Dan Perez, Writer & Editor

by Dan Perez

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Red line

The woman gripped the steering wheel with grim resolve. "Nine," she murmured.

Nine is the name of my prey. Nine is the number of the beast. Nine is the unholy that must be cleansed. Nine is my curse and my vengeance.

She heard a distant wailing sound, the keening of a beast in pain. Is that you, Nine? Then another sound, from behind, a cracking report like thunder. The rearview mirror on the passenger side of her car erupted in a spray of glittering fragments. She swerved the car, tires shrieking against the pavement, careened around a corner and accelerated down the suburban street. Houses and lawns swept by in a kaleidoscope of brick, wood, grass and concrete. "Nine," she said.

Nine is the evil one, the hideous one. Nine is the deformer of all that is good and the defiler of all that is clean and pure.

The front of her new Porsche was dented and scratched as if it had been battered over and over with something heavy and blunt. The headlights and signal lamps were smashed out. The windshield was starred with cracks in two places. The hood was buckled and its white paint was marred. All that remained of the rear window was a crust of cracked safety glass around the rim. Through it she heard the insane wail grow louder. Thunder sounded. The glove compartment buckled, then imploded with a loud crack. She took no notice. "Nine," she said.

Nine, you are clever and crafty. You have chosen Nine as your name so fools will not know you. You have eluded me, but I will find you and shout your name and you will turn and know fear.

The tires screeched again as she rounded another corner. A spoked hubcap caught the curb, spun crazily through the air and clattered across a driveway. Her pale features twisted into a grimace; she felt pain but did not know where she was hurt. Strands of blonde hair were plastered to her forehead and sweat dripped from her eyebrows and the tip of her nose. She gulped breath.

She snapped a fingernail against the hard plastic of the steering wheel, glanced at the red and white of her dress and was confused because this morning it had been all white. "Nine," she said.

It will be soon now, Nine. I must find you.

The bestial wailing was joined by a strange thup thup thup, a coughing of wind or beating of demon-wings. Thunderclap. Her windshield went white. She started to lose control, but remembered her mission and punched the frosted glass as hard as she could. The windshield buckled and crumbled, spilling over the dashboard into her lap and the passenger seat. She felt wind streaming into her face and looked ahead. "Nine!" she screamed.

I have found you! I shouted your name and you turned and I saw the fear in your eyes and now you will die!

She swerved hard to catch the pedestrian on the crosswalk, who had seen the speeding vehicle and tried to get out of the way. She heard the thud of impact and a muffled cracking of bones. The body swooped out ahead of the car and smashed into the sidewalk, spinning limply like a rag doll, then resting still. An empty leather loafer lay on the street.

Behind her car, in desperate pursuit, the squad car driver radioed for an ambulance. He sped past the broken form on the sidewalk, but kept his eyes on the road, on the car ahead. Through his partner's open window, he heard the beating rotors of the pursuit helicopter above the Porsche and the screech of his car siren. His partner clicked bullets into his service revolver. The driver spoke, his voice cracking. "Get her this time, goddammit!"
As she raced on ahead of them, the woman eased her grip on the steering wheel, blinked tears from her eyes and sighed. She looked at the blood streaming from her lacerated knuckles. It dripped down onto her dress, which was already moist with blood. Nine has been vanquished. Then her face hardened, and she looked at the sidewalks and the streets ahead.

"Ten," she said.

The End

Copyright 1996 by Dan Perez. All rights reserved.

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