Monday, February 14, 2005

now we're getting somewhere

“You all right?” Trace asked after a while, stirring the chaff on the barn floor with his bootheel.

Boz lifted his head from between his knees. His face was darker than usual, from the blood running to his head, but it was an improvement over the ashy color he had been upon leaving the church. “Just tell me one thing,” he said. “Did you know that old fellow was… was—“

“Dead,” Trace supplied helpfully.

“—not real—when we went in there?”

“Nope,” Trace said. “Sometimes I don’t.”

“And they just do that—pop up and talk to you when they feel like it?”

“On occasion. More often they don’t know where they are or who they’re talkin to. It’s like they don’t know they’re dead. They’re just echoin what they did when they were alive. Ones around here seem to have more of an agenda.”

“What did Miss Lisette want, then?”

“Huh? You mean Miss Fairweather?”

“No. Dead lady. DuPres. Said you saw her, right?”

“Couple times.” Trace frowned. “Thing is, she keeps changin. Sometimes she’s a little girl, sometimes she’s grown woman, and a crazy one at that.”

“Reckon she was a girl sometime,” Boz said. “Remember the preacher said she was actin crazed, last time he saw her. And this Mereck was supposed to be a mezer—messer—”

“Mesmerist. Ain’t you soundin like a true believer.”

Boz snorted. “I ain’t sayin I believe none of this—but if it’s real, if you think it’s real—hell Trace, I rode cross this country with you ten times, I got to trust you by now. So I got to treat it like it makes sense, and the sensible thing I see is you go ask Miss Lisette what happened. She was there, wasn’t she?”

Trace recoiled from the idea, a sour taste like indigestion rising in the back of his throat. “I don’t think I can do that.”

“Why not? We just sat in there talked to some dead holy-man—“

“I can’t help it if they come to me, but I ain’t goin to start callin up spirits and demons—“

“Who said nothin about demons? Just one poor dead crazy lady.”

“’There shall be none among you who practice witchcraft, or interprets omens, a medium who calls up the dead,’” Trace said savagely. “That’s the laws for the priests—“

“Which you ain’t. Sometimes the world’s a bitch. And that preacher called it a gift—“

“Evil spirits can speak prophecy, too.”

“Christ on a crutch,” Boz hollered. “Don’t it say in your Bible all niggers is cursed? Ain’t you heard the one about Ham’s sons bowin down to white folks cuz Ham’s old man got drunk and left his pecker layin out? Now you tell me you believe that one, I’ll just head back to St. Louis and find myself a new trail-partner.”

“You know I don’t.”

“Damn right. You got the sense God gave you and that’s worth a helluva lot more than what some old smoke-breathers wrote on hides. So quit feelin sorry for yourself and use that gift to find out what the hell we’re doing here.”

Trace looked up slantwise from under his hat. “You’re startin to sound like my old man.”

“Shit. So what would he want you to do?”

“No need to get personal,” Trace muttered. “All right, goddamn it, but you got to come with me.”
“I ain’t holdin your hand.”

“No, but you can hold the goddamn gun, in case McGillicuddy comes around.”

1 comment:

Holly said...

I've never been big into westerns. Sci-fi was more my gig, and I'll freely confess it was because there was no one for me to identify with in the westerns; women suffer the worst of the virgin/whore treatments in the classic westerns. Sci-fi is generally more egalitarian, at least after the 60's.

But I like the testosterone in this story. I like the hero aspect of it, I like the inherent grittiness and prospect of violence. I don't make any claims to authenticity, because frankly I think the likelihood of me getting it "right" is about as likely as me getting a story set in 2335 AD "right." So I world-build here like I would in any genre: adhere to the basic laws of physics and psychology, and adapt things to suit my needs. As long as the internal story logic is consistent, everything else is negotiable.