Bewildering Stories

Challenge 65

Eric S. Brown sends us a short but carefully crafted scene from what is evidently intended to be a longer work. It might appear to be a standard horror-story opening; however, it suggests a “backstory.” Your mission, readers, should you choose to accept it, is to tell us what you think what the larger context might be. Some helpful questions are added at the end.

Eric S. Brown, “The Devil’s Ride”

Blue lights reflected in the rearview mirror. Jack cursed, slamming his hands on the sides of the steering wheel, as he checked his speed. The speedometer read 85 mph. For a second, Jack considered flooring the pedal but he realized running would only make things worse. The last thing he needed was more cops after him tonight, and there was a much easier and fun way to deal with the interloper. He slowed his speed and pulled off onto the roadside. The highway was empty to the horizon in both directions except for the trooper’s car which pulled off behind him and the pale starlight of the desert night.

Jack reached for the cigarette dangling from the edge of the car’s ashtray and took a long drag as he watched the trooper step out of his vehicle. He was a younger man, though not a stupid one. Jack could tell from the way he approached that knew what he was doing. The trooper shined his flashlight over Jack’s hands on the wheels. Jack looked up smiling.

“Can I help you, officer?”

“License and registration,” the trooper ordered.

Jack laughed and flicked his cigarette through the air at the man’s face. Caught off guard, stumbled as Jack slammed open his door, knocking him from his feet. In a blur, Jack was over him, pinning him to the ground. The trooper struggled, well-toned muscles rippling under his uniform, but Jack’s grip was like steel.

Jack’s tongue shot out. Impossibly long and ribbed with flecks of bone matter that seemed to grow out from inside the tissue, it tore into the young man’s neck. Blood sprayed over Jack as the officer convulsed and spasmed below him. Jack shook his head and his tongue ripped free. Black pus oozed from its entry point. Jack licked his lips unnaturally as his tongue folded back into his mouth.

When the officer lay still, Jack picked up his corpse effortlessly and carried him around to the trunk. He popped it open and tossed the trooper inside on top of his earlier prey, two unfortunate people working at a late night roadside diner from fifty miles back. Without a second thought, Jack closed the trunk and got back in the car. He lit another smoke and cranked up the radio as he peeled out and shot back onto the road. The sound of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Stones blared into the night and Mexico was only miles away.

Copyright © 2003 by Eric S. Brown

And here are a few questions. Please send us your answers to any or all of them. Feel free to substitute your own questions and answers.

  1. What does this sentence from the first paragraph tell us about Jack: “The last thing he needed was more cops after him tonight, and there was a much easier and fun way to deal with the interloper”? Why is Jack ambivalent? Would you have written the sentence differently?
  2. Why does Jack collect the corpses of his victims rather than hide them?
  3. Why is Jack going to Mexico? If he is fleeing police pursuit, how is Jack vulnerable?

The following are optional, for “extra credit,” so to speak:

  1. What details make this scene almost overtly erotic?
  2. More generally, are all vampire stories basically sexual metaphors?

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