What is the worth of a word?
Trust: The steadfast belief in the words and/or actions of another to meet some unspoken expectation.
Trust is perhaps the most hotly touted but least earned characteristic of our time. Absolutely essential to modern living, Trust is required, to one degree or another, in nearly every interaction we have: from shopping for groceries, and trusting that the store you frequent isn’t completely ripping you off for Mallomars; To crossing the road (particularly here in NYC), and trusting that the drivers around you will follow traffic law… and not hastily paint a greasy tire track onto your backside while rushing off toward the next red light. Undoubtedly, Trust is the quintessential foundation for ANY relationship, or should be, particularly in those which hope to be healthy and long-lasting, and for good reason — without some sort of basic Trust, how could any relationship ever strive to exist beyond the superficial?
But — and I Trust that you know I had a big ole’ “BUT” planned somewhere in here soon, (and I know, that you know, that I knew that — believe-you-me…) — Trust, good, noble and wholly necessary to cultivating and maintaining relationships as it may be, is a double edged sword, ain’t it? As it’s also the very same condition which flips to become a hotbed breeding ground for treachery and deception. After all, the most effective way to dupe someone is by beginning as an individual whom they implicitly Trust. Someone dark and shrouded against their careful eye of scrutiny? Only an individual given sanctuary from your doubt will find themselves in the unique position to leverage you — you and your peevish Trust, reader — to take advantage, while your back is turned, of you and your good nature.
So… getting back on topic.
Here’s the truth about Trust: If you deserve it, you shouldn’t need it. It’s more mere cursory respect. Worth exists individualistically, it’s intrinsic — either you’ve got it, or you ain’t — and thus is wholly independent of others’ regard of you. So when questioned by a friend or associate, IF you’re an honest individual, you shouldn’t distress — you should just be anxious to re-prove your worth. Between those of a valid bond, doubt is always laughable. Encouraged, even. As you’re both clearly confident that you’ve nothing to fear… just something to clear up.
Even in the healthiest relationships, for every five positive interactions, one is still negative. Couples, whatever constituents may make them up, just doesn’t see eye to eye from time to time… and that’s healthy. People are different. That’s what makes them interesting. Negative interaction is NORMAL; natural. Think about it, if two individuals were to agree on EVERY-single-THING, every stones ripple cast across their philosophical matrix, than there would be no basis for a relationship — they’d be the same person… with nothing to gain from an interaction at all. BORING! Without differences, we simply wouldn’t be interested…
Only so long as long as this doesn’t happen too often, this doubt — so long as it is truly reserved for situations of true extremity — these little tests can serve to solidify and reinforce an already sound house of union. However, and as mentioned before, this healthy and natural turbulent period, necessary to the pretext of any relationship and it’s growth over time, is, too, very much sensitive… to exploitation.
Bearing all this in mind, today I’d like to present you with a short story that further examines the virtues of Trust, both from the writer to the reader, and from character to character, within. For this story, there is no right answer. Faith, and whichever direction you choose (or don’t choose) to place it, will determine your alignment in the end… and you won’t be wrong.
Thus, I humbly present to you — good, Trustworthy readers — with…
The nebulous grey dust will never fully settle on the face of the Moon. It whorls, and kicks, and cuts unseen, vitriolic, against anything left exposed. It’s incessant and furtive, forever under the influence of the restless solar wind, and will, over time, dismantle man or machine alike without prejudice. The Dome was built inspired by this very volatility, fortified against this same eternal plague, and the unbridled solar wind herself, unable to be tamed, was the chief reasoning for our own engineering. We live for radiant energy; our metabolism necessitates it’s consumption. Thus is it our charge to siphon excesses from the craters and their pools for mere survival, and to flock about, endlessly searching for and then drinking from, cuts in their vast cable infrastructure. The same tethering which enables them to stay, and to thrive, on our world.
Something unusual was happening within the Dome. We could all feel it; after all, we were bred to. A flurry of humans, minds buzzing alight with fresh electrical impulses, fanciful notions of fear and doubt, all gathered around the southern lock-gates of their building 42 and made us slaver. Yet today there was no ship we could sense about to be seen off. No piles of refuse were planned to be jettisoned off into our wastelands. Merely were there two men, each oozing with an abundance of mental radiance, standing in the antechamber, both donned in full Terra-Gear and each wielding an ancient pistol, slung by leather, and hanging low at the hip. It would seem that the most ancient of rituals, one which we hadn’t seen the execution of in many an orbit, was about to be underway…
Audible to our ears alone, the familiar, “Vhur-Woosh”, of the retreating exterior docking doors rang out, (our tympanal membranes had been contrived, perverted really, to be attune in these environs), as the hapless borrowed air from the cloistered commune was hastily released, vacuumed away, and lost forever to the vastness of space. Before long two lone figures, each mind alight with fervent, frantic activity, steadily paced their way out onto our bleak desert plain — one destined to live, and one certain to die. Both men were riddled with their own doubts, and each fed a few dozen of our kind, as we fluttered about their skulls, suckling on errant joules of lost energy expelled by their over-brimming brains, and processed what we stole, inadvertently, to read their every thought.
Eventually, at a spot wordlessly acknowledged by both men, each placed their backpack respirator against the other, and both heaved a lungful, having finally reached their place of destiny where no stray bullet could harm the distant Dome. Then, as their mental activity bounded toward a glorious crescendo, nursing ever more of our kind, the duo began to run through their paces.
These were the thoughts which crossed through their minds as they took their final, fated steps…
First Measured Pace:
“I am Podunck Jenkins. I have lived in this town my entire life. The scoundrel, how could he? I wear the holy helix upon my chest, am clearly a god fearing man of this state, and am a unyielding staple of my town and to my countrymen, who’ve all known this face for life. Clearly I’m in the right. And yet, who is he? An unknown. Some outsider, who dared to challenge my nuptials. A stranger! A nobody! And yet here he is, on the most important day of my life, no less? At the very moment of a Jenkins vow renewal! This cannot stand, this queer perturbation. It is unfounded. It is unjust. It is unfair… No. He cannot prevail this day. This day is bigger than he. Today, this stranger must die.”
“This is stupid, I should just turn around and blast him in the kneecap. Such a shame I can’t kill him myself… all this ceremony, what’s it for? Those fat fools in that bubble wouldn’t even make it halfway up the ridge by the time I’d crested it, hauled his ass in my ship, and set the hyper-drive to Old Abberdine. Wonder if those bastards would pay out all the same? Hell, I’d even take a cut to be done with this. Three days. I’ve wasted three days on this backwater, redneck, puritanical satellite, and this is where I wind up? This is not how you avoid fame, and you know fame gets you hunted. Were I trained, I never would have wound up here, but you know, too, training makes a man predictable. Looks like it’s just me and all I’ve ever had, for better or for worse, my instinct. Let’s hope it was right… Maybe I should just turn around and blast him. Ugly, son-of-a-bitch.”
“Thank God I had Jerald, that bitch Makenze’s husband, hand out the guns; this fool outsider has no idea he’s only got a single bullet in that chamber. This is my town, this’ll all be over soon enough and I can get back to my business. Amazing… even after the affair Jerald’s still loyal to me. Never said a word about it neither. Not to a single soul, so far as I can tell. That’s good. After all, men are weak, and it was Makenze who’d tempted ole’ Podunck with her smooth, bare flesh. That wayward wench. The only damned person in this whole forsaken commune who agreed with the outsider and legitimized his challenge, making it stick. He’d be a heap of puss and blood were it not for that one. Of course she would. Everyone suspects something, even if they don’t know for certain what. But that’s baggage left behind from a past life, Sir. Now all that matters is my fresh commitment to Patricia, for as long as we both live, in this new one. Just got to make it through this one, little hiccup. And Jerald? Well, after today, I’ll see to it that Jerald never has to worry about a thing again. Today I’ll show him, Patricia, and Makenze just exactly what type of a man I am.”
“Damn this gated commune. Damn these close-minded twits. Never again do I walk in blind, I don’t care what the size of the bounty is. Were it not for that strange woman, I’d’ve been lynched. “Speak now”, they say. Yeah, unless you’re a guest, and, if you are, there better be at least one local supporter or we’ll beat you with clubs and stab you with sticks until you stop squirming. Sounds about right. Still… It’s not like I didn’t try. Couldn’t get a stitch of information about this rock before I flashed my paperwork and shouldered my way in through the door. First in years… and look where it got me. Don’t even partake in the pulse — wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did — heathens. They’re living like it’s earth-1 all over again… OK. Enough of that. No more distractions now. Focus: go over the facts, quick. There isn’t time. You’re hunting a deviant, likely a sociopath, a Missing Mayor from the Centarus Cluster, who’d first been the face of a children’s charity, and then disappeared days before his embezzlement came to light. This type of person will stop at no-one and for nothing in achieving his ends. A grade 8 stake, with the caveat that he’s brought in alive to face the scales of justice in person. You followed the unique ionized signature of a registered and recently stolen ship, which you found abandoned behind a high ridge, invisible to the denizens of this cloistered world, which inevitably led you here. Also, it’s suspected that this deviant has in his possession a quantum holographer — which is wonderful — meaning he can take on any appearance he wishes unless I can get him outside of an atmosphere. Hence: The Duel. The moons surface will suffice in revealing his true form, if my suspicions are correct, and if I can expose him to the elements… without killing him. That’s a lot of “if’s”. Surely this is not smart business. No. This is my mark, I’m sure of it, and I’ll prove it. “Toad-Man mayor”, this is your gambit to lose.”
“This man, this supposed bounty hunter, will die by my hand in but a mere moment. I shall savor it. He has, thanks to good ole’ Jerald, naught but one bullet, and, knowing this as I do, all I have to do is dive astride, miss his one hasty shot, and, as he retakes his aim with an empty gun, unload my remaining chamber into his foul chest. Damnable outsider. I shall stare into his madcap countenance until the final reserves of his pathetic life drain out through to the acrid soil. Simple. But what after that? The battle is won, but the spoils are rotten. There will be blame yet. Surely this man hails from someplace significant. Others will come. Explanations, sought after… Perchance I can shift focus onto Jerald. Hapless, simple Jerald. If my poison spreads true… Nobody knows of my triste, and he has been acting rather strange. Maybe I could devise a way to have it yet again, after all. The comely Makenze. I know not how much longer I can suffer the company of that dullard Patricia anyhow, but, after the affair, in order to keep her happy and quiet about the… situation, surely I had little other choice. Unfortunate mistakes of the past. But now I wonder, could not I abdicate to finality? I could reclaim Makenze as my own, be rid of the nattering Patricia for good, satiate any authority who tries to intervene with a simple shift of blame, and fade back into the simple life which I’ve sought for so long, and surely so sincerely deserve. Yes! These events shall come to pass, or the name which I bear is not Podunck Jenkins!”
“These hillbillies are not to be trusted. This gambit threatens my throat as much as my mark’s. Never before, in all my starbounding years, have things ever been so out of my control. Even still, and if I manage to win out this day, can I truly be certain that I’m playing the right hand at this game? Am I so sure that an incriminating ledger from halfway around the galaxy, shredded and lining the barn bed of a neighbors horse, is evidence enough? Even when coupled with a hastily called “re-marriage”, a vow-renewal in normal corners of the universe, and some queer local custom of spousal benefactor inheritance, and automatic citizenship? Can I truly be so certain in my comprehension of local law after merely three days of study? Why must the Centarus government respect the laws of some backwards, uncultured religious reservation, anyhow? It’s loopholes like this which permit this exact type of lawless behavior. Then again, if not for bureaucratic oversights such as this, I might be out of a job. Now, here’s how it all could work: the mayor kills, consumes, and assumes the identity of one: “Podunck Jenkins”, utilizing his recently stolen Quantum Holagrapher to achieve the feat. Legally, this makes him a murderer, subject to local law… but only if caught. However, were this “man” to never officially be killed or discovered dead, which is unlikely given the types of acids that a Ratherain carries around in it’s gut, but rather, even as an impostor, remarry — or marry, depending on your particular slant — a local, sanctioned worshiper and denizen of the Helix commune, then that individual, whether or not they had the right, will become an official member themselves, having been ordained by an official minstrel, inside an official place of worship, with official witnesses lining the pews. Furthermore, and more to the point, this individual will, unwaveringly, be extended amnesty through governmental religious exemption. Their dome, their rules. Then, as an official member of this special community, sharing equally with his wife in all of his worldly possessions, were somehow some tragedy to befall his betrothed, he would successfully have become, legally and forevermore throughout the universe, the inimitable owner of a theoretically stolen charity fund — with monies ample to support a lavish lifestyle across many a generation. But I’m here now. It’s obvious, even to an amphibian, that people will be coming for him. He can’t kill his wife to be, unless he first kills me. And if he does, than he can become whoever he wants, and fade into whatever life he desires. No wonder he rallied in support of a duel over a hearing… Well, nothing more to do now but hope my gun swap, and empty chamber trick pays off… and I don’t somehow get shot myself before he shows his true form. Or get lynched. That’ll be fun. Well, here goes.”
Thanks for reading!