Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Preface: Last year, I started a story that was inspired by the phrase "Witch children fallow the elder's footsteps." I had intended to write that story within the month of September, 2007.
Obviously, I'm late.
Hopefully, this story will have been worth the wait.
"I don't understand why I have to be Samedi," Jeff whined. He was 14 and an only child, accustomed to getting his way. "I want to be Don Pedro."
"Because you're black, duh," explained Andy, rolling his eyes. "The lyrics say, Samedi the black man of Alchemy." At 15, he was the oldest boy in his group, and thus the leader. The fact that he was taller than the rest helped reinforce his position. "Anyway, I'm gonna be Don Pedro."
"That doesn't make sense," argued Jennifer, who was also 15 and frequently challenged Andy's leadership. "You're making Jeff play Samedi because he's black, but you're not Spanish, so how can you be Don Pedro? "
"Besides, the lyrics clearly say Samedi and Petre in Alchemy," offered Sean, his eyes huge behind too-large glasses. The youngest of the group at 13, he was nonetheless the greatest storehouse of rock & roll trivia out of all the children, due mostly to his asthma which had kept him sequestered within his house for most of his childhood.
Andy sighed and pinched his eyes shut. "Look, we don't know anyone Spanish, okay? If there was a Paco or Juan or Ramon in the group, I'd let them play Don Pedro. But we don't, and since I've already taken 2 years of Spanish in school, I'm the closest we have. Which is why Jeff has to be Samedi, since he's black and we aren't."
"But the lyrics..."
"Shut up about the lyrics!" spat Andy, his voice shrill with teenage frustration. "I know what the written lyrics say! But if you cleaned the crap outta your ears you'd know that he's saying Samedi the black man. So just to be safe we're gonna follow both versions! Now, does anyone else have a problem?"
Silence reigned throughout the musty confines of Jeff's basement.
"Finally. Okay, let's do this. Jennifer, get your sisters. Everyone else, put on your masks and let's get started. We've only got a few hours before our parents get back."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Just to set the record straight, I have NOT spent the entire week sulking. I pretty much expended all of my sulkage over the weekend, and since then I've been busy with various projects. Some of you may not believe me, but that's really none of my concern.
Stuff that has been consuming my time:
1) Octane. Yes, Octane. After I'd cooled down, I was able to see how some people might feel it had an abrupt ending, so I've been thinking about how to address that. The advice I've gotten about it seems to boil down to "Throw in more stuff at the beginning of the last chapter so that the audience knows the narrator has tried everything he can think of instead of having what appears to be a colossal leap of logic."
Yeah, I could do that. But being 100% honest with you... I don't want to. Which means that if I did write it, there would be no passion to it. It would stink of "Here, you bastards, this is what you want, fine, I hope you choke on it." Maybe later, after I've gotten distance from it, I'd be willing to revisit certain parts of it, but not now.
Then there's the ending. Sigh. I know people aren't happy about it, but that's how the story first came to me, you know? "Bloodthirsty car takes Communion, is Cured." It's derived from John 4:13-14 :
13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."I thought this was a great ending, not because I wanted to push a particular religious agenda but because it seemed both theologically/philosophically sound and because no one would ever see it coming. And I succeeded on that last part, at the least.
But I've been talking to horror aficionados, and apparently they want the narrator to suffer more, to go through hell first. Part of that is addressed above, with my reluctance to pad the story; the other part is how the ending is perceived as too pat and easy.
Really, at this point there's only one compromise I'd be willing to make: the narrator attempts to feed the Eucharist to the car; car perceives this as a poisoning attempt, attacks narrator; narrator is eaten by car, but by virtue of having also taken communion before this, is currently in a State of Grace; therefore narrator doesn't die, but his spirit drives out the demon/curse/whatever in the Yellow Peril; narrator finds happiness as immortal, indestructible car for the church, who only needs to take Communion every so often instead of going to the gas station/mechanic.
If this is something people want, I'd be happy to do that as an alternate ending. Let me know by comment or e-mail, and if I get a half-dozen or more requests, I'll write it for you.
2) 30 Days of Fiction. Yeah, that's kind of fallen by the wayside. I was delayed by the election, and then I wanted to enjoy my weekend, and then I got mad...
So here's what I intend to do. Clearly, November is looking like a bit of a bust, but I really don't want to admit defeat on this (NaNoMo writers, you know what I mean by this) so instead I offer a compromise: Before the year is out, you'll have had a month's worth of fiction.
I can't promise this. I may in fact fail utterly at it. But I'm trying, dammit.
3). Commissions. Yes, there's at least one person out there who has hired me to write private stories for them, and frankly, my finances are in such a crappy state (as are a lot of people's, I suspect) that when it comes to either writing for free, on my blog, or writing something that will give me actual money... well, that's a no-brainer right there. I've promised my patron that one of these stories will be ready by Thanksgiving, so that clearly takes priority.
At any rate, if you're a regular reader, I thank you for putting up with my prima donna attitude and sticking around. Hopefully I will get my act together sooner, and I pray that 2009 will be more productive and successful that 2008.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I am astounded that a story that everyone seemed to love until the end was posted has generated so little commentary.
When I have gotten an opinion out of people -- usually by tackling them and saying "Give me your opinion on this, or else" -- they seem to say the same things:
- Uh, what happened?
- Kind of abrupt.
- Hate the last lines.
The car ate the Eucharistic bread and wine, which, according to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, is the transubstantiated flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Since the Yellow Peril thirsted for the blood of the innocent, it stands to reason that the divine blood of the Son of God would really fix that problem.
Is the car permanently cured or does it need to go back periodically?
I deliberately left that up to the viewer, mainly because I didn't want to lie down at the intersection of Faith and Story Demands. If I said that the car was permanently cured, that leaves all the horror aficionados going "Well, that's awful convenient." If I say that the car needed constant tending, then I am suggesting that a curse is stronger than God, which is something that really makes me uncomfortable, and I'm certainly not the only one who feels that way.
If you want the curse permanently removed, it is.
If you want it a constant labor, it is. Perhaps the narrator sells it to the priest, and the church gets a really efficient vehicle for the next 20+ years.
This isn't rocket science, people. I don't have to spell everything out for you.
It seems abrupt.
Really? It seems to me like it's a desperate race against time as the narrator, at his wit's end, tries to do an end-run around the curse before he loses control and someone else dies.
Some people have said that the ending is a bit too cute, or tidy, or needs foreshadowing. Fine. These are valid points. Now just kindly tell me what you suggest I do to fix it? Simply flailing your arms and saying "Ugh, foreshadow more" helps me not one whit. A suggestion like, "Maybe he hears a sermon on the radio" is better.
The ending is happy. There are no happy endings in ghost stories.
I direct your attention to the first paragraph of chapter 1, and say "Your expectations are not my problem, as I clearly noted from the beginning that this was an unconventional tale."
The explanatory paragraph at the end is unneeded.
I'll pass that along to all my Jewish, Hindu, Pagan, and Atheist friends. We don't all come from the same religious and cultural background, and I wanted my readers to understand the ending.
The ending is too preachy.
Really, at this point, all I have to say is "Fuck your hypocritical double standard." If you can accept a magically haunted car that eats people and uses blood for fuel, then you can damn well accept that Roman Catholicism has it right. (Full disclosure: I'm not Catholic.) I think it's ridiculous to claim that curses are all right in horror but religion isn't. Case in point: The Exorcist, one of the scariest fucking movies of all time and one that takes religion completely seriously.
Now, with that out of my system, I will be more than happy to address whatever valid points or criticisms you wish to make. Please show your work.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I was starting to think she really had killed that kid. Given what had happened with Dave's coveralls and my toolbox, the children's toys in the back took on new and disturbing implications. I found myself wondering if she had always worked at that daycare, or if she'd gotten to job to make feeding the car easier.
Blood of the innocent, she had said. Apparently, the greater the innocence, the more mileage you got out of it. I found myself wondering if there were any pet stores that sold in bulk before I realized what I was thinking.
I checked my watch, did some quick math in my head. If I left right now and drove like a maniac, I'd have just enough time to stop by the grocery store before it was too late.
By the time I rolled into the parking lot, it was after 9 pm and the last worshipper was being herded out the door of St. Cyprian's by the priest.
"Sanctuary!" I shouted, sprinting for the door. "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" I think the priest was less moved by my sincerity and more startled into inaction by a wild-eyed, unshaven man hurtling toward him and shouting at the top of his lungs, but nonetheless he delayed locking the door long enough for me to squeeze inside.
"Yes, my son?" he asked, no doubt wondering what particular brand of crazy I was.
"Father," I gasped. "What I am about to tell you will seem impossible. It is impossible. I don't ask you to believe it, just believe that I believe it."
It took over an hour to tell my story and answer all of Father James' questions. He still didn't believe me, of course, but I like to think my air of complete and utter desperation made him sympathetic to me.
"Father," I urged him, "do it just this once, and I'll show you what I'm talking about. If I'm wrong, I'll never darken your door again. But if I'm right, you know what you have to do."
"Very well," he conceded. "But we will do this my way." With that he walked back to the altar, spread his hands, and he began to chant. "The Lord be with you..."
One Liturgy of the Eucharist later, we were out in the parking lot. I was carrying the bottle of wine I had bought at the grocery store. Father James had wanted to carry the elements out on a paten and chalice, but I had managed to convince him that wasn't such a wise idea. This entire endeavor struck me as more than a little blasphemous, and I didn't want to risk profaning sacred vessels as well.
"Stand well back," I told the priest. "This thing has a tendency to lunge." He nodded, humoring me, and passed me the remainder of the sacrament.
I crept forward, slowly, the way you might approach a hungry tiger. I didn't know how the beast would react, and for all I knew it would pull a Linda Blair on me. With a silent prayer, I crouched and placed the elements underneath the demon car in a slow, precise motion. My hand had only just withdrawn from underneath when its undercarriage crashed to the ground, pouncing on the offered meal like some great starving animal.
I pretended not to hear the priest utter an oath.
The Peril seemed to linger for a moment, there on the ground, and I didn't know how it was going to react. Would it refuse to eat? Would it regard this as an attempted poisoning?
If there were any demons in that car, they didn't show themselves to me that night, or any other. But when the car finally rose up on its suspension, something new had blossomed on the hood of the car: a daisy so large it nearly covered the entire hood, and so blindingly white that it nearly hurt my eyes to look at it.
The sacramental elements- the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ - were gone. Jesus, the Lamb of God, He who died to take away the sins of the world... and the most Innocent blood of all.
I promised you a happy ending, didn't I?
Monday, November 10, 2008
The usual solutions presented themselves: sell it, smash it, leave it unlocked in a high crime area. I wasn't prepared to sell it because that wouldn't be solving the problem, it would just be pawning it off on someone else, and to a certain degree I'd be responsible for whatever deaths they caused, and I didn't need that on my conscience. Dave's death had been an accident, but ultimately I had been the cause of his death and it was something I'd have to live with for the rest of my life. But to knowingly pass along something like this would be tantamount to selling a rabid animal.
So what do you do with a rabid beast? You destroy it. But I was starting to listen to the back of my mind that had never completely outgrown ghost stories, and it told me that monkey paws like this never ever went gently into that good night. At best, it would just find a way to follow me home. At worst, it might consider me food.
That last thought, however, triggered another. Dave had been consumed and I had only been threatened away, yet of the two I had placed myself in the greater danger. Perhaps the act of owning the Yellow Peril enforced a kind of magical contract -- "Keep me fed and stay away from my tank and I won't kill you." After all, I still didn't know if the car could drive itself. Maybe it needed an owner to bring it food.
Or maybe it silently cruised the streets at night, looking for stray pets and homeless people.
"I assure you, this sort of thing happens all the time," the lawyer said, assuring me not one bit. "People who have found themselves in situations like Ms. Whitmore's often seek to put the record straight. Perhaps she feels some remorse for involving you in this sordid affair." He proffered the envelope in my direction once again.
"Mister, you have no idea how sordid it really is," I said, snatching it from his hand and closing the door. It had been a week since Dave's... accident... and I hadn't been sleeping well. I felt like I had betrayed him, not reporting his death to the authorities, but what could I have said? That my car fell on him, consumed his flesh and drank his blood, leaving no trace? That would have only made me look crazy. Perhaps even seem like Mandy's accomplice in the disappearance of that child she'd confessed to. And if I was jailed, what would become of the car? Sold at police auction, to another hapless victim...
I'd just left the garage when I'd regained my senses. An employee, a customer, someone would realize that he was missing and call the police. After a few days, he'd become a missing person, and some time after that, a statistic.
A statistic. On the drive back, I'd started counting the numbers of flowers on the Peril's hood. I'd stopped when I reached two dozen, sickened and frightened. This wasn't a car -- this was a tool of mass murder. This was Ted Bundy prettied up with sunshine and flowers. This was...
This was a scathing political statement, come to think of it. A car that ran on human blood. A car that, according to Mandy, was there when Katrina devastated the oil refineries and drove gas prices upwards. A car whose model was known for its extravagant consumption of gas.
If this curse was spontaneously formed, it was hellishly poetic karma. If it had been placed by someone, this was nothing short of magical terrorism.
Either way, if I didn't figure out a way to deal with it soon, I was fucked. I had not been sleeping well, and increasingly I had found myself behind the wheel of the Yellow Peril, cruising the streets during the early morning hours as I came out of whatever fatigue-induced fugue had compelled me to start driving. I suspected that it was the car itself, preying on my addled, sleep-deprived brain. Even with its incredible mileage, I was steadily running through its fuel reserves. It was down to a quarter tank and, I suspected, its hunger grew as the needle fell. It would have to feed again soon.
I went to get another beer from the fridge. My current strategy was to drink myself into a stupor each night, rendering me incapable of driving. Or, in a worst case scenario, spectacularly crash the Peril into something large and immobile, though I suspected that if that happened it would probably start eating the rescue crews.
The letter. I'd forgotten it already, but it was in the hand that was reaching for a beer. With unsteady hands, I opened it.
Animals will do in a pinch, it said in what I assumed was Mandy's handwriting. But they don't last long.
Humans are better.
It prefers children though. Guess they're more innocent.
I figure a baby will last it a month or more.
I vomited on the kitchen floor.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Yellow Peril sat serenely in its parking spot, its raucous coloration seeming somehow muted and tranquil in the cool quiet of the garage. It was hard to take seriously, especially with the riot of stylized flowers that covered it. This was not a man-eating beast! It was only an expensive toy, writ large.
Writ very large, and potentially very expensive. I returned to my apartment and called Dave, my mechanic. "Want you to take a look at this car I just got," I explained. "It's a 2004 Hummer, and I want to make sure there aren't any nasty surprises waiting for me."
"2004? Jesus, I hope you didn't sign anything. GM recalled one of their Hummer lines that year. The front wheel-tire assembly tended to just up and fall off. But yeah, I'll take a look. You just drive her over here whenever."
So with that arranged, I walked back to my new car, got in, and started her up. She smoothly reversed out of the parking spot, and I noticed without surprise that my tools were no longer on the ground. Stolen, I supposed, or perhaps taken to lost and found by a conscientious passer-by.
I specifically did not look in back when I heard a metallic rattle, like tools in a box. I wasn't going to look, and you couldn't have made me. Besides, I only imagined it. Because my tools were gone. Yes.
I drove to Dave's garage with the radio at full volume.
"So, is there anything specific you want me to check?" he asked, lifting the massive, daisy-splattered hood. "Maybe get you an estimate on a paint job?" He laughed, a short, barking sound that always sounded more phlegmatic than mirthful.
"Just... look around," I offered, tendrils of unease trickling up my spine and across my scalp. "Make sure nothing's, you know, funny."
"Funny?" He was bent over at the waist, a wrench in one hand and a light in the other, like a spelunker or a full-contact dentist. "You think someone's trying to put one over on you?"
"I, I don't know," I stammered. I was intensely afraid for the man, bent over in that thing's maw like he was a lion tamer with a raw steak necklace. I wanted to rush over there and tackle him, but all I could do was flex my fingers nervously. "There's something funny with the gas tank, I think. I can't find the cap. Don't know how to fuel it."
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the hood clanged down. "Engine looks good," he said, and I allowed myself to breathe once again. "I'll check the suspension for you, but this is an H1. It's the H2 that had the recall." He moved to the wall and activated the hydraulic lift. "Your gas tank probably has a hidden valve. Big thing these days, what with the price of fuel and all. Don't want your gas siphoned, just mod the tank. No obvious cap, gas thieves just give up."
The hoist had moved to full extension and he walked underneath to examine the underbody. "Yeah, definitely shows signs of modification. Big tank like this, no surprise--"
The hydraulic lift failed and the Hummer crashed to the ground.
When I opened my eyes, it was just bobbing there, bouncing on its oversize suspension. There was no damage.
And no sign of Dave.
When I finally found the courage to climb in, there was a set of coveralls on the back seat, along with a tool belt. My box of tools was on the floor.
With shaking hands, I started the car. A large daisy, the same blue as Dave's coveralls, blossomed on the hood. The instrument panel showed a full tank of gas.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Sleep wouldn't come, despite exhaustion's best efforts to beat me senseless.
Senseless. That's the word I wanted to use, how this made no sense at all, but sadly it did make sense, in a sick kind of way. I didn't believe in curses, or in cars that thirsted for the blood of the innocent, but what I believed didn't matter. What was important was that Mandy believed it, believed in it so strongly that she would go to jail just to escape ownership of the Yellow Peril. She had called the police the moment I had rounded the corner, just so that ownership would revert to me.
But not me specifically. No, I was just the first person who happened to drive off with it.
The entire situation stank of desperation, but there was no need for that. If she had wanted to sell the Peril so badly, why had she advertised that it was cursed and scare off potential buyers?
Two possibilities presented themselves. One, she believed that the terms of the curse were such that ownership could not be transferred without full disclosure or else it would revert back to her; Two, her conscience dictated that she couldn't foist it off on someone who didn't know it was cursed.
But the devil is in the details, as they say, and I kept coming back to the simple truth that she hadn't disclosed the full details of the curse. She'd simply said that it thirsted and left it at that. Yet coyness wasn't in her character. If she were crazy, she'd know the details, even if she invented them herself. If she was superstitious, she'd have followed the classic terms of a Faustian bargain, which she hadn't done.
Because, dammit, I still didn't know how to put gas in that thing.
Crazy things seem sensible with a lack of sleep, and it was under such circumstances that I resolved to figure out what, exactly, was going on with that car, even if I had to take it apart by hand. And so, armed with a motley collection of tools that had seen better days, I went down to my apartment's parking garage, and in the pre-dawn hours lit orange by sodium lights that clicked and buzzed like locusts, I crawled under the Yellow Peril to take a good long look at that gas tank.
There are times in life where you don't realize how foolish you are until you've fully committed to the act. There are times when you suddenly become aware of the imminent possibility of death. And then there are the times that are both, and usually those involve being cornered by a wild or dangerous animal. This is the unreasoning fear that seized me as I lay there, in my sweatclothes, cold concrete floor against my back as I looked up at the five-ton behemoth above me.
I became very aware of all the bolts, rivets, and welds that held the metal in place. I became aware that if any of them failed, there was an excellent chance that something large and heavy would fall and strike me. I could be knocked unconscious and bleed to death, or suffocate, or drown in oil, or any number of similarly unpleasant fates.
I suddenly recalled the flower on the bumper, and how I was sure it hadn't been there the previous day. I had dismissed it as my mind playing tricks on me, fatigue and the lingering effects of police interrogation. But now, the Hummer lurking above me like some great metal predator, I felt very afraid, as if even now, another decal might be blooming on that vast yellow expanse above my head, one more victim whose corpse would feed the daisies.
I am not proud of what happened next, but it's part of the story.
I don't know how long I lay there, paralyzed with that fear, but when I resolved to put it from my mind and raised my wrench, the car seemed to shift ever so slightly. If it were a house, it would have been the faint creaking noise of the structure settling on its foundation. In this case, the suspension creaked ever so slightly, possibly as the metal cooled, but a primordial fear gripped me and in that instant I was an ignorant savage and the Yellow Peril was a slavering beast, perhaps a saber-toothed tiger, legs tensing as it readied to pounce.
I screamed. I screamed like a little girl, loud and long, and clambered out from under the beast, skinning my knees and tearing my clothes on its undercarriage, and I ran back up to my apartment, tools abandoned and forgotten, to lock myself in my bathroom.
When exhaustion finally took me, I was ridiculously grateful for being on the third floor, because I knew that a Hummer couldn't make it up the stairs or into the elevator. I clung to this knowledge like a monster-proof blanket.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Driving home from the police station the next morning, I was able to find a radio news program that filled in some of the gaps. Apparently not long after I left with the car, Mandy had barricaded herself inside the daycare's nursery and called 911. She stated that "the thing wanted her soul" and "it wouldn't get her" and "please come get me before more children are hurt." By the time the SWAT negotiator had gotten her to release the infants and surrender herself, she was nearly incoherent with terror, shrieking that "it thirsts for the blood of the innocent" and herself bleeding from nearly a dozen self-inflicted wounds.
Later, in the police station, she had apparently confessed to the abduction and murder of an 11 year old boy who went missing from that neighborhood a week ago. He had gone riding on his bicycle after supper and simply never came home. Further details were being witheld until the police could determine the truth of her claims.
It wasn't until I had arrived at my apartment and was unloading my cameras that I noticed a small daisy decal, the exact shade of Mandy's hair, blooming on the dark fender. I was certain that it hadn't been there earlier in the day.
Leon H. Wolf:
An anniversary has recently passed. On October 25, 3018 Third Age, Elrond Half-elven, son of Eärendil of the line of Thingol, bearer of Vilya the great Ring of Power, made a critical decision for his people.
Rather than allow the last remaining outposts of the Elves at Imladris and Lothlórien continue without disruption from the outside world, he chose to invest the Elves in a grand global fight to rob Sauron of his power permanently, in the process destroying the Rings of Power of his own and Galadriel's. At the Council of Elrond, a Fellowship was constructed, representing Elves, Men, Wizards, Dwarves, and Halflings, all united by a supposed common cause.
But where are the Elves now? All gone West. Was this great act of foreign policy by Elrond a self-destructive act? Would Elves not have been better off allowing Sauron to remain, acting as a counterweight to the Men, and preventing Men from being an undisputed hyperpower in Middle-earth?
AcademicElephant:What Elrond failed to recognize is that coalitions are fluid and should be assembled not simply for the sake of having a grand coalition, but to address the issue at hand. Really, what of substance did the dwarves contribute besides the disastrous and greedy foray to Moria that re-woke the Balrog? And what good was gained by having two men, not to mention four Haflings? Cut both of those in half and you eliminate the dead weight and have a leaner, more agile force that can get the job done efficiently and get the heck out of there.
Moe Lane:Here we go: blatant anti-Khazadism masquerading as policy analysis, yet again.
Khazad-dum is Dwarvish. Khazad-dum has always been Dwarvish. The Orcish invasion of our ancestral homeland - and note that the speaker does not mention the proven and notorious links between the Orcish "race" and that of the Elves - was an unjustified and illegal action that was replied to by the nations of the West with nothing more than empty condemnations from the Council of the Wise. Of course, what they also do not mention is that the mere presence of the Balrog itself can be directly attributed to Elvish incompetence after the First Age: if there had been a proper post-war cleanup, that monster never would gotten away in the first place.
Be sure to check out the comment by Sam Gamgee at the bottom.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I also looked for hidden cameras and microphones, because I was convinced someone was having a laugh at my expense. I didn't find any of those, either, and while I'm no expert on espionage I've a pretty good idea of what can be made to look like a camera and what can't.
In fact, the only thing that struck me as really surprising was how nimbly it handled. Despite being a multi-ton behemoth, it started and stopped much like my old Accord. Its turn radius was a bit wide, of course, but given its massive wheelbase I figured I could whip it round a corner at a relatively high speed without worry of tipping over. I almost gave this last one a try, but a police car sped past me running full riot, and that put end to my Grand Prix aspirations.
I turned out of the neighborhood, noting that the gas meter was just at the halfway point. Well, since I'd been given blanket permission by the owner to put as many miles on it as I wanted, I resolved to do just that. I took stoplight-ridden local roads instead of the interstate, fiddling with the radio, putting the air conditioning on high (this was during the summer), and generally doing all those asinine bad-mileage things Drivers' Ed taught us to avoid.
I ran a lot of errands. I picked up my dry cleaning, bought some groceries, and swung by my apartment to drop off both. Then I loaded my cameras into the trunk and drove across several counties to a church that had desperately wanted to photograph but hadn't been able to justify the mileage.
St. Cyprian's had been built in a Neo-gothic style which looked fantastic in the stark afternoon light. Shadows crawled across its facades and buttresses, playing hide-and-seek in the crevices and heightening the contrast between the visible and the false. I lost myself in its glory until the light started to muddy and then, with much reluctance, I began the drive back.
True to Mandy's word, the fuel gage had barely moved, which would have been remarkable even for a gas-efficient car. For a beast like this, which likely got gallons to the mile instead, it was unbelieveable. But I wasn't completely sold on the Yellow Peril (as I had named it in my mind); I still needed to know how to fuel the damn thing, and I wanted my mechanic to inspect it before I signed anything. Still, the ride back to Mandy's job was proving to be quite enjoyable. Other drivers did indeed give me a wide berth. For a cursed car, it wasn't half bad.
It was only when I saw the riot of flashing lights in front of the daycare, along with words like POLICE and AMBULANCE and SWAT, that I began to have a sinking feeling.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
"Doesn't look particularly cursed," I said to the car's owner. She was blonde and petite and looked perpetually tired in the manner that mothers of many small children have. Not coincidentally, the Hummer was parked outside of a daycare, and she was on her lunch break. Her name was Mandy, though when she introduced herself it sounded like "Mayanday."
"No, it don't, and that's the real shit of it," she agreed. "Great car. Lots of room to haul crap, might as well be indestructible, and ain't nobody gonna cut you off in traffic." She sighed out her bottom lip, making her pale bangs flutter. "And you won't believe the mileage it gets."
"66 miles per gallon."
I literally laughed out loud. "No, really, what is it?"
She shot me a sideways glance that was probably reserved for children who backtalked. "Yeah, I couldn't believe it either, 'till I drove it." She dug a ring of keys out of her purse, pried the largest one off and handed it to me. "Here. You take it for a drive. Drive it all around town, go cross-country, go nuts. You just watch that gas gauge and tell me if it moves."
I laughed again. "All that means is it's got a busted dial."
She fixed me with that look again. "Mister," she said coldly, "you just go over there and tell me if you can see a goddamned gas cap."
I shrugged and wandered over to look at the yellow beast. True enough, there was no gas cap, though a quick look under the back showed me that there was a tank attached. Short of removing it, I saw no way to fill the reservoir.
"All right, I'll bite," I said as I walked back, laughing. "What's the catch? Reserve tank in the cargo area?"
She sighed again. "The catch is the curse."
"Right, it thirsts for the blood of the innocent." I started glancing around, still smiling, looking for hidden cameras. This had "practical joke" written all over it.
She turned and started walking back to the daycare. "I'm off at six," she said. "If you don't like it, bring it back. If I don't see you again," she turned and looked back at me, "... then you've just become the new Owner. Title's in the glove compartment, already signed by me. You pay the title transfer fee out of your own pocket, and I'll eat the cost of the goddamned newspaper ad. I just want this thing gone."
So I took it out for a drive. Like she said, it handled like a dream.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
My car had broken down a week prior. It was rush hour, of course, and the light had just turned green when my Accord decided to end its life by disgorging its transmission onto the asphalt of a very busy 4-way intersection. My mechanic told me that it would cost more to fix the car than it was worth in scrap, and he couldn't in good conscience take my money because he wasn't sure how much longer the rest of it would last any way.
This however put me in rather a bind. I'm a photographer -- architectural work, mostly, because buildings don't fidget or have wardrobe issues, and if the light isn't good I can always come back another day, or even use spotlights at night. But the problem with take pictures of buildings is that it requires quite a lot of gear: a vertible arsenal of tripods, lenses, cables, and other accouterments of taking very detailed pictures of very large structures at various distances. Plus, sometimes I supplement my income with glamor headshots of aspiring actors.
Needless to say, I haul more crap than I could carry on public transit. I needed a car, badly, preferably one with a decent trunk, which is why I happened to be scouring the local Pennysaver when I spotted the headline that stopped me dead:
"Cursed 2004 Hummer H1. $100.00."This car is cursed. It was present in New Orleans when the levees broke and has been cursed ever since with a thirst for the blood of the innocent. Runs great otherwise. 30,000 miles; better MPG than you'd expect. Serious inquiries only.
The Fine Print
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