Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gears Finds a Romance

Gears walked down the road - or what was left of the road - at sunset. His shadow stretched out long and skinny behind him like the skeleton of a straw man. He kicked clumps of weeds breaking through cracked asphalt.

"Damn. A whole lot has changed," he said with his eyes turned up to the setting sun. He said this often. It was nothing new. It was a purposeless and obvious statement, but it made him feel better to let it out, even if there was no one around to hear him.

A reddish sun cast light on an eccentric and lopsided hill whose sides were far too steep to be natural. The sun glimmered off remains of glass and steel hidden behind vines and shrubs. Gears thought that the structure might have been an old John Deere outlet a few years (or a few decades) ago. It was hard to tell. Nothing looked the same. Time had a way of giving everything a facelift. Sometimes, those changes were for the better. Sometimes, they weren’t.

Gears spat out a wad of used up tobacco. He worked his tongue around his mouth to get the soft stems and fibers loose from his remaining teeth. He hated chewing, but cigarettes weren’t easy to come by. He could dry leaves out and make cigars, but it seemed like too much work. Instead, he just collected leaves from the remains of the tobacco farm down the road from where he stayed and kept a few wound up plugs stored away in his satchel. It wasn’t a smoke, but it was just enough of a stimulant to keep him a little less fuzzy around the edges. It helped him see through things, past what was and towards what could be, or what he hoped the world might become.

Perhaps the world just might have coffee and cigarettes again, he hoped. That would be nice.

Gears walked towards the unnatural hill. With both hands, he picked up a large black clump of asphalt that had broken free from the road thanks to a particularly stubborn clump of weeds. He grunted and ignored the strain of the muscles in his shoulders and the venous bulges of his tightly-wound neck. He swung the clump of asphalt towards the building, worked up momentum by swinging his arms, and let the asphalt fly. The large rocky clump crashed through a window. It pulled a few threads of poison ivy and kudzu along with it as the rocky mass fell inside.

Gears ducked in through the broken window and turned on his flashlight. He wound it a few times to make sure it had enough juice to get him in and out. He flashed the light around the room and saw the interior was a store, but not for John Deere tractors. The room was filled, wall to wall, with shelves upon shelves of books.

Gears picked up a book. The cover was shiny, metallic. In large cursive letters he saw the name "Danielle Steele."

"Shit, nothing but kindling." Gears tossed the book aside and flashed the light back around the room. 

Something large and dark skittered off between rows of shelves.

Gears held his breath a moment and stood still. He listened for a moment but did not hear anything.

"Hello?" Gears reached up behind his back and drew his machete. "Anybody home?"

He shined the light from side to side. "I didn’t know this place was occupied. I wouldn’t of come barging in like that if I knew there was someone here. You know how it is. Your place looked deserted. Thought there might be something wasting away, unused, but still useful in here. That’s what we’ve come to, isn’t it? A bunch of thieves. Scavengers. But hell, what else can we do?" Gears shrugged. "Anyway, I ain’t going to take anything. Promise. I’ve got all the reading I need back at my place with the Good Book. In fact, I’ll back out now if you want. Is that what you want?"

Gears listened. Something moved behind him. He turned on his heels and shined his light. A row of books flew off the shelves and landed on the floor as a shadow passed. Gears tightened his grip on the machete’s handle.

"All right, I’m leaving. Don’t try anything with me. I don’t like killing at all. It never much suited me, but I’ve done it more than once over the years. But I guess you’d figure that. You can’t rightly live without killing these days." Gears laughed. "I guess it beats the old court system. Rather take a knife to the brain than have to sit through another damn lawsuit. I was a lawyer back in the time before. Name’s Greg Ayler, but everyone calls me Gears these days. I say everyone calls me that, but that’s not too many people these days, I guess." Gears tried to remember the last time he saw another person. It had been cold, so it had been at least a season ago, maybe two. "What do they call you?"

There was a hiss. Something ran at him and hit him in the side.

"Crap!" Gears pulled the machete around as a reflex. It met something hard and stopped.

The thing screamed. Long wires slapped at Gears’ face.

"Damn cockroaches!" Gears dropped his flashlight and worked his machete with both hands. The cockroach screeched and thrashed. Gears pushed with both hands and then placed a foot near the top of the flat side of the blade to work the machete down the rest of the way through the creature’s thick body. The head ran off on three legs leaving the abdomen – and most of the torso – behind.


Something wrapped around Gear’s neck and pulled him backwards. Teeth bit at his shoulder. Gears reached up, pulled down a bookcase, and shrugged the biting thing off of his back. Gears stood away from the falling bookcase. There was a scream, and plastic snapped as the flashlight exploded.  

Gears closed his eyes and counted to thirty. This was a trick his dad had taught him a long time ago. Scared of the dark? Count to thirty and the dark’s less dark. It took everything he had not to open his eyes. He just trusted his instinct – and counted on that scream, and the following ongoing strange whimpers – and hoped he would not be attacked again until he was able to get his bearings.

He opened his eyes. Thin pinpoints of greasy light from the setting sun outside the building streamed in between vines, creepers, and filthy glass. It wasn’t much light, but he could see outlines and shapes.

He looked over to the fallen bookcase. He heard raspy breathing. He looked down and saw a woman’s face looking back at him. At least she appeared to be a woman. Her beady black eyes seemed to say otherwise as they scanned about the room in a repetitive frenetic circuit. She clicked and clacked her tongue against the roof of her mouth.

Gears leaned down and attempted to look her in the eyes. He turned her face towards his. She clacked her teeth together as if biting. She turned her head away and clicked her tongue again. From the shadows, the severed cockroach walked over.  Thick white gunk glowed in the half light and trailed the creature as it shuffled towards the clicking woman.

Gears stepped back and lifted his machete.

The cockroach reached the woman and began caressing her head with its antennae. She smiled and closed her eyes. She began to coo. The cockroach lifted a leg and tenderly touched the woman’s face. She reached out her tongue and licked the feelers. 

The woman began to cry. She clicked softly. The cockroach clicked softly back. The woman nodded her head. The cockroach rose up on its remaining legs. The woman smiled. The cockroach pounced onto the woman’s face.  Mandibles ripped through her cheek and eye.

Gears sucked in a breath of air. He raised the machete but hesitated to bring it down. "Is this what she wanted?" he asked the cockroach. The cockroach ignored him and quickly tugged soft flesh away from the skull. The woman did not yell once. She did not scream. In fact, in that moment before the roach began devouring, she actually smiled. 

"Damn, what’s this world come to?" Gears asked. He turned and began to work his way towards the broken window.

He saw something shining on the floor in front of him. It was the Danielle Steele book he had tossed away earlier.

"Ain’t love grande?"

He kicked the book away.


  1. loved the oppressive threat of the Danielle Steele books and the monster they had created!

    marc nash

  2. Bizarro romance indeed! That was one wild read.