Reggie could not remember that his friend Mike lay dying upon the hot sands of Death Valley. Nor could he remember the events leading up to his friend's demise, or his decision to pursue the Tall Man through the dimensional fork after he had ripped the gold sphere from Mike's skull.
A vague echo of a memory may have lingered in the back of his mind, but no clear recollections. And it annoyed
him, teasing at him. Random visions of nonsensical, nightmarish
things he knew he should write off as fragments of a beer sloshed
dream from the night before. But still, it bothered him, and being
bothered was the last thing in the world Reggie wanted on a beautiful
night like this. He was a young man again, sitting behind
the wheel of his ice cream truck, looking dapper in the white pants
and shirt, black leather vest and bow tie of his ice cream vendor
apparel. The summer night breeze toyed with his ponytail and the
canned jingle from the truck tickled his ears.
He felt good, too. His body and mind were free of the aches and scars from the battles with the Tall Man that
had yet to happen. He had returned to a time of innocence where
all was right with the world.Or was it?As he slowly cruised the empty downtown streets,
Reggie caught sight of a solitary young boy standing near the street.
He knew who it was instantly, as it was his routine to let his friend
Jody's little brother Mike ride along with him on his route. Reggie
pulled the truck aside, allowing Mike to climb aboard as he had
hundreds of times in the past. This time, though, Reggie could not
shake the feeling, however elusive, that something was out of place.
Something was terribly wrong.
As they drove, Reggie became increasingly anxious. He thought he could hear a voice beckoning to him on the
breeze. "Did you hear something?" he asked his fourteen year old passenger.
After a long moment of silence, Mike finally responded, "It's just the wind . . . It's just the wind."
There was a distance and uncertainty in the boy's voice that did not suit his usual headstrong, confident demeanor.
Reggie slowed the truck, eventually bringing it to a complete halt alongside the curb. He then flipped a switch
on the small metal box mounted at the top of the windshield frame. The canned ice cream jingle cut off into silence. Mike turned to face Reggie, a blank expression upon his face. "Why did you turn the music off?" Mike asked.
"I dunno," Reggie replied cautiously. "Do you want me to turn it back on?"
"Yeah. I like it."
Reggie stared at Mike incredulously.
"You like it?" he asked. "Well, gee, that's funny, Mike, because you never liked that shit before. In fact, every day
before now you used to beg me to shut it off."
Mike said nothing and continued to stare at Reggie.
Out of the corner of his eye, Reggie caught a glimpse of a single figure moving in the darkness ahead, just
outside of the range of his truck's headlights. It was a man, tall and lanky, with a gold chrome sphere in his hands.
Turning to focus on the figure ahead and identifying him instantly, Reggie's mind snapped back into crystal
lucidity. The spell had been broken. The memories had returned in force.
"Oh, shit," he cursed under his breath. He began to quickly
search the cab of the truck, reaching behind and under the seats.
His trusted four-barreled, 'dwarf killer' shotgun was
nowhere to be found, even though he was sure he had it with him
when he left Mike behind in the desert to hunt the Tall Man.
The effigy of the young Mike sitting next to Reggie had also shifted his gaze towards the tall figure crossing
the street in the distance ahead of them. Though no sound came from
the boy's mouth, Reggie watched as his lips formed a single word:
Horrified, Reggie tumbled out of the truck, landing clumsily on the pavement below. Quickly rising to his feet,
he dashed toward the back of the truck, only to stop suddenly as
the sounds of growling and rapidly scurrying feet presented themselves.
Reggie turned again and began to sprint up the street ahead of him. After getting about fifty feet from the
vehicle, he again froze in his tracks as the Tall Man casually walked
into his path. The beam of the headlights glanced off the highly
polished surface of the sphere in his hands, reflecting light upon
his face and giving it an even more ghostly pallor than usual.
Properly armed, in this situation Reggie would have considered his odds of survival to be decent. Unarmed,
and surrounded by the Tall Man, a sphere and a potential army of
dwarves, there were virtually no odds to speak of.
"You've got something I want, asshole!"
Reggie shouted at the approaching figure. What the hell, he figured,
reflecting on the boldness of his statement. He sincerely doubted
he could piss off the Tall Man any more than he had already.
The Tall Man stopped his advance, a hint of a smile tracing his face as he stared at the ice cream vendor
in the not-so-distant distance. One of his eyes squinted malevolently
as he sized up his opponent. He then lifted the sphere and held
it aloft in front of him, challenging Reggie to come forward to
try to take it from him.
"Is this what you are looking for, small man?" the undertaker's voice boomed. "I'm afraid that
this is all that's left of your friend."
Reggie shook his head. "You're wrong. He's right back there."
Reggie turned to look back at the truck. It, along with the effigy of Mike, was gone, as was the street he
had just driven up and the storefronts he had just passed. Only
complete darkness and a dimensional fork remained in the spot where
the truck was parked. The idling of the engine had now become the
dull hum of the energy flowing through the chromed fork.
And still, there was the horrendous sounds of the dwarves, looming ever nearer.
Reggie returned his gaze to the Tall Man before him. The street and buildings ahead had also vanished, leaving
the two men standing in the blackened void of oblivion.
"I wish to make you an offer, ice cream man," the Tall Man said sharply, his partially closed eye snapping
open for emphasis. "You have become an increasingly annoying . . . inconvenience to me, and I no longer wish to include you in my games."
Reggie chuckled nervously. "Yeah? Well, just give Mike back to me and we'll call it even, okay?"
The Tall Man smiled and lovingly cradled the sphere in his hands, like a pet.
"I am willing to place you back at the time in your history before you encountered me. You will be reunited
with your friends and family, and you will never see me again. I will have only been a nightmare which fades with the morning light."
"No way," Reggie replied, shaking his head. "I'm on to your tricks. Nothing you deal in is real. The Mike I was just with, the truck, everything around us . . . it was all bullshit. No, I want something real, not your sick little
fantasies. I want that ball you're holding."
The Tall Man's smile diminished.
"The vessel is not yours to take, fool. It is mine. He is mine. I have waited a very long time for this
boy." He relinquished his grip on the sphere and it gently hovered near his shoulder. "Perhaps you would like to see a demonstration of his loyalty to me?"
Three serrated, pronged blades sprang forth in unison from the body of the sphere as it took flight towards
Screaming, the balding man turned and sprinted for the nearby dimensional fork. The fork was Reggie's only means
of escape from the lethal sentinel closing in rapidly from behind
and the large cluster of dwarves which, he knew, were waiting for him somewhere in the darkness.
'Only twenty steps more,' he thought, 'and I'm free.'
The persistent whine of the marauding gold sphere had reached a fever pitch, its tone drowning out the hum
of the fork which was practically within Reggie's grasp. He resisted
the temptation to turn and see how close the sentinel was to him,
fearing that as soon as he would turn, the razor sharp blades would
be burrowed deep in his skull.
'Almost there!' His mind screamed.
No sooner had he finished that thought than a small, brown sleeved hand shot from the darkness, grabbing his
ankle and tripping him to the hard blackness under his feet. Instantly,
the dwarf was upon him, savagely clamping its rows of sharpened
teeth into the Achilles tendon of Reggie's right foot. Mind-numbing
pain swept through his body, yet he did not cry out. He continued
to struggle towards the fork.
Adjusting its trajectory towards its fallen target, the sphere arced downward sharply, slamming itself into
the soft, corrupted flesh of the dwarf attacker's back. The force of the impact brutally pried the misshapen figure from Reggie's damaged leg, allowing him a precious moment to muster enough strength to plunge headfirst through the portal.
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is Copyright 1999 by Richard Elkin and is published in feoamante.com
and Feo Amante's Story Time with his permission.
Richard also writes under the psuedonym, Richard Dean.
Visit him at