Garrett dons the shades again and they go outside, walking several hundred
feet to an outdoor area behind a steep hill covered with golden grass which hides the buildings from view.
The shades come off and Garrett sees a delightful amphitheater terraced into the earth with huge slabs of granite.
Each level is wide and set up with a round table and chairs about every
fifteen feet. There are couples dining at most of the tables. The entire theater is surrounded by huge evergreen trees and
there is a camouflage net of synthetic leaves suspended between the trees about a hundred feet off the ground. Pleasant, cozy,
and completely invisible from the air.
"Unbelievable! Looks like it was built by the High Elves of Noldor"
"Thank you" says Farris. "It's our version of a similar one built in the 1920s by a Hollywood mogul for
summer dinner theater. Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Moliere, O'Neil. Even that original one cost a fortune way back then."
They sit down and are promptly served a fine lunch of Roast Duckling
L'Orange with plain buttered saffron rice and asparagus. As they eat, the daily entertainment begins. One hundred
frightened defendants ranging in age from twenty one to ninety two are led into the center stage area at the bottom of the
theater. Garrett begins to wonder just what is happening here, but waits.
Farris remarks "We put that horned helmut and special heels on
our man who leads them in so he will be exactly six feet, six inches, and six tenths of an inch tall. 666 you see."
"Please!" demurs Garrett indulgently.
"I know it's corny, but we want to give the prophesy reconcilers something
to chew on. We make it cryptic, so they can discover it and then seem to be very perceptive and spiritual
with lengthy explanations. Good free publicity."
"True" says Garrett.
As they eat, the men and women at the tables begin to shoot the defendants
with pistols of various design and caliber. One tall man in full Sherwood Forest green, complete with feathered hat, is using
an English long bow with hunting arrows. Another younger man, dressed in deerskin pants with breastplate of bones and full
war bonnet, is throwing tomahawks with skull-splitting accuracy. Garrett watches all of this with a level of cool journalistic
detachment which surprises even him.
"Clifton," he says "even if we accept the premise that all these people
deserve to die, don't you think it un-chivalrous to make such sport of it and cause so much unnecessary suffering? If you
must kill, why not do it quickly and cleanly as you would wish to be killed yourself if you were in their place? Aren't
you even a little worried about the state of your soul?"
"Valdison, I thought you'd never ask! If it comes to any test of morality,
God would inspire my game in playing polo with their babies' heads in the street while they watch in chains. Actually
we first questioned them all as though it were a hypothetical situation.
"We asked which they would rather face, immediate shooting or the chance
to run around and dodge bullets for awhile. Every one of them chose to live a little longer. Where there's life, there's
hope. Always the possibility of last minute rescue. You or I would choose the same.
"Besides, it's simply more economical than using artificial targets for
honing our peoples' marksmanship. We're going to kill them anyway, so why not enjoy it? Actually I was even considering a
carnival style shooting gallery. Dress them up like duckies, you know. But again, the cost."
Garrett shakes his head.
Farris continues "Oh, I'm not so bad. Remember Lemuel Hoskins? Well, Jake Povick, the
guy who sawed him up is sitting right over there. See him with the blond? Jake wanted
to outfit himself as a gladiator and go right in after the defendants with sword and trident. He even speculated
about possibly being able to scare the last ten in each group to death after they had seen what he did to the first ninety.
Wanted to hog all the action for himself. I told him he was trying to enjoy our appointed task a little too
"Garrett, we have many super-villains here. Remember that attorney dressed as a ballerina hanging in the
tree on the courthouse lawn? See the guy with plaid shirt. That's Darwin Skettle, the man who did it. He padded the rope so
the ballerina pranced for fifteen minutes."
The helpless defendants now begin to scream and yell. One man, then another, tries to scoop up dirt
and throw it at the shooters. "A valiant effort" comments Farris in complete seriousness.
One big man stands fast, shouting the foulest insults ever heard by human ears. Many of the shooters
now just listen, spellbound by how ingeniously one man can use the word "Motherfucker" in so many different ways.
As a noun, an adjective, a verb, and an adverb. "Obviously a doctor of linguistics!" retorts one young shooter. As he
raises his pistol to terminate this bottomless well of human depravity, twenty other shooters join in a huge volley of fire
which completely obliterates Old Dirty Mouth's contorted snarling face forever.
Garrett notices that a young cowboy has walked down to the edge of the wall.
A middle aged man he reserved in advance and has been tormenting with near misses, crouches hidden against the wall. The cowboy
looks over the wall. The victim is trembling badly and looks up with pleading eyes. The cowboy speaks very softly with
a gentle mocking tone resembling sympathy.
"Well now! Appears like you almost got away, don't it buddy? Thought you
fooled me... but you're afraid now, ain't you my friend?" Then suddenly bellowing in a huge gravelly voice, "And you
had damned well better be afraid, Little Mister Big Man! We are all about to see just how smart you really are, because
I'm going to blow your god-damned brains out!"
The cowboy produces a .357 Magnum pistol and with an exaggerated air
of pomp and formality, twirls the gun skillfully, tosses it in the air up behind and over his shoulder, catches
it in front, twirls it some more, and then with a lofty grand gesture, shoots the sobbing man in the head. Then he twirls
the gun some more, blows the smoke from the end of the barrel, spins the gun back into the holster, and winks at his girlfriend. The
other diners burst into joyful applause. Garrett thinks to himself "I'm a lucky man. Without my faith in the future,
being a journalist could be a very tough gig at times." The dead people are thrown into small truck beds and driven
Explains Farris "We experimented with many of the bodies as meat puppets
for our Macabre Theater productions, but always that damned rigor mortis you know. Now we dry them the usual
way. Then we saw off the limbs at each joint and reconnect them with nylon. Much lighter. Much easier
on the puppeteers."
As they eat, five more batches of one hundred people are brought in and
gunned mercilessly down by the men and women dining. Then one more batch that seems fewer. When Garrett asks
why, Farris tells him it's only sixty six. "666 in all you see."
"Bringing that old chestnut up for another roast, are we?" yawns Garrett.
"You really are a Great Beast, aren't you?"
"Please!" demurs Farris indulgently.