City of the dead Kindle Edition. I was so caught up in wondering about the sparrow, that I paid no attention to the old man wandering slowly up the path behind me. The grit of a footstep at nearly the last second was all that alerted me.
CITY of the DEAD
Copyright © 2019 by Wendell G Sweet. All rights reserved foreign and domestic.
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
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In The Moonlight:
On The Road with Bear
I rolled to a stop at the intersection. The city was ahead, the house behind, I had never turned left or right so I had no idea what might be in those directions. Were those two roads, one to the left, one to the right, winding away into the distance, just conceptions? One of those photo realistic things that made you look twice, maybe even more? I looked again.
The roads were night dark, the moon playing hide and seek, gliding in and out of the heavy black clouds. The falling rain distorted both the near road and the distant road. How long had it been raining, I wondered, once the rain finally registered. Big, fat drops formed and rolled off down the slope of the windshield. I reached for the wiper switch but found nothing.
I took my eyes from the windshield and looked, supposing I had put my hand in the wrong place, but I had not. There was simply nothing but a gray, formless mass that slightly resembled the lower half of a dashboard. I blinked and when I opened my eyes once more the wiper switch was there. Exactly where it had not been. Exactly where it should be.
Tired I thought.
Bullshit was my second thought.
I blinked again, but the wiper switch remained. I flicked it on half suspecting that it wouldn’t work. That the wipers, if there were any real wipers, would remain frozen to the glass, refuse to move, but they swept up and pushed the beaded drops of rain from the glass nearly silently. Bear whined and pushed his nose under my hand.
“Alright, Buddy,” I told him. I stroked his head and then looked back out at the road. Left, right, straight, I asked myself.
There was a mystery to the city. Sometimes it went bad for me and sometimes it simply frustrated me.
… Running down the clock… One thing was sure, I had never come back out of the city in the many times that I had driven down into it.
… Left, right, straight, I asked myself again.
I pulled a small wire bound notebook and a pen from my shirt pocket and thumbed it open. Pages and pages of notes on the many times I had gone, but none of them amounted to anything except four entries:
The first entry, page twenty-Six, an address, 52715 Randolph Circle. I had never found Randolph Circle in all of my trips, let alone 52715. I had no memory of ever being there. Of any trip to the city when I may have gone there. I did not remember marking the address into the book. Nothing. A total blank.
The second entry, page twenty-five, read; Be careful of Locust Street. Big bold letters. And I remembered being there. I had barely got away with my life.
The third entry, page twenty-seven said; ‘West End Docks.’
I knew that place. I remembered being there, the first time and several other times. But the details weren’t there. I couldn’t see them. Why had I been there? I couldn’t see it. Put my finger on it. There was a long, low building that fronted the docks. A house across the street. An old run-down neighborhood. A low, curving concrete wall where I had sat and watched people come and go several times. And more. The feeling that I had been there other times that I could not yet remember. I say yet because I had the feeling that I would remember it. But page twenty-six? Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a ghost of a memory.
A map would be useful, but there were no maps. It had taken a dozen times or more before I could count on the wire bound note book being in my pocket. Bigger things, like the van, had taken even longer. Before that I had had to walk or steal a car and that was always risky. But there was hope for a map. Someday, just not this day. At least I didn’t think so.
A quick check of the glove box and the engine cover storage area proved that to be true. Nothing useful. And why was it so much useless stuff was there? A spare pen cap… A broken transistor radio, the van had a radio of its own… Sometimes anyway, but there were no stations on the dial, or at least not yet there weren’t. That was another maybe, but it was there, so what good was a broken transistor radio?
Two paperclips. An insurance card, made out to me… For what? A fuzzy life saver, it looked like lime, my least favorite flavor. A flashlight with no batteries, and a dog biscuit. That was new. There had never been a dog biscuit before. Bear whined and gave a little woof in his throat.
I laughed, “It’s yours, Buddy.” He took it gently from my hand. The dry scrape of the Windshield wipers dragged my attention to the windshield. No rain. No rain on the road either. I reached down and flicked off the wipers. At least the switch was still there.
Straight, my mind finally decided. Better the evil that you know. Left and right could wait for another night. I eased off the brake as Bear jumped up onto the passenger seat, rested his paws on the dashboard and watched the countryside pass us by as we made our way into the city.
The fourth entry was on page fifty-eight. A series of numbers. 2757326901. All strung together, followed by a name Gizzel K. Whole first name, initial only for the last: Like I knew her maybe? I didn’t though. I must have at the time I wrote the number down, but I didn’t now. Who was Gizzel? Were the numbers a telephone number? Code talk? It bothered me that I had written the entry and yet had no recollection of doing it. Same as Page twenty-six.
I passed the City Limits sign as I wondered. Regular street lights. No traffic. Sometimes there was traffic, sometimes there wasn’t.
The rain began to fall all at once. One second no rain, the next everything was drenched as though it had rained forever: Always; would never stop. I fumbled for the windshield wiper switch once more, but by the time I turned it back on the windshield was clear. No more rain. The road looked as though it had never seen rain, as if it had never been there at all.
I glanced at the speedometer and then lowered my speed. I didn’t need to attract attention. There were cops here and they had no problem putting me in jail. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I was no more real to them than they were to me, off to jail they took me. And before that was all said and done I spent ten days in that jail. Eating Bologna sandwiches, smelling that moldy-pissy jail smell and trying to convince my court appointed lawyer that neither of us were really there. Jail was no good. I had no intention of going back there. I looked once more at the speedometer, backed off a little more, and then passed the sign announcing the city limits.
The city was early morning dead. It wasn’t dawn. If it were I would not have been there, but dawn was close. There was a glow above the city skyline. Faint… Pink… Growing as I sat idling at the intersection waiting for the light to change.
I noticed the rain was falling once more and I had either never turned on the wipers the last time it had rained, or I had turned them off after it had rained. I reached down to flip the switch on and that was when I heard the sound of a heavy engine screaming. Gears clashing. Bear voiced a warning just as my eyes cleared the dashboard and tried to make sense of the scene before them.
There wasn’t much time to absorb it. A garbage truck just feet away from the driver’s door and closing fast. Sirens screaming. Red and blue lights pulsing. Chasing the garbage truck, I wondered? That was nearly the only thought I had time for.
Bear barked again. My eyes focused on the truck only inches away from me, and slowly rose to the driver. A woman… Gizzel? … Her eyes focused on my own for the split second before the Garbage truck hit the van’s driver door full blast.
Pain exploded inside of me. Faintly, far away, I heard Bear howl in either anger or pain. Then that sound, all sound, was quickly cut off, replaced with a low snapping sound that quickly turned into a heavy crackling sound. The smell of Ozone filled my nose, but something else quickly began to replace that smell. Gasoline. Gasoline and something else… Diesel? And then, with a low wham, the heat came. I struggled to free myself, but it was no use. I had time for one more quick thought … Gizzel … Gizzel … Why …? And then the explosion came and the pain flared, then ended almost as fast as it had come and I found myself flying through the blackness of the void… Flying…. Falling… Panic building… Lungs trying to pull a breath… Voice trying to scream… Nothing coming out… Then sight returning in a rush… The street racing up to meet me… The remains of the Van and the Garbage truck burning far below me…. Red and blue lights pulsing… Cars parked aslant in the street where they had skidded to a stop… Cops behind open doors… Crouched to fire… Their guns pointing… Rain falling… The pavement coming closer… So close I could see the individual pebbles of the surface embedded in the asphalt mix…
The impact came with no pain. The remaining air crushed from my lungs… I tried once more to scream, but it was no use… I hit hard, bounced, came down once more and my eyes flew open wide as I impacted the second time…