Escape From Pickman’s Grove
Al Bruno III
Most of the streetlights on Pickman’s Grove were broken. Rosie Mcdaniels walked as quickly as she could but the sounds were growing closer
All her friends had warned her to stay away from this neighborhood of River City. “It’s just not safe for a woman your age,” they said, “there are such terrible stories.”
The stories were terrible, that much was true; the disappearances and the reports of strange sounds and shadows that stalked the unwary at night. But Rosie went just the same the lure of antiques was too much for her to resist.
She could make out the sounds now, a chorus of snorts and meeps that were growing closer by the second.
And there was a smell- a terrible smell. She risked a look back and saw six shapes loping after her. Their clothes were filthy and torn, their flesh was pale and rubbery.
Other, similar shapes were starting to creep out of every alley and doorway. They began to surround her.
Then she started to run but she knew there was no hope. How fast could a woman in her sixties run?
Not fast enough. Tears began to well up in her eyes, she thought of her friends and her grandchildren.
A taxicab squealed to a halt in front of her. The back door sprung open. “Get in!” a deep voice shouted, “Hurry!”
Once she was safely inside the cab door shut all on its own. Rosie looked back and saw there were dozens of the things but they were staying back, snarling and meeping with frustration.
“What’s your name?”
Startled she looked back to the front of the cab and saw the driver was wearing a blue cowl and a friendly grin. She made a stammering noise.
“That’s ok,” he said reassuringly, “you’ll feel better once we’re out of here.”
One of the pallid creatures threw a brick, it bounced off the glass of the rear windshield.
“And speaking of getting out of here...”
The taxi sped away with a squeal of its tires.
A super hero driving a taxi? Rosie thought with disbelief. She knew about super heroes; the city she lived in was teeming with them but those heroes flew, ran or swung from skyscraper to skyscraper. She had never heard of one driving a taxi.
It was ridiculous.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The driver chuckled good-naturedly, “Now I asked you first.”
“Rosie,” she answered, “Rosie Mcdaniels.”
“Well pleased to meet you Rosie Mcdaniels.” he glanced at her in the rearview mirror, “ I’m Captain Hero. Maybe you’ve heard of me?”
“Oh,” the taxi paused at a red light, “now where are you headed?”
“Home,” she said.
“And home is?”
Rosie told him the address and he nodded, “Ah Megalopolis City. I’ll have you there in a jiffy.”
Four headlights began to bear down on them. Captain Hero looked in his side-view mirror, his voice was calm curiosity “Now what is this?”
The light still hadn’t changed. Rosie looked back again and screamed, “It’s them! They’re coming!”
“Trucks?” the masked man turned in his seat, “Since when do they drive?”
The taxi sped through the intersection, the two pickup trucks in hot pursuit. A handful of the monsters had crowded into the rear cab of each. They threw bricks and stones as their vehicles drew closer.
The taxi took a hard left. “What are they?” Rosie asked as she held on for dear life.
“Sewer ghouls,” Captain Hero said, “bit of a local problem.”
Rosie was struggling to get her seatbelt on, she breathed a sigh of relief when it clicked into place. The trucks were getting closer, one mounted the sidewalk crashing through some long abandoned boxes.
“So,” he asked, “what were you doing in Pickman’s Grove anyway?”
The question stunned her, “Antiquing.”
“I see,” he nodded, “you can find some great little shops there, great bargains too. Tell me, what were you doing there at this hour?”
“I was at the bus stop,” she explained, “I fell asleep.”
“Oh you poor dear.” One of the trucks was close enough to bump the taxi. Captain Hero pressed a button on the dashboard and a stream of liquid squirted out of the back bumper. The trucks fishtailed and crashed. The masked man shook his head again, “Trucks! I really have to amend my crime files.”
Rosie asked, “What did you do?”
“Oil slick,” he replied, “but don’t worry. I use canola oil- better for the environment.”
The second truck came roaring up beside them, the sewer ghouls in the back started bashing the car with their homemade weapons. Rosie squealed with terror.
Captain Hero said, “Don’t worry. I had this taxi specially augmented by my good pal Rusty Johnson, it has weapons, a nitrous oxide injection system and the sound system will knock your socks off. Let me show you.”
With a flick of a button the song American Pie began to fill the car. Humming to himself Captain Hero jerked the wheel clipping the driver’s side tire of the second truck. One of the sewer ghouls lept out and landed on the hood of the taxi just before the truck spun out and crashed sideways into a lampost.
“I wanted the team to drive these creeps out of the tunnels but they got a lawyer and set up restraining orders,” Captain Hero explained, “something about squatters rights.”
The taxi slowed down to the legally posted speed. The ghoul on the hood clawed at the windshield and spat. With a flick of a button Captain Hero sent windshield washer fluid spraying into its eyes. It howled and tumbled from the hood.
“And that’s that,” the masked man said as he flicked the taxi’s meter on, “now lets get you home. I hope this experience hasn’t put you off visiting our fine city.”
Suddenly she realized, “I lost my purse!”
Captain Hero turned the taxi’s meter back off, “Don’t worry Rosie, this one’s on me.”