Bad Lands- Wandering Man
I've been wandering through this godforsaken desert for many a year now, I know because when I started out I was but a young man, and now time has come and stolen it all away. I don’t even know the passage of time as I used to, every day seems to melt into the next until my face is the only way I can tell time has passed at all.I would say with all the certainty I’ve formed in me over the years that my time is near, I’m about to die, but the gods would curse me and make me live forever. This is my burden, my age and my travels and all I’ve done in my life, and it weighs heavy on my shoulders; knowing that things have never worked out well for me makes me lose hope that I never had in the first place. I even know how I’ll die, thanks to an old gypsy soothsayer I met in a backwoods carnival when I was five years old. She told me that one day I’d receive a bullet in the back for all my troubles, and I believe her.My other problem is the fact I’ve had no one through my time on this earth but one man, the deaf man Methuselah, and he died long ago, because the world’s just too harsh these days for a crippled man. I remember that there just came a time when he could hardly walk another step further along the trail, and when that time came he begged me to shoot him, but I wouldn't. I don’t think I could have at that stage; we were just too close for me to shoot him down, with him on his knees and nearly screaming with fear. He didn’t take it well, I think, when I told him it wasn’t in me to do it he started to starve himself, and wouldn’t take a drink either. He was dying slowly, he was lucky that I slipped him small handfuls of water when he slept, and for saving his life all I got in the mornings when he woke and realised were sharp curse and weak punches, but I had to do it. But there came a time when I knew it was a useless cause, he couldn’t last much longer the way he was going, and by my mind it was better to fall by the gun than to starve. So then came the time I had been dreading, the day I had to kill him. It was about four weeks after he’d first faltered, and he was a train track of bones, his ribs were sticking out so far I worried he’d trip over them.We were resting up for the night with a long haul ahead of us, although we knew where we were headed. We were following a trail we’d picked up and had seen hints of a town in the distance that very day. But he’d lost that hope which he’d struggled so hard to get in the first place, and he was begging me to give him the gun, let him end it himself. But there’s one thing I can’t stand, and that’s a man giving up to defeat. It just aint right by my mind, and so I refused him again and again, until I reached my breaking point and decide I would have to man up and do what he wanted. I knew I was going to have to go against all my instincts and get out my gun and shoot him. Methuselah went to dreamland very early that night, he was so weak and tired that I’d had to cart him along the last couple of weeks. He’d turned down dinner as usual, and I knew it was on. That was his last chance, if he had off eaten I wouldn’t have been forced to save him from himself.He was slumped down with his head resting against a small smooth rock, and within minutes of him crumpled and striking the ground he was down into a shallow, uneasy sleep. Like a truce between enemies he was near the edge. I think I sat beside our guttering campfire for quite a while just staring down at him there on the desert floor, until eventually it all became too much and I had to take a walk. That walk thankfully cleared my mind up a little, and I knew killing him was doing him a favour. When we were boys we had been blood brothers, and I remembered that we always said we had to watch each other’s back. And that was what I was going to do; I was going to help him. I took out my gun, and began to ready it. It was a dusty six chamber that I hadn’t fire din years, because there’d been no need to. No animals to shoot, no bandits ever since the second hit from the bomb, I only kept it because it reminded me of the old days. I checked the bullets in the chambers and I oiled it to clean away all the dust and fibres stuck in there good. I wasn’t even sure it would fire, but it would have to do. If not I’d have to slit his throat, but I hoped that didn’t have to happen. I was finished within a half hour, but I waited an hour more before I returned to the campsite. I dragged my feet and it took all of twenty minutes til I got back. I saw that he laid exactly the same, he hadn't moved a bit. I lifted my gun from my side, better get it done with, because I knew he was going to have to die somehow, and I wanted to know he hadn't suffered. I steeled myself, tried to gather some hate or just make myself disconnected enough that I wouldn’t feel anything when I killed him. I gritted my teeth and swore under my breath, swore fiercer than when I was a young one with something to prove. I aimed slowly, looking along the barrel until I had lined up my shot, and fired two shots straight into his head at close range. His head burst like the hogtied chicken I used to shoot up, four in a line strung along a fence rail. My father’s old BB gun, I remember it well. That rusty old gun didn’t have nearly as much punch as the .38 I shot Methuselah with, but the feeling was the same. I was never one to go too far into mindless destruction, but sometimes we all fall from the high perch we set ourselves on, and I fell those two times and many more besides them. Meth Head, I remember I used to call him, and he never seemed to mind too much, and this time was no different, because this time he was dead. I whispered that nickname over and over until my throat got sore, and even then I kept on. One thing I can truly say is that he was dead the moment I hit him, I was sure when I saw the river of blood that ran down the back of the small stone and pooled on the ground. I saw some white chunks of skulls like rafts in that river, and I wondered if I would ever get that picture from my mind. I haven’t you know, every night when I close my eyes up and try to sleep the only thing that pops up is that, and I would pay anything to escape that image, but I never will for as long as I have left.His head tilted to the side then hit the ground with a thump. I think I cried a little when I saw that, but the world moves on and so do I. I turned away quickly enough though, because I didn't want to remember him this way, I wanted to remember him as he used to be. But all I could see in my mind by now was the picture of his blood coursing down the stone, and then mixing into a reddish soup with the sand of the desert floor. He was going to have to be fertiliser, because I sure wasn’t burying him, I was sure I couldn’t, because one thing I never learned was how to cope. I curled up into a ball and rocked back and forth, cried some more because I couldn’t help it, and then got up and walked away an hour later. I took down my tent and doused the campfire, I was sure that I couldn't stay with him on the ground there any longer. When I reached the low lying hills off to the west I turned back once, but the campsite was too far off by then to see, and I wondered what would happen to him, but then I realised the cougars would get to him, and after that the vultures to pick off the rest.I kept on, put everything out of my mind and just walked to where I thought there might be a town. About five miles down the track I found a skeletal horse grazing in a pasture, but when I tried to ride it collapsed right under me and died fast. That horse wasn't going to die fast but I hurried it along, I suppose I'm too weak to watch anything die slow. I figured I was going to have to walk after all. After several hours of wandering aimlessly across the desert plains, off the track because it eventually ran to an end, well I finally came across a settlement. I was glad to see that place, because all the loneliness was starting to wear on me. I didn’t take me five minutes to realise that the town looked dead, all the houses were smashed in and dry as the desert itself, and I know if I had of set a fire anywhere all that tinder would have lit up the darkness real good. But despite that impression I got of deadness those houses seemed like they should harbour people, like in an old horror movie, but most likely there was nobody in that town. But I was proved wrong; all men must be someday I would think, because all of a sudden I noticed a far off flicker in the night. I trudged towards it, and eventually I stumbled into the town common. The first thing I noticed there was of course the lighted torches planted in the ground all around the square. A giant statue stood in the middle of them, looking like a Trojan horse. And this town was a Troy kind of town, with that air of having been pillaged and the eerie stillness in the air. I looked around the town for close to two hours, but I never found what I was looking for. There was no one anywhere to be seen, and on top of that I couldn't find any supplies either. I left that town with regret, because I had truly thought that this time might be different. I needed someone after Methuselah to fill the space he left behind. What I knew for sure was that somewhere close must be the men who’d lit those torches, because torches don’t magically light themselves. They must have been a couple of hours ahead of me, and maybe they’d been expecting me, because I could see no other reason why those torches had been there where I could find them. Life is full of terrible things, and what happened next was just another one of them. I think I might take a rest for now, because all this remembering is wearing hard on me, and Meth Head won’t leave me alone. Every word I write down just keeps on bringing his face back up, his worn death mask from the end. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue putting down this account or not, seeing as I don’t have too much time left on my hands and I want to spend that time drunk off my ass. I can’t take too much more thinking; I never was a thinker like others were. I’ll write when the time come, and it may never come again. I guess we’ll have to see about that, won’t we.
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