A Nova Star: Prologue
A Nova Star Book Cover
This was the end, finally. Breathing, sitting, accepting that this was his last hurrah on a world he might as well call home. Though he wasn’t from here, it had the basic adaptation of his home. A place he supposed he’d never see again now. The years had been rough to this planet, natural disasters and the war had left lasting scars. Tears and rips in the land void of life but recovering. Along with gradual human development, lush plant-matter encroached on the earth’s disfigurations. On this day mankind and nature worked beside one another, all the while under the shade of a massive tube in the sky, actively constructing its own project. Overhead, above the earth’s atmosphere was a colossal construction doc. A series of circular rings connected by an array of beams formed a wide cylinder stretching across the horizon, and in its center floated the largest space craft in known history. Unfinished, the forbearing testament to human engineering sat coldly in its doc. A dark plated engine of war, intended to house and to protect.
“I’ve seen the future,” he said to his audience. Lifting the revolver towards the roof, he unleashed an explosive shot, ripping a gash through the metal patio. In all his boundless glory, old and graying near death, he sat with the pain that came along with the wounds he sustained. Torn between strain and appearance, a painful smirk refused to collapse on his weathered face. Relaxing his arm, he let the revolver land like a stone, stagnantly between him and a child who was less than half his size. The cowboy dwarfed the child, “And the sun is still shining… It shines for you.”
Through the gashed metal roofing, a brilliant ray of light shinned through, and shimmered upon the silver lace on his immobile weapon. He was a bloody mess of bullet holes and burns. A graying old outlaw sat out of place in time, knowing his eras of success had finally come to pass. His face was covered with soot and charred bristles, a chunk of his grey beard scorched, ashy-black stumps of fuzz clinging to the right of his jaw. The air was filled with the aroma of burning flesh and fresh wounds, but the smell didn’t bother him. All there was left to do was sit and wait for one of them to respond. One of them would come regardless. Each one friends to a degree, but he hoped for one in particular.
He was a good friend, a friend that would be there for him, because that’s was the extent of their bond. Strangers killed one another every day, without passion, without purpose. Contrary to what other thought, he believed when a true friend takes the life his pal, they have no other choice but to do it out of love. It’s better to go out loved then hated. That’s what he kept telling himself at least. Lifting his hand, he tipped the brim of his hat to the child, a stream of blood flowed out of his glove. Unfazed or unaware that seeping from his leather glove was a dam a red fluid, the weathered cowboy left his hand on the edges of his hat. Blood that had gradually built up over time now released flowing down his forearm in no particular pattern. The child, pale with tiger eyes, looked on coldly. His unwavering stare showed no hint of fear, only extreme dislike and calculative speculation.
“Would you mind grabbing me a whisky my friend? I’ve always hated dying sober... ha,” The wounded man chuckled to himself, when a large blast of flames engulfed the back door of the compound, sending it flying a few feet into the air. “On second thought let’s not go inside,” he said remorsefully. The door landed a few feet from where it was hitched, and continued to burn as it lay in the grass.
The fire rose from the compound, bodies laid in the garden with deaths’ eternal bliss, but through the chaos the child remained transfixed on the blood-soaked cowboy. Breath after breath currents of red tide erupted from the wounds on the cowboy’s chest, flowing down his shirt in waves of dark blood that lead to a lagoon of gore on his lap. Meeting the child’s stare, he couldn’t help but feel shame. Here in the midst of fate, long coming, were the consequences of his meddling. In his attempts to implement change, the child of a man he knew in a different life, was forced to mature outside a building of flames.
“I know you might hate me,” The outlaw’s eyes fluttered as he struggled to remain conscious, “It might be really nice to watch me die,” he pointed at the child accusingly, snidely smiling at him, traces of blood on his lips. “But there are reasons for tragedies, and frankly there are tragedies for reasons. It’s one of the few ways we progress. Tragedies are bound to happen, son. You’re job will be to manage them when they do.” He winked, “You’re my ace in the hole.” Trying to appear well, he remained smiling and attempted to bellow a laugh, but instead a cough of blood erupted from his mouth, exploding across the table spraying the child’s arm. The outlaw licked his lips, “One day this might all make sense, but until then never accept your limitations boy, cause once a person understands their limitation they become consumed by it.”
The child was a quite one, letting the assailant speak without muttering a sound, instead of talking he focused and studied his company. Pathetically jittering his way into his coat pocket, the cowboy revealed a silver cigarette case. Worn and fading away the name Judah was engraved in a comfortable font on the case, right above a similarly worn out single star, “Limitations and moderations will be the death of the human race.” With what little strength Judah had left, he ripped the cuff of his dry sleeve, tearing the woven threads. “Would you give a dying man one last courtesy, and light the end of this?” He flapped his wrist in the direction of the burning door in the grass, small flames lingering along its edges.
Bodies of the compound staff decorated the garden in a chilling manner, fresh and shaded by the Battlecruiser’s construction doc, the bodies were protected from the sun’s harmful rays. Sliding his chair back and standing, the child gently grabbed the ripped fabric from Judah’s quivering hand and proceeded to walk towards the burning door. This was the first time since both of them sat down that had he stopped staring at Judah, and instead found himself transfixed on the many faces of the people he had known just the day before. He walked into the garden of post battle, massacred people, slain like animals. A one sided fight, whose victor was nearing death under the burning compound’s patio. Heated with malice but obedient, the child traveled into the mine field of dead eyed scientist and security personnel, that littered the terraformed garden.
The child went for the unhinged door. Who knew why this stranger did what he did. The boy could only assess the man by his actions, and from his actions this cowboy was villain but virtuous in some manner, it was difficult to tell. All that was certain was that this burning hell of devastation was done by one man, one man and his gun.
As the boy walked towards the flaming door, Judah popped open the silver case, revealing a lonely rolled joint. Removing his soaked glove, and letting it splatter onto the concrete, he placed the joint into his mouth leaving a pair of bloody finger prints upon its contents. With the spotted joint loosely hanging in his mouth, he stared at the child, incapable of keeping his eyes open for more than a few seconds. The loss of blood had taken its toll, dehydrated cavities of his brain made him feel spacey. So he bathed in it, the euphoric delusion of his amplified senses. Was it pain or another sensation? Judah relaxed his neck upon the back rest of his chair, letting the seat take in the weight of his head. He looked at the ray of light peering through the patio roof hole, and became transfixed by its shimmer. “Truth be told, was it all even worth it?” Judah asked the light, muttering to the roof, “Here I thought I was god, and yet I dealt the Devil another hand. Oh Eloise what do I do now, now that it’s over?” He barked out bubble of blood more violent than last outbursts. Looking down at the silver cigarette case in his hand, he saw a drop of blood on the “h” of his name. He went to wipe the case off with his remaining sleeve, but realized his entire shirt was soaked in his fluids and left the case as it was. “I wish you would have told me a little more, girly. I could have done a lot more…” He shifted his gaze back up at his stagnant gun as it reflected the thin simmering ray of light, “In this moment, and the next. I’ll be around, I guess.” Though death was upon him, he was wise to a loop of situations. This was his end. A reality, but a new beginning with its own set of problems was just around the bend, set for repeated failures. “Maybe we’ll do better next time,” he muttered to himself.
The child dangled the piece of cloth over the burning door, flames pet the fabric until the bottom of the ripped sleeve began to blaze. The boy walked back to the outlaw, torch in hand, prepared to hand the tapestry of flames to the dying man. Judah briefly tilted his head to watch the boy return with the cloth torch, then relaxed his head once again. The light appeared to be brighter now, “Love sure fucked me up, didn’t it Eloise?” Throwing the empty silver case onto the table, and picking up his gun with his good hand he slid it back into his hip holster. The boy was standing next to him, the flame had started to cook his hand, but he showed no signs of discomfort. “I’ll take that,” Judah grabbed the burning cloth and dangled it above his limp joint until it caught fire unevenly. With a massive inhale he absorbed most of the joint, then stared blankly into a child’s eyes that matured all too soon as he let out a gust of smoke. Ash sprinkled from the end of the joint, landing and dissipated in the pool of blood on his lap.
The sound of turbines and crackling flames set a mood, but behind that was silence, silence and curtain calls. “It’s a crime to be sane in the company of the insane,” Judah preached insights and his own design.
“You killed them,” The boy muttered abruptly, now unable to meet the cowboys gaze, “You killed them, and you don’t even care,” The boy tried to remain angry but with the overwhelming confusion and shear chaos of the whole situation, he found himself wanting answers more than his need for retribution.
“No my boy, caring, is what killed me,” Raggedy Judah rose with new found strength, letting the pool of fluids on his lap flood to the floor. He took a bull legged step to the right then a left stutter, falling on a patio framing beam for support, he leaned on it with his shoulder. Against the beam he adjusted his crotch through the moist leather and proceeded to walk to the cliff bed. The old cowboy continued to stumble gracefully past the burning door and through the minefield of bodies littering the garden. Unable to bring himself to glance at any of his victims faces, he moved forward, a stutter step at a time.
Landing on his knees, he looked down over the seven hundred plus foot drop. Staring directly along the edge of the cliff, a strong gust swept his hat from atop his head and flew it to the furthest reaches of the canyon, never to be seen again. He combed his white locks with the palm of his hand, as he raised his head to look at the horizon. Evidently, he didn’t find what he was looking for, as he gave a grieved exhale. In the distance stood a city, a city built off the sweat of the unfortunate and fed by the sins of humanity. “How shitty it all really is,” Judah mutter at the bottom of his breath.
“It’s not all that bad.” Judah awkwardly turned his head to look upon the grizzly voice, expecting to see a bearded giant. Instead he found himself in the company of an angel, there just few meters away. The angel was a glowing individual, hairless from head to toe, wearing nothing but a pair of loose fitting white pants. Hanging at his side, he held a steel plated gun with gold lace. The man behind Judah moved closer and knelt at his side. Kneeling, this man still stood tall and muscular. The body of Olympian whose very structure demanded acknowledgment or in some cases worship.
The kneeling cowboy, recognized his friend, and gave him a crooked grin. “Didn’t I kill you,” Judah laughed mockingly, more blood, a gleam gratitude bleakly shown in his gaze.
“You slowed me down,” a warm but sore crooked smile grew on the strangers face.
Still grinning, Judah turned to face the horizon. “So they sent you to take care of this mess,” his voice shook as he spoke.
“No one sent me.” The friendly stranger set his gun on the floor, grabbing the stub of a joint from Judah’s lip in a peaceful manner. He held it with his thumb and index finger as he pulled a lighter from his pocket and relit the roach. He then placed the piece of bloody paper in his mouth. When another breeze from the canyon below ignited the flame, he took one large inhale then flicked the butt into the expanse.
“You smoke that last of a dying mans grass,” Judah looked up and down the giant crouched figure, “and you didn’t even bring him some Tennessee to wet his throat.” Judah chuckled slightly, more blood, a bit splashed on the stranger’s pants.
Reaching back into his pocket, this friend of Judah’s exposed a fresh joint. He placed it in his mouth, and lit it a few inches from his face. After he took a few puffs, he handed it to Judah, but Judah could not accept his friend’s gift as he had lost too much blood.
Judah’s body was becoming painfully numb, and it was taking all his effort just to keep his head from sinking to the ground, where it wanted to lay so very much. “Everyone’s a villain now Maury, remember that,” Judah spoke to his friend in confidence, “You’re the last of the good ones.” He looked back once more, beyond Maury, towards the burning compound. “Take care of the kid, and he’ll become one of the greats,” by the sound of Judah voice, it was as if he confidently knew the outcome of the child’s future.
Noticing the struggle Judah was going through, Maury placed the joint into the mouth of the fading cowboy. Judah tried to inhale as much as he could as fast as he could, his arms slump down to his sides, but soon after inhaling he began to cough uncontrollably. Flopping forward he convulsed in pain, causing the joint fall from his lips as he let out another wave of juices. As the joint fell on the cliff floor, a flood of blood followed, drowning the joint in a pool of red fluid.
Maury looked on at the scorched land meeting the green oasis’s unfazed by the leaking Judah, fresh life meeting barren demise, a new future for a people willing to make things grow rather than destroy. Once his relapse ceased, Judah straightened his back and looked on with the Maury. “We did this you know,” Judah spoke, “Without us none of this would have happened.” Judah’s cheerful demeanor turned sour, “and it’s up to us to maintain what we created, as we’ve always done.” Maury stayed crouched in silence, mesmerized by the terrain. Earthy emeralds as precious as gold, a new genesis for man, the human will set to achieve creation. Judah shared the experience with his companion, soaking in the grandeur of it all and cherishing the short time he had left.
“You know, I can still see those eyes of hers, so fierce… so beautiful… so many problems…” Judah’s eyes were blank, the pores on his face dry and grimy.
“Where did you come from Judah?” Maury asked a question, he’d asked plenty times before. He remained looking at the horizon, stern and purposeful.
Judah, blinked dismissively, and remained quiet for a moment. “I’ve never liked long goodbyes Maury, let’s move on,” he said finally, breaking the silence between the two men. With a twitch of his thumb he released his gun from its holster and allowed it to fall to the dirt.
“So you’ve decided to be like one of them then. You want to leave after all this?” Maury raised his arms gesturing to the destruction and havoc roaring behind them. He was distressed though he tried very hard to mask it.
“One shot in the chamber Maurice, make it count,” Judah gave his answer
“What is this Judah? We kill bad guys, not doctors and their security,” Maury attempted to reach his friend who he feared slipped into madness, “What happened to the Judah who saved people, the Judah who knew how to end things with limited bloodshed.” Maury glanced at the weapon in the dirt. He flaccidly ran his fingers across the barrel and firmly gripped the butt of the gun. “You fall from the sky one day, and I’m stupid enough to think you’re here to save us all.”
“I still may have saved us all, I may have not. All I do know is if you don’t pull that trigger we can’t move on.” Judah lectured. Dark circles grew around his eyes as they began to sink into his head. He wheezed breathing in, his body weakened beyond repair.
“You don’t have a Beacon on?” Maury said with gruff, asking a question he already knew the answer to.
“Tell the ladies I won’t be coming back.” Judah gave Maury a reassuring smile, as he looked at his friend, one eyes open wider than the other.
With a hesitated extension of his arm, Maury pointed the barrel of the silver gun above Judah’s ear and unleashed an extinguishing thunder. A deafening chill rang through the canyon, as Judah’s body followed the energy of the bullet, and collapsed. The cowboys dead eyes lay open, his burnt stubbles rested upon the grassy cliff edge, as his blank gaze was transfixed on the golden-browns of the setting sun.
“I will, farewell my friend.” Maury rose in a cold emotional demeanor, picked up his steel and gold gun, and headed back to the burning compound. The bottoms of Maury’s bare feet were painted red as he stomped through patches of wet grass, passing familiar faces and walking through the bodily fluids of his dead associates. He showed no shame as he splashed along. Maury continued to move forward until he met the eyes of one body in particular. The dead man wore a white lab coat with a name “Dr. Gibson” sewed on the right side of his chest. Maury, engrossed by the dead man lifeless express, tightened his upper lip as he crotched to shut the doctor’s eyes with his fingers.
A collection of sirens could now be heard over the roar of the fire. With every crackle the sirens got louder. A pair of small shoes walked up to the body Maury was crouched over. Looking up, Maury saw a boy no older than ten. The boy stood emotionless, sharing the sights, crude barbarity set before him in a mishmash of gore. Maury snapped from his trance of self-pity and grabbed the boy, embracing him with the arms of a bear. With both pistols wrapped around the boys back, he couldn’t help but break, tears streamed down his face damping the boy shoulder. The child did not return his embrace, in this overwhelming situation he continued to look at the lifeless body from over the giant man’s shoulder. The boy was in his own trance, looking at the crumpled figure lying on the cliff, in his hands he silently rubbed the cigarette case Judah had left on the table.
“It’s ok now, George.” Managing to rise to his feet, Maury picked up the boy as he ascended, “I have you now, and I won’t be letting go.” With George in his arms, he made his way to the sound of the distant sirens. George continued to look backwards at Judah, as Maury left his problems behind to fester and burn.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Derek George