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Asaji
October 2nd, 2010, 08:48 AM
America had no idea who He was. The Government didn’t get taxes from him. He served no cause, or flag. He made no friends and kept no promises. He followed his own personal creed, and his own brand of moral justice. He worked toward no purpose. The Man had no destination. He simply existed.

In many roadhouses along the highway, every rest stop, gas station, and bar, The Man stopped to have a drink, trade news, and listen to the patrons. Every time, outsiders noticed the key facts. The Man had no family with him, and he carried with him no possessions. All he had were the clothes he wore, and the Motorcycle he rode. 1931 Henderson KJs weren’t the most expensive bikes out there, but they weren’t cheap, and he had bought his new. He had money, or He must have had some once.

As to whom The Man was? That was a question no one he encountered could answer. Was he a migrant farmer like the rest? Was he a disillusioned family man? Surely it was neither; he didn't have the look about him that suggested despair and hopelessness. Some pegged him as an ex-banker, or railroad man, or mail clerk, or musician. Some thought him a ruined stockbroker, politician, or out of work blacksmith. Speculate as they might, those titles now meant nothing. Now he was a drifter, a wanderer, and nothing more. That was fine; it suited Him well.

His pace was slow and his actions deliberate. He had no destination. He didn’t need one. He crossed America from the East Coast to the Canadian border, to the Deep South and the Gulf of Mexico, then through Mexico, where he vanished for a time into Central America. From there, back up through Mexico again and into the Midwest, than up North, West, East, South. It didn’t matter to him. He wandered all over the Continents of America, resting when he needed to rest, eating when the need struck. Getting involved in others’ business when he had to get involved…or wanted to. He ran into all sorts, some of them farmers trying to escape the Dustbowl, some of them businessmen from the east, some of them entrepreneurs from the West, some of them criminals from either, and neither. He acted on fancy and impulse. He didn’t care. And for the most part, no one else asked why. He had traveled for over a year, and no one even knew His name.

The only things he bought were food, and gasoline. He never bought anything else. He didn’t have to. He found new clothes, made new clothes, had clothes given to him. He didn’t ask for charity, and he didn’t receive charity. He scavenged and crafted things to help ease The Journey. He camped often. He replaced parts when they wore out, made new parts before they wore out, improved existing parts on the bike, turning it into something more than a Henderson. Nobody asked why he was on this endless journey; he never stayed anywhere long enough for anyone to second guess him.

But it wouldn’t matter soon. The Journey was almost over. It had to be. After more than a year of traveling, he was almost out of cash, and there were only a few states left. He wanted California to be the last one. He moved South West, through North Dakota, across a corner of Montana, through Wyoming, then straight South through Colorado, making a U- turn at New Mexico, going North through Arizona, and into the state of Utah. This state…there was something interesting here. A flat, white horizon, endless. He knew it was here. He’d been looking forwards to seeing the salt flats from the moment he’d entered the state. And why not? He’d taken his sweet time getting here. He deserved a bit of fun.

A legendary place to those who desired speed, the flats allowed for speed runs with no interference from uneven surfaces. Smooth and untainted, the white salt plains stretched to the mountains on the horizon, the heat of the sun casting waves of mirages. From the side of a road running alongside the flats, he looked out a bit further- he saw figures moving across the flats, grouping together. The Man eased the Henderson over the road and onto the salt plains.

He guided the bike over towards what turned out to be men and cars waiting on The Flats, and in no time was within shouting distance. He noted that three more men were off in the far distance painting black lanes on the salt, to make a track. He eased on the brake, dropping down into first gear, and then neutral. He coasted in to a stop in front of a teenager, elbow deep under the hood of his car. The teen regarded this man on the motorcycle with obvious reservations, but said nothing.

The Man looked beyond them, and saw a few more men, cars everywhere. There were Sedans, Coupes, Roadsters; most of them cheap cars that had been stripped down of ‘unnecessary’ parts, repainted, and otherwise altered for racing. He glanced back at the track and decided to get involved. It would be more fun this way.

There was a basket over on an overturned crate, empty. A Fat Gentleman standing at the ersatz table welcomed The Man enthusiastically.

“Are you participating? We’re just starting to take the entrance fee now.”

“Why do you need money?” The Man asked indifferently, looking around and breathing in deeply the smell of salt. “Is this a contest?”

“This is a series of trials, my good sir, with a prize for the best times. Without money, there will be no prize for the winners!” The Fat Gentleman beamed, gesturing towards the wicker basket. “A few dollars, if you could....Ah, thank you sir. Over there, if you please. We will begin in a few hours.”

The Man killed the Henderson’s engine and relaxed for a while. Before long, someone else also threw in some money for the Fat Gentleman. After him, another threw in some cash, and so on, and so on. The Flats became a hive of activity, with extensive modification of every car there taking place. Fenders vanished, headlights came off, doors went, seats went, hoods flew off, body trim went off, even the glass in the side windows went. Piles of bodywork started to grow besides every contestant’s car.

Except the Henderson. The Man did nothing to the Henderson. He relaxed, leaning against the Motorcycle, eating his daily meal of dried jerky and water, waiting. He saw the teen, the one who he’d seen tuning his engine, approach and watched him sit down next to Him.

“Taking a break?” the youth asked The Man, who shrugged.

“Just waiting to start,” He answered. “Interesting though,” he went on, “that you’re having a race here at all. I thought racing on the flats was banned?”

“Not really,” the youth answered. “What’s your name? Mine’s Norm. Norm Westan.” He held out a hand to The Man, who gave a half-smile, but didn’t raise his hand.

“Why do you need a name? You’ll never see me again, Norm. It’s just useless information.”

“Aw, c’mon. It’s just your name.”

“True,” said The Man, “but I don’t think you came over here to ask my name, Norm.”

“I actually just wanted to look at your bike,” he admitted sheepishly, glancing over to the Henderson even as he said it. “Can I take a look at it?”

“Feel free,” said The Man. “You can look, but don’t touch. That bike and everything on it are all I own.”

“So you’re a traveler,” Norm asked automatically, without thinking. He was much too busy looking the profile of the bike over.

“Why is everyone destroying their cars?” The Man asked Norm. “If they wanted to go to a race, they should have brought fast cars to begin with. They shouldn’t have to tear them apart.”

“They don’t have much of a choice. We’ve made do with the cars we drive every day, and they can’t afford mechanics to tune everything, which is why I have an advantage.” Norm grinned broadly to himself. “I’m a mechanic,” he said with a note of pride.

“You are?” The Man stated, feigning interest.

“Yeah. I’ve already tuned my car, it’s all set. I’m just waiting to start…This is a wonderful Motorcycle, mister. Can I sit on it?”

“You’re pushing it, kid.” The Man answered. “If you want to, go ahead, but don’t tip it over.”

Eagerly, Norm mounted the bike, hands firmly grasping the handlebars. He closed his eyes, lost for a moment in a personal fantasy. The Man laughed.

“You like it, don’t you? Why don’t you have one yourself then?”

“Couldn’t afford one.” Norm answered, bought out of his daydream by reality. “I would if I could, though.”
Norm paused before asking his next question. “Which race are you entering?”

“Does it matter?” The Man asked.

“Yeah, it does. See, the races go on until evening, when we have the biggest race of them all. Everyone will be racing at once, not just a few people. Those black lines they’re painting out there? Just for the smaller races. The final race is supposed to have so many entry’s, it could only be held on the flats.”

“What’s the pot, and what kind of race is it?”

“It’s a two mile race in a straight line,” Norm asked. “The pot’s supposed to be a thousand dollars. We’ve been collecting for that pot a long time.”

“Thousand dollars,” The Man stated. “That’s a tidy sum. That race is this evening?”

Norm nodded back, still looking over the body of the gleaming blue Henderson. Then he stopped looking for a moment as his gaze centered on something hanging off it. What was unmistakably the grip of a sawn off lever action shotgun was poking out of a leather holster strapped to the side of the bike, just past the front wheel and just under the right handlebar.

“What’s this?” Norm asked, already knowing the answer.

“Model 1901 Shotgun, 10 Gauge. It’s my life insurance,” The Man joked. Norm wasn’t laughing. In fact, Norm was looking more uncomfortable by the second. He was off the bike in a flash, shaking The Man’s hand and thanking him for letting him sit on the Henderson, and good luck in the races. And then Norm vanished into the crowd, just another shape lost in the glare of the sun.

The day drifted on. Throughout it all, the sounds of engines screaming pierced the air as hundreds of cars made their runs. The Man didn’t take part in any of it. He watched though, and thought. Since he had a motorcycle, by default he had a large advantage. Add to that his modifications and the race would become a sham. No matter, he decided. He knew what he would do.

At the hour before twilight, everyone was ready.

The Man looked around at the other contestants, and all the cars idling on the line. These people all knew each other, the way they talked with each other, yelled curses and taunts back and forth. They were all residents of the city. They had been planning this for weeks. He had come here through chance, like so many other things he’d stumbled on in life. He accepted it, and waited to begin.

As fifty eight cars and a motorcycle stood idling on the line, The Fat Gentleman stepped forward, carrying a pistol. No words were spoken, no words were needed. The contestants waited, impatiently, silently. He aimed the gun skywards..there was a roar as every contestant overeagerly revved their engines..and then he fired. Tires spun, than caught on the surface of the salt as two dozen cars and a motorcycle leapt forwards.

The Man dropped the bike into first, then quickly into second and third. He rocketed off with all the others, enveloped in the sounds of engines roaring. However, it was obvious that aside from a few, the rest of these contestants couldn’t keep up. They tried to drive their cars like they were fast cars, but most really weren’t. The Man had known long ago that he might win this final race. He was pulling into first. The Henderson was so light and so quick, and accelerated so fast, it was just unfair. Even without taking into account his modifications and the theoretical top speed they would have allowed, and even with every possession he owned wrapped, belted to, and hanging off it, the Motorcycle was just too blindingly quick.

He poured on the throttle, and let the engine roar. He wanted speed. It wanted speed. It hadn’t had this much fun in months. The speedometer climbed rapidly; 70, 80, 90, 100, and then beyond. The bike rode on, without a shimmy or a shake in the frame. Dead smooth. The Man relaxed, and allowed his hands to drop into his lap, off the handlebars. The bike kept going, straight as an arrow, while he looked around, rocketing down the plains at 108 MPH. He closed his eyes to stop them from burning. He thought, absentmindedly, that he needed to find some flight goggles. Time passed, slowly.

He opened his eyes and looked behind him, and there of all people was Norm in a stripped down Roadster, trying to bully it into going faster. Its engine was screaming in agony, and it was obvious to The Man that Norm would get nothing more out of it. All the same, it was impressive that it could even match The Man’s pace. No matter, The Man had already decided what to do now before the race had even begun.

He eased back on the throttle, subtly eased on the brakes, Norm creep up closer, ride neck and neck, and then pass him. Then the boy won the race, just like that. The Man brought the bike even with Norm, locked eyes with his. The Man raised two fingers to his brow in a mock salute, and without a word, veered off the track and raced off down the salt flats.

He vanished into the Horizon.

Olly Buckle
October 2nd, 2010, 09:18 AM
I think only God gets "He" capitalised.
You called it an impromptu race and then said a little later they had been planning it for weeks.
You could tighten up on stuff like this " It always would start on the first kick, it didn't overheat, and it never once had stalled on him", Take out the words in bold and the meaning does not change, of course it is not always true, but generally less is better.

Asaji
October 2nd, 2010, 09:22 AM
I'll take up your advice with trimming words, but it was always supposed to be a 'planned impromptu race'. Just a little joke on my part, but if it's ruining it, I'll change it.

Also, I can't do much about referring to the character as He, or The Man, because those are the only two things I think I can refer to him by, until his name is revealed. If you have a suggestion, of other words I can use that's still not His name, please let me know.

I'm going to leave what I write up here mostly unedited, I'm only editing the master copy on my computer. I figure it's best this way, since all the viewers are criticizing the same thing, not something constantly changing.

If I change something in the text, I'll make it clear.

The Backward OX
October 2nd, 2010, 11:15 AM
That “making a U-turn at New Mexico” reminded me of Bugs Bunny -
“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque."

Asaji
October 2nd, 2010, 07:00 PM
He finally made it to California three weeks later. Sure, if He had wanted to, he could have rode across America in just a few days, but The Journey was never about doing it quickly.
However, you couldn’t say his trip was boring...the family from Kansas, the race in Bonneville, the incident in the empty house, the Mob, the Duesenburg.... His journey had ultimately been quite interesting, and he no worse the wear for it. Mostly.

The motorcycle had mostly unimportant paraphernalia tied and strapped to it, not counting the homemade saddlebags on either side of the reinforced rear fender. His only pair of clothes showed the kind of journey this had been: heavy construction workers’ shoes, denim work jeans and a sturdy belt, a black nondescript canvas jacket over a simple shirt- all of it functional, all of it necessary. The only thing really missing was a helmet; he used a dark blue bandanna to keep his hair out of his eyes while riding.



The bike had been changed over the journey, at first gradually, and then dramatically. The fuel tank, while still retaining the original gauges, was now 30 percent larger. The four cylinder engine, while incredibly powerful for a motorcycle by default, had been tweaked, altered, and made to go even faster and to deliver more torque at lower RPM. These improvements and more, while indeed dramatic in terms of power, handling, and performance, were subtle, done with finesse and great care. Cosmetic differences between this bike and stock Henderson bikes were all but invisible; almost everything drastically changed on this one was changed on the inside. Still, the bike had been changed enough that it wasn’t really a Henderson anymore, just a bike based on one. The Man preferred to call it such, though….made things easier.

California was lush; his New York was colorless by comparison. There was greenery all around him here in Cali, as compared to the grays and browns of his old city, but he couldn’t help but feel like California wouldn’t stay this way for long. In the past 90-odd years it had undergone a boom, more than tripling in population. California was now a proud seller of produce across the nation, and It needed pickers to pick the fruit; thus all the migrant families coming into the state from everywhere imaginable. He had seen them on his journey, in every Midwest state and even some of the northern and southern ones. This had always been the case during The Journey; even though it had taken so long, that face had never changed. It was clear that most of these migrants assumed that getting work was a given, considering how much supposed demand there was for their services. Hell, He guessed that at this point those farmers and their children would settle for anything that paid, short of murder.

But He wasn’t here for any of that. He wasn’t a farmer by trade, or birth, but even then he knew that kind of work wasn’t worth it. Picking boxes and boxes of peaches would not make money. Get the most desperate people to do the cheapest work...that’s what he would do. So no, picking peaches wasn’t for him. There didn’t seem to be much of anything here for him. He considered why he had come across the continent to get here in the first place, while the Henderson idled beneath him, purring patiently.

The Man didn’t think of himself as poor- unlike most people during the 20’s that played the stock market; he got lucky and invested wisely. By the time he was 21, he’d made so much that he could’ve retired. He considered that was very good, considering that he’d made it all in three years, just leading up to Black Thursday. If the economy hadn’t died, he could have really made a killing. He had taken steps to protect that money before the crash, and had spent little. This motorcycle was his biggest purchase of the last four years. He had never lived like he was rich; he had ignored his wealth.

So why push it? Why go across The Americas, when he could have waited this depression out, living just as frugally as he did before? This downturn couldn’t possibly last forever. And even if it did, he could always go to Germany...that dictator was doing wonders to the German economy. The Man didn’t think much of the dictators’…. outspoken policies, though.

He absentmindedly watched a Model T sedan pull up across the street, four people pile out, and walk inside the local bank.

When he thought about it, he knew that he had come here for the thrill of coming here. Life had gotten too boring, too monotonous. Playing the stocks was fun, and had risk to it. He had liked risk; it was part of what made him buy the motorcycle in the first place. He had started this Journey because he wanted excitement. Funnily enough, he didn’t quite feel that way now. Undoubtedly, The Journey had changed him more than he had first thought.

You came here because you wanted to, on a whim. But now what? Money was tight, and something needed to be done soon. What was there to do? Did he even need to work? He could still live off his savings for a few months if he just stopped The Journey...no, he wouldn’t do that. It was just too boring.

There must have been a reason for all this. He couldn’t have spent all that time getting here for nothing. He had supposed that the answer would come to him as he went along, but here he was now, still waiting. There had to be a reward for coming here, or a purpose waiting for him to find. I just need the proper motivation to find it.

Olly Buckle
October 2nd, 2010, 08:40 PM
I was not objecting to the use of the word "he", only the use of the capital letter.

Asaji
October 2nd, 2010, 10:41 PM
Ah, I understand.

Yeah, You'll notice that sometimes He or Him are capitalized even when usually they're not supposed to be. I'm using He, Him, and The Man as substitutes for his name for this first part of the story, so in every case where I would normally use a name, He and Him are capitalized like a name. Eventually, the protagonist will get a name and will be referred to by it.

I do it in other places as well, with bit part characters. For example, The Fat Gentleman who accepts the money before the race. He's too small a character to give a name, but "The Fat Gentleman" works almost as well as a name. Better in fact, because the words "The Fat Gentleman" conjure up a different image for everyone. And that's fine. Means I don't have to waste space describing an unimportant character.

I don't want the reader to start off knowing everything about Him. I want there to be a sense of ambiguity, that slowly vanishes as we learn more about him through the story. Course, in cases where he and him would normally be used, they aren't capitalized.

Does that make sense, or is it too far fetched?

Asaji
October 3rd, 2010, 01:50 AM
Without warning, sirens went off inside the bank, and the four men from earlier ran back into the Model T, sacks in hand, and started to rumble down the street as fast as the T could go. A nearby patrolling police officer started shouting, and running after it- after all, a robbery is a robbery, especially when it’s this obvious- but it was also obvious that his attempts were futile. He could use some help…

The Man dropped the bike into first, then second gear, and roared off after the Model T. It never had a chance- Ts could only go 45 miles per hour, on a good day, and even then only with a special Two-Speed Axel conversion. He didn’t even need to switch to third gear to catch it. No, its top speed wasn’t the problem. The guns were.

As soon as He edged closer to the car, the head and shoulders of a middle-aged man popped out of a rear window, a revolver in each hand. He fired clumsily several times - missed. The Man backed off, being careful to maintain distance to the car and still stay out of easy firing range. He slid the lever-action shotgun from its holster, and passed it to his left hand so his right could work the throttle on the bike. This shotgun had been cut down, the barrel only an inch longer then the tube magazine under it. There was no shoulder stock, just a sanded and polished hand grip. The gun was loaded. It was also highly illegal.

He raised it at the rear window of the car and fired. The glass blew out the T’s rear window, and the man with the revolvers disappeared behind the seat- whether he had been shot or not wasn’t clear. The Man winced from the strong recoil of the weapon, but shrugged it off. He was used to it by now. He chambered the next shot by letting the gun fall forwards and then back into his hand, working the lever. Not wanting to draw the encounter out, he swung around to the drivers’ side, raised the shotgun, and pointed it directly at the terrified driver.

“Stop the car, or I’ll shoot again!” Even though 45 miles per hour might not seem very fast, it still required The Man to shout to be heard. And he was heard.

The driver of the car apparently had no intention of stopping the car. In a desperate move, he twisted the steering wheel directly towards The Man, with intention of running him off the road. The Man quickly swerved out of range, aimed the shotgun at the front wheel on the drivers’ side, and fired. The wooden spokes on the T’s wheels shattered.

The car, still turning to the left from its failed attempt at vehicular manslaughter, leaned over too far without the support of the wheel. The car crashed on its side in a dramatic display of screeching metal and shattering glass, and skidded to a stop some fifteen feet away. The Man stopped the motorcycle, and held his gun at the ready. Shortly after, the winded Police officer, having sprinted the whole way, ran up, red in the face and looking murderous. The battered, bleeding, and disoriented would-be criminals started to pile out of the twisted metal salad that used to be their car, greeted by the sight of the cop and the barrel of The Man’s shotgun.


------

“Sit down,” the officer said to The Man, who complied. The four would-be robbers were in custody, and The Man was now sitting in the main office of the police force of Sacramento, being interviewed by no less than the chief of police himself, a stoic gray haired old man. The Man shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to be here. It can’t be all bad though, He thought to himself. They didn’t take my gun.

The Chief spoke to Him slowly, hands clasped together on his desk. “….I appreciate what you did today, but I don’t want to see it done again. A less forgiving man might call what you did obstruction of police business, or taking the law into your own hands...acts of vigilante justice. That’s exactly what you did.” The Chief’s tone was even, and firm. He was careful not to let any anger show in his words, if there even was anger.

The Man nodded. The Chief took a sip of coffee, and continued.

“I understand why you did it, though. Because of your quick thinking, four men will be tried and convicted for robbery, and the bank can continue its services. You’re a damn hero in my book.” A sly smile slipped across his lips.

“Why don’t you work for us for a while? I’ve got friends in high places. I can pull a few strings, call in a few favors, and make you a Federal Marshal. You can handle a gun, shoot straight, think quick, and you already have transportation. I can tell you have a fair grasp of Justice, how it works. With all these migrants coming in without being registered, we get all kinds of sorts...some not as good as others. A lot are bitter about how the Government is buying up their farms, destroying their homes, repossessing their fields, and killing their livestock. Some are violent, and some have tried to incite riots. We need more lawmen in Southern California, where most of the harvesting this year is, and where most of the vagrants are working. We need more like you.” He said all of this like it was absolute fact, a rule of the universe. The Man noted the venom that he used in the words migrants, and vagrants. He seemed sincere enough though.

The Man considered the offer.

“I’ll do it.”

“It’s a deal then. I’ll get started on your papers right away. You won’t have to wait long, just a few hours or so. Wait in the lobby, I'll need you here for your signature.”

The Man turned to leave, and had just opened the door when he was stopped by the chief. “Eh… listen, don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way. When I said you could handle your gun well, I meant it. But for an officer of the law, don’t you think a 10 Gauge Shotgun is overdoing it a bit?” He placed especial emphasis on the words ‘of the law’, as if his point wasn’t already clear enough.

“…You want me to get rid of it?”

“No, no, you can keep it,” the chief reassured with a wave of his hand. “I just want you to carry a weapon that won’t obliterate a man in one shot. Find a pistol, something, anything.”

“Fine. I’ll work on that.”

And with that, He left the office, leaving the chief alone at his desk, writing.

Asaji
October 3rd, 2010, 07:09 PM
Sometimes problems resolve themselves, The Man mused to himself as he took another sip of whiskey. He was seated in one of the many bars that had sprung up in the country after probation was ended. As the restorative liquor hit his stomach, he felt a familiar and pleasant calm overtake him. He sighed, privately dreading what was about to happen.

..No. The Man thought to himself in the calm.

No, it wasn’t a good thing, because there wasn’t a problem to resolve in the first place. You had no business doing that. Those men could have been pros. They could have been better equipped and prepared. The shotgun could have broken your wrist. They could have killed you easily. You got lucky, and don’t ever forget that.

This sort of self reflection was not uncommon to The Man. It usually came to him in places like these, and always with the drink. He hated it.

I always get lucky. You should know that. And guess what? Like always, I didn’t die. I got rewarded for my actions. What do you have to say for that?

Don’t dismiss this. You always end up doing something like that...taking a risk where you have no business taking risks.

Shut up. It all worked out this time, no problem. I’ll be more careful next time. He took another sip of his whiskey.

You know that’s not true. You love risk too much. Why do you ride a Motorcycle? Why did you play the stocks in the 20’s? Why do you drink? Why do you carry a gun? And why did you shoot that gun at the robbers while riding on a motorcycle at 45 miles per hour? You’re no badass, or hero. Even if there was no risk involved, there’s no reason to try and be a hero.

Risk is all circumstantial. I’m not trying to be a hero.

You’re bullshitting yourself. Would an average man have hopped on his motorcycle, pulled his gun, and chased a quartet of robbers? Would the average man have helped petty criminals, then turn around and attack the mob? Would an average man have left home, doing what can only be called looking for trouble? For over a year? And don’t forget Bonneville..you gave up that race for no good reason. Why? Did you feel pity for that boy? Oh sure, you played it smooth with that salute, and that ride-off-into-the-sunset act, but it just made you look like a pretentious asshole.

You have no business doing even half the things you do.

The Man grimaced, and gripped his glass much tighter then he needed to.

Every single time I make a choice to do anything, there’s a good reason for it. Every time I put myself in danger, there’s a good reason for it. Do I give up a race just to show off? No, the boy needed the money more than I did. Why do I help criminals escape the Police? The Police were shooting at me. Why did I attack the mob? My. Own. Goddamn. Reasons. Do I let a band of robbers get away? No. I chase them down. Each of these things was a calculated risk, but I didn’t, and don’t do them because of the risk. Not anymore. When I do these things, it’s all…for justice.

Justice?

I’d think you’d understand me by now, and how I think about justice. Justice is malleable, so easy to pervert. What is ‘justice’? Why will it always prevail? Of course justice always prevails…because the ideal of whoever wins becomes justice. I’m in no position to change that, but I can still follow my own moral compass. So I do. So I do stupid things sometimes. But no one can say that I do these things for fun. Not anymore.

You’re Hopeless. Listen to yourself. I reiterate; would the average man do half the things you do?

The Man smiled grimly to himself, drinking more, letting the numbing warmth flow through him.

…No. But the average man is very different from me. I have nothing to lose.

The voice paused, and then laughed an empty laugh, snidely suggesting something that it often did, and that he always ignored.

Why don’t you find a nice girl to keep you warm?

Why don’t you leave me be? I’m not in the mood to talk with my conscience right now. Maybe we’ll talk later.


We will.


The fog lifted, and once again The Man found himself sitting in a corner booth in a nondescript bar in the middle of a California city. He looked down into the glass, the liquor barely touched. It was getting worse. He didn’t even need to get drunk to start talking to himself anymore. The Drink didn’t help much anymore; all it did was bring on conversations with The Voice, which never ended well. That, and now he wasn’t thirsty anymore.



“Bartender. What’s the tab?”


“10 cents. You done already?” The Fat Man behind the counter did not look pleased. “You haven’t even finished your first drink.” Without another word, The Man threw down 10 cents and got up. The bartender took the money, still scowling, and drained the nearly-full glass of whiskey left on his table.


“Waste of good whiskey,” he muttered angrily.
The Man stopped just short of the door, sighing.
“…Bartender. Sell me a bottle of that whiskey. A big one.”
The bartender eagerly complied, and The Man left.

Dark was fast approaching, throwing the western sky into a sea of bright colors. He dropped the bottle of expensive whiskey in one of the saddlebags hanging off the beloved Henderson and looked south, into the dusk.

The days of wearing a tin star were long passed, and due to the kind of work he guessed he was expected to be doing, he thought it wise to not wear a uniform, or otherwise attract attention. The Chief of Police had reluctantly agreed with him. The only proofs that he was a marshal were the papers and a badge in a pocketbook inside his jacket. That was fine with him. He didn’t really plan on playing the part of a lawman.

Only seven hours to Southern California if he left now.

He kicked the Motorcycle through, and it caught on the first kick, as always.
The single headlight illuminated the long stretch of road that lay ahead of him.
He hit the gas, and roared off into the oncoming darkness of night.


---
Plenty more to come. I just don't want to keep up this combo posting. Give people a chance to comment, give their critiques. If I keep posting more, everyone will have to read through about 10,000 words before they can comment.

spider8
October 4th, 2010, 07:00 PM
To be honest, I don't think you're quite ready to be posting reams and reams of stuff here (though maybe others disagree, and I'm often wrong). You've got to think of what benefits you most. In your first post I spotted a few mistakes or problems and if you'd just posted say, 2 or 3 paras, I would have nitpicked. But it's too big a post for me to go through like that. I persevered because it's the forum and it's nice to help and I've seen that you also like to help others. Although you excuse yourself for using He and Him, etc. that doesn't mean it works or that you're not mistaken by doing this. I found the first post emotionally cold because of this. In your mind you may have the 'bigger picture' but I don't have it in my mind. Where's my excitement, emotional attachment? If I were a keen biker perhaps I'd now be engrossed. But I'm not.

If it's any consolation, I posted a chapter once and recieved just one comment. I did wonder why and decided I hadn't hooked anyone. The comment I had was from 'someone making an effort'. I'm not saying that you using he and him can't work ever, but my goodness, you're making it extremely hard for yourself in doing this.

To repeat myself, think about what would benefit you. You say you edit it afterwards. How about editing it beforehand?

Another personal opinion about this forum - Sometimes one makes an effort with a critique (as I see you have done with others) and the OP posts the next piece on the same thread. Is it just me that doesn't want to carry on? I don't know. But I suggest posting your additions on seperate threads, new threads.

Lastly, but not leastly, I see a lot of promise in your work. I do actually like the idea of opening like this, I like the mystery, and the originality, though this may surprise you after my comments so far. Good ideas but you have to make them work, you're not doing that for me yet, and from what I've seen I believe you are capable.

Asaji
October 4th, 2010, 07:33 PM
Finally, a fresh voice!

I can certainly understand your concern about having no emotional attachment to the character, but that's part of the plan. He's a faceless, nameless character that drifted across North America for over a year. The whole point of the story is learning about Him, building up a person from his experiences. Part of what makes him who he is his reluctance to give out his real name. He always uses alias'. If that meant writing for a nameless character for a long time, I figured 'so be it'. It's a challenge that I accept. Besides, his name will be revealed eventually, and I'll describe his face shortly.

I know that having a nameless character is a huge hurdle to overcome, and will probably bother readers. I'm trying my best to make it as readable as possible.

Just to be clear, I don't want to post multiple threads. If I did, I would just be cluttering up the forum. At least, that's how I feel about it. If the topic gets longer (which it probably will), I'll put up a table of contents. I just, you know, feel more confident knowing that all my stuff on this story is in one topic. I suppose I'm just that kind of person.

Asaji
October 5th, 2010, 05:56 PM
It wasn’t like He was going to ride all night though. While night riding made sense for saving time, The Journey never was about saving time. So, like it usually was when He went night riding, he quit at about 1 AM. Like usual, he moved the Henderson off the road onto the dirt besides the road, and with the help of the moonlight found a patch of earth without tall grass.

Sleeping exposed in the open was an old sensation to him by now, old enough to become completely routine. Of course, he had no coverings, or even a pillow, but since it was a warm night, he was able to make do with his own substitute. Once he’d found his camping spot or the night, he took off his jacket and rolled it up. He tossed it on the ground for now, and went about with the second, much more unusual part of the ritual.
He hadn’t always camped like this, but once he started it became clear that there were certain dangers present. Anything from the curiosity or territorial aggression of wild animals was possible, even justified, and of course highwaymen looking for easy prey could be counted on to act should they see a sleeping traveler- or his motorcycle- sitting off by the side of the road. So out of necessity, He began to take precautions should the unthinkable happen. The holster carrying his shotgun was a special one, because it could be worn; the leather straps that attached it to the side of the motorcycle were belts. The holster was designed to be strapped to a man’s leg.

It’s necessary to understand that the Shotgun was short, very short. With the gun sitting up straight, barrel lying flat against the ground, the grip would have come up to just above The Man’s knee. The belt straps were intended to be put on just above the knee, and around the shin, respectively. The bottom of the holster was only five inches off the ground. In this way, resting in the holster when put on properly, The Grip of the shotgun came up to just below The Man’s right hip. The holster was designed so well that the wearer could walk normally, almost run.

The holster was meant as a way to transport the gun, not for quick removal. This, of course, was a shotgun, not a handgun. But out of necessity, The Man needed to have quick access to it in the night, should the unthinkable happen. He couldn’t have the gun out of the holster and in the dirt, so he settled for the next best thing- strapping the shotgun to his leg for easy access, every night before he retired.

Putting his bandanna over his eyes, he lay down flat on his back on the ground, head resting on his rolled up jacket, and ignored the feeling of trying to sleep like this. He’d done this so often that it wasn’t difficult, and before long he fell asleep. He woke up in what felt like a very short time.

Breakfast was water and two sticks of jerky from the saddlebag- jerky to chew, water to moisten it and make it taste less like sawdust. As he sat and chewed, he considered the request that the police chief had made before. What was it? Find a pistol? Fair enough. He glanced at the shotgun holster, now hanging off the motorcycle. It was a damn uncomfortable thing to have on your leg at night. If for no other reason, a pistol would make things easier. He swallowed his mouthful of jerky and took another bite, his teeth pulling on it like a chaw of bad tobacco.

He’d had a handgun before; two revolvers, actually. From personal experience he was most aware that a handgun was easier to use than a shotgun, and almost as intimidating. But out of necessity, he’d had to get rid of them a long time ago. He’d never found it necessary to go and buy any replacements. Before he had considered buying a pistol an unnecessary purchase, but if he thought of it as fulfilling a request, well, that made it easier for him to justify. And the Chief had wanted him to get one. It was settled. He’d buy a handgun at the first opportunity.

The sound of an oncoming car got his attention, and got him off the ground. Moving towards the road, he motioned for the driver to stop. The driver humored Him, and parked by the side of the road. The Man went to go greet the driver, an elderly man, who regarded the stranger indifferently.

“There any trouble,” the old man asked.

“I just need some information. Is there a town around here?”

“Yeah. Down the road a few miles. You lost?”

“No, not lost. Just wanted to know what was ahead. Thanks awfully.”

The old man nodded, and started off down the road again.

(Note: I thought this part was necessary, because the fact that the shotgun can be worn on his leg will become relevant in the near future. Tell me otherwise if you don't think I need this part.)

Asaji
October 6th, 2010, 04:57 PM
These towns and cities he kept passing varied in size, population, and importance, but all of them were welcome to The Man. The City, any city, was a thing that worked in a specific way, and usually could be counted on to work in that specific way. The rules were always the same; don’t make trouble, go about your business, and everything will be fine. People who lived in cities unconsciously followed these rules, not asking questions, just answering them. The Man had known better to ask around for a gun shop- that kind of question wasn’t asked. If it was, the asker was a troublemaker, simple as that. A phonebook in with a pay phone near the towns entrance had a listing and street address, but of course no directions or map. So in essence, He had to spend most of the morning looking around the city, trying out different streets in order. As time dragged on, he questioned if the phonebook had been accurate, if this city actually had a gun shop. If he couldn’t find one here, he’d just as soon try looking at the next town, when he got to it.

Eventually, patience and perseverance were rewarded, and he found it. The shop looked old, but that was a good thing. It was probably owned by a family, or single businessman, and that meant the proprietor would know what he was talking about. He pulled into the lot nearby, and killed the engine. He thought for a bit, fingers drumming on the handlebars, about how to go about with this. The Police Chief had been good enough to give him a license, legally allowing Him to possess guns. He had no concerns about being turned away because of legal issues. No, he was more concerned about what to look for.

As he pushed open the shop door, greeted by the scent of well oiled parts, his eyes drifted over racks and racks of hunting rifles and shotguns meant for shooting clay pigeons. Ignoring all of them, he made his way over to the glass counter, where the establishment’s collection of pistols and revolvers was on display. The owner was in the back room somewhere, probably hadn’t heard Him come in. That was fine; it gave time to look over the weapons in peace.

The two handguns he had owned before were revolvers, specifically Colt Police Positive revolvers, both chambered for the .32 Short Colt cartridge, and both with extremely short barrels of only 2.5 inches. This was unfortunate, for several reasons; neither gun had sufficient stopping power, in His opinion, nor did either have reliable accuracy at distances over 30 feet. On the other hand, they had been extremely reliable, even in places filled with choking dust. Reliability being paramount to him, and because he didn’t fully trust semi-automatic handguns to always be reliable, He gravitated over to the revolvers on display.

As expected, most weren’t meant for self defense. The ones that were mostly had short barrels, to allow concealment. Since concealment wasn’t important to Him, he ignored those and focused on what was left. He still couldn’t find anything good, or at least didn’t see anything interesting. He sighed in disappointment, believing this to be a wasted trip. The shop owner took this chance to come out of the backroom, greeting his customer with a smile and a handshake. The Man looked him over; a friendly looking fellow in his mid forties.

“Are you here to buy?”

“Yeah, that was the plan. I need a good revolver.”

“Got all kinds of good revolvers,” The Owner said, making a sweeping gesture over the counter. “What are you looking for?”

This was the difficult part. He wasn’t here for a target pistol, he was here for a gun that would kill. Even if he never had to use it for killing, just having a gun that could kill was enough to intimidate most hoods he had encountered. This was why he considered the Shotgun so valuable. This owner was likely to sell him something better suited for display, if his current selection was any indication. He needed to make his position absolutely clear now, even if the owner didn’t like what he was going to say.

“I need a revolver that’s reliably accurate at any range I need it to be, that won’t break from heavy use, and that’ll have enough power to stop a man in one shot.”

The smile faded from the owners face. “If you’re not a lawman, get out. I don’t trust men who talk so casually about killing.” His eyes narrowed as The Man took on a look that suggested he’d known the owner would respond like this. Sure he would have responded like this. If he hadn’t, The Man would have thought something was wrong. That’s why he’d gone over what he’d say next before he’d even entered the shop, when he was still outside.

“You wanted to know what I was looking for. That’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I need. Now before you get any ideas about calling the police, read this,” he said bringing out his official papers from inside a jacket pocket and laying them on the counter. The owner looked them over; signatures here, official records there, his firearm license, even a letter of introduction. The Police chief had certainly been thorough, and sincere about wanting Him to work for the USA. The Man thought it was kind of funny actually, the lengths he went to make Him a lawman. Personally, he could care less about a badge, but if it would help satisfy this man, it was useful enough.

The owner looked the papers over very carefully, even examining the ink on the signatures. Finally, he relented.

“These are genuine. I’m taking it on good faith that you are who these papers say you are, Mr. Stanton,” he said using the name on the badge. “But just understand I still don’t trust you. I’ve never had a customer who told me outright that he needed a gun for killing.”

“I understand,” The Man replied, “but I needed to be honest about why I need it. You were going to sell me something useless otherwise. So answer me this,” he said, sweeping a hand over the guns lying under the glass, “do you have a revolver that meets my needs?”

The owner leaned against the far wall, scratching his chin. “An accurate gun, a reliable gun? And a revolver? We have plenty of those. But a gun that only uses one shot to kill? Lots of handguns have claimed to do that, most of them don’t. The ones that do are rare gems. Only got one of those…and I can’t guarantee it will, actually.”

“Why?”

“It’s…it uses a completely new cartridge. Brand new, just this year. I’ve heard promising things about it, but it hasn’t really been used in anything other than target shooting. Here, I’ve got it over here somewhere...”

The owner disappeared under the counter for a few moments, and reemerged with a revolver, metal deeply blued. The Man noticed that it had a long barrel, but other than that didn’t see anything of note. The owner went on to explain those things of note.

“This is a Smith and Wesson Registered Magnum. It uses a cartridge called .357 magnum, but it can also fire .38 special rounds, if you need to. As you can see, it’s been blued; it has an eight inch long barrel, and a walnut grip I had put on. It has a lightly weighted brass trigger, and the hammer pulls back easy. It’s a double action gun, so you don’t actually have to pull the hammer down every time you want to fire. Here, try it.”

The man took it from him, feeling the considerable weight. That was fine, it would help accuracy. His hands fitted the grip well, gave it good balance. He swung out the cylinder, examining it. His fingers skirted over to the trigger, testing the weight, then the weight of the hammer. The long barrel and good clean sights would make it easy to aim. He could tell he liked it.

“Hmmm,” The Man hummed to himself as he thought it over. “How much is it? For the gun, and a holster.”

“It won’t be cheap,” the owner said. “So you know, that was supposed to be my demonstration model. The Factory’s got a backlog of orders for months, so if you want to buy that model of gun, it’ll have to be that one you’re holding, unless you’re keen on waiting for a while.”

“Well, I think I’d be ordering one just like this one anyway…. does this entire line of models come this way? Or is this one special?”

“No, they’re all different. The customer picks out the barrel length, whether to have it blued or in nickel, chooses the sights, you name it. Most everything that you could pick to have on that gun, I sprung for. I would have had two guns, this one to show, and one less expensive one ready to sell, but no such luck. Factory wouldn’t let me get two, and it’ll take ages to get another one into the shop. I’m a businessman though, and if you want that gun, I’ll sell it to you.”

“All right thanks,” He said, remembering something else. “I need something else as well; do you have Ten Gauge Shotgun ammo here?”

“Oh,” the owner said, surprised at the sudden change of subject. “Yeah, I’ve got some around here somewhere.”

“Good. I need three boxes of Ten Gauge ammo, along with this gun here, a left hander holster for it, and plenty of ammo, .357, or whatever it was.”

“Fine, fine. I usually have a waiting period on handguns, but I’ll make an exception since you know Harry, and since he’s vouched for you.” The Man mused that Harry must be the name of the Police chief, and mentally filed it away. It wasn’t important now.

He held the revolver in his hand, pleased that at least one thing today went better than expected.


--

Less than an hour later, he exited the shop, pocketbook lighter and purchases in tow. They all had cost a lot- but it was for a good enough cause. And now he had a handgun again, so he wouldn’t have to sleep in such an uncomfortable position at night. Well, at least he wouldn’t have something strapped to his leg.

He emptied the shotgun shells into the section of saddlebag that usually held them, then loaded the new revolver and slid it into its holster, on his left hip. This was a necessity, since the shotgun holster was of course meant to go on the right leg, and the revolvers’ holster would get in the way of the shotgun. Some extra ammo for both the pistol and the shotgun went in separate pockets of his jacket, along with the certificate of authenticity the proprietor had given him. Since it wasn’t even noon when he finally left the shop, he decided to get in a few hundred miles of good time.

Why not, he figured. There’s hardly anything left of California. Might as well get it over with.

Asaji
October 11th, 2010, 07:56 PM
His mood was pessimistic, even though his purchase of the Revolver had gone so well. Here he was, in the last state of America, and he had nothing to show for it. Oh sure, there were the little things that he’d gained through necessity- the saddlebags, most of his clothes, most of the things in the saddlebags. There was the shotgun, and now a revolver, and of course there were all the modifications he’d made to the motorcycle over that time.

Of course, he also had the badge identifying him as a Marshal, but He considered it useless. For one, the name on it was false, which automatically made it void. For another thing, being made a Marshal didn’t mean anything to Him. It just happened, and He went along with it. Of course it would be convenient to have such a badge, and it had gotten him a firearms license, and the Revolver…the revolver was undoubtedly the best part of the deal. The badge he considered a side effect of doing the right thing, nothing more. He’d probably throw it away at the next opportunity, and burn the official papers. He didn’t need anything giving his face a name, even a false one.

When it came to things that really mattered, he had found nothing of the sort, and so felt he had nothing to show for his journey. When he had first left, he wasn’t sure what he had been looking for. Early on, there was that incident in the empty house, which convinced him to hide in Central America for a while. That was probably what affected him most- poverty clashing with the gaiety and life of Mexico City, the harshness of the wilderness, the language barrier, Outlaws, Communists, wild animals, bad water, the heat, the terrain, all of it made Central America the trial he had to overcome.

After he left Central America, he’d expected to find what he’d gone looking for- whatever it was- and life would be good from then on out. He figured that if Central America was the trial, the reward would be somewhere in the states, found after some easy riding around. He’d been methodical- each state was visited in turn. Nothing had been overlooked. There were a few incidents along the way, but nothing that said to him, ‘This is it. This is what you came out here for. This is what you were meant to do. This was waiting for you.’

And now here he was, near journey’s close, roaring along a dusty California road, with nothing at all to show for all his time wasted. If there was a reason to be here, out here, he needed it to be somewhere in this state. He didn’t have the patience to go back and visit all the other states again. He’d sooner go to Europe to find whatever it was he was looking for.

Course, that was the part that bothered him most of all. He didn’t even know what it was he was looking for. The draw of adventure had been so sudden, so impulsive. He’d convinced himself to just go along with it. He wondered if that was a mistake now, but he’d convinced himself to see this through to the end.

And so he sped southward, for miles and miles. The map he’d picked up not long ago had plenty of towns and landmarks listed, none of them unique or important enough to get his attention. He just kept going south, kept an eye out for anything interesting. The further south he went, the fewer cars on the road. Odd, he thought, to see no migrants. The way the Police Chief said himself that there were many vagrants here, all jobless, all needing a job. They must have been further north. Yeah, that must have been it. It was getting dryer as he went along, not as much greenery as there had been before. It eventually turned desert like, definitely no farms here. Fine by him. He had no intention of getting involved with migrant farmers, unlike what the Police Chief apparently wanted.
He decided then and there to put the Chief out of his mind. He had played a part in getting Him the revolver, and nothing more. The revolver as a favor paid in exchange for stopping a bank robbery? He thought that was a fair trade. He put it out of his mind and focused on the road for the next few hours until it was almost high noon.

He felt like he fancied a drink, but not the whiskey he’d picked up the other day. Never one to ignore his feelings, he pulled into the next town he saw and quickly found a small hole-in-the- wall bar. He ordered two shots of bourbon, and sat in a corner stall nursing the third one for a long time. He sat silently, away from the regulars drinking with the owner, just thinking. Thinking, planning, plotting…he was so tired of it.

Aw, what’s wrong? You were so upbeat before. So full of vigor, spirit, and purpose! Everything went just as planned, problems fixed themselves, and the world was great. But here you are now, acting like this. What happened to you?

He tried to ignore The Voice and continued to drink. The Voice continued, in a tone He didn’t care much for, to mock him. It was mocking him, right? He couldn’t even tell anymore. The Voice switched between mocking and supporting so quickly.

I think its regret, actually. You regret leaving. You went to find something, and you never found it. You probably won’t be able to go back to that life anyway. No, you’ll soldier on, searching and searching for a treasure you’ll never find, a life you’ll never have, a purpose you’ll never discover.

I’m still sitting here, he shot back. I’m still here, because I’m still needed. I’m still needed for something...and you’re not helping.

I’m not supposed to help. I never was the voice of reason.

Didn’t stop you from trying. All you’ve ever done is talk me down, tried to make me go back. Tried to make me accept that I was wrong about everything. I might have gone back before, but I can’t now. I’m so close, I can feel it in my bones. I want to see this through, and if it doesn’t give me anything, I’ll try somewhere else.

You should have learned how to quit by now.

What I’ve learned, He said to himself, wincing at the glass of bourbon in front of him, is that most times, this stuff tastes awful. I don’t even know why I drink it anymore. It costs too much, it turns good men violent, and it brings you out to talk. I don’t want to talk with you anymore. I don’t ever want to hear you ever again. You’ve never done me any good, and you’ve given me enough bad advice to make me want to quit this stuff forever.

Well, at least you’re finally being honest about it. True, my advice is a bit…well, extreme. You’ve never followed it though. You’ve still got some self respect left in you. Some. If you were normal when you left home, no way in hell you’re ever going to be normal again. You’ve done things, seen things no man should have to see.

The bar erupted in laughter over a particularly lewd joke. The Voice waited for it to die down, before beginning again in its usual simpering tone.

No, I don’t think you’ll ever be normal again. Weren’t really normal before. No religion, no spiritual or moral calling. Worked in an honest trade, but wouldn’t work your way out of poverty, even when you were rich. You didn’t even mention it to anyone. You lived where you had always lived, worked where you had always worked, with a fortune in your coffers. I don’t think you ever really realized how much you made, how goddamn lucky you were to make so much in so little a time. A fortune, might I add, that you all but used up on this stupid, rambling, pointless journey of yours. You had cash! You could have bought anything you wanted, lived well, ate well, spent as you liked.

Or of course, you could keep doing what you were doing. It seemed to suit you. Either way, you wouldn’t have wasted so much time, you wouldn’t ever have murdered anyone, you might even have found a nice girl to keep you warm at night. Where you gonna sleep tonight? Huh? On the rocks, in the dirt, out in the open? Again? You. Have. Nothing. Your life means nothing, and you’ll die leaving behind nothing but a dozen alias’ .

The Man sat in the booth, still sipping the cheap spirits, still wishing somewhere in the back of his mind that The Voice would shut up and leave him alone…he didn’t want to keep drinking the stuff, but he had to listen to what the voice said...wanted to at least hear it out. This would be the last time he’d hear it. He swore that much to himself.

Why are you so protective of you name, anyway? You always have been, but you have nothing to hide. Had nothing to hide, anyway. You’re so secretive, so mysterious, right? That what you’re going for? The Stranger, who came and killed them all, and then vanished without trace?

… I just don’t need a name to go with my face. Give a name to a face, and anyone can find you. I don’t want to be found. I want to find it myself.

But find what?

He couldn’t answer, didn’t even know why he phrased it that way. He shrugged it off, finished the drink and sat back. He stretched, stiff from the riding. The drink hadn’t inebriated him yet, but it had eased some of his aches, what little there were. The fact that the drink had a positive side effect was just a technicality; it was crude stuff, and left an awful taste in his mouth.

He wanted to wash it out. He got up, taking his empty shot glass with him, and walked stiffly to the small restroom off behind his table. The tap water was freezing cold, but that didn’t bother him any. The rinsing helped quite a bit, dulling the awful taste into a mild annoyance. He threw some water on his face to clean off some of the dirt from the days riding. Since there was no towel, he wiped most of the water off with his hands, all the while staring at his reflection in the mirror.


He didn’t see his face often, often going a week at a time without seeing it. His face was thin, with pronounced cheekbones and a sharp nose. He had a high forehead, eyes that often looked half-closed, and messy dark brown hair cut short. His sideburns went seamlessly into his beard, which covered most of his lower face. He kept it trimmed as closely to his face as he could, but it had the uneven look that came with being self trimmed. His mustache was much neater, but even still, having a beard at all was an almost unheard of look among men his age. Honestly, He thought he looked like a bum.

This is the face without a name. This is the face of a man who had everything, and threw it all away.

As it always did, The Voice’s tone was condescending, with barely hidden malice working behind every word. The Man answered it in his own way as he had before, tired and wishing to be left alone.

That’s not true. I have a name, and I didn’t throw anything away..I didn’t have anything to throw away. I’m no different from any other man, except I have nothing to lose.

Exactly, The Voice urged. So why not end it now? Suicide is painless, if you do it right..

“That’s enough!” He shouted out loud, and bashed the sink in anger at himself, sending a wave of pain up his arm that brought him back to reality. “I don’t need to listen to this shit anymore. I’m not going to quit now. I’m gonna keep going. It’s still out there.”


---

He’d quietly returned to his booth after that; happily, no one had heard him arguing with himself. Not wanting to order another drink and start arguing with The Voice again, he settled on ordering soup. Actually, he was surprised this place served food at all, but a hot meal being a treat to him, he couldn’t pass it up. The soup was onion based, and smelled delicious. As he started eating, he heard the door open, like it had many times since he first got here, but this time the conversations around the bartender and his regulars stopped. That got his attention.

He looked up from his soup to see an old gray haired man. He was darkly tanned, his skin was weathered, and his face was clean shaven, but his hair was ragged and dirty. His clothes were made for a hard days’ work, dusty, stained and blackened. He could tell right away that this old man was a migrant, and so could everybody else in the establishment.

“Sir,” The Old Man said in a strained voice to the owner, “I want to buy a bottle of spirits. It doesn’t matter what kind, just a small bottle. I’ve got money to pay you.”

To the surprise of both The Man and The Old Man, the bartender responded, “I won’t sell you any liquor. You can buy some food, but no spirits.”

Taken aback, it took The Old Man a moment before he retorted, “I came here for liquor. I don’t need much, but please sell me some. That’s all I need, I promise. You won’t see me again after this.”

“I’ll bet.” The owner said dryly. “I don’t believe you for a second. I’m refusing you service, because you don’t need any alcohol.”

“I don’t normally drink sir,” The Old Man said, still retaining his composure, “But this is a special circumstance. I just need a little.”

“I know you don’t drink,” said the bartender. “You don’t smell like a drunk, and you don’t carry yourself like a drunk. But if you aren’t a drunk, and you can’t do any better for yourself then this,” he said, gesturing at the state of The Old Man’s clothes, “then the last thing you need is to become a drunk.”

The Old Man began to lose some of his temper, and looked around quickly to find a way to keep pushing, and found one.


“You let him in!” he said, pointing…right at The Man and locking eyes on His. “He’s just like me. He’s not from here either, and he’s a traveler, but you did business with him. Why not with me?”

“He’s not a migrant,” Said the proprietor sternly. “Only men without family can justify buying a motorcycle like he has. I can tell the ones who don’t have family. He doesn’t have to provide for anyone. What he wants to do to himself is his own business, but look at you! You come in on foot, already poor as dirt and looking like hell, and you want to drown your sorrows and make it even worse. That won’t help you any, and it won’t help your family any,” he said as he gestured to the faded gold band on The Old Man’s ring finger. “I won’t contribute to a man’s downfall.”

“But you don’t understand!” the old man half shouted. “It’s not for me, it’s-”

“Enough!” The owner fully shouted. “Either order some food, or leave here immediately, before I call The Police. You aren’t welcome here.”

With barely contained rage in his face, The Old Man left the building quietly. Gradually the conversations between the owner and the regulars started up again, and things returned to normal. Contemplating this, a bartender who would refuse to sell alcohol, The Man went back to his soup, and put the incident out of his mind.

Asaji
October 18th, 2010, 07:57 PM
He’d finished the soup and left the bar, leaving his compliments. He had already been along the road for several miles, when he saw a figure waking off down a dirt road heading towards a large fenced off complex. He stopped, engine idling calmly as he processed an idea.


The Journey had always been about finding his ‘something’, whatever it was. Always in the back of his mind was the urge to keep his eyes open, searching for it. He’d know it when he saw it. At the same time, it wasn’t in His nature to actually go out of his way to search for it. He had always let things come to him, by chance, like that race…or the incident in the empty house. He’d conditioned himself to accept all things that happened in this way, good and bad. He’d also learned to listen to his intuition, which told Him to talk to the figure walking down the road.



Why not? He thought to himself. I’ve got a good feeling about this.



The sound of the motorcycle heading down the dirt road got the attention of the walking figure, who stopped and turned to face Him. It was The Old Gentleman from before. The Man coasted to a stop in front of the Elderly Man, and killed the engine. He got off the bike, and, one hand on the gas tank and another on a handlebar, pushed the bike over to where the other was standing.
The Old Man looked at this fellow pushing the motorcycle like he didn’t quite believe He was there.

“I remember you,” he said to The Man. “From the bar. What are you doing here?”


The Man shrugged at the question. “Curiosity got the best of me. I’ve never seen a man refused a drink before.”


“Mmm,” hummed The Old Man. “It’s true. I hadn’t either, but I’ve heard about it. There’s no love for people like me. I know what they call us…Oakies, Vagrants, Migrants, Bums. Guess they just can’t help it. They’ve still got lives to hold onto.”


The Man decided to cut to the chase and ask what he wanted.



“What did you need alcohol for?” The Man asked, as the two of them started walking down the path, The Old Man slowing to match his companion’s slower pace. “The Owner back there was right. You aren’t a drunk. I don’t think you drink at all. So if the stuff really wasn’t for you, why’d you act like it was?”


It was The Old Man’s turn to shrug. “He wouldn’t have understood anyway. If I told him why, he’d still refuse, and I’m a terrible liar.” The Old Man blinked, pausing for a moment. “My name’s Henry. Henry Miller. What’s yours, stranger?”


The Man sighed. Of course you’d want to know, wouldn’t you?



“Why do you need the name of a man you’ve just met?” he answered. “Do you really need one?”


“That’s a strange way of answering,” Henry retorted. “It’s just politeness.”


“Perhaps,” The Man answered. “If you want a name, I’ll give you one. Dyson.”


“Dyson,” Henry repeated to himself. “I’ll try and remember it.”



“Shouldn’t be hard to remember,” said The Man. “If you forget, I can give you another.”


Henry raised an eyebrow. “I wanted your real name, Dyson.”


“I know.”


“And? Why won’t you tell me?”


“I don’t think names are important,” The Man lied. “Besides, after I leave, you’ll never see me again. My name isn’t anything. It’s just useless information.”


“Why even bother talking to me if you’re just going to leave?”


“Like I said, I’ve never seen a man refused a drink before. What did you want it for?”


Henry was silent for a moment. “My granddaughter. She’s six months old, and teething. She cries all the time, and I wanted to help ease her pain a bit.”


“Oh, that old trick,” The Man grinned, knowing what Henry was up to. “I saw it done in Mexico.”



“Mexico?” Henry scratched his chin, thinking. “Long ways away. When were you in Mexico?”


“While back. Seven months ago, maybe. I don’t really remember anymore.”


The two walked on for a few more minutes in silence before Henry spoke again.



“So, you’re a traveler?”


“..Yeah.”


“Where’re you going?”


The Man shrugged. “Nowhere. Right now, I’m walking with you. Where’re we going?”


“Home.” Henry sighed. “You’ll see.”


They were close enough to the fenced off complex for The Man to hear noises on the other side, sounds of many other people milling around, and talking. The smell of small fires wafted over the fence to Him, stoking his curiosity somewhat. He was fairly certain about what was over the fence. Entering the fenced off complex through a lopsided open gate, The Man found it was a scrap yard; heaps of junk were piled against the fence border. It was also a refugee camp.

Note: This segment is still being worked on.

Asaji
October 31st, 2010, 07:34 PM
I've changed the first chapter.

Asaji
November 15th, 2010, 06:03 PM
What's the point of posting this stuff here if no one will critique it? It the three months its been here it's gotten a grand total of three commentators and one real critique. One. This isn't helping me, it's just irritating me. I came here for help, are you all going to help or not?

Edit: ...guess not. Oh well, I'll post more stuff when I get around to it. If I get around to it. I just wanted to know if I was headed in the right direction, or towards annoyance and failure.