Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lord of the Scabland

Out on the scablands there is a man walking and he won’t ever stop. Around him are bones, half buried, skin sun-blackened and stretched, stomachs yawning, and in his hand is a sword, the selfsame weapon that slew every one of those bodies. The metal is old, speckled and pitted, chipped some from its wielding, but clean. He walks without destination or other purpose, his feet stumbling, sword always about to slip from his hand. He looks about him, he is constantly looking about him, searching the barren stone cut vista. If he sees you he will heft his weapon and begin to run, his eyes never leaving your face. You may flee before him but in his mind he holds every detail of the land and you will not elude him. You may shoot him down as he approaches, but he will rise up like some vengeful lazarus and strike you down regardless. If you choose to fight him he will see it in you before even you are fixed on the notion and he will honor you for it. Whatever weapon you choose he will match you and circle, marking out an arena in that dry caked dirt, a furrow scraped with his heel from which fire will burst as he completes his circuit, and if you cross it you will die. He will bow before you and will not move until you do the same, and then he will spar with you, testing your strength and your speed and if you can subdue him the fire will die and you will go free but no man yet has done so and he is riddled with scars and bullet holes, and no blood even drains from him anymore and no sweat is ever on his brow. He is dry as the sage of which he makes his bed under the wheeling stars and if he feels pain from the blows he receives he does not show it.
He is the lord of aridity and suzerain of the wastes. He is the authority on which the place is built and none walk but in his knowledge. He is not God, for even gods he had laid low, and those that rule do so by his leave.
Yet the sword he carries is older nearly even than he and on it is inscribed the names of the Titans that once wielded it. Uranus who first forged it from the coldness of deep heaven, Iapetus who took it up after his brother’s patricide, Menoetius who bore it into Tartarus and gave it to Attila when he visited with Mars and Hades and conspired to raze Rome as a sacrificial pier. Attila though, it betrayed when he turned from his divine task and the man who would be lord slew him with the jawbone of a warhorse and took the sword as his own. It has as many names as he who wields it but may no man say it is the sword of Mars or even of Uranus, for it belongs to him, and always did. In his mind was coldness first conceived and he knew the sky god when the heavens were young.
Somewhere on the highest plateau is his throne and in winter he sits upon it and looks out over his dominion. He is the judge and all that do judge do so by his dispensation, by his words are their judgements made real and in his mind only are they reconciled, all the judgements of men. From his mouth come constantly words and his speech is written in the sands of the desert and the ice of the mountains nearly as it is spoken and not a word is mistranscribed for his voice is the very forming of the dust.

yes, i have been reading McCarthy again

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