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Mars ain't no write a story

Mars ain't no write a story

A Story by Joel

I uploaded this earlier. If anyone wants to read it that hasn't, awesome.


 Az walked along the black highway. The highway wasn't for travel, there was no reason in the long level plains to walk on a road. The highway was for direction, a man could walk in circles for 100 years in a trackless wilderness like this, nothing but red moss, red grass, and soft red shrubs.


 His name was Azrael, but they called him Az back home, through laziness or discomfort at the name. Dark names were the tradition of his family, those of the light skin and dark hair and eyes. They said that his people were the first people of this planet, those most adapted to it's alien soil. Some said that his people were there all along, and adopted the form of the strangers to live among them. Such were the stories told to frighten children.


 All knew that man had first set foot on this place some generations ago, fresh from another world. Forgotten though was that homeland and the barely imagined horrors that drove them to the forbidding landscape of this place. All knew and yet slowly some disbelieved. New faiths, new religions, not of the homeworld but of this place began to form, though still the cross of the Jesus Men reigned supreme. Tales told it had survived other worlds and other homes as well.


 Az wore black, the same as the road, though his clothes became the dark red of dried blood as his trek went on. occasionally he touched the leather of his holster, it hung low on his thigh, on the soft black belt that his mother made from him many years ago. The revolver it contained was heavy, balanced with the lead in the bullet bag on his other hip. His hat, of the same beast as his belt, hung low in the front and back, sheltering his eyes against the constant nagging wind.


 The people of this world lived off the land, in homesteads or small cities, the latter grouped around perhaps a single factory, the former raising meagre but hearty crops, or the short, wide black cattle and long red Hogs. There were chickens too, and eggs were plentiful and inexpensive for the traveller to trade for, with the furs and teeth of the cunning wild cats that would at times seek the sleeping traveller. The origins of these beasts were lost also in time, for if man had come to this place in the past, it was not known if he had come alone.


 A red hare bolted in front of him, foolishly crossing the black road in his fear and highlighting himself in Azrael's vision. The traveller's hand came up with a sling already swinging, a round lead ball sprung free as his wrist adjusted and the targeting computer in his mind lead the rabbit. The near-human screaming of the beast confirmed what Az knew already, direct hit.


 A small clay pipe came out of his pocket and he loaded it with some black native plant, smoked throughout the world so far as anyone knew, his sulfur-match lit with a smell that he found oddly comforting. Calmly he smoked as he watched the thing from the corner of his eye and collected his slug for later use. He placed the tip of his boot on the misbegotten creature, holding its lungs closed, denying it the final breath of life. The red hare did not outlive the embers of his pipe. He smoked as he worked, drinking from his canteen as the pipeleaf gave him the need, cleaning the hare and skinning it. He had no fear of thirst. he knew the circles to walk and refill the water. You didn't find a beastie this healthy outside easy reach of water.


 A moon raced through the sky as he cooked, adding a taste of a few wild herbs to the carcass. The water hole had been less than six paces from the road, and with the bad soil in this stretch he might never have found it had it not been for his dinner. In good soil, you could find the water by the plants. On rock you could see lines cut by the water. In this gravel-and-sand you saw nothing but the things that knew where the water was.


 The walker in black drank water and smoked by turns, long after the thing was consumed, a man needed to hold his water, to have it inside him as well as to carry in this dry place. Smoking made him thirsty, allowed him to drink much without nausea.


 In the morning he walked again, his canteen full, his pipe wisely put away. He set no effort to walking, except in starting. Once begun he let his easy stride eat mile after mile, as voles and shrews may eat a mighty Bison.


 Presently, around the hour of midday, when the weakling rays of a feeble sun make their greatest effort to pierce the twilight, he spied a way station, the first in days. and though he was disinclined to stop once the day began, these posts at time carried news, scribbled on papers and stuck to walls with dry plantneedles. His steps slowed as he approached this one, wariness struck him and a pall hung over the place of passing.


 Soon came the reward of his caution too, as he stopped for a moment, staring at the ageless hut. A man came staggering from the doorway, he was hatless, his hair and clothes unkempt. A rifle stuck over his shoulder, long of barrel and heavy of gauge, it marked the stranger as a hunter of big game as much as his condition marked him a bad one. Here stood, or staggered, a townman who not long ago had strode forth as proudly and confidently as the very bison he sought. Now he stood a ruin, a monument to folly.


 "Water!" The man called, and Az was startled to hear human speech. "Who goes there? Bring me water!"


 "Azrael comes to you by the south road, and by the Ghost I bring you no water." Az spoke calmly, as unmoved by pity as the wind.


 "Liar! You have water in your skin!" roared the man.


 "Call me a liar and beg for favors? I have no water for you." Azrael returned with steel in his tone.


 "Why not? Why not for me?" was the plaintive response.


 "A hare gave this water to me, and I'd not dishonor his spirit and waste it on a fool, 'twas in truth a foolish hare, but not so much the fool as you." came the icy reply.


 "I know what you want!" the dead man roared. "You'd have my gun for a sip of the water you clutch to your chest, you'll have a bullet, swindler."


 The massive single-shot swung round, but Az was already falling as the hammer came down. He felt the bullet whiff though his shirt as he dropped to the vegetation-strewn verge.


 The thirst crazed man came on, thinking his mark was hit, fingers already grasping the air, reaching for the water-bag. Even that, the touch of the hide canteen was denied him. His face turned to horror as the gun came up to meet his gaze, and for an eternal moment he looked into the dark, rifled eye before the bullet came from it and ended his life.


 Azrael never stopped, as he salvaged the man's goods, to consider the fate of men who cross this way, why some men are fated to die, and some live on. Such were questions for the very young and the very old. So it happened that is also never dawned upon the watchers of this scene: the walking man, the corpse, and the raven on the waystation roof. That the real question might be: was any man ever meant to live...on Mars?

© 2008 Joel

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I like westerns so I have a predisposition to like a really far out western, even as far out as
Well formatted and thankfully grammatically correct as far as I can see. I say thankfully because I know how uncomfortable it is (for an English teacher especially) to be hoisted on one's own petard.
This sentence puzzled me: "So it happened that is also never dawned upon the watchers of this scene: ..." Otherwise no eye stopping irregularity.
Thanks for sharing.

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Added on February 6, 2008
Last Updated on June 29, 2008



Pleasanton, TX

I'm a High School English teacher in Pleasanton, TX. As I feel that I am presiding over the death of the written word (judging from my students), I should either try to help or dig a deeper grave. Con.. more..