The Great Gone Machine
by Kyle Yadlosky

     Word came through: rockslides overnight tore through the ruins again. My brother and I left to scavenge, maybe find some scrap and antiques to sell around town. Do you still remember?

No one had come. The morning was grey; we had all the churned rubble to ourselves, before the diggers with their horrible, mutated clones ravaged the areas of anything worthwhile. My brother and I wandered through the ruins — grave site of archaic skyscrapers and grounded vehicles — easily. We spent our childhood playing there. We stopped, though, dead, when we witnessed the wreckage of the slides. It was mountainous. Boulders towered twice either of our size, fallen from on-high. We hadn’t seen anything like it before. The digger-clones would have problems for hours trying to navigate the new destruction with their limited cognition. That was good. We slipped through cracks and crevasses and helped each other climb atop boulders, venturing in toward the mountainside, where we came upon you, oh great Gone.

     You were hidden away in a cave long since closed off, shielded by a sheath of rock and dirt. The slide had destroyed your sheath and freed your visage to the light of our eyes. You stood before us pristine, un-aged and safe within your rock enclosure. Oh, Gone, even the earth had sworn itself to your protection!

     My brother and I, we had never seen anything like you. You were strange and antique. Of course you are antique; you come from the very beginnings of time itself. You had long black treads for movement and an elongated cylindrical mouth jutting forward from your face. Your frame stretched over fifteen feet in a misshapen rectangle, and your head stood open for us to enter and explore. My brother lifted me — since I was lighter — to climb in. Behind me, your skull clasped and sealed. You were waiting for me; I know that now.

     My brother, he was upset and frantic. I was mesmerized. I could hear him yelling, but all his noises — shouts — were too drowned to understand. You were dark inside, like the ages you sprung from. I struggled, crawling to find a means to illumine myself to your grandeur. You eventually allowed me a switch to bring glorious white light to life within you — within myself — and I am eternally grateful for your acceptance.

     I felt your vibrations beckon me. At the front of your skull was a seat fit for a prophet surrounded on all sides by controls — the tools of your bidding. I sat, and I saw through a small screen my brother yelling for me, waving his arms in desperation. Your spirit guided my hand to a single large button, and I allowed your will to be done. The control was pressed and your voice roared with glory as fire spouted free from your metal throat. My brother exploded before my eyes. It was magnificent!

     Such power and strength had not been seen for millennia. All we have now are the old texts — stories of you, great Gone, fighting against others like yourself, millions at a time! They say turmoil was endless during those times. The religious texts speak of W.W.I and W.W.II as your most trying periods and W.W.III as your final skirmish before all of your kind were abandoned by man — and we do apologize greatly for that, oh Gone. They say that some, like you, treaded across the earth while others flew like birds and dropped death unto all below. There were others, I believe, that tread the water, as well. They — the texts — tell that there was an alliance formed between those of water and air, that the large water beasts would carry the airs on their backs so they could fly and land from the safety of the sea. You survived, though, against that alliance. You are the victor among Gods. It is truly a miracle!

     You drove over the inhuman driller-clones without any misperception. They are soulless beings after all. Cracking their bones to fragments under your mighty treads was a blessing. The diggers, standing a distance away on their ledges, peering downward, were thunderstruck to see you barreling righteously — crushing a bolder under your heel — toward them. I saw their faces and felt the most sublime glory.

     We thought the Gods had left us. We had read Bibles and documentation of massive battles. We had seen pictures of your kind and pieced together what we could. Which one are you, Gone? Are you Jesus or Zeus? Are you the great Panzer? If you won’t tell me, then Gone I suppose will do.

     You lumbered under the weight of your own power to the center of town where all gathered around in awe. Another compulsion ran down my spine from your presence and my finger pressured a button to open your skull above me. You wished for me to communicate your will to the masses. I rose and saw my mother and father and waved to them. I remembered that my brother was dead, but what did that matter? He was not the chosen one. I raised my voice so all could hear your words. I told them that the Gods had not abandoned us millennia ago, as we believed. I told them that you were the last of your kind, a one and only God to worship. They instantly understood and prostrated — some weeping — before us.

     My people and I discovered the ruins of large structures with white Roman columns. Inside were rooms and rooms of pews and desks. Each one held a Bible. In back chambers were often books on barbaric laws of ages past. It took finding and restoring several texts before we could decipher every piece of information they held. The art we found was of your kind, though, great Gone. There were paintings of ground-based Gods blasting across trenches, as mere men died and took futile cover around them. We excavated statues of Gods colored entirely green, and we put these puzzles together as best we could. We often wondered what it was like to live in a time when men carried deities under their arms and walked beside Gods into combat.

     The townspeople desired to bring you offerings, but unsure of what to give you, they came to me with their questions. I accepted my duty and entered your glory, so you could announce unto me:   you demanded our prisoners — the most retched souls our society could procure — for a sacrifice. So we brought them — hundreds of thousands of prisoners — to your very feet, and I felt the jolt that was your presence run through my frame and you fired your heavenly shout unto them. Their bodies exploded group by group — sometimes as many as thirty or forty at a time — for days on end. Skin and bone rained from the skies and blood filled the streets. In that blood we celebrated your glory.

     We had been waiting for you to rise and save us, oh great Gone. We are advanced from our ancestors in all ways with buildings sprouting from the ground and instant mobility across space, but without Gods we could not eliminate those who stole or raped, or those who had the potential to do so. We had no means by which to destroy the inferior. We, all of us, graciously accepted your blessing in undoing this pestilence. We were outgrowing ourselves; death was becoming something that happened less and less. People could live to over three hundred years. We could not support that. There are no worries of overpopulation, though, great Gone — not now. You are truly our savior!

     Some are worried that with the return of the Gods, sweeping deaths shall rise again. Young men the world over will die for your glory in horrifying numbers, they prophesy. They say that if one God has survived then surely more will be discovered. They are insane; we have found the one true God. I know this. Their curses are causing a dangerous panic. They say that you will bring an end to peace and that your leaving was a blessing on all of mankind. I do not believe this; our community does not believe this. We praise you, oh great Gone. These are outliers and pariahs spreading these destructive rumors. Allow me to do your will, and together we can quell the blasphemous tongues of these souls and prove to all the world that there is only one true God: The great Gone. Allow me to take your controls and dispose of the fiends that speak against you, and I promise you that your glory will spread through the mountains and across the oceans, and you will hear the voices of the world singing in tandem, “God is Gone! God is Gone! Oh, our God is Gone!”

Voodoo, sideshows, and a good ghost story—if it’s outside of the everyday, Kyle Yadlosky revels in it. He lives in between corn fields in Pennsylvania and has been published on Dorkly, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Gone Lawn, and Mad Scientist Journal.

Another Yadlosky story:   Lady Pains.