields, then the valley, beyond the mountains,through the desert, aimlessly, a lost soul without purpose or prayer.”

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