Fearless Tom fears nothing, but maybe he should fear the gods.
Frank A. Schury has been published in Silver Moon, Nocturnal Ooze, Tales From the Moonlit Path, The Cynic, Fantastic Horror, Byzarium, Another Realm, Forever Underground Magazines and Tales of the Undead/Suffer Eternal Anthology.
He resides in Suffolk County, NY.
By Frank A. Schury
His boot heel connected squarely with the biker’s face, and he felt bone and tissue snap like dry kindling. Again, he brought his foot down, this time shattering the ribcage. The man, he was a big bastard weighing well over three hundred, rolled in the gravel whimpering. He wasn’t a club member but if he had been, it wouldn’t make a difference. Jesus Christ himself couldn’t get away with bumping the shoulder of Fearless Tom Dwyer. As he often said over a double shot of whiskey, his own reflection knew better than to look him in the eye. When you were afraid of nothing, you had nothing to lose.
It was a clear night, the moon providing light where the lampposts didn’t. Though he’d never owned a motorcycle, he liked the biker bars for the booze, music and women, not in particularly that order. He’d done time in the state lockup for half of his life. Assault mostly, with a few public intoxications in the mix. When the judge sentenced him, he’d laughed. When the Ebony Nation threatened him in the cell block, he laughed. Why? They couldn’t do anything to him that he couldn’t handle.
Self-educated and employed, he relied on and trusted no one. Most of what he learned was from books and the street. Repo jobs kept money in his pocket. He’d started with a local company several years ago and had a thirty-eight snub nose stuck in his face during his first repossession. Apparently, the owner loved his Ford pickup and was willing to shoot him to keep it. With a hearty belly laugh, he‘d swatted the pistol away, before dropping the man. From that moment, he was hooked, taking all the jobs that the other agents didn’t want. That business got him a home and his Charger. What else did he need?
This son of a bitch must have been a stranger just passing through. Otherwise, he would’ve known to stay clear of Tom Dwyer. Now, here he was, crawling in the parking lot covered with puke and piss.
He reached into the man’s back pocket snapping the wallet off the chain that was connected to his belt strap. He took the two fifties, knelt down, and whacked the biker on top of the head with a gloved hand.
“Wrong bar you stopped into, son.”
The man squinted up at him, his face resembling a Halloween mask. He tried to speak but vomited. His next attempt went better, if not slurred. “You’ll pay… not by me but… you’ll pay. Odin and Thor will avenge me…”
Standing up, he felt his knees pop. He was getting older, but still believed he could beat Father Time too. It was all how you looked at things.
“Listen, Sweety. Your gods aren’t gonna help you now or take me down later. Even if I believed in that pagan nonsense, I’d say that Odin and Thor better step aside when I walk by. Tom Dwyer isn’t scared of gods either.”
The biker’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and then he was motionless. He’d whispered one more word.
By the time he walked back to his Dodge, parked far from the beat up pieces of crap that occupied the lot, he was in better spirits. He used a bandanna that he kept in his back pocket to clean the blood off his boots before getting into Old Tammy. She’d be temperamental if her upholstery got stained. The engine roared to life with one key turn. Although she’d needed a facelift (he rebuilt the engine last year), she overall held up well for her age.
The rear tires sprayed gravel in all directions as he accelerated out of the lot onto blacktop. Within seconds, he had her up to sixty on the open road. There wasn’t much traffic at this time of night. Most residents were farmers, early to bed and up with the roosters. He wasn’t worried about the cops. They knew his Charger and wouldn’t pull him over if he buried the needle. Hell, he’d done business with the local force and was on a first name basis with most of them. Things went missing from the repossessed vehicles; a headlight here, radio there, and such. The banks probably knew the deal, but really didn’t care. They were just happy to have their property back so they could get them to auctions and cover the loans. The recovery fee went into his pocket with the little extra on the side.
The biker wouldn’t say anything either, when he woke up. Even if he was stupid enough, no one would corroborate with his story. Fearless Tom was known in town.
He pulled in his driveway and then killed the engine. The house was neat but simple, a ranch with a faded white clapboard finish and black tiled roof. It didn’t have a garage but he’d put up a car port to keep his baby out of the elements. Most of the time, he wouldn’t lock her doors. No one would try to steal from him.
There was silence upon entering his home, something that he cherished. Jake sat up when he walked in but didn’t approach. He was a big Rotti and smart too. Tom liked dogs but didn’t want them crowding him.
He walked straight to the bathroom that became all together too bright with a flick of the wall switch. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust before he found the sink faucet and turned it on. There was a bar of brown soap, strong stuff not the flowery kind, which he worked into a lather. The soap felt good on his head, face, and thick, grey beard as well as his arms, as he tried to get the stink of the biker off him.
A boom from overhead made him jump. There was vigorous tapping against the window above the shower stall as if the glass was being pelted by small stones. He brushed suds out of his eyes before reaching up to crank it open. There was little to see but darkness until that was illuminated by a flash. Upon closer inspection, there were small crystals of ice stuck in the screen.
An electric storm with sleet in June? Unusual, not just because of the time of year, but based on the fact that the sky was clear just minutes earlier. The effect was fleeting and a yawn escaped him as he closed the window.
Warm water cascaded over his head and face when he bent down to the sink. He allowed it to run down his arms before grabbing the terry cloth towel that hung from a nail. This he used to dry off and then dropped it onto the floor. A stranger stared back at him from the mirror.
That face was clean. By clean, meaning no hair, eyebrows included. He continued to look at the man waiting for a punch line that wouldn’t come. The joke was on him; his goddamn beard and eyebrows were gone. He hadn’t scrubbed that hard, had he? Even so, hair didn’t fall out that easily unless there was something very wrong. He tore himself away from the reflection long enough to pick up the towel. There he found the missing beard and eye brows; they’d come off in whole pieces rather than small clumps. Hell, it looked like one of those cheap disguises he bought through the mail when he was a kid. This couldn’t be good.
He dumped the towel into the garbage next to the shower with a sigh. What could he do? Worrying was not his thing. Sure, he could find a whole boat load of medical conditions on the internet but what would that accomplish? Fearless Tom didn’t go to doctors.
When he reached to turn off the light, his mood changed. There was a strange queasiness in his belly that was unfamiliar. This was matched by confusion that immediately triggered a throbbing in his temples.
His arms were smooth. Hair was absent but more significantly, also was the thirty years of ink that he’d gotten during his travels. Each of his tattoos was part of a timeline; good, bad and somewhere in between. Now, they were gone. Where the hell did they go? Except for his facial hair, the towel was clean.
He left the bathroom, cursing at no one. An exotic skin condition is something that he didn’t need at the moment and this forced him to reconsider his earlier position. After digging in the kitchen drawer, deep in the mess of rusted screwdrivers and bottle openers, he found the crumpled business card of the free clinic. The call was picked up after one ring.
“Westfield Clinic.” The woman had a squeaky voice and he immediately decided that he hated her.
“Yeah, Tom Dwyer here. I have a serious skin problem and I hoped you could give me some direction.”
“What seems to be the problem?” squeaky replied.
“There’s some sort of skin irritation.”
“Can you describe it?”
“My hair’s gone.”
“Gone, like not there goddamn it.”
“Please don’t curse, sir.”
He felt anger rise up but he slapped it down. “Sorry for seeming upset, dear, but I just walked into my bathroom with a beard, eyebrows , and tattoos and walked out without them. Came right off. Now that’s gotta be in a medical dictionary somewhere- I neeth sumb medicaa-.”
The ability to articulate words was gone and there was a wet sound of something flopping onto the counter. He reached down to pick up the slug which almost slipped out of his grip. It was moist and warm in his hand. He held it up into the light and then staggered toward the fridge once he realized what it really was. Kicking open the freezer, he dropped his tongue into a half-eaten quart of frozen yogurt. Somewhere in the deep recess of his mind, he was aware that the cordless phone was on the floor and that the voice on the other end was calling his name. Since he couldn’t speak, he ignored the phone and instead grabbed his car keys. Body parts needed to be kept cold for re-attachment and he was sure time was a factor…
The yogurt container fell onto the living room floor with his left hand still grasping it. When he examined the arm, there was no bleeding, and it was as if the hand had just snapped off cleanly. Drool oozed from his mouth as he bent down to pick it up with his good hand.
He tripped on the rug on his way out the front door and almost lost his balance. Jake growled happily, a lower leg that ended in a boot clenched between his teeth.
He began to laugh uncontrollably, as he hopped toward Old Tammy. He made it to the driver’s door and worked the key into the lock but could not hold onto the container. When he bent over to pick it up, there was a clicking sound and pieces of his face rained down, a storm of flesh on the barren lawn.
I’m not afraid, not afraid, I can beat this.
He managed to get into the driver seat, but when he turned the ignition key, that hand disconnected from his arm. Using the inside of his forearms, he put the car into gear and pressed the gas pedal slowly. There was the same clicking sound from the remaining leg when he did so, but it held. Once out of the driveway, he shifted in drive and accelerated.
The clinic was a half mile away. Hunched over, he steered with his arms only pausing to look into the rear mirror. A monster was in the mirror, empty caverns where a nose and two ears should have been. One of his eyes dangled from the socket by a string of intertwined nerves and blood vessels.
His breath fogged the mirror, mercifully blocking out the image. Letters began to form in the cloud and eventually he made out a word.
A smile spread across what was left of his face. He didn’t notice the driveway to the clinic until he was past it. Applying the brake, he was thrown forward as the Charger’s front end dropped and then it fishtailed on the blacktop. A large maple stopped its slide. There was the crunch of metal on wood and he was propelled out of the passenger window onto the roadway.
With the use of his remaining eye, he had a view of the double yellow line dividing the roadway as he lay on his side. He was a human torso, his leg not making the trip with him out of the car. What was left of him, hurt. Using the nubs that remained of his upper arms and legs, he slowly rocked and then rolled toward the shoulder. Although blurry, he could make out what appeared to be an ambulance’s taillights flashing. With each revolution, he gained confidence.
Hell, they have prosthetics that look more real than originals. Tom Dwyer can be rebuilt better than Lee Majors.
A battle was taking place overhead, lightning and thunder filling the sky. He was within a few feet of the driveway edge when yellow light flooded his already limited vision. There was the sound of a horn, and the smell of burnt rubber and oil. A scream fueled by terror escaped but was cut short by the tires of the rig as they passed over him.