Suggestions for corrections are always welcome. These will most likely be first-drafts.
The road ahead dissolved in a muddled blur through the rain-speckled windshield as the speedometer crept up to the promised 500. Stein's throat was raw from screaming ever since the strange black beast's Pirellis caught purchase on the freeway leading out of New York state. The engine, before a demure purr, howled as if a coiled dragon were fighting to get loose from beneath the beveled hood. Intense heat roared from the air vents, scalding his face. His lips chapped first, then cracked and bled as the skin dried and broke.
An intense flash of light melted his retinas as an explosive sound akin to a sonic boom burst his ear drums. Stein found the will to blink one final time then—
The car broke through whatever field and rocketed down a deserted highway, slowing gradually as whatever force propelled it gave out. Stein licked his lips and found them smooth again. He rolled his head back on his neck and reached out tentatively to take the rogue steering wheel. No resistance. The lights in the dash dimmed as the car's speedometer slipped below 200, and the noise in the engine compartment ceased without warning at around 100.
A light up ahead grabbed his attention. A roadside billboard advertised a diner ahead. 5 miles. He glanced at the barely legible speedometer. A crack appeared in the glass protecting the dial. 65.
The radio fell to silence, and Stein realized he hadn't heard it really since bursting through the (barrier) whatever field of whatever. Whatever. He leaned forward to peer out the windshield, squinting in the growing darkness as the headlights dimmed to about the candlepower of two bargain flashlights.
The diner loomed ahead. Fluorescent lights rained yellowed light down the dusty red brick walls of the exterior. At the windows, patrons dined and carried on silent conversations. Stein saw this before reaching the parking lot, turning the car into the drive with considerable effort. It seemed to be dying, as if terminated upon serving its purpose, whatever that might be. To bring him someplace in the fuckin' Mojave to eat. He laughed as the car nosed up to the building and shut completely down and in that confined space he sounded very strange to himself. Shattered, almost.
The door opened, and the claws holding the key in the ignition released, dropping it with a dull clink to the floorboard. He left it and stepped out into the stifling air. His chest hitched for a few seconds before he realized there wasn't any air. No breeze. No movement.
A buzzing caught his ear and he gazed upwards. A great big neon sign, on top of the building, but somehow he could see it:
“Welcome to HELL'S KITCHEN: Taste good enough to DIE FOR!”
Stein coughed and caught his reflection in the glass. He wasn't a bad-looking man, he thought. Mid-thirties, sandy-brown curls, cut short and fashionable. Angular face. Strong jaw. Athletic physique. Beyond the glass, a girl looked at him, perhaps twelve. She was crying, and her tears were red.
The bell over the door chimed merrily as he walked in, unsure of the place because of the strange girl, but when he looked at the seat where he'd seen her, he only saw a woman with bruises on her eyes. She could have been her mother with the same shiny brown pigtails and full upper lip. Like Julia Roberts, but he read somewhere that she had plastic surgery and instead of being pissed at the fuck-up, she'd decided to run with the look.
It'd earned her millions and Stein felt a little bubble of nervous laughter well up from somewhere deep inside him. It was the kind of laugh that people made in rooms with bars on the windows and burnt-orange plastic chairs, reflected in the grey swirly tile that every mental hospital seemed to keep stock in.
The jukebox whirred to life and Stein jumped. The turntable accepted the record and rotated as the needle dropped to the surface. It was that same damn unapologetic fucking saxophone as in the car.
“Fuck this,” he muttered and turned to go back through the door, but where the door had been, there was only a brick wall.
“What the fuck?” he said, loud enough to draw attention, but no one did. The barista (is that what they were called? Memory so damn fuzzy) shuffled woodenly back and forth behind the counter, serving coffee with a gigantic smile on his unmoving features. The waitress stopped at the same tables, over and over, asking to take an order.
It seemed like an hour that Stein stood there, his eyes taking in what his brain refused to accept. At the bar (what kind of diner sold beer?) a woman sat with her back to the door in front of one of those casual bar games that peddled virtual poker and slots , but even in his distance, Stein could tell there was something wrong with her. She mechanically selected images on the screen which had a series of patterns that repeated over and over again. Every so often she'd let out a “Hot damn!” and continue her selecting.
A couple sat in the booth closest to him, making out openly.
The jazz on the jukebox ceased abruptly as the machine changed the record. The succeeding vinyl played the same song, only with a cello this time. Stein pressed his hands to his ears and scanned the diner for an exit. There was only the windows, the few bar patrons, and the two employees that he could see. The waitress walked up to him.
“Sit where you like. Smoking towards the back. I'll bring you a menu.”
Stein blinked and regarded her like a foreign species.
“No, no I was about to leave.”
The waitress snorted in laughter. “Oh honey,” she said, and turned to send out orders that had appeared in the window behind the barista/bartender. Stein gasped as he noticed the fingers of her right hand were pencil-points and the order pad was a flattened portion of her palm.
Wild and terrified, his eyes darted from person to person in the place. The woman with the bruised eyes was eating a sandwich with gusto. A severed penis jutted out from between the pieces of rye and onion.
He approached the woman at the bar. Maybe she'd be able to tell him what the fuck was going on.
She was fused with her chair, a pile of quarters in one hand, leaving only the one free arm. Her eyes were bulging and bloodshot in their sockets. Every so often, the barista would go over to her and mist her eyes with a plant sprayer. The barista himself was nailed to a trolley-board apparatus lined up on a track that only allowed him to go back and forth behind the counter. Blood seeped up through the holes of his Converse and trailed behind his track on the floor.