Read Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name Online

Authors: Edward M. Erdelac

Tags: #Jewish, #Horror, #Westerns, #Fiction

Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name

The Merkabah Rider

 

The Mensch
With
No Name

 

Episodes 5 – 8

 

 

 

By

Edward M. Erdelac

Table of Contents:

Episode Five - The Infernal Napoleon

Episode Six - The Damned Dingus

Episode Seven - The Outlaw Gods

Episode Eight - The Pandæmonium Ride

Glossary

About the Author:

 

Episode Five - The
Infernal Napoleon

 

It
could hardly be called a town. Really, it was just a little over a dozen picket
and stone pile shacks and wattle and daub jacals that had sprouted like desert
shrubs around a great sandstone pit filled with water, which seeped up from
underground. The pit gave the place part of its name, Varruga Tanks. It was a
lonesome rest stop along a stony two-track trail, where freighters and cattle
drivers stopped to water their animals and themselves. An enterprising Irishman
had put up a dirt floor saloon called The Watering Hole and dished out
inferior, watered down popskull and tasajo at exorbitant prices. He was
probably the only permanent resident.

There
were twelve men in Varruga Tanks that day and nearly all of them, including the
Rider, were standing beneath a patched canvas tent watching a wiry little half
breed in a colorful but faded coat cut and stitched from a lady’s quilt kick up
dust and spit. The rawboned runt had greasy black, gray-streaked hair to his
collar and a crushed felt hat with a floppy brim and a long quivering turkey
feather in the torn band. He was gesticulating in an exaggerated manner,
extolling with ever-increasing showmanship the Herculean abilities of a stocky,
quiet young man behind him, whose face was obscured by long, tangled hair
spilling over his broad, blanket wrapped shoulders from beneath a battered
black derby.

“Let
all the sons of man bear witness! Let all the sons of man bear witness!” the
man in the quilt coat called to the dubious spectators shuffling in the dim
tent light. “This here is The Child of Calamity! Raised by Comanches what
murdered his kith and kin, he was suckled by a catamount ‘
cause
no squaw would let his double row of saw teeth near her teats. He run off from
them savages at six years old after he broke a war chief over his knee, tore
him asunder, and scattered his innards over a half mile. Now the
moans of widows and orphans is
music to his melancholy soul.
He can hit like fourth-proof lightning. He can lick five times his weight in
grizzly bears. He can swallow a Mexican whole without chokin’ if you butter his
head and pin his ears back, and he uses up white men by the cord. Yessir! No
livin’ man is his equal and Injuns are a’feared to say his name. The massacre
of isolated communities…like this one,” the breed grinned, “is the pastime of
his idle moments! The destruction of whole nationalities is his stock and
trade! I once seen him pluck the eye out a man and eat it for a grape! He is a
slayer and a slaughterer! The sweat of his exertions salts the earth and he
cooks and eats his dead!”

The
little man in the quilt coat went on in the same bombastic way and the Rider’s
mind began to wander. He was exhausted. He had not slept a full night in weeks,
jumping awake at the slightest gust of wind or creak of settling plank. Since
Tip Top and the fight with Lilith and her minions, he had sprinkled ashes
around his bedding every night, and every morning the ashes bore the splayed
tracks of large chicken feet—the earthly signs of the ruahim demons hounding
his every step. He could sense their ever-increasing negative influence. It was
like walking along a line of telegraph poles and feeling as well as hearing
that incessant buzz in his ears, driving him to nausea if he dwelt upon it. He
heard the tiny whir of invisible insect wings close by when he tried to sleep,
and he jerked awake several times a night. He couldn’t readily perceive his
tormentors however, even with his mystically embossed Solomonic lenses (though
he did notice now and then the shadows of birds roosting near him wherever he
went—even here in the middle of nowhere). Nor could he do anything to fight
them or drive them away. The spiteful Lilith knew his true name, and she had
armed her children with it, rendering him powerless to detect or disperse them.

Powerless,
except for the little carved rosette token her daughter, the succubus Nehema
had inexplicably given him at The Bird Nest whorehouse where he’d encountered
them. He kept it pressed between his thumb and finger every waking moment, and
when he bedded down uselessly at night, he tied it to his forehead with a strip
of linen. He could sense its inherent power just like he could feel the chilly
presence of the demons, but he could no more understand its significance then
he could ascertain the reason she had given it to him.

Had
Nehema known Lilith would turn on him? But how could she? It had all been the
result of a misunderstanding, the blundering interference of an outsider who
had touched off gunplay and fire in Lilith’s house. She had been set to point
him the way to Adon, his renegade teacher, the man he had been hunting
diligently but fruitlessly for…nearly ten years now. Had it really been that
long?

Yes,
since he’d learned of Adon’s betrayal from the Council of Yahad at Ein Gedi. He
had been five years out of the Army then. Where had the time gone since? It had
flown in the interim of his dogged but nearly hopeless pursuit. He had crossed
Europe and much of the East, following minor clues and rumors, visiting the
hidden enclaves (whose locations he had learned while at Ein Gedi) of his
order…and now he had learned that Adon had been but a step behind him the
entire time. Every enclave the Rider had visited had been destroyed mere days
after his departure. In the years of the hunt Adon had outfoxed him entirely,
had toyed with him,
had
in fact used the Rider to lead
him to the inner sanctums of The Sons of The Essenes. He had murdered all of
them. Ages of tradition and wisdom from the time of Solomon were gone. Now
there were only two left who could lay claim to their ancient mystic teachings.

Adon and the Rider.

The
Child of Calamity had shrugged off his blanket now, and stood bare-chested and
barefoot. The Rider had expected the usual fat, hairy body masquerading as
muscle, but the Child’s bullish physique was striated and impressive, like a
classical statue come to life. His thick legs were sheathed in brown circus
tights, his waist encircled in a yellow sash. He couldn’t be much more than
eighteen or so and stood an inch under six feet, but because of his perfect
proportions, he cut a tremendous figure. He cast off his hat and brushed aside
the knotted curtain of his long dark hair to reveal a face that though chiseled
and patchily bearded, hardly bore the expression of a killer and a maneater.
The Rider had seen plenty of those. These were the eyes of a boy, probably not
long away from whatever plow the breed had found him behind.

The
Child began to perform the typical strongman feats. His handler passed him a
deck of cards fresh from the box which he promptly tore in half. Next he was
given a purported iron bar which he twisted around his massive, corded forearm.
He lifted an anvil with one hand. He allowed himself to be chained and flexed
the links apart with little apparent effort. The men in the dark clapped and
exclaimed at intervals and the youth allowed a smug, appreciative smile.

The
breed held up his hands.

“Now
gentlemen, you seen the strength of The Child of Calamity,” he announced. “Is
there any man out there willing to test it?”

He
looked around the tent and smiled.

“Boys,
I can see the trepidation on your faces. Not to worry.”

He
drew a gigantic Walker Colt from his sagging waistband and hefted it
impressively.

“I’ll
have this at the ready should his innate bloodlust overtake his underdeveloped
sense of mercy. It’s the only thing strong enough to punch a hole in his skull.
It ought to distract him long enough for you all to get gone.”

Several
of the men chuckled.

The
breed smiled with them and drew a stack of paper money from his coat pocket and
flapped it, hushing them once more.

“Now
I got fifty American dollars says not a man here can last two minutes in a
brawl against this killer of killers. What about it, boys? A buck gets you toe
to toe with this beast. Who’s man enough to put their courage up against their
money?”

The
Rider knew where this was going. He doubted anybody would be collecting
that
fifty dollars, if it wasn’t Confederate to begin with.

As
the men around him pressed forward, he backed away and ducked out of the tent.

A
bull was snorting in the stone pen across the way, and a heavyset Mexican
woman, probably The Watering Hole’s owner’s wife, was on her knees beating a
pair of long johns on a flat rock down by the tanks, a half naked, bushy haired
little boy waddling in and out of the brown water beside her.

The
Rider looked out across the desert, eyes passing over a broken hogback rising
in the distance, catching the movement of a big hare as it broke with the pale,
alkali dusted land and went bounding away from some unknown terror. The Rider
knew how it felt. He had been looking over his own shoulder constantly since
Tip Top.

He
went tiredly to the horse pen and fed and watered his pale onager, which was
standing off by
itself
as usual. The stocky animal was
the only constant companion he had. He scratched between its ears fondly,
frowning as he imagined the butchering death that awaited it if Lilith or her
children ever got to them. With all they had been through in their years of
traveling, it was remarkable to think that the animal had even survived this
long. It had navigated snowy mountain passes and bore the blowing sands of
three deserts with little complaint. It was a good beast.

An
African had sold him the animal in Jerusalem. At the price he had gotten him
for, the Rider hadn’t expected the animal to last much more than a month, but
it had proved a stalwart creature, more reliable than any he had ever known.

It
seemed a shame such a fine and well mannered beast hadn’t sired a line, and he
was struck once more with the notion of abandoning his bootless search for
Adon.

“It
would be a better life for both of us, wouldn’t it?” he whispered to the
animal.

It
nipped at him, pinching his thumb, though not hard enough to leave more than an
angry red mark.

It
was the first time the onager had ever done such a thing. He resisted an
instinctive urge to cuff it across the muzzle. He had sometimes neglected the
commandment to be kindly towards beasts, especially in his war years, but the
animal had never given him much occasion to correct it before now.

It
saddened him a little, as if a loved one had turned on him, and he backed away,
rubbing his throbbing hand in confusion.

That
was when he heard the music.

He
had not ventured inside the saloon, not being overly inclined towards
commiserating with the other transients and having taken an oath against
imbibing liquor anyway. It seemed outlandish to him that such a tumbledown
establishment in the middle of nowhere might have a piano, but he clearly heard
the hammers falling on the strings in melodious succession, wringing out the
haunting, sad tune that swirled like an eddy of dust down between the
impermanent shacks and huts and crept up his spine with all the burden of its
history and association.

Remember
the song of the Order Of Nehemoth, Nehema had said. Remember the angels of
prostitution.

It
was that same tune, no doubt. He tried to remember the words.

Flow
my tears, fall from your springs…

Uncontrollably,
the image of Nehema bloomed in his mind. He had seen her true form, grotesque,
wasted and terrible, but it was not that visage that his imagination conjured.
It was the comely woman of dark and sloping Middle Eastern aspect, as she had
appeared in his dream and in the doorway of the Tip Top brothel. His logic told
him that woman did not exist, that she was just a mask the succubus had worn
for him—a mask of his own devising, just a faded memory of a dark eyed girl
half glimpsed in a crowded marketplace, twisted into the shape of a hairless
temptress that had danced naked in his dreams. But there was the undeniable
kindness she had done him.
Whatever her motive, the rosette
token had saved his life from a swarm of ravenous demons.
It shouldered
out his knowledge of her infernal truth in favor of the pleasing lie.

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