The Flipside

Welcome to my reading room. The works showcased here will most likely be first draft. Red pencils are most certainly welcome.

The 500 concept story begins here.

These works may have shocking content, whether it be sexual, graphic or otherwise twisted. That said, if you aren't much of a horror fan, Carrie Clevenger's Reading Room is probably not for you.

All of these works are copyright, all rights reserved by Carrie Clevenger. I will electrocute. Promise.

Enjoy your stay.

"500" WIP Installments in Order:


Cocktail (light graphic content)

The skyscape dropped into darkness, and the wind picked up in a protesting howl, setting the tattered remains of the burned American flag free into the air—a certain flurry, like black bits of paper. A charred stuffed bear lay face-down in Stein's path. Without knowing why, he bent to pick it up, dusting off the damp fur to inspect it.

A young girl's laughter resounded somewhere from between the tall, narrow buildings outside of the protective fence surrounding the disused basketball count. Stein's fingers tightened around the toy and he followed it. He was stopped by a clucking tongue.

“I don't think you're ready for that just yet,” Roger said, and Stein blinked.

He was holding a martini, not a teddy bear. It was Tempsey's old place—a modest thirty-five stories above the cracked pavement below. Rumors were that a man had jumped out of the window on the thirty-sixth floor, and that's how the pavement had gotten fucked up in such an expensive neighborhood.

“You're showing me shit out of order,” Stein growled to his ethereal companion who merely eyed the well-dressed guests with an appreciative smile. He licked his lips; a black, segmented and forked tongue to slither out of his mouth for a brief flicker, and then Stein was left not knowing if he'd seen it for real or not. One couldn't be too careful, especially with his drink, and there came the woman in the red dress, a complete cliché brunette bombshell but he remembered her name well: Ana Langier, supermodel. Her husband was a Japanese businessman, and so wasn't around much there in that lonely New York State. Word at the firm was she was alone most of the time. She certainly wasn't clinging to anyone here, only walking, defiant, as if she owned the place instead of Tempsey.

Roger sniffed the air with gusto, and Stein turned to find the specter dressed to the nines in a wine-colored tux. He favored his charge with a half-apologetic smile, his black beady eyes following the sway of those hips as Ana approached Stein, paused for dramatic result, her plush red lips mouthing the words that Stein would never forget and he was tugged along by his tie, led by the lovely lady. On the way out of the main gathering, Stein stumbled over a foot strategically placed, and his martini went flying. An explosion of Grey Goose and vermouth blossomed in the center of the room.

The olives, still stabbed on the small acrylic sword rolled once and stared up at him, like accusing eyes, with x's for pupils.

Ana was drunk, he could tell it and Sarah wouldn't be expecting him home for a few more hours. She pulled him up into a short hall, kissing him hard enough to bite into his bottom lip, her slender fingers working the offending garments out of the way.

“I want you,” she whispered in his ear, tonguing his earlobe to suck between her lips and pinch between her teeth. "I've always wanted you."

Stein looked around for Roger but it seemed his companion had gotten distracted by the craps table. Two glorious women clutched both of his elbows, and for the first time, Roger did not look menacing at all. Instead, his eyes were a lighter brown and his hair was combed back neatly, exposing a less than noticeable widow's peak part. No one noticed anything odd about him, or seemed to care. Ana was at his zipper now, her fingers cold against his prickling nutsack and he nearly stood on his toes.

A clattering sound interrupted her would-be invasion with her mouth. Someone'd spilled the cocktail peanuts. Stein closed his eyes, knowing what was about to happen. His mind screamed at him to push Ana away, but she 'd returned to her undeniable attraction to his helplessly exposed and bobbing manhood.

“She always gave good head,” Roger said, standing there in front of Stein with his two newest fans like he was waiting in line for the bathroom instead of watching Stein receive a blowjob from a gorgeous supermodel whom also happened to be married.

Stein squirmed a little as his libido overtook his recollection of the memory which Roger was obviously pushing him to relive.

“Rsaka Tonoshi,” Roger said, “You remember this part.” His white face turned, Stein noticed that he was blistering along the jaw. His nose was incredibly long, sharp, and appeared to have been broken at some juncture. Roger turned his face back to Stein.

“He's coming.” A peanut rolled through the opening, and an astonished Asian face peered into the hallway, followed by the blackest hole deep inside the muzzle of his pistol. Tears and sweat mingled on his lined features; Rsaka had to be at least seventy-years-old.

Ana was given only enough time to pop Stein's throbbing purple cock from her mouth and rise to her feet, her lips parting to offer something in the way of explanation. Stein wanted to throw an arm over his face to deflect the splattering blood and brains, but his arm remained cemented against the wall, just like the script of his past dictated.

It was over in a matter of seconds. Rivers of tears streamed down and over aged lines; Ana dropped to the floor after a red lotus blossomed in her face.

His pocket vibrated and he jumped-jerked away. Four men were tackling Rsaka to the ground, vainly attempting to wrestle the gun from his grip. Sarah cried into the phone on her end; whispered accusations. Stein heard himself say that no matter what, he would always place her ahead of anything else. He hung up and backed up and off the wall, letting Ana's little weight fall away from his legs.

She eyed him with the one eye not covered in a bloody mess.

“I'm so sorry.”

The four men scattered as Rsaka swung the aim of the gun in a wide arc.

"It's okay," Stein said, his mouth dry. His eyes climbed up the wall, where her husband leaned against it, shoulders slumped in defeat. The old businessman eyed the weapon as he turned it over and over in his hands. A dull, blued-steel, maybe a .38, Stein didn't know shit like that. Without another word, he bit the muzzle and pulled the trigger a second time. In the distance, Stein heard screaming. The faint wait of the ambulance.

"You know how he took his time? His was a good catch and a definite bonus in addition to Ms. Langier's. In the end, you are all meat."

Roger grinned his shark-tooth grin and bit one of the women's faces, and she moaned.

"They want it, Cristein. They need to be devoured. But this isn't what I wanted to show you. We're not done, but we're done here."



Secrets are like dust in a busy household—pushed from corner to corner and jabbed at in an attempt to eradicate, but the fact remains as long as there is life, there will be dust because we are of it.

The stars winked at him, and twisted in their deep sky-burrows. The moon scurried behind a copse of clouds like Eve in the trees after she'd eaten the infamous apple. The voice was strong, and his ribs rattled together as he shivered. Roger waited, hands behind his back. He was still smiling as if it were a pleasant tennis match and nothing more.

There will always be dust as long as we live. And when you look beneath your bed expecting to see nothing, it will be there. They will be there, reminding you that you haven't won yet.

“I did win, goddamnit!” Stein screamed to the sky and fell on his ass. “What the fuck is this?” He asked Roger again. “Just take me to Hell. Take me to Hell if all you plan on doing is torturing me anyway.”

“I'm sorry son,” he heard his father say. “She wasn't your mother really.”

“Not my mom?” Stein said in a ten-year-old's voice. “Where is my real mom?”

Benjamin Chamberlain did not answer, only closed his eyes. They were in the waiting room. Maggie Chamberlain was dead. She was found in the bathroom, overdosed on crack-cocaine.

“—shut up,” Stein said and stood again. He brushed past Roger and ran his hands through his hair. It felt wrong, like hair shouldn't feel. His hands were beginning to bleed again.

“It wears off after awhile, but soon I can make it stay away,” Roger said, grinning with those sharp teeth and the blood vanished from his palms.
“You put your hands out to block the incoming glass—“

Stein waved him off with a violent stroke of his hand. “I get it. I'm fucking dead.”

“Who was the voice Stein?”

Stein closed his eyes and shook his head. Over and over until his neck felt sore.

“That's not possible. Stop imposing limits on this form.”

Stein laughed and shrugged. Dust curled up around the soles of his shoes as he approached Isobel, quiet and watching. He could feel her mechanical ire, like a low hum under ten feet of concrete. Like an approaching train. Her disdain for him as a pathetic being. Her fender sagged under his gaze as if retreating. He snorted. Reality didn't have a snowball's chance in—well, there was definite truth in that statement. Heat wavered over her paint; a miniature atmosphere, black as squid ink. He shook from head to toe in absolute fear, but slapped his hand on the scalding metal. Steam hissed from beneath his palm immediately and he jerked his hand away again, leaving a thin layer of skin which melted away as he looked on in horror.


“Now now Stein...the thing is, you decided to touch the car.”

“Limits! You said I should stop fucking—oh my God this fucking hurts—imposing limits on this form.”

Roger laughed, a good hearty, belly-shuddering, teeth bared guffaw. A blister appeared on his brow above his left eye. He sighed and smoothed a hand back through his glossy-black hair. “You're killing me Stein. I thought you had more brains than that, unless you left them all across that highway.” He straightened his posture again, though the smile danced over his lips at interval. “You can't just do as you please here. There are some rules. Rule One: Don't touch the transport. You're lucky she didn't electrocute you.”

“Rules,” Stein said and opened his burned palm. The flesh was unmarked. Of course it was. He wasn't real. None of this was really real.

Roger walked towards the car. “Roll scene."

It was a hot day in Brooklyn. The sun stared the two of them down in a deserted basketball court with a burned-out American flag flying on a flagpole by the playground. The tattered remains were still smoking. Stein shielded his eyes and took in the desaturated surroundings. It was as if a holocaust had made them the last two—he glanced at Roger—well Stein was the last man on earth.

A menagerie of scents pricked his nose. Apples. Sunflowers. Pale red. She was walking towards them. He couldn't see her face yet, but he didn't want to see it. Not here, not after the fucked up shit he'd already seen.

Her strawberry-blonde hair whipped over her cheek and obscured the right side of her face. One ice-blue eye regarded him with a practiced casualty that no one could ever do better.

“I knew you'd be glad to see her again.” Roger said. Stein glanced at him and then a double-take.

“Lakers? Really?” Stein wrinkled his nose at the purple basketball jersey hanging off Roger's death-camp-survivor's bony frame.

“Seemed somehow appropriate. She's coming to say something Stein. Do you know what it is?”

Stein gritted his teeth and stepped back, hands held out in front of him. “I wasn't ready. That's all.”

“How can you say that to your wife?”

“Fuck you. This is some sick shit you're pulling man.”

Sarah Chamberlain stopped in front of him, her hand protective over her belly. The wind threatened to shift, but Stein couldn't look away. “She hated basketball. She wanted me to believe in a family. To be happy that she's—she'd gotten pregnant.”

“It was a red afternoon,” Roger said, the grin reintroduced. He blew in Sarah's direction. The wind shifted, and lifted her silky strawberry-blonde tresses to reveal a gaping socket where her right eye had once been. Maggots squirmed in the open space of her split cheek-flesh. Her tongue wriggled inside there, black and segmented.

“Anti-abortionists are such fun,” Roger said, offering his hand to her. She looked at him with her one eye and took it, her right hand useless, burned and dangling at her side. Stein squeezed his eyes shut again.

“You were supposed to accompany this sweet young lady to her first obstetrics appointment. Instead, she sought an abortion clinic. On the day of the massacre. With your daughter deep inside her.”

Stein made an inhuman mewling sound.

“Not yet,” Roger said, twirling Sarah around like a dance partner. “We're far from done. Día de los Muertos.”



Gaily-colored streamers tacked to the ceiling descended to the floor and balloons, each with a letter of Stein's name, stood proud and straight on their thin twined bunches. Maggie Chamberlain was in the kitchen, singing along to Buddy Holly while she watched the maid cut the cake.

“Barbara! Even slices. Don't want Cristein to get fat, like his father.” Her blonde hair was dyed pink in places with a black-glitter mesh bow. The maid, a squat woman herself, pursed her lips, her fingers tightening around the handle of the knife but said nothing in objection. The woman was a cocaine addict and her son had a freakish name, and that was punishment enough for this family. Instead, she finished the job of slicing the white-chocolate cake in neat little child-size squares and pushed through the French doors on the patio to tell the brand-new eight-year-old that he and his friends could come have cake in the parlor. She called him Stein, and he loved it. Better the boy grow up with an alternative; Cristein was an oblong name. She chuckled as she went to gather up the rest of the family.

Benjamin Chamberlain was in his home office on the phone. Barbara stood patiently outside his door, waiting a few moments to see if he'd turn around and catch sight of her. The conversation was tense, and after a few seconds, she stepped back from the doorway just to eavesdrop in spite of herself.

“I see...and you are sure it's Karen...” Ben propped the phone between his shoulder and ear momentarily while he extracted a small packet of white from his top desk drawer from the nesting of identicals, and locked the drawer with a small key. He held it up to the light of the window and set it down on his desk, turning to look to the doorway before refocusing on his conversation.

“She was found where? What about her mother, can't she—oh...oh I see. Several years ago.” He sucked his breath in through his teeth and loosened his tie, one that Maggie'd given him for the past Father's Day. It was navy blue, with little red polo-riders in a diagonal pattern all over it. His light-blue shirt was beginning to develop sweat stains, perhaps from the conversation, perhaps not.

“I can come identify her, but it's been years since I last saw her. I don't think she even knew I was her father.”

Wide-eyed, Barbara staggered backwards.


A bright light. Stein opened his eyes and immediately slitted them against the intrusion.

“A sister Cristein. Did you know?” Roger was close by. Very close, like a lover's voice.

Heat shimmered in the lights and Stein blinked a few times and nodded. “Dad told me. The day before he died. She was twenty-two.”

“Do you know how she died, Cristein?”

Stein grimaced. His collar felt tight. “No. That wasn't really fully disclosed. Some kind of wreck.”

“You tried to find out, didn't you?”

Stein nodded again. He tried to sit up but couldn't. His body felt immensely heavy and non-existent all at once. “Am I dead Roger? Did I die?”

Roger laughed and stepped into view. Stars winked behind his head and Stein was out on the highway again. The lights were headlights and he could feel the cracks in the blacktop under his back. He pressed his shoulders into the road, treasuring the sensation of something solid besides his breathing. In. Out. In. Out. In—

“Answer the question.”

“I went to the library—“

“Her name was Karen. Karen Mills.”

“I know that goddamnit,” Stein said, turning his head to Roger's voice, but it was just him and that bedeviled car again.

“Would you rather we go elsewhere?”

“Besides lying in the road in front of a demon car? Sure.”

Stein licked his lips and tasted sand. He was on a beach, looking out at nothing. No water. Just dead seabed. The moonlight drifted down in rivulets, as if afraid of the cursed place. The ground was spotted, as if it'd tried to rain, but thought better of it.


Stein sat up, and leaned over his knees, hugging his legs. “Yeah. Good as it gets, I guess.”

“She died of asphyxiation Stein.” Roger stepped into view but his face was unreadable and dark. Isobel sat sentient, silent and unlit. The moonbeams split over the roof of the hulking machine and dared not even reflect off the fenders. A dim glow resided in the ancient glass of the headlights.

“Choked to death with her own pantyhose.”

Stein shook his head. “Car accident,” he said incredulously. “The papers said it was an automobile accident...a flaming wreckage—fuck.” His eyes were bulging. “Isobel.”

Roger smiled not kindly. “She severed a man's penis while he was high on cocaine.”

“Was everyone on that shit in the eighties?”

Roger snorted. “It was a very busy decade for us.”

Stein exhaled hard and shook his head. “Fuck you. Whomever the fuck you and that goddamn car work for.”

“Karen was the original Chamberlain. You took that from her, didn't you?”

“I didn't know!” Stein roared and jumped to his feet, fists clenched at his sides. “What the fuck is this? A goddamn interrogation?”

Isobel's engine started and the headlights were there in Stein's face again. The accelerator raced, rocking the car violently.

“Careful. You don't want to piss off your partner,” Roger said, his smile fading from his ghastly illuminated features.



The lights flickered, and the windows rattled in their frames. The patrons went on about their business as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

“What the fuck is wrong with you people?!” Stein shouted and turned around and around, glancing up at the ceiling as motes of plaster drifted lazily in the air. The woman eating the sandwich paused, her eyes meeting his for the remotest of seconds before diving back into her grotesque meal.

“What is this place?!”

The jukebox yanked the needle across the record sharply and everything just stopped.

The plaster particles hung motionless, the woman froze with sandwich in mouth, teeth clamped viciously around the macabre meat filling. The barista was caught in a blink, like someone snapped a picture with flash.

Outside the window: lights. Pale lights, drifting over the barren landscape, drawing closer. Dancing and entwining, only to split apart. They materialized at the drive to pull in as another one of those goddamn cars. Like the one he came in. Like—


Stein jumped at the abrupt voice behind him. Slowly, he cranked his neck to the side. Licked his lips. Tasted glass. Tiny bits of glass and realized his hands were covered in blood.

“That's right, now you're getting it.”

A man in front of him now. Priest's cassock, buttoned high on his neck. A black thatch of hair above sharp dark eyes. He carried a rosary, but the cross was missing. Stein crunched slivers of glass embedded in his tongue.

“What is this?”

The man smiled, and his teeth were sharp barracuda points. “It has many names, but in your time and place I believe the term is Purgatory.”

“How did I get here?” Stein asked, spitting out blood.

“I can restore the illusion if you like,” the man said. His gaze dropped to Stein's shoes. “You're getting it all over the nice, clean floor that Margaret here worked so hard to clean.”


“You're dead, Stein. Passed. Gone. Wormdirt, although I'd say what's left of you would fit in a matchbox at those speeds.”

“The car? I died in the car?”

“The car brought you here Stein,” he said with a flash in his dark eyes.


“Not hell, Purgatory. Consider it a waiting room for dead souls. Well, many waiting rooms. Places. The Styx leads to all of those.”

“You telling me,” Stein said, choking on the blood before spitting on the floor, “that the Styx is fucking real?”

The man raised an eyebrow and Stein sucked in a breath. The blood disappeared. The diner vanished, and they were standing in the middle of the highway. The one he’d come in on.

“Call me Roger,” the man offered and extended an arm to the darkness surrounding them on all sides. “This is the Styx. Not a river as many have been led to believe, but the conduit to every land beyond.”

Lights glowed on the red-lined horizon as if the sun had just set. They peeped as twin headlights, approaching at a breakneck speed. Roger just stood there with a smile of approval, his hands clasped behind his back. His shoes were absolutely immaculate. Stein swallowed.

“Isobel,” Roger whispered and the car drew closer without signs of slowing.

“It's going to hit us,” Stein said and stepped back but Roger snagged his wrist with a grip hot as a branding iron.

“Relax, Stein. She works for us.”

The car closed the distance between them in a blink of an eye. Five hundred yards. Three hundred, and a slight scuff as the brakes dug into the discs. The black car he'd paid an exorbitant price for sat in front of him, high beams staring him straight in the face.

“Isobel,” Stein said in the same whisper.

“Just one of many, although the odds of seeing more than a handful are extremely rare.”

Stein approached the car, shielding his face from the waves of heat radiating off the hood.

“She does get hot,” Roger said apologetically, his thin lips betraying his amusement. “Something to do with the speed.”

“I paid for this car,” Stein said, as if to convince himself.

“Oh yes. You did. Quite the price tag for a transport.”

“A what?”

“Isobel is of the Styx. And now, she is yours.”

“Cars don't have genders,” Stein said, creeping around to the rear end of the car. “Or minds of their own. This one... Isobel tried to kill me.”

Roger sighed and followed behind Stein, stopping to open the door. Stein flinched as if something was going to leap out of the driver's seat and shred his face off. Nothing came out. He craned his neck to see inside without getting closer.

Inside were the same icy-blue dials. Chrome accents. That smell again. Not unpleasant this time either. Black. The interior was black, and lit from above at the same time.

“What's the smell?” He asked, inching closer.

“Soul residue, or in your case, human skin.”

“What!” Any progress Stein'd made in getting closer was negated as he stumbled backwards.

“From a very, very long time ago, Stein, and you've already been in it. It's been against your own skin, and now it has your blood in it as well.”

A flash of light revealed the aftermath of the accident, with blood dripping off the lip of the driver's seat onto the tidy midnight carpeting. Another flash removed the grisly evidence.

“It's all a matter of perspective here, Stein.”

“Why am I here,” Stein said hoarsely, “Why are you showing me this fucked up shit?”

“You are here because you belong here, and I have a job for you.” Roger said and shoved the door to shut again. “But that is to be determined, since up until now you refuse to believe anything you've seen. I'll take you back to the diner now.”

“No!” Stein dropped to his knees, clutching at the strange man's garments. Something coiled beneath the scratchy wool and he fell back, tears threatening his eyes. “I just want to go home,” he said, his voice breaking like glass.

“I told you Stein. You are home.” Roger said. Stein was shrouded in absolute darkness.


Hell's Kitchen (light graphic content)

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.


The parking lot was dark—the lot lights hadn't reset with the time change. Stein stared the little salesman down with a degree of desperation of a man with nothing left to acquire.

“Maybe a Corvette,” the salesman offered. His badge read Benny. Like Benny Hill, except he wasn't funny and this wasn't the fucking U.K.

“I have six of them.”


“My dad drives a Mercedes.”

Benny tugged at his thin black tie like a groom before his wedding. “Why you askin' me?”

“Oh, is that a Brooklyn accent I detect?”

“Is that sarcasm sir? Yea, I come from Brooklyn.”

Stein appeared to grow before Benny's eyes. He was full of money, power, and something else.

“Shit,” Benny said under his breath.

“Excuse me?”

“You come to a car lot, to look for something you don't already have, and expect to be surprised.” His tongue felt fat in his mouth, and the damp post-rain air cloyed, holding them in. “With all due respect— and this'll probably cost me my job sir—go fuck yourself.”

Benny shrugged against the night, and stuck his hands in his pockets. Stein stood motionless. His mouth caught open halfway as if he needed air.

“Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever fucking talked to me like that.”

“Well let me be the fucking first,” Benny said. His jaw set at a sharp angle, where his perfect white shiny teeth caught the glow of the sunset over on the other side of the building. “I don't like you. You come in here and disrupt my day, just so you can bitch about what you can't find left to fucking buy."

“What about you?”

“...the hell?”


Stein looked him over, and Benny shivered. “What do you want from me?”

“Sales manager recommended you. Said you have experience with better automobiles.”

It was Benny's turn to gape.

“My brother owns a shop. I worked there for awhile.”

“Is it legal?”


“—it's Stein, for fuck's sake. Call me fucking Stein.”

“It's none of your goddamn business.”

“I did my research on you Benito.”

Benny's brows pulled together in a scowl. “I think we're done here.” He looked at the sky and then back at Stein. “Yep. Done. See ya.”

He turned to walk away, but Stein caught his elbow. “I know all about Marquez. I know all about you. That's why I came here. These cars—fucking junk. No pizazz. I know Marquez can build me one.”

Benny shook his elbow loose and pulled back a clenched fist in one smooth stroke.

“Threatening a customer, Benito?”

“You're damn straight. How the fuck—you a fucking cop or something?” He relaxed his fist.

“No, Benny. I'm not a cop. I don't have to be. Not when I got money, and I got lots of it.” He took a step back and held his hands up in a neutral gesture. “All I want is what I can get. The ultimate rush.”

Mama was cooking when Benny came in, jacket over one shoulder, and usual caramel features blanched.

“Benito! What happened to you?”

“I'm alright mama, just a bad day.”

He walked through the kitchen and peered into the boiling pots. “Potatoes.”

“You know that I don't get a check until the first.”

“I know mama.”

He dropped his jacket over the arm of the threadbare sofa and sunk into the spongy depths of the ancient Davenport. Images of Christ gazed reverentially at him from over the tin-foil wrapped rabbit ears on the floor-model RCA. He clicked the remote and the elderly set blossomed into focus. David Letterman was on, laughing about something and had a guest celebrity Benny hadn't seen before. An unnamed woman in stilettos and leopard print minidress. Like his aunt Maria.

The phone sat on the stand, partially obscured by aging copies of Enquirer and The Sun. He brushed them away and picked up the beige receiver with a sigh. Stein had money, he said. Lots of it. He could finish college. His mama could open up her beauty parlor again. He could have his own place instead of the sofa.

He dialed the numbers he knew by heart.

It better be good,” said the voice that answered and Benny licked his lips. They felt like glass.

It's me.”

I know. I knew you'd call.”

It's just not right Marq.”

You found a buyer. I figured word would get out.”

Benny swallowed hard. “Yeah. He knew who you are.”

Everybody that's somebody does. Like I said, what's mine is yours—“

I know Marq, listen—I just want to be left the fuck out of this. That speed isn't safe.”

Soft laughter emanated from the receiver. “It never is, little brother.”

Marquez dropped the cellphone back on the table and picked up his wrench again to return to the machine he'd been working on when he'd gotten the surprise call.

Five-hundred miles an hour,” he said and laughed. “Five-fucking-hundred miles an hour.”

A dark form stirred next to him. “Call it an Expressway.”

Here I thought you were wrong,” Marq said and pulled the part free from under the hood. He turned it over in his greasy hands.

Someone's always willing to push the envelope,” the dark form hissed. “I just needed a few more.”

I tried the patent office—“

“—I told you not to do that, I told you to keep this under your shirt.”

Hey, we could make millions,” Marq said, setting the part aside.

IF you could get the speed,” the dark form reminded him, “And if you'd keep your fucking lid tight.”

The dark form drew closer and Marq dared to look at it directly. The last thing he saw was his cheeks when his eyes slid out of their sockets as his face melted.

Stein waited impatiently in the same parking lot, this time after the dealership was closed. He pulled his cellphone from his pocket, checked the time, and flipped the keyboard out. No texts. No messages. No emails.

So where the fuck was this amazing goddamn car?

As in answer, twin headlights stabbed through the swirling mist. Stein shielded his eyes from the glare, peeking through his fingers. The car was here. Two men stepped out. One, he recognized as Benny the car salesman. The other one had to be none other than Marquez. They'd delivered.

He walked towards the car. Black. Low. Boxy, like a Chrysler. But so much more than Detroit steel. This was something straight out of a comic book. A massive chrome grille grinned malevolently from just above the blacktop. It crouched on four fat Pirellis, which hugged massive eighteen-inch moon-discs. Stein scratched his head. He couldn't tell if it was early iron or something entirely of its own category.

Rain splattered the pavement unexpectedly, and Benny hunched against the chilling drops as they struck the hood, hissing like water in a greasy iron skillet on mama's stove. Beyond the windshield—nothing. A blacker than black nothingness. Marquez spoke first.

The money.”

A purple Mercury pulled up behind the black acquisition. Stein squinted to see through the headlights. His fingers tightened around the handle of the briefcase just before stepping forward to set it on the pavement.

Five hundred miles an hour?” he said in question, the rain soaking his vision.

Every last mile per hour,” Marquez growled. He plucked the case off the ground, flipped it around and brought it down on the hood of the black beast hard. Stein flinched.

Hey, watch the fucking car!”

Marquez glanced up at him and Stein gasped. Where his eyes should be, were two cold fires, licking out of his empty sockets up towards his hair. He tossed the rich man a set of keys. Stein caught them mid-air.

Mind the rain,” Marquez said and jerked his head towards the Mercury. Benny nodded and with one last fearful glance at Stein, followed his brother to the car.

Stein waited until they'd gone and ran up to his new toy to inspect the hood. The rain beaded on the flawless midnight surface and trickled over the fender. No sizzling. No steam. Stein snorted to himself and then grinned.

No man had what he had. None of his friends knew where to go to get the good shit. This car—this machinewas the good shit.

He pressed a button on the fob and the perimeter lights flashed twice. The handleless door popped open and he hesitated, mentally wrestling with the notion that it would electrocute him, or burn his flesh off or grab him and trap him forever. Cursing, he forced himself to touch the door and pull it all the way open.

The door swung open soundlessly, revealing the interior. Black. Dark as a tomb, with icy-blue dash lights. The dome light seemed to be in another dimension for all the lighting it did. Black on black. Leather, soft, fractured. A scent he couldn't quite identify but wasn't unpleasant.

He slipped in behind the wheel, and the door closed without command. Stein laughed nervously to himself in that confined space as he put the key in the ignition. A pair of mechanical claws clamped over the key and his fingers, slicing cleanly into his soft rich man's flesh. He cursed and drew back bleeding fingertips to suck at the tiny wounds.

The car whirred into life, all of the dash lights initializing, the radio interrupting the silence of the cockpit with strange, frantic jazz, the saxophone immediate and impolite.

A deep voice sang low songs of dead, whispering things to him, and the car moved.

Stein screamed.

Benny was moving the last box of his belongings out of mama's place when the disc jockey on the radio laughed incredulously.

Wow listeners, you'll never believe what's on television just now. Out on the turnpike, seems a car has literally vaporized into nothing. State police claim the speed of the vehicle was beyond radar limitations.”

They said a burn-mark was all that remained of the wreck. That and the distinct smell of sulfur.

Benny crossed himself and started the truck.