Authors: Edward Lorn
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Dark Fantasy, #Thrillers, #Supernatural, #Horror
A Red Adept Publishing Book
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
2664 Timber Drive
Garner, NC 27529
Copyright © 2012 by Edward Lorn. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: May 2012
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials.
In memory of Patricia Carr-Wright. Gone, but not forgotten.
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO Christopher McCord and Christopher Martin. Thank you both for showing up right when I needed you.
To my mother, for giving me the good ones, and my dad, for giving me the bad ones. I have finally come to grips with the fact that they must coexist. They are, after all, what have made me who I am. Thank you.
“Friends depart, and memory takes them to her caverns, pure and deep.”
—Thomas Haynes Bayly
“Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.”
The Dastardly Bastard of Waverly Chasm
Does gleefully scheme of malevolent things
Beware, child fair, of what you find there
His lies, how they hide in the shadows he wears
`Cross wreckage of bridge, is where this man lives
Counting his spoils, his eye how it digs
Tread, if you dare, through his one-eyed stare
This Dastardly Bastard is neither here, nor there…
MARK SIMMONS WAS SWEATING, WHEEZING, and feeling every bit of his five hundred pounds as he stepped off Corsican International Flight 600. The flight attendant at the gate asked if he was okay when he dropped off his seat belt extender. He waved her off with a limp wrist, staggering toward the seats just inside the departure area. He could’ve bitched about having to buy an extra seat to accommodate his size, but he’d fought that battle, and it never worked out in his favor.
Mark crashed into the plastic chair. The seat screeched and groaned while he tried to get comfortable. His massive rear end flowed over the edges, the steel armrests digging into his love handles.
“Look, Mom!” a little girl squealed. “He’s so
“Deborah!” The mother offered Mark a soft smile that might’ve said, “
Kids say the darnedest things
,” before turning to make a call on her cell phone.
The air conditioning from the vent above blew down like a saving grace. Basking in the chilly air, he felt the sweat on his face become gelid. He relaxed back into the hard plastic and worked on his breathing.
One… two… three… four…
He counted his breaths like an insomniac tallying sheep. The routine calmed him. It always did.
Fifteen minutes, and a count of twelve-hundred, finally returned some of Mark’s strength. He still had to walk to baggage claim, then to Hertz, before trekking out into the parking lot to get his rental vehicle. The twenty-hour drive into New York would give him plenty of time to rest. He didn’t need sleep. He needed the road.
When the higher-ups decided there was money to be made in sending their fattest journalist to cover the withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, Mark hadn’t refused, thinking maybe the time spent there would expedite a promotion. Four months earlier, before he had left for Iraq, he’d started Weight Watchers with the intention of losing fifty pounds in preparation for traveling to one of the hottest climates on Earth. That diet lasted all of two hours, ending in a refrigerator raid that rivaled the Bay of Pigs insurgency. Fallujah hadn’t been as hot as expected, so the failed diet hadn’t hurt him too badly, but most Iraqis studied him with a cautious glare. Mohammad must have spoken of the evils of fat people because those Muslims skirted Mark as if being obese were contagious.
Mark bent forward, using his belly as a counterweight, and pushed himself out of the chair. His hips caught on the armrests, but the forward momentum couldn’t be stopped, and he ripped a belt loop. Cussing under his breath, he looked up and found the little girl—Deborah, her mother had called her Deborah—staring at him. Her tongue lolled from her mouth, eyes crossed, fingers hooked inside her cheeks. She made one hell of a face. Mark smiled, but instead of contorting his own mug in response, he just flipped her off. The look on little Deborah’s face proved him the victor of their little battle.
It’s the little things in life
, he thought as he shuffled toward baggage claim.
Deborah’s raised voice faded in the distance as she told her mother about how the fat man had just “made a naughty” with his finger.
~ * * * ~
Mark waited three hours for his single piece of luggage because someone had packed an ounce of Iraqi’s Finest Kush in her suitcase. Customs had a field day with the twenty-something woman, even dragged her off for a full-body. Mark figured he needed to change his career choice. Feeling up hot young females on a regular basis could serve him well. Being an overweight fifty-year-old with a whiskey drinker’s libido, he didn’t get much play. Sure, Private Johnson still stood at attention, but not for long. Doctor Patel said its functionality was being impaired by his gut.
. He couldn’t even jack off anymore. His dick-to-arm ratio was sorely impaired by the girth of his stomach, neither being long enough to reach around his rotund midsection.
Finally allowed to procure his belongings, he moved on toward Hertz. He mentally thanked the inventor of the moving floor contraption. The thing wasn’t quite an escalator—escalators, by definition,
—but dragged people along at a normal walking pace across a smooth section of floor. He didn’t know what the hell to call the tank-track looking device. A lazy person’s treadmill?
He overcame his body’s inertia and stepped off the
, almost losing his balance in the process. He caught himself on the chrome banister at the end of the track.
Hertz was off to the left, set back into the wall like a bank teller’s booth. The skinny Goth girl behind the counter looked to be no more than fifteen or sixteen, but Mark settled on at least eighteen, as she would have to be able to sign paperwork for her customers. She had purple hair and a glimmering diamond booger attached to the outside of one nostril. Her black lipstick screamed
“Can I help you?” Gothy asked when Mark approached the counter.
“I have a reservation.”
“Name?” she requested, readying her fingers over the keyboard.
She snickered. “Sorry. Customer service humor.”
“Ah.” Mark didn’t get the joke, but he nodded politely all the same.
She asked for his address, license, and credit card information. He gave it all to her and waited until she updated everything before asking, “You do have a minivan, right?”
“Oh, sorry, really, but all I have is a Prius and a Kia.”
“Is the Kia at least an SUV?”
She sucked air through her teeth, whistling through a gap he hadn’t noticed. “No. It’s a two-door.”
“Did you happen to notice how big I am? How I waddle instead of walk? Jesus, if I chanced wearing corduroy pants, I’d start a darned fire. I can’t fit in either one of those cars…
,” Mark said, reading her name badge.
“I’m sorry.” She shrank away, smiling nervously.
“Oh, sweet Hey-Zues!” He slapped the counter, causing Melody to jump.
A man with a handlebar mustache, dressed in Hertz garb and looking very serious, stepped out from a door behind the counter. “Is there a problem, Melody?”
,” Mark scoffed. “Mind asking me if I have a problem,
Fred put on his best customer service smile and came to the desk. “Can I help you, sir?”
. I need a bigger car than what Melody is offering me. I reserved a minivan.”
“The cars are first come, first served, Mr. Simmons,” Fred said, leaning over and looking at the computer. “I should have one back today, though. Right after five o’clock, looks like. Do you care to wait?”
Mark looked at the digital clock behind the duo’s heads and saw that it was just after four. He couldn’t believe it. He’d have to get used to the time difference again, but in reverse.
“I suppose I can wait around for an hour.”
Melody made that sucking sound with her teeth again.
Mark almost reached across the counter to slap her. “Now what?”
.,” Fred corrected.
“Ah, fuck all.” Mark sighed, defeated. “Gimme the darned Prius.”
~ * * * ~
Mark walked out of the airport and through the taxi park. A guy leaning against a cab waved him over, but Mark kept walking, not wanting to know why the man wore women’s capri pants and lipstick.
He strode past the turnabout, lugging his suitcase over the curbing as he went. He was halfway down aisle 12-B of the parking garage when he noticed a pregnant woman trying to lift her baggage into the back of a minivan. Her keys jingled in her fist, the tag hanging from them unmistakable.
Mark paused and hitched his chin at the van. “Guess you got the last one.”
“You get lucky sometimes.”
She was big, about a month away from being a plus one at every social event she would attend for the next eighteen years, and Mark couldn’t stand seeing her struggling the way she was. He could just keep walking, fuming about being denied his ride of choice. But if he did that, he’d be cussing himself all the way to New York. It wasn’t her fault he had been held up in Customs. Heck, it wasn’t even Customs’ fault.
He sighed. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, thank God.” The heavy suitcase she’d been trying to stuff into the back of the van fell to the floor. “Would it be a bad thing to tell you that I was praying you’d ask?”
He gave her a small smile and shook his head.
“You’re a life saver.”
He bent and grabbed the suede luggage by its handle. When he came back up, he had something on the tip of his tongue, and it might have been funny, too, but the words died in his throat.
Half the woman’s head was gone. Red fluid oozed from the carnage that was the side of her face. It ran down her neck in thick strands, looking like crimson worms.
He backpedaled, tripped over his own bag, and hit the concrete ass-first. The momentum pushed him back, and he cracked his skull against the asphalt.