Lower CoSMOS-Life of Lance Vier #5

“It’s Gothia. Don’t look.”

            We waited in a metal warehouse, on an abandoned lot with an unkempt home on the outside. I presumed some of the grunts here lived there. Pibb was at my side. He stayed close. It surprised me the fear I noticed in his eyes. The stories about him painted a different picture of indifference. He was old now though. I needed to give him that much. I cannot expect a man of his age to not fear death. I wanted to believe he wasn’t afraid because I was. When Gothia brought Mother down and she ensured we were not harmed, her remains stayed in a field somewhere. I did not know where we were.

            “Poor sweet lady,” Pibb said.

            I assumed he spoke of Mother because we didn’t meet Gothia, but he was referring to her.

            Behind us was a desk, a small light on, papers out, and another small office building on the side of this small hanger. The door burst open, and a man came out in a tuxedo and top hat, both garments worn out over time. His face had mixed up blue and black face paint, haphazardly applied.

            “Ta-da!” He said with his arms out to us.

            “Welcome, poopyheads! You’re in for a treat!”

            “Who is this?” I said.

            “No idea,” Pibb said.

Behind the man, a slumped-down younger man exited with him. Bald, his nostrils, ear, and mouth all artificially opened. Stretched out with braces to keep them from going to where they normally should. He wore red spandex and a black t-shirt, almost akin to wrestling attire.

            “Come on, Face,” the man waved for him to follow toward us.

            “Welcome. Welcome. Now, I will start off and my assistant here will keep you company. I am Show Bard. You may have heard of me around the town?” Show Bard said and waited for our acknowledgment.

            “Well, I know you two! Face, this is Mister Francis Pibb and who are you, young man?”

            I said nothing as he waited for me to introduce myself. My mind kept shooting back and forth to where I was at and then to if my wife moved on by now.

            “Ok then, this here is Face. And I am only using his surname. To save time because everyone asks, why do they call you, Face? Isn’t it self-explanatory?” he said.

            He didn’t need to go further. Face whimpered when he breathed and shifted in and out of flashing anger to a compliant demeanor like batting an eye, harmless and aggressive by the second.

            “That reminds me of a dirge for him. We will have a sing-a-long later but for now…” The man cleared his throat and then into a song, improvising his dance.

            “Don’t cry for me Argentina. The truth is I never left you…” He went on for hours, changing songs and dancing, unfazed by the effort. F*ce face stared at both of us, breathing in and out like an old hound, but standing around like a brainless husk.

            “I need to sit,” Pibb said.

            “The French are glad to die for love. A kiss on the hand may be quite continental. But diamonds are a girl’s best friend…”

            “Can he get a chair?!” I said loud enough to break his routine. He stopped.

            “Is it you old, Pibbster?” said Show Bard. “Too bad. This is part of your incarceration. Now, where was I? Ok. Making your way in the world today takes everything you got…”

            Back to another song, an oversized motorized people mover pulled up from the side of the hanger. On it sat a muscle-bound red-skinned and dark red-haired man. His frame was unnatural because at his age those muscles were abnormal.

            “Mmmmf!” He said and waved an arm toward the Show Bard to leave. He bowed to us and the Redman. Show Bard stayed for our reactions to Diablo.

            “It’s Diablo,” Pibb said.”

            “Why are some of the hunters always in wheelchairs?”

            “It is something else for him. Maybe for each of them. I count myself lucky,” said Pibb.

            “Thank you, Thank you, my fans! Until next time or when they decide to kill you. Come on, Face,” Show Bard said, his friend followed close behind him.

            Alone, Diablo drove closer to Pibb. He stared at him; eyes as red as a smoldering furnace. The guy looked like someone dropped him in a vat of red, in a red manufacturing plant, on Mars in hell.

            “I don’t hmmmmmf much these days, Red,” Pibb said, mimicking Red’s lack of coherent speech.

            “Still stupid and a smart ass,” Red said with a deep voice, it sizzled at the end of the letters similar to bacon cooking for too long but faded when you shut the heat off.

            “I never would have thought of me still walking and you in a scooter,” Pibb said.

            “It’s my knob,” Red said, insulted by Pibb’s words. I cringed and didn’t want to look but was curious.

            “You always say that,” Pibb said.

            “I stand up, it would take a forklift to get it back in this cart.”

            “You don’t need to impress anyone anymore, Red.”

            “I am not. For once, I am telling you the truth,” he said.

            Red lifted his arm with his free hand, the one he held onto the cart with to drive, and pointed it at Pibb.

            “You lived this long dumbass because you stayed away. This kid isn’t worth it. I suggest you go back home and collect your check and shut the hell up about the glory days. That’s what they want. For us to shut up and that isn’t a lot because that shit is over with. We have a deal without you saying anything or else my bard will come out and sing more Broadway, but starting at the beginning. I am talking 1866 shit.”

            We both didn’t want that.

            “Don’t you think he deserved to know?” Pibb said.

            “Why? Ask him?” said Red, “Are you happier now than when you found out you came out of your mother’s metal ass and your father was a bastard?”

            I said nothing. I did not like the guy, but he was direct. I did not care. I lived my life like everyone else with a government check every month. Paid to stay home and wait to die.

            “Well, you bastard?”


            Red laughed, “Like his pops, a man of few words. Face is going to come out and open the door for you and you can get the hell out of my home.”

            “You brought us here,” Pibb said, “Why?”

            “Are you paying attention, I told you. No more of this. Or you’ll find out why they call him Face.”

            “I think we know why,” I said.

            “No. No, boy. You don’t. Everyone assumes they do. The ones that find out are the ones that are dead.”

            Pibb and I exchanged glances. And turned toward the hanger opening. Pibb stopped and lifted his feet to give them relief from standing so long. I felt bad for him. He then locked eyes with Red.

            “What?” Red said.

            “It’s good to see you,” Pibb said.

            “Phooey!” Red said and waved Pibb to leave.

            “We don’t need Face. We can let ourselves out,” Pibb said.

            The walk was long. The outside was still bright enough to be inviting to leave the hangar. There was grass on the outside though the grounds needed substantial work.

            “There is more than I believed to this,” I said.

            “Before I go, we will talk but I think he’s right. There is no sense in bringing up the old days,” said Pibb, “But, I think Joe would have wanted me to tend to you. I would have wanted the same if I had spawned a child.”

            We made it to the edge of exiting the building. It sprung questions but I left the oddness there. A coldness overcame our skin. He grabbed his jacket at the front as if pushing through a blizzard. I wish I wore mine. Staring at the clouds there were none in sight. Probably balmy and seventy-five degrees out, but the chill was like a walk-in refrigerator shut down to defrost. Not cold but still plenty to make your skin crawl when entering.

            “Keep walking, Lance. Don’t look behind you.”

            “Why? What’s up?” He didn’t answer.

            “Frank?” Someone called his named in a haunting whisper that made the cold worse.

            “Shit, keep going,” he said.

            “It’s too late, Frank.” The voice said. Pibb paused. He raised his hands. I followed believing he knew best.

            “No. No. I got the message. I get it. We will find a way home. Let us go,” Pibb said trying to plead with the voice.

            The voice came from behind and I wanted to find out from who.

            “It’s Gothia, don’t look.”

            “What is going to happen?”

            For once, I shook. This rattled me. Red was scary. The unknown was worse.

            “Where’s the Honda, Goth?” Pibb said.

            “Let her go. Let her rest. All of us need to rest,” she said.

            “You don’t know do you? You’ll never find it,” Pibb said.

            “I know. I know. Sometimes, compassion gives the same feeling,” she said.

            “What do you want, Goth?”

            “This is Joe’s son?” she said.

            “Leave us alone,” Pibb said.

            “Let me see you. We were friends once. Me, you, and that Bastard.”

            I did it. I looked. There stood a four-foot-eleven young woman. Eighteen to nineteen years old; thin, on the border of an unhealthy physical state. Pale skin, dark eyes but beautiful, ghastly gorgeous. The black smoke we viewed around her car spun around her as to caress her frame. Her lips were thin but enticing to stare at. Her black hair was under a black veil that appeared stuck on her skin in parts as if in decay. The black dress she wore covered the remainder. Her black gloves hid her small hands.

            An overwhelming feeling of pity and remorse hit me.

            “I told you,” Pibb said and tried to move me to stop staring.