He pulled hard on the reins of the horse, dust pillowed up under its hooves and slowly settled in the late afternoon sunlight. He dismounted with a clang, wrapped the reins around a post and sauntered through the swinging saloon doors.
One of the establishment girls in a low cut, frilly dress looked up, yelped, and headed out of the room. Scared.
The dirty, nicked-up metal-man walked into the saloon and took a seat next to Ol’ Sam, the local drunk, part-time sheriff cum bullshit artist cum purveyor of more conspiracies than anyone west of the Mississippi. The metal-man clanged a pitted and dusty hand down on the bar top. “Man!” he said. “What a fucking day I’ve had.” His voice had only a hint of metallic about it. His shoulders slumped as he settled onto the barstool, servos whizzed and from some interior space came a ping. A machine sigh, if ever there was one.
Several men who were playing cards noticed the metal-man and quickly drew their weapons, grabbed their money, playing cards, drinks and hats and exited the building. Ol’ Sam never looked up, his gaze fixed upon the whiskey and bar top in front of him.
“Tough one, eh?”
“You could say that.”
“What’s got your knickers in a bunch?”
“Knickers? Ah-ha. Well, down past the Johnson place, beyond the mesa where the river bends, where people won’t go because it’s haunted or some such malarky …“
“I know the place. Paiutes call it ‘Manegesumu’yoo Poohwi’, if I recall correctly.”
“So,” said the metal-man, “I was digging. Looking for a mineral I need. Well, may I rust out completely if I didn’t come across something quite amazing.”
Ol’ Sam lifted his drink, shlossed the ice around a bit, and took a sip. “Oh?”
“No barkeep in this place? I need to get oiled up. Anyway, you won’t believe what I found! So, I’m digging, deeper and deeper, I mean like deep, and I start coming across things, strange things, out of place, out of time. Like, exotic stuff. Finally, I go so deep I hit something solid, steel of some sort.”
“I did an analysis of it. Damned strange stuff, I tell you. Damned strange. Not natural. Anyway, I cleared the top of this thing off and found a latch.”
“A latch?” Ol’ Sam held his whiskey glass up before him, eyed its contents.
“Precisely. So, I opened it up. I figured what the molten steel, might as well. Inside, well let’s just say that inside I found something that will change this world.”
“How’s that? Wadidya find?”
“Bones, my friend,” said the metal-man. “Alien bones.”
“There’s something you don’t hear every day.”
“Don’t hear every –! Are you listening to me? Alien bones, completely different from yours. A head that looked like something straight out of Revelations. Not. Of. This. World. That alien.”
“I hear ya.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“Man, this place sucks. No barkeep anywhere. No wonder it’s empty in here. I’ve had it. I’m gonna find someplace new.”
The metal-man got up to leave, but then turned to ask a question. “What does ‘Manegesumu’yoo Poohwi’ mean in Paiute?”
As he answered the question Ol’ Sam turned to look at the man for the first time, “It means Area 51.”
Ol’ Sam’s face froze, his jaw hung as though it were unhinged. He shook uncontrollably. A battered tin thing was looking at him, metal plating for a face with two slits for eyes and another for a mouth. There was an oil spot on the top of its forehead and a thin layer of rust had formed over the area where there might have been a beard.
“What, really? Area 51? What the hell does that mean? And where is Area 43 or 17, for that matter?”
A small drizzling sound could be heard. The metal-man craned his neck forward - ping - and looked directly into Ol’ Sam’s eyes, only inches away, and said, “Sir, you are leaking and you are clearly out of balance. You need a good mechanic.”
The metal-man turned and walked away, servos and actuators hissing and grinding, spring-loaded mechanisms popping and pinging.
A moment later the barkeep entered the saloon from the back door, carrying a small barrel and a couple of bottles in his hands. “Hey, Sam,” he called out, “have you heard the one about the robot that walked into a bar?”————
in category Fiction