*Historians Note: It is commonly believed that Abacus Jones was a character of fiction and nothing more. Most notably pointed out are the many towns that the character visits having names that have seemingly never been heard before. While on the surface this appears true, it is in fact not. It has been argued still that not one town exists now that was ever in a tale involving that [son of a bitch.] Now this is true, but let it be historically noted now, that every town that this Abacus Jones happened into, somehow always met with the same ill fate: burning to the ground. It is only now a matter of conjecture that it can be said that Abacus Jones was the cause. For a person walking around this world without a soul would bring forth a plague of unhappiness and trouble.
He was just a boy. Dark suit, gold buttons, matching whistle, and a straight grin I had become unaccustomed to in these past couple of days in the town of Mirrok. The townspeople who had seemed so generous and welcoming at first had thrown off their masks and would have already tried to hang me if my ultimate host, the Mayor, had not intervened and set them off into the night. But now here I was, still alive, gettin a stare down from every folk I pass, escorted by the big brawny Raek and company, manacled still in my heavy irons, and hungry as a mule. Here at the train station the only person that isn’t giving me his ugly face is the boy blowing the whistle to hop on board the steam-blowing black train. Even some random leper under the awning of the station house wearing a thick black trench, his face covered fully in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark round glasses, seems to be giving me his dirt-spittin stare down. So goes the life of Abacus Jones: Soulless Cowboy.
“Well I say, this be a right fanciful wagon now.” The mayor said stopping just shy of the thin steps I was sure would bust as soon as he set foot to hop on board.
“Ain’t you never been on one?” I ask.
“No sir, I have never been on such a contraption before.” He says with a twinge of regret or annoyance, I’m not sure which.
“Well I ain’t never either. So I guess it’ll be a first for the both of us now.”
He turns around, hands on his giant blubbery hips, his face curious, fallen, his lower lip pouting out a word he never said. I just give him the only thing that passes for a smile on my face, which I’ve been told is a mean and damn unsettling thing.
“Just get on board, Jones. You’ll be with Tibbits and Raek. The rest of you boys, take the other two compartments.” He directs them turning to take that fateful step up into the train.
“Where you gonna be, Boss?” One of the other boys asks.
“I’ll be in the dining compartment. I haven’t had my breakfast yet.”
Without another word he lands his foot on the small, thin, metal step leading up into the train and…nothing. Thing barely flexes. The train car doesn’t even tip at the weight of the fat bastard. My fun gone from the day, I find my way up to the step next, and board the train.
Barely on the train and I get stopped by another fella in a black suit with gold buttons, but he’s a sprinkle older than the kid outside, white beard and sunken eyes.
“Now just a minute, we aren’t carryin no prisoners on this train car. There’s another train come around in a week or so that’ll transport such a person.”
“Now hold yourself sir.” The mayor calls from just ahead of us, having turned around at the sound of all of this. “I’m the Mayor of this here town, and this person is with me and mine.”
“Mayor huh? Well that don’t make it right to bring on board a prisoner with womens and they’s childrens onboard. He’ll still have to wait for the next train to come along and collect his kind.”
“Sir, please. This man is not a prisoner, simply a man I am trying to keep my eye on.” Now here the mayor paused, his smile dropping somewhat, and then, “You see, he’s my soon-to-be son-in-law.”
Myself and the rest of the Mayor’s men drop their jaws and lose whatever thinking they had goin.
“Then why’s he manacled like that? Them’s sure some heavy irons for family ain’t they?” The attendant asked the mayor.
“That boy’s already run out on my princess the once, and that’s why I’m a bringin him back to her now. The iron’s is just to make sure he doesn’t make a getaway again.”
“Well, I guess that’s a fair story. Alright, get a move on, we’ve a schedule to keep you know.”
We move past, the attendant eyeing me with a sick look coming over his face, but he didn’a say another word. Two cars up and we had come to our stayings for the ride. Two sides of bench seating, and Raek took up one side to himself, uncomfortably mind you, and Tibbits and me the other, and he weren’t too happy about it.
“Why I gotta sit next to the sinner?”
“Cuz he won’t fit next to me, and neither will you.” Raek piped in quickly.
“That’s a shit I tell ya. You!” he says kickin his boot up to me and scootin me as far over as possible. “Stay to your damn side. Or I might just end up stickin you dead with my knife.”
“No problem. You don’t smell too pretty anyway, so I’ll be glad to stay as far away from you as possible.”
He reached for his skinning knife, a big thing at his hip, but Raek stood quickly and grabbed his arm with his fist covering the entirety of the other’s bicep.
“You will control yourself. Our prophet has asked this of you. Would you deny him now?”
“No. Of course not.”
Tibbits sat, then looked toward the door to try and ignore the fact that I was sittin there. Suited me just fine, he really didn’t smell too well. I looked out the window to the train station, but the leper was gone now, along with most everyone else. Another moment went by, and the whistle blew loud, and then I felt the chunk chunk of moving iron beneath me as I watched the station slowly move out of view, and then the dirt began to blow by. It was actually something to see, bein on a train.
* * *
An hour or so had gone by before Tibbits couldn’t take sitting by me anymore. He hopped up, paced the tiny space a bit before telling Raek that he was gonna go for a piss, then ran out, slid the door shut, and was gone. Raek, the big ole boy he was, didn’t seem to care. He knew he could handle anything I could throw at the moment, especially in my irons and such. But after ten minutes he started getting fidgety and looking out the slide door a lot.
“He’s been gone too long.” Raek finally said after another ten minutes of longing looks to the door.
“What’s a matter big boy? Sittin with the soulless getting you down?” I ask chuckling to myself watchin this huge guy squirm.
“No. You could not harm me even if you wanted to. I know this.”
“Then what’s getting you squirmin like a little kid then? Seat uncomfortable? Maybe you’re just getting really hungry. A biggun like you, wouldn’t surprise me if your horse breakfast wasn’t enough for ya.”
“I am not hungry. He’s just been gone too long.”
“Well, you know he wasn’t happy bout sittin next to me. He probably just found another place to sit. This is gonna be a long ride you know. He’s probably just pacing himself.”
“No. Tibbits would not abandon his post.”
“But he’d knife me against your prophet’s wishes?”
“He would not have done so. At least not to kill you. He believes in our prophet more than any of us. Which is why he would not be gone so long.”
“Maybe there’s a really long line in the shit car.”
“No. Something has happened.”
“What are you frettin about? Your friend is just off somewhere squeezing out something fierce, and enjoyin it far more than sittin in here.”
“You would not understand demon. But believe me, there is something wrong.”
“Soulless. Not a demon. I hunt demons. So really I’m more on your side than theirs.”
“Your words are confusing dark rider. If you cannot see yourself as one and the same as that which you hunt, then you are truly uneducated, and without hope.”
“Now don’t go getting high and mighty on me, Raek. Sure we got different opinions and such, but that don’t mean we can’t be friendly.”
“Silence, worm. I would never be friends with one of your ilk.”
“Ilk? I already told ya, I hunt them. I ain’t one of em.”
“How do you not see how absurd your words are? You are something that has made a deal with the very creatures you hunt. They own you. You are one of them.”
“Ah, I see how you might think that. But I still have a choice in the matter. And demon huntin’s what I’m good at. You ever think about that? The world needs a person like myself you see?”
“NO!” Raek stood his massive self up to peer down at me. “We are holy, and We are here to push creatures like you from this plane, and when we finally have the means to do so, things like you will be gone from this world as if you never existed! And all will follow our prophet and his teachings. Everything will be saved from an existence stricken by the likes of you and your ilk!”
Holy Shit. So that’s what they were up to. Their great treasure, making a perfect Earth for the likes of em, and to make all the rest just like them that suck to the Mayor’s teet. And me? The mayor was letting me make my wish first cuz it didn’a matter after that. I’d be wiped from the world as if I never done so in the first place. Yeah, it was all becoming real clear to me, and Raek could see it to, and he knew he’d just done told me the one thing not a one of them was supposed to.
I saw it in his eyes. That same look Tibbits was givin me, but much darker. This big boy was really going to kill me. Seemed I’d had it all wrong. Tibbits wasn’t the one that was the loose thread, it was this big guy. Tibbits was just shooting the tension out for him, blowing his top and actin out what Raek was really the one wanting to do. And now Tibbits was gone, missing, or whatever. And I just done talked my mouth off to the one I should’a kept it shut to.
With one massive fist, he reached down and wrapped it cleanly around my throat. It hurt, and eventually I’d pass out, but I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, so I didn’a squirm too much. Just enough to make him think I was worried. But with his other hand he grabbed his massive knife, something that looked like it’d been run through a number of cattle recently. Now I was really trying to break loose. I pushed up with my ironed hands against his hand, but it wouldn’t budge. I kicked at his center, but there was no point. He was thick as a tree and even the kick to his special region wasn’t snapping him out of it. He was too far into the moment, and he wasn’t going to stop until he was done.
Just then the door slid open.
“Raek!” came Tibbits voice, a bit more subdued than usual.
The massive hand loosed and I fell to the bench again. I gasped for breath, and then I noticed that smell. Not that of the man himself that I had snuffed earlier, but of that which I was far too familiar with:
I looked over, and Tibbits was in the doorway holding his gushing throat, most of it still making it through his soaked fingers. His face was nearly white as a dead man’s, and he was trying to talk, but just kept spittin up more blood from his throat. Raek had dropped his knife, completely shocked out of his maddened haze. He fell to his knees and tried to help his friend push on the wound, but it wouldn’t help. Tibbits had already lost too much blood, I could smell it all the way down the hall.
“Tibbits…” Raek began blubbering as he spoke, “What’s wrong? Why are you bleeding? Who did this?”
Tibbits kept trying to mouth something but only blood came out and then he fell over dead. Raek began to cry and yell which brought the other boys out of their compartments to crowd the hall around ours. Each of em looked down to Tibbits dead and still-bleeding body then to me with murder in their eyes. The only thing keeping em from me for the moment was Raek’s big body blocking the way in. But soon as that boy moved, or was made to move, I’d be in a world of hurt. Or worse.
So much for my first train ride. Like everything else, it just went to shit.