For the 'Life is Hell' challenge over on terribleminds.com
SWINGING DOWN THE LANE
SWINGING DOWN THE LANE
Over the dusty, azure horizon scampers a guy in a baseball jersey who died last night. Lips taught, teeth clenched, fists pumping, he swings madly down the blue sand as big band swing booms overhead. He glances back frequently at the dust devils kicking up behind him.
Countless oddities pour over the dune: dump truck-sized white buffalos, trilobite faced spearmen, pygmy dragons spitting pyroclastic vomit, nuclear-fried skeletal salesmen, anorexics with distended jaws, obese, naked lepers, preemies in party hats, lumbering pink slime colossi, centaurs in leotards, bipedal pigs with crowbars.
The swing music makes it seem like one big dance.
Two screaming steam locomotives on centipede legs try crushing him. Scarified volleyballers on polyurethane and palm leaf wings dive at him. A guillotine blade thrown like a Frisbee misses him as he retreats from knights on goatback tossing Greek fire filled disco balls.
The music quickens tempo, spurring the horde. He’s exhausted, bathed in sweat beads the size of immature grapes. He can’t remember why he can’t remember his past, but the hacking and wheezing imply a lifetime of slothfulness and cigarettes.
“WHAT THE HELL, MAN!?” he screams over his shoulder.
In the blue sand, black rocks appear. Pterodactyl-sized pigeons roost atop some. A rocket shatters one boulder, sending its huge bird squawking into flight. Ahead materializes a ghetto of decrepit buildings and smote cathedrals, their windows glassless, their walls grayed with rot. Roadways rise, and on them the hordes chase him into the dark, hollow town.
Horrors roam the streets. Cassowaries walk nude, tattooed androgynes on leashes. Eyeless street urchins hurl infectious hypodermics at a drunken leopard seal. Suavely dressed bodies with Chattery Teeth heads talk indecipherable snap-snap-snap to ancient hags in flapper garb— and the crones laugh.
The horde speeds along in hot pursuit, covering the disheveled road behind him. Ululating, they roar forth like floodwaters, and his knees begin to buckle.
“Son—of—a—bitch, sonofabitch,” he wheezes.
The guy’s quivering, his vision blotting with dark spots. He can’t keep this pace forever. The omnipresent jazz frenzies: trombones whinny, honky-tonk pianos chop, saxes laugh, percussion claps, vilely syncopating through the streets.
Spotting light in a cobwebbed alley, he goes for it. After dashing the alley’s length, it opens into a parking lot, and he stares dejectedly at the light source: the jagged, spotlighted roof of an infernal discotheque swarmed by hedonistic phantasms.
Outside, frowning clown bouncers eject a drunken Nazi who shouts, “Ihr Schweine! Ich bin Himmler, verstanden? Himmler!”
The clowns reply, “Yeah, yeah, Himmler, back a’da line!”
The guy hears the horde storm past the alley and smiles manically, whispering, “YES! Homerun, BABY!”
He claps blue sand off his hands and gets so far back in line that he can’t see the front. As he stands there, trying to calm down, to remember why he smells so strongly of vodka cranberries, something whispers, “Pssssst!”
He turns. A mousy man in a plaid suit lurks behind a rickety fence cordoning off the discotheque’s rear. The guy studies the man, gasping at the bloody brain spread like a toupee on his head.
“No thanks,” the mousy man says. “I’m fine, yaself?”
The guy, appreciating the nature (or lack thereof) of his surroundings, shakes his head.
“No, I’m NOT— FINE! Okay, I need help!”
“I’ll say. Who dressed ya, some funny little flit?”
“No,” he hisses. “Now, I need out of this place.”
“Back a’da line’s for schmucks. Listen: I’m inda business—a gettin’ you—outta the spot you’re in.”
“Really? Awesome, then get me out of here!”
The scalped man pushes the fence open.
“Right dis way, chum.”
The guy checks for a clear coast before following him to the nightclub's back, a bland cinderblock wall with a solitary door. The mousy man leans beside it and says, “Here’s your out.”
“That’s it? That easy?”
“What’d I tell ya? I’m inda business!”
The guy stares at him, red scalp to wriggling tail, before pushing his face against his palms, crying.
“Whoa!” says the mousy man. “Wit da waterworks?”
“I—dunno— how I— got here!”
“Ya didn’t wanna be at the back a’da line’s how ya got here!”
“No, here! Here, this— FUCKED UP PLACE!”
The man’s rodent nose cringes as he tugs his coat and swings his tail.
“Pal, nobody does! That’s da point.”
“I mean— I just— I don’t—”
“Well—I know who I was.”
“Sure! See, cause I like ta help people get places, and I ain’t gotta scalp, see dat?”
He slicks his hands over his mutilated scalp.
“So before down here I figya I was one’a them scalper types, see? Just gotta figyit out on y’own s’all.”
He pats the guy on the back, getting him standing upright, and says, “So you gonna go true dis here door’a what?”
The guy wipes his nose, looks up, and nods.
“Atta boy,” the mousy man says, pushing open the door. “That’s da spirit!”
The threshold glows hot red, so bright the guy holds a hand over his squinting eyes.
“I can’t believe I’m in— hell.”
The mousy man takes a step back and snickers.
“What’s funny?” the guy asks.
“Hell?” laughs the mouse man, slapping his knee. “What d’you mean ‘hell?’”
“That’s where we are! Right?”
The mousy man’s face is redder than his raw scalp. He wipes his eyes.
“Kid, this is LIMBO. You ain’t seen NOTHIN yet.”
The red doorway howls, the jazz skewers into unrecognizable din. The guy clutches his shattered ear drums.
Claws shoot from the man’s fingernails. He rips his suit off, skin with it, rearing up as a ten foot tall Justinian rat.
The guy’s mouth works wordlessly. The rat stares down with tumorous, black eyes, lunges, snaps the apoplectic guy up with yellow chisel-shaped fangs, and leaps through the shrieking red threshold.
The door slams behind it.In the empty alley, the big band is again a simpering echo. Creatures slither to the discotheque in the blasted town, itching to raise Hell.