W. B. Vogel
"Damn, I hate socializing with food," Rase Grim said scratching his head methodically. He had spent 3 days walking along the edge of an Arizona highway trying to thumb a ride. The skin on his face was nearly raw from the cold winds that blew across the emptiness. Shelter was only something that he worried about during the day, as the sun in these parts would blister a man in a matter of minutes. Rase didn't like daytime anyway.
His thumb wagged in the air as a car rushed by, leaving him choking on dust. "Bastards," he thought. Things like this made him want to kill them all. "I guess I'll have to walk all the way to Tucson. Just figures." Another went by in a blur.
It was cold, but it didn't really bother him. Time had hardened him to such things. In the long run it was all just a matter of moments in pain and how long that they would last. He didn't notice anymore. If he closed his eyes one day faded into the next like one painful stretch that never really seemed to pull towards an end. He didn't care anymore.
There was only the game. He enjoyed that. He craved it.
There were lights now, higher than the others, coming over the hill. His arm went out, waiting for the signs. The engine geared down. It was big, but starting to slow. Rase's eyes focused tightly trying to see the vehicle.
The machine groaned as it slowed to a stop. It was a semi, the largest truck that he had ever seen. The brute had stopped short of him, but he didn't mind. At least it was a ride and it was heading in the right direction. That was all that he really wanted at this point.
He had to walk several yards to get to the waiting truck, still roaring its engine. Even from the road there was a distinct smell that he had picked-up on. Under the aroma of diesel fuel fumes and leaking oil it lingered like a rotting carcass in the hot afternoon sun. It was repugnant yet appetizing to his road raw senses, and made him queasy as he thought about it. The smell was of flesh--oily, greasy, and slick with salty sweat. He wanted to eat...it had been so long.
The door swung open, and a voice said, "Goin' to Tucson, need a lift?" Grim smiled, and stepped up and into the truck. He slammed the door shut and the truck accelerated towards a distant nothing.
"Thanks, man. I thought I was going to have to spend another night in the boonies. Possum ain't my idea of fine cuisine," Rase laughed. Roadkill was getting old.
But the chase never did.
Rase looked at the robust figure of a man that drove his conveyance. He was amazingly fit for his occupation. And for his height he was fairly muscular and stoic. Needless to say, Grim was surprised. This was not the typical picture that sprung to mind when someone envisioned a truck driver.
“So, why ain’t you out chasin’ women on a fine evening like this one?” the trucker asked. He laughed, clearing his throat of strangling phlegm. The sound of it made Rase’s guts twist, but this was no time to be picky.
“Too cold for that. Besides, work keeps me busy and moving too much to catch a love. She’d have to be nearly perfect to capture my heart,” Rase answered.
“Yeah, same here,” said the trucker softly.
This didn’t surprise Rase much. Love is a game that many are destined to lose. Rase believed this was a good reason to continue unhindered and savage. He had no need to be tamed.
His eyes scanned forward. He would never catch the horizon, but he’d storm it all the same. Red rimmed eyes stared coldly into that darkness...seeing one small edge of a distant forever unfolding endlessly into infinity. And still there was only darkness.
Hours passed and the road winded before them. Soon Rase could feel the rumble beginning in the center of his bones like a subsonic hum. Slowly it would build, growing and twisting until it was a deafening roar radiating from within. The sun was rising.
The day purges while darkness sleeps...
“So, what line of work are you in?”
Rase smiled, and waited momentarily to answer. Then he said, “I’m a studying magician. My stage name changes from time to time, but right now I’m using Santini. I call my act The Magic Macabre. Do you want to see a trick?”
“Sure,” the trucker replied. Again, he laughed in the same sickening way. Bad habits die hard.
From his bag, Rase took a deck of cards, a piece of wood, and a kitchen knife. He spread the cards before him, and said, “Please take a card and place it back into the deck.”
The man grinned dumbly, but followed the instructions implicitly. His disinterested stare belied him—he was tired and just didn’t care. Rase handed him the deck. Then the trucker slid the card back into the deck and said, “Shock me.” Immediately after that he smiled. He smiled so arrogantly.
Without touching the deck Rase revealed a card from his right hand. “Watch this,” he said, placing the card face down on the small wooden board. Next he laid his right hand on top of it. He then smiled and asked, “Ready?”
Rase’s left arm then came swinging down from over the top of his head, brandishing the knife. The blow struck hard, burying the blade deep into his other hand. It pierced flesh, card, and board in one sure motion.
The trucker’s jaw dropped. For a moment the semi swerved before he regained control. His first words were, “What the hell!”
“Your card was an ace...an Ace of Spades.”
“Are you insane? That is scary,” the trucker yelled. “You need some serious help. SERIOUS help!” His fingered wagged in front of Rase’s face.
“Want to see something really scary?” Rase asked as he pulled down his sunglasses slowly. He jerked the knife from his wounded hand without so much as flinching. Lifting the shattered hand slowly, he placed it alongside his own face.
The wound sealed in a matter of seconds. The flesh twained, reforming perfectly and leaving only scattered remnants of blood. In that same instant, the red rim that surrounded the outer edges of his irises flooded inward consuming the deep blackened brown of Rase’s eyes. Blood black they became...
Black as his soul.
The knife blade tore through the trucker’s neck as Rase initially struck. His right hand swung across, shattering the ribcage and digging his strong, adept fingers deeply into his victim’s chest. Still beating beneath jagged ribs and severed muscles was the human heart...the vessel for which Rase craved instinctively. Sounding forth was the heart for which he hungered—seat of the soul, Temple of God, and bringer of the tides of life.
The truck was swerving insanely now back and forth on the asphalt stitch stretching endlessly from urban wound to urban wound. Soon it went off of the road, hit an embankment, and flipped over with a bullish crash. Sparks flew as it slowed to its last repose. There it would finally founder and die a graceless death, pathetic and spent like a withered old racehorse.
The wheels spun, grinding down to zero velocity, when the passenger side door catapulted free of the truck. Metal screamed as it was ripped free like a bloody scab. It slammed loudly when it hit the ground. Smoke rose like ether from the flaming wreck.
Rase slowly pulled himself up and out of the truck’s crushed cab. “That’s what I get for traveling with spam,” he groaned as he pushed away bent metal to clear his way out. Pulling himself up, he stood on top of the smoldering debris. The odor of leaking diesel fuel was blunt.
He looked down into the cab. The deed was done, but now there was the mess. Jumping off, he landed in a large puddle of diesel fuel. This sparked an idea.
Getting clear of the fuel, he lit a match. It fell softly, the flame wafting in an almost hypnotic way. Then it drowned.
“Hell,” he said quietly lighting another to take its place. The second charged the first, storming to fill the breach. The diesel ignited with a dull roar. The flames burned hot and slow. There would be no evidence...there would be no leftovers.
Black pillars of smoke stabbed at the heavens. Hours would pass before anyone would become concerned enough to report the blaze. By then all traces would be gone. On came the burning dawn...
Rase again scanned the darkness. Immortal eyes staring deep into the heart of the abyss, somewhere he could feel an ebon black burning darkly. In that churning stygian night he would find sanctuary and sleep.
He walked towards refuge. Suddenly he paused, throwing the deck of cards over his shoulder. The cards scattered and sailed through a stiffly blowing breeze. Black and white, black and white, black and white...every card carried a grim little face. Every grim little card was an ace.
Author W.B. Vogel writes about what he loves...the darkness and all of God's creations cast from it. Born early on a dark and dismal day in November of 1972, his love of the storm and the night has been a major influence and inspiration. "The Dark Days are the best..."
Influences range from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe to directors such as John Carpenter and bands such as Carcass, Slipknot, Acid Bath, the Vandals, Misfits, Entombed, Konkhra, Transport League, and Fishbone.
"It is not a matter of survival of the fittest, but of the fiercest."
Visit W. B. Vogel's web site.
His writings credits include: