There is an old shack and outside it sits a man in his late forties. He sits not on a chair but on a ground of dry dust. It is a sunny day. God made it so, thinks Earl. His tears are exhausted and anger has left his insides charred. Nothing churns within. His heart is dead.
From within the shack, a man who wanted to be God emerges behind him. Yet he is not God. He is Green. He came here out of what he considered free will, but recognised the deceit too late. He sits down beside Earl. Green is quiet, still holding the bloody, sharp wire between his hands. The wire vibrates.
Earl wants to hate Green for what he has done, but it was what God had wished. But to swallow tragedy as if it was just a sliver of beer is not something he finds easy to do. That was God’s lot. And that was why God had waited with him for so long, telling him stories.
‘It was the greatest sin,’ says Green, softly. He sounds damaged, missing the violent determination that had propelled him to his defining moment. ‘There was no grace in my work. I had only hoped to match the master… but I was one of his animals. Moving in his word, the final sound of his voice. I have done what I was meant to do. My purpose complete, I am extinguished.’
‘I don’t care for your talk, mister,’ snaps Earl. The sun’s rays are cold. The solitude is unbearable once again. His wife has been stored in a jar for two years. And now God is gone, his parables complete.
The Paragon, the Student and the Psychologist are dead, killed when they turned on their gods of Elvis, Bliss and Morta, allowing Nhil to rise once more. Weldon has done his father proud, saving one final life, defeating Dog in his last game. Alison redeemed herself, saving a planet that had disintegrated into anti-technological fever and anarchic chaos, but sacrificed things she didn’t know she loved to accomplish it. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega’s global pursuit of Morgana came to a disasterous conclusion, as the three of them discovered that all things are terminal; the handle finally turned.
But Earl’s own story has not come to an end. He is still here with the tales he has learnt and no one to share them with.
‘It was his will,’ says Green. ‘I played my part. If I had not done this thing… He would have undone the Project. I carry His blood on my hands, this is my burden. It was His will, Earl.’
‘I know that!’ shouted Earl. ‘I made Him tell me stories for years to keep this from happening! That, mister, was my burden! I kept Him going and now you… you have taken Him away.’
Green stands up. ‘I need to go.’
‘Where to, mister? What’s left for you to break?’
‘The first stranger to cross my path. God returned her to life as part of his blackmail, to force my hand. I want to apologise.’
But Green does not move. Perhaps he is tired, perhaps he is scared. Earl does not know.
Earl says, ‘He was taken from us too soon. He had more stories to tell.’
Green turns slightly, but does not face Earl. Earl is surprised: there is shame hidden on the killer’s face. Green asks Earl, ‘Did He ever tell you about Hammerport?’
‘Hammerport? No, I don’t think so.’
‘It is a story of what men do when they have left their gods behind. He never told you this story because it could only be told once he was gone. It is about how men organise themselves and how this unmakes them.’
Earl looks at the greatest sinner and asks: ‘Would you tell me this tale?’
Green sits down again, careful not to catch Earl’s gaze. He places the bloody wire on the ground before them and stares at his hands.
‘No one remembers the town of Hammerport. Originally it was a small, sleepy town and the people there were neither happy nor unhappy. Little changed between days. This fact was neither resented nor loved by its people. Children were born, grew up, some of them left for bigger places. And then, one day, the shrewd eyes of industry noticed the town…’
The sun holds its position in the sky while the tale is told. Clouds drift overhead in mournful silence. Mountains weep streams into rivers. The human herd sprays signals through the air while the scent of decaying trash floats on a scorched breeze. There are still ashes in the urn but something has changed: a broken watch is ticking again.
These truly are the days of Man, for it was God that made it so.