A Ghost Among Millions & IAMSANTA [Two terrifying tales in one post!] [Short Fiction]
I AM SANTA
“Holy shit, would you look at that?” Bennie Jones muttered softly under his breath, his young, innocent eyes momentarily widening, nearly bulging out of their gaunt, early-morning sockets. Emanating resolutely from just behind him, he could hear the familiar sound of the sea - that great beast sloshing it’s ichorous corporeality hither and fro - slamming itself over and again into the decrepit, steel framework of the ancient boarding dock that for so many years now had stood up, steadfast before it’s aqueous counterparts nigh immeasurable clout.
All day long they came and went. The Globetrotters, and the excursionists; and the trippers, and the fiends. Accompanied of course by the nearly imperceptible men and women who lived off of the value of their greenbacks. Each of them unceremoniously ushering that latest assembly to be gathered before them to and fro, across the metal girders and onto the swaggering deck boards of the undulating Island Queen; as she dunked and wobbled meekly in her shimmering, olive green blankets.
Most of them were businessmen, and wives, and children. Flocking in one coruscating four-door sedan after the next to the little island paradise, each agog at the breathtaking beauty that was only ever seventy-five minutes away. That’s why he noticed it so quickly - almost immediately, in fact - as it pulled it’s robust frame gradually across the sandy, white asphalt canvas laid out before it. The immense creature billowed its obsidian refuse out into the air aft of it and it rolled to a lurching stop, jittering slightly on its mammoth rubber toes as it stared across blanky into the saliferous expanse, as if it’s driver had only just scantily decided to stop moving, after all.
For a time, Bennie Jones could only stare at the thing, unbalanced momentarily by the abysmal, lurid red of this creature’s stoned and scaly skin as it shone dully in the blistering afternoon sun. Momentarily forgetting himself, Bennie only gaped, mouth ajar, and eyes restless - searching for some sign of commonality - some sign that this thing was right.
The chassis was massive. A great crimson monster held aloft high on colossal steel metal pipes. The tenebrous, heavily tinted windows stood at unyielding odds against the waving arms and shouting voices of its shimmering four-door counterparts; as if they were some recondite creatures gargantuan eyelids, fixed tightly closed, but always waiting to spring.
Suddenly remembering himself, Bennie Jones spoke, timidly at first, and then redoubling his courage. “Hello, Sir.” He muttered, seemingly more to himself than to anything else. He cleared his sapless, crackling throat and began again. “Hello Sir, is there anything I can help you with?” He shouted, as to allow for his voice to carry through those piceous, shadowed portholes.
For a moment there was nothing, and Bennie merely stood - his right hand raised feebly in greeting. And then they began to open. Slowly at first, but then gaining speed, those vast, hitherto supposed amaranthine eyelids were falling, to reveal within them - a man.
He was a rotund creature, vast and larking, as he sat high above Bennie Jones’ upturned nose. A wide, and somehow pernicious grin was spread jovially across his wrinkled, and heavily bearded face. His shocking, rosy red cheeks gleamed brilliantly off of his pallid, thinly stretched skin - giving way to the impression of some kind of convivial cheerfulness - something not oft seen on this side of the water. His natant, black eyes gazed languidly towards Bennie’s direction, seeming to in that brief moment ingurgitate his entire self whole.
Bennie, vexed and unfamiliar, opened his mouth again to speak, when suddenly - there was a great explosion. The elephantine fellow bellowed and hooted in his unbridled mirth. His fulminating laughter coming in great, undulating waves, the force of it thrashing his immense white beard helter-skelter to and fro as he roared and grimaced in his madcap glee. The penetrating sound of it washed over Bennie at once. Covering him whole, as if he were bound - ankles and wrists - face down, abandoned in the steadily rising surf.
Before Bennie had even fully recovered, one broad, husky sausage link arm had come forth from that great red beast down to meet him, carrying with it something in it’s bearish, roly-poly hand. “This is for you, young man.” The corpulent creature muttered down to Bennie from within that ashen birds-nest that resided calmly now on his heavily lined, weather-worn face.
“What are - ?” Bennie Jones began to respond, as a small square of waxen paper slid lightly into his inexplicably outstretched and waiting right hand. A look of utter confusion was etched plainly into his young, and innocent eyes. But then they were shutting again, that great beast’s nigh unending, atramentous lids. Slowly they rolled up, hiding again that bizarre, rotund apparition surely still grinning wickedly within from Bennie’s view - for what for some reason he desperately hoped would be the final time.
As the great crimson beast’s engine roared to life once more, Bennie Jones looked dubiously down into his still outstretched right hand, his arm frozen in position as if undertaking the paralyzing rigor brought forth onto flesh by nothing other than the cold and unyielding grasp of mortality and death.
And there he was, staring back at himself. And his mother, and his father. And his dog, sparkles, too. Superimposed onto this three by three waxen square. A photograph that had been taken not three months before, on Easter Sunday, as the family had gathered together on his grandmothers back lawn. “Wait, who - “ Bennie began again, his arm suddenly free of its rigor, it and it’s twin waving wildly into the air. But he was gone.
All that remained of the man now was his colossal red truck’s glimmering tail lights, as red and boisterous and the creature that held them aft as it moved surreptitiously away from the gathering of its peers. And the license plate, that somehow Bennie had failed to notice when the great beast had first pulled in. Red letters were etched calmly into the background of the perfect, pearlescent white. IAMSANTA read plainly from between the pair of the trucks red and glowing glowing brake lights.
And then covering him all at once, as if his entire self-had been dipped suddenly in melting, hot and violent wax - an inexplicably profound fear shot up and down like lightning through Bennie Jones’ young, and innocent bones. Looking back down into his hand again, the photograph was still there, crumpled now in his sudden, anxious fervor. From within his shaking and upturned palm, the beaming, elated faces of his loving family looked up back at him - but there was something different, now. Something was wrong. For a moment he was unsure, but then, in a single instant, he noticed it. Somehow, he was gone.
A Ghost Among Millions
His eidolic gaze shifted this way and that - dancing, helter-skelter, over one colorfully hooded hardtop, coupe, jalopy, and junker to the next - passing each one by as quickly as the last, but always searching. No - pining; for the feeling again. As he gazed out into that technicolor stream of liquid metal, he could feel them. A thousand heartbeats, pulsating as if in tandem with his own. And then behind them? Ten thousand more - equinus and invulnerable - immortalized to the last grinding gear in hot, Detroit City steel.
It was as if he were one of them again. He could feel the pressure on his face, the cold whip of the sharply serrated wind as it stung and smarted at his madly beaming eyes. All at once felt the ecstasy of the open road. The thrill of the wheel and the as it bucked under his white, ephemeral fingers. The wild, untamed rumblings of the of the chassis below him - reminding him over and over again that yes, he was alive.
And so he watched them, wraithy and unseen, detained trancelike by even their most basic splendor, as they sped along down the stretched and bustling city road before them. As their engines roared his heart followed, leaping up and leaving his mind to slowly begin leaning back. Back towards then - back, towards where he had once been so fortunate to call his home.
He had been moving slowly with the cars, drifting surreptitiously alongside their technicolor facade, imagining what it could be, to be, again… When he saw them. Their aroma surely muddled by the rancid stench of big city living, and all of the walkabouts and hangers-on that came implicitly along with it. But there, none the less. There they were.
The hot dog cart stood before him like some wicked, visitant apparition. A cold, tangible reflection of what he had so thoroughly become. The steam from the boiling hunks of amalgamated flesh rose tormentingly into the cool autumn air, staining the subtle breeze with the torrid, effervescent perspiration that dragged along faithfully behind it. His cadaverous mouth would have watered at the sight of them - if only it could have remembered how.
A young couple stood lovingly before the aproned gentleman behind the cold, steel food counter. The mist from the smoldering dogs roared up energetically before the three of them, momentarily obscuring the faces of all involved; and for but just a moment, he actually felt like one of them. Just another outline in the mist.
He had loved her. Of that much, he was sure. And his son, the boy whom he had not been given even the chance to watch grow old. Sure, he loved them. But what did that matter now? He was gone. How many nights had he lurked within the shadows - invisible to all but those with the most wicked intentions buried deep within their eyes - and watched at their window? Watched and waited, hoping for just a glimpse of her ghostly, ponderously shaded face as she dangled for a minute out of that third-floor porthole, hurriedly smoking the nights' last cigarette. Sometimes, he saw his son behind her. Walking, eyes wide, towards the electric expanse of murky, florid darkness that was colloquially known in the city as the night. The boy, invariably, clutching the firm, hot grip of his new father’s vivacious and adamant hand.
He had been moving as the drifted, deeper and deeper into his own reverie. Floating as if three inches from the asphalt as he ached, inch after inch, further away from all of them. That technicolor torrent of burning rubber and steel melted away at his vision as he stood before it, signaling him to finally come home. As he moved to take one last step towards florid momentum of the street, suddenly, there was something stopping him.
It was as if he had run headfirst into a brick wall. Dazed and confused, he swiveled about on the cracked and desecrated pavement below him, squirming in his dilapidated, motheaten overcoat for a solid berth - and finally, squinting up through his unctuous, matted mane, he gazed into the face of the man who had so boldly knocked him asunder. As he stared up, the man glanced hastily down - finally seeing him, but only half bothering to summon his breath for one indignant growl.
“Get out of my way, you fucking bum.”
Image found on Pixabay.com
The story you just read was written by me, Matthew Munsey @matthewmunseyart
This is the second edition of both of these pieces, hopefully finally error free for your reading pleasure!