After getting gassed up, I pulled Agatha, that’s my cab, into the awning shade at the 7-11. It was a Thursday afternoon and the hot sun beat down on us like a hammer. No other cabbies were about, so I had the shadow basically to myself. And while I was waiting, I kicked back with a Courtney Crumrin comic. Three o’clock on another long day. Or so it seemed.
About half way down the page—Courtney was getting herself in trouble—a shadow crossed the passenger’s side door, it opened, and a guy slid in. I listened to the door close and decided that this was an okay time to take a fare.
But something felt off, like the dude was wearing the wrong cologne.
“Where to?” I started to ask as I turned to look—
“And you screamed like a little girl!”
“Hey,” Vex grumbles, “am I telling this story, or are you?” She stirs her hot chocolate and takes a sip. “Thanks for the cocoa, by the way.”
Sharon rolls her eyes. “No problem. I know better than to interrupt, go on.”
“Let’s just say that I should have realized—in that instant before I turned—that my spidey sense had jumped from tingling straight to ten-thousand-volt wire in the time that it took me to turn my head. Now, Agatha is warded more thoroughly than my apartment. This means magical sigils, protections, and astral defenses from carpet to ceiling; even the upholstery has glyphs in all the right places…
“So whatever this was, it completely ignored them…”
Sharon drums her fingers on the table. “Enough exposition,” she says, “what happened next?”
There, with only the grating of the separator screen between it and me, loomed the grinning visage of that plastic mask. A grim parody of the human face, it stared back at me with those glassy eyes. My breath caught in my throat, every physical and magical nerve in my body screamed out with alarm and warning; I could not move. I felt paralyzed by his regal gaze. The cavernous mouth with the white painted teeth at the top shifted to the side slightly and the Burger King raised his white gloved hand as if to say:
“I have something for you.”
And he reached into his voluminous yellow garments to produce whatever perverse gift he intended to present me.
I did whatever any other hot-blooded American would have done at this point: I grabbed my trench and bailed.
“Shit!” I shouted—tell me now, what do you shout in that situation?—slammed the door behind me (forgive me, Agatha), and hoofed it past the 7-11. Surely, this thing was hot on my tail, so I didn’t look back until I had reached the corner of the convenience store, where I got my remaining arm into its sleeve and fished through my trench pockets for some appropriate weapons. Here I was hoping for a rocket launcher, but I figured I’d settle for holy water from Sedona.
And it wasn’t in my cab any longer.
A quick scan of the area and the monster was nowhere in sight. But I wasn’t about to let my guard down. Holy water flask in hand, I turned to head back to the cab and bam!
There it was again. That huge mockery of a face, the frilly collar nearly jabbing me in the chest as it grinned mutely. A white glove came up and wagged an admonishing finger. Once again, he reached into his white trimmed cloak and began to withdraw something.
Before he could reveal whatever it was, I hit him with everything I had. The two crystal flasks of holy water exploded against that terrible masked countenance, followed by two more. Each blow caused him to shudder, but I could see that they were otherwise having no effect. Fearing this outcome, I already had heavier ordinance prepared.
I pulled the pin with my teeth and hurled the S&H smoke-grenade like a drunken World Series pitcher trying to hit the batter.
By the time the pin hit the back wall of the 7-11, I was already hauling ass into a graffiti filled alleyway. I heard the grenade explode behind me with a loud bang followed by a series of softer pops, like a gaggle of frat boys cracking open beers. This particular S&H grenade was filled with grave dust from Santa Benedictis and magnesium pellets.
I’m sure the fireworks were pretty, but I wasn’t looking back. That smokescreen wouldn’t stop the Burger King for long, and I needed time to devise another defense.
So I booked—hard. My feet brought up dust from the dirt alley and I was coughing and wiping my hair from my eyes. Then it came to me: Mirror, lipstick.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the cloud of grave dust and smoke clearing, the Burger King once again missing from the picture. I knew this did not bode well. I hastily scribbled a Hand of Ereshkegal glyph onto the mirror’s surface with the lipstick—the color is Cemetery Black, how appropriate.
In my haste to complete the rune, I accidentally dropped the lipstick. Unwilling to give up ground against that monster, I left it where it lay and kept running. The alley became a labyrinth of different exits; wooden gates and cinderblock walls loomed all around me. Eventually, I had to rest next to a dumpster, but I did so in full view of every corner within running distance.
I finished the sigil by smudging it with my fingertips. I surveyed my work. It was quite artful, if I don’t say so myself. Hopefully it was done right. No matter the case: it would have to do.
Because, here was The King again.
His bearded face towered over to me with such a serene quiet that I could have believed that I had stopped right next to him in order to complete the sigil—but he certainly hadn’t been there a moment before. A white gloved hand reached for me, and I knocked it away. I repressed the urge to put my fist into that smirking face—it may be my first instinct to go physical, but this time, I doubted that it would end well for me.
The Burger King once again opened his russet robes as if to flash me and withdrew a sandwich. A meatnormous sandwich. A sandwich so desirable that I could not turn away. I wanted to take it from him.
The world lurched. The Fast-food Monarch saw his reflection in the mirror inscribed with Ereshkegal’s gaunt hand. I released the mirror. Milliseconds ticked by as it started to slide from my fingertips, milliseconds became seconds, the seconds seemed to last forever—
The mirror struck the parched Arizona dirt and shattered into a thousand scintillating splinters.
That delicious, meatnormous sandwich exploded into glittering fragments in The King’s grasp.
Caught by surprise, The King looked down at his empty hands and threw them up. In defeat maybe? I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I was hauling ass with a vengeance and both hands this time—and just as quickly running out of options.
Worse, a burger sounded really good right then.
As I went, I laid down a path of magical destruction. I threw marbles made from the stained-glass windows of St. Anthony’s Basilica, dropped entire packets of Zulu spirit ants, Navaho and Hopi Kachina dolls, even self-igniting hell money firecrackers, something had to stop this thing—I even accidentally dumped my gummy bears out onto the dirt behind me. I silently hoped the bastard would slip on those; I was saving them until they were nice and soft from the heat.
To no avail. Every time I looked behind me, that terrible parody of a human face grinned back at me, unmoving, but each time appearing a little closer.
The walls were closing in… Literally. I had turned a wrong corner. Ahead of me: a dead-end; behind me: The King.
From my pockets, I withdrew two cans of spray paint that I keep just for this occasion. I went to work on the wall with the silver and orange paint.
The Holocaust Star quickly emerged from my frantic flailing and I completed each of its points with supplications to every one of the thirteen deities of the Underworld. The world trembled beneath my fingertips as I labored.
A familiar shadow appeared behind me as I drew the last supplication—and, to my dread, my silver paint expired. Vainly, I squeezed the nozzle and shook the can. Empty. The orange spray paint was the same. I turned around and backed against the wall. I was so screwed.
That mocking, plastic visage loomed ever closer; and the bearded, demoniac caricature with its cavernous mouth enveloped my vision. The King smiled wordlessly as he hovered, inches from my face. The craving for a juicy, tender burger threatened to consume my willpower.
Then, he reached once again into his voluminous cloak and—
“Two-Six-Four-Victor-Echo please respond,” squawks the radio in Vex’s cab.
“Damn, I have to go,” Vex says. She ditches the table and rushes to get the radio. “Again, thanks for the cocoa.”
“What?” Sharon’s voice sounds shocked, almost panicked. “Wait! What happened next?”
Vex looks over her shoulder as she climbs into the cab and says:
“As it turns out, even The King can’t handle a steel-toed boot to the Royal Jewels.”
Last edited by Vex Harrow on Fri Mar 17, 2006 12:17 pm; edited 5 times in total
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