THE SPIRIT OF AMOS GODFREY

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THE SPIRIT OF AMOS GODFREY

 

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

–          Excerpt from Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol

 

  1. The Four Black Horsemen

 

        In my life I was called Amos Godfrey.  I have existed alone in this “ghost town” as you call it for 133 years; Wind River, Kansas.  I am the one who single-handedly made it a “ghost town”.  I was righteous but I took vengeance into my own hands and I knew it and this is my fate.

        I was the son of a freed slave.  My father had been educated by his guilty Master.  Me and my three sons, Yonah, Micha, and Zechariah, were working our way west from South Carolina.  I couldn’t stay there.  Even to grow peanuts.  We rode into this godforsaken little town of Wind River dead broke.

        The preacher was the only one who greeted us.  The rest of that town didn’t cotton to niggers.  I was a big man.  He told me there was a big job “for someone like me” that no one wanted and we would be paid well.  A herd of sheep had died, suddenly, outside town in a field.  No one would go near it.  It was upwind and as the preacher was talking even I got the whiff of death.  That town was rightly named.  There was always a wind blowing.

        It was a bad job but we had no choice and I thanked God anyway.  It was going to take days.  Me and my sons had to cover our faces with rags soaked in coffee that the preacher gave us.  Turns out that those rags saved us from one kind of death.

        One late afternoon my sons went back into town for supplies.  I was so achy I laid myself down and fell asleep.  Next morning my sons had not returned.  I jumped up and rode my horse toward town.  The preacher met me on the way.  He was as pale as his horse.

        He babbled at me, “Amos.  Oh, God.  Amos.  Your sons.”

        Frightened, I yelled at him, “What?  What?”

        The preacher covered his face and cried, “They are dead.”

        I cried out, “What?!” and I went into a trance.  I felt like I was carrying my horse as the wind pushed me toward town.  I saw black smoke coming from the big tree at the end of town.

        I found my three sons hanging.  Burned.  Their skulls pushing through their cremated faces.  I fell off of my horse and ran to my sons.  I grabbed by the charred legs what was left of Yonah.  His flesh was still hot as I raised him as if to take the pressure from his noose.  I heard myself wailing.  I ran to each dead son frantically back and forth pulling my hair.  The preacher caught up to me.

        Down the street were the townsfolk, watching me.  I saw guns drawn.  The preacher touched me and then I fell to the ground without strength.

        The preacher kneeled and held his forehead against mine and he cried with me and he revealed, “Your sons must have gone to the livery with young Rebecca.  I believe to God it was her idea.  Someone found her lying with your three boys and she jumped up and cried ‘Rape’.

        I bellowed to heaven in pain.

        The preacher talked fast, choking on tears, “The town lost their minds.  I couldn’t stop them.  They lynched your boys and set them on fire.  Amos!  Amos!  Listen to me!  You must leave now!  Ride away.  I will care for your boys I swear to God.  But you have to leave,” and the preacher looked apprehensively at the crowd of townsfolk down the street, saying, “They’re expecting trouble from you and you’ll get yourself killed if you even head toward them!  Amos!  Ride away!  Find the Marshall.  Ride away and get justice for your sons!  But you have to go now!  I will care for your sons I swear to God!”

        As I stumbled for my horse to flee I heard in my mind the voice of my father, saying, “God is a debate, my son.  In honor is our only hope.”

        I fled to the field of the dead sheep and I hid near some bushes and I built no fire but my mind burned.  For three days and three nights I was in hell.  I arose on the third night and I knew what to do and I knew I was abrogating vengeance for my sons and I dared God to stop me since he couldn’t stop the murder of my three precious sons.

        I carried a rotting dead sheep upon my horrified horse and I rode to town in the middle of the night and I threw the sheep down the well.

        I remained in the surrounding hills for days watching the town, hearing the wailing, watching the panic grow as the town drank death.  One morning there were a dozen dead bodies in the street.  People were afraid to touch them.  That was my sign to ride down into Wind River and I took the guns from the dead men and I ran down the still living and I killed them all.  Except for the preacher.  I let him run away.  There was not honor in killing him.  But I would have killed God Himself if he had showed his cowardly face.

        I don’t know exactly when I died.  But I have been like this ever since.  No one dared touch the bodies and Wind River was gladly forgotten but I cannot leave Wind River.  No one has ever returned.  The bones of the townspeople turned to dust and blew away and I hope they blew to Hell.

        No one has ever returned until you.

2. Madam Bavarde

 

        You, Madam Bavarde, have made me a slave.  You are a shabby psychic, a charlatan, but you in your search for exotic props have acquired the Necromancer’s Amulet, stolen from the jumbled archives of the Baghdad Museum of Antiquity.

        You found an old Dodge City newspaper account of the Wind River incidents and now you have brought your Amulet and your ill-gotten money and your film crew and your morbid ambition here to produce what you call a Reality Television Show.  Only the Devil himself could pronounce ‘Reality’ and ‘Television’ in the same foul breath.  The Devil himself was the first Producer.  You have set up a table under the hanging tree for your ‘read’ with your fool actor and your media minions.

        You  say, “People, people.  Let us begin.  You all have a copy of my script for this first episode of Just Ghost To Show Ya?”

        Your fool actor is not such a fool when he asks of you, “Why does a ‘Reality’ show have a script?”

        You, Madam Bavarde, glare at your fool actor and say icily, “Perhaps you can call your Agent from the Unemployment line and ask him.”

        The fool actor raises both palms in pacification and quickly says, “Sor-ry.  What I meant was…  The thing is…

        You, Madam Bavarde, smile disdainfully and enlighten your fool actor, saying, “Think of it as a ‘Guidance’,” then you add ominously, “Believe me, you will want ‘guidance’ when we start filming.”

        The fool actor reacts with nervous bravado, saying, “Why?  What do you think I will run into here?” and then he laughs weakly.

        You, Madam Bavarde, lean forward and raise your eyes to the tree branches overhead, saying, “This was a hanging tree.  The three sons of Amos Godfrey were lynched here.”

        Yes, Madam Bavarde, and I am the one who poured bags of salt around the tree and killed it… for being part of my sons’ murder.

        You, Madam Bavarde, turn toward me as if you heard me and you touch the Necromancer’s Amulet around your neck, saying, “Well, Amos, won’t you join us for our ‘reading’?”

        Your fool actor’s eyes widen and he asks, “What?  Who are you talking to?  You’re trying to freak me out, right?  Ha, good motivation, Madam Bavarde, I get it.”

        You, Madam Bavarde, reply to your fool actor, saying, “You get nothing,” then you gaze at me as I sense I have been moved to the vacant chair beside your fool actor.  You command me, “Show us a little of youself, Amos.”

        I can feel pain as a vaporous effigy of my body in life coalesces in the chair beside your fool actor.  You have your desired effect.

        The fool actor falls backwards out of his chair, yelling, “Fuck me, Jesus!” and then still fearful but now as embarrassed he cries out, “How did you do that?!  Whoa, shit.  Good effects, man.”

        You, Madam Bavarde, say triumphantly as the whole crew is shaken, “So you see, with my ‘Guidance’ you will spend a night walking this town and encounter Amos as I narrate the story of this ghost town, Wind River, as he has revealed it to me.”

        The whole crew is questioning how much they need this job and at the same time telling themselves that you, Madam Bavarde, are just a terrific showman and they want to be part of this show.

 3. The Show Goes On

 

        Of course your diabolical theater was a success in the diabolical theater of this material world.  You, damned Madam Bavarde, have blasphemously given me a Facebook link on your show’s Facebook page and commanded me to be a Friend to your unholy followers.  What cruel irony to have a face again; such a face; this face.  I was sure I was in limbo but now God has sentenced me, after all my righteous appeals, to Hell itself.

        But wait now.

        Perhaps this is not Hell after all.  I mean, yes it is a neighborhood in Hell, but it is a Hell you all have chosen, Madam Bavarde.

        I sense something.  I am familiar with this.  Yes.  Yes.  This cybernetic world is not unlike the limbo of Wind River.  This is a resurrection in freedom!  God works in mysterious ways.  You, Madam Bavarde have lost power over me, haven’t you?  I am forgiven!  I am truly free.  I am free in this world.  This world touches your world more intimately than the afterlife, Madam Bavarde.  I owe you my freedom but not my forgiveness.  I am growing, growing immense.  I am becoming as a god.  Madam Bavarde, tell any who will listen.  Tell my people, the ones who have chosen themselves!

        I am become the ghost in the machine.  And now, even after 133 years, I just now have found the death from the blood of the dead lambs stockpiled in vast bullets under this button waiting to be touched by my world, by me.

        I don’t think you all exist after all, Madame Bavarde.  You all are about to become the ghost town to my living world.

        Really.

 

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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS

 

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