A giftsnap from Artemis, from way back in the days, now recovered through the powers of SCIENCE! and the wayback machines that litter the Internet...
Will You Help me Build my Church?
A Westworlds Snapshot by Artemis
The man looked old, but beyond that, he looked decrepit. He looked like an emaciated horse that could not feed itself, and whose owner did not care to feed it. He was walking through the street, the only one in the town. He stumbled, reaching out to people for balance. “Will you?” he asked a man just come home from the silver mine a short distance away. “Will you help me?”
The miner, his face covered in oxide-black soot, shrugged off the man’s arm. “Get lost, old-timer.”
Unfazed by this dismissal, the man continued walking through the street, grasping on to anyone nearby. “Will you please help me? Please? You, sir, will you help me? Sir? Ma’am? I need your help, all your help! Please?!”
No one listened. No one ever listened. They had all become accustomed to the madman in black living in their town.
Well, all except for the woman.
“William, dear,” she said, pressing her arm a little tighter to her escort’s side. “Who is that man there? What is wrong with him?”
The man escorting her, the Sheriff Thomas in the town, shook his head. “His name is Reverend Archibald Jove. As for what is wrong with him…Alicia, to be honest with you, I don’t think anyone knows.”
Alicia Miracle, just arrived from Phoenix, made a face. “He seems so sad. What does he want help with?”
“I need materials, yes!” the Reverend yelled to the sky, spreading his arms and spinning around. William Thomas was scared the man was going to take off like a Cutter. “I need planks of wood and nails and bricks and cloth and glass, but most of all I need faith! I need your belief in the Maker Almighty, I need your love for community and town to go into my church! Will anyone help me build my church?!”
“He really is a Reverend, then,” Alicia said. Her voice quivered a bit as they approached the madman’s still-spinning position, but she also sounded honestly sympathetic for the man. “But, doesn’t this town already have a church?”
“It does,” William said. “Run by a real Reverend…see, Padre Jove there used to be a full-fledged Ministry Reverend…but one day things just must have went wrong in his mind. Started denouncing the Ministry and spreading slander. Oh, they sent someone to help him back to the faith, and he’s still here; he took over Jove’s old church. But Jove himself…I don’t know what happened to him, Alicia dear.”
As William had been speaking, the man Jove had caught sight of the two. “Sheriff, lady dear, will you help me build my church?” His eyes were bloodshot and there was a crust of red and brown in one corner, but up close they didn’t seem crazy…just very desperate. “Will you, my dear? Do you hear the Maker’s voice as I do?”
Alicia stammered for a second, but she caught her voice at last. “Well, Reverend Jove, how do you hear the Maker?”
He smiled, revealing loose and darkened teeth. “The Maker, He showers me in light and holds me to His chest, He whispers the secrets of the desert into my ear, and He taught me to turn the old symbol of the false faith into proof of the true faith.”
She looked down at him, obviously having no idea what he had just said. “I…must hear him differently, Reverend.”
The Reverend Jove looked down, his smile evaporating. Alicia and William were both scared he was going to explode on her, but he simply kept walking, muttering to himself. “Need help…have to build the church…”
The Sheriff looked down at Alicia with admiration and fear crossing each other on his face. “That was a very brave and foolish thing you did, my dear. Remember, the man is mad.”
She pursed her lips. “Confused,” she began, “perhaps even a little mad. But not all the way mad.”
William shrugged. “Well, a little mad is all it takes for him, I guess.”
Behind them, another man, this one much younger but also dressed in black Reverend’s robes, was running toward Jove. “Padre, Padre!” He called.
Jove didn’t seem to notice him at first, but eventually he turned his head to face the legitimate Reverend. “Oh yes, brother Emilio…have you come to reconsider your refusal of His way?”
“Padre Jove,” the Mexican-descended Reverend pronounced the Reverend’s name “ho-vay”, “you are making a disturbance. Please, come back with me to the house, we’ll sit and talk together.”
“I have nothing to talk with you about, brother Emilio,” Jove said. “You have refused the Maker’s true voice, and I cannot waste my time trying to make a round stone square. My knife would dull.”
“Padre Jove, there is no one true voice of the Maker. We all hear Him in different ways; it is a Reverend’s duty to speak in that multitude of voices, not just one.”
“But all the other voices are false, Emilio! I have heard the Maker’s voice as they heard it a millennium and eight centuries ago!’
Emilio shook his head and sighed. “Please, Padre. Come home; no one is listening to you here.”
“THEY WILL LISTEN!!” Jove yelled, the dry sound cracking off the walls of the surrounding buildings like a whip. “They will listen when I speak with the Maker’s true voice!”
The people in the streets stopped in their tracks at the sound of his voice. A horse carrying a buggy of un-prickled cactus spun its head, and it began foaming at the mouth. A baby that had been crying in a house somewhere in the street stopped instantly. A wino sobered immediately, and dropped his bottle to have it shatter and spill brown liquid into the sand.
To his credit, Reverend Emilio stood his ground. “Padre…come with me.”
Jove stared at the other man of the cloth for a long time. After a time, it almost looked like he would go with Emilio (after all, he was only a little bit mad) back to the house, and some healing might be done. That is what would have happened.
“Hey old man,” a voice said from outside a saloon. “You about done spouting bullshit yet?”
It was a young man, a boy really. He leaned lazily against the wood of the saloon, one foot pressed against wall, spur glinting in the sunlight. He wore a black vest over a red shirt, the color so rare because the dyes were so expensive that it was a sure sign of money somewhere on him. His dungarees were dark blue, and lacked the patches that resulted from working in them. His hat was as blue as the dungarees, and possibly made of the same thing.
“What…did you…say?” the Reverend Archibald Jove demanded.
“I asked,” the kid said “if you’re all finished. I’d like to finish my beer without it curdling from your yellin’ and screamin’ and whatnot.”
Emilio stepped forward. “Enrique, you had best be going back to that drink of yours. This is a private matter.”
“It stops being private when your buddy there starts blowing his top while the rest of us are forced to listen. Him walking up and down the street I could stand, at least that was kinda funny, but that ain’t called for. Not at all, it ain’t.”
At this point, Sheriff William Thomas and Alicia had started back to the Reverend and the two men standing near him. “There a problem here, Reverend Emilio?”
“Damn straight there’s a problem,” Enrique said. “You know what it is too, Sheriff Thomas.”
“Sheriff,” Emilio said “Padre Jove and I were just going home. I’d be happy to—”
“No!” Jove said, slapping Emilio’s hand off his shoulder. “You…Enrique Vajamos Carita, yes?”
The kid spit into the dirt. “So you can still remember names. That’s a good sign.”
“I never saw you in Church, even in my deluded days with the Ministry.”
“Ain’t got no reason to,” Enrique said. “You know why?”
“Because I got better things to do than listen to an hour of complete and total bullshit, that’s why!” Enrique yelled at Jove.
Sheriff Thomas narrowed his eyes. “Mr. Carita, you had best keep a civil tongue in your mouth. There are women, children, and holy men present. I might point out that you are being as much of a disturbance as the man you are accusing.”
Enrique grinned at the Sheriff, feeling invincible. “I got a right to talk, don’t I?” He turned back to the Reverends. “Let me tell you something, old man. Old men, excuse me; there is no point in building a church. In fact, we ought to knock down the one we got, build something useful for this town. Another well, or a stable, maybe. Maybe even a Cutter landing pad. But we don’t need a church, because we don’t need the Maker. Face it, you old fools; there is no Maker, there never was a Maker, and there will never be a Maker.”
There was silence for a long time. The Sheriff, Alicia, and Reverend Emilio were all staring at Enrique, jaws slack.
Strangely, Jove was smiling. His rotten teeth hung out of his mouth, his cactus-sharp stubble stood out on his chin, and his leaf-green eyes moved like something was living beneath them, circling the pupil like a shark. And as his smile grew, he began to laugh.
The laugh grew like a desert whirlwind, small and erratic, and then growing into a roar and cackle. “You…haahahahahhaaahhah!!!...FOOL!!!”
Jove lashed his hand out at Enrique, and the kid flinched back. His foot dropped to the floor, and he went for his gun, a much-too-big-for-him Colt Lawmaker. He wouldn’t have admitted it, but the Reverend scared him even if his Maker didn’t.
Jove’s hand stopped about a foot in front of Enrique’s chest. If he had been trying to hit the kid, there was no way he could have without stepping forward to do it, but the movement had still startled everyone watching, which by now was a good-sized crowd.
Enrique started to smile, started to make some joke at the Reverend’s expense. He stopped.
Jove’s arm twitched under the black robed arm. It was barely noticeable at first, and then it happened again. The arm went into a terrible series of spasms, moving and twisting around like there was no bone there to stabilize it. The hand disappeared into the sleeve like it had been sucked up, and the spasms continued. Then, the things that ended Enrique Vajamos Carita made their appearance.
Spilling out of the sleeve of Reverend Jove’s arm like a hose were butterflies. Millions of black, swallowtail-winged, screeching butterflies, spiraling out like a braid shooting from the Reverend’s arm. Sheriff Thomas had seen butterflies on Phoenix where he had picked up Alicia, who was now trembling and gripping his arm tightly. From what he remembered, none of the butterflies had made this unholy, terrible noise. He didn’t blame Alicia for gripping him for dear life; he was doing to same to her.
The butterflies swam around Enrique, who had by now drawn the Lawmaker. They obscured him from sight, whooshing around him in a tornado of flapping black wings. The sound almost overpowered Enrique’s scream…almost.
From the whirlwind, there came spurts, mists, and clouds of blood that shot out. As the little winged creatures bit into Enrique’s flesh, their screeching grew louder. Alicia’s face was splattered with the foamy, pink-flecked blood that Sheriff Thomas knew from experience to be from a lung wound.
It took only a few seconds, but in that bare time, Enrique Vajamos Carita was picked clean. There was, of course, the teeth and bones, but those were as dry and bare as a corpse dug up in the desert. Whatever these hellish butterflies were, they were efficient.
As the tornado lifted from the falling pile of bones, Reverend Jove opened wide his black coat. The butterflies rushed back at him, but instead of repeating the maneuver they had on Enrique, they splashed right into the blackness of his coat, sending ripples throughout the faux-silk lining. They splashed out bits of liquid cloth, and those pieces floated to the ground again, looking just like torn shreds of material.
As the butterflies splashed into the coat, they made tiny impacts on the opposite way. Revered Emilio watched in horror as he saw the tiny imprints of those black butterflies press themselves into the fabric of the coat, leaving impressions that lasted only until they were replaced by another one.
When the last butterfly had splashed back into Jove’s coat, the wayward preacher pulled the coat tight around him. His breath came heavily, and after a few gulps of air he heaved and doubled over. He wretched for a time, and finally a disgusting mess of red and brown and pink flesh spilled out of his mouth. There was not a soul seeing this that did not know that this ejection was all that remained of what had once been Enrique Vajamos Carita. It took a long time, almost five minutes of vomiting half-digested muscle and organ and denim and leather (even Enrique’s Lawmaker, now twisted and melted and disassembled, along with all the bullets on his belt, came out of Jove’s mouth), but at last the atheist punk and all his expensive clothes lay on the street, steaming and stinking and melting in foamy ooze.
Jove looked up from the mess at all the people watching him. He started to say something, and then stopped. He seemed to be choking on something. He reached back into his throat, and pulled out a white marble with a brown and black dot on one side and red tendrils hanging off the other. Those close enough to see where terrified to observe that Enrique’s eye was still twitching and trying to look around.
Still holding the eye, Jove took a deep breath, and asked “Now…who will help me build me church?”
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"Nick Fury. Old-school cold warrior. The original black ops hardcase. Long before I stepped off a C-130 at Da Nang, Fury and his team had set fire to half of Asia." - Frank Castle
I breakfast upon Armadas such as thine!
I breakfast upon Armadas such as thine!