The Road Out: Part 1
The Road Out
How the hell did I end up here. The highway ahead stretched into a empty wasteland, I must have made a wrong turn somewhere, Sam thought. The Pontiac gave another cough, and Sam noticed a puff of steam escape from beneath the hood. Sweat poured off his face further soaking his sodden collar. The a/c had shit the bed miles earlier, and now blew only hot air. Even with all the windows down, the breeze was minimal.
Behind him the road disappeared into the shimmering horizon, and Sam knew there was no sense in turning around. He hadn't seen a crossroad in over an hour. There was nothing to do but keep going and hope he came to a town, or something. He dropped his gaze from the rearview to the dashboard. His speed had dropped to under thirty, and the Pontiac still struggled. If he didn't pull over soon, he was gonna blow the engine. The car wheezed again. Sam dropped into neutral and coasted to the side of the road. By the time he'd come to a complete stop the motor had shut off by itself.
Man, you're fucked, Sammy, he told himself. Lost, in the middle of freakin' nowhere in a piece a shit Pontiac for chrissake! He stepped out onto the asphalt, hoping for some relief, but there was none. The car ticked and hissed like an angry tomcat, and just as he was thinking it was a miracle the radiator hadn't blown, it did just that.
"What the fuck! Now what the hell am I gonna do?"
The sun beat down mercilessly, offering no reply.
Just what to do was the thing. There had to have been times in his life that Sam had been worse off, but he sure as hell couldn't think of one at that moment. Should he wait by the car and hope someone came along? He hadn't seen another car since...well, he couldn't be sure exactly when he'd last seen another car. Maybe he should start walking, the highway had to go somewhere. A glance to the right decided it for him. The bleached bones of some animal--a coyote, maybe, or big dog, or maybe a fucking kangaroo for all he knew--lay half-buried in the dirt about twenty feet from the side of the road. No way was he going out like that. He didn't think he'd make it five miles under the desert sun, and with nothing to drink he probably wouldn't make it two.
At least there was a bit of shade right up next to the car. He'd just park his ass there for awhile, and pray that someone would come by. If no one happened along by nightfall, then he would start hoofing it. It would be cooler then, and he figured that with some luck he just might be able to make it out of this mess.
He briefly considered climbing into the backseat, out of the sun, but when he opened the car door the heat poured out as if from a furnace. Holding his breath to avoid searing his lungs, he reached in and grabbed the musty blanket crumpled up on the floor. He spread it out in what little shade he could find and sat down to wait out the day.
A black Mercedes pulled off the highway and rolled up behind the Pontiac. The driver, a tall man with jet black hair, smiled to himself as he stepped out of his car. The heels of his snakeskin boots clicked softly on the macadam as he casually strolled over to the dingy fellow sprawled on the blanket next to the broken down vehicle.
"Been here long, Mister?"
Sam's eyelids snapped open, and he found himself staring a pair of cold, colorless eyes. Despite the heat, he felt a chill creep up his spine. The stranger sat stooped on his haunches, his pale face barely a hair's breadth from Sam's own.
"Good thing I came along when I did. You sit out here much longer, and you're likely to dry up and blow away, or end up like our friend over there." The stranger chuckled and motioned toward the carcass Sam had noticed earlier.
Sam didn't remember dozing off, and he wondered how long he had slept. From the feel of his throat, he figured it'd been about a week. But the sun told a different story. It hung in the same spot as when he'd first pulled over, as if glued in position.
"Looks like your car has seen better days, Mr...."
"Bookman. Sam Bookman. Boy am I glad to see you."
The stranger leaned back and stood up in one sinuous motion. "Well, come on, Sam. Let's not stand around and bake." He thrust out a long fingered hand to help Sam to his feet. "Sometimes this god damned heat even gets to me," he said with a smile that never reached his eyes.
Sam grasped the outstretched hand, grateful for the aid. Another chill ran up his spine as he gripped the stranger's hand, and Sam actually shivered. Must have a fever, coming down sick. Just great. "I surely could use a lift, sir. Don't think my car's going anywhere for a while."
"Not to worry, Samuel. My chariot awaits." He bowed slightly motioning with his arm toward the passenger side.
Sam strode shakily over and climbed inside. Sam's benefactor slid in behind the wheel a moment later. "Please allow me to introduce myself. The name is Ahriman, Belial Ahriman, and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bookman. Very pleased indeed."
Seconds later Mercedes eased around the old Pontiac and with a slight squeal from the tires, shot off down the desert highway.
* * *
Sam leaned back in the seat and surveyed his surroundings as the miles rolled by beneath the wheels of the Mercedes. The car interior was impressive, luxurious even. The seats were made from some sort of dark leather, soft and a bit oily to the touch, and tinted windows kept out all but a minimal amount of the sun's harsh light. The air was moist and cool. Sam let his gaze wander to Ahriman. The man was definitely something. His suit looked very expensive, not off the rack at JC Penny for sure. Probably Italian or something. Not one hair on his head was out of place; his fingernails--so long Sam thought they looked feminine--had obviously been manicured. The god watch hiding under his sleeve looked like a Rolex, and the big rock on the guy's pinkie ring probably cost more money than Sam had ever even seen, much less held.
"Ah, I see you have an eye for the finer things in life, Samuel." Ahriman's resonant voice broke into Sam's daydream.
Sam shrugged his shoulders and shifted his gaze to the arid expanse rushing by the window. He was suddenly aware of how he must look; tattered blue jeans, grimy t-shirt, and it had been a while since he'd had a shower.
As if reading his mind, Ahriman spoke again. "I bet you want to get cleaned up, don't you, Sam? Please don't take offense, but you smell simply awful, a bit overripe, if you will."
Sam started to come back with something smart. This dude just didn't know who he was fuckin' with, but when he looked back at the man, something in Ahriman's eyes quelled whatever response he was about to make. He couldn't say exactly why, but something about the dude...well...something about him scared Sam half to death. "No offense taken," was all he could manage.
Ahriman reached into his shirt pocket and plucked out a tiny glass vial. "I've got something here I bet you'd like, Sam. Unless I miss my guess, you look like a fellow who appreciates a little toot once in a while."
Sam instantly perked up, all thoughts of his appearance forgotten. Free coke was something you just don't pass up. "You bet, Mr. Ahriman. I can always go for that."
Ahriman passed the vial. Sam pulled the stopper, poured a sizable heap on the base of his thumb, lifted it to his nose and snorted.
The blow went straight to his brain. "Wow! I mean like holy shit that's some good shit!"
"That my boy, is some the finest shit this side of Gehenna."
Sam's whole face felt numb, and he leaned back and enjoyed the rush. This must be my lucky day.
"So what brings you to this deserted stretch of highway, Sammy? Not much out here but sand and more sand."
"I took a wrong turn somewhere, and before I realized it I was miles from nowhere."
"Oh, a lost soul, eh, and past the point of no return?"
"Yeah. You could say that, I guess."
"You know, Samuel, beneath all that funk, I suspect you to be a fairly rugged man. Am I right?"
Great! A faggot! But he does have great cocaine. "I guess so."
"Oh, come now, Sam. Let's not be coy. You are a tough guy--I can tell."
Great coke! Excellent coke. "Yeah. I'm in pretty good shape."
"That's more like it, my boy. You know, I could use a man like you. Someone who admires the fine things, someone who knows what he wants and goes and takes it. Does that describe you accurately?"
"Yeah. That's me alright." Sam was so high he'd go along with just about anything. Just keep that powder flowing, man. "So what's on your mind, Mr. Ahriman?"
"What would you say if I told you that you could have just about anything your little heart desires--money, women, coke until it comes out your ears--and all you have to do is agree to come with me?"
"I'd say it sounds too good to be true."
"Oh, but it is true, Samuel. I swear to it."
"Where did you say you were going, Mr. Ahriman."
"Please, Sam. Call me Belial. We've broken bread together, we are practically friends already. Friends don't call each other 'mister' or 'sir'. We are friends, are we not?"
"Okay, Belial. Where are we headed?"
"A little place up the road. Tophet. Such a grand place. Have you ever heard of it?"
"Uhhh, no. Can't say that I have."
"Now that hurts, Sam. After all the work I've done to promote the place. I swear, when I get back, there is going to be some restructuring. After all, I am the man in charge."
"Really? Like the mayor or something?"
"Yes. Or something," Ahriman chuckled.
"One more question, Belial."
"Are we there yet?"
Ahriman's chuckle turned into a deep-throated laugh. "Soon, Sam. Very soon." The laughter grew, bubbling out of the man like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. Icy fingers of laughter seemed to wrap around Sam's spine chilling him to his core.
End of Part 1
Okay, There is the first of a two-part story. Part two is available and, I hope, offers some surprises. Please feel free to comment or offer advice on how I can improve.
Thanks for reading!