Monologue of a Bearded Man
He has to put the poor creatures down. There are only three shells left in the old two-barrel. Mercy, he thinks, it’s a mercy, and slides his hands around the throat of the fourth, which is crouching on its broken leg, still docile, as if expecting him to resolve the situation.
Sorry, he whispers, and all the sorrier because I can’t remember your name- and while he’s wringing its neck, he twists his head around to gaze over the horizon as if its hooves are applying some equal pressure upon him.
The skyline is silent. Nobody to watch, he thinks. Nobody to judge. Something in that makes him feel a little happier. He hefts the burlap bag and turns his back on the carcasses. The wind will scald their bones.
I had a duty, he says aloud. Let me see now- a job to do. Its own rewards.
All that can still be clearly defined is the roads. He tries to imagine them from the air. A great web of threads leading nowhere, in any direction.
At the edge of the little town he finds a broken chimney-pot half-sunk in the ground.
Distractions, he thinks. That’s all I could provide. Perhaps there’s something to be gleaned from that- maybe when the time came they were so involved with the distractions I brought them that they never really noticed their own deaths. Silly little fantasies. Maybe some of them were so plugged-in they didn’t even hear what was coming. That’s something to be glad for.
The streetlined loudspeakers are still playing, on increasingly fuzzy repeat, Irving Berlin. Dreaming of that which he used to know. An evacuation song, he thinks. Soon the song will break down altogether. He dumps the burlap bag by the roadside and trudges on.
…MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT…
I think I dreamt once, he says, that there were people here, hundreds of millions of little people, and they were all depending on me for something…something important. No, it’s gone. I hope it mattered. It’d be great to think it mattered, back then.
…MAY ALL YOUR CHRISTMASES BE WHITE…
The empty sky howls. Celestial laughter.