short story: The Fool

This story is based on a dream I had a few nights ago. I don’t know if there’ll be any other “Tarot stories”, I haven’t planned anything. I did enjoy writing this, and a special thank you goes to Tackerama for doing the beta thing.

The Man with his Dog

I remember Don Gibbs – Old Don as we used to call him – telling us about the Man and his dog for the first time in the late fifties. Don had been doing one of his daily drives around the area, making sure no one was trespassing the site. There, in the intolerable heat and the burning sand, were the radio telescopes: a row of pure white dishes aimed at the clear blue sky and into infinity. As Don was about to head back to the headquarters he had glimpsed something from the corner of his eye. Underneath one of the huge dishes he thought he had seen a man sitting on the ground, with a cowboy hat on his head and a dog by his side. A second later there was no one. Don knew the heat could play tricks on you. He did turn back just to make sure, but of course there was no cowboy anywhere, or a dog for that matter. With 80 miles of nothing but burning desert, no matter which direction you faced, it certainly wasn’t likely that there would be.

But the Man with his dog did return, and this time with a guitar. A few weeks after Don’s first glimpse, the Chief had allowed his two kids to go play in the area. Once back home they had told their father having met a cowboy who’d been playing a guitar. He hadn’t said anything to them, just kept playing some old country tune and humming along to it. He’d been sitting under the second to last telescope, which everyone in the area called Reto, as it stood there slightly bent to one side. Whether for retorcido or retard, it seemed to give everyone the biggest trouble ever! Ever since then the Man and his dog – and occasionally the guitar as well – were seen by a number of people. When they finally set up the security cameras in the area many thought they would finally be able to identify the mystery cowboy. No such luck. Distorted images on the screen, blurred lines crisscrossing everywhere. And there the cowboy sat, with his hat covering his face. They even tried to ambush him once. A group of workers set up a camp some 30 yards off of the Reto’s feet and waited. I knew they wouldn’t get a thing.

Then came the summer of 1962. You could feel the excitement in the air. We had heard the news from our colleagues that confirmed our recent, though modest discoveries of our own. A breakthrough was close; there was no doubt about it. Inside the room lights were dim, with screens showing strings of numbers running endlessly, it seemed. A chaotic noise filled the room, echoing from the corners, a chorus of voices from somewhere more distant than one could ever imagine. I was surprised at how quickly one could get used to a sound like that. You soon began to miss it when you were outside. And then it suddenly happened, without any great fanfare or introduction: a single clear pulse, drowning all the chaotic noise around it. We sat there immobilised, frozen to that moment, listening to a sound never heard before by a human ear: the first quasar. Something unknown, possibly a star having a life of its own, maybe even more. And just then, on one of the screens of the security cameras, we saw the cowboy. He sat there like he’d never left the place, sitting on the ground with his back against one of Reto’s feet, playing his guitar with the dog on his side. The image was as clear as ever, not a single line blurring the screen. As the room was filled with the pulsing sound from the speakers, the cowboy waved his hand to us.

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