Dark and, at times, amusing fiction from award-winning author Dave Zeltserman

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Another Everybody Lies in Hell excerpt


One of my squatters who acted as a cabdriver and went by the name of Edwin usually kept his yellow cab at the corner of Pierrepont and Hicks. All I could do was hope he was there now. As I ran thunder exploded beside me as if bombs were being tossed at me, but what was coming my way was a hell of a lot deadlier and scarier than any bomb.

I didn’t look back as I ran. I knew I’d see more of Brooklyn melting away and being replaced by a desolate mountain terrain, and in the middle of all this Al Zaoud and his horde of murderous cutthroats would be riding their demon stallions at full gallop. In my mind’s eye I could imagine those horses’ eyes shining bloodred and froth pouring from their mouths and steam blowing out of their flaring nostrils. I knew they still had to be a half mile or more away, but I couldn’t shake this sensation of them being directly behind me. I could almost feel on the back of my neck the pungent steam that they’d be exhaling; a steam that would smell no different than burning sulfur.

I wanted to kiss Edwin full on the lips when I saw him sitting in his cab where I hoped it would be, and given that he resembled a bloated bullfrog with a really bad complexion, that was saying something. I jumped in the back of his cab and told him to start driving. “Go over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and head uptown towards the Bronx,” I ordered him breathlessly. “And there’s an extra fifty for you if you ignore the speed limits.”

“Unusual weather we’re having,” he stammered out dumbly, his reflection in the rearview mirror showing a dead fish paleness to his face, his eyes wide open but with little life in them. Squatters have a defense mechanism where they go catatonic whenever they’re confronted with the fact that the reality they’ve adopted isn’t real. He was close to shutting down, but I didn’t have time to pull him out of the driver’s seat and take his place. I looked behind me and could see that the Brooklyn landscape was erasing quickly. Al Zaoud and his horde were close enough now that I could make out the severed heads tied to their horses’ manes.

“If you don’t start driving now I’ll put a bullet in the back of your skull,” I yelled at Edwin. “I swear to God I will!”

 “Jesus, what’s the rush?” he muttered half under his breath. Even if he looked directly at Al Zaoud and his murderous horde he wouldn’t acknowledge their existence. But he pulled away from the curb and headed toward the bridge and away from Al Zaoud. He wasn’t going nearly fast enough but at least he was moving. I reached over the back of his seat and pinched the top of his right ear and gave it a hard twist.

“Ow!” he cried.

“Give it more gas or I’ll bloody rip your ear off!”

He gave it more gas and the tires squealed. Al Zaoud was still gaining on us as more of my Brooklyn faded from sight, but at least we were moving now at a more reasonable speed. At least we had a chance. If Al Zaoud’s reality causes a ravine or mountain to materialize in his path, that would slow the bastard down enough where I might be able to escape him. Still, though, the buffer between us was disappearing quickly, and if something didn’t change it would only be a matter of seconds before I’d be pulled into his godforsaken reality.

“You better damn well floor it! And if you as much as touch the brakes I’ll fucking kill you!”

“Jesus, Mike, what’s gotten into you?” Edwin cried, but the taxi leapt forward as he pushed down on the gas pedal. The car did a little side-to-side jig as he almost crashed up, but he got it back under control and had it speeding over the bridge. We were maybe three quarters over it when the other end of the bridge faded away, replaced by Al Zaoud’s hellish world. I watched as one of the zombies jumped from the middle of the bridge but never made it into the East River as he disappeared beneath the rocky terrain that replaced my reality. I guess given a choice of being drowned in the river or crushed under tons of rock and soil there wouldn’t be much of a difference as far as that zombie was concerned

Edwin had the cab shaking again as he almost lost control for a second time. “I’m gonna crash up with the way you’re making me drive,” he cried out.

“Don’t you dare slow down!”

He didn’t slow down, but he started blubbering. “The cops are going to throw me in jail and take away my hack license. I don’t know what I’ll do without my hack license. Jesus, Mike, you’re killing me here.”

I laughed at that. A nervous, excitable, near hysterical laugh. It wasn’t me that was going to be killing him. If Al Zaoud caught up to us, it would be that crazy medieval warlord killing him for all eternity. And besides, my reality didn’t have any squatters acting like cops, at least none that I’d ever seen, so he had nothing to worry about on that front.

“Let me deal with any cops, you concentrate on getting us the hell out of here.”

“What’s the rush? For Chrissakes, what’s the rush?”

I didn’t bother answering him as he continued to blubber away, but I did let out my breath when I saw that we caught a break. A ravine appeared between us and Al Zaoud. It wasn’t steep enough to stop him for long, but it would slow him down, maybe enough for me to escape him.