Designated

Posted: 31st December 2010 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Single-run ("One off") Stories
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Raucous laughter, mixing a shrill feminine giggle, a bass-laden masculine guffaw, a gender-neutral chuckle and a bellowing laugh. All reverberated within the tight confines of a four-door sedan. There was a fifth person in the car, but he wasn’t laughing, passed out in the back as he was and sandwiched between the giggler and the guffawer.

Along with the cacophony of laughs about every topic that arose and about nothing at all hovered the scent of alcohol—a perfume of intoxication that became something thicker and more sour the longer they remained in the car.

Not that they noticed.

It had been a long night of partying to ring in the new year and keep drinking well beyond its beginnings. The driver was the most sober of the lot, which merely amounted to being able to almost walk a straight line.

He was sweating a bit with nervousness. There had been one close call with a pedestrian already, and he knew he shouldn’t be driving. But somehow, his brain couldn’t wrap around the concept of simply stopping the car. He had committed to driving, and by God, he would get them all home—or to somebody’s home, anyway. He wasn’t so far gone that he thought it wise to make five stops. Perhaps just one stop—at the nearest apartment, and then declare that everyone sleep it off there.

Yes, that would be the right thing to do, he thought as his alcohol-sodden brain rationalized his folly as wisdom and as he tried to remain in his lane and keep a blurry watch out for police cars.

As he cautiously rounded a corner in a quiet part of the city, he didn’t expect to see a man wearing an old-fashioned tuxedo with tails—complete with black top hat—standing in the middle of the road, several dozens of meters away. Nor did he expect to see a display across the man’s chest, digitally expressing the year 2010 with the words “New Year’s Day!” in scintillating colors and images of fireworks and champagne bottles spewing all around those words.

Weird. Digital display…

Oh shit! the driver thought, knowing of only one person who wore such a thing on the front of his torso, declaring the arrival of a holiday—and whose face was bandaged all around.

His foot was already on the brake—not too fast; not too slow. He didn’t dare hit Doctor Holiday, and he didn’t dare get any closer than he had to. It was time to turn around, as there was no telling if the transhuman would be in a heroic mood, a villainous one or some strange mash-up of both.

And then he saw Doctor Holiday reach down for something and pick it up. Then cock back his arm with something long and heavy in it—a pipe or pole or something.

The driver realized he would never stop and turn around in time—and his only other option was to speed up.

Not to run over the man—that was too risky. He might survive. He might be pissed if he did. He might still be in a condition to do something about it. No, he’d speed up and swerve around Doctor Holiday.

His foot no sooner moved to follow his commands and press the accelerator to the floor than Doctor Holiday let his missile fly.

The passengers had one by one begun to sense something was wrong, and one of them screamed—a man, in fact—as the long PVC pipe lanced through the front windshield, sending out a spiderweb of cracks radiating from the hole in the glass even as it slid with high and deadly velocity through the head of the man sitting next to the driver, and far enough through it and into the backseat to knock the passenger behind him in the back seat senseless.

Now everyone was screaming, including the driver, and the car was slowing as his fear left his mind far short of recalling just how to drive. Then everyone else was screaming for him to get them out of here, and his brain reignited. He pressed his foot down hard. But there was no time for the car to move far before another missile penetrated the front windshield—this time a shorter one—perhaps a lead pipe. It crushed the skull of the passed-out passenger who still hadn’t awakened even with the chaos of screams and crying all around him in the car.

The driver gave up all rational thought and all notions of driving away—or over Doctor Holiday’s body for that matter. He simply opened the driver side door and fled. As he ran, he heard screams and impacts and shattering glass and then, with a jarring suddenness: silence.

He stumbled, but did not fall. He realized, though, that he was running toward a dead end, and changed directions.

The driver didn’t get far, though, before he was yanked off his feet.

He stared at the face of his antagonist—even though he could read nothing there on that Ace-bandage-wrapped head but the glare in the eyes and what seemed to be a sneer on the lips.

Doctor Holiday hauled him like an unruly child back to the car, and thrust his face through the non-existent windshield to behold the carnage. Blood everywhere. Death inside. The scent of blood and piss and alcohol mixed together.

Still gripped hard by the back of his neck, the driver retched into the front seat and began to wail and cry.

“Irresponsible,” Doctor Holiday hissed. “Driving under the influence. You could have gotten them all killed. You could have killed someone else. Shameful.”

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!” the driver screeched. “Don’t kill me!”

“Kill you? How would you learn your lesson? You might have killed them all, but don’t worry. I’ve saved you the trouble.”

Doctor Holiday re-opened the driver’s side door and set the man gently into the driver’s seat.

“Drive safely,” Doctor Holiday said over his shoulder as he walked away slowly. He began to whistle Auld Lang Syne, then stopped suddenly, and turned around, smiling brightly as his display reset, displaying 44 Days Until Valentine’s Day. “And have a great 2010.”

  1. Deacon Blue says:

    Fixed a slight continuity error. I had references to 2011 but they should actually be 2010, as this event would have happened a year ago (my “The Gathering Storm” series is actually slightly behind current time, as it only just reached May 2010 chronologically [as of chapter 10], and the events in the story above needed to happen in the same year).