Carthage, North Carolina


As Hamilcar understood it Carthage was founded by Dido, otherwise known as Elyssa after fleeing Tyre from a dangerous family feud. When she arrived the natives, Lumbies maybe, told her she could have an area only the size of an ox hide. Which seems a bit chintzy. The young Hamilcar had chuckled at Elyssa’s cutting the hide into strips and making a large semicircle out of it for their camp. Somehow this satisfied the natives and Carthage, North Carolina was founded. The only part Hamilcar did not well understand was how the Carthaginians could manage to war with Rome (and Rome with Carthage) across the Atlantic, and he maintained a much reduced ocean in his mind for years.

The official story is that some folks, around the time of the revolutionary war, simply followed the Cape Fear river up into the higher country of North Carolina and founded Carthage. Their leader, presumably one of the Barcas, conquered half an existing county, and created Barca County, North Carolina. Over the years they had to build about a dozen courthouses defending the city from the mercenaries who traveled up the river attempting to recoup their earnings, even though they’d failed to oust Rome as leader across the pond, they still expected to be paid, as mercenaries often do. As a result of these battles most of the earliest of the town’s documentation was lost.

Hamilcar had no issue maintaining both these legends. They didn’t seem entirely incompatible to him.

The old Carthage Hanno-Barca Buggy plant eventually burned down, but in its prime it had produced thousands of world-class buggies, failing in the end only in the face of Ford’s automobile. Folks like to pretend that Henry Ford had been interested in the old buggy plant, but the story probably isn’t true. Ford did everything he did in Detroit, so it seems unlikely he ever considered setting up in Carthage, North Carolina. Of course, the lack of supporting facts have never slowed a popular story down. People loved the story, even long after the plant was gone. What a mistake! they’d laugh, shaking their heads. They still have a buggy festival every May, which is only slightly more popular than the five-mile yard sale they have every October. All obvious hold-overs from the ancient times so ensconced in Hamilcar’s mind. If the Atlantic were not so big, neither were the past two millennia.

You can still visit the old Barca and Hanno grave markers in the cemetery, though most of the natives are going to look at you pretty funny if you mention these names. Hamilcar’s father had indulged his son’s games with the little town, and never corrected his playful renaming of the buggy company or speculating about the many battles that had ruined the courthouse several times over the years. It took Hamilcar Ball many of his teenaged weekends to eventually locate the final resting place, so he imagined, of mercenary leader Matho’s remains. Though, no one much understood his fascination nor dedication to filling in the blanks on the town garden’s “mystery grave”, probably a grave of a grounds keeper, who had been employed by one of Carthage’s major families many years ago. The letters on the grave were simply DFM. The “M” seemed clear to Hamilcar to represent Matho, but the “DF” was a difficulty until he started to think in terms of Latin and divi filius or “divine son”. Son of Mathos? Why not, there were weirder inscriptions on graves. Anyway it was all in good fun, and no one was really worried that Hamilcar may be taking this fun a bit too far.

Years later, tragedy struck Carthage and the nursing home suffered an attack from a deranged man. Deranged men exist all over the place, but mostly cause no real harm to anyone but themselves. There are deranged women too, but they mostly operate in terms of spoiling their chances at being loved. Some deranged men arm themselves, because men are not equipped with claws or lion’s mouths, and fantasize blood baths. Deranged men seem to be from ancient times, used to violent death, unconcerned about the value of life. While a woman may marry an abusive man twice in different decades, the deranged man develops a philosophy around his many mistakes. He piles them together and refers to them as fate or destiny.

A deranged man murders a beautiful young woman, while lusting for her love, even while she may have been in the midst of providing it. It somehow leaks over, this uncontrolled monstrous ridiculousness, a teenager’s heartbreak transformed into elephantine outrage. The deranged man breaks her delicate frame, crushes her the way a car grill smashes a perfect Luna moth on a country road. Deranged men are like loose cannons. Many people don’t know what a loose cannon refers to, it is this: in the old days on ships you strapped cannons in place so they would fire only in a safe direction of out of a hole in the side of the ship directly away from the ship. When that strapping broke, or was ruined by an enemy shot, a cannon, loaded, and fuse lit, was now wildly dangerous, pointing any which way and able to burst its explosive load unpredictably and with terrifying results. It became the utmost priority to restrain a loose cannon before it did its damage. As all weapons are enemies, even to their owners.

At any rate, the nursing home attack from the deranged man, whose name was not Mathos, his Greek friend, or any other clear mercenary name, but whose name will be withheld due to the fact that the son-of-a-bitch was a useless, foundering, bad-tempered piece-of-work that even the hunting club couldn’t bear, walked into the nursing home, armed as though expecting the end of the world, and began shooting up the elderly residents on his way to find—his twice married by him—wife. He never got to her because a goodly officer of the district managed to arrive and shoot the rabid idiot down, while bravely taking a round himself.
The horror of the story, happening so close to home, old Rutherford even recalling the fellow’s name and having met him—loner type, bad temper, drunk a lot—shook Hamilcar to the core. Even in his tiny town of two-thousand. Even here, where he played at maintaining his mental toy version of the ancient Mediterranean, deranged men popped open like jewel-weed seed pods and sprayed death in all directions.

And that man’s name had been erased and Hamilcar had made it his duty to not learn that name, as it deserved no reward. But now Hamilcar could not stop thinking about that low-end murdering bastard, and the kind of deranged spirit that formed the fast, black creature, the shoggoth-ape that seemed to want to devour his lovely Rebecca, or at least make her very ill.