In A Place That Don't Know My Name - JP

Word Association. The full pitch, taken from a song, is "I'm gonna die in a place that don't know my name."

Glam Sammy ducked down behind a hillock, his head pressed up against Nathan’s shoulder. Up ahead, a pack of scavvies pulled apart an old car, piece by piece, holding up the good metal and shouting to the sky as they did.


“Back where I’m from,” Glam Sammy said, “we have names for everything. Everything, you know? That’s why this place creeps me out, you know? No names.”          


Nathan shrugged. “Things got names here too,” he said. One of the scavvies wrenched out the car’s ashtray and bellowed in triumph, dancing around with it in his hands, a frayed wire dangling from it. “Jesus, look at these animals. They’d do that to a man in heartbeat, too, I know it."           


“No,” Glam Sammy said. “Everything has a word out here. Sun, dirt, sky. Those ain’t names. Where I’m from, they have names, like people, and we all know them, and they know us, too. Out here, nothing knows no one.”


Nathan shifted his weight, lifting his rifle into his hands. The scavvies were making a fire out of the car seats. That meant they were settling in for the night. Nathan had hoped it was early enough that they would move on before dark and he and Sammy could strip down what they left behind without a fight. Now, it would take a miracle just for them to sneak out unseen the way they had snuck in. He bit his lip and chewed on it for a minute. At least they had the element of surprise. And besides, this way, they got the whole shebang, not just the scavvies’ leavings.


“Get your gun ready,” he whispered to Sammy. Glam Sammy nodded, gently touching the big red eye-shadow scar that gave him his name in a kind of battle-prayer. He produced a small pistol and let the barrel of it slip over the rim of the hill, ready to spit fire when he needed it.


“Round this time,” Sammy said, “I would whisper to the sun, Elluyeh, and tell him to shine in my enemies’ eyes, not mine. And I would pat the earth, Tanuleki, and tell her I needed her to be strong beneath my feet. And she would always listen.”


“Is that right?” Nathan said, his eyes on the scavvies. There were eight of them. Terrible odds, but with the cover, he figured they could halve that number before the scavvies got a good fix on their location and returned fire.


“It is right,” Glam Sammy said. “And what’s more, if I fell in battle, the wind would sing to me as I died, and the earth would speak to me with my own name as she held my body close to her. Here, you get spit, you know? The wind just shits dust on you as it blows on by, and the earth lets the scavvies or the big fucking whatever-the-hell-they-are birds eat you till your bones. I fucking hate this place.”


Nathan nodded, carefully choking up on the rifle and sighting the nearest scavvie, who howled up at the day-lit moon, the ashtray still clutched in his hands. The oak of the rifle stock felt cold against Nathan’s cheek as he lined up the bead and placed it over the scavvie’s head. “You ready?” he whispered.


“I guess,” Glam Sammy said.


The shot tore open the air, echoing across the open land. Nathan’s aim was slightly off, but it still caught the scavvie in the back, sending him crashing forward into the car. The others leapt in panic, three of them scrambling for the same cover behind the car, two more just diving into the dirt. One of them stood straight up for a second, his eyes jerking in their direction. Glam Sammy caught him between them, a damn good shot, Nathan thought, or more likely a lucky one, dropping him like a bag of sand. The remaining scavvie dropped to his knees and returned fire immediately, his shots going wild. Nathan cursed as one blasted the dirt next to him.


Glam Sammy leapt to his feet, fired three times, then dropped down to his belly.


“You hit?” Nathan whispered, but Sammy just shook his head.


“Think I got one,” he whispered. “Bad, but not fatal.” Nathan nodded back, then popped up to fire just as another bullet slammed into the hillock, spraying dust into the air and making his shot go wild. He dropped back beside Glam Sammy as one of the scavvies sent another volley screaming their way.


“Well, they know we’re here,” he said


“Bet you wish you knew the sun’s name now,” Glam Sammy whispered back.


Nathan and Sammy took turns popping up and firing, careful to keep from establishing a rhythm that could be noticed and anticipated. One more scavvie went down, hit in the leg, but the rest stayed tight behind the car. The gun battle wore on for long minutes that seemed like hours.


“Now if I was them,” Nathan said, “I’d send someone one out to either side to flank us while two held the center. Wouldn’t you?”


Glam Sammy turned to look him dead in the eye. “Good idea,” he said, without a hint of irony. Then he leapt up and ran.


Nathan watched him go, blinking against the notion of it. “Oh fuck,” he whispered. “Oh, fuck!” He jumped up and started firing wildly, shots careening off the metal of the car. The scavvies stayed down and returned fire. Glam Sammy sprinted at the corner of his vision, tearing across the ground between them and the scavvies’ hold out.


“Sammy, you fucking idiot,” Nathan mumbled to himself. The rifle clicked. He dropped down and grabbed a handful of cartridges, slamming them into the chamber as fast as he could. The scavvies returned fire, chewing up the top of the hillock and coming dangerously close to his head. He slammed the bolt in place and locked it, waiting for a break in the fire to pop back up.


Then the yelling started.


Nathan jumped to his feet in time to see Glam Sammy standing up next to the car, firing furiously with a look of sheer hatred on his face. His jaw dropped. I’ll be damned, he thought. The bastard pulled it off. Then another shot rang out and Glam Sammy dropped like a ragdoll.


“Fucker!” Nathan yelled, leaping the hillock. His rifle hit the dirt and his pistol seemed to fly into his hand on its own wings. One of the shot scavvies was still moaning as he jumped over it, not taking the time to finish it off. He crashed into the front of the car, slid down to use it as cover. Glam Sammy wailed on the right side, then cursed. Nathan dropped his head down. Two feet on the opposite side. One left.


He ducked to one side and fired, then rolled back to the other and fired again. Then, before the scavvie could get its bearings, he jumped onto the hood and ran over the top of the car, firing as soon as he saw the brown of the scavvie’s long dust-coat. It didn’t even have a chance to cry out before he dropped it.


Nathan ran around the car to where Glam Sammy had pulled himself up against it. He had a hole straight in the middle of his chest, and blood was everywhere. Nathan’s ears still rang with gunshots, and the moaning of the injured scavvies filled the air.


“What the hell you go and do a damn fool thing like that for?” Nathan whispered, cradling Sammy in his arms. “You wanted to die, why didn’t you tell me before we came all the way out here?”


Glam Sammy coughed and smiled. “No,” he said. “Didn’t want to die. Just got tired of waiting.”


Nathan tried to smile, but it wouldn’t come. The wound was fatal. He could tell by the way Sammy slumped against his arms, the pallor in his face, the way his lips twitched when he breathed. Glam Sammy had been a good friend, while he lasted. Nathan felt like he had been shot himself.


Sammy twitched. “Worst part is,” he said, “this place still don’t know my name. Here I am, bleeding into her, calling out to her with my life, and she still don’t know my name.”


“I know your name, Glam Sammy,” Nathan whispered, brushing the hair from Sammy’s face.


“That ain’t my name,” Glam Sammy said, and closed his eyes. It took him another ten minutes to die, but he never said another word.


Nathan stood up and made his rounds, finishing off the injured scavvies with a long knife he kept at his belt. Part of him wanted to butcher them, to tear them to pieces for Sammy’s death, but he didn’t. He didn’t think the land knew their names, either.