At exactly 4:13, Jack was enjoying his Salisbury steak and had just drowned it down with the triple-x-ed whisky, when something odd had attracted his eye and made him raise his eyebrows in unison.
“What in god’s name?” He rose up, slamming his glass whisky cup against the rusty, metal table, to which the table had responded in a loud and obnoxious clung.
The wooden boards of the ships’ deck screeched under Jack’s heavy leather boots, as he slowly rotated, his hands dancing on the edgy handrail covered in orange peeling paint.
“What is it, father?” A question barely got through to Jack.
“Nothing, M’dear. Finish your lunch.” Jack responded, shooing the answer away with his right hand as he would shoo away a fly.
“Just a commotion. A mere commotion” He uttered, as his hands were now frantically searching his clothes for a spyglass.
“Oh come now father, you never let me have any fun!” The voice moved closer, turning out to be a lady, dressed in intermingled corsets of white and black.
“Mhaaaaa” Jack mumbled, finding the spyglass and putting it against his eye, moving as far as he could against the handrail and almost falling off the ship, if not pulled back by his daughter’s hands.
“Stupid tourists” giggled the bearded, one-eyed man, watching Jack struggle with his balance, flail his arms and yell something obscene from his ferry.
“Always so easily amused by simple sights of the flowing Mississippi. What is there to see now, except for these damn metal ferries, clogging up the entire river with their smoke and sound pollution? Why when I was young, this river was truly free. Why I could bet my eye upon the fact that sooner or later it will become so crammed with metal that ther’ll be no space for us simple folk.
As the old man raised his bottle in a glorious toast to this matter, the ferry beneath his feet shook, suddenly snapping in half, beam-by-beam, bolts flying out like bullets, pieces of metal and wood fluttering up and down, waves of bending motion playing through the wooden deck like they were piano strings in Beethoven’s 6th symphony, clipping tables and chairs.
A deck of another ship barely cleared the old man’s beard, slowly cutting through the ferry like a dull knife through a piece of celery.
“Yeeeeee!” The old man screamed, as a tiny speck of metallic dust landed into his eye.
Flapping his arms he tumbled backwards, over the twisted rails, falling into the rushing, hissing waters of the river, already filled with iron and wooden debris.
“That ship, it just cut right through the ferry! Did you see that?!” Jack screamed the most obvious thing he could think of to his daughter who just saw the very same thing unfold before her eyes.
Preposterous! It’s still going! Jack yelled.
“Stop! Stop, where you going, you idiots?”
Jack cried, trying to stop the ferries with the use of his imagination and arms shifting them left and right, as if trying to move them away from each other.
As the catalyst boat moved away into the open waters, crawling between the 2 pieces of what once was to be 1 ferry, the reaction it had caused had inevitably spread all across the river, like a falling domino effect.
Ferries stalled, tried to pull out left and right, but merely crashed into each other, first tens, then hundreds of hapless people falling off decks, as boats spun, collided and tipped, into the river that was had now become a flowing, deadly mass of iron, in accordance to the prophecy of the one-eyed bastard.
The ferry that Jack inhabited thankfully crashed into the sandy shore, sliding sideways and tipping only slightly, before it could join the sea of metal debris.
“Such idiocy could only happen in the New World” Jack commented, wiping his face.
“If there was hell on earth, this’d be it” he cried, beating the handrail with his hands, unable to do anything or help anyone.
Before his eyes the river steamed and boiled, sharp metal pieces of broken beams and railings impaling hundreds of poor souls that kept jumping from the burning and sinking ships and boats.
The fire, that had apparently started from the explosions on the first ship, impossible as it seemed, danced on the stewing, agitated water, leaping left and right from boat to boat. Black and orange clouds of smoke, ash and dust spiraled upwards, blocking out the blue sky and overshadowing the entire river in a crimson super cell storm formation. Only a few rays of light broke through the black, decadent cloudscape that grimly over-hanged above like a cold, uneven dome of hell’s ceiling covered in stalactites of smoke columns.
Hands twisted and flailed, reaching out from the black waters, unable to grab anything. Heads that were still above the waters, screamed in fear and terror, people pulled and pushed, crawling over each other, in the last attempt to stay above the river’s cold currents. The broken ships formed massive, spiraling whirlpool torrents as they descended into the depths, dragging down thousands of souls along with them.
But this was not what had really surprised Jack. This was not what made him cry, as cold sweat dripped down his back, and made him reach for his spyglass once again.
His eyes had focused upon and now followed a lonely figure of a man that didn’t act like any of the others. He moved across the decks of a burning ship, across the broken beams like lighting moves through the dark sky, without fear or panic, but instead with relentless and undying purpose.
He ran over the thin railings, and balanced himself on tips of broken, twisting boards, jumping from one tip of the sword-like, metal piece to another, with a sense of an acrobat performing his greatest act. His clothes were perfectly black, with a slight sparkle from the fires. A spot light beam from the sky perused him like a giant eye in the heavens that had suddenly awakened and opened up. Spheres of fire pierced the clouds, exploding on the decks of ships, breaking up in glittering ashes and whooshing into water as if aiming for the figure or following his trail.
“What the devil?” Jack mumbled, twisting his spyglass and noting that the running man had no face, or at least there was no face that Jack could see, beneath that black, long, fluttering cloak.
“Black gloves, black boots, black suit. What kind of a dress is this, if not of a criminal?” Jack whispered to himself. “And how in hell does that massive cloak let him balance himself like that?”
Meanwhile the black acrobat just kept on running across the boat’s bow, jumping through a wall of fire into the water.
“A madman!” Jack commented. “He’ll surely drown!”
However the man had no intention of drowning, he merely ran on water as he would on solid ground.
“Impossible!” Jack spat.
The black figure was balancing on the sinking debris, calmly running over the backs and heads of the drowning men, without any regard for their well being, or the fact that they were consumed by the waters right after he stepped on their heads.
“So he’s not entirely weight-less”. Jack concluded. “But where is he going? Where and why?”
The man didn’t seem to head towards the shore, instead he ran and ran over the boiling waters right in the middle of the river, straight against the current, moving forward.
“Where are you going?” Jack whispered, asking the man, who was almost out of his sight and for a split second, it looked as if the cloaked man had turned his black face to Jack and winked at him, that is if an eye-less, face-less, black mask could actually wink.
Jack shuddered at the thought and in a few seconds the black figure had disappeared somewhere between the line of fire and water.
Jack stared at his watch, counting down the seconds in a somewhat drunken stupor, thinking back about the hideous incident on the river.
“Such a thing is preposterous, truly preposterous. No man can defy gravity like that. Surely there must be a logical explanation.” He pondered, in deep thought, trying to imagine the black figure.
“I do wonder what it would be like to talk to the ruffian” He speculated. “Ask him how and why…”
From the shadows of the bar a black figure had suddenly emerged, approaching Jack just as he finished his sentence. Faceless darkness stared from beneath the hood. Sound formed itself in the air as the invisible lips spoke.
“Mr English, I presume”
“Who the hell are you and how do you know my private name?!” Jack choked, realizing that it was the black devil he was just thinking of.
“Or would it be Jack… Long English?” Laughed the face-less face.
“I know of you, because you’ve caught my attention once, wanting to know who I am.
Well, here I am for your pleasure, Jack. Forgive me for not coming earlier, but I’ve had important matters to attend to. Aha Ha Ha ha.
Who am I?… I am that which was, that which is and that shall always be. I am the black storm and the scorched earth. I have many names, dear Jack. But you may call me just a player.
You’re a gambling man and a man of science as well aren’t you, Jack? What say you, we have us a little wager, on the souls of every man on this planet? Or perhaps we’ll start with a lesser bet, just on something that which you value most?”
“You are a madman!” Jack rose. “I don’t make deals with the insane!”
“Oh, believe me, my dear Jack. I am not mad. It is you who could be frankly called insane, holding onto your little notions about structure of the world, logic, gravity and god. Hahahaha. Even if you do consider me insane, then its all the better for you, as lunatics don’t win wagers very often!”
With these words, the face-less one put his black, gloved hand on Jack’s shoulder and made Jack sit back down, after pouring a bag full of large, glittering diamonds onto the table.
“You see this, Jack? All the riches of this world can be yours!”
“Impossible” Jack pushed the diamonds away. “They’re just pieces of well crafted glass”
“Well, if you won’t believe in riches, then won’t you believe in immortality?” The black figured laughed, with a metallic laugh so cold that it pierced Jack’s heart right making him shiver.
With these words, the black one picked up a mug and threw it at the head of a bear-like, fat cowboy.
“A madman” Jack whispered, crouching as the fat cowboy rotated himself and glared with a death look in his eyes at the black figure.
“You bastard? Did you throw this at me?” spat his yellow teeth. “I’ll teach yous a lesson you won’t soons forgets!”
“Hahahahaha” Laughed the black figure. “What are you going to do? You, who is trapped in your chair by your own heavy weight?”
“This!” The cowboy glared, reaching for his magnum and firing in the chest of the black suit.
The spiraling metal bullet, stopped in mid air microseconds before it reached its target, and then was innocently plucked out by the black, thin fingers.
“You see Jack. I fear no death for I am life and death”, the black fingers dropped the bullet on the table, where it rolled towards Jack’s wrists.
“Cheap parlor tricks!” cried Jack. “I bet that pistol was charged with blanks!”
“Hahahahaa” laughed the black one, picking up the bullet again and throwing it back into the barrel of the utterly confused cowboy.
Upon impact the bullet had pierced the gun, creating a large explosion, breaking it into several pieces that flew in all directions, smashing into tables and walls.
The fat cowboy was dead on the floor, the back part of the gun imbedded in his forehead, his arms still twitching with his last breath.
“Dear God! You’ve just killed him!” Cried Jack running towards the cowboy, to check his pulse. He had to be sure this wasn’t a trick. There wasn’t any pulse. The cowboy was surely dead. Blood was seeping all over the floor. Bar customers instantly went back to their conversations, pretending like nothing had happened.
“You… how?” Jack stood up.
“That’s right, I did. Ahahahaha! You see, Jack. There are no boundaries for the free. I could bring him back to life with same ease, if that was of any use.”
Please do, Begged Jack. “You can’t let him die, it’s not his fault.”
“Very well” the black fingers snapped.
“Oh… The darkness! The fires of hell!! No, No more, please!” The cowboy opened his eyes, rotated, spitting pieces of metal and blood, crawling away as quickly as he could, getting up and dashing madly out of the bar.
“You see Jack, I have shown him hell. Not like it’ll be of any use to him. Perhaps he’ll go on to become a priest now, Ahahahaha”
Jack dropped back down to his chair, “Very well. I believe. Tell me more.”
Story and illustration as witnessed in a dream.
Software: Photoshop CS
Real size: 33 x 25 Inches at 300 DPI
(10000 x 7617 pixels)
Licensed to Simon Cléroux for the Unconscious Mind cd cover.