Daniel woke to a gray sky. I’m still here he though. Just then Gallagher snored. He’s still here too, thought Daniel. Daniel began examining his skin. He looked at his hands and feet. He felt under his shirt. Along his face and neck. He lifted his right pants leg, then the left. There was a bit of moisture and a tinge of pain on the outside of his leg. He felt and franticly lifted his hand to his eyes, there was blood.
No, he thought. Not me, not yet. This sickness was new but the deadliest yet and blood was a sure sign of death. Daniel struggled to lift the pant leg higher and contort his body to see the sore.
“Don’t worry,” said Gallagher with a half smile and worried eyes, “I’m sure the authorities will have a cure soon.” Daniel froze. He didn’t hear Gallagher get up. Daniel composed himself, pulled down his pant leg and laid back down.
“They’ll come up with something,” said Gallagher confidently. “They need young men like us working for them, we’re their future.” Daniel didn’t respond. Gallagher got up to go about the morning routine checking traps. Daniel didn’t move. Gallagher walked off slowly, already felling lonely.
“You’re in luck,” shouted Gallagher stumbling back to camp. “Five cockroaches and one and a half rats,” he announced proudly. “There’s a roach still alive. His leg is kicking. I almost got the rat eating this one,” he pondered, “but he ran off. He wasn’t as greedy as the others.” Daniel didn’t respond.
“Come on Danny,” said Gallagher, “you have to eat to keep up your strength.”
“Keep it for yourself, they might call you to work,” said Daniel meekly. Gallagher’s shoulders slumped.
“I heard they found another one today,” Gallagher said searchingly.
“Another what,” inquired Daniel.
“Another fool for the gallows,” responded Gallagher excitedly. “When I checked the traps everyone was talking about it.” Daniel slowly sat up and Gallaher handed him the roach with one leg kicking. “They’re best when they’re alive.”
“So what has this fool done,” asked Daniel.
“Another preacher,” said Gallagher.
“It’s been a while for a preacher. When will they realize the gods are dead? Man controls his own destiny,” Daniel said assuredly.
Daniel and Gallagher ate the remaining cockroaches as Daniel pulled together a few sticks and tinder for a fire and Gallagher cleaned the rats.
“Every man for himself it seems,” said Gallagher. “Just the other day a man killed his brother just so he could have his traps. He said his brother stole his blanket.” Daniel shrugged.
Gallagher finished roasting the meat and handed the larger portion to Daniel. They savored the meal and lapped the juices from their dirty fingers.
“When are the authorities going to take this fools head,” asked Daniel.
“Today,” replied Gallagher.
“No trial,” asked Daniel.
“No need, he won’t deny it,” replied Gallagher.
A loud horn sounded and the young men tidied their camp and headed towards the gallows with the rest of the rabble. The disheveled, dirty people eagerly emerged from makeshift forts and dilapidated shacks, their valuables in tow. Excitement was in the air. The gallows warmed everyone’s heart.
When Daniel and Gallagher arrived there were already people at the stage. They didn’t want to miss a thing, so they hurried and made their way to the front just as the authorities arrived. The master of ceremonies exited his vehicle with his minion close behind. The men were clean form head to toe accept for their boils. The MC waved his hand and sauntered up the stage to growing applause.
“Are you ready,” he shouted just before the crowd died down. The crowd roared. “Bring him up,” demanded the MC. The minion opened the door and dragged out the prisoner. There were gasps and the crowd grew silent.
“He has no boils,” a man finally uttered.
“We found him alone in the wilderness,” the MC intervened, “he hasn’t been in contact with anyone. We’ve taken his blood and we’ll have a cure soon.”
“It’s not true,” shouted the preacher, “I come freely.”
“Shut up,” snarled the MC and the minion bashed the preachers face. The preacher buckled but was not deterred.
“There are many of us,” said the preacher.
“Shut up I said,” bellowed the MC. The minion drove his fist into the preacher’s gut and put the preacher to the ground.
“Lies,” yelled the MC to the dumfounded crowd. “Hurry up” he hissed. The minion lifted the preacher to his feet, dragged him across the stage and secured him in the gallows.
“Call out to the one true God and join us,” yelled the preacher as he raised his head. The MC kicked the preachers face and the preacher went limp.
“No more lies,” said the MC vainly, “this is mans time. God is dead!” The crowd roared. The preacher jerked awake and lifted his head again.
“Look at my skin,” begged the preacher. “I have no boils.” The MC nodded, the minion released the blade and the preachers head rolled across the stage. The crowd erupted. Everyone accept Daniel.
“That was great,” said Gallagher. Daniel gave a half hearted smile. The authorities lowered from the stage, sped off and the crowd went home happy. When Daniel and Gallagher got back they rolled out there mats and lay down for the night.
“Do you think there’re many preachers Gally,” asked Daniel.
“Of course not Danny, he’s a crazy, a liar,” patronized Gallagher, “the gods are dead. Man is god.” Daniel lay awake wondering as Gallagher started to snore.
“God,” Daniel whispered, “if your real, I need your help.” Daniel lay awake to nothing for hours and finally fell asleep.
Daniel wriggled awake to a suffocating feeling. Gallagher was choking him with all his might. Daniel fought him off and leapt to his feet.
“What are you doing,” implored Daniel.
“Look at your skin,” said Gallagher, “are you a liar too?” Daniel examined his skin. No blood. No boils.