What's something that kills billions of people a year and doesn't sin for it? Cigarettes. I smoke them because aside from making me look badass I figure I can take it upon myself to smoke every available cigarette thus purging the world of a destructive force. Some call it a fool’s errand. I call it fun, besides it isn’t like cigarettes can kill me… Really they can’t, that’s one of the perks of agelessness. I regenerate three times faster than the average human and I stay all kinds of pretty until someone decides shuffle me loose the… immortal coil. I press the cigarette to my lips and take a drag illuminating the cherry. Smoke rolls out of my mouth as I catch a glimpse of my rear view mirror.
“Whoa…” My head jabs backwards. I looked like hell. My unshaven face bolsters dark scruff that stands out from my light brown hair. I shall call this look, Le Hobo, What with the grungy looking dirtball face, rings under the eyes, and a stub of a cigarette. I just needed a trench coat and sign reading, “Will Work For Food.” I stuff my hand into the pocket of my charcoal grey hooded jacket and removed an empty plastic cigarette package.
“Perfect.” I whisper to myself as I discard the butt out the window. When suddenly a billboard catches my eye it reads, “God is watching.” All white with black letters. Who knew the Almighty was a voyeur? Just below the sign I notice a two sets of wheels. Well if I’m going to pick up some extra scratch, I have to do it now. I slowly drive my foot into the gas pedal, pushing my 67’ Shelby into a rampant thrust. Every year I pass by this strip of road and every year a speed trap exists. It's like they have the hiding capacity of an ostrich with Down syndrome. Accepting the blatant idiocy of Edinburgh's finest, I’m hung up on a decision. Should I go twenty or thirty over? Sure either will flag his attention, but will the faster of the two invoke a call to dispatch? As I watch the needle of my speedometer rapidly climb I ponder this question in a cyclical fashion that so closely resembles the Mobius-Strip that is my life. A police siren screeches violently into the air. I usually give it a five-count before I pull over.
“Five.” I find if you pull over too fast the cop will simply bully me, mistaking my hasty response as nervousness. “Four.” Too late and he’ll radio for help. “Three.” How cute he’s riding my ass, I wonder if he’ll pay for dinner afterwards. “Two.” I really need to invest in some new windshield wipers before the next heavy rain, the ones dangling off my car are crumbling to dust. “One.” I slam my foot into the break, smoke blankets outward from my wheels causing a curtain of foggy gray to cover my rear window. Unfortunate really, I’d like to see this guy’s reaction to my Chip’s style breaking abilities. Knock! Knock! Knock! His finger strikes my window with superfluous amounts of strength behind each knuckle. He’s mad.
"Are you insane, boy?” He spits with a southern twang. My mouth arches into a smile that sends a sarcastic message. “Well boy? Are you insane?” He continues while I size him up, plump stomach with an overstretched shirt, either he’s newly fat or refuses to shop at the Big and Tall. His pudgy face is covered in stray stubble, draping under a ridiculous cowboy hat is strands of salt and pepper hair. He clamps his meaty hands on to the frame of my open car window exposing his unclipped fingernails and the predictable absence of a wedding ring.
“Am I insane? Actually I’m still waiting for the test results.” My eyes lock on to his, a maneuver that reaffirms my lack of fear. “They were running a special, something about buy one get one free.” My voice echoes with a faux southern accent.
“What?” He scoffs.
“They cured the Chlamydia in time. Which reminds me has your mother seen a doctor?”
“License and registration.” His grip tightens as anger floods from his every word. Lying on the seat next to me is my license and registration or at least what passes as it. I get pulled over five or six times a day and thus keeping it in the glove box is a bit redundant.
“Here you go officer… Now don’t you go let those confusin’ words scare ya boy.” Each word that leaves my mouth is ample with southern accent goodness. “I’m sittin’ right here for ya if those pesky alphabeticals make you angry at the world. Remember, English is our friend.” The last guy to witness this routine slipped up and hit me. He slowly treads away from my window, stiff with each step. This cop is most definitely on the cusp of breaking down. “Umm… ‘scuse me officer, while yer back there you mind breakin’ out the squeegee and cleanin’ my rear window, all the smoke mucked it up. Thanks a lot sport.” Wait for it… Take the bait… He stops dead in his tracks and unbuckles his night stick. I’ve never actually been Rodney King’d before, this should be an interesting experience. Smashing glass blasts into my back seat, the sudden crack jolts my attention toward it. His night stick is held in the space my window once occupied.
“Should be all clear now.” The officer calmly whispers as he lowers his baton out of sight. That bastard, it’s a good thing he’s paying for it. The officer returns to the window, “Anything else I can do for ya?” He leans in.
“You can say goodnight.” I wave my hand over his face and within seconds his eyes roll back into his head, exposed now are his milky whites which soon after are hidden by his eye lids. Instantly his body goes limp and his face busts against the door of my Mustang Shelby. I don’t have to wave my hand to make that happen I just find that it looks cool.
Stealing from cops is one of the many ways I bankroll this operation. Despite being under the employ of the heavens, I’m not given a lot of monetary return and I find that occasionally bending a commandment or two makes up for it. I can easily justify it by maintaining a few ground rules. One of them requires that the officer show aggression before I cast him to sleep and play pickpocket. Pissing them off is something I do for fun and it has a purpose, other than being better than sex I find it makes a great security precaution. What officer will submit a tape into evidence featuring him busting out a car window? None is the answer you’re looking for. As my door creeks open I come to the conclusion that perhaps this venture may have cost me more than I would earn overall, but to be fair, I’ve done this for over forty years and rarely have they hurt the car.
“Officer Michaels” I utter as my hands slip out of his pants with wallet in tow. Cash bulges out of it as it is split open. “This is a lot of green for a cop’s salary.” I pluck out the crisp dollar bills taking cursory stock in what’s available, several hundreds, and mix up of low bills. Normally I leave the cash, only taking credit cards and things that only financially affect the system, NOT the individual. I make an exception for dirty cops and with that I crunch the bills into the pocket of my hooded jacket and proceed to fumble through the remainder. I uncover a few receipts, a condom, a couple of credit cards and his driver’s license.
“Theodore Michaels… Ted Michaels. It was nice to meet you Ted, call this stereotype tax, it’s higher than usual due to the fact it looks like you came tumbling out of a CMT video.” My mouth twists into a smirk while I push my fingers behind the plastic window in the leather bi-fold and slip the license out. Call it a trophy, or perhaps me keeping tabs on a corrupt cop. Whatever justification could be made, the simple fact is Mr. Michaels is going to have to stand in line at the DMV for two hours tomorrow and the thought of that is priceless. After removing the series of plastic Visa and Mastercards, I finally reach the last part of my ritual. A standard issue berretta is tucked safely in his holster. I pull it free and snappily rotate it before my eyes.
My powder blue Shelby is a 67’ and has been with me since the beginning. Living a life as unstable as mine, it’s good to have something that remains static and Elle (that’s the car) is every bit of my world. I pop open a crimson colored lid, revealing the contents of my trunk, crates of ammo, artifacts of different origins and mythologies, a silver ornate box and a massive pile of Berettas. I lazily drop the gun onto the pile and watch it click its way down the stack.
“Welcome to the family. My name is Greyson.”
I’ve conducted enough business for today, the road calls for me. I return to the driver’s seat of my car and grip the steering wheel with my left hand and with the right I jam a key into the ignition. I twist it, spurring life into Elle and just before cranking her into gear I make notice of the decaying windshield wipers and cast out a smile.
“Might as well…” I whisper.
About thirty minutes have passed and I now drive aimlessly throughout the Edinburg countryside. I don’t have any particular destination, I simply go. That’s my job description. I drag, throughout the free world, a box of something wicked. It goes by many names, but the one most common is the Heart of Darkness. Many origins enshroud it, but honestly the man upstairs seems to be the only one who could tell you truth from farce. Why not keep it in a vault or under maximum security lock down? It’s not nearly that simple. Outside of being constantly sought after by bad men and cults, the Heart has a power of its own, a sort of dark radiation that bleeds into the souls of surrounding mortals corrupting and drowning them in sin. This factor makes it easy to find by those in search of it, but not nearly as easy as its other charming quality. Any object within a certain radius of it has the essence drained from it. People wither and age, plants and animals are reduced to decaying pulp, metals rust, and energy itself is sucked from existence. Hence the constant replacing of car parts, speaking of which, I really should thank Officer Ted for the wipers. They didn’t quite connect to the car in the way they should have but after little retrofitting they worked just fine. And I mean besides, I’m just going to have to replace them in a week. The Heart doesn’t really have any effect on me at least not visibly, thanks to the regenerative nature of being ageless and as for the induction of dark urges, let’s just say I have idiotic amounts of stubborn willpower.
After doing this for forty years you have places that you routinely go to. Mathias always gives me shit about it. “Keep off the radar.” Or “Leave no sign” are some of his greatest hits. Mathias is for lack of a better term, my handler and it just so happens that he’s a Seraphim… For those of you not savvy that means angel. He doesn’t take in to account that humans are, by nature, a social lot. Now I know technically I’m not human anymore, but I’m not so far gone that I don’t experience the same emotions or harbor the same tendencies. Which reminds me, I really need to get laid some time soon.
As I said, routine pit stops. The one coming up on my left is Sal’s Gas and Guzzle. Sal has been dead for eleven years. Nowadays his daughter runs the place, and does it efficiently, but if I’m going to start singing her praises I can’t leave out her greatest quality, her ass.
I walk through the door of Sal’s Gas and Guzzle, above my head a jingling bell rattles, signifying my presence. Mara stands outstretched behind the counter attempting to fumble a carton of cigarettes into its designated home, her dainty figure is wrapped with a loose white shirt and the kind of blue jeans that look painted on. My eyes fix themselves on a part of her anatomy that previously I mentioned my adoration for. Weaving illusions, putting people to sleep, igniting around me a shower of gleaming cinders, these are things I specialize in and yet she’s the one with the power right now.
“Greyson?” She says while twirling to face me.
“The first taste is free, next time I start the clock and charge you by the minute.” She smiles, every word resonating sarcasm.
My gaze meets hers as I confidently stride to the counter. I slip out of my pocket the cash Officer Ted graciously donated and pound it onto the wood top dividing me from Mara. I slither my hand away from the bills exposing their individual monetary values.
“You may want close the store.” I whisper with depth in my voice. Mara directs her beautiful blues to the mess of hundreds lying curled before her. Like a game of chess, she ponders her next move. The curvature of her face is slender with brown hair strung into a pony tail. She’s the kind of gorgeous you find next door, like the tomboy neighbor girl that grew into the body of a sexy woman. Her eyes escape mine and before drawing out a reply her mouth makes a quivering motion.
“Someone’s stealing your car.”
I can just hear Mathias’ response to this one. He’ll self righteously spew out in his droll angelic voice, “I told you Greyson, you must remove yourself from the grid.” My mind reruns this small string of thoughts a thousand times over as I tear away from the counter and bolt outside. A small teenage hooligan dangles out the passenger-side window of my beautiful blue Elle. He lets out a cackle as my Shelby bursts to life and rampages out of the parking lot. With only a few seconds left as my car and its new passengers shrink in the distance I take stock of all I can. The kid I could see has spiky black hair, little prepubescent patches of facial hair, metal rings and studs jut out of his face, most notably the area between his eyes.
“You!” A voice fires at me from outside my immediate vision, I whip my head in the direction of its progenitor. Officer Michaels throws his car door open and slams his black boot onto the ground “Hands Up!” He belts out with fury overflowing from his mouth
“Why? You’re not armed.” I casually approach him. He pulls his fire red face out of the car and accompanying it is a police grade shotgun. I backpedal… Fast. Gripping the plastic handle he pumps the gun into ready mode, sending into the air one of the scariest clicks I’ve ever heard in my life. Did he track me down? I push my body against the side of a canned cola machine. Magic is potent, but so is a blast of buckshot. I could make him perceive his shotgun as a boa constrictor but weaving an illusion that complex would require a good thirty seconds of uninterrupted eye contact, unfortunately Mr. Michaels has about ten milliseconds of patience.
“You screwed with the wrong man.” Michaels takes a step. “You have ten seconds to return my money, gun, and windshield wipers.” I let loose a cocky laugh. I can’t believe he wants his windshield wipers back.
“What happens after ten seconds?” Before I finish a loud boom attacks my hearing and the cola machine tremors against my back. I hear the sound of pulsing electricity and bits of plastic dance across the pavement. “Not to be a stickler, but you forgot to read the machine its rights.” If before I thought this cop could have been corrupt that last move more than validated my suspicions.
“Ten!” He cocks his shotgun. “Nine!” Okay think Greyson, while creaming him with a ball of smoldering death could be effective in the short term, you’d have to deal with more cops and also an extremely dissatisfied Mathias. His feet continue to crunch into the pavement, “Eight.” He rounds the machine with the business side of his barrel trained on me. Casting him to sleep would render him without control of that pop machine murdering toy of his. If it happens to have a hair trigger, losing control could be a bad thing for me. I could try to generate a force field to obstruct the blast, but there’s no guarantee I could throw together enough energy to stop it in time. Then something squeaks into my mind, an obvious solution.
“Not that you care officer, but some angsty teenage assholes just made off with my car.”
“Seven. You think I give a shit. Six.”
I nod my head, I anticipated that response “Well considering that’s where your belongings are, I’d take at least a passing interest in it.” The officer hears my words and takes a moment to dissect the possibilities.
“You’re lying.” He spits as I reach into my back pocket. “Not so fast! Hand in the air!”
“I’m reaching for my wallet. You have me dead bang, I’m not going to do anything stupid.” My wallet is tightly lodged into my jean pocket and with some light jostling I pull it free. “Here.” I say while throwing it too him. He catches it with one hand while leaving the other fixed on the shotgun and it fixed on me. He tries to rummage through it using one hand all while oscillating his attention between me and the wallet.
“See… Nothing. Unlike your happy hicktown ass I don’t leave a massive lump of cash in my wallet.” Just as expected he leers at me with anger spewing from his eyes and then returns his glance to my wallet. He sifts for a second and looks in my direction once more. He jerks his head back and darts his attention wildly in every direction while a pale white tone dominates his face. I just needed a few seconds of eye contact to weave together something simple. Snakes and complex illusions take more time to mold into perceived existence, however making something once visible, transparent… That doesn’t take nearly as much effort.
“What the… How did he?” He trembles with confusion while spinning to analyze the area behind him. He completes his three hundred and sixty degree turn and I snap my fist into his face leveling him to the ground all the meanwhile restoring my natural opacity level. There’s more than one way to put someone to sleep. After collecting the shotgun and my wallet I take a few steps away when a thought hits me… Much like I hit Officer Cowboy over there… I don’t have car anymore and without skipping a beat a deviously fun solution presents itself.
I’d borrow my good friend the angry-gun-toting-cowboy-cop’s police cruiser. I nestle my rear-end into the seat in a vaudevillian manner. I’m perfectly aware no one is watching I just really commit to sarcastic gestures. Hanging from my finger tips is the cluster of keys I fished out of Ted the Cop’s pocket. I listen enthusiastically as it each key clings into one another, much like a wind chime. I really need to thank Ted for lending me his wheels and with that I cram one of the keys into the ignition and start what could be a very long chase.
© Copyright 2017 Shane Carr. All rights reserved.
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