Gus “Three Kills” Gills was the first to see a mime ambling down the dirt road towards Diablo Town.
“What in the Sam Hill is that?” Gills asked, peering out the window of the Six Shooter Saloon.
In response, Sam “Slug Belly” Sanders racked his shotgun. Sanders didn’t know what the Sam Hill it was any better than Gills did, but he always considered it best to answer the unknown with gunfire.
Only young Charlie Drift stood with eyes wide in wonder rather than violent suspicion. The kid was just sixteen and, though tough as goat’s balls, still had a light of hope in his eyes.
He’d gone to Diablo Town looking for adventure more than anything else, including gold. What he’d found so far was mostly misery and unhappy people, but he hadn’t given up dreaming yet. Hell, even Diablo Town was beautiful when the sun hit it just right.
“I’ll be,” Drift said at the sight of the mime coming into town. He meant to say more but couldn’t manage to get anything else out, so he just repeated, “I’ll be.”
The mime wasn’t walking right. He was crouched real low to the ground, almost like he was sneaking up on somebody, and his hands were clutching at the air in front of him.
It finally dawned on Drift what the mime was doing. “I’ll be. It’s like he’s climbing a rope up the side of the mountain.”
That’s exactly what the mime was doing, too, and he was doing it so well that Drift felt unnerved, like he was witnessing supernatural. He got a sick vertigo feeling for a bit as he felt like he was looking straight over the steep edge of a cliff.
The “mime” climbed into the outskirts of Diablo Town. Drift and the boys ran out the saloon door to join the mob circling around the strange newcomer who’d walked into the place.
The mime’s makeup was perfect and his clothes unblemished. It looked like he’d dropped out of sky, certainly not like he’d just walked the 200 miles between Diablo Town and the nearest occupied district.
The mime stopped for a moment and looked straight at Drift.
Drift would have thought he was imagining it except that other townspeople noticed it, too. Darla Flaherty slapped him on the butt and said, “Hot damn, kid, I think you’ve got a fan.”
The mime broke his gaze from Drift and started his act. He did the usual gags, rowing an imaginary boat, going down imaginary stairs, running in place. People were even laughing, and that was something that rarely happened in Diablo Town unless someone fell over drunk and busted their head or got shot up.
It was all weird but innocent until things got screwy when the mime reached his hand out to shake Gills’ hand and then snatched it away at the last moment, leaving Gills grasping air like a fool.
Gills didn’t like that, and he especially didn’t like it when the crowd laughed at him.
“Listen here you son of a bitch,” Gills said, “don’t play games with me.”
The mime acted dismayed and fell to his knees pleading for forgiveness. The crowd laughed.
“Come on, Gills,” Drift called out, “accept his apology.”
“Come on Gills,” Darla Flaherty agreed.
The crowd cheered. Gills smirked. “Alright.”
The mime clapped silently, leaped to his feet, and extended his hand again. Gills reached for a hardy shake. The mime pulled his hand away, and this time Gills stumbled forward and fell on his face.
Gills jumped to his feet and pointed his pistol and pointed it dead at the mime’s chest.
The mime reared back as though shot, clutching an imaginary wound before spinning and falling face down in the dirt. He lay there for a long time. The crowd’s laughter faded. Senseless as it was, the crazy stranger really seemed dead.
Gills had just stepped towards the mime when the mime spun over face-up with a pistol in his hand, laughing soundlessly.
The crowd gasped in delight — except for Gills, who reached for his other six-shooter and found it missing. “What the Sam Hill?”
It had been a strange thing, for sure. The mime hadn’t even been that close to Gills when Gills shot him, and no one had noticed him grabbing any guns.
Still, despite the lack of any rational explanation, there the gun was, plain as day, in the mime’s hand.
Gills could be called a lot of things, but “indecisive in a gunfight” wasn’t one of them. He squeezed off three shots, real ones this time, thunk thunk thunk into the mime’s body.
What plum freaked people out was that the mime did the same goofy, theatrical death act he’d done with the fake shots, but this time his chest and stomach really did have three holes with blood gushing out of them.
The mime swooned comically and didn’t make any sound as he spun around and fell face-down in the dirt, just like last time.
The crowd moaned. “Well, there goes that fun,” someone called out. Some chuckles rose from the crowd, and everyone dispersed.
Drift rushed over to the mime. “Mr?” He knelt and rolled the body. The mime flopped over, eyes wide open, with an enormous smile. Drift shrieked and fell back on his ass.
The mime sprang to his feet, blood still gushing out of those holes. Everyone else had gone back inside. It was just Drift and the mime.
The mime bowed to Drift and, one by one, daintily plucked each round from his torso, flicking it off into the dirt like squashed flies.
With all three rounds out, he set to building an imaginary cube. He did it so expertly, first feeling out the shape of “walls” and then assembling them, that Drift almost believed he actually was building an invisible cube.
Work finished, the mime turned an imaginary handle and opened an imaginary door leading into an imaginary cube. When he reached inside the imaginary space, his arm actually disappeared.
The mime grinned over his shoulder and pulled out a very real stack of mime clothes with a jar of mime makeup on top of it. He held them out to Drift.
“I’ll be,” Drift whispered.
Drift took the clothes and makeup in fear and wonder.
The mime smiled and waved excitedly for Drift to follow him before disappearing, for real and in entirety, inside the cube.
Drift tuned around. People had wandered outside again. Somebody must have witnessed the strange cube construction, because all were quiet and looking apprehensive.
The mime stepped back into view and put his hands on his hips in exaggerated impatience. When Drift remained frozen in confusion, the mime waddled like a duck and cupped his hands around the young man’s ear. He whispered one word.
The voice sounded weird, like it was coming through a thick wall or across an immense space.
Drift looked back at Diablo Town and all its rough, broken residents. When he turned again, the mime had already disappeared inside the cube.
“Well you came this far,” Drift said out loud to himself, “can’t be pussy footing it now.”
The young man bowed his head, took a deep breath, and strode boldly inside the cube.
“I’ll be,” he said.