NaNoWriMo Day 4

It’s going up late, since I didn’t write word one yesterday, but here’s the words I owed for day 4.  For those worried that I might fail to maintain my streak of at least one homicide per day, you can rest easy on that score.


The Driver’s sleep was limited these days to a couple hours a night. More than that would cut into his driving and his tutelage, and less would push him over into madness. At a couple hours a night, his body was sustained by power he’d been eating, and his mind was kept poised on the red-tinged knife’s edge of painful hyper-awareness, with what ordinary folk call reality kind of flickering and shimmering at the edges. The amount of sleep he lacked was perfect for seeing past the doors and through the windows of sanity.

Right now he slept. Sun had risen an hour ago. An hour hence, he’d be rising and returning to the road, following his thirsty passenger’s red scent trail south towards Texas, tuning in to the Big Bopper until he hit the border and then hitting the Johnny Cash. For right now, he was inside his own head.

He wasn’t alone in there, not by a stretch. There were footprints and echoes there from when he’d first begun his studies, and every teacher he’d had up through to his current passenger had left echoes and footprints on him.

More pressing, he still bore traces of all the souls he’d begun to digest. Eating souls wasn’t easy, and they didn’t rest easy. In unconsciousness, he was surrounded by scraps and traces of other lives, other minds, and all of them wanted an escape that couldn’t be had.

He stood in the living room of the double-wide he’d been raised in, looking down at his mother as she lay on the couch. Not the stained Goodwill sleeper they’d had, but a rich white leather loveseat that he’d seen in the sitting room of a Tarot reader once. That reader had been truly gifted, but didn’t know many secrets, and her power had been wasted until he’d ripped it out of her. At the recollection the loveseat dripped red, and his mother was not his mother anymore, replaced by the German Shepherd another victim had loved as a boy.

The Driver turned away, walked out the door and found himself going down a long hallway made of bare planks and lit by flickering oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. Set dressing from the initiation of a Mason he’d killed in Ohio, a milquetoast little accountant who now walked along behind him saying “why’d you do it, huh? What call’d you have to do a thing like that to me? Why?”

The Driver had heard that question enough to stop paying it any heed. There weren’t any whys, only the facts of the matter. Hunger and ambition were all the reason he could think of for anything, and they satisfied him pretty well in that capacity.

There was a doorway ahead, and a pretty girl passed by it, briefly there and then gone. He felt a brief pang, but it didn’t belong to him. She’d been loved by someone else, and that love was one of the last flickers of their existence inside him. Souls digest slow, but in the end everything can be broken down, or burned away. Love lasted longer than most things.

Why, Mister? What’d I ever do to you? I’da given you whatever you’d wanted. Money, my books, I’d have given the others in the lodge over to you, even. Led them right on to you, held them down for you. Why’d you have to do it?”

The Driver focused a little, and dispersed the anxious ghost. That one had known secrets, but possessed little power, and his lodge brothers had been much the same. The books in his collection had been somewhat revelatory,but the annoyance of his presence made it feel like a dubious bargain sometimes.

The little man was wiped away, and the hall wasn’t a hall anymore, but a tunnel. A deep natural cavern mouth, leading up to a rough circle of light, further away than the door had been.

He passed through it, and stood on a small wooden porch outside a half-log house in a small clearing of some piney woods. To his right hand was a similarly rough-made little barn which was afire. He felt heat and smelt smoke from behind him, as well, and heard the sound of hoofbeats going off into the woods at a distance. There was a rope slung over a tree branch before him, and the Driver saw himself hanging from it, fruit-colored and pop-eyed, twisting around and swaying a little in the breeze.

It’s about time to go,” his own hanged corpse said. “We have a lot of ground to cover. We cross the border by tonight, I’ll teach ye some fancy new tricks.”

And he was awake in his motel room. The voice chuckled, which was a horrible sound to hear.

Grab yer bag, boy. Gotta fair few miles ‘tween us and Texas.”

He grabbed his bag. Into it he a small black box of polished stone that had been sitting on his nightstand. He took the pistol that had lain next to it and stuck it into a jacket pocket, and slid his long switchblade into his jeans. Running his comb through his hair and chewing a stick of Doublemint instead of brushing, he stepped out, tossed the duffel into his trunk, and was soon on his way. The morning was bright but cold, like his eyes and the reflection shining off his car’s grille.


Phil, I don’t want to be up in your business to any excessive degree, but were you aware that you like like complete shit this morning?”

Phil just stared red-eyed at his roommate, who was stirring caramel-flavored non-dairy creamer into his coffee as he talked.

More so than usual, I mean,” Amir said, sipping his coffee, frowning, and adding just a little sugar to it.

Rough night,” Phil said, pouring the remainder of the pot into the biggest mug he owned and drinking it straight black.

Man, you have got to quit that job of yours. It’s been killing you slow ever since you got it.”

You find me a better one, I’ll quit right now.” Phil grabbed the last frozen bagel, split it, and jammed the halves into the toaster.

I hear you, man. It’s rough out there. But you got some cash saved up, right?”

Phil shrugged.

All I’m saying is, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it, roll the dice, grab for that brass ring. You know? Times are tough out there now, no lie, but there’s opportunity to be had anywhere, if you know how to look for it.”

The bagel popped up. Phil spread cream cheese on it and put some lunch meat in the middle to make a sandwich.

Don’t mean to preach at you, bro. Just saying.” Amir sipped his coffee, satisfied that he’d got it right.

It’s not work, man. I mean, it’s not just work. Had weird, weird-ass dreams all night. Been feeling out of it all week.”

Weird like how?”

Cowboy shit. I was robbing old west banks and running from the law on horseback, I dunno.”

Sounds like you could use some excitement in your life. God knows you’re not getting any at work.”


Hey,” Amir suddenly turned, got a post-it note from the side of the fridge and pulled his pen out of his shirt pocket. “Some people I know are gonna be hanging out on Sixth Street after work tonight. You should come by.” He wrote down an address and handed it to Phil, who looked at it suspiciously.

I dunno, man. Maybe I just need some sleep.”

Hell with that, buddy. Sleep when you’re dead, right? Get you’re party clothes on, head downtown, have some drinks, listen to some music…”

Phil seemed to be unconvinced.

Maybe meet some girls. You could freshen up your whole outlook.”

Phil shrugged. “Yeah, sure. You’re probably right. But for right now, I gotta go to work.”

He poured the remainder of the coffee down his throat, put on his shoes, and chewed and swallowed the remainder of his bagel. He hadn’t shaved again, and his eyes were still veiny and tired, but he felt a little better.

Then as he started the car he saw the pale blue eyes set in the weathered face of the outlaw from last night staring back at him from the rear-view mirror, staring through him with the intensity of a hawk.

He yelped, blinking and twitching and knocking the mirror askew. With a little shaking and trepidation, he reached up to straighten it after a minute, and saw only himself.

Yeah, I don’t know if some drinks and music are going to fix me,” he said to himself.

Ah, shit,” he said a little later. “I’m gonna be late for work.”


Maybe he shouldn’t have been pushing the speed limit as hard as he had been. His master’s itch to get to Texas was goading him on, and he had already been in Oklahoma about as long as he could stand, and so he’d opened it up to 75 on the highway, and now this cop was flashing red lights behind him.

The Driver wouldn’t always be averse to getting pulled over, he knew a couple of tricks, and was good at smooth talk. But the gun in his pocket was stolen from a murdered man, the knife in his other pocket had been the implement of that murder and plenty others, and he wasn’t prepared to swear that he’d gotten all of the blood clear of the trunk interior. Too many variables. Besides, he was on a tight schedule.

He accelerated some, to let the pig know he meant business. As he did so, he whispered three harsh words and a hidden name. The Big Bopper was drowned out by furious static, and the cop’s radio would be getting it even worse now. No backup, no description, no license plate numbers.

The road ahead was clear. The cop’s siren was going now, which made it even easier. He could just about keep the wheel straight and the gas mashed down, but he couldn’t spare enough concentration for any other thing.

He called the name first, to get its attention. Then the barter, which was for show. Then the command, straightforward and simple as he could make it, the the courtesies. He felt a little power go out of him, and his throat felt raw from the harshness of the language. He noticed that he was past 90 and starting to veer back and forth some.

The cop behind him, already distracted by the squeal of his radio, saw a huge black bat-winged thing with five eyes and three lamprey mouths at the end of each of its various limbs soar out of nowhere and latch onto his windshield with those sucking tooth-lined maws, licked the glass with a sucker-lined tongue or tentacle while howling at him viciously.

No one else saw anything at all.

The highway patrol cruiser flew off the road and rolled up and over when it hit the median, landing upside down on the northbound side just in the path of a semi.

It was pretty ugly.

The Driver pressed on. He’d make the border by nightfall.


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