A Short Story; that will drive you crazy
Brian Allcock was a solicitor. He was a tall and gaunt individual. Often the brunt of jokes and the local wags at the assizes enjoying the sport referring to his practice as “Allcock And Ribs, Solicitors At Law”, the entendre plain to see.
In his way he was typical. A pastry skinned individual of 50 years, three fingers of mousy blonde hair covering a bald head like they were holding a bowling ball. His suits were always that light brown of a man not really sure of what he is doing with his life; and he drove a Volvo; very badly.
Now badly is a perception sure enough. It can mean, trying with best endeavors but not succeeding or it can be like Brian Allcock; being a prick of a man in a big wide car just getting in everyone’s way. And he was a very good bad driver.
Volvos have a certain character, or is it that Volvo drivers have a certain way of driving them to afford them this global demeanor. What ever, they are always driven badly.
No matter what the Swedish company tries to do to jazz them up, they just become jazzy cars in the middle of the road with a train of frustrated road warriors in their wake.
Leaving his two-up two-down each morning at 8:15 sharp, having kissed his wife in the perfunctory manner of a man of habit alone, he drove down the cul-de-sac very slowly with the big engine roaring as he let the revs run high in a low gear.
He had owned automatics but didn’t like the way they changed gears all the time. He had found that this reduced the annoyance factor of his driving techniques and changed back to manuals very quickly.
You see, all Brian Allcock wanted to do was to be a bloody nuisance to as many other motorists as he could; and he was a black-belt.
He drove at exactly the speed limit, not a kilometer over. His belief being that the limit is posted so it must never be interfered with and he stuck to this belief like shit to a shovel.
Surprisingly, Allcock made his living specializing in traffic law, and on occasions he deliberately worked the system against a client that he considered was guilty. Guilty of what was not important because Allcock had a number of very well-formed opinions about certain aspects of driver behavior and would have little truck with anyone that disagreed with him.
Now, on the road, aware of the laws of the highways and byways the way he was, he was master of his lot; in control of the world’s safest car and a bloody, king-size pain in the arse.
The Volvo was one of those 840’s. A big silver slug of a thing and it just looked annoying. Couple this with a slow speed and an opinionated driver and it was a recipe for extreme nuisance.
This morning the rain was drizzling down in one of those spring falls, the sort when the rain floats like blossom. It is light, if you could hold it in your hand it would weigh less than it does normally. It caused the oil and grease that magically forms on dry windows to streak and guarantee interesting visibility.
Allcock adjusted his driving to suit and was doing 65kph in the 100kph lane of the city inbound. The ring road had one of those new share-ride lanes. If you were two or more in the car you could move to the left and travel in that lane. This annoyed Allcock to the Nth, so he had perfected a technique that was completely legal. He managed to get the Volvo in such a position that any cars in this lane would not be able to pass and clear the uprights of the lighting poles that studded the road each kilometer like some gray aluminum forest.
This allowed the Volvo to effectively stop the flow of two lanes and Allcock smiled with a self-satisfied air. He was a happy pain in the arse was Brian Allcock.
Allcock knew that there was nothing anyone could do. This was the only time he felt alive, truly alive. He had power and he loved it. The annoyance of those other individuals was his fuel. God how he loved the toots and fists and “Fuck You’s” he created with his sport.
He always smiled and nodded; never said a word, just smiled and nodded. He smiled because he always thought “Just wait till you need me” and nodded, not in concert with anything but more to amplify his thoughts. He was going to be a magistrate; he was eligible and had made the appropriate overtures to the county court office.
It would mean a large drop in income but he didn’t give a damn, soon, yes very soon he nodded, soon you will be mine. Then we’ll see who toots and swears.
Allcock was reveling. It was raining, the traffic was banked up and he was at one with his God. The storm had turned quite bad actually, the morning sky dark and thick with it now, like a wet woolen blanket over the scene.
He felt rather than saw the thing. Looking down, a large black beetle, head flat and about the same size of its body, with pointy antlers and feet that looked like some articulated robot.
He glanced down and kicked his foot with that nervous reaction folk do when surprised by something crawling over them. The beetle flew off his foot and hit against the centre console, bouncing and coming to a rest on its back, spinning with its feet clawing at the air. Allcock dropped his left foot hard on it and a very small grin crossed his features as he heard the sound of the endoskeleton braking and crushing underfoot.
The car bumped and buffeted. He lifted his head to see what had caused it.
The world has changed.
The road was a deep purple, the colour of a bishop’s cloak, each side of the road, or track really because it was not wide enough to be a road, were gnarled trees and bushes fighting for space. The sky was black and the flashes of lightening lit the whole affair like some strobe light at a ’60’s high school dance.
Allcock’s mouth gapped wide and he stood on the brakes as the Volvo lurched from side to side on the uneven surface of the track. The surface was loose, perhaps stones or gravel, and the big car slid slightly, he fought with the lurching and in the panic that took over for that split second between becoming aware of all of this and stopping the car, he forgot to declutch and the big car stalled.
He opened the door and stepped out. All around the noises were foreign, save for the ticking of the car as it cooled. Distant thunder shattered the presence and Allcock stood unable to think or speak.
A series of growls or hoots sounded from the bushes to his left and he jumped back into the vehicle and hit the central locking hearing the doors lock with that solid thunk a Volvo does.
Rain hit the screen and lightening flashed again. He looked down for no reason other than to try to focus back into a comfortable reality, that of the inside of his trusty mobile nuisance, and saw the beetle, head separated from its body, endoskeleton flat from the squashing, a single leg tapping the side of his shoe. He didn’t like this at all.
He really couldn’t understand any of this; one moment, successfully blocking traffic on the South Eastern Arterial and the next, well; here.
The ignition lights shone a telltale red into the cabin and Allcock, by habit, turned the key to off, declutched and turned the key forward, listening as the trusty V6 came to life and idled smoothly as was its want to do.
He looked at his cellular phone in its cradle; it was flashing “NO SERVICE” at him. He selected first gear and allowed the car to creep forward, moving back into the centre of the track. The rain was now streaming down the screen and the sides of the road were already beginning to show signs of the road propensity to flood.
Always a practical man, he realized that regardless of what ever, he would have to move to higher ground, so he started the vehicle along the track, turning on his headlights as he did, for the light had dimmed to almost nothing.
Driving along the rain got heavier and already the water was starting to encroach on top of the track, causing sloshing sounds as the fat tyres tried to pump it away. The windscreen wipers were moving at their fastest speed and Allcock was sitting forward looking through the gloom, not really seeing anything at all. He had turned on the demister and the fan was roaring its head off.
He was not sure but he felt he saw movement off to each side of the track, in the bushes, but couldn’t be sure, the light not completely gone and the storm thick around him, the headlights the only true illumination there was.
It was about this time the cellular phone rang.
It sat there with the “NO SERVICE” message blinking yet the sound of the bell echoed through the car; the green light of the handset shining on the console.
Allcock moved his hand to it, hovering over the SEND button. “This can’t be” he thought to himself. Pressed the button and issued his usual greeting “Allcock?”
The static through the hands free was unmistakably due to the storm but there was a background noise like a scratching or scrapping. Then a voice, deep and strong and with a tinge of malevolence that was almost hidden behind the white noise.
“Allcock, be quick man, we are waiting for you!”
He was stunned, his name sounding in his head like a gong of a temple bell.
“What?” He stammered his reply.
“I said be quick man, we are all waiting for you. Continue along the road for about another three kilometers and there is a fork. Take the left and hurry up about it!”
The imperative of the command was not lost on Allcock, a man well versed in the tone of authority and command.
Sure enough, the road forked and the left was rising away from the low lands. The storm had not changed its relentless intensity and Allcock still had to stare hard to see much of anything.
About five more kilometers along the track there was a clearing and a hut. The first sign of any inhabitancy he had seen. A solitary light shone inside the hut, clawing it way out through the slats of the window shutters.
The Volvo slid and crawled up the rise and as it crested a valley below opened up. The lights of houses and buildings all displayed before him and a sign, written in a language he could not understand must have made travelers aware of the town’s name. To the right was a sign post and for all the good it did Allcock it might have been pointing to the moon.
The phone rang again and he hit the SEND button without hesitation.
“Allcock, turn at the white sign at the road junction you will see the place and hurry man!”
The line went dead.
The road junction was a T and he turned at the white sign as instructed. In front was a large gothic building. The facade cut from some local stone that shone purple in the Volvo’s lights. There were a large number of vehicles of all shapes and sizes already parked in the lot. Some drawn by animals, well they may have been animals for Allcock had never seen anything like them before; some floating at ease and others on wheels or other rolling devices. He pulled the Volvo into a space next to an ancient Charabanc drawn by an ox like horse; the driver, sitting on the seat with his coat drawn tight around him and his hat over his face.
Allcock could not be sure but he thought the driver’s eyes glowed red in the dimness of the night. At this thought he started. Night, it was morning when all this began, now it was night, or was it the storm? He was not sure. Anyway, his interest was now piqued, time to see what all this was about.
He exited the car and as he walked to the steps leading up to the door he absentmindedly pressed the button on the little black box on his key chain. The Volvo’s indicators flashed at him and a loud “BEEP” was heard. The horse-like drawers of the Charabanc gave a start at the occurrence and the driver was shaken out of his revere shushing them as he glared at Allcock; his eyes did glow red.
The hall or meeting room was classic in its design, like everyone idea of the Supreme Court; tall ceilings and marble columns, wooden panels and shining mosaic floors. As he entered he noted the room was full, and for the first time he realized that he was no longer anywhere the rules of normality he subscribed to had any effect.
All around were people or things of different shape and look. Normally, he may have been scared by the ugliness of some and the strangeness of others but here, in this place, he sensed a correctness that transcended all he would have been fearful of.
As he entered a hush set over the room. He noticed faces, or things that were where faces would have been if those things turning where human, all looking at him. Some smiling, others looking blank, one or two with the appearance of an emotion he could not quite fathom, pity?
The voice from the car phone sounded across the room. Allcock turned to the far end of the chamber, there was a large oaken or some such bench, thirteen places were occupied by, well by things and men and men things, all dressed in black robes with red lining. The centre seat was raised and a creature that looked like a beetle head on a man’s body sat over the proceedings, pointing a white rod at Allcock.
“Brother Allcock is here.”
The room exploded with various sounds, sounds that Allcock took to be those of exclamations but not sure because most of the sounds had no meaning to his ears.
“Approach the bench man so that you may be seen.”
He did as he was told. The term “brother” rang in his ears, not sure what or who these people things were and not in the least bit aware of how any brotherhood could exist that he would be a part of in such an ethereal place.
Two large man-like things drew beside him. Dressed in leather breastplates and holding long wooden poles with chrome like coils at the ends they took each of his arms and hurried him through the crowd. They were bellowing words that sounded like “Arractnatu” or something such and Allcock reasoned it must mean “make way” or “clear a path” or some such for that is exactly what was happening.
The way the “guards” manhandled him started to concern him but in comparison to how they treated one or two of the gathering that got in their way to the bench, Allcock was being treated like royalty.
As he approached the bench he realized there was an optical trick taking place, this room was one of those slope chambers and it was far bigger and the bench further away than he first assumed. What’s more, those sitting thereon were far bigger in stature than first perceived.
They broke through the swinging doors near the bench and Allcock now realized that this was in fact a court of some sort. No doubt about it, those on the bench, sitting like some ancient order of Magistrates presiding over what ever procedures were undertaken.
The middle thing, for that was all Allcock could think of, waved a large hand which Allcock noticed almost nonchalantly had only three fingers and the guards released him and walked back to take station at the swinging doors that separated the gallery from the main court.
Allcock brushed the arms of his suit coat as if removing dirt he imagined there. The head magistrate knocked the gavel against the bench and the room came abruptly to order.
“Hear you all in this Court that we are now in session and bring forward Brother Allcock for trial and sentencing herein.”
Allcock was stunned, trial, sentencing. What was all this about.
“Allcock!” The head thing said in a voice full and strong.
“You are charged with being a nuisance to all in your dimension through the use of your motorized transport medium, causing unordinary high levels of personal hate, how do you plead?”
Allcock was now totally bamboozled, unable to speak.
“Well come along man, we don’t have all” the word was lost on Allcock but he reasoned it meant night or day or something.
“I” he paused, not sure what to say for everything the Head Magistrate had said was true, no doubt.
He pondered his answer and looked up at the bench to see all manner of faces with all manner of expressions looking down at him, one; the third from the left was licking his lips with a forked tongue, a large smile traced across his face.
“Not Guilty” he replied.
“Not Guilty?” The head man roared.
“We have proof Allcock, proof! We have documentary evidence of your years of discourteous driving, your recalcitrant behavior to other road users, why, we even have recorded footage on that device from your dimension called a CamCorder of your behavior this very day. How can you claim innocence?”
Allcock looked at the leader; he raised his shoulders defiantly and replied.
“I did the things you say but am not guilty. I am my own man Sir and I am exercising my right as a citizen to drive as I see fit and there is no court that can touch my driving record or driving style. Of that I am certain!” Allcock noted a rye smile flick across the leader’s countenance.
“So you believe it is acceptable to be a hindrance to all concerned as long as you can justify your actions according to the law, it that what you are saying? It that the way the law works in your world?”
“Of course! I have done nothing wrong, for goodness sakes I am considering membership to the magistrature in my own place.”
Allcock was now thinking of it all as his and their places, he had always adapted well to any situation.
“So I am not concerned in these matters.” His final sentence was piqued with a finality that was born of absolute conviction.
The room fell silent, the leader moved the hand sans a finger to his chins; he had two; and scratched.
He turned and muttered to the rest of the tribunal and looked back to Allcock.
“Well there is no doubt you are a man of conviction Allcock I will give you that. Now, we know of you because of the hate you have generated. You see, we monitor such things across the cosmos and across the dimensions. We have observed your activities and you have fallen outside the acceptable envelope for your time and place.”
He looked down at Allcock and stressed the point with a finger pointed directly at him.
“And this will never do!”
Allcock went to speak but the leader stopped him by holding up the digit deprived hand.
“Now, we like you all the same for we do not judge you actions so much as your effect on others. Given your surety in your self and your obvious dedication to your activities, there is a place for you here; a place on this august tribunal, your legal training is of great interest to us.” Allcock relaxed at hearing this, thinking “well it can’t be all that bad” when the leader continued.
“We do not condone movement in the fabric just the same and for us to allow you to go unpunished would never do. So, we need to do just that.”
He looked at Allcock, his eyes shinning a dull orange in the low light of the chamber, flicking in the light of the lanterns and torches on the walls. Instantly he appeared ominous to Allcock, but then he smiled a little and Allcock could see his mouth had two rows of teeth, a bit like a shark jaw he had seen recently at the National Museum.
“We have discussed this amongst ourselves and have decided that your punishment should be minor but exact; something to get our point across and, once served, teach you of our ideals so that if you are raised to the panel, you will understand that here, a different set of rules and realities apply.”
Allcock nodded, not really sure of what all this meant but knowing that, at the end of it, he may finally get to his true position in the scheme of things, something he had been striving for all his life.
He nodded. The leader jotted something onto the scroll in front of him. Then stood and addressed the crowd.
“In the matter of the tribunal versus Allcock for disturbing the fabric of normal feelings we find the defendant guilty.”
A mummer fled through the crowd and then died down as the leader hit the gavel against the bench top.
“The punishment will be exacted immediately. We sentence Allcock to serve a day as a changeling of sorts in his time.”
He hit the gavel twice which Allcock was sure signified that the sentence had been bought down.
He had no idea what a changeling was at all; his world started to spin, as if some instant vertigo had take hold of him.
He heard the room swell in sound as his vision formed a tunnel, and receded. He continued to spin then all went dark.
He looked up. Disorientated. The surroundings familiar, soft, warm. A sock? It was a giant sock; his vision was like a kaleidoscope all things from different angles, a pants cuff, a shoe, a key ring high above, to the left a console. He was in a car, a giant car, a Volvo. He went to move and realized that he was crawling not walking, and, god he had six legs.
He stumbled and fell down the sock to the foot. Looking up he saw himself, he, he was a beetle; the beetle. Christ, he was the beetle in the car. He had been transported back to the time before he was transported there. He was the beetle that he had felt on his foot.
“NOOOOOOOO!” he screamed and it sounded like a squeaky door. As he did he felt himself flying through the air as he kicked him of his foot. Bouncing off the centre console of the Volvo his world turned upside down as he fell on his back.
“NOOOOOO DON’T!” He willed with all his might, and then it was all dark...
Allcock became another victim of Road Rage; it was bound to happen, for ever.
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