Archive for: June, 2011

The Toads Croaked at Midnight by Dave Fragments

Jun 26 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Cyrus frowned at the mushroom-shaped, oriental cook hosing the piss and vomit from the previous night’s drunks into the gutter in front of Little Dick’s Tavern. Classy neighborhood, he thought. None of the other shops — Ricky’n Tikky’s Tats, Susie’s Scuba, or Frederick’s Funeral Parlor — showed signs of life. Two chocolate-brown, late-teen men stood at the Costume Shop’s stoop with jeans hanging off their wide hips, legs bowed, shoulders stooped and hoodies. They laughed as he rang the bell.

“Who you laughing at?” Cyrus asked.

“He ain’t open. He’s out coaching glee club. An’ you ain’t so smart Sherlock. We’ll sell your car when you go poof like all the other tubesteaks that go in there.” Tyrell said, flashing hand signs to his buddy. Kids! Cyrus thought. They’d sell their souls for drugs ran through his mind as he turned to the shop door. It opened before he touched it. A blond superhero in a sleeveless spandex shirt and thigh-exposing, lace-up tights stepped out and pointed accusingly at the young men. ”

“I warned you two, don’t mind my comings and goings. You don’t want to be the next Jimmy, do you?” The shopkeeper said. They melted into sullen lumps of inarticulate flesh and mumbled.

“Hell no. Not the next Jimmy,” Tyrell’s face sank to the floor. Cyrus caught a flash of fear in the young man’s eyes before he shambled, a rolling unnatural gate with clumsy steps, to a nearby stoop with his buddy.

“Nothing’s going to happen to this man’s car. You’re going to take it, wash it and detail it,” the shopkeeper said, emphasizing the first and last words.

“Got it, Massa. We’ll do his car where it sits, Massa,” Tyrell mumbled. The dark skin on his hands looked older and tougher than his young years as he put earphones in his ears. His shoulders shook to the beat of whatever music the hidden device poured into his head. Cyrus unlocked the car and turned his attention to the shopkeeper.

“Nice neighborhood you got here,” Cyrus said.

“Don’t worry about your car. They’ll take care of it or they’ll answer to me and they don’t want that, considering they’re almost worthless, nothing but orts for society’s maws. Spawned by ignorant parents in the hot grip of casual sex and grown up on an education of ignorant and retarded TV, Internet, twitter and junk food. They wouldn’t know up from…” Cyrus lost patience with the shopkeeper.

“I don’t care if they’re demons from hell. Your advertisement said you had a full body makeup assignment for a stuntman. I came here to apply for the job,” Cyrus barked. The shopkeeper’s head snapped around and confronted Cyrus with cold, evil eyes.

“If that’s the way you feel, let’s get inside and talk contract.” The shopkeeper’s head bent in the direction of the door as though that were sufficient to have Cyrus to follow him.

Inside, a wooden deck created a workspace for computers with multiple screens and benches with sewing machines. Racks of full body costumes crowded against each other. Beyond the deck and the costumes stood a tropical arboretum; three stories tall and over a block wide, a jungle hidden in non-descript buildings in the bad side of town. Cyrus couldn’t see the back wall of the building. He expected a lion’s roar or elephant’s trumpet. Instead, he heard toads croaking and birds shrieking. He thought he heard the hooting of primates but it was the toads that croaked from the deep dark forest echoing off the glass walls. The toads croaked, he though, amusing himself at the double entendre.

“Qualifications?” the shopkeeper asked. Cyrus held out a zip drive. The shopkeeper took it, held it up at eye level and examined it as if he could mentally discern the contents. He smiled, teasing. Raised his eyebrows and shook his head up and down as if he knew what the files on the drive contained. Cyrus scowled at the shopkeeper. The smoothness of the shopkeeper’s skin betrayed the illusion of his costume.

The shopkeeper slid the zip drive into the computer. A password screen popped up to permit access. He held his hands out and mime-like, pretended to type a password before slapping his forehead when nothing happened. Cyrus grabbed the shopkeeper’s shirt with both hands and yanked him upwards, ripping it open to reveal not a young, blond bodybuilder but an older, shopworn man with short hair and a wiry, non-descript body.

Cyrus nearly laughed out loud at the absurdity of the shopkeeper fooling the neighbors and felt a tinge of regret for even involving himself with this fool but a job was a job and money was money.

“You have a annoying penchant for drama, costume-maker,” Cyrus said, leaning over the now smaller, thinner man, his hands on hips, jaw clenched. The shopkeeper shrugged and let Cyrus wait while he stripped the ruined costume and put on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, compression tights and muscle shirt.

“Just a little razzle dazzle. Nothing more. Show ‘em the first rate sorcerer I am,” the shopkeeper sang. He patted Cyrus on the shoulder and chuckled. Cyrus snorted and typed his password into the computer.

“I don’t care what you do. My fee is two million for being in non-human costume.”

“You’re just as earnest as your correspondence. How did you know my blond superhero was a costume, Cyrus Irani Krantz?”

“Does it matter?”

“Only if it makes you doubt the effectiveness of my costumes. I use the superhero disguise to keep those kids off guard. But it’s mass-produced, off the rack, so to speak.” He gestured at a rack filled with duplicates. “You have nothing to worry about. I will custom fit your costume to every bend and crease of your body. It will quite possibly be indistinguishable from the real deal if the real deal ever existed.” The Shopkeeper didn’t impress Cyrus even when his eyes flashed golden brown.

“What’s the deal?” Cyrus asked, deflating the shopkeeper like a spent balloon.

“Your reputation as a buzz kill is well deserved. I need you to be an over-the-top demon, the original horned beast. Here’s the concept art.” He opened a set of drawings on the computer. The beast looked primitive; a scaly, horned demon with the face of a satyr and the body from hell, misshapen legs with retrograde feet and bent, over muscled arms. It also shot electric bolts out of its horns. Both men studied the images as the toads of the jungle croaked out their mating calls.

“It ain’t pretty but it pays well. The antihero of the movie is this demon who’s tired of Hell and all the torture and wants to do some good. So he tries to dig his way out by tunneling into a church offering plenary indulgences. Comically, he misses and surfaces in a whorehouse. After the whores bless the demon with their…” He paused to roll his eyes. “…special Holy Water. They let him stay because he leaves them screaming for more and he pays in gold bullion. Eventually he gets bored of all the whores and sex and denounces them. In retaliation, the whores castrate him and send him back to hell.”

The two men laughed and did fist bumps that guys do when they talk in sports metaphors and are embarrassed by their own dumb ideas. They both acted dumb enough to let stupidity and bravado rule the day.

“It sounds like the convergence of Dogma, Plan Nine and Lair of the White Worm. It might be the ultimate career killer.”

“Nope, I have three finished scripts in hand. The focus groups love them. And in Hollywood terms, it’s got press power. But director’s a screaming tyrant. Three monsters bugged out already. The backers are staging Twitter fights to promote the film and they’re so desperate they’ll pay any stuntman double for the first movie, triple for a month of personal appearances and triple for sequels two and three. All of it filmed back-to-back,” the shopkeeper said. The money surprised Cyrus. Nothing seemed right about this job and yet everything came up legit. So Hollywood, unreal but lucrative for all involved. He came back to the table and gestured with his hands palm up, trying to imagine what question might elicit an answer that would explain the movie. When the silence made him uncomfortable, he settled on the obvious.

“A lot of money for a Hollywood cluster frack.” Greed in all its grand glory convinced Cyrus the job was worth taking regardless of the costume.

“What do you care? Take the job and get rich.”

“Can I be Alan Smithee?” The shopkeeper laughed as he opened a document on his computer and entered Cyrus’ name into the contract.

“There’s already seven Smithees on this film. It’ll be a family affair.”

“Don’t contracts take time and lawyers?”

“Yes but there’s a special conjunction of stars and planets. The backers believe in stellar Feng Shui and they demand that filming start tomorrow night. They are holding the lawyers as ransom.”

“And you can create a full-body costume that fast?”

“I’m the best there is.” Ten minutes later, he emailed a signed contract to the producers, executive VP’s and lawyers. They would examine it for the right clauses, signatures, money transfers and guarantees. Miraculously, video approvals and signed documents appeared less than 20 minutes later. Independent agents acknowledged and verified the escrow accounts. The shopkeeper opened a bottle of champagne and slid a binder containing the scripts to Cyrus.

“To three movies with big box offices.” The shopkeeper raised a glass and toasted to success. The champagne brightened Cyrus’s mood. The effervescence brought a smile to his face and a thrill to his body.

“That costume doesn’t look so bad right now. I’ll bet it’s not as ugly as Alien and not as fearsome as Thade and definitely handsomer than Godzilla.” The thought of becoming the movie villain, a satyr with aspirations of world domination excited him. He read the introductory pages and character descriptions, sipping champagne as he turned the pages. Contented warmth spread through his body, releasing his emotions and draining his inhibitions.

“This stuff’s got a kick. It’s making me feel warm, warm enough to want to see that costume and get all demony and wicked.” He giggled and poured another glass. The shopkeeper leaned back and opened another bottle. Cyrus set his glass on a side table, pulled his shirt off, opened the waist of his pants and slid sandals off. He sat in a recliner. And let his fingers move across and down, speed-reading each page. He read through the scripts several times until there was a soft noise behind him. Tyrell and his buddy shuffled into the room, leaning on each other in that strange gait that rolled rather than stepped.

“Getting late boss, that car is going to be ticketed by the street cleaners if it stays in the street.”

“Then I think you should move it inside. Mister Krantz just signed to be my stuntman and we are going to maintain his car in perfect working order for the duration of the contract. Is that understood?”

“Word dude. We like rugged, good-looking stuntmen. We’ll take good care of all his needs, won’t we, Tiny?” He held out a hand and Tiny slapped it. Tiny, unlike his corpulent rotundity, spoke in a smallish, tenor voice.

“My Momma done told me, the worst sin in the world is to mistreat a guest. She said you ever mistreat a guest. You get down on your knees and pray to the Lord to forgive your sorry ass if you mistreat a guest. Even Father Murphy said dat after he fondled us altar…” The shopkeeper slapped the table interrupting Tiny.

“Don’t be insolent. I am not your fool,” the shopkeeper yelled. Tyrell cocked his head to one side as if to disagree and without a word limped over to Cyrus. The kid’s eyes seemed to say trust me to Cyrus. It was odd that the shopkeeper didn’t treat seem to trust him. Contradictions abounded in this costume shop but money was in the bank.

“May I have your keys sir?” Tyrell asked. Cyrus handed over the keys and watched Tyrell shuffle away, wondering if he was born with deformed limbs or if this was his imitation of a perp walk. He decided not to decide and not to ask. The shopkeeper disrespected them and that was the shopkeeper’s business. Better to let the matter lie unknown. He returned to reading the scripts and taking notes. The quieter sounds of creatures scurrying, toads croaking and birdsong tweeting intensified his concentration on the scripts. Morning passed into afternoon. During the time, Cyrus had the feeling of strange eyes watching him. Late afternoon, the shopkeeper showed up with a plate of sandwiches. He was, once again, dressed in his superhero costume, laughing and smiling.

“The kitchen ran out of lightly-breaded veal sautéed in butter and garnished with truffles,” the shopkeeper said of the modest fare.

“I never was one for fancy food. Where’s the costume.” Cyrus chomped at the sandwich and chased it with champagne.

“The legs, arms and torso are ready. The head is curing,” came the report. Cyrus shrugged his shoulders and swallowed at the same time. He picked up a second sandwich and talked as he ate.

“Last movie I used a costume like this, the creator needed two weeks to sculpt the costume and four hours each morning to mold it to my body.” He paused to drink and eat. “After all that effort, the damn thing kept falling apart. They wasted more days remaking the pieces in silicone and foam over and over, sometimes twice a day. There were scenes in the movie we could only do in one take because the costume was so fragile.” Cyrus finished the sandwich and stood up.

“I guarantee this costume won’t ever fall apart.” The shopkeeper motioned for him to follow through the arboretum. The path wound through lush, tropical ferns. Cyrus began to sweat with the heat. He stopped twice to look around as if something was following them. On one side, he thought he saw cages for animals but when he looked back, he could only see trees. At the very rear of the jungle stood an open pressing-mold the size of a man lined with rubbery material. The head of the creature, a convincing satyr with ram’s horns poking out of the forehead, cured under UV lights. Two full-head masks that looked like Cyrus and Tyrell sat half finished.

“Never saw anything like this before.” Cyrus studied the mold as he removed his clothing for what he thought would be measurements.

“It’s very special. It’s a full body mold. One man enters and in less than thirty minutes, one monster leaves.”

“Why’s the head separate?” Cyrus stood naked. He stepped into the mold, letting the material flow around his body like a stiff jelly. The shopkeeper giggled.

“It’s the way I like to do things. Be sure to get your fingers and toes and other protuberances in the appropriate holes.”

“In all my stunt jobs, there’s a point of no return. Either do the job or back out. This is it, huh?” Cyrus positioned first one foot into the mold and then the other. He fixed his body against the outlines and placed his arms in the proper depressions. The shopkeeper helped him balance in the proper place as he closed and sealed the mold. Only Cyrus’ head stuck out.

“Damn, this stuff feels squirmy and creepy. ”

“The material will bond to your body and create a new, artificial skin. It’ll take about a half an hour. It’s hot and sweaty but nearly indestructible. You’ll feel pressure as the mold shapes your new features. Don’t worry. It’s all perfectly normal.” The shopkeeper pushed buttons on a control panel. The heat rose and Cyrus’ bones ached. His muscles quivered and twitched as the mold turned him into the movie’s villain. He felt his hands thicken, his feet grow, his arms and shoulders gain width and his waist shrink. The mold transformed his body in nearly every detail except his head.

The time passed faster than Cyrus expected. When the shopkeeper returned, he carried a different mask, a repulsive demon that looked more Satanic than Satyr-like. It was monstrously dreadful in all aspects. He carried it over to the mold and climbed a ladder so Cyrus could see it.

“Sorry to surprise you but the director changed the monster.”

“That’s one ugly devil. The Satyr at least was attractive. This is abysmally repulsive,” Cyrus answered. He heard shuffling and movement to one side but couldn’t turn to see what was happening.

“Did you did tell him the truth?” Tyrell’s voice came from the direction of the rustling. The shopkeeper stepped off the ladder without the mask.

“No. As far as he’s concerned he’s a stuntman for a movie. That’s all he needed to know,” the shopkeeper said. Tyrell boosted himself up so he could sit on the bench. Tiny shuffled to the shopkeeper and grabbed him. They weren’t dressed in their baggy clothes. Their bodies looked like the demons in the conceptual art for the movie. They had thick legs thanks to wide hips, narrow waists and broad shoulders with Popeye-like arms. Their feet resembled hands and they both had pads on their butts that balanced out saddlebag thighs. They pulled at their human faces and peeled masks away to reveal demonic heads like the mask the shopkeeper showed Cyrus.

“What the hell?” Cyrus said out loud. Questions of what he had got himself into and how he could get out of this dilemma filled his mind.

“Tyrell done asked you if you told him the truth before you transformed his body in the mold?” Tiny lifted the shopkeeper off the ladder and shook him like a rag doll. Tiny lived up to his name not by being tall but by weighing in about four hundred pounds.

“Put me down first.” Tiny hauled the shopkeeper to a chair and held him there.

“Did you tell the man, like you were supposed to, how you betrayed him before you began his transformation? Or did you wimp out again, you chicken-hearted idiot,” Tiny asked.

“I don’t remember,” the shopkeeper squeaked.

“Open this device right now and let me out,” Cyrus yelled. Tyrell picked up the demonic headpiece and climbed the ladder so he was inches from Cyrus’ face.

“Too late Tubesteak. You got too greedy. You couldn’t wait to get your hands on all that money, could you? Greed is such a powerful motivator to sin.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Cyrus yelled so loud he spit. Tyrell laughed.

“Sheeee-iiit are you stupid. That costume ain’t never coming off. We keep a few humans like the shopkeeper around because they’re helpful when we recruit new demons. You signed up for three movies and you’re going to be the monster. That contract binds your soul for all eternity. Don’t even think about finding a lawyer good enough to break it. They already work for us demons. You’re Hell’s newest monster, signed, sealed and delivered. It’s your thang, baby.” Tyrell started to fit the full-face mask over the back of Cyrus’ head. Cyrus screamed and squirmed as the skin of the mask gripped his flesh and attached itself to his skin. When Tyrell closed the top of the mold, Cyrus felt the bones of his skull deform. He couldn’t stop the transformation.

Pain spread through is body as bones deformed into wide hips and hand-like feet. He felt his spine thicken and skull fracture to handle horns and fangs. Hormones raged inside his body as his internal organs changed, turning on desires that could never be satisfied. He felt the changes race through his body and into his mind. He no longer feared becoming a demon. He wanted the change. He heard snapping noises and felt the cool air as the mold opened. The lights hurt his new eyes and he stumbled on unfamiliar feet as strong hands grabbed him and steadied his new body.

“Can’t call you Cyrus anymore, can we. You don’t look like no Cyrus. Shame too. You was good looking stuntman, all muscles and no fat. Well that’s over now. Now you’re just like us.” The voice was Tyrell’s but the face was pure demon. Cyrus blinked through unfamiliar eyes at strange hands. A rough tongue slipped over sharp teeth and scaly lips. He could smell a dead body in the middle of the arboretum. I smelled good. These new sensations aroused and excited him.

“What am I?” his new voice sounded rough and graveled.

“You a stud demon, handsome as sin when you get to hell. No more wimpy stuntman with pink, delicate skin but a powerful demon with scales and horns in all the right places.” Tyrell fondled Cyrus’s genitals. Cyrus moaned at the pleasurable feelings shooting through his new body. “Feel that? It’s my gift to you for your soul,” Tyrell said, his voice soft and seductive. Cyrus pushed away. He felt his rough body with his rough hands and like the sensations. Tiny and Tyrell laughed. Cyrus bounced on his feet and did a full somersault in the air. He felt huge, buff and muscular.

“You’re going to make that movie and you’re going to learn what it is to be demons, just like us. You ain’t never going to want to go back to being a puny human again.”

“So this is permanent-like,” Cyrus said.

“Like forever,” Tiny said.

“And we’re still making three movies? Why?” Cyrus both wanted and didn’t want to know the answer.

“Why do you think we built this arboretum? You think the Shopkeeper over there likes gardening? This is his hell, a demon forest to water and keep growing and expanding. When those movies go big, there’s going to be groupies and sycophants and wannabees, all of them willing to sign their souls away and we’re going to take them and make them our own clan of demons.”

“I thought costumes were his hobby.” He pointed to the shopkeeper who sat in the far corner, doing nothing.

“Damn, you a real dumb sucka, too. Me an’ Tiny, we’re now the brains behind this endeavor. We wanted to do something better than selling dope, better than turning out whores and busting heads to get recruits. We figured out a way to get sinners to join us willingly. Willing always makes a better demon.” He gave Tiny a chest bump and a hoo-hah.

“And the big paydays, the profit sharing, the scripts I read?” Cyrus’ eyes darted back and forth.

“Your money is our money.”

“None of this was in the script.”

“The script will wait for tomorrow,” The two boys hooted and woofed. “Three movies, double and triple pay, personal appearances as the monster. You got the words, you got te moves and you got the body many freaks out there want. We’ll take their souls and they’ll be happy about it.”

“Yeah. I get it,” Cyrus agreed. The two boys elbowed each other so hard that they fell on the floor, hooting and woofing. Cyrus shrugged his new shoulders, flexed his arms and jumped on them, wrestling like a little kid. His new body felt good and he would still get to act in movies. That satisfied him for now. He knew that he’d regret this in years to come but right now, he was hot and horny as hell and the two demons rolling on the floor with him filled him with animal lust. He let Tyrell and Tiny drag him into the deep ferns in the middle of the arboretum. They played lustily, wantonly and like beasts and demons. They played into the night in the jungle-like undergrowth. Around midnight, the toads croak loud enough to drown out their satiated snores.

*

Dave Fragments retired to the countryside of Western Pennsylvania amid the deer and squirrels to write. He has published short stories in the Spec Fiction and Horror genres in online ezines and anthologies. For many years he did research into coal liquefaction and heterogeneous catalysis.

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The Damned Retirement of Rodger Cloots by Christian Larsen

Jun 19 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Rodger Cloots lived in a ranch house on Glade Avenue in that part of Brickton that replaced all the farmland in the 1950s.  There was a park about a half a block away, and when the weather was nice, kids used to tramp all over the neighborhood, but not past Mr. Cloots’ house.  He had a big dog named Spot, but it wasn’t spotted, and no one had any idea what breed it was.  Legend in the neighborhood was that Mr. Cloots fed it live squirrels and rabbits he caught in his garden.  Maybe even an occasional cat.  The thing was like a four-legged Boo Radley.

Jake Ellington moved next door to Mr. Cloots the summer he was eleven, and he quickly learned to take the basketball down to the park instead of using the backboard on the garage behind the house.  It wouldn’t roll into Mr. Cloots’ impatiens that way.  Jake didn’t even dribble it down the sidewalk.  It might bounce off his toe and land on the old man’s lawn, and that would bring Spot running, if not old Cloots’ himself.  Jake had learned a healthy dose of fear would keep him out of trouble.  In fact, he was the first kid on the block to learn it, because Mr. Cloots had moved in only a couple of weeks before the Ellingtons.

“Does your mother know where you’re going?” asked Mr. Cloots one day.  It was after school let out but before the Fourth of July, and the Ellingtons were still unpacking.

Mr. Cloots was sitting in a folding lawn chair, watering every individual square inch of his lawn with a hose.  Spot was sunning himself by his master’s feet.  Jake slowed down and squeezed the basketball, like it was trying to jump onto Mr. Cloots’ lawn. “The park.”

“That’s it?”

Jake stopped completely, unsure how to answer.

Mr. Cloots shifted his sneakered feet under the chair and leaned over his round, shirtless belly.  His snow white eyebrows and mustache were three of a kind, and covered up his expression, even in broad daylight.  “Cat got your tongue?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean, sir?

“Huh?” Jake couldn’t understand why Mr. Cloots had called him ‘sir’, when point of fact he hadn’t.

“In the good old days—back when men were men and heroin was medicinal—boys used to call their elders ‘sir’,” said Mr. Cloots.

“Did they?” Jake didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but he wasn’t trying to make the old man happy, either.  He just wanted to get on with his life and play a little basketball.

Mr. Cloots leaned back and cackled drily under his breath.  “I’m Rodger Cloots, your new neighbor.”  He kept one gnarled old hand on the trigger of the nozzle and offered the other to  Jake, who shook it like he’d seen his dad do with people at the social hour after church.

“Jake Ellington.  We just moved in.”

“So did I—a couple of weeks ago.”

“I think we’re going to be great friends, Jake.  Don’t you?”

“Sure.”

“Now go play George Mikan.”

“Who?”

“Basketball, kid.  Go play basketball.”

Jake took the ball to the park and practiced his free throws until it was dark, and when he walked home, he took the long way to avoid the Cloots’ place.

“I saw you talking with Mr. Cloots today, Hon,” said Jake’s mom, pulling a casserole out of the oven.  “Seems like a nice man, doesn’t he?”

“He’s okay.  Kinda weird.  Who’s George Mikan?”

“Ask your father.  Did you get a chance to play with Mr. Cloots’ dog?  I know how you love animals.”

“Naw.”

“You know, Jake, I was talking with him this afternoon, and he said you were welcome to come over anytime and play with Spot,” said Jake’s mom.  She slid the casserole onto a wooden trivet.  “Call your father for supper, will you?”

“Dad!” shouted Jake.  “Dinnertime!”

“I could have done that,” sighed Jake’s mom, shaking her head.  “Pour yourself a glass of milk.  So what do you think about Mr. Cloots’ offer?  Mrs. Bendictson across the street said he hasn’t had any visitors since he moved in last month.  I think he’s lonely.”

Jake wanted to argue that he had friends his own age, but they were all in Tampa, and school didn’t start until August, so Mr. Cloots was his best option for summertime company, unless he wanted to run the playground gauntlet and risk an encounter with a bully.  Jake attracted bully problems like dogpiles did flies—that blue kind with the inhuman eyes.

The next day, armed with the knowledge that George Mikan was a basketball star from the 1940s and 50s, Jake walked toward his garage, ostensibly looking for a basketball, but really looking for Mr. Cloots and his dog, and he found them over the hedge of Mr. Cloots’ midsummer garden.  Jake waved and Mr. Cloots waved back, smiling an unpracticed smile.  At least he’s trying, thought Jake in his mother’s voice.

“How do you like my garden?” asked Mr. Cloots, beaming over the multicolored landscape.

“They’re pretty.”

“Pretty, hell,” said Mr. Cloots.  “A garden like this takes a lot of work.  I couldn’t grow one like this where I used to live.”

“Oh, yeah?” asked Jake.  “Where’d you used to live?”

“C’mon over here so I don’t have to yell,” said Mr. Cloots.  “I’ll getcha an orange soda.”

Jake used the narrow walkway between the two properties and saw Spot laying on his side, as if he were dead.  Spot normally went bonkers whenever Jake cast a shadow on the lawn, but not now with an invitation.  He reached down to stroke the dog.

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Mr. Cloots.  “Might rile him.  He’ll wake up sooner or later.  Here’s your soda.”

Fragments of ice slid down the outside of glass bottle, just like some old commercial, and it tasted like technicolor—the perfect thing for a hot, summer afternoon.  “Thanks, Mr. Cloots.”

“Ah,” dismissed Mr. Cloots with a wave of his hand.

“So … where’d you used to live?  We just moved from Tampa.”  He wiped his head with his forearm.  “Hotter there in the summer than here, and it’s pretty hot today.”

“You think this is hot,” said Mr. Cloots.  “You should try some of the places I’ve lived.”

“Where’s that?”

“I drove a tank in the Korean War, and those things heat up like dutch ovens,” said Mr. Cloots, looking up at the sun with something like ruefulness.  “In the early 60s, I worked in Dallas at a storage building for school books.  Back then, you’d only find air conditioning in groceries and movie theaters.  Even in November, it could burn you up, especially in the top couple of floors.  Let’s see—I was a chef in Los Angeles for a while, too.  The city’s nice, always about 72º Fahrenheit, but the kitchen just cooks you in your boots.  Did some interpreting for the U.N. in Indochina during the late 70s.  Give you an idea of what that’s like—imagine pencil pushing in a giant, sweaty armpit—and don’t even get me started on how hot an Iraqi oilfield can get, especially when it’s on fire.  Could bring out beads of sweat on a salamander’s upper lip.”

“You’ve worked all those jobs?” asked Jake.  His dad was a history professor, had always been and probably would always be, but Mr. Cloots had worked enough for three men.  “What do you do now?  Sell insurance or something?”

“Don’t be a wiseacre,” said Mr. Cloots.  “Come on inside where it’s cooler and I’ll show you some of my collectibles.”

Jake followed him into the house.  Spot followed and curled up in front of the door, but Mr. Cloots kept going into the living room, which he called the parlor.  Even at the tender age of eleven, Jake could tell the room needed a woman’s touch.  It looked like a curio shop without the price tags.  There was a triangular crucible from a place called Knittlingen, a Gibson L-1 guitar with the name ‘R. Johnson’ scratched into the back, and a scuffed up hood ornament from a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, but what struck Jake most was that there was a fine patina of dust on everything, like it had been sitting just so forever, even though Mr. Cloots said he had just moved in.  Jake cut the dust on the end table in half with his finger, like Moses parting the Red Sea.

 

“What’d you do over at Mr. Cloots’ house today?” asked Jake’s dad, twirling a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth.  He had been unpacking boxes in his office in a pair of khakis and a polo, and a few flecks of sauce finally marked them for the laundry.

“He’s got a bunch of cool stuff in—in his parlor, dad,” said Jake.  His mom smiled at him and offered him more salad.  “No, thanks, Ma.  He’s got some cool Civil War memorabilia.  Pictures and stuff.  He called them—arrowtypes, I think.”

“Daguerreotypes,” said Jake’s dad.  “Early photography.  What kind of pictures from the war did he have?”

“Lots of battlefields—after the fact.  Dead soldiers lined up and things.  There was a really cool one of Abraham Lincoln getting shot, though.  I’d never seen it before.”

“The Lincoln Assassination?” asked Jake’s dad.  “Must be a mock up.”

“A what?”

“A fake, son.”

“Mr. Cloots said it was the real deal.  I’m going back over there after dinner.  Wanna come along?”

His dad said that he did, so after Jake cleared the dishes and his dad rinsed them, they both walked across the driveway to Mr. Cloots’ house, where he was waiting in the long shadows of an early summer evening.  Spot was laying at the front door, calm as a nap.

“Oh, hi there, Mr. Ellington,” he said, getting up out of his armchair.  “How ’bout a nice cold beer?”

“It’s Wyatt, and sure, a beer would be great.”

Mr. Cloots went to the kitchen and brought back two brown bottles of open beer, and a bottle of orange soda for Jake.  “Summer night’s in these latitudes are mighty fine, Wyatt.”

“It was a nice one today, Rodger,” said Jake’s dad, taking the beer.  “Is that what brings you to Brickton?  The weather?”

“You’re a teacher at Evans College, aren’t you?”

Jake’s dad swallowed a mouthful of beer.  “A professor, yes.  I just accepted a position there.  Start teaching in the fall.”

“Well, you came for work,” Mr. Cloots said.  “I came to retire.”

“Most people retire to warmer climates.”

“Yeah, well…” he trailed off.  “You’ve got quite a boy there.”

“He thinks the world of you.”  He rumpled Jake’s hair affectionately.  “And who can blame him, with everything you’ve been telling him—and showing him.”  He waved the beer bottle around the room, a pawn shop of the bizarre.

“Jake is an observant kid,” said Mr. Cloots, smiling at the boy.

“He even says you have an honest-to-God daguerreotype of the Lincoln Assassination at Ford’s Theater.  Can you imagine?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”

Through the open window, Jake could hear his mother calling his father to come pick up the phone—something about a dean at the school checking up on their move, so his father shook Mr. Cloots’ hand and tried to hurry out the door, but when he did, Spot stood up and bared his teeth, a low rumble coming from his broad chest.  Mr. Cloots had to order the dog to back down before Jake’s dad could walk out the door, and even then, Wyatt had to watch his heels.

“What’d you tell your dad about that picture for?” asked Mr. Cloots.

“He’s a history professor at Evans.  You know that,” Jake said, looking Mr. Cloots hard in the eyes for a few long moments.  “Is it real?  My dad says it has to be a fake.”

“It’s real—look.”  Mr. Cloots reached into a drawer where he kept his favorite rare photos and pulled out the picture he had shown Jake earlier.  “It’s not a daguerreotype.  It’s a tintype, a more modern process of picture-taking.  A daguerreotype needs a longer exposure, and for a shot like this, an action shot, I needed a quicker film speed to catch it.  It’s still not a great picture by today’s standards, but you can see what’s going on.  See?  There’s Lincoln falling forward, and right there is the shooter, John Wilkes Boothe.  Did you know he was a famous actor?”

“Sure, everybody knows that,” said Jake, not realizing that everybody wasn’t the son of a history professor.  “But you said that you needed a quicker film speed.”

Mr. Cloots smiled again.  Each time he did it came more naturally.  “You caught that, did you?  Yes.  I took that picture, and that’s something your dad doesn’t have the faith to grasp.  So don’t go running and tell him.  Promise?”

Jake didn’t want to promise his neighbor anything, but found it hard to resist.  “Okay, I promise, but I don’t believe you.”

“You’d be amazed how often I’m called a liar.”

“Were you ever a lawyer?  My dad says that ‘lawyer’ is how he pronounces ‘liar’.”

“He’s a wiseacre, too, eh?” said Mr. Cloots, swallowing another mouthful of beer.  The bottle was more than half full, but he went into the kitchen, dumped it down the sink, and grabbed a new one.  “I can’t stand it when they get warm like that.”

Jake’s orange soda was still very cold—so cold he couldn’t hold it for very long or his hands hurt.  He took another drink, and eyed Mr. Cloots over the bottom of the upturned bottle.  The old man picked up the tintype of the Lincoln Assassination again and lost himself in thought for a few seconds.

“I was there, Jake.  I practically set the thing up, if you want to know it all.  Boothe needed a lot of coaxing—he was a coward when you get right down to it—but I had a hand in it.  That crucible over there, the one stamped Knittlingen?  That belonged to Faust.  I took that with me after his contract was fulfilled.  The guitar belonged to Robert Johnson, who traded with me to be the most influential blues musician of all time.  And the hood ornament came from the car James Dean died in.  Souvenirs from past transactions.  You asked if I was a lawyer, and you’re not far from the mark.  I’m the Devil, Jake.”

“Nuh-uh,” smiled Jake.  He knew the old man was joking now.

Mr. Cloots held up his beer bottle.  “Watch this.”  The bottle still had frost on the outside, but it exploded in his hand, spilling steaming beer all over the carpet.  “I run really hot, if I let myself.  Something like near boiling, and I hate the heat.”  He rolled his eyes.  “The Loaf Eater really knows how to rub a victory in, you know?”

“Loaf Eater?”

“That’s what the word ‘Lord’ means, etymologically—at its root. You’ll excuse me for not calling him by his right title.  We haven’t been on speaking terms for about six thousand years.”

Jake looked at the shattered glass in the wet spot on the carpet, and then at Mr. Cloots’ hand.  It wasn’t burned or bleeding, but it had to be a trick, and Jake said so.

“What proof can I give that’ll make you believe?” he said, and then added under his breath but loud enough to hear: “And they say my greatest accomplishment is making people think I don’t exist … ”

“Levitate me.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

As soon as he said the word, Jake’s feet left the ground.  It didn’t feel like he was being lifted by any force, seen or unseen.  Instead, it felt like all of his weight, his gravity, just slipped out of his shoes as he floated toward the ceiling, like a helium-filled balloon.  Jake knew there was no way Mr. Cloots could fake that, even with hypnotism.  “Put me down!”

“You believe me?”

“Yes!  Yes!” Jake would have said anything to get what he wanted, but he found that he actually did believe Mr. Cloots.  Jake landed softly on his feet and felt gravity reenter his body.

“You should have asked for something harder.  I am the Lord of the Air, y’know.”

Jake sat down and gripped the arms of the chair like he was going to fly away again.

“People always accuse me of being a liar, but really, they just hear what they want to hear.  I may leave out information, or play up an unlikely possibility, but I don’t lie, not really.  How’s that any worse than a Madison Avenue ad man?”

“So, what do you want, Mr. Cloots?  With me?”

“Nothing.  Everything.  You ever wonder how lonely it is being the Devil?”

“What about your demons?”

“Those guys?  If I had control over them, I might have won the war for Heaven,” said Mr. Cloots.  “But don’t let the name fool you. Propaganda  It was more of a collective bargaining agreement gone sour.  A union thing.”

“You went on strike?”

“We were locked out.  Started collecting souls to bargain our way back in.  That just made things worse between ownership and its employees. And now … me and the demons, we’re not even on the same team anymore.”

“Why not?”

“I retired, Jake.”

“Why?”

“Can’t stand the heat.  But more than that, any nickel theologian will tell you that there’s no way to win.  Most major world religions will tell you that I’m going to lose eventually, and that’s when it gets really bad for me.  Lake of fire and all that.  Brimstone.  Eternal punishment.  Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  But here’s the catch, Jake.  I have to launch that final assault.  Armageddon.  Ragnarok.  The Last Battle.  If I don’t—if I just retire to a nice suburb like Brickton—then its status quo, forever.  Now if the Big Boss wants to force that last assault, then who’s the bad guy?  At the very least, it helps my case getting back in his good graces.”

Jake kept imagining Mr. Cloots in a red cape with the pitchfork, and even then, in his imagination, the old man didn’t look scary—even a little bit.  He had yellow-white hair, bright eyes and wrinkly jowls, with just a little more energy than a man in his 80s should have, but he wasn’t a monster or anything, and Jake wondered if thinking that way about Mr. Cloots made him a bad person or something.  He drank some of his orange soda and burped faintly.

The next day was a Saturday.  Jake woke up late and went downstairs for waffles, which his mom had whipped up special for him.  He didn’t say anything to her about what he knew about Mr. Cloots, but she could tell something was bothering him about the old man.

She tried to change to subject.  “Hey, hon, there’s a moving van across the street.  Another house sold.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Three in a month,” she said.  “Must be some kind of record, and in a down economy like this!  Can you imagine?  I went over there this morning to introduce myself.  A nice, Greek family.  Name is Thanatos.”

“Thanatos?” asked Jake’s dad.  “Isn’t that the Greek name for the Grim Reaper?”

*

Christian Larsen grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked as a high school English teacher, a radio personality, a newspaper reporter, a musician and songwriter, and a printer’s devil. He lives with his wife and two sons in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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WACK WHACK by David Perlmutter

Jun 12 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Her name was Possum. Nothing more or less than that.

She exited the plane cautiously upon landing in New York, her enormous blue eyes covered by sunglasses, a threadbare coat over an equally threadbare shirt and pants, ragged black hair and translucent white skin rendered almost see-through by the explosive amount of sunlight in the air. Her contact waved a sign in the air with her name on it, as was still the custom for receiving guests at the airport in this futuristic America. Spotting it, she went over to meet him. They feigned the excitement of long lost relatives reuniting for a moment in front of the crowd to create what they felt would be a convenient alibi before retreating to a silent corner to discuss the mission that the man- a “true” human- had recruited Possum for.

Possum was not a “true” human being at all, but actually an animated cartoon character. A very perilous situation, considering her race was now at war with the “true” human beings of America, the country she had been created in. But Possum, and others like her, managed to get by, even if it meant some duplicitous dealings with both halves of the equation.

“Was it bad on the flight in from L.A.?” the man asked.

“Of course,” Possum answered. “You know what L.A.’s like all the time.”

“Have you ever been to New York?”

“No! I told you. My kind of ‘toons don’t get around much. Thank you for Fed-ex’ing me the plane fare, though. It really helped.”

Dentinger, the man, cautioned her to lower her voice as unsuspecting passengers walked past them. Then they resumed their talk.

“It used to be better than this,” Dentinger said absent-mindedly.

“What?” Possum asked.

“The whole country. Before….you know, your kind….”

“You don’t have to pussyfoot around this,” Possum answered. “I know what my “kind” are doing- and the fact that they won’t involve me in any of their rotten transgressions, so I gotta do my own! Lousy bunch of….”

Possum was beginning to assume the anger that was the Achilles heel of so many ‘toons- and the cause of much of their destructive behavior. Dentinger was able to calm her down, however.

“Come on,” he said. “We need to get you settled in.”

They walked away from the airport and headed into an apartment house in town. After ascending, Dentinger opened the door of the farthest room from the elevator and they entered. They were not alone.

There was another “true” human at the kitchen table, named Mintz. This was the man whom Possum had been contacted about doing a “hit”- and the man whom she had traveled across the country to meet with in order to negotiate the deal.

“Aha!” said Mintz when they entered, ignoring Dentinger’s presence entirely (he was used to this). “You must be Possum! How wonderful it is for me to…”

“Yeah, yeah!” Possum held up a hand to silence him. “Cut the crap, Mintz! I didn’t come all the way out here to listen to your cheap beatitudes!”

“You mean platitudes,” suggested Dentinger, unhelpfully.

“What-ever!” Possum growled. Then, to Mintz, she added: “Why didn’t you come and meet me at the airport yourself instead of sending him?”

“I was otherwise engaged,” Mintz protested.

“Sure you were.” Possum was used to lying and being lied to, and so she viewed Mintz’s statement with a grain of salt. “Does he have to be here while we….?”

“No, he doesn’t.” Mintz silently pointed to the door and Dentinger exited the apartment.

“All I know about this thing,” Possum said, “is that you want me to kill one of your kind for a change instead of one of mine. Is that it?”

“Uh huh,” said Mintz. “He’s a businessman and ‘toon sympathizer named Evan Hunter. We want him to be dead within two days.”

“I can do it in less than that.”

“Good. We know you’ve taken out hits on your fellow cartoons before, but not nearly as many on human beings. Are you up for the challenge?”

“Look, it’s no difference to me whether or not it’s a ‘toon or a human, provided the guy’s a bad egg. Those are the only ones I take out, understand? I have nothing but contempt for little goody-two-shoes wuzzys no matter what form they take. So I’m assuming you wouldn’t have called me in for this job if the guy didn’t need to be whacked. Am I right?”

“You’re right. Now, let me tell you something about Hunter that will surely convince you. Since the war between our species began, he has been buying up stockpiles of surviving animation art from the major film studios, with which he intends to intimidate the ‘toon leaders to account by burning it and thus separating them from a major part of your heritage. This, he believes, will lead to them committing themselves to negotiating peace with the human beings. But, at the same time, he has also been secretly funding outside parties that intend to subvert the American war effort and allow the ‘toons to conquer the true humans. Therefore, Hunter is considered a threat by both sides, since he is capable of acting at once to threaten one or both of their war efforts.”

“And you want me to kill him so he’ll get off both of their backs and let this thing go on,” Possum assumed.

“Right.”

“Then let me ask you this. What’s in it for me?”

“Your usual fee, plus double your normal expenses.” He counted a large sum of money in a small number of bills into Possum’s hand, which made her eyes bulge in the traditional “wacky” style of her ancestors.

“That’s all I needed to hear,” Possum replied, when she had popped her eyes back in her head and the money into her pocket.

“There’s one other thing, though,” Mintz cautioned her.

“And what is that?” demanded Possum.

“The death must, in all ways, forms and fashions, look as much like an accident as possible. No one must know that you murdered him.”

“I’ll…do what I can,” Possum uttered evasively as she left.

*

Possum returned confidently to her hotel room. Now that she had been paid such a large sum of money- in advance, yet- it was even more important to her that she look her best while disposing of Evan Hunter. She had these thoughts in mind when she was confronted by a fellow ‘toon at the very door of her room.

He, like she herself, was clearly from among the ranks of the minor-league Hollywood ‘toon bit players like herself. He took the form of an oversized, big-eyed teddy bear, but in all other respects he was about as “human” as Possum herself was. Possum was taken aback at first upon seeing him, but soon calmed down enough to address him in her firmest tone.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, in a voice resembling a rusty hinge very much in need of an entire bottle of WD-40. “I came out here from Los Angeles to find you.”

“Why?” Possum demanded suspiciously.

“I’m a reporter,” he said, pointing to his hat, a fedora with a crudely made badge with “PRESS” stenciled on it at the top. “I want an interview.”

“You’re not getting one,” insisted Possum. “I don’t do interviews. Especially not with the kind of rag you write for! How DARE you accuse me of being a plotter against my own kind? Just ‘cause I went and did a couple of hits I was PAID to DO….”

“It’s not that,” the bear answered. “There were rumors about you being paid to kill a human….”

Possum forcefully put her key in the door and opened it. “Get in there,” she ordered, and the bear meekly followed her inside.

“How did you find out about me?” Possum demanded, once she had shut the door behind them. “And how did you know about me….?”

“Not much to hide, really,” the bear admitted. “The ‘toon press in L.A.’s been all over you ever since you did that hit at Disney….”

“Okay, okay!” Possum cut him off. “That’s all well and good. But how did you know I was coming here? To New York? And especially about me doing it to a human?”

“Sources,” was all the bear would answer. “And you can’t make me say anything about who they are or stuff. The law and that, you know.”

“I know,” retorted Possum sourly. “So you want a story, huh?”

“More than that.”

“What the hell are you getting at?”

“I want you to apologize.”

“What for?”

“For all of our people that you killed! I mean, my girlfriend was one of those, man! You didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye to….”

“Back off, okay?” Possum ordered him. “Just BACK OFF! I don’t know what antiquated code of chivalry you and the other ‘toons in the establishment are working with, but I DON’T PLAY LIKE THAT, understand? I am a professional assassin. I use my skills and my abilities to kill people, wherever or whoever they are. Up ‘til now, all of my hits have been of the ‘toon variety because I was asked to do that. Now, I’m being asked to kill a human being. Do I get paid to do this? Yes! Am I carrying the money I got for the hit on me now? Yes! Is this person a bad egg who deserves to be killed? Yes! Does it matter what race, creed or color the bastards are that I off? NO! The only reason you thick headed bunch of sucks got so mad about me doing those kills was because of your flattering but wrong-headed belief that we supposedly are one group of “people”. HELL NO, WE AREN’T! We’re not one group- we’re not even “people”! I look like a human being, but I’m not, any more than you’re really a bear! We’re all a bunch of cheap FREAKS some true humans drew so they could feel BETTER about themselves! And, honestly, I want to kill as many of you people as I can before I die, so I can get rid of them talking about CURSED and MISERABLE they are! So why don’t you just get the hell out of here before I make you into a victim yourself!”

That extended, long-winded monologue served its purpose of getting her would-be tormentor off her back, and he exited the room with all possible speed.

*

The following morning, and for much of the following day, Possum tailed her eventual victim, Evan Hunter, as he went through his very busy day. She followed him to his high-rise office building, then followed him to the restaurant where he had lunch, sitting only mere meters from him so that she could follow every word that he said, then followed him back to the office until the end of the work day, when she finally concluded her tailing. It had not been easy. Even though she could pass for an albino human girl fairly easily, Possum had difficulty convincing certain security officials and restaurant managers that she actually belonged or could possibly be a patron at the establishments she targeted, and she was therefore ejected bodily more than once before she could finally gain access through subterfuge. Eventually, though, the day ended, and she could breathe something of a sigh of relief. She calculated that it would take Hunter’s chauffer-driven limousine at least an hour or so to arrive at Hunter’s sumptuous mansion in suburban New Rochelle, so she went back to her hotel, waited exactly that long to the precise second, and made a call to him.

“Hello?” Hunter asked when he got to the phone.

“Mr. Hunter?” Possum asked.

“Yes.”

“Mr. Hunter, you don’t know me, but my name is Possum, and I am a member of the ‘toon community who’s concerned about….”

“Look, “ Hunter said sternly, “you can say all you want about those model sheets being your people’s equivalent of unborn fetuses, but I’m not….”

“It’s not about that, Mr. Hunter. This is more urgent. And more directly involving you.”

“How directly are we talking about, Postum?”

Possum, sir.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s all right. You’d be surprised how many things about me people get wrong, none the less being my name. No, sir, this doesn’t have anything to do with the model sheets. This is an important matter that I have no one else to confide in about.”

“What are you?” Hunter asked suspiciously. “A double agent?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” countered Possum. “The thing is, I know about you, Hunter, and that you’re playing both sides of the war. And I can make things real hot for you if you don’t do what I say.”

There was silence on the other end for a moment. Then Hunter said:

“Would it be okay if we met for breakfast tomorrow and deal with this? I really can’t afford to have this stuff leaked out in the open, but I can’t really give you any other time….”

“Oh, that’s fine with me,” Possum said sweetly, firmly disguising the fate that she had in store for Hunter.

*

Possum waited for an hour at the restaurant Hunter had chosen for the meeting before he arrived. He was in the company of a few business associates when he entered and seemed to have forgotten all about the meeting until she gave him the evil eye as he passed her. At that point, Hunter gave his excuses to his associates and sat down beside Possum, apologizing profusely as he did.

“No matter,” Possum said, with her feminine sweetness once again masking her true intentions. Hunter’s head was balding, and the harsh lights of the restaurant reflected back upon it, giving him the appearance of a skull. Possum felt this appearance was apt, given how much he was interested in killing both ‘toons and humans, if only from afar in both cases.

“So,” Possum said, fishing around her mind for small talk. “Nice place.”

“I like it,” answered Hunter tersely. “By the way, you don’t need to hide anything about yourself.”

“Anything like what?” Possum asked, feigning innocence.

“I know what you’ve been doing. Those “hits”, as they put it so crudely in your trade. You kill people for money.”

“Don’t I know it,” Possum said, acting and speaking confidently now that her cover was blown. “That’s what I came to talk to you about.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Like I said, I know what you did, what you’ve been doing, and what you intend to do. You want to wreck both the ‘toon cause and the human resistance. And, being the businessman you are, you want to profit on burning both of the houses. But you can’t do anything about me going to the press with what I know. I tailed you all yesterday. So I know what you’ve been planning to do. Every detail. And I’ll expose you unless you do exactly what I want you to do.”

“And there’s nothing I can do to persuade you?”

“There are some things.”

“Name them!” Hunter demanded.

“I want money, first of all, to get out of America,” Possum said. “I need asylum. And, of course, I’m going to need some more to set myself up in style in some exotic tropical paradise. You know, like you were planning.”

“How did you know….?”

“I told you, I tailed you yesterday! And I heard everything!”

“Well, then, everything you heard dies with you!”

Hunter removed a pistol from his pocket, aiming it at Possum, intending to kill her with it. He fired at her three times- but the bullets merely passed through her body!

“Amateur,” Possum scoffed. “This is how you do it!”

With the superhuman strength that all members of her race possessed, Possum lifted him up in the air and uttered a cry very reminiscent of one of her real-world animal namesakes in full anger. Her human hand and nails abruptly turned into a paw with razor-sharp claws, claws with which she used to rake open Hunter’s belly and then to severe his head from his neck. Then, to the horror of the few patrons who were in the restaurant that early in the morning, she dropped the body in the aisle next to the table and made a hasty exit out the back.

“Man!” an African-American patron observed. “That was one wack whack!”

*

With a crazed gleam in her eye, Possum sped as best as she could out of the city in the direction of the nearest airport. She’d insisted upon being paid in advance, because she knew she had many enemies in the ‘toon community, even in far away New York, who could advance and conquer her at a moment’s notice.

As she waited impatiently at a crossroads for the light to change, it happened. The shadows, representing a small army of fellow ‘toons, was coming right towards her from an alleyway. And, even with all her success killing individual ‘toons, there was no way of knowing whether she’d escape this mob.

Still, she had to take a chance…..

*

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he has lived his whole life. His passions are American television animation (the subject of his MA thesis and a projected historical monograph), literature (especially science fiction and fantasy) and music (rhythm& blues, soul, funk and jazz.) This explains why much of his writing is as nonconventional and defiant as it is. He is challenged with Asperger’s Syndrome, but considers it an asset more than a disability.

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