Any Good Reason [A Short Story]
“There it is! You see it?” A deep voice drawled smoothly out into the clear, deep night. “Hell no, I don’t see a thing. Where?” Another responded. “Right there!” A man pointed one jagged, yellowing fingernail sharply, signaling far out into the hitherto halcyon night sky. Around him the gaggle of the excited townsfolk of Fester’s Mill squawked and wriggled around one another, pacing like old man Hendricks’ sheep - waiting their turn to lose their winter coats to his aged, jittering fingers.
Suddenly, without warning, Harry Lamely, his breath reeking of gin and his eyes full of fire, spoke up loud - high over the gathered crowd. “Well, Hell; listen here, people!” All at once, the gaggle turned its attention towards him. “I don’t know what it is, but you best believe it, that if it is anything at all, it’ll have me to talk to. As if to pin an exclamation mark to the end of his sentence, Harry Lamely gave that old beat up shotgun he had carried out with him one brisk, unsteady, adrenaline-fueled pump. At this, many of the congregation clapped and cheered, their anxious faces suddenly changed by Harry Lamely's apparent courage, as if his boisterous words were some kind of dark, hypnotic spell. Amidst the crowd, one man could be heard shouting, “You tell’em, Harry, give ‘em Hell!” Even at this, there was a smattering of applause.
The other men, many of whom are also armed, voice their haggard agreements with what Harold had said. One man just passed a boy, really spoke up. Bill Wingly, peach fuzz on his face, and fire in his eyes shouted, shrill and terrified. “If those fucking aliens think they can come down here and fuck with my insides?” He whirled about to face the sky as he did so, and shouted even higher, almost in falsetto, “I don’t think so!” A cheer of agreement emanated from the crowd, only to be cut off by the voice of Samuel Smith, the town doctor - and the only educated man for what was surely miles. “Fuck with your insides?” His voice slowly dripped, like the fat slowly running down the edge of a forgotten butter bell left unattended on a warm summer night. He continued matter of factly. “Come on Bill, we’ve got women, and children alongside us here tonight.” Bill Wingly looked at his feet for a moment, suddenly ashamed at what he had said. Before anyone else could interject Sam spoke again “And even more than that, how in the world do you expect, if that thing is an alien spacecraft, to shoot it down with a few lousy bullets.” At this, the crowd let loose an uneasy murmur of discomforted alarm. “If it’s an alien, it’s from space people” Sam waved his hands about his head animatedly, as if to prove the point. “It traveled here from countless light years away - what’re shotgun shells gonna do to it?” Some of the men looked confused for a moment, having not considered the possibility that their guns would be somehow ineffective against their incoming foe. “Well, how do you know Mr. College man? You get taught about aliens in all them dandy ass books you read?” It was Harry Lamely again, shouting at the top of his lungs and swaying dangerously as he spoke. “Maybe, them aliens are so alien, that they ain’t never even seen a bullet before in their little green lives?” At this, a new murmur, this time one of appreciation, rippled throughout the amassed crowd. Harry continued. “Right! And maybe, just maybe, bullets are their greatest weakness!” Another furious pump on his old, battered gun. And the crowd again voiced its now raucous approval. “Hey yea, you know, he’s right Sam!” Pat Barley interjected, waving that old civil war knife of his pa’s in his hands. The silver of the blade gleamed momentarily in the moonlight, somehow giving what was to come nothing but the utmost credibility. “And you know what.” Barley continued. “Do you know what? I’ll bet them aliens might just die of sickness right as soon as they opened the door, just like them Indians did out east with the pox. They just wasn’t ready for what would meet them, who's to say these bastards will be any different, huh?” He brandished the blade again, arcing it high into the misty moonlight. The crowd applauded at the suggestion, sudden bloodlust immediately apparent in each of their eyes.
Out of the back of the crowd, a few of the women were quickly shuffling their children away - wary of the charge that had begun to spark up thick within the placid night air. They had all agreed, their own curiosity be damned, that this was no place for a child. When suddenly. “Peggy Sue, where in the Hell do you think you’re going with my boy?” Gerald Adams’ great voice boomed forth. And again, as if in perfect unison, as if out of every one of their heads the same great ephemeral puppet string rose into the heavens - translucent and white, to meet the guiding touch of but only one hand - the entire congregation turned first to him, and then out into the darkness, towards the frail, nervous voice that responded back. “Now Gerry, you know what Margrette would have wanted.” Her tone was reasonable - but it’s desperation still revealed itself. “He’s just a boy” She spat. “This ain’t no place for him. For any of them.” For a brief moment, Gerald’s great barreled chest only rose, as if frozen in place - as if fixed in his hateful determination against this wicked interloper. “Just a boy?” He roared, wildly, his eyes flaring wide as he did. The congregation around him fell to an uneasy silence. Before anyone could think to speak, Gerald roared again - furious like some ancient, long dormant beast suddenly thrust into the light. “No. Not just a boy. He’s my boy. And he’ll be where I saw he will. And that’s right God damn here, woman.” He stomped his foot into the earth as he spoke, pushing dust and flies and stink high into the air as it fell. “And who are you, to tell me what my wife would have wanted?” Gerald screamed, the tendons around his neck bristling and gnawing at his weatherworn neck, seemingly threatening to burst forth at any moment. “Get here, boy. Now!” It was not the kind of command you disregarded - and soon after it was issued, Brandon Adams came dutifully plodding along towards his father, his soft young feet hardly making a sound above the crickets as they chirped their song sweetly out into the still night air. Peggy Sue Martin spoke one final time, to Gerry, to the congregation, and especially to any of the other children who still remained, hiding amongst the shadows. “Well fine, Gerry Adams, he is your boy. You just better keep him safe then is all I’ll say. Her eyes shot daggers into Gerry’s, and for a moment he seemed to deflate - but for only a moment. “We’re getting to safety, and we’re taking anyone else who wants to go.” She spoke confidently, her powerful jaw held high, her hands firmly planted on her voluptuous hips. “Because that’s the right thing to do. Now anyone who wants to come along, let's go.” There was an immediate disturbance amongst the gaggle of townsfolk, some of whom looked nervous - other’s who were offended by the mere thought of abandoning this place now. “I’ll come with you, madam.” Ronald Billing’s voice, low and ashamed. A voice rang out from the crowd of men. “You fucking coward, Ronnie.” At this, laughter rang out mercilessly from the bulk of the crowd. Ronnie’s face was red with embarrassment, it’s hue visible even now under the still night sky. “A coward, sir, I am not.” He replied finally, steadily enough in his shallow monotone. “Rather” He contented, pausing heavily on the word. “I believe that those women ought to have a man amongst them, for protection, you see.” At this one, even Peggy Sue couldn’t help from laughing. She spoke kindly enough, but facts are facts. “Ronald, if you want to come along, please, we would be more than happy to have you.” Ronnie perked up as if to speak, but Peggy Sue quickly cut him off. “That being said, honey, don’t pretend you’d be the one doing us any favors.” Ronnie’s face flushed again, and the crowd guffawed with mirth and glee. “Be that as it may, madam, I will accompany you regardless. This is no place for an educated man.” Suddenly, Harold Lamely was behind Ronald and was pushing him gruffly towards Peggy Sue and the rest, his shotgun discarded unceremoniously onto the ground for the time. He drawled unsteadily as he pushed. “Then get on out, you here? We don’t need no coward like you around when the shit goes down anyways.” He suddenly laughed. “And you, and educated man?” He bellowed now at the thought, high and manically out towards that glimmer that they had all come out to this field to see. “Boy, you and me dropped out of school the same Goddamn week. And look at Sammy over there, huh? You don’t see him running his little college boy tail away.” Ronnie did look, and when he saw Sam Smith, standing idly off to the side of the gaggle, eyes painted directly on the skies above, the deep flush that had finally begun to abate returned with a vengeance. “Well fine then, maybe I am a coward. But Hell if I’m gonna stand out here with all of you and die!” Ronnie screamed the words, high and loud as if they and they alone were, in fact, his final refuge - as if they alone could save him now. He ran as he yelled, towards Peggy Sue and her wards. “Let’s go, ladies, boys, and girls.” He spoke, somehow retaining an air of his standard gentlemanly tone. “Yes, lets.” Peggy Sue returned, eyeing as she spoke Gerald Adams and the rest. “Yes, lets.” She repeated. And with that they departed, pushing back high through the long stalks corn and wheat as they traveled, carving a path through the dull moonlight back towards their home.
“Well Hell, now that they’re out of the way, the fuck are we gonna do about this?” Gerald Adams boomed again, his arms waving towards the sky, his voice no less vociferous now than it had been before - even with his young boy now pawing at his heel. “We’re gonna get it, that’s what we’re gonna do!’ Harold Lamely shouted, dancing gracelessly back and forth from foot to foot as he did, his rusted out shotgun placed firmly back into in his drunken, unsteady hands. A swell of agreement rose up from the remaining townsfolk. “Hell yeah, we will!” One voice sounded out. And, “We’ll show them Hell, you better believe it.” came the sweet tinkling sound of another.
Suddenly, Samuel Smith spoke again, at last, his reverie broken, and a pained look stapled on to his prematurely lined and restless face. “Well, whatever we go, we’re going to have to decide on it quick.” As he spoke, he pointed up high, to the glimmer of light that had begun this whole debacle just a few hours before. “I think it’s getting closer.” Grave seriousness etched deeply into every calm word that he spoke. And so it was. The whole crowd gasped, in unison, of course, commanded by the horror of this mysterious thing, as if rather than a glimmer of light it were some horrible spinning glass, pinwheeling itself deep into the subconscious of every single one of them one methodical turn at a time.
“Uh uh, no sir!” It was the young Wingly man again, his fire clearly unabated. He continued on, brandishing a smile pistil in his curled right hand. “Fuck that, they ain’t gettin me!” He shouted, and as he did, he let loose a round. The explosion rang high and loud in the still night sky. And suddenly it was everywhere. Bullet after bullet flew out high into the clear still night. Muzzles flashed while gunpowder yelled as the fire of the weapons ignited their truest and final purpose. “Daddy, get them!” Young Brandon Adams shouted up high to his father, as he too let forth a series of wild shots out into the deep night. Gerald roared his appreciation for his son's apparent lust for violence and screamed. “You know I will, boy, yeah!” As he shouted, he gave the child a firm slap on the back and continued to fire. Reeling forward, yet smiling and shouting his approval, young Brandon Adams went tumbling down into the grass before him, laughing rolling himself so as for his eyes to meet his father's as he went.
“Hell yeah, let's get ‘em!” Harrold Lamely screamed, at last, having been momentarily bewildered in his deteriorated state by the sudden excess of gunfire. “Yeee haw!” Harold shouted, as he finally pulled the trigger of that beat up old boom cannon. A fireball exploded from the rusty barrel, and reverberated back, deep into the stock of the gun. The whole thing exploded. In an instant, Harold Lamely was screaming. His hands that had moments before been so sure of themselves were now nowhere to be found, instead replaced by nothing more than bloody, oozing stumps - like a tree cut down too high, sickly exuding its sappy entrails down its crooked and battered bark - one globular, pulsating mass at a time. “Oh Hellfire.” Samuel Smith muttered, more to himself than to anyone else. For a moment, the crowd seemed to have forgotten about their extraterrestrial foe. Amassed around the screaming man, the crowd began to poke and prod, experimenting on the man as a rotten young boy might experiment on a wounded toad, seeing if with each leg he removed the wretched thing would continue to live or if it would finally die. “Everybody, get back, let me see.” It was Samuel Smith, of course, the only man among them with even a hope of saving Harold Lamely’s life. Slowly, however, from outside of the hubbub and clamor of the circle that surrounded Harrold Lamely’s now nearly lifeless corpse, came a horrible wail - like the sound of a banshee, left wicked and alone to her own devices, help deep within the woods in the deathly cradle of night. And from this wretched bellow, two words were formed, over and over again, cast deep into the stillness of the night. “My boy!” Gerald Adams was crouched down low, over the small, huddled mass that now lay before him. “Oh God, no.” Sam Smith hissed, low and between his teeth. Bending down at the waist besides the great giant of a man, Sam laid his hand down on his shoulder, and took a look at what had become of young Brandon Adams, that twisted chorus of, “my boy” still pouring forth from Gerry Adams’ defeated and quivering lips, as if some long-absent spout had been turned on deep within the man, finally allowing for all of his pain to come rushing out all at once. The boy lay before where Sam now stood, a gaping wound plastered heavily where his beautiful, innocent eyes had been just moments before - one long, jagged chunk of rusty metal, jutting unceremoniously out from within it - like the protruded tongue of some great insectine beast. Sam turned to face the astonished crowd again, his hand still firmly pressed on Gerrald Adam’s left shoulder, as if just that little bit of pressure might be enough to prevent him from falling apart. Bill Wingly met Sam’s eyes and finally spoke. “He’s dead, Mr. Smith,” Bill spoke with the air of a man coming out of a dream - but who was still lost in it. “Mr. Lamey’s dead.” A final sob emanated harshly out from behind Sam Smith’s still outstretched hand, and Gerald Smith collapsed finally onto the corpse of his now ruined baby boy. “My son!” He wailed again, high into the deep, clear night. And then there was silence. “My God.” Muttered Sam again, as he looked one more time towards that little glowing light, hanging high in the clear sky. But it was gone.
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Image found on Pixabay.com
Story written by me, Matthew Munsey @matthewmunseyart