The Black Engine, Complete
For previous installment, click here! The far wall caved in from something heavy hitting it, the whole vehicle rolling down an incline. Medical supplies flew about the high top as Ben was thrown into the refrigerated cabinet. The interior went dark as Ben was thrown to cold earth below.
Not the carpeted floor of the high top, but the uneven slope of dry grass.
Ben’s patient was gone. He now sat alone, a bitter chill washing over him. A familiar chill, one that made Ben’s stomach turn.
In the distance, a long and low growl rumbled in the darkness.
Twin eyes split the veil that had fallen over the world, vermilion slits serving as pupils in the golden orbs. They flexed and swiveled, the heated beams of light roving over the misty ground to land on Ben, cowering on the ground.
Fear washed over Ben, from within his gut in a primal way. The way that a rat was afraid of a hawk, an instinctual feeling that drowned out all conscious thought from Ben’s mind. He screamed, scrambling backwards out of the warm light and into the freezing darkness.
Darkness was good. Darkness meant he was unseen.
He heard William’s screams, incoherent cries filled with anger and terror. Soon he was joined by others, each wailing into the night with terrible cries. The howls were soon joined by a steady beating of a heavy drum.
The steady beat started slow, almost unnoticeable amidst the cries of terror. But they grew in intensity, slow and pronounced with each strike of hammer to drum.
Ben crawled through the haze of shadows, looking for any means of escaping the madness he’d been dropped off into.
Something tackled him, pulled him at the wrists until his arms were bent back behind him. He screamed in pain, crying out for help.
And then the eyes were set upon him again.
And he saw that he was being tied to the rusted-out hulk of a Ford truck. The eyes, slit with fiendish glory, were attached to the ambulance. The engine rumbled, a horrid noise of grinding metal and animistic growl. The hood was up, exposing the engine for all to see. Laying on the tailgate of a Dodge was William, a defiant glare in his eyes.
Standing over him was an emaciated figure, horrid robes and ram skull adorning his head. He had a wicked knife, something Ben would expect to see out of a Hollywood picture about the knights of old Europe.
“Ah,” the figure said, a light accent lilting off his words. “So, you awaken.”
“What in the fuck is going on here?” Ben demanded, tugging at his restraints.
William spat up at the masked figure. “This fucker hit us, rolled the ambulance! I woke up to him cuttin’ up the guy we were savin’!”
The figure gave a lazy wave in to the bed of the truck. “The eleventh soul scorned by life yet stolen from death. He marked the final entry for the innocent.”
“He keeps sayin’ flowery shit like that!” William growled.
Ben tugged at his arms, his breath catching in his throat when he felt his wrist slice into something sharp. Biting back the hiss of pain, Ben realized that he was going to die if he didn’t get out of here. Lowering his bound wrists against the sharpened bit of unseen metal, he began sawing the frayed rope as discretely as he could.
“I say said flowery shit to intone Samp!” The figure cried, raising his hands high into the air. “With the final two souls to be bargained with belonging to the ferryman of the damned, I will fulfill my true calling!”
Ben looked up at that, brow furrowed. “Wait, Gerard?
The figure chuckled. He reached up and lifted the skull off his head, the cloth cap sewn into bone sliding off to reveal his hair and face. “See? I knew one of them would figure it out!”
The ambulance revved, pistons pulping in a loud growl.
“Wait, it can understand you?” Ben was shocked. But he knew that if he wanted to live, he had to do what all EMS personnel were trained to do.
Keep them talking.
Gerard turned and laid a hand on the engine, which seemed to thrum at his touch. “Of He can. Samp’s lifeblood, harvested from Prudhoe Bay before the oil fields were set up. I heard Him, y’know? Deep beneath the ice, trapped and forgotten.”
“Samp, the Black Engine.” Gerard intoned, reverence lacing his voice. “With the first drill I drew up his blood, what the engineers mistook for oil. I brought it south, here, where I’ve been feeding it those who life has given up on.”
“Life has given…” Ben said, trailing off. Then it clicked. “You mean you’ve been feeding people to it? As a paramedic?”
“How?” William growled.
Gerard smiled. “I found one of the newest models, something suitable for a newborn god. I used Samp’s blood in lieu of oil, giving spark to the new life. Then, I just needed to feed it.”
“You’re sick!” Ben spat.
“Yes,” Gerard said, ignoring Ben. “I thought I was in trouble when the orders came down that my Lord was to be transferred. I’d fed him ten souls across Louisiana. But then, I found you!”
“Me?” Ben said.
“Yes! I knew it as soon as you had the dream! You’ve been touched by the Black Engine!”
“You’re like me,” Gerard whispered, stepping around the tailgate, trailing a hand over William’s bound body. “You can hear Him.”
Ben nodded, jerking forward as he sawed at the restraints.
“You can sense Him.” Gerard continued, lifting the knife high, the metal slick with blood.
Ben shivered when, with growing horror, he watched Gerard plunge the knife into William’s chest.
“You will feed Him.” Gerard intoned, a bright flash of white light flickered from the bloody blade. William fell limp, going slack as Gerard pulled the knife from his chest. He turned and held the knife over the engine. “Rise Master, rise and lay waste to the unbelievers.”
The engine roared louder as the blood dribbled onto the hot block, steam rising from the growling pistons.
Gerard turned back to face him, raising the knife high again. “You will be the final marker, the last offering. You will be the key that will start the Black Engine.”
Ben frowned even as he cut through the last of his restraints. He waited until Gerard walked close, a lengthy few seconds. When the madman got close enough, Ben lashed out with a kick into Gerard’s knee.
Gerard howled in pain, dropping to the grass in agony.
Ben wasted no time, pushing himself up to his feet. He rushed forward, only to be held back when Gerard waved the sacrificial knife at him.
“Yes!” Gerard screamed, standing on wobbly legs. “A fight between us! Let us see who will turn over the Black Engine! Who will usher in the new age!”
“Jesus Christ,” Ben shouted back at him. “Just shut the fuck up, you lunatic!”
Gerard lunged forward, slashing the knife across Ben’s chest. Shirt torn with a clean slice across his pectorals, Ben fought down the scream and punched at Gerard. He caught him square in the nose, sending him stumbling back into the rusted truck Ben had been tied to. Ben pressed his advantage and grabbed at Gerard’s arms, fighting to get the knife from him.
Gerard grabbed at Ben’s face, fish hooking his mouth to try and pull him back.
But he was too thin, too weak. Ben used his weight, leaning into Gerard until the man’s forearm snapped. Gerard screamed in pain, a scream that grew choked when Ben kneed him into the stomach.
Knocked to the ground, Gerard looked up at Ben with wide eyes.
Ben pointed the knife at him. “Now stay down! Don’t make me hurt you!”
“No,” Gerard said, low and quiet. “No, one of us has to die! Kill me!”
“What?” Ben cried, stepping back as Gerard grabbed at his legs. “No! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Then,” Gerard said, looking around the dimly lit junkyard. His eyes widened in glee. “What served the means to your freedom will free our Lord!”
“Wha-no!” Ben said, waving a hand when Gerard reached down and yanked up the sharpened length of rebar.
Gerard ran past Ben, stopping just short of the exposed engine. He turned, lights forming a halo of warmth around him, smiling madly at Ben.
“Let him be free!” He crowed, raising the sharpened spit high above his chest. “I am the key! I will start the last engine this world will ever know!”
And then he speared himself, the jagged metal piercing his robes with a wet sound. Red pooled beneath the vomit-green cloth, Gerard teetering in place.
Ben stared in horror as Gerard stumbled back, bumping into the Criterion’s bumper. He grinned, spitting up blood and bile, before dropping back into the engine.
The hood slammed down over the body, crushing Gerard into the running engine. Blood spattered out from beneath the hood while the growling of the engine rose in tenor.
Gerard’s severed limbs fell from the jaws of the ambulance, blood seeping down over the headlights in a crimson wash. Ben watched as the ambulance revved a few times, the horrible chilling fear strumming in his gut.
“Holy shit…” Ben whispered, watching as the Criterion creaked and groaned.
The bumper peeling down from the body into a freakish maw. The wheels swelled, the thick tires growing massive as the high top stretched and flexed. Thick tubes snaked out from under the hood, slithering along the body of the red-and-white body. They’d stop and drill into the frame, black veins throbbing from the entry points as the metal began to pulse.
The vehicle was transforming before his eyes, and Ben felt powerless in the face of the creature it was becoming.
Wait! The thought pierced the terror overcoming his senses. It’s still a car!
Before Ben even realized it, he was running towards the ambulance. He jumped up to reach the driver’s side door, climbing inside as quickly as he could go.
Thick, ratty veins spread like spiderwebs on the seats, thick black oil pumping through the arteries to some silent marching order. Ben grabbed the clutch and popped it into drive. He was surprised, elated even, when the ambulance lurched forward. The tired spun in place, screeching against the gravel.
Driving out of the junkyard, Ben smiled when he saw what road he was on. “I’m close to Lake Concord… that’ll have to work.”
Barreling down the road, Ben struggled against the wheel as it threatened to turn in his hands. Squirming, the Black Engine seemed to be gaining strength with each passing second. The radio crackled to life, buzzing for a few seconds before a screech echoed out from it.
Ben could feel blood welling out of his ears. He struggled to keep the wheel straight as he reached out for the radio in a vain effort to turn the handset off.
He let out a pained cry when the radio uncoiled from the stand, bobbing like a cobra. He swatted at it to keep it back, the heavy plastic serving as a cudgel that battered at his hand. The screeching barely drowned out his own scream when the radio broke two of his fingers. He was able to grab the cord of the device and yanked it out of the console.
This was a short-lived victory, as the cord coiled around his arm. It constricted his limb until his flesh grew blue, but Ben continued fighting. The ambulance kept trying to drive off the road, to drive into the woods.
He wouldn’t let it.
Barreling down Lake Drive, Ben allowed the ambulance to fulfill its desire to drive off road by turning into the woods separating the road and the lake. Concordia glimmered beneath the half-moon, the peace destroyed as the heavy bass howl of the revving engine honked. Ben grappled with the wheel, turning it inch by inch to get the monster towards the lake. The ambulance ground to a halt, the stick shift popping into “Park”.
“No,” Ben said, his voice lost in the maddened cries of the Black Engine’s revving. “Fuck you!”
He forced the vehicle into drive, foot slamming down on the accelerator. The ambulance lanced forward, careening back and forth as it fought against his control. Ben winced as the driver’s side door opened. Wind whipped at him, the smell of gasoline pouring in from the vents. The Criterion raged as it sped to the murky waters, but Ben held strong.
He slammed the ambulance into the water with a boom of searing metal searing against a cool wave. Steam rose from the water ass the Criterion sank. Ben, arm limp from the radio cord, pushed out of the side of the ambulance and paddled up towards the water’s surface.
Bubbles escaped his mouth when he felt something strong crush his ankle. Looking back into the shadowy depths, Ben saw the Black Engine in all its profane glory. Blinding headlights seared into his soul, earning a wide grin that split his face. Water flooded his mouth and lungs as he laughed, cackled at the wisdom he saw in the ancient eyes. He went slack, allowing the once-again-forgotten deity to pull him to the crushing depths.
The low growls of the engine lulled him to his eternal sleep, at peace with his god.
Forever. Hope you enjoyed this terror-tale! For others like it, check out the Darkwater Syndicate anthology It Came From the Garage!Follow the aforementioned link to snag yourself a copy! Be sure to leave a review of which story in the anthology was your favorite!