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Patience is a Topless Dancer

horror by Matt Albertson

The yellow taxicab crept forward and stopped, only inches from where it had sat idle for the last five minutes.

The traffic light shone red again, distorted through the rain streaked windshield. Sitting on the cab’s black vinyl backseat, it was the third light cycle Frank Goodfriend had been through. “Jesus Christ, it’d be faster to walk,” he said, more to himself than to the cabbie.

“Looks like the game just got out. It could be a while,” the cabbie responded through the divider.

Frank felt his navy blue suit creasing under him. “Damn it. I don’t have a while. Isn’t there a faster way?”

“Unfortunately, this is it.” The cabbie grinned in the rearview mirror, eyes hidden under a ball cap. “But as they say, patience is a virtue–”

Frank interrupted, “Patience is also a topless dancer who accepted my dinner invitation. I will not be late.” The cabbie didn’t respond, just drummed his fingers along the steering wheel.

Fuck it. It’s only rain, he thought, and exited the cab without paying the fare. The cabbie started to yell something. Frank cut him off, slamming the door as loud as he could.

It didn’t compare to the noise the Metro bus’s grill made as it collided with Frank’s body in the right-turn lane.

#

Florescent lights droned above. Confusion encircled Frank’s thoughts. He tried to piece together what had happened. Had the cabbie dropped him off at the hospital? His limbs felt heavy, like he’d been drugged.

He blinked, looked around, blinked again. Sitting upright in a chair, Frank realized he wasn’t in a hospital lobby. No, the room had an evil aura, reminding him of a Department of Motor Vehicles office. Rock-hard plastic chairs stretched beyond view. Each had a bored looking soul in it, quietly waiting.

A woman sat in the chair next to him. “Where am I?” he demanded in an authoritative whisper.

“You mean, you don’t know?”

“No.”

“You’re in Hell.”

It didn’t surprise Frank. Disappointed him, sure, but being a gambling man he’d spent life hedging his bets there wouldn’t be an afterlife. “Where’s the fire and brimstone?”

“You see the door there?” She pointed to an open door next to what appeared to be a reception desk. Behind the desk sat a demon. “I heard, when they call your name, that elevator takes you to your own, personal Hell.”

A man standing at the reception desk entered the door. It slid shut. A few minutes later, a name was called across the lobby’s PA system, echoing through the silence. “That’s me,” the woman whispered. She stood and walked to the desk.

Counting off the seconds and growing more impatient with each, Frank watched the process happen again after five minutes. This time, an elderly man, three rows down and countless chairs over, hobbled toward the desk.

Ten more minutes passed. One more name was called.

Christ, it’s going to take an eternity just to get into Hell, Frank thought. An idea formed.

Another name blared out over the system, “Scott Wallace.”

Frank stood. At least, he tried to stand, but his body didn’t move. It seemed locked in place by an invisible force. Frank tried to yell out, but the words caught in his throat, exiting as a whisper, “That’s me.”

No one noticed.

Seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours, hours dragged on for what felt like an eternity. Frank shifted in the seat as much as he could, trying to find a comfortable position. The uncomfortable bit of the chair shifted with him.

Finally, his name crackled over the PA system. He found himself able to move and rushed to the reception desk.

“Mr. Goodfriend,” the demonic receptionist cooed. “We’ve been expecting you.”

Frank leaned against the counter, his head inches from the demon’s. “Expecting? That’s the shittiest welcome I’ve ever experienced.” He made sure to annunciate the plosives, spraying saliva with each.

“I’m sorry our service isn’t up to your standards. Everyone is restrained for their own safety.” The demon eyed the lobby. “Those we cater to aren’t always the most — friendly.” It pointed as the door slid open. “Now, unless you have any questions, just step into the elevator.”

Without another word, Frank turned and strode arrogantly into the elevator. The door slid shut behind him. The elevator lights flickered and everything went black.

#

The stop-and-go of the taxicab woke Frank. He gripped the backseat, making sure it was real. Holy shit, what a dream!

But something wasn’t right.

The familiar cityscape had mutated into an endless highway of taxicabs and taillights. Exhaust fumes flooded Frank’s nostrils.

“Where are we?” Frank asked the cabbie.

No response.

“Driver!” Frank pounded the divider. The cabbie didn’t react, just continued concentrating on the road. Frank caught a glimpse of the driver’s featureless reflection in the rearview mirror. No nose, no eyes, no mouth. Just a ball cap resting on a flesh wrapped skull.

“What the —” Frank reached for the door handle. Locked.

Searching for an unlock mechanism, he found none. Frank curled up and then extended his legs with a loud grunt and as much force as he could muster. His shoes collided with the side window. It didn’t budge. He repeated the effort, achieving the same results.

Frank began shouting, pounding the cab’s ceiling, trying to signal distress to the other cars on the road. He paused after seeing another faceless, ball capped figure driving behind them.

Turning to the side window, Frank confronted the same sight, but with a view of the backseat. In it sat a passenger, gazing out the opposite window, wearing a navy blue suit. No, Frank thought.

He spun 180 degrees, glimpsing the passenger doing the same, only to find another blue suited passenger in the cab on the opposite side. “No.”

Taking a deep breath, he slowly raised his hand. The passenger, facing away, raised his. “No!” Frank screamed. All around him, the passengers screamed, and together their cabs inched forward.

Copyright July 2010 by Matt Albertson

Matt Albertson lives outside Seattle, Washington. He blogs about events in his life at The Albertsons.

[Return to the Issue 5: July 2010 stories]

One Response

  1. […] [Read the story] […]

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