“Drop ‘em, now!” came a voice, even as we spun in its direction and raised our weapons—and quickly realized there was nothing to shoot at. Nothing visible, at any rate. What there was, however, were tiny red dots—on our foreheads, over our hearts.
“You see them. Good,” said the voice, just as cool as iced tea—the perfect accompaniment to the clatter of shifting firearms. “And now you’re going to bend down … slowly … and lay all your weapons at your feet. All right? Nooo one has to get hurt. Just do as I say … and then we can have a nice conversation. About who you are, for example. And where you’re from. And what you’re doing being dropped off by a helicopter in the middle of disputed territory. Our territory. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, and nodded at the others—and at Lazaro twice; we’d been in this situation before and he always wanted to play chicken.
Slowly everyone did it—the red dots never wavering, the rain starting to rattle against the gate.
“Is that a weed wacker?” said the voice, and was followed by laughter. “Damn.”
I heard the tapping of what turned out to be an axe head against concrete before I realized he’d stepped into a shaft of gray light. “Don’t let their laughter get to you—people used to laugh at us too.”
We watched, paralyzed, as the bearded silhouette seemed to yawn and stretch. “What can I say? All this rain—it makes me sleepy. I’ll tell you, I could really go for a Flat White about now. Two ristretto espresso shots, some whole milk steamed to perfection, a little ephemeral latte art right in the center. Sounds good, doesn’t it?” He cocked his head in the near perfect silence. “No? What you want then, a bronson? At this hour? A good, earthy black IPA, perhaps? I could go for that. Something with a nice malty backbone—good for the old ticker.” He laughed, seeming to think about it. “I know. Too conventional, right?” He shook his head. “Momma always said: she said, ‘Atticus, all your taste is in your mouth.’”
There was a thin chuckle and a few clanks of the axe. “Kind of mean, don’t you think? Anyway. That’s what she said.”
He began walking toward us—slowly, deliberately—dragging the handle, dragging its blade along the pavement.
“Look,” I said. “We didn’t come here looking for any …”
“Any what?” He stopped about four feet in front of me, close enough at last for us to have a good look at him, and what we saw seemed utterly incongruous with what Roman had told us—except, of course, for the multitude of tattoos (mostly triangles), and even more so the washboarded scar, which ran from somewhere on his scalp and through an eye (over which one lens of his dark, plastic-framed glasses had been painted black) clear to his left shoulder. That much, at least, fit. What didn’t fit was the slicked-back pompadour and long, full, meticulously-trimmed beard—Jesus, there was even product in it—nor, for that matter, the flannel lumberjack shirt and skinny jeans, not to mention the Converse sneakers. What didn’t fit, as the similarly attired men holding laser-guided rifles emerged from behind overgrown automobiles and support columns, was that the feared and formidable Skidders were, when exposed to the light of day (and not to put too fine a point on it), hipsters.
“Well doesn’t this just take the cake,” said Lazaro, and spit.
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Wayne Kyle Spitzer (born July 15, 1966) is an American author and low-budget horror filmmaker from Spokane, Washington. He is the writer/director of the short horror film, Shadows in the Garden, as well as the author of Flashback, an SF/horror novel published in 1993. Spitzer’s non-genre writing has appeared in subTerrain Magazine: Strong Words for a Polite Nation and Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History. His recent fiction includes The Ferryman Pentalogy, consisting of Comes a Ferryman, The Tempter and the Taker, The Pierced Veil, Black Hole, White Fountain, and To the End of Ursathrax, as well as The X-Ray Rider Trilogy and a screen adaptation of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows.”