The drops of rain spread out like shooting stars on the windshield of Jerry's old Ford. His wipers had stopped working some time ago, and he hadn't found the time to fix them. The wipers, like most things in his life these days were failing or falling apart. The sad thought made him laugh.
"What's so funny?" Mark, his passenger, and neighbor asked. "Oh, nothing. Just thinking about things. You know how that goes?" Mark nodded and grunted in agreement. The pair continued in silence as the truck pushed on through the storm.
"Sure is dark out tonight," Mark said a few minutes later; breaking the silence in the cab.
"If you say so," Jerry said looking up at the sky and back to the road. The asphalt road seemed to be blotted out by the darkness of the night, the truck's dim headlights barely cast anything useful on to its wet surface. Thankfully the faded yellow lines of the highway acted like beacons informing Jerry that he was still driving on it. Mark was right about it being dark, Jerry thought, but he knew he would never admit that to him.
"Where are we heading? I know you said you needed my help, but what exactly are we doing out here on a night like tonight?" Mark asked. "You'll find out soon enough. Why don't you just turn on the radio and find something to calm your worries, friend? Pretty sure it hasn't quit on me yet." Jerry pushed the accelerator down making the worn V6 chug, which increased the truck's speed.
Mark fumbled with the old metal knobs of the radio finally landing on a scratchy AM station, which was picking up some accordion music. "Polka? Guess this will have to do," he said with a stupid smile. "Suppose it will," Jerry said as he scanned the darkness ahead.
Mark looked over at Jerry and opened his mouth as if to say something, then stopped before making a sound. He closed his lips and looked back to the road, his shoulders slumping as he exhaled loudly.
Finally, they had come to the turnoff that Jerry had been anticipating. He slowed the truck and switched on his turning signal. The green indicator light stayed a solid green. "Looks like your blinker is broke too," Mark said seriously. Jerry switched it off with a scowl, turning onto the side road.
"Dead End?" Mark asked, as the truck passed the shot up, and faded road sign. "Now what the heck could be up this road?
"Margret," Jerry said flatly. Mark sat up straighter at the name, like a hound that caught a whiff of something it recognized, he mused.
"What in the world is she doing up here?" Mark asked excitedly. "Well Mark, this is why I need your help. She made a wrong turn and got a flat tire, and Margret being Margret couldn't change it." Jerry said with a thin smile on his lips. He kept looking forward at the road, looking at him would be too hard, he thought.
"Well shoot Jer, why didn't you say we were coming to help your wife? Why the mystery?"
"There wasn't any mystery Mark; I didn't want to waste time explaining the situation. I thought just asking for your help would be enough," he said gruffly.
"It was. It's just..." Mark cut off as the truck rounded a bend, and the outline of Margret's brown Volvo came into view. The car's clean paint reflected the dull lights of Jerry's Ford making that area of the gravel road brighter. "There is her car, but where is she?" Mark asked.
"She had to walk to a cabin down the road further to call me. She is still there waiting for us to fix the tire and go pick her up." Jerry turned to Mark with a straight face. "Do me a favor and grab the tire iron from the bed and go break the lugs loose while I wrestle the spare out of the back? If it's not too much trouble?"
Mark looked up at the rain and then over to Margret's car. "I'm on it," he said opening the squeaky door to the steady rain. He jumped down and walked to the truck's bed to retrieve the tool. Jerry let out a held breath. This might work, he thought.
He looked in the rear-view mirror watching Mark grab the tire iron and make his way toward the Volvo. Catching his own reflection in the rear-view, Jerry stopped to steady his nerves and prepared to take care of the task at hand. He stepped out of the vehicle.
The rain was colder than he remembered from earlier in the night. It fell from the sky onto the hood of his truck making dull thuds on the rusted metal. He looked up allowing the stinging drops to cover his face, their bitter cold strikes warming his temper. One gravel crunching step at a time he moved toward his beloved's car and Mark.
Mark was busy pacing back and forth looking at the car's wheels. Finally, he stopped at the driver's side rear tire scratching his head. "Hey, Jer! I don't see any flat tire?" He looked confused and more stupid than Jerry could ever remember. "Did you hear me? Where is the flat?" the idiot asked again.
The feeling of cold, smooth iron in his pocket gave Jerry a calm strength. He had stopped just on the other side of his truck leaving ten or so feet between him and Mark. This was just enough room, not too far, he thought. "Just like you practiced," he said under his breath.
"What?" Mark asked.
"I said check to see if the car will start," Jerry said yelling over the noise of the rain and polka music. Mark nodded once and walked to the driver's side door with tire iron still in hand. Mark's hand reached the handle, and he opened the door. Jerry waited for it, his lips drawn thin with anticipation. The bellow that came from Mark was more guttural than he expected. Jerry was almost impressed by its pain.
"Oh my God Jerry! It's Margret she's hurt!" he wailed. "Oh my God, oh my God!" he moaned dropping the tire iron. Mark had frantically bent into the car, the interior light exposing the crimson stains on the steering wheel. "It's really bad Jerry. She's barely breathing!" he yelled. Mark with his back to Jerry looked like he was sobbing as his shoulders slowly bounced up and down.
"Breathing!?" Jerry asked alarmed and took a step toward the man hovering over his still breathing wife. As he took a second gravel crunching step, he cursed at himself. "Damn it!" He had let his guard down and had closed with Mark, a space of only six or so feet. Too close! his mind screamed.
In what seemed slow-motion Jerry fumbled his hand into his pocket pulling forth his weapon. It seemed to weigh more in his hand than it had in his pocket. The ten-inch metal shaft which was as wide as his thumb, and had strange glyphs and symbols etched along its length; the instrument vibrated with a humming power, causing the hair on his arm to stand on end. The sensation made him shiver with pleasure, a vicious grin crossed Jerry's wide-eyed face as he admired his wand. "It ends now," he whispered.
In the momentary lapse of concentration, he had doomed himself, Jerry thought. When he looked up to strike out at Mark, he could not find him anywhere. "Damn it," Jerry cursed, whirling about to locate his foe. He stopped moving and making noise, which allowed his racing heart to slow. Straining his ears for any sounds of movement he searched the area. Just the sounds of the night, the storm, and that damned polka music returned to his ears.
"How did you figure it out?" the question was in Mark's voice, but it seemed to be whispered to Jerry from all directions at once.
"Why don't you show yourself and I'll tell you!" Jerry yelled shakily to the night air. He had begun to swivel his head like an owl trying to watch all sides at once, to catch his prey.
"What is that? A Helvish mini-wand? The first question seemed to come from directly behind him, but the second from off to his right. Jerry continued to listen and scan. "I'm impressed you were able to locate a working one. They are rare, and most you find these days are empty or replicas of the real ones. Maybe you aren't as dull as I thought you were." The disembodied voiced said chuckling.
A stick snapped near a bush just off to Jerry's left. Wasting no time Jerry aimed and uttered the practiced word, "Pervertere!" A jarring motion from the wand and a white-blue line of lightning leaped from the wand's end striking the area around the bush. In the aftermath, the air crackled with static electricity and the smell of ozone. A small mushroom-shaped cloud rolled toward the sky, revealing only a smoldering bush and no burnt body. Jerry's eyes narrowed.
"Careful with that. You're liable if you hurt someone with it," Mark said amused from everywhere at once. "You know you didn't have to kill her. It was a waste of a beautiful woman and fantastic lay." Mark taunted. Aiming for the spot where the voice sounded like it had come from, Jerry loosed another blinding flash of power with the uttering of a word.
More ethereal laughter assaulted Jerry's ears. "Looks like I struck a nerve, eh neighbor?" Mark said. "You killed her Mark, not me. The instant you put your cursed hands on her she was dead," he said shaking his head solemnly. "Besides your fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. Not to mention the DNA you just sobbed all over the body," Jerry said with a sneer. "When the authorities come and find you dead and me trying to revive my poor wife, I will tell them what really happened here."
"Oh, and what is that? That you were a small jealous man that couldn't take it that another man was servicing your wife?" The question seemed to be coming from behind Jerry's truck. I will not allow him to fool me; I will focus on the tire iron; I know he will go for it. He needs to be rid of it and me, Jerry thought. He gripped his wand tighter.
"You're just some backward farmer who knows how to google and got himself in way over his head," Mark continued. "Look at you hold that wand. Pathetic. You don't know anything about me or mine; you are out of your depth here, buddy." He said the last word, twisting it to sound foul.
As Mark's taunt was still in the air, Jerry concentrated and faintly heard the sound of moving gravel. Gotcha, he thought. "Pervertere!" he shouted as a gout of flowing electricity crackled out of his weapon, striking the area right by the tire iron. The ground erupted in a shower of sparks, dirt, and stones. The sound was deafening, and the concussive force from the blast threw Jerry to his back on the wet rocks of the abandoned road.
With his ears still ringing he pulled himself up to his feet. Covered in dirt and small stones Jerry started to brush off the debris, he allowed a smile of victory to spread his lips. The dust filled air obscured his view of his final victory. The fact that his truck's headlights had shattered made it even more difficult to see the body of Mark. It was up to the dissipating light of the flames and the cooking meat smell that hung thickly in the air to let him know that Mark had to be dead. He took a shambling step toward the Volvo and his success.
There was a crater about three feet wide by a foot deep where the "murder" weapon had rested on the ground just a moment ago, but no sizzling body. "Where the hell?" Jerry asked. A shadow to his left made him jump. He spun shouting the word of power, to release destruction at his command, but nothing happened.
Mark was standing visibly not three feet from him, unharmed except for what looked like a small burn on his right hand. I did get him, but only a glancing blow! Jerry thought. "Pervertere!" he shouted again, this time shaking the wand as if to break free any trapped force. Nothing happened.
Jerry's eyes widened with horror just as Mark's red lips curved into a smile. Before he could do anything Mark's form blurred and rushed him. What felt like a powerful vise tightened around his throat. Jerry gasped for air. He couldn't breathe.
Mark smiled and just held him by his throat; his attacker's hands were cold and rough like wet wood, some distracted part of Jerry's brain thought. The eye's of his killer was the same bright blue they always were, not the eyes of some monster; they were kind eyes. The better to eat you with, some sarcastic part of his mind screamed.
With no look of effort, Mark lifted him off the ground; he could feel the pressure build in his jaw as his vision darkened with the pounding blood in his head. I'm dead if I don't act, he thought. Jerry began to swing his fists and the wand wildly at Mark, but his executioner was taller than him, and he didn't have the reach to connect with his attacker. In a final act of desperation, Jerry threw the wand at Mark's face as his vision darkened. It struck with a crack and a meaty thud.
Mark groaned at the impact. It must have hurt him too because enraged he hurled Jerry eight feet through the air and into the side of his faded blue pick-up. He hit with a terrible force and slumped to the ground.
Jerry laid there feeling cold fire all over. The rain sprinkled down on his face; each cold drop was like a slap. Slowly, Jerry painfully forced his eyes open. Mark was still standing only six or so feet away, a deadly look on his face; his jaw seemed to hang wrong on his face. Groaning Mark jerked his lower jaw back into place with an audible click. His eyes didn't seem to have any kindness left in them now.
"Aw, what did he do? Go and blow his whole load too early?" A raspy feminine voice said. Jerry knew that voice, but it couldn't be... he had bashed in her tainted skull himself. "Now go easy on him my love, I think I broke his back with that impact," Mark said fondly to Jerry's dead wife.
"No!" Jerry moaned. "You didn't; you couldn't. God please no... you filthy Necro!" He tried to move his legs; it was if they were made from stone and refused to budge. Oh, Christ! He tried to move his arms and just as with his traitorous legs they too failed to move. "Can't move," he whimpered.
"Let me help you there sugar. It's the least I could do after how lovingly you treated me," what used to be Margret said with satisfaction.
"I don't think you are supposed to move someone with a spinal injury kitten."
"Oh really?" she asked reaching and lifting Jerry's limp body effortlessly. She sat him up against the side of his faithful truck. With his new positioning, he could see the two clearly and at the correct perspective at least.
The face of Mark seemed fine. There wasn't even a scratch from the wand strike. Jerry scoffed at his terrible luck, but it was Margret's face that truly caught his attention. Her skin seemed pale, and the congealed blood from her head wound looked like black stripes crisscrossing her face. Jerry realized he must have made a face because Margret looked offended. That same look she used to give him back when they would pick fights with one another, over nothing but boredom.
"You've got something in your hair wife," Jerry said spitting out the last word. He smiled finding amusement as she probed around in her blood-stained blonde hair. She stopped and frowned; she had pulled her hand away with a small chunk of her brain clutched in her fingers, Jerry blanched. "Oh, you mean this little morsel?" She asked. She handed the gray thing that reminded Jerry of Ramen noodles to Mark's eager hands.
He quickly popped the bit into his mouth. He chewed slowly and swallowed loudly. "Babe you are delicious," he said smiling back at the corpse of Jerry's wife. She nudged him flirtatiously. "I bet you say that to all the girls you bring back to life that let you eat their brains." The two exchanged a long passionate kiss; it only ending when Mark found another piece of brain with his caressing fingers and chewed on it. Jerry felt the contents of his stomach rise.
"Why don't you just kill me and be done with it?" he asked the two monsters in front of him. "You are dead, Jerry. You just don't know it yet," Mark said cheerily. "You almost had me too. Using her was a good idea; this remote place was a nice touch too." He smiled as he looked around. "Nobody knows any of us are here, I'm sure you saw to that. Now your trap will be your grave. If the elements don't get you the animals will." He turned to face Margret. "Well, my love let's be on our way then, shall we?"
He turned his back to Jerry and strode to Margret's car. Jerry watched as he climbed into the driver's seat. He looked on detached as Mark picked up scattered bits of brains and ate them like popcorn at the movies. Margret approached him and squatted down to look him in the eyes. Jerry despite all his bravado closed his eyes to the killing blow he thought was coming.
"Oh, don't worry Jerry. I consider you're bashing in my head a pretty convincing divorce. I'm finished with you," her voice came from very close to his face. He tried to recoil, but he didn't get any response from his body. He felt more than saw her lean in, the smell of old pennies filled his nose. A small cold, wet kiss on his cheek was all she gave him. No quick death then, he thought. He wasn't sure what made him more upset. The inability of his body to strike out at this husk of his wife? Or the knowledge he would die all alone here, because of his own stupidity?
"You take care of yourself, Jerry," she said with a little laugh as she got up and sauntered over to her Volvo. Although undead she still looked good walking away, he thought morosely. With silky grace she lowered herself into the passenger seat; he watched the two exchange another kiss under the car's dome light, his stomach turned again.
Funny I can feel my stomach but not my legs or arms, he reflected. Mark started the car and placed it into drive and pulled away. The two not even sparing the man they had just left for dead a second glance. Jerry tried to laugh at the way the night had turned out, with little success, the noise he made sounded too much like a death rattle to him. He closed his eyes and listened to the car until the sounds faded away to nothing. He sighed, shaking his head.
There was nothing left for him to do. He had played his hand, and the house had won. Alone and unable to move with rain pouring down he resigned himself to his fate. Smiling he did the only things he could, listen to polka and wait to die.