Day 128: Respect for the Dead

“We’re here.” Will slipped off his horse and held his hand out to help Doc off his. Ty did a little kick dismount to show off.

“The hell, Will. I look like a lady to you?” Doc dismounted.

Will admired the doctor’s grit, but he was an old, frail man, so Will couldn’t help offering help from time to time. The three of them studied the giant bullet sticking out of the ground like a half-collapsed silo, Ty smacking the dust off his hat, Doc cleaning his specs with a kerchief and putting them back on.

“Well, I must be roostered,” said Doc. “That is something.”

“Wait’ll you see inside,” said Ty. He led them around to where he and Will opened the panel they’d gotten into before.

Five feet off the ground, Will climbed in and couldn’t help looking up at the white pumpkin-headed creature strapped in above, four eyes staring blankly from it’s dead face. Doc struggled to get in. Ty gave him a quick boost, to which Doc hooked his leg over and smacked him with his hat. Ty hopped up next to him.

Dock polished his glasses and looked around at so much strangeness. Tubes, blocks, and intricate shapes difficult for any man to decipher, a glow emanating from it all.

“You were right,” said Doc. “This is every bit the strangeness you said.”

“You a Christian, Doc?” asked Will.

“I am. Why you inquiring?”

Will pointed up at the off-earth creature. “Hold onto yer faith.”

Doc stared at the creature and whistled. “That’s one odd stick.”

“Still a Christian, Doc?”

“Course he is,” said Ty. “I think that thing’s—”

Doc whopped him with his hat. “Did I hire you to spokes fer me?”

“We got a bet, that’s all,” said Ty.

“Doc can’t settle it,” said Will.

“You got to get me up there, boys.” Doc wiped his face with the kerchief.

“What for?” asked Will.

“I have to see if he’s dead for sure, chucklehead.”

“I’ll get a coil,” said Ty.

“I don’t think it speaks to the issue,” said Doc.

“What?”

“To God and Christianity and all that,” Doc said. “This feller is just another part of the mystery.”

Ty came in with the rope and climbed up to the creature, using the strange pipes and protuberances for handholds and footing. He tied the rope off and rigged a harness they used to pull Doc up to the thing.

“He’s dead, all right,” said Doc. “Dryer than a powder house. Help me get him down, boys.”

“Why?” asked Will.

“Don’t know if I like touching that thing,” said Ty.

“He ain’t a thing,” said Doc. “Look at him and what he’s managed. In all the ways that matter, he’s a man. Let’s get him down and give him proper respect.”

Ty fetched another rope and they secured the creature before cutting the harness. Together they lowered him down, a tiny-bodied creature with stubby arms, long fingers, and no legs. They put together a makeshift litter from a couple broken branches and a saddle blanket, then carried him reverently to a spot next to a Joshua tree. Doc insisted on a proper grave with plenty of depth, so they worked up a good sweat.

“Ty, you want to say some words?” asked Doc. They took off their hats.

“Sure,” Ty said.

“Make them sweet,” said Doc. “This will likely be the first Christian burial ever done for one of these beings.”

Ty stuttered.

Will chuckled. “No pressure.” He picked up the branches and wound a piece of rope around to make a cross, then pushed it into the ground at the head of the grave. “Go ahead.”

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