Smashing down on the accelerator pedal and turning the wheel, I drove into the other lane and around a slow-moving SUV. I listened to the roar of the engine and felt the pounding pistons working inside me. Streetlights flickered like strobes in a dance club. God damn, I loved driving my old Ford Fairlane! It thundered like rock-and-roll and grooved like jazz.
I hadn’t bothered with the headlights allowing my eyes to feed on the glory of night. Gaseous clouds hung over street lamps, the light splashing cold fires onto tree limbs and the roadway. Twin stripes of irradiated flames marked the recent passing of a car headed around the corner and up the hill. Taillights bathed the trees in red, the blood forest welcoming me home. Pushing on the accelerator, pistons thundering, I raced around the car and into the night beneath a deep-violet sky dotted by embers.
Déjà vu all over again, I glanced in the mirror and spotted the wraith riding in back.➥ In a blink, I found the rear seat empty.
On the passenger side, Laura sat with her head slumped against the side window. Her eyes shut tight she held an expression of fear mixed with rage. She had her hands caught between her clenched thighs.
“Stop your diddling.”
“Shit, Kandy, I’m not touching myself!”
Laura had become my anchor along the shore. If I let go of her, I went adrift in a sea of time. A twisted irony, my strongest hold turned out to be a teen addicted to Itoril venom and its synthetic replicant, vampire ice, along with all the disgusting habits that came with teens.
“Kandy, could you turn on the headlights?” Laura scowled. “I’d at least like to know if we’re about to hit a deer or a person crossing the road.”
The streetlights gave way to the darkness of the woods, the occasional house splashing its lights onto the roadway. The west hills over Roseland were home to well-to-do residents, old cemeteries, wildlife, and my Fairlane howling to the stars.
“Or, you know,” said Laura, “a goddamn driver pulling out onto the road unable to see our car!”
“I think I like you better when you’re masturbating.”
“Up yours, Kandy. Learn to knock.”
Another memory I didn’t share with Laura. Having my anchor with me also illuminated my future. Unfortunately, the predictions were full of useless information or mundane activities I could have guessed.
The Fairlane screamed up the hill, and branches sped by like gnarled fingers scratching at the star-filled violet sky. Cresting the top, I spotted a glowing figure on the roadway. I smashed on the brake pedal and swerved, but it was too late.
Memory creeping out of the shadows, I spotted the woman on the road. It had been the night after the space shuttle had exploded. Ghosts on collision, the Fairlane clipped the woman and sent her body into the air. I watched it happen, as it had happened, all over again, my purgatory pain crying in my head.
I slammed on the brakes, and the tires screeched on the pavement. Laura lunged forward, her hands striking the glove box, her legs floating, and the lap belt held her. The Fairlane came to a stop, and I slipped it into neutral. The engine responded with a throaty growl. I released the throttle letting the engine fall into a rumble.
“Shit, Kandy, are you trying to kill us?”
Looking out the driver’s side window, I found the city lights sparkling down in the valley below. Beyond the passenger side stood the hillside where the dead rested, one of several boneyards in the west hills. This one was the oldest and held a cold corner in my heart.
Up the hill a ways the entrance found me and pulled me inside. I parked beside an old hearse without wheels, hubs on cinder blocks. Darkness blanketed the lot. The shapes of the buildings stood in the fog. Only one shadow I recognized, the old house on the far left. Instead of the paved parking lot, my memory held a dirt drive snaking through the trees up to the house. I cut the engine, and the stillness crept inside carrying the whispers of the dead.
“What the hell?” said Laura. “Why did you bring me to a funeral home?”
“I’m glad I made it here without driving into yesterday.”
Opening the glove box, I retrieved my Colt 1911 pistol and checked the ammunition. Loaded since whenever I had put it there. Laura frowned at the weapon. Realizing I hadn’t worn my shoulder holster, I slipped the gun into my jacket pocket.
Leaving my Fairlane behind, I casually explored the front of the property with Laura at my side. The sidewalk led to three entrances, the first an office door and the second a showroom full of caskets visible behind the large window. Yellow police ribbon criss-crossed over both doors. The third entrance, double-doors to the chapel, was covered in spray-paint graffiti. No light. The lamps had all been broken, shattered glass on the concrete walkway.
Laura held up her phone using its light to read the graffiti.
“Can your phone tell us what happened here?”
“Christ, Kandy, for the third time, it’s google. Yes, I can google that for you.”
Laura tapped her finger on the phone display summoning the help of google-eyed people. Before my fall from the position of Executioner, computers had sat on desks and phones had allowed vocal communication or texts. I had yet to witness Laura using her phone to hold a conversation. Instead, the device was her pocket computer she used to take photos, share pictures, or retrieve information the google-eyed individuals had aggregated.
“Thyme Funeral busted for manufacturing the drug, vampire ice.” Laura continued reading quietly, her eyes growing bigger. “Kandy, these dudes were up to their assholes in Vamp Ice. And I shit you not, the master-mind bad-ass is a woman!”
On the walking path cutting through the woods, I held Laura’s hand. I kept her from tripping over rocks and roots, and she held me against the raging currents of time. It seemed like every few steps the shadows clawed at me, and briefly silence fell over me as I snatched at the ghostly hand of my anchor until I found my way back to the path.
The graveyard hadn’t changed all that much, but recent residents were added to the bottom of the hill. Near the top, the dead of the prior century rested peacefully, unchanged since my early years.
Among the graves, an island of fog rolled into itself, swirling, and a shadow emerged. The figure strolled closer, and I recognized the ethereal face of Peter Gray.