“Deena!” he shouted. “Good ‘ard kick, now!”
The Wonderland Rules is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Colin spun around in his seat. “Tiny,” he barked, “climb over into the cargo compartment!”
Clorox scrambled out of his seatbelt and leapt over the rear seat. “What is that thing!?” he yelled, frantically drawing his pistol from his shoulder holster and pointing it at the snarling Puddles, who was ripping and tearing with her fingers at the thing that had counterfeited Lola Bunny. She still had her teeth buried in its neck, but that neck was no longer cartoon orange. Nor did it belong to anything humanoid, or even recognizably terrestrial.
Colin ignored him, turning back to Heath, who was still staring blankly into space. He shook Heath’s shoulder. “‘Eath? ‘Eath, mate!”
Heath continued to ignore him. His expression was one of a man who had, in the midst of an artillery bombardment, unexpectedly found himself in a place both peaceful and safe.
Colin slapped the back of the driver’s seat. Heath’s head bounced forward, and then slowly returned to its original position. “‘Eath!” he repeated, more urgently. “Drive the fucking car!”
The thing that shrieked and thrashed in the Dancer’s grip was moist and slick with blood and mucus, as if it had recently been inside a living body. It was a dark, functional gray, streaked with angry purplish-red, and the arms and legs it had affected hung limp; they did not appear to be its primary form of locomotion. That role was filled by the undulating scillia that lined the lower half of its body. Its head was narrow and conical and eyeless, and a cluster of sharp-lipped suckers covered the lower half of its face. It looked as though it weighed as much a full-sized mastiff, and from the way it fought, it was clearly at least as strong as one. But Puddles was stronger, and angrier.
Colin glanced out the passenger window. Old Glory Barbecue appeared to be the local Nice Restaurant; the knot of well-dressed young locals who had been chatting next to the tall gas outdoor heaters out front were peering curiously at the Jeep’s tinted windows, trying to make out the source of the noises coming from the interior.
He slapped the headrest again. Heath didn’t move.
Colin made a frustrated, impatient noise in the back of his throat. “I fuckin’ ‘ate doing this,” he moaned. “It ain’t my job at all.” He sat back in his seat and took a deep breath. “I’m so sorry, mate,” he said in a wretched voice. He put his hand on Heath’s shoulder and squeezed it awkwardly. “You know I’m sorry.”
He took a deep breath, focused his gaze on the road and lifted his arms. He adjusted the position of his legs minutely, flexing his right foot. His hands moved as if he was gripping an invisible steering wheel.
Heath’s expression changed minutely but definitely. The lines of his eyes crinkled into crow’s feet, and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly in a way that looked very like Colin’s habitual smirk. The pigmentation of his dark eyes swirled like ink in a glass of water and vanished, leaving only pale blue.
His hands moved down from the ten-and-two position on the wheel to mirror Colin’s nine-and-three.
Puddles tore at the writhing creature’s face with her fingers, her teeth still buried in its neck. She unwrapped her legs from around its midsection and dug at it with her bare feet. It let out a wail like a steam engine as her painted toenails found purchase in its flesh. Foul-smelling ichor spurted from the wound.
Heath’s arms mirrored Colin’s, and his foot moved from the brake to the gas. The Jeep accelerated through the green light, a little jerkily at first, and then smoothed out as Colin settled into his role as puppeteer.
“Greyhound!” shouted Clorox. “Should I shoot it?”
Breathing slowly and rhythmically, Colin moved Heath’s hand down to the turn signal, turned back onto the highway, and accelerated. A trickle of blood ran from his nose and over his lips and dripped onto his faded blue oxfordcloth shirt. “Should you discharge your fucking pistol in ‘Eath’s and my general direction?” he spat through clenched teeth. “No, you shouldn’t fucking shoot it. Shut up and stay out of the way while the Paki fucking does ‘er job. ”
His eyes scanned the road, lighting on a sign that read “NYDOT Facility: Authorized Personnel Only.” Ever so gently, he moved Heath’s left hand down to the turn indicator and steered the Jeep through the open gate and into a wide dirt lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. Twenty enormous yellow dump trucks with snowplows attached stood idle there, in front of half a dozen huge piles of sand mixed with salt. Colin painstakingly moved Heath’s right hand down and shifted the Jeep into park. He took a deep breath and shook himself like a dog.
Heath’s expression returned to its previous blank state. His irises clouded, then darkened once more to brown.
Colin shot a worried look at Heath before scrambling out of the Jeep, grabbing the rear door handle and yanking it open. He reached inside and over the combatants, taking care not to touch Puddles’s bare skin, and hit the latch release to her seatbelt. He stepped clear of the door, tensed, and gestured toward the center of the lot with one arm and toward the Jeep with the other. The air rippled, then blurred as the Greyhound activated his field and raised it to full strength. “Deena!” he shouted. “Good ‘ard kick, now!”
Puddles twisted in her seat, walked her hips and shoulders backwards along the bench seat with the squirming parasite still in her grip until she was braced against the driver’s side door and kicked it off her with both legs.
The creature zipped out of the Jeep and across the lot like a shell from a recoilless rifle. It hit the house-sized mound of sand and salt and burst like a cockroach under a triphammer. The impact shifted the top half of the grit pile backwards and formed a new, smaller pile a considerable distance behind the bottom.
A dusting of sand and salt descended, covering the Jeep like fallout.
Jesus. I didn't see any of this coming
Hey Rollins! That didn't explain a goddamn thing!
Still a good ride, though. You continue to show off your great command of space and the action happening within it.