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The Ones Who Chose the Rain

George Edwards Murray lives in a dark hole in New England, from which he occasionally flings strange and troubling stories. His fiction has recently appeared in Unnerving Magazine and is forthcoming in the anthology Apostles of the Weird. He has his MFA from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast Creative Writing Program, and he likes to yell at movies.

You can find more of his work at elegantapocalypse.com.

"Nobody calls it the Great Crime anymore," the Boy shouts over the rain. "It's merely considered part of the larger sociopolitical machinations surrounding the chainfield at the time."
We nod. Regardless of what they call the Great Crime in the Capital, they won't let us out of the chainfield. They won't stop the rain.
As if sensing our thoughts, he says, "Ten thousand years of rain? Such a cruel sentence! The perpetrators are dead for seven thousand years now. Do you even know what they did?"
Of course not. Nobody knows.
Nor does anybody know how the Boy managed to traverse the thousand-mile forest between the chainfield and the capital, how he sneaked past the Watchful Things therein. Why he camped at the border, shivering on swells of chains for two days until we allowed him to come closer, around the fires we keep alive in unyielding rain.
"Anyway," he says, shrugging as droplets leap off velvet shoulders, "I'm not here to intrude. I'm here to study. When I return I can tell them what you're really like."
What are we really like? We suppose we don't know, so we let him stay, expecting him to leave within a fortnight, driven mad by rain.
He fumbles through his first weeks cowering in the ruins, quickly discovering, as our children do, that smoldering scrap piles will not shield him from the rain. Feet slip on wet chain, amputate the toe caught in a link. Afterward he fears the outer chainfield, where the ground is naked iron for miles. Gray underfoot, gray overhead. Can make a man go mad.
In those simmering days he observes us digging among the ruins for food and scrap. He tries to cover his notebook as he writes but the ink courses down the page like a black hemorrhage. Sleep eludes him, purloined by rain.
"How can you live like this?" he asks.
We say, because the ones who can't are dead.
He doesn't complain again.
We show him historical pipe-etchings of eroded homes, of Chainmen drowning in rain, of Watchful Things eviscerating tiny figures. Of a faraway city that shimmers like glass on the horizon, indifferent as we tremble in frigid torrents of unending rainfall.
"Beautiful," he says.
Millennia ago, when rain began, most of our forefathers tried constructing shelters. Building and rebuilding and rebuilding as consumptive rain ate their sanctuaries, as within their souls settled a particular desperation. Then a madness. Then a terrible rage, such that the chainfield was stained with blood for years. Many Chainmen perished.
But not all.
We are the children of those who survived. Those who lived without shelter. The ones who chose the rain.
In weeks the Boy scrambles like one of us, moves over chains like a dancer. Iron musk supplants his paperish scent. He shows us soggy remains of textbooks: 10,000 Years of Cruelty and Rust: The Real Story of the Chainmen.
"They only pretend to understand," he says, tossing them away.
Our children play with him, marvel at his spanner tricks. Entranced as he recounts the Capital-the animals, festivals, clunking machines there. A monarch in wine-colored robes leads sonorous parades, and in summer the air tastes of sugar and revelers dance in cobblestone streets.
They say, you dance in the rain?
"Where I live," he says, "There is no rain."
The children call him RaBa. In pink sheets of sunset they fashion scrap into a model city. We indulge the children's fantasy, and soon even the darkening rain cannot prevail upon our laughter. His laughter.
Troubling thoughts run feverishly.
The bolder among us lead him into the forest, ostensibly to see remnants of the Great Crime. As we undo his belt the trees leak and veiny tongues erupt from the soil. He salutes the Watchful Things drifting in the canopy.
He eats like we do, on rodents scampering in the chains. Entrails dangle from his lips when he says, "I can stop the rain."
Of course, we say.
"It's barbaric that you live this way for a crime none among you committed. The spell is old. Reversible."
Nothing can stop the rain. We chuckle. We have always lived in rain.
He only smiles.
Sprinting at dawn, arms laden with scrap. The muffled sound of construction. No time anymore for children's games. Soon his device looms in the middle of the ruins. It looks like a lopsided vase, as tall as he is, encrusted with gears. In daytime he creates miniature clouds for practice. Old Magic. When we bring him to the woods he blathers about the device until we occupy his mouth.
"Just wait," he says, blinking out raindrops. "Soon we can walk among regular folk."
He convenes us upon completion. Giddily demonstrates the levers and cranks.
Chortling: Yes, yes. Very impressive.
Then he turns it on.
And something mystifying happens, something for which we have no words.
"You can adjust it, too," he says as we gasp and vomit. He shows us how we can allow a little or a lot of rainfall.
"You can make the choice. You don't have to live this way anymore."
We murmur in grotesque quietude. Recoil beneath the azure of unblemished sky. Some among us weep.
He asks if we can speak at the University, but we are already upon him. Strip off gifted clothes. Push him down. The chains squeal as we lash them across his chest.
He chokes, "You don't want to do this!"
It's true, we don't. But what right has he to take our rain?
The eyes of Watchful Things glow like funereal lanterns on the horizon. He screams to them for help. As if they were meant for him. Encircling his childish machine, we focus clouds on one spot, just over the Boy.
And we turn up the rain until the crank snaps.
Fat droplets streak red across flesh. He screams and tries to shield himself with flayed, eroding arms. The chains, unbroken since the Great Crime, hold firm.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, February 16th, 2018

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- George Edwards Murray
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