‘No, I must go back. Even if I could remain in this body, I could not stay in this mind.’
She smiled and shook her head. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘I miss my own kind. This is not my world, not my home. Not my way of life. I was not designed for it. My adaptation to your form is as temporary as my adaptation to your ways. Spirit does not follow shape.’ He looked away from her, back out into the night. When he spoke again there was a new solemnity in his voice.
‘There is something I must tell you. I do not know how such things are said, so I will simply say it. I gave you a baby tonight.’
She inhaled sharply. ‘No. That’s impossible. Even if you were human it’d be impossible. I can’t have a child. I told you, I’ve been to half a dozen doctors and they all say the same thing. It’s not a matter of choice; it’s a matter of bad plumbing.’
‘This is outside their experience.’
She thought back to what had happened earlier that evening. ‘Well, I don’t think any of them would argue that one with you, but still . . .’
‘Believe what I tell you, Jennyhayden. When you were shot by the policeman, I healed you. When our car struck the big truck filled with gas you would have burned but I prevented it. Both times I repaired your body. This time I fixed earlier damage. It was not difficult. To you your system may seem terribly complicated. To me it is no more so than the innards of this train.
‘You will have a baby. A boy baby. Not a probecita. I was very careful. It is a matter of careful engineering.’
She didn’t know what to do, how to react. She would have laughed if not for the blatant absurdity of what he was saying. There was too much warmth surrounding her for her to scream. So she just sat and scared.
‘He will be human, the child of your dead husband. The only genes involved are his and yours. But at the same time he will also be my – new person. Offspring. Baby.’ He nodded to himself. ‘Yes, baby. That word is best. He will be mine because I engineered those genes. That is difficult to do, but not impossible. Biochemistry. There is much about your own makeup, your own DNA, that you do not understand. Much that is not used properly by your bodies. These are parts of your genetic code that are blank, like pieces of paper. I wrote on the blank pieces. That part of the baby will be me.’ He turned to look deeply into her eyes.
Monthly Archives: May 2014
‘No, I must go back. Even if I could remain in this body, I could not stay in this mind.’
I had moved my position so it lay due west of Wild Bill, which meant the rising sun was just above his head and consequently shining at my eyes. Ordinarily, I would have reached to pull down the brim of my planter’s hat, but facing a man like Hickok you don’t make the most innocent move.
So I commenced to squint. “You claim I am a cheat, do you?” I asks.
“That is right,” says he.
“And a liar?”
“Yes you are.”
I says: “I want to lower my hatbrim against the sun. I’m a-going to use my left hand.”
“Make it real slow,” he says, and hooks his thumbs into that red sash just forward of the white gun-butts on both sides.
My left hand crawled upwards like a caterpillar on a wall, caught the brim, and depressed it an inch. Then I turned my palm forward and flung open my fingers.
At the same time I went for my gun with my right hand. For a particle of a second I didn’t know what Wild Bill was doing; if you remember, he had trained me to concentrate on myself at the instant of action. So I didn’t rightly see him draw, but I sure saw the muzzle of his Colt’s spit lead and smoke directly at me.
I surely would have been killed had I not employed a trick.
I caught the sun in my mirror-ring and reflected its glare into Hickok’s eyes, then dived to the ground. Though momentarily blinded, he drew as efficiently as always and sent two shots a-roaring through the space occupied by my head a scant instant before. But he couldn’t see nothing but green spots for a time, I reckon, for he next lowered his sixguns and stood there blinking. He looked right pathetic, now that I think of it, for all his six foot of dressed deerskin, trimmed with fur.
I laid quite safe there in the street, under his fire, but I daren’t speak a word on account of he could then have sighted on the sound of my voice. I had my own pistol out, and could have killed the great Wild Bill at that point and gone down in history for it.
Well, the moment in silence wasn’t any longer in reality than the moment of gunfire, and then Bill says: “All right, hoss, you whipped me again. Blast away.” I don’t answer. He says: “I tell you you better fire, because in a second I’m going kill you if you don’t.”
That fellow with the wagon had pulled to the side of the street and crawled under his vehicle, still several blocks distant. But two shots wasn’t enough to wake anybody out of bed in them days, especially that early of a morning, so we as yet did not have no other audience so far as I knowed.
“You trying to play me for a fool?” says Bill, right exasperated and he sent three more hunks of lead blowing through the air that I had lately vacated, then does that so-called border switch, the flying transfer of his guns. And his vision cleared some by now, so I guess he could make out I was laying on the ground, and he come over and prodded me with his boot and says: “Oh, I got you anyway, taking me for dead and wounded. I laid there with my eyes closed.
Then he says: “I’m sorry, hoss. But it was fair, wasn’t it? I taught you, didn’t I? And now I’m going to carry you over to the doc, and if you are dead I’ll buy you a nice funeral.”
I figured out by now he would have put away his gun, so as he bent over to pick me up, I come to life and shoved my pistol into his nose.
“Are you satisfied?” I asks. “I could have killed you ten times by now.”
Living his type of life, he didn’t have much energy to spare for astonishment. He squinted and backed up with his hands in the air. Then he let them down slowly and laughed a huge guffaw.
“Hoss,” he says, “you are the trickiest little devil I have ever run across. You know there are a couple of hundred men who would give all they owned to get a clear shot at Wild Bill Hickok, and you throw it away.”
He was laughing, but I reckon somewhere deep he was actually offended, such was his idea of himself. He would rather I had killed him than to take pains to show I was basically indifferent to the fact of his existence so long as I could protect my own hide.
He tried one more thing to pry from me an admission that I was fascinated by him. He says: “I guess you can go about now saying how you out a head on Wild Bill Hickok.”
I says: “I’ll never mention it.” And I have kept my word from that day to this. I wasn’t going to give him no free advertisement of any kind. That was the trouble with them long-haired darlings like him and Custer: people talked about them too much.
His mustache drooped in disappointment, but he laughed again to keep up the hearty front, and he says: “I’m going over to Abilene to be marshal. If you ever get over that way, hoss, why I’ll be proud to buy you a drink. But damn if I’ll ever play poker with you again.”
They were still conversing when a sharp but brief ascent robbed them of breath, inducing in a few paces all their earlier strain. Presently the ground levelled, and they stepped out of the mist into clear, sunny air. Ahead, and only a short distance away, lay the lamasery of Shangri-La.
To Conway, seeing it first, it might have been a vision fluttering out of that solitary rhythm in which lack of oxygen had encompassed all his faculties. It was, indeed, a strange and almost incredible sight. A group of coloured pavilions clung to the mountainside with none of the grim deliberation of a Rhineland castle, but rather with the chance delicacy of flower-petals impaled upon a crag. It was superb and exquisite. An austere emotion carried the eye upward from milk-blue roofs to the grey rock bastion above, tremendous as the Wetterhorn above Grindelwald. Beyond that, in a dazzling pyramid, soared the snow-slopes of Karakal. It might well be, Conway thought, the most terrifying mountain-scape in the world, and he imagined the immense stress of snow and glacier against which the rock functioned as a gigantic retaining wall. Some day, perhaps, the whole mountain would split, and a half of Karakal’s icy splendour come toppling into the valley. He wondered if the slightness of the risk combined with its fearfulness might even be found agreeably stimulating.
Hardly less an enticement was the downward prospect, for the mountain wall continued to drop, nearly perpendicularly, into a cleft that could only have been the result of some cataclysm in the far past. The floor of the valley, hazily distant, welcomed the eye with greenness; sheltered from winds, and surveyed rather than dominated by the lamasery, it looked to Conway a delightfully favoured place, though if it were inhabited its community must be completely isolated by the lofty and sheerly unscalable ranges on the farther side. Only to the lamasery did there appear to be any climbable egress at all. Conway experienced, as he gazed, a slight tightening of apprehension; Mallinson’s misgivings were not, perhaps, to be wholly disregarded. But the feeling was only momentary, and soon merged in the deeper sensation, half mystical, half visual, of having reached at last some place that was an end, a finality.
The skinner shoves him away and tips the barrel over and a half-dozen objects slide out along with the trickle of the remaining whiskey, and alongside the campfire their identity was not long in doubt.
“You are a mother ———,” says the skinner. “Them is rattlesnake heads!”
Bill makes a toothless grin. “Well, all right,” he says.
Now the fellows all begin to get riled and threaten to break into the rest of his stock, so he admits there ain’t a barrel of whiskey on board that don’t have six snake heads inside it. That news causes some of them who been drinking to go off into the bushes and heave, and the remainder get out their lariats and look for convenient limb on which to elevate my brother, but a tall, skinny young hombre pushes his way among the crowd and says to Bill: “You hitch up and get out of here and don’t come back.”
“They don’t hurt none,” says Bill in whining indignation. “They just put the old be-Jesus into the stuff. The boys like the bite of my goods.”
“Get out,” says the skinny fellow. “And you men step aside and let him do it.” And by God, if they didn’t; I don’t know why, for he didn’t look special to me, but he had some of the assurance of Custer and Hickock, if not the long hair.
The skinner rejoined me and says: “Did you ever see the like of that?” Meaning my brother, and being under some strain, I just belched. The sight of them snake heads had got to me, though I never touched a drop of the rotgut.
The skinny fellow walked quickly to me and staring coldly from under his straight black eyebrows, says: “You have an objection?”
I allowed I did not, but I also requested he state a reason why in the goddam hell he thought I might.
“You just spoke my name,” he says.
“I don’t know your name,” says I.
“It,” he says, “is Earp.”
“Oh,” I says, laughing, “what I done was belch.”
He knocked me down.
Well sir, I arose directly with gun in hand, but Earp strode away, giving me the choice of ventilating his back or agreeing with him that the incident was closed. But damn if I was going to let him set the terms, so I throws some spectacular abuse at him in front of them other hunters, and he turns and comes back.
“Draw, you goddam Belch you,” says I, for in that measured stride he had come within ten feet of me and his weapon was still holstered, his hands swinging freely as he walked. But onward he come, and I found it impossible to raise my gun and shoot him down until he went for his, but he never. Finally, having reached a range of one foot, he detained my right wrist with the wiry fingers of his left hand, drew his pistol, and struck me over the head with its heavy barrel. I was cold-cocked for fair.
This was the technique called “buffaloing,” and it was Wyatt Earp’s favorite when he became a marshal later on. In all his violent life, he only killed two or three men, but he buffaloed several thousand. I guess he was the meanest man I ever run across. In a similar circumstance, Wild Bill would have killed his opponent. Not Earp, he was too mean. To draw on you meant he considered you a worthy antagonist; but he didn’t; he thought most other people was too inferior to kill, so he would just crack their skulls. I don’t know how it worked, but when he looked at you as if you was garbage, you might not have agreed with him, but you had sufficient doubt to stay your gun hand a minute, and by then he had cold-cocked you.