*What a good idea, Clicky… /pats snout…*
Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Reader. I’ve no chocolates or flowers to give you, so please enjoy ‘Waste Not, Want Not’, one of my Halloween short stories from Underdog Anthology VI: The Gallows Stone…
… And have a Song ❤
Waste Not, Want Not
By Roo B. Doo
The dark October morning was filled with urgent lights – red ones, amber ones, blue ones that flashed – and urgent shouts, pounding footsteps and screams. Lance Parrish took in the chaotic scene around him in quiet disbelief, until he caught sight of the remains of his bicycle – his new Genesis Skyline bicycle – crushed beneath the filthy wheels of a gargantuan waste removal lorry.
He bunched his hands into fists and shook with rage. In all the years Lance had commuted to work by bicycle, he had witnessed plenty of traffic chaos, but none of it had ever directly involved him. Until today.
He stalked round to the front of the vehicle and craned his neck up to catch sight of the driver, but the cab was empty. Desperate to see the face of the menace that had mangled his bike and nearly killed him, Lance scanned the faces of the gathering crowd, looking for an expression of guilt. “Where’s the driver?” he shouted hoarsely. “Which of you is the driver of this death trap?”
Nobody replied, the crowd’s rapt attention was firmly fixed on the activity around the front wheel of the truck. Several bystanders had their phones out, capturing the scene. Lance was torn between feeling contempt and gratitude toward the ghouls; he would need all the evidence he could get when he sued the waste company for all it was worth. “Do any of you know who the driver is?” he called out again.
And then Lance spotted him, or rather the logo of the waste company emblazoned on the back of a hi-viz jacket. The driver stood away from the crowd, yabbering into a mobile phone. He looked burly and mean – not the type to mess with – but Lance didn’t care. Filled with furious indignation, he strode over to front it out with the man. “Hey you! I want a word with you!”
“No, it’s-“ the driver spoke into his phone, rubbing his meaty hand across his furrowed brow, “-it’s not good.”
“Hey! Are you the driver of the truck?”
“Yeah. Emergency Services are here.”
Lance reached the driver. “I want to talk to you.”
The driver continued his conversation. “Of course. You’d better let the site know. I think I’m gonna be stuck here for some time.”
“You cretinous oaf. Don’t ignore me!” Lance bellowed in frustration.
“Yeah okay.” The driver smiled ruefully, “Okay, okay yeah. Will do. I’ll let you know. Bye.” He ended the call and started scrolling through the contact numbers of his phone.
“Excuse me!” Lance said pointedly but the driver continued to ignore him. “I’m the person you very nearly killed. You know, the one on the bike that you’ve utterly destroyed.”
The driver lifted the phone back up to his face. “Hello Kath? It’s me. Don’t worry, love, but I’ve been involved in an accident. Nah, nah I’m okay…”
Lance was incandescent with rage. Not only was the truck driver completely ignoring him, but he was calling people up to brag about coming through it all unscathed. Lance could scarcely believe the obtuseness of the man. Unless…“Oh my god!” Lance howled with righteous scorn. “I just bet you voted for Brexit!”
The driver turned and walked away toward the doorway of a nearby shop, continuing his telephone conversation, and leaving Lance in his wake. “A cyclist undertook me as I was turning left…”
Lance was gobsmacked to hear the lies pouring from the man’s lips. “What do you mean, I undertook you?” He followed after the driver, who was now slouched against the shop window, looking back out at the truck and the crowds. “You didn’t bloody well indicate, you moron! What’s your name? I’m going to have you for hazardous driving.”
“I didn’t see him, Kath.” The driver’s face seemed to suddenly crumple. “Believe me, there was nothing I could do.” The driver’s eyes brimmed over with tears. He sniffed back a wet sob. “Nah…”
Lance had heard quite enough and squared up to the brute. “Now look here. I insist you put the phone away and talk to me.”
“… he didn’t make it.” The driver’s chest heaved once before a stream of hot vomit landed where Lance was standing.
“Ugh! You’re disgusting!” Lance jumped back. “You’re a complete disgrace!”
“He didn’t hit you, you know,” a voice said from behind Lance. It had the timbre of a box of gravel.
“What?” Lance asked, furiously shaking his feet. “What do you mean he didn’t hit me?”
“Well yes, yes he did hit you. Earlier. But not just now, not with his breakfast. Look.”
Miraculously, Lance’s trainers were free of vomit. Not a splash of what looked like it had once been a full English fry-up, adorned either his shoes or legs.
“But that’s incredible.” Lance marvelled at the lack of spew on him. “Hey! Where are you going?” he called to the driver, who having wiped his mouth, lit a cigarette and was now walking quickly away. “Don’t run away from me now. I order you to stop!”
Lance started after the retreating driver but the voice from behind halted him in his tracks. “Lancelot Graham Parrish, let him go.”
Everything stopped. The driver, a cloud of cigarette smoke shrouding his head, froze in mid step. Traffic in the distance stood still and the noisy din of the hectic morning was suddenly replaced by cacophonous silence.
“Turn around and face me,” the gravelly voice entreated.
Lance didn’t move, standing agog at the morning’s turn of events. He didn’t know what the hell was happening but he was quite certain that he did not want to turn around.
“NOW!” The voice commanded and then sighed, like a shifting sand dune. “If you would be so kind.”
With shuffling steps, Lance slowly inched around. Everything appeared frozen in time. He could see the offensive waste removal lorry and the crowd held in suspended animation around it. There was no movement, no sound and no owner of the voice; Lance was perplexed.
Lance lowered his gaze until they alighted on a black-robed figure that stood barely tall enough to make eye contact with his hips. “Who are you?”
“Who’d you think?” the robed figure said, producing a spinning scythe from thin air.
Lance jumped back, a reflexive action due to the sharp proximity of the flashing blade to his groin. “I thought you’d be taller.”
The scythe ceased spinning, the wicked blade pointed directly at Lance. “Did you just assume my height?” the robed figure asked coolly.
“No!” Lance blurted out, intensely aware of the crackle of electricity that coursed along the edge of the scythe blade. “You sound taller. Look, I’ve never been in a situation like this before. This is all very new to me…”
The robed figure watched on passively as Lance tried desperately to collect up the scattered rags of his thoughts.
“Am I dead?”
“Well, let’s see shall we?” The robed figure quickly turned and suddenly the world was animated once more. The crowd in front of the waste removal truck parted to reveal two men hauling a body out from beneath it. Lance heard the shrieks and groans of the onlookers, as the body being carried out broke in half, falling to the ground with sickening thumps. Several witnessing bystanders duly followed suit.
“So I’m dead?” Lance was slightly perturbed as his own lack of squeamishness. “I’m dead, so that makes you Death.”
“Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!” Death cackled good naturedly. “Welcome to the other side, Lance. May I call you Lance?”
“Sure,” Lance replied numbly. His attention returned to the antics of his so called ‘rescuers’, who were slipping about in his remains, even as they attempted to scoop them up from the road.
“Good, good. And your preferred personal pronouns are ‘he, him, his’?”
“I’m sorry, what?” Lance replied, tearing his gaze away from the scene of his death to look down at the small black robed figure of Death, who was unsheathing an electronic organiser from its leather case.
“Well, you look more like a ‘xe, xem, xyr’, but I don’t like to make assumptions.” Death switched on the organiser and started tapping on the keyboard. “Sorry, formalities. You are Lancelot Graham Parrish. Date of birth 29th February 1972. Date of death 31st October 2018…”
“Aren’t you meant to use an hourglass for that sort of thing?”
Death gave the electronic organiser a shake. “This is an upgrade.”
Lance bent down to get a better look at the gadget held in Death’s bony grasp. “But, but that’s a Psion!”
“They’re so old fashioned.”
“And an hourglass isn’t?” Death paused for Lance to reply but was met by embarrassed silence. “Psionic, from Psi, 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet, pertaining to psyche. Spirit, soul, you know. You may think the portable tech of 2018 is all singing and dancing, but believe you me, it would be nothing without the introduction of these babies.”
“Psion organisers?” Lance asked incredulously.
“Psions were made specifically for use on this side.”
Lance shook his head in disbelief. “Then how come my father was able to buy one from Dixons in the High Street in 1984?”
Death visibly stiffened. “God knows. We don’t like to talk about it.” The electronic contraption disappeared back into the folds of Death’s robe. “Come on, Lance, we’ve got to move you on.”
Lance watched Death glide away in the same direction that his Brexit-voting killer had taken. He took one last look back at the scene of carnage where he’d met his grisly end, before following the tiny figure, robed in black. “So tell me, Death,” Lance asked, picking up the pace, “you said ‘God knows’. I take it then that there a god?”
Death stopped, nonchalantly spinning the scythe, waiting for Lance to catch up. “I don’t know. Why don’t we go and ask her?”
*Come on, Clicky… /lights up… Let’s go and what Cade and Leggy are up to…*