An industrialist put on his plastic face, his expensive suit and dragged an indentured lawyer into town with him. His Bentley arrived in a cloud of choking dust and stinging flies.
The town had gathered around a podium to listen to the complaints of some locals while they waited for the industrialist to arrive.
He took the podium, confident, smiling but after a few minutes, one of the townsfolk hurled something which landed with a solid thunk on the raised wooden stage. It was an old Colt revolver. Already loaded.
The industrialist looked closer at the crowd. He noted their pale mien. Many were coughing into towels. The bitter iron stink of blood wafted through the air. He knew that scent, intimately. Their condition had to do with residue from the hydraulic fracturing process.
He considered their condition…unfortunate.
His gaze swept over the crowd but he appeared unaffected. “What’s this for?” he asked as he gingerly picked up the gun.
“If you plan on robbing people you should be appropriately armed,” someone shouted from a distance.
“I don’t understand what you mean. I’m genuinely happy to report how wealthy we’re becoming through your sacrifice. It’s legal, I assure you.” Unlike the industrialist, the attorney refused to meet anyone’s eyes.
Looking around the industrialist saw the stage stood in a pool of stagnant and foul-smelling water. “You should do something about your plumbing.” It was then he noticed the stones people carried.
Reverend Ames staggered up to the front of the crowd, his eyes rheumy but still sharp enough to see their way through to the heart of a man. “We are a god-fearing people. Galatians, chapter 6 verse 7: ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’”
The reverend spit and threw his stone at the industrialist and his lawyer. Others followed suit. Ducking, the two men tried to escape but large unhappy townsfolk waited at the foot of the ladder with metal bats.
The industrialist pointed the gun at the crowd. “Don’t make me use this.” A rain of stones arced through the air with more hitting than missing. The lawyer dropped and lay still. Shaken the industrialist fired the weapon at the Reverend.
The weapon flared and in seconds, vapors beneath the podium ignited, with the contaminated water beneath the stage acting as fuel. Both men were surrounded and engulfed by a makeshift funeral pyre.
No one fled.
The townsfolk leaned forward, silently savoring the screams of the two men. One or two looked a touch uncomfortable, but no one turned their back to the flames.
The Reverend smiled at his parishioner who had given the industrialist the gun filled with flaring blanks. He turned his gaze toward the fire and with venom said, “Yes, sir. You are so right we should do something about those leaky water pipes. Not to worry, the water stops burning in a couple of hours. Plenty of time for you to get used to your new accommodations in Hell.”
The townsfolk rejoiced quietly and agreed to never speak of this.
When the methane was expended, only a pile of dark ash remained of the stage, the industrialist and his counsel. As the townspeople turned, the pile of ash shifted suddenly and slowly the industrialist stood up and brushed the ash that used to be a podium and possibly a lawyer off of his once-again, pristine suit.
The townspeople stood agape. Dust rose from his footsteps as he walked from the ashes toward his car. He turned, the setting sun behind him.
“Just who did you people think you were getting in bed with?” His horns and winged shadow lingered in the setting sunlight, reaching out toward the townsfolk for an instant as he got into his car.
I can’t believe they did that. People can still surprise me…
The roar of his Bentley could be heard over the sounds of water mains and wells exploding, fire flowing toward the very center of town. No street was clear, no avenues for escape; a river of flame from every direction.
Collectively, they screamed, cowered and burned.
Nearby, a murder of crows took wing and celebrated.
Unnatural Gas © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved