At What Cost
It has been many moons since The Dirtbiker had last seen The Triad of The Lodge. They said to him they were going to make a stand at Jericho Tower, that old watchman’s post they all held to such high reverence. One may see far and wide from the room at the top of the Tower they told him, and mayhap they were right… but a high view was not what The Dirtbiker sought for his life. Never has been. The Dirtbiker seeks only to ride, to blaze his trail behind him, regardless of if it’s followed. And so he blazes that trail.
And thus The Dirtbiker rides on and on, moving forever forward, blazing his Dirtbiker’s Trail.
The Dirtbiker has ridden without pause but to fuel up for many moons now, strate after strate, stopping not even for the Halla nor the Calla. Until now, that is, with three quarters of his tank yet filled with fuel; his metallic steed coasts slowly to a stop in an uncharted branch of the endless wood, one which sprouts trees bearing needles rather than leaves.
“What’s this?” The Dirtbiker asks his metallic steed, but it does not answer him back. Doesn’t start, either, merely ticks as the metal cools. “What could poss–”
A rustling in the trees to his right… no, his left… no, right in front of him.
“Who’s there?!” shouts The Dirtbiker from behind his tinted visor, his helmet amplifying the sound. Many needles rain down upon him, but the rustling does not stop. Something is in the wood, something is coming for him, from in front, from the sides, from all around him. He’s fallen into a trap, The Dirtbiker shall ride no mo–
A heavy hand falls on his shoulder. The Dirtbiker, gripping his handlebars tightly, kicks off the ground and rolls forward, then leaps with his hands and lands upon a lichen-covered boulder on one knee. Stands slowly. Turns.
It’s a man in a suit.
“Greetings,” says the man, waving one gloved hand as though The Dirtbiker were treks ahead of him.
“Who are you, bastard?!” The Dirtbiker demands, descending from the rock so he may spread his feet into fisticuff stance and raise up his knuckled fists. “What have you done to my steed?!”
“Me?” asks the suit-clad man, putting a hand to his chest. “Well I’m… I’m just a man in black out strolling through the endless wood. The Hillside Commons, as y’all call it. Right?”
The Dirtbiker does not lower his fists, but he does relax his stance.
“Right. As for your bike, I merely shut it down from afar.”
“But how?! I am the only mechomancer in all the endless wood, no other ‘man–”
“I’ll stop you right there,” says the suited thing as he removes his fedora to fan his face. “I may be a man, but take a good and hard look at me, The Dirtbiker. Do you really think I’m a simple human?”
A feeling of general malaise sweeps through The Dirtbiker like a blowing wind through the forest. “You’re certainly not simple, of that much I am sure.”
“Gravy!” shouts the man in the black suit with a white undershirt and a purple necktie, the man whose eyes are forever hidden behind his dark sunshades. “Now that we’re on the same page – well, in the same book, at least – I have a favor to ask of you. And a gift to ensure your compliance.”
Behind the safety of his visor The Dirtbiker raises one eyebrow. It lowers when the man reveals a small object about the width of his blackly gloved hand, oblong and rounded at the ends.
“This is a capsule,” says the suited stranger, “which contains a device so small it cannot be seen with the eye, naked nor clothed. A little bit of mechanized magick, you might say.”
“So you’re a sorcerer, then?” The Dirtbiker guesses, at this point wishing only for a swift Death.
“No’no, not at all,” the guy assures him, shaking his goateed face sheepishly. “I am what sorcerers aspire to be but shall never live to achieve. Anyway, back to what I was saying…”
A pause, as if for emphasis.
“…I have a gift for you. This capsule contains what’s known as a hemibot – that’s a nanobot approximately half the size of an atom.”
“What is this atom of which you speak?” The Dirtbiker ventures.
“Good Christ, what Universe is this?” gripes the suited bearer of gifts. “It’s, it’s uh… le’me put it this way: it’s smaller than the smallest thing you can conceive of, and this hemibot? This is half that size.”
“I do not–”
“Here,” the suit says, crushing the capsule in his hand.
The capsule – is it made of glass? Metal? Surely it’s not wooden – shatters, but the pieces do not fall to the forest floor. They merely… disappear, as though they were consumed by the atmosphere itself. Then something new takes form in his hand, a… no, can it be? It is! An exact tiny replica of not only The Dirtbiker, but also his glorious metallic steed, and also the strange character who stepped forth from the endless wood.
“Please,” The Dirtbiker pleads, crying hot tears in hopes he shall not fall piteously down to his knees. “Please explain yourself, I simply do not under–”
“They’re extremely small robots, see, and they can do anything you want. You control them with your mind – well, you will be able to control them with your mind, just as soon as you agree to do my favor – and they eat stuff to make more of themselves, so you’ll never run out.”
“Anything… anything I want?”
“Sure, buddy,” the master of masters shrugs. “Even, I don’t know… make a special multi-cart for your bike that’ll fill the purpose of all of your carts so you never have to return to The Garage again.”
“How do you know abou–”
“I know about a great deal of things, Chadwick,” the man glares. “I know a great deal, indeed.”
The Dirtbiker drops piteously to his knees, defeated.
“Do not hang your fat head, The Dirtbiker, for I’m giving you the power of the divine ones.”
“But at what cost…” The Dirtbiker mumbles to himself. “What cost must I pay for such power?”
“Don’t matter; will you pay this due I request, The Dirtbiker?”
The Dirtbiker looks up, tears dripping from his helmet. “What cost must I pay for such great and unfathomable power?!”
“WILL YOU DO MY FAVOR, THE DIRTBIKER, OR SHALL I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF?!”
“I SHALL PAY ANY COST!” The Dirtbiker begins to weep. His visor fogs up with the mists of misery. “NOW THAT I KNOW OF SUCH A THING AS THESE HEMIBOTS I SHALL NEVER BE ABLE TO GO ON LIVING! I need them in my control, I SHALL DO WHATEVER I MUST!”
“Good,” the suit says giddily, then tosses the miniature replica of the present moment carelessly up into the air. “They’re smarter than you, you know, so if you don’t go right to where I need you to go, if you don’t do what you just said you will do for me, they will consume you and return to me. And I shall disintegrate them from Existence.” He approaches The Dirtbiker, bends at the legs to stare levelly through his visor, through The Dirtbiker himself. “Thus erasing you, like you were never born in the first place. Are we clear?”
“As polished crystals,” shudders The Dirtbiker, wishing he had been slain.
“All right!” the man in black titters, leaping up and clicking his heels with glee. “SO! I said before that they can turn your cart into a multi-cart, which they just did.”
The Dirtbiker marvels at the multi-cart; it looks exactly the same as the trailblazer cart he had hitched up before, but according to the readings on his visor… by the divine ones, according to the readings…!
“That cart, as I said, can turn into anything, including, say, I don’t know… a reanimation machine. It can take anything, even so much as a crusty piece of dry blood, and make a whole-ass body out of it.”
“A whole-ass body?” The Dirtbiker asks, unable to believe such monstrous profanity.
“Indeed,” the suited one nods. “You are to go to a clearing in this very forest, one which lies at the center of a rivered isle, and… look, I’ll be real with you, it’s not going to be pretty. There’s going to be a lot of blood, but you’re in luck, because all of the blood technically came from the same guy.”
“Then it cannot be a lot,” The Dirtbiker reasons, rising to his feet and, thus, the occasion. “A single ‘man only holds so much, and I have once seen five ‘mans slain.”
“Well, a whole lot more than five got slain last night, but uh… you know what? You’ll see when you get there. All the blood belongs to the same guy, though. It’s really hard to explain, total you had to be there kind’a thing, and uh… so yeah, take a little bit of it, put it into the reanimation machine – your cart will transform when you get there, and the ‘bots will guide you; matt’a’fact, the hemibots have already infected your metallic steed, and when you get on they’ll infect you. You’ll essentially be a puppet of mine, but don’t worry – I’ve already cut the strings.”
The Dirtbiker has never been more nonplussed than he is at this moment; all these words, all these queer variables – something just doesn’t add up.
“When the ‘man I’m looking for you to revive is revived, you will help him build a cabin, and you will give him all he asks for so he can go on living in that cabin – again, your multi-cart will transform all on its own, all you really need to do is show up. Also, he’s going to be a little… off, at first. But it’ll fade. Just give him a few seconds. So uh… yeah, you can handle that, I think. For sure. I have total faith in you.”
Confused, The Dirtbiker gazes blankly at the man in black, saying not a single word.
“Great!” says the man in the black suit. “I got’a go deliver a box of books now. Later!” He claps his hands and vanishes into thin air.
“…great,” agrees The Dirtbiker begrudgingly, though he’s not quite sure why he agrees. “Great,” said again, this time with a nod. “Very well. To the clearing, I suppose.”
The Dirtbiker mounts his metallic steed and blazes into the forest in the exact direction he was traveling before the strange suited man appeared to him from the endless wood of The Hillside Commons.
This has been the first subchapter of the Envoi of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~