25 September 2009

"The Cadillac" #Fridayflash

The Cadillac
By Carrie Clevenger

It was the fourth of June, when the driver of that Cadillac darkened my doorstep. His hat lay squared even with his ears, squashed down over his eyebrows. He carried some sort of little metal case, complete with shiny hasps, but it wasn’t him or his dress that got me. It was his car. That grey Cadillac was something else.

It perched at the curb like a metal bird of prey, scowling at me through the thin screen door. I wanted to shut it out. To close the curtains and go down in the cellar. I got lost in that grey, the color of baked, aged concrete. That grey was as deep a color as anyone ever saw, the shade of a manhole cover in winter. I shrugged off a shiver. The sun didn’t sparkle off it. It didn’t cast a shadow either. It just hunkered down, casually nosing the lawn and the beginnings of prickly weeds that little Johnny’d forgotten to come by and trim.

He said his name was John Wilson, but I suspected he was lying. He glanced past my shoulder, already leaning into the door, that crazy car of his seeming to reinforce the fact that he just wanted to use the phone. He offered me a quarter for the trouble, and against my better intuitions, I let him in, wiping my hands on a towel and loosening my tie. I felt choked up but kept the front door open so I could eye that Cadillac as if it would suddenly threaten the neighborhood kids.

John Wilson attached some strange-lookin’ device, dialed a number, muttered for a few minutes into the receiver, and hung up, letting the handset hit the cradle with a smart snap. I figured he’d made a long distance call, what with all that spinning the rotary dial, round and round. I would’ve let him know that wasn’t how we did things in my house, but I suspected he wouldn’t have cared one bit. No sir. The fact was, I was about to unzip my mouth and say something, but that’s when I noticed the Cadillac. It wasn’t grey anymore.

Nope, the car had now taken on a nice slick lipstick-red job. I staggered backwards and spun around to inquire about all this creepy-williness, positioned to make a good excuse to get this man out of my house and take his big mean car along with him.

John turned around in my kitchen, admiring the copper-bottomed pots and pans as he lit a cigarette. In my kitchen. I didn’t smoke. Neither should he, but by that time I was spooked. I eyed the crucifix hanging in the near shadows in the hallway, and mumbled a thanks to the Lord if he’d just watch over me one more time, thank you, Amen. John Wilson continued to savor that smoke and formed perfect rings on each exhale.

“Hey,” I started to say, but then I looked back at the Cadillac. It grinned grass-green back at me.

“What the hell…hey! That car out there!” I semi-shouted, about to ponder over all the reasons why General Motors hadn’t advertised their new color-changin’ schemes, but that’s when he let me have it. I spun around to dodge the swing but metal connected with bone. I went down.

I felt my skull give way as that iron skillet sunk deep in. I remember my eyes rolling up and looking at that man with it still in his hand, a little bit of my hair stickin’ to it. He dropped the cigarette to the floor right next to my face and ground it out with his heel. I sneezed at the sulfur and brimstone odor. It wasn’t no ordinary butt. The phone rang. He picked it up. Looked down at me.

“I’m gonna use your phone again. And you gonna stop worryin' about that Caddy."

I must’ve lost consciousness at that moment, because next I woke up, I was in the trunk of a moving vehicle, more than likely that color changin’ Cadillac’s. I didn’t know where John Wilson was taking me, why he’d taken me, or if that was really his name. It didn’t matter much now, I told myself, ‘cause I was bound to be dead by mornin’ for sure. The car went on for what seemed about an hour and then we stopped.

The driver got out of the car, and I could hear his steps in loose gravel. A key in the trunk lock, and then up went the deck lid, and I found myself looking into the eyes of Death himself.

“Had to involve yourself there,” he hissed, and snatched me clear of the trunk, dropping me at his feet.

Death was wearing his blacktooth grin, but he’d somehow forgotten to remove the squashed derby. Gave him a comical appearance.

“You was all gapin’ at my car here, and well, I couldn't just let you run your mouth about it,” He said, walking around to the other side of the car. I wanted to turn my head but shards of pain shot through my temple when I tried. I grunted and shifted my weight off my bruised hip.

“I…I wouldn’t tell anyone,” I said, gasping for air. I think he’d broken a few ribs besides brained me.

“You would too! I saw you thinkin’ about those colors and what they meant. You just lying to get away!”

I never realized just what a simpleton Death really was. He was really kinda pathetic and I started laughing. I didn’t stop when he kicked me to shut me up. I think I was cracking.

“It’s all good. That phone call saved me another four hundred years of rent,” He said, and I grew quiet, interested in such a strange explanation. Or maybe he was thanking me.

“I put it on payments, but…”

He looked down on me, his empty eye sockets filling with fire.

"Yeah, I should pay you,” He said, and I felt a cold stillness enter my body.


I took off my derby as I stepped in past the squat old woman. She was nice to let me use her phone, but I could already tell she was looking at my car. I sighed as I dialed the now familiar numbers, knowing that that car would be death of many before I was done.

Somehow, the Man Upstairs must’ve thought the car a good punishment for alertin’ his Christian babies. Couldn’t cover it up. Couldn’t hide it. Damned thing was as bright as the Aurora Borealis.

It was bait, only attractin' good souls. Tasty souls. I'd become a grunt, a gatherer of spiritual essence, all that joo-joo. Made the payments on that lovely piece o' property Beezulbub was rentin' from You-Know-Who. Still, there was a certain appeal to being the apprentice to Old Splitfoot himself.

At least I know there’s a good corner in hell reserved for me.

17 September 2009

"War Zombies" #Fridayflash

That old devil moon peered over my shoulder as I leaned back against my bird, reading a naughty rag in the milky glow. I picked up smoking from the boys in England, got a tattoo visiting some old Red-light district down in Singapore and worked on not being a square.

Andy became Andrew Callahan, and I landed behind the controls of that sweet Grace, my Wildcat P-40. We bonded over whiskey sours and sweet serenades by Ella and Doris. Dean and Frankie drifted over her wings and I dozed lightly, careful not to line my cheek with marks from her rivets. The Staff Sergeant often came in and chided me soundly for staying in there with her. She didn't want to be alone, I told him. He smirked and told me to get my ass to bed.

I did just that one night and hardly put out the light in the shared bathroom when I heard sirens. Air-strike sirens. I rushed out in a towel to a flurry of activity: America's boys, all in various stages of undress and disorientation fluttered around, hollering like it was Blitzkrieg outside. Far as I knew, it could've been.

I dove onto my bunk and tore my uniform from the locker, throwing it on like automatic. We became an assembly line, handing out M1s and everybody shouting orders 'til the Staff Sergeant came in and made the orders for us.

“Gentlemen! We are under fire, and it is unknown what side they are on. I want each and every one of you to arm yourself and take them out as quickly and cleanly as possible, do you understand?”

A unanimous shout of “Yes sir!” answered him and he saluted smartly and disappeared.

Plastic Man, my bunkmate, named for his kooky way of sitting in Mess Hall, shouldered up to me.

“You think we're gonna die?” His Creole accent shined through clearly in his fright. His doe-dark eyes were wide and then the lights went out, leaving me looking into those big googly things like he was my girl and we were parked. I rolled back from him.

A volley of shots erupted outside the high windows of the barracks and every one of us hit the floor, doing that slow crawl along the baseboards, one after another, like a big ol snake to reach the screen door that stood open in the wake of the Staff Sergeant's visit.

The sharp crack of anti-aircraft artillery. We thought better of going Out There, where it wasn't safe, but for all we knew, this whole roof would come down on our heads. I cursed and grabbed the doorsill, pulling to my feet, the whole squadron following my example.

The shots were dying down, and overheard was a criss-crossed network of planes, the stiff spotlights illuminating that broken cross on the underwing.

Flares stunned the wounded sky into semi-light long enough to see the big-creeping black zeppelin maneuvering into position.

“What are they doing with a frikin' zeppelin?”

His surprise was justified. The last zeppelin was supposed to be straight-up dismantled back five-six years ago, yet here it was, silent except for the little propellers.

“Shoot it down!” The shouts echoed throughout the camp, and I glanced skyward. It was fishy—this big, slow thing overhead and how in nine hells did it pass under radar?

The Embargo. No. “No,” I said, under my breath then ran towards the line where shells were being loaded again. The twin barrels wheeled around to face the cloud-obscuring damn thing and then, it was all over.


The massive quake of explosion shook the sky, the ground, and took out half the boys around me. I scrambled under a Jeep, backwards, like a rabbit. Dazed, I watched the landscape change from past taps to bed to a field of fire. The hydrogen in the big blimp ignited, and rained fire as the screeching-deflating balloon came crashing to the ground.

Plastic Man scurried past me, and I reached out, calling to him, but he couldn't hear. Half his face was gone. I blinked in momentary confusion, and then I saw them.

They were men. Were. Whatever era they'd been human was now over before that shuffling gait like a broken-legged dog wasn't right. Wasn't normal, as far as I could see. They fell out on the field like cockroaches, some dressed in tatters, uniforms aflame from the big attack just moments before.

They spread out, shoulders lopsided, arms dangling and attacked our boys, the ones left over. Snarling and tearing. I heard it all. I clutched my helmet and said a little prayer before grabbing my M1 to join in the fight.

The dead lay scattered and torn, leaving me looking for signs of life in faces I'd grown to care for. I called for Skip and Plastic Man and feared making any more sound. The strange soldiers dropped off by the Nazis were ambling up the hill, towards the barracks—and me.

I fell back behind a line of trucks discarded by the blast; some on their sides. A dirty boy dropped in next to me, and I caught my breath. It was Skip.

“Where are the others?” I shouted over the hellish din.

“Dead, sir,” he said, nursing his wounded arm. In the dark, I couldn't see what'd happened to it. Or him.

“What in the hell are those things?” I asked, and faced Skip, his eyes big as an owl's in the fires of the wreckage.

“Zombies, sir,” he answered solemnly. I frowned. “Zombies?”

Skip pulled a worn comic book from his back pocket, replete with poorly-inked images of walking corpses, arms outstretched, their eyes red and calling for brains in a vicious bestial snarl.

“Those are funnies, Skip,” I snapped back, but I compared the images with the real-life scene set before us, and they weren't a damn bit funny.

“Keep it,” Skip said, “And shoot them square between the eyes. You gotta destroy the brain.”

He rose slowly, and I caught a full view of his face: sallow and lined, his eyes bloodshot as hell. The injured arm he was cradling flashed into stark-reality as he put the pistol to his head.

“Better step back,” he said in a strange voice as he looked down at me. “Don't wanna get any on ya.”

“What are you doing?!” I jumped up to stop him from putting standard-issue ammunition in his skull, but he pulled the trigger. My ascent turned sideways and I twisted out of the fallout-range of his splattered brains, crawling in the grass like big maggots, seeking something else to cling to.

I glanced at the comic book he gave me, the face of a zombie printed in pink and gray leering at me from the cover. It'd become a survival manual.

11 September 2009

Flash Friday - "Rain"

Only because I plagiarize my own stuff, but it fits and so here goes:

(Written by my character M, which makes it legally mine...)

--Written to the tune of The Cult's "Rain"...


The cold gel-like sensation of the drops as they fall and disperse on my skin is indescribable, but I must endeavor to improve my vocabulary, as all who spoke first not-English. This chill and wet—a sensation I can feel, and experience, and yes, even play in.

The dusty earth cracks when parched and deprived of healing waters. The foot leaves no mark on the impressionless soil. The packed dirt. The dead earth. No vegetation grows well. Nothing moves in the stifling desert. Every creature flees and cowers under rocks and sparse, bent trees in pittance of shade.

The sky frowns, and cracks with distant rumbles and whispers of moisture.

I am there if it is dark. Lightening fingers out along the underside of the clouds, and the ceiling hangs low, almost to where one can reach up and touch and feel the dense fog they are made of.

The rain is timid at first, but gains courage and soon is as coins fall from heaven, battering the packed earth, seeping through the dusty layers to reach and fill roots that have lain in wait. They wait for the water. The rain.

I stand with my head tipped back and arms outstretched to invite the downfall. To feel the icy droplets pelt my flesh and soak my hair. My clothes grow heavy and stick to me as I am saturated. I am a tree here too, opening to this welcome gift from the skies. The heat has fled.

The air stirs cooler, freer, cleaner.

The ground sags beneath my feet. The dirt gives way and newborn creeks rage through improvised arteries to fill the dead riverbeds. The cracks fill and seal and the water begins to flow toward the sea, to give back what was given; to ensure this will happen: again and again.

A heart of mud, rock, and water. I invite it. I roll in the new mud, letting the frigid muck permeate my senses and coat me with life.