Story Fifteen – It Spreads


Is there anything more dangerous than a crazy-ass writer?

No…

Well… 

Maybe one of these… MAYBE…


“Tacos are the source of all things good and right in this world.”

Vic had a habit of speaking to himself on long hauls. It seeped into his daily life. Even today, when he was pretty much just waiting around for his next call, he’d had three conversations already.

He pulled his pickup through the small ramp and gunned the engine. He cut in front of a tiny car of high school kids. He gave a little smile. They just looked like the type that were out for no good. They looked like the type he’d hung out with when he was that age.

The nearly setting sun tried to blind him though the windshield when he turned the corner to order. He stopped and pulled down the visor.

The window took a bit to roll down. It was sticking lately and he didn’t want to force it so much that he ripped the handle. It was an older truck, without power windows and heated seats. It had a great engine, though. That’s what he cared about.

A crackling, odd voice came through the speaker. It was accompanied with a gust of mid-autumn wind and a few gold and red leaves.

“Y-ou REadY?”

Vic shook his head, then realized no one could see him. He leaned out and nearly hit his forehead on the edge of the door. The truck was a full size, but Vic was closer to seven foot than six.

“Nah, just checking out the menu.”

The perforated screen sounded a little annoyed to be made to wait.

“Ok, YOU tELL us When -kzt- REadY.”

He scanned the menu. He always got the same combination but he couldn’t take away the chance to change, no matter how unlikely it was.

His phone chirped. The walkie-talkie function worked. His boss spoke through, too loud for being so close. Vic forgot he’d turned the volume all the way up to play a ringtone for his friend.

“Hey, I need you to make a run to detroit.”

Bobby was always busy but he sounded exhausted. His voice was older, about fifteen hours over clocked.

Vic grabbed the phone but the restaurant speaker buzzed back.

“WHAt? We DOn’T haVe a PlaCE in DeTroit. We DON’T mAke Runs!”

Before Vic could explain himself, Bobby chirped him again.

“Seriously, man. This is urgent. Get your ass to detroit as soon as possible.”

The drive-thru operator must have been having just as bad of day as Bobby. He became louder, less coherent. The levels of the mic went to the red.

“L-EN MAN, ORdER OR D—N’T ORD–R, OK? No FuCK-ng ‘roUND! We dOn’T Go noWHERE. STO— bEiNG a biTCH and oR—ER”

Vic clicked the button on his phone and whispered into it.

“Be there in a few, just gotta get something to eat. Might take me a few more minutes than I thought.”

He threw the phone in his passenger seat and leaned out the window. He continued the same breath with the speaker.

“Alright, I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what got into me. I think I’ll have the big mac and whopper special.”

A static-filled breath preceded screeching sounds that were kind of reminiscent of words, but not quite there. Vic smiled. He tapped the screen.

“I’m sure they have them in detroit, maybe you should check?”

He waited to hear the anger coming from the electronics, then drove out of the line. He wasn’t going to order there now anyway, he thought it’d be a waste to not milk the situation.

~~~

Bobby was tired. Vic didn’t need him to spell it out. Rigid movements, lack of discussion, and utter disregard for hygiene were enough.

It was hard to hear in the office. There was a thin piece of wood separating the paperwork from the auto work in the garage. The building was fully functional, they could send them out, bring them in, and put them up on blocks if they needed to.

“Get in the rig, pick up the shit, and get it back here with everything in one piece.” Bobby held his face in one hand, leaning against the wall with the other. “That’s what I want, Victor, that’s all I care about.”

“Jesus, Bob, I just asked if I’d have time to get breakfast on my way back.” He and Bob never had negativity between them. They never hung out, but during hours they got along.

Vic knew where the frustration was coming from. The problems in Happy Hills were spreading out to the city. Three driver’s had left already. More were planning to go. When the crew only consisted of about fifteen guys, it made things tough to lose one.

“Just get in the truck.”

Vic nodded. There was no use trying to calm Bobby down or tell him everything was going to be alright. The more time he spent there, the less time he was on the road and the more weight he’d be putting on Bobby anyway.

He grabbed his bag duffel bag. Bobby had quit asking him why he carried so much to the closer pickups. That was probably because Vic had stopped caring enough to answer.

Vic walked through the garage, nodding to the guys. He left through the metal side door leading to the yard.

~~~

Vic was old enough to be worried about falling asleep at the wheel but young enough to think he shouldn’t have to. The Offspring blared on the speakers. It was too dark to go silent and too cold to go country or anything softer than heavy. The disc was a special mix. He knew it’d keep him awake no matter what, even on that slushy november night.

He had one more X-84 energy shot in the miniature fridge. He wanted to save that for the ride home. He found that being tired at night was one thing, but the transition from dawn to daylight was unbearable. He’d need all four servings in the bottle eventually.

The truck was rolling down the road nearest to the old hospital. He called it old, even though it had just been operational a few days before. He didn’t like being there around Happy Hills but it was the quickest route. He didn’t like going by it when all the crazies were still locked up.

They hadn’t found them yet.

He had to keep reminding himself of how big his truck was, how fast he was going, and the special items he kept in that ridiculous duffel bag of his. Even of something did happen, he was prepared.

The track changed. A heavy techno atmosphere pounded it’s way through the speakers. He mouthed along with the sampled lyrics.

“Listen all you mothafuckas”

Rap was not on his list of great music but he could bear some and others he just had to smile at. This wasn’t rap, though. Music like this could run the rails. It had rap in it, but it was harder in a way he liked. He only knew one line of this song, but it was one of his favorites because of it.

He barely saw the drenched, shivering, running body waving it’s arms in the middle of the road.

He set the brakes but kept the wheel still. If he turned, the trailer’s weight, even empty, would pull the cab down and they’d slide sideways. The dumbass in the road would be dead anyway and Vic probably wouldn’t be any better off. If he had to hit him, he was going to. It’d be better for one person to go than both of them together.

He started thanking god, he’d had enough time to skid down the speed. The front end stopped about fifteen feet away. The lights hit the guy. He was old. He was older than Vic by about forty years. He wore a thick brown suit. Nature was looking to make it obsolete, it started pouring harder and harder to get through the fabric. He could have been crying but Vic couldn’t be sure.

Vic hit the stop button on his CD player. When he got back in, he was hoping to start the song over instead of going back to the middle. He hated starting things in the middle. He took a breath and tapped his foot on the floor mat.

Shit.

The old man tried to get up, to come to the door of the cab. Vic saw the blood then, so much of it that it wasn’t being washed away. The man fell on the road and cried out.

Vic grabbed his duffel bag, flashlight and keys, opened his door, and hopped down. He locked up behind him. He’d never experienced someone taking his truck and he wasn’t going to start. He went to the guy writhing in pain. He clicked the button on the heavy MAGLITE.

“What happened? Are you alone?”

Vic was greeted with a scream.

“It hit the car.”

He put his cell phone under his jacket and flipped it open. He dialed the three numbers, put it to his ear and waited the few seconds for them to pick up.

“911, state your emergency.”

Vic had to yell a little bit for any sound to make it through.

“I’m out on State Route 2-7-8, about three miles in. There’s an old man here who’s been in a wreck. His leg is gashed pretty bad. Whoever you send, tell them to watch for the semi-truck. We’re right beside it.”

The dispatcher sounded like a twenty-something girl or an even younger boy. Vic couldn’t tell and he didn’t have the time to guess as he normally would. She clicked on an unseen keyboard, faster than she could talk, and came back with some information.

“We’re dispatching a unit to your location. Try to keep warm, they’ll be there soon.”

She ended the call with no more specific information than ‘soon’. Vic hated soon.

The old man repeated the only words Vic had heard him say. This time quieter but no more calm than before.

“It hit the car.”

Vic nodded, opening his bag to find a clean cloth to use as a compress. The movies would have told him to rip his shirt and make a tourniquet. It’d work for now but in a few hours, when the ambulance came by, the leg wouldn’t be salvageable. He knew it, too. Bobby had made all his drivers take a course in first aid. He saw the slides of dead, gangrenous legs and arms, it was one of the few things he remembered.

The old man opened his mouth to speak again. Vic said the words for him.

“It hit the car, I know. That can be a big shock when it happens.”

He figured it was a deer. A big buck, probably. Had he had his pickup, he’d be looking for the body after helping the old man. He couldn’t imagine explaining a rotter in the back of his trailer to Bobby when he got back. ‘They must’ve loaded it in, I swear.’

Yeah, that’d fly over well.

Vic put heavy pressure on the leg. He was a big man with a big arm and a lot of force. The cloth wasn’t anything special, just one of the towels he kept for situations a lot like this. He couldn’t remember where he read it but he knew keeping a towel around was important. The man winced.

“This is gonna hurt.”

Vince thought saying it late was better than not saying it at all. The old man didn’t pay any mind. He was already looking down the road, away from the truck and the light and the warmth of the cabin. Vic figured his car was still out there. He thought it’d be best to get him talking.

“They said the ambulance’d be here soon. They didn’t give me an exact time, though. I hate when they do that shit, don’t you?”

There was no response. The man just sat there, breathing in the rain. Vic was getting a little creeped out by the whole thing. He’d heard of people going into shock but he’d never witnessed it.

“Hey, fella, I’m really sorry but I never asked you for your name.”

Vic poked a thick finger in the old man’s shoulder. White hair and a grey beard spun in a flurry. The man’s intense black eyes stared at him. The pupils were wide, even in the glare from the flashlight. Vic’s words wouldn’t come out.

The man raised his eyebrows as if he’d forgotten something important.

“My son. We’ve got to get my son.”

Vic held him down.

“I need to bandage you up first. Now hold still.”

There wasn’t enough time to get to the bag to find the bandage before the ball of fire erupted and rose past some trees in the direction the man’s son had to be. Vic’s face drained of life. His jaw hung slack.

Deer don’t do that much fucking damage, not even a ten point.

What in the shit-holes did they hit?

The injured man sprung to his feet. Adrenaline kicked in and his old limbs felt young again. Vic, however, was left dumbfounded watching the flames roll into thick black smoke, blotting out what he had thought was a lightless, pitch sky.

Something in him told Vic to move. The same voice would have done well to make sure he brought the duffel bag. It didn’t. He ran after the remarkably spry man with only the flashlight in his hand. Even his phone had been left behind, safe in the folds of the black luggage.

He was used to fighting. He was used to barhopping. He was not quite accustomed to running. He’d had a bad knee for a few years, it didn’t give him much trouble through the day. But it turned into a bitch when he would lift anything or exert that leg in most other ways. He kept his mind off the burning jolts the only way that came to him. He started singing his ring-tone in all it’s old-time jazzy glory.

I’m about the kick somebody’s ass

He had to ask how long the old man had been walking before he found him. At a full clip, it took nearly five minutes to find the smoldering pieces of the car.

Vic saw the old man. He was standing over some of the wreckage, a few pieces of a seat, it looked like. He was crying. His hands were touching the light brown leather like it was a huge loss. Though the car was basically just blown apart pieces of a frame and one tire that hadn’t been shot into the air, Vic could tell what it had been. It had been a piece of shit. He came over to the man, shining the flashlight.

There was so much blood, all over the old guy. Vic led the shaft of light across the scarlet soaked hands and to the ground.

It wasn’t a seat.

Vic thought he was going to be sick.

He’d been punched in the stomach before. Being so big, it was an easy target for the shorter assailing jackasses he’d have to deal with, nightly, at his friend’s bar. The pain in his abdomen was the opposite. It was as if his stomach punched up, into his lungs and heart. He couldn’t breathe.

He thought he was going to be as dead as the man’s son, torn to pieces almost too tiny to seem human.

The man opened his mouth to speak. He stopped when they both heard strange gibberish noises coming from the darkness of the woods just a few feet from them.

A scream of joy preceded a stark flash of bright yellow in the light of the torch. Then there was nothing, no sound, not even a man, was left. In his place were his legs. They weren’t cut. They were ripped from the sockets. Vic could see the ball of the hip joint jutting from the muscle of the torn gluteus.

He screamed vomit on the pavement. He had to force himself to not black out.

What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?

There was nothing more in his head than that single question. He turned and ran. The rain made it hard to keep footing. The old Ohio road made it impossible. His boot fell in a pothole near the shoulder. He went down, taking the force with his knee, his bad knee. Lightning struck from his thigh to his spine.

He hit so hard, the denim scraped raw and came apart. The skin did the same. He gave a hard punch to the ground, his thick knuckles taking the brunt of the attack. He screamed, not so much in pain, but to keep himself going.

He brought himself back up, holding the flashlight like a club. He didn’t know what that thing was. He could go his whole life without knowing what it was. He needed to get to his truck.

He limped part of the way but he’d seen enough horror movies.

Come on Vic, the limper always gets it, stop being a pussy and RUN!

It worked. The pain was deep but not as deep as getting his legs ripped out would be. He decided to not let that happen without a fight. He saw his truck. He saw the bag. He knew the phone would be in it.

He heard that gibberish behind him. He heard something like footsteps come up on him, fast. With how they sounded, there was no way he could outrun it.

Coming up on his duffel bag, he turned. He saw a tiny, round, yellow head getting larger. It was smiling, laughing, with wide triangular teeth. Huge misshapen black eyeholes narrowed and it started moving faster. It was weird, like a demented ‘have a nice day’ shirt chasing you down.

Vic shot the MAGLITE at the thing like a boomerang. He heard it squeak when the part containing the bulb hit it’s head so hard the whole flashlight busted apart. Batteries and a thick green fluid flew everywhere.

His fingers closed in on the bag’s strap of a handle. He pulled the keys from his pocket and climbed up to the door. He didn’t look to see if the thing had gotten up yet. If it hadn’t, great, if it had, what the hell could he have done about it?

He opened the door, jumped in the seat, and locked the world out. The world was dark from inside the cab. A soft orange glow made the eyes naturalize themselves to it’s light.

Vic sat up and shoved the key into the ignition. He turned it, sending electric life through the giant hauler. The lights blasted into two streams, sending the dark away and giving the first glimpse at the absolute oddity standing in their path.

Vic leaned forward. The yellow bastard was short. It’s body wasn’t much bigger than an eight year old boy’s, though it was sure as hell stockier.

It’s head made up nearly half it’s size. All of it, the head, the body, the hands, even the teeth, was a single, bright, canary yellow. It practically shined. Vic immediately went through all the drinks he’d had the night before, wondering if he’d finally hit the right combination of ‘fucked up’. He came to the conclusion that the last day, and this whole debacle, had to be a hallucination. The damn thing was wearing clothes! Not normal clothes, not a t-shirt and jeans. This smiley-faced son of a bitch had on leather pants and a biker’s jacket with torn sleeves. Metal spikes gleamed from its shoulder and the toes of its boots.

The worst part of it was the eyes. It didn’t have any. They were just holes, masses of darkness cut into the yellow smiling ball. They moved, squinting, morphing, showing emotion. It was showing an interest, keeping it’s focus past the lights of the truck, directly on Vic. It lifted it’s three fingered hand and waved enthusiastically.

Vic swallowed.

He knew of situations where you just don’t know what the fuck to do. He knew he’d experience one at some point in his life. But he was hoping it’d be something like ‘the girl you went to bed with last night pisses standing up in the morning’. It never occurred to him to prepare for something so different.

It took a step forward. It’s movements were exaggerated, like Bugs Bunny when sneaking up on Elmer Fudd.

“The fuck you will!”

Vic’s whisper turned into a scream as he revved the engine and kicked it to drive. The rig didn’t start very fast. At forty tons, it didn’t have to.

The thing hopped and landed with it’s leg’s spread apart and it’s hands at the ready, like it was playing some deranged game of football.

Truck collided with smiley. Vic, not thinking to put his seatbelt on, was sent forward against the wheel. He kept his foot on the gas but the wheels were only spinning. The squealing only grew louder. He felt everything reverse.

It was pushing him back.

Vic pushed it into a higher gear. The wheels spun harder, the engine roared louder. Motion returned forward but then, like before, stopped, and went back the other way.

“FUCK!”

He sent it all the way, top gear. It didn’t lurch forward anymore, only continuing in a slow and steady backwards motion.

Vic put his hand on the shifter. He smiled.

“Alright, alright.”

He dropped it in reverse, sending as much drive with the creature’s pushing as he had been throwing against it. The both shot backwards. The thing screamed it it’s weird language and lost it’s grip. It rolled on it’s head, arms and legs flailing in the air.

Vic pounded the brakes, pushed it back into drive, and blasted forward. He heard the mechanics of the truck screaming in opposition. He could hear Bobby screaming obscenities at him. At least he could see himself living. He turned the leviathan-like semi, lining it’s left wheel with the thing trying to rebalance itself. His cell-phone rang. ‘I’m about to kick somebody’s ass’ blared loudly through the cab.

He felt the bumper hit the head. The wheel caught the body, he knew from the sound it made. It was a scream that shook the windshield. Vic could see the safety glass shudder.

It was like a speed bump, a living, breathing, screaming, yellow fuck of a speed bump that, for all Vic knew, wanted to rape his ass with a barbed-wire wrapped water bottle.

He switched to reverse, cut back over it, then returned to drive. He did it about fifteen times. Each time, the screams were quieter. They became nothing more than dying gasps and then not even that.

He stopped over it, bringing the left front tire to rest on, what he could assume by the elevation, was it’s head.

The phone had stopped ringing. He didn’t even check to see who it was. He just sat there. He just breathed. Sweat was dripping everywhere. It was freezing cold the entire time but he was just starting to feel it.

He set his head back against the seat. There was an argument going on between his brain and his balls. The former wanted to get the hell out of there. The latter and lower were trying to convince the legs to walk over so his eyes and hands could make sure it was dead.

There was a rumble starting. It ceased the body-part bickering. It brought Vic, as a full person, back from the edge of a fatigued sleep.

It was more than the engine. It came from a single side, the left. It came from the left wheel.

Vic did the only thing he could quite wrap his head around. He smacked the button on his battery operated mini fridge. He grabbed the last remaining super-sized energy shot and downed the whole bottle.

Tiny yellow hands sent the cab rolling on its right side. Vic held on, hoping the frame held the weight. The rush of niacin from the liquid made his head spin even as the truck stopped.

He was sideways. It took him a second to reorient.

He kicked out the shattered windshield out.

Vic crawled out. He was surprised to not have many wounds, just a scratch over his eye and a bruise on his shoulder. He figured he’d feel more later. But for what he knew he’d have to do, not feeling them then was a blessing.

The yellow thing was tapping its fingers on its leg, the smile a tad lessened. It looked impatient.

Vic held his finger up.

“Shit, wait a second. I forgot something.”

The smiley waved its hand and nodded in bored acceptance.

The duffel bag had fallen close to him. He grabbed it. It dropped on the pavement. Most of it’s contents had fallen out during the roll but the big stuff still stayed.

Vic put his one hand in and pulled out an aluminum bat. The creature pursed its lips, raised its brows and nodded, impressed. Vick nodded too.

“Oh just wait, I’ll get a kick out of kicking the shit out of you with the next thing.”

Old Betsy was a sledgehammer Vic had always kept with him. He bought her when he’d been an auto repair worker. That job had been more dangerous than he’d thought. A few people tried to work him over. He found that no matter what weapon someone came at him with, they’d back down when someone his size had a giant ‘fuck you’ stick in their hand. Old Betsy was his permanent ‘fuck you’ stick.

He grabbed the handle and dragged it from the bag. He gripped the bat with his other hand. Vic stared at the yellow thing.

It stared back.

Vic got a little tired of posturing after a few seconds.

“Are you going to fuckin’ come at me or not?”

The creature looked surprised. It pointed at itself and raised an eyebrow. Vick rolled his eyes.

“Yes, you. It’s your fuckin’ turn.”

It shook its head and pointed at him. Vick slammed the head of the hammer into the ground. It stood up, clearing his hand for finger counting.

“No, dude, YOU killed the old guy and chased me. I threw the flashlight. YOU came at the truck. I ran you over with it. IT’s YOUR FUCKIN’ TURN!”

A small finger moved side to side. The smiley shook it’s head, the grin returning. It put its arms at its side, bending the elbows and turning the hands over palms up. It threw its arms into the air then burst into chipmunk-like laughter.

Vic sniffed. He hated being wrong.

“Fuck, you’re right. It’s my turn.”

He grabbed the hammer again. The smiley closed its eyes and nodded. It didn’t see Vic running. It didn’t see the hammer raised above his head. But it certainly felt the metal bulk smash into its skull and send it face first into the road.

Vic dropped the hammer and grabbed the bat with both hands. He slammed it down on the screaming thing. He drove it into the worn pavement hit by hit.

The thing had bones, he could feel them breaking. Usually that was something Vic would take as a given. He wouldn’t let himself assume anything with this thing anymore.

He didn’t stop on his own accord. The ambulance finally drove onto the scene. The sirens had gone unnoticed until they were practically on top of Vic. The paramedics rushed out and tackled Vic. They went so fast, they forgot to turn off the sound or the lights.

“Sir, STOP! What are you doing to that child?”

A medic skidded to stop next to the crumbled smiley. Vic threw the first off of him.

“It ain’t no fucking child! Stay away from —“

The stooping EMT’s head was already in the yellow thing’s mouth. His mouth opened in a pitiful questioning moan. The thing chuckled. It scurried on the ground, moving against it’s own shattered skeleton like a snake. It twisted the man’s neck and ripped it at the lowest vertebrae.

With a sound straight out of a cartoon, the creature spit the head into the ambulance, creating a hole. It’s broken body cracked and snapped back together. It scampered into the darkness

The other medic, stuck in a position of trying to subdue Vic, stared at the retreating thing then at the blood flowing from his still jerking friend. He looked at Vic, blinked, then erupted in tears and volume.

“WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCK?”

Vic grabbed his shoulders and shook him.

“THAT’S WHAT I SAID, NOW, SHUT THE HELL UP!”

The smaller man continued shouting. Vic thought of slapping him, but with everything that happened, he wasn’t sure he could hold back and he thought it was a possibility he’d break the guy’s neck.

He lifted the still living paramedic up and set him on his feet. He stared him down, eye to eye and gripped his fingers into him, hard. The shrill shouting stopped.

Vic looked at his name on his vest. ‘’Wild’ Bill’.

Seriously? This guy is as wild as they could find?

Vic spoke as softly and calmly as he could. His eyes kept darting around. Any gust of wind could have been the big-headed bastard. He couldn’t risk being caught off-guard. He needed backup. He needed a lot of other guys with a lot of guns. He had to speak above the blair of the sirens.

“Bill, are any cops with you?”

The medic shook his head. His eyes were wide. Vic could feel him shaking beneath his hands.

“N-no. They said they were all busy. Something’s going on in the city.”

Vic nodded. He looked at the his truck, then at the ambulance. The police were out of the picture. He

“You’re going to drive me to the nearest gun-store, then we’re going to pick up some family. got it?”

The EMT nodded. He handed Vic the keys with a shivering hand. Vic grabbed them. He went to the duffel bag with Old Betsy and the bat. He gathered his stuff quickly, keeping his eyes on the woods. The red and white flashing from the ambulance created illusions with the shadows. He squinted, looking for yellow.

He didn’t see anything move, but he could feel it. It might have been the adrenaline or the energy shot working. But there was something telling him it was still alive.

The bag nearly toppled the medic when Vic handed it to him. He kept trying to speak but couldn’t get anything out. He stared at his partner. The body had lost muscle tension and was lying still but from the look in the eyes of the one who lived, it might as well have been a zombie.

Vic put his arm around him and brought him to face the ambulance.

“Bill, get in and turn off that fuckin’ siren.”

Vic thought for a moment.

“You know what? First, we’re stopping at Taco Bell.”

For one time, only, Aaron has requested I give you guys a footer with an image of the creature he describes in the story above. This image is a few years old and some things have changed but, as you can see… it’s pretty spot on… Plus, as you can see, there’s a few of them 😉

© Aaron Shively 2009

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About Aaron Shively

I have been working as a freelance writer and artist for the last decade. In that time, I've done everything from ghostwriting to toy design and everything in between. I am currently working on a novel series called 'Myth' which has held my attention for the past sixteen years. I have spent my time developing the world, character and story and am now ready to funnel all the preliminary material into the manuscript of the first installment, 'of Men and Monsters' Bookmark & Share

Posted on 05/16/2011, in Concepts, Excerpts, Freewriting, Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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