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He Came

Grenvale Lane was a peculiar child born of a peculiar child. As his mother was a wispy slip of a girl with no friends and little common sense, it was predestined that he would be a loner.


She had been sent away when Grenvale was just a baby, a disturbed simpleton driven mad by the birth of a son she swore was the offspring of angels. Or aliens. Nobody was quite sure, because none really cared enough to listen closely to her ravings.


And Grenvale, well, he was left behind, to be raised by tired, colorless grandparents in a sad, dilapidated shack at the far end of a long, dusty road.


Having to forage for himself at a very young age, Grenvale developed slowly, choosing to spend his time wandering naked through the desert, healing broken animals and speaking to voices nobody else could hear. He ate what the animals ate and rarely slept in the nest of tattered blankets provided for him in the corner of the kitchen, next to the pot belly stove.


By the time the State forced him to wear clothing and attend the local school, he was as feral as the wind and about as easy to contain.


The other children feared him, and because they feared him, they hated him. He was different. Too different, with his wide staring eyes that seemed to look deep into the soul of any and all who caught his attention. They picked on him relentlessly. Made him the butt of their cruel jokes. And often left him crying in the schoolyard, covered in dust, or mud, or worse, when the school bell rang to signal the end of recess.


In the area of education, Grenvale, too, was lax. He had no grasp of simple concepts or rules of conduct, often disrupting class with outbursts about a father he had never known, or flights of fancy about kingdoms in the clouds. The children giggled and Grenvale spent many long hours in the principal's office.


By the time Grenvale stopped attending school, he was already four years older than any of the other children in the sixth grade. His ravings and damnations had become increasingly disruptive and he was asked by the principal not to return. Neither the children, nor the teacher, were sorry to see him go.


When he was sixteen years old, Grenvale found a hiker in the wilderness, who had fallen from a great height and lay gasping out his final breaths. Naked and filthy, Grenvale crouched next to the hiker and laid his hand on the man's chest. Eyes fluttered open and found him. The hiker smiled, thinking Grenvale an angel, then drifted off to what he believed to be his final journey. When he awoke later, unbroken and completely without pain, Grenvale was long gone.


Many doubted the hiker's tale and the story rated little more than a blip in the local newspaper.


When he was nineteen years old, Grenvale overheard two men talking about the drought. "No water for miles," said one man. "It'll be the death of our town if it doesn't rain soon," said the other. The first man shook his dusty head and wiped at his face with the sleeve of his arm. "Rain won't do it," he said. "Reservoir's done gone dry. We'd need a miracle."


Grenvale crept out of the shadows and wandered back out into the desert, circling the town slowly until he found what he was looking for.


At the base of the nearby foothills, he took aim and unleashed a stream of urine onto the ground. The moisture soaked down into the grey dirt, leaving behind a rapidly fading stain.


Grenvale watched. And waited. And soon the stain was widening, instead of dwindling. And then the ground began to bubble and water began to seep up out of it. Grenvale stepped back and watched as the water bubbled up and formed a stream. The stream began to trickle down out of the foothills, along dimly remembered ravines and into a river bed which had been dry so long, there were few alive to remember it.


Grenvale followed the stream back in the direction of the town and stood, naked on the outskirts, as the people registered their good fortune and rejoiced in the miracle that had saved them. He tried to draw attention to the real worker of miracles, a god believed long dead by all living in these modern times.


As it had always been, he was seen as a raving lunatic. He didn't stay long. The rocks thrown by the children hurt him and the shrill cries of the mothers, offended by his nakedness, drove him back into the desert that was his home.


By the time he was 22, Grenvale had left the dusty little town far behind. He had taken to wandering his beloved desert, further and further out, until he began to discover new places and strange new people. But these people, too, were fearful of the filthy naked man who seemed to them a product of the inhospitable land they had come here to tame. He was loud and his words frightened them. He had many close encounters with the local constabulary and, thus, found himself moving more often than he would have liked. He hurt no one and took nothing that belonged to another. Many thought him a ghost and quickly forgot him.


Until the day that Grenvale Lane committed the unspeakable act. He had been drawn by the wails of many women, ripping their hair and rubbing their faces with dirt. He watched as they cried and shouted questions to the skies. "Why HIM?" they would say. "Why NOW?" And it was clear to Grenvale that this was a person of great importance who had died before his work was done.


Grenvale listened to the voices only he could hear, telling him to be wary of this place, this crowd, this situation. For the first and last time, he ignored them and in so doing, sealed his fate.


The crowd parted and the cries stilled as Grenvale approached the tomb of the unknown corpse. The smell told him that this person had been dead for more than a few days.  He studied the mud-streaked faces of the terrified women, then laid his hands on the door of the tomb and closed his eyes.


Calling out to an archaic god, in a language unknown to the assembled masses, Grenvale worked his final miracle. By the time he was finished, the crowd had begun to grumble and move forward to intercept him. The first man had laid hands on Grenvale when the sound of pounding from the inside of the tomb brought all action to a halt.


A woman screamed. Another fainted. The pounding continued.  Grenvale was dragged back and a man with a pocket full of keys stepped forward to unlock the mausoleum door. The horrified scream which ripped from his throat threw the assembled throng into chaos as the decayed and rotting body shambled from the tomb, it's eyes gummy and its jaw slack. Screams of terror and cries of despair rose up from the crowd as they surged backward, all eyes on the undead thing.


The local sheriff stepped forward, his eyes wide, but his jaw set. Slowly and deliberately, he pulled a pistol from the holster at his side and emptied the gun into the head of the living corpse. It stepped backward as each bullet ripped into its soft skull, then toppled back through the doorway of the mausoleum, never to rise again.


Grenvale Lane was dragged from that place and hanged from the tallest tree on the outskirts of the town. A tree which had served this very same purpose almost a century before, in a much more savage age. He would be the last so hung from this tree, as not long after he had been lain in an unmarked grave, nearby, the tree shriveled and gave up its life.


Nobody wept for Grenvale Lane.  Nor did anyone notice the tears he wept for them. He left as he had come; unnoticed and unappreciated in a time devoid of miracles.


And so began the third millennium of modern Man. Godless and unrepentant. Alone and unprotected. Groping desperately for that which continues to elude him. Amen.

                                                                                                     *  *  *


© David Salcido, 1992. Registered with the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America. All rights reserved.

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