Yes, we said that every Friday we would thrust upon you a surprise from the upcoming Double Feature on our blog. However, we had not figured Ray Bradbury’s death into this scheme. In honor of this incredible loss, we have been taking a lot of peyote and playing bongos in our sweat lodge for the last 78 hours, losing all track of the artifice known as time. Only this morning did we remember about things like books and days of the week. Yet, it is fitting, is it not? Ray Bradbury is late, and so shall we be.
The sincerest form of apology is overkill. Thus, here is an extra-long excerpt from Albert C. Clapp’s brilliant “The Curse of the Screwnicorn.”
“I can feel it, coming in the air tonight. Hold on.”
“D’you know what this song is about?” Blaine said, his hands gripping the steering wheel of his red Ford F150. His muscular, sinewy arms were catching in the light of the rapidly passing streetlights, illuminating the tattoos on both of them. An assortment of tattoos, some of them characters from his favorite video games, some of them the logos for assorted bands he enjoyed thoroughly. A few pin-ups as well.
“No,” Carrie said. She didn’t give a fuck, and was more concerned with getting this swirling world to stop spinning quite so fast. She’d had a little bit too much to drink at the New Years Eve party they’d just left, and keeping the contents of her stomach down was much more of a priority than knowing the secret message behind a Phil Collins song.
They’d arrived at the party a mere three hours ago. Blaine had immediately begun having fun, the way it was easy for Blaine to do. Arm wrestling and laughing with his friends. Talking about sports. For her, it hadn’t been so fun: being trapped in a house with Bambie, the girl Blaine was madly in love with just three months ago.
“Phil was walking around by a lake this one time, and he saw someone splashing around in the water. There was someone near enough to save the guy, but the dude was just watching. Just watching him as he floundered in the water,” Blaine said. He lifted a bottle of Smirnoff vodka and took a long drink of it.
In Carrie’s less-than-lucid state, she hadn’t realized he’d brought alcohol from the party and was still drinking it as they zoomed down these Kansas back roads.
“Blaine! Get rid of that! You’re already drunk!” She reached for the bottle, but Blaine shrugged away her attempts to grab it.
“Chill it, babe! Nobody’s ever on these back roads anyway! Even if we swerve off the road, what’s the worst that could happen, huh? We find a soft landing in a corn field?”
Blaine was being a dick, and it was annoying Carrie. “If you stop drinking that vodka, I’ll listen to the rest of your Phil Collins story,” she said, grasping at straws to preserve her life on this New Years Eve night.
Blaine cranked his window down and tossed the bottle out. “The next day, Phil discovers the person in the lake actually died. They found a skeleton, picked clean. Not a scrap of meat anywhere on it. And Phil wrote the song about how he felt on that strange night, and about what it would be like to find the person who stood by and allowed such a horrible thing to happen. To allow someone to be eaten by piranhas right before your eyes.”
Lighting another cigarette, Carrie took a deep inhalation, then exhaled. “That was a stupid story,” she said, still remembering how excited Blaine had been to see Bambie. How he’d wanted to dance with her, saying it was because they were “friends now.”
“Did somebody put extra bitch in your drink tonight?” Blaine aggressively questioned.
Carrie stared over at him from the other side of the truck. “Blaine, I saw the way you were staring at Bambie all night. You could barely pry your eyes off of her. And even worse, you didn’t even act like we were there as a couple! You spent the whole night traipsing around like some kind of bachelor!”
Blaine took a small whiskey flask out of his jacket pocket. “So what? Do you think we’re in some kind of serious relationship now, doll-face?”
“You said we were last night!” she exclaimed.
“That was pillow talk, baby,” Blaine said with a shrug. He took out his cellular telephone and began texting.
“What the fuck are you doing? You’re drunk driving while texting?”
“Ding ding ding! We have a winner! That’s exactly what I’m doing!”
The truck was veering all over the one-lane road as Carrie reached over and tried to get her hands around that cell phone. No way she was going to let this asshole end her life over something stupid like drunk texting while drunk driving. “Who are you texting? I’ll type the message for you.”
“No, babe, it’s alright,” Blaine said, his eyes lingering on the screen of the phone as they sped through the black emptiness of an unnamed Kansas back road. “I’m just sending Bambie a quick message.”
Carrie could feel the color rising into her cheeks. Suddenly, everything about this boy she was dating was getting under her skin: his childish tattoos, his military flattop, that splotch of brown hair on his chin he called his soul patch. Everything about him was quickly becoming repellent. “I just want to go home.”
“I’m feeling kind of sick, honey face. I’ll drive you home in the morning. Tonight, we can have some fun!”
Fun. It suddenly seemed like an ironic choice of words when everything about Carrie’s life was spinning out of control.
Just then, the truck veered out of control as they rounded a corner going way too fast, like a metaphor springing to life and becoming reality. The ice patch that sent the truck careening was invisible in the darkness, as was the platoon of small children that were leveled by the bumper. Carrie had a brief moment to see the fear in a woman’s eyes before the woman was also hit by the truck. Then, they smashed into an electrical box.
Blaine smashed through the front windshield and cleared the electrical box, landing somewhere out in the corn. Carrie, who always bragged about remembering to buckle her seat belt, remained upright.
It was then the airbag popped out, pressing firmly against her face. She struggled to break it, to get out of the way of it, because it was making it impossible to breathe. She reached for the buckle of her seat belt, but the impact must have broken it; she couldn’t get it off.
Her arms flailing, Carrie struggled to get out of the car. Blaine, meanwhile, had vomited, and now felt much better. He was curled up out in the corn, falling asleep.
Nobody was there to notice when Carrie’s arms finally stopped flailing, and became still. The soft sound of snowflakes on their spiraling descent was the only sound to be heard.
(An excerpt from chapter 6)
“You expect me to believe a horse did this?” Detective Daniels asked.
MaryMae pulled at her hair in frustration; she’d been over the story a million times, but these policemen were too skeptical to believe her.
“Not just a horse. It was, like, a unicorn. It had a knife or something on its head. It just came barreling through the diner and ate one of my regulars.”
“This man here?” Daniels asked, prodding what was left of Lou’s corpse with his foot. Carrie looked down to see what the detective was gesturing at. It was Lou, her old friend. Well, not really friend, but he tended to give her decent tips. Not good, but decent. a couple bucks.
“Yes,” Carrie said, exasperated. “Do you see any other bodies around here?”
The detective looked around. “No,” he said. “But how do I know you didn’t do this. It’s awful suspicious, you know. Murder like this. Town small as this’n. People are going to talk.”
“Talk about what?” MaryMae asked.
“MaryMae, I’m going to ask you straight,” the detective said, balancing the weight of his bulky frame on one stiff leg while the other one didn’t hold nearly as much. “Were you having an affair with Lou?”
“With him?” MaryMae asked, glancing wildly at Lou’s corpse.
Daniels nodded. “Yes.”
“No!” MaryMae was repulsed by the idea. Just the thought of Lou’s wrinkled old behind made her skin crawl.
“Because here’s what I think, MaryMae. I think you and old Lou had a little thing going. Perhaps it started as a harmless flirtation, but it quickly became something else entirely. Passion will do funny things to a woman. Maybe his old lady found out or your old man did, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you killed Lou in cold blood on the floor of this very diner!”
“Daniels!” Vincent Viceroy, the clever deputy, called out. “You better get a look at this!”
Daniels gave MaryMae a stern look. “We’re not finished here.”
MaryMae gave him a furious look, but said nothing. Her daddy had taught her to respect the law, and she’d do it.
“What is it?” Daniels snapped. “I was this close to a full confession.” Daniels was holding his index finger and thumb very close together.
Viceroy gestured with his head toward the floor; Daniels looked down. On the old, dirty linoleum of the diner floor were several bloody hoof prints. “What the hell are those?”
“Look like bloody horse prints to me,” Viceroy explained. “We can get that crazy old farmer in here to confirm. You want me to call it in?”
“No. They’re horse prints. They match her story perfectly,” Daniels grumbled. His eyes shone with fury. “A little too perfectly.”
He marched over to MaryMae and grabbed her by the lapels, shaking her. Her name tag popped off her shirt and onto the floor, landing in a small puddle of blood that had something like an eyeball at its center. “You think you can just kill a man and stomp some horse shoes around the floor and we’ll believe whatever you say, eh? Tell me the truth, woman! Tell me you killed him!”
“I didn’t do it!” MaryMae cried, tears streaming down her face. “It was that horse thing!”
Daniels slapped her across the face, bringing some sense to her empty mind. He was angry with her and frustrated with her unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation.
“You silly bitch! Tell the goddamned truth!”
“Daniels, you might want to have a look at this,” Viceroy called, his voice now a familiar sound in the diner.
“What is it, Deputy?” Daniels demanded, slapping the useless woman again.
“I just had a look at her security footage. She’s telling the truth.”
“Look at the tape. At first, everything’s normal. Then a horned fuckin’ horse walks in and fucks everything up.”
Daniels let go of the woman and walked over to the deputy, prepared to start slapping him for being a jackass. Just as he was raising his hand, Viceroy pressed play. Daniels gave a passing glance to the screen and saw a horse push its way through the door.
“Does that door have a lock?” Daniels demanded. No one answered. The tape kept playing. The horse walked up and pushed its way through the door. It walked right up to the empty counter and speared Lou right through the back. The horse shook its head back and forth, having a difficult time getting the old man off its horn and killing him more in the process. Finally, he flew off, smashing his face against the counter. The horse then leapt over the counter and helped itself to some fried potatoes. Daniels couldn’t tell what kind they were because of the poor resolution of the video, but he figured they were hashbrowns. The horse then went into the kitchen, likely in search of more tubers. The view was obscured from there, so there were a few painful minutes when the animal was out of view. Eventually, the horse came back out into the diner and started chewing on Lou’s body as if he were a dessert.
“Just what I thought,” Daniels said. “I heard about stuff like this from County. Bovine growth hormone or something. Bad reaction in horses. That one’s clearly messed up. Call animal control and we’ll get this sorted out. Maybe Game and Fish.”
“Righto, Detective,” Viceroy said, excusing himself to radio in the request. He disappeared out the front door, the very door that Carrie had used to enter and exit the establishment.
“I told you!” MaryMae said, her frail voice streaked with emotion. “I told you it was a horse!”
“How do I know you weren’t in cahoots with that horse?” Daniels asked coldly, reaching for his handcuffs. “You’re not on that video at all.”
“I was on the can!” MaryMae exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“You have the right to remain silent,” Daniels said, grabbing the frightened waitress by the wrist, not knowing why she was afraid. MaryMae screamed.
“Shut your trap!” Daniels commanded, slapping the woman again. It felt good to slap her. Her cheek felt like his ex-wife’s.