TORRENTIOUS PYREEL'S DEFEAT
by DOUGLAS J. OGUREK
April 21, 2015 (The eve of Earth Day)
ne spray will do it. One spray, and one whiff.
Gregory Dryden feels the bottle of Defeat in his pocket. Its smooth surface and its half-moon shape help him tolerate the skeleton of a man before him. The Igniter wears a scroungy, bright red shirt. He jangles the huge collection of keys on his belt and eyes Dryden’s energy bars and coffee pot. “Kind of design you thinkin’ about?”
“Red. Red, and orange. Like fire? Flames and shit? Fire. You like fire, right?”
The Igniter scratches an arm that displays veins filled with God knows what. Tomorrow, Torrentious Pyreel might snap that arm. “Hey, it’s up to you buddy. You give me the sign for fastball, I throw a fastball, ya know?” His gnarled laugh hurls the stink of alcohol and cigarettes.
Dryden points to the speed boat photo he found on the Internet. “There she is.”
The Igniter’s head bobs. “Damn, she a hydroplane? I seen them in Tri-Cities. Gow, them things are . . . just whoom.” He uses a paint-stained hand to indicate speed.
“Right, flames. Fast like flames. That’s why I want flames.”
Styxy meows and curls around the sofa’s base.
The Igniter, jangling his keys, doesn’t see him. “She in the garage?”
“I was supposed to get her back today, but I got her in storage. Up in Seattle?”
“She’s nice. Beauty. How many horses awf–” He knocks a picture off the end table. The picture of Dryden after he finished the Chicago Marathon. In the top one percent. One spray and one whiff are all it takes.
The Igniter’s torso jerks. “Ah man . . . I’m . . .” He detaches the keys, holds them a foot above his head. He lets go. The keys crash onto his head, then he catches them. He repeatedly smacks his temple. “Not much goin’ on up here.”
This fool probably couldn’t run fifty feet without collapsing. And Dryden finished 332, out of 33,000. Top one percent. Dryden returns the picture. “Horses, a lot of horses. I’m not sure how many horses exactly. But she’s powerful. I call her Settle the Score.”
That laugh again. His teeth are crooked, some of them ashen. Maybe Pyreel’s four iron will knock them out. “I done some neat stuff with flames and that on Harleys. I could definitely do that with this here.”
Paint stains speckle his shirt. It says, “Mrs. Mar’s Salt Water Taffy.” That red. It jabs at Dryden. Trashy compared to the Defeat bottle’s gray.
“I seen them things in Tri-Cities. They just . . . whoom!” The hand again. Cracked, and grimy.
“Fire. Right, fast. Like fire. Whoosh.”
The Igniter squashes his tongue between his lips. He watches Styxy stretch out on the couch. Styxy and Hydrant would share that couch.
A pack of Marlboros pokes out of the Igniter’s pocket. Probably the brand he used with Hydrant.
Dryden palms the Defeat bottle still in his pocket. One spray on his skin, and one whiff by the Igniter. Then tomorrow, on Earth Day, Torrentious Pyreel snuffs out the Igniter.
April 22, 2014 (Earth Day - one year earlier)
A red light blinked on Gregory Dryden’s waist as he jogged to the middle of Flint Road, where a turtle, its shell glistening in the dusk, lumbered.
Dryden jogged in place, held up his hand toward the approaching headlights. The car, blaring music, stopped, then honked. Dryden pointed at the turtle.
The car screeched, then swerved around Dryden. It had flames painted on its sides. The female driver shouted, “Get out the way, fool.” She sped off.
Dryden compressed his lips and picked up a rock. He muttered, “Bitch, you ignorant bitch.” He whipped the rock at the street. “You’ll be a great mother someday.”
He carried the turtle down a path that divided a golf course and a pond. A waist-high fence separated the path and the course. Dryden set the turtle beside the pond. His voice raised in pitch. “I like rap music. Fool, get out my way fool. I drive a fast car.” His red light continued to flash. “Bitch, I hope your car explodes.”
Dryden looked at the moon. It was orange, and full, and something splashed in the pond.
There was a distant clapping, followed by a shout. At the far end of the golf course shone a small light.
The clapping and ensuing shout grew louder, and the light came closer.
Dryden twisted without moving his feet. “Shit. What? I can’t . . . what?”
The source of the sound and the light was a dark vehicle on the golf course.
Dryden pulled at his legs. “Come on come on. What?”
The clapping was the “Defense” song, often heard at basketball games. Clapping, followed by “DE-FENSE.” But this one didn’t say “DE-FENSE.” It said “OF-FENSE.” And after each repetition of “OF-FENSE,” a man’s shouts reached the path.
The vehicle stopped on the course. It was fifty feet from Dryden. The clapping stopped, and there was a groan.
Sweat on Dryden’s face. “Hey, can you give me a hand here? I’m stuck here. I can’t move.”
The vehicle had many curves, and was black, except for “4.22” in a thin, glowing orange font. An illuminated orange line wrapped around the shadow figure that drove the cart. The figure wore a golf hat.
“Hey, I’m stuck right here. I’m stuck.”
The other voice came from behind the vehicle. “Ya stupid shit. Let me out ya shit.” A man lay on the golf course. A cord ran from his ankle to the back of the vehicle.
April 21, 2015
The Igniter glares at the coffee so much that Dryden offers him a cup. Why not? It’ll likely be his last.
Shakily the Igniter pours creamer and keeps pouring it. Must be about a quarter of the bottle he uses. “So when’s your boat come back?” He slurps, releases an “ahh” as irritating as his shirt.
The Defeat bottle feels cool. “Soon enough.”
Styxy flows around the leg of a chair. The Igniter’s tongue bulges—it looks like a piece of raw meat—and his hand rises slightly. He twitches. Redness where the keys struck. “I never been in one a them. I mean, speed boats, yeah. But not them hydroplanes.”
“They’ll mess you up, if you’re not careful.” Just like Pyreel will tomorrow.
The Igniter laughs and coughs. Some of his coffee spills onto the floor. He snorts. His body jerks. “Aw man. Aw, I’m not very . . .” He snorts, detaches the keys.
“No no. Don’t . . . sheez. You don’t need to do that.” He’ll pay later.
The Igniter looks around. He jerks again. He removes his shoe, then his sock. He uses the sock to wipe up the spill. He murmurs, “Pops was right. Pops pops pops.”
April 22, 2014
The back of the vehicle shone a light on the course, where the man writhed and groaned. “Ah ya dumb shit. My foot ah my . . .”
The driver hopped out. The orange line started at his throat and wound around his torso, his arms, and his legs. Everything else—his golf hat, his head, his knickers—was featureless black.
Dryden’s red jogging light blinked. He smacked his legs. “Hey, over here. I’m stuck here. Can you give me a hand over here please?”
The golfer sprinted toward Dryden. The orange of the line matched that of the moon. He did a series of backflips, then landed a double-flip next to the fence. “Whoosh. Now you can’t beat that.”
“Can you give me a hand? For some reason–”
The golfer tossed a hand. It landed at Dryden’s feet.
“Oh sheez. What? A hand. That’s . . . what? For some reason . . . is that a hand?”
“Eeeeasy. Discover what happened to your dog.”
“Is that a hand? My dog? Hydrant? I lost . . . what? That’s a hand.”
The golfer jumped onto the fence. “Now let’s see you beat this.” He danced, and the wood smoked.
The man behind the vehicle sat up. “Ah, ya stupid shit. Ya broke my foot ah ya dumb shit.”
The golfer wiggled his fingers at the man and spoke to Dryden. “Can you guess what’s the matter with Mr. Torchy over there?”
“No. That hand, is that his hand? No. My dog, what do you . . . I’m stuck here.”
The golfer, still on the fence, wiggled his fingers and addressed the moon. “Should I help this potential teammate? I’m on the fence.” His laugh released the smell of gasoline. He leaned toward Dryden. He had no face. Just blackness. “Torrentious Pyreel at your vengeance. I look out for this little Earthy.”
Mr. Torchy rolled to his side. “Hey, ya dumb shit. This hurts.”
Pyreel backflipped off the fence, waltzed back to the vehicle, and then drank from a sports bottle. Singing the word “win” to the “Chariots of Fire” melody, Pyreel set up two folding chairs facing each other. He sat Mr. Torchy in one, then lifted the man’s foot onto the other. He handed Mr. Torchy the sports bottle and then climbed onto the vehicle’s roof.
Mr. Torchy spit out the fluid. “Gah what the ffff gas? Gas? You got gasoline in here? It’s gas. Yuh.”
Dryden leaned forward, then put his hands on the fence. “Can you please help me over here please?”
Pyreel leapt off the vehicle and shouted, “Whoosh.” He landed on the man’s knee. The leg bowed between the chairs and cracked. Mr. Torchy screamed and rolled off the chair.
Dryden pushed himself upright. He breathed quickly. He grunted and twisted and pulled at his legs.
Pyreel used the sports bottle to spray Mr. Torchy’s knee. “Ah, God. Ah, no. That’s gas in there ah ya stupid shit that’s gas.”
Pyreel, hoisting a torch, and singing “win” again, jogged back to Dryden. “Now here’s a discovery: Mr. Torchy, our friend over there? He abused a piggy.”
“A pig? You mean a pig? Listen. I’m stuck here. Can you . . . I’m stuck.”
“He broke the piggy’s leg. Then he used a blow torch on it. Now I like piggies. They’re part of this little Earthy.” Pyreel trotted back to Mr. Torchy, then tossed down the torch. The knee burst into flames and Mr. Torchy wailed.
“Holy sheez I’m stuck . . . you set him . . . I’m stuck.”
Pyreel ground his golf spikes on Mr. Torchy’s knee until the flames went out. Mr. Torchy blubbered.
Then Pyreel jammed a tee into Mr. Torchy’s eye. Mr. Torchy shrieked and pounded the ground.
Pyreel held his feet together, and then, as if skiing, hopped back to the vehicle. He talked over Mr. Torchy. “Now discover: Mr. Torchy beat that piggy with a baseball bat.”
Mr. Torchy pulled out the tee. He jerked and spluttered. “Ah ya shit, no. Mistake. No no. Come on it was . . . gah.”
Instead of a headcover, a hand missing a thumb covered the club that Pyreel selected. He said, “Four iron,” then tossed the club into the air. He spun and his orange line glowed, and the orange moon displayed the club at its apex. The club came back down, then Pyreel caught it. “Whoosh. Beat that.”
Dryden shouted, “Hey, I’m stuck, all right? You can’t . . . I’m stuck.”
Pyreel set the ball on Mr. Torchy’s injured knee. The club swung back. There was the smell of burnt flesh, and the club thumped into the leg. Mr. Torchy groaned.
Pyreel twirled the club as he marched back to the fence.
Sweat dripped off Dryden. “I’m stuck. Am I nuts?”
“Eeeeasy. Realize those who’ve been given the gift of this little Earthy hack down its trees so the wealthy can hit balls into holes. Now isn’t that nuts?”
“Are you some kind of . . .”
“Discover me, and discover you. Haven’t you seen someone kick a pigeon and wanted to kick him back? Now I’m your foot. Have you ever seen a kid pinch a kitty and want to pinch that kid back? I am your fingers.”
Dryden showed his teeth. “He tortured a pig?”
“Yes, teammate.” Pyreel twisted one of his orange lines into a smile and then wiggled his fingers at the writhing Mr. Torchy. “Discover: he used a tractor to drag the creature. He slammed the piggy against a pole.” Thrusting the club as if fencing, Pyreel strode back to Mr. Torchy.
White fluid glistened on the man’s face. He whimpered as Pyreel dragged him by the feet to a golf ball cleaner. Pyreel placed Mr. Torchy’s legs on either side of the metal pole.
Dryden wiped his face. “He’s had enough. Hasn’t he had enough?”
“Now that piggy had enough. Hasn’t this Earthy had enough of Mr. Torchy?” Pyreel grabbed both of Mr. Torchy’s feet, then repeatedly rammed his crotch into the pole. “Now . . . you . . . can’t . . . beat . . . this.”
Dryden’s red light flashed. “A pig. He tortured it.”
Pyreel removed a four-foot-long turkey baster from his golf bag. He stepped into an outhouse, then closed the door.
Mr. Torchy arched his back and wheezed. “Ah, this shit. Gah, sir, hey yuh sir . . . get over here and help me. Please. This guy . . .”
“But you tortured . . . I’m stuck here.”
The outhouse door opened. Pyreel hoisted the baster, and his orange line glowed. Dark fluid filled the baster. “Another discovery: Mr. Torchy put a hose in that piggy’s mouth. Its eyes bulged, and the piggy drowned.”
Mr. Torchy thrashed. “Ah, yuh . . . mistake it was a mistake, okay?”
Pyreel placed the end of the baster in Mr. Torchy’s mouth, then squeezed the ball at the top. Mr. Torchy gagged. Clumpy fluid seeped down his face. It smelled of urine and excrement.
“He tortured . . .” Dryden hunched. “He tortured that pig.”
Pyreel returned to the fence. He started to roll a strip of sod.
Dryden raised his hand. “My dog. My dog Hydrant? What do you know about my dog?”
“And when the piggy was dead, Mr. Torchy did one more thing.”
Mr. Torchy thrashed and made retching sounds.
Dryden stood straight, and his jogging light flashed. “Mr. Torchy’s guilty.”
“My teammate.” Pyreel, cradling a thin roll of sod as if it were a football, ran in slow motion toward Mr. Torchy.
Mr. Torchy raised his hand, then dropped it.
Pyreel’s orange line beamed. He hoisted the sod above Mr. Torchy and danced. “Sod-o-me. Whoosh.”
April 21, 2015
One spray and one whiff will do it.
The Igniter’s head bobs, and he stuffs the coffee-stained sock into his pocket. “Not a whole lot goin’ on upstairs.” He holds up the cup. “Mind if I heat the rest of this up?”
“Go ahead.” Dryden will disinfect the microwave buttons later.
The Igniter, that tongue swelling out, flips through the shabby pages of his portfolio. Low-quality photos of cars, motorcycles, boats. All painted in garish colors and designs. He snorts. “Here, I wanted to show you . . .” Between the photos are sketches of skeletons, snakes, dragons. The kinds of things that cover carnival-goers’ arms. All so unlike Pyreel’s restrained vehicle, with its slender “4.22.”
“Here here. Look it here.” The paint-stained finger shakes above an image of a motorcycle with flames painted on it. The slob on it looks like the kind of guy who kicks pigeons for fun. The Igniter belches. “That thing’s what? Four hundred horses I think? Just whoom. He asked me to paint some horse thing or something on the thing and I go, ‘No, no. You don’t need no horse. You need flames, man.’”
“Horses are for girls, right? Girls and glue?”
The Igniter releases his phlegmy laugh and the microwave beeps. He starts it for another minute. The back of his Mrs. Mar’s shirt says, “The taste that sticks.”
The Igniter returns to the portfolio. “There’s another–” Styxy jumps onto the table. The Igniter takes a step back. His tongue balls out and he twists his shirt. “Good . . . I had . . . good boy.”
The Defeat bottle curves subtly, and potently.
The Igniter flips to an image of a boat. “Look it. This sucker? Gow, you should see this sucker go.” A green, yellow, and light blue color scheme. Childish. But he’s also painted vines, black and thorny, that crawl over it. On the back, the boat says, “Eat My Wake.” How subtle. “The guy that owns this thing? He does all kinds of stunts stuff.”
From Dryden’s phone flows the largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
The Igniter looks down, flicks his hand at the phone. “You gonna?”
“Nah, just listen. I like this song.” Hydrant had pointy ears and black spots on his tongue, and his nails clacked on the floor.
The Igniter snorts, scratches his stubbly neck. His body jerks. Then he talks right over the song. “Stuntman, yeah, a stuntman. He does stunts. You know, one a them movie stuntman? Does stuff with explosions and cars and all that?”
The song stops. Dryden takes out the Defeat bottle. “Flames. I want some big fucking flames.”
Styxy rubs against the corner of the portfolio.
“Yeah, he’s been in some movies. Movies with stunts and car chases and that?”
One of the Igniter’s sketches shows a big boot about to crush some cartoon characters. Dryden asks about it.
“My dad, he had boots like these here. These big-ass black stompers?” Delicately the Igniter slides the portfolio from under Styxy’s paw. He snorts. “But flames, yeah. I can do some flames.”
Tomorrow, flames will do him. Dryden fingers the thin orange line that joins the cap and the bottle. The line that allies Pyreel and him. Teammates.
The microwave beeps. The Igniter jerks.
April 22, 2014
The moon was orange, and large.
Sod pieces surrounded the groaning Mr. Torchy, who, with one leg bent unnaturally, lay naked from the waist down.
Torrentious Pyreel bounced on his head in front of Dryden. “Now you can’t beat this.”
“My dog. You mentioned my dog?”
Pyreel leapt, slapped his orange-wound knickers, and then threw back his head and thrust up his hands.
“Hydrant, my dog Hydrant? I don’t know what happened to him. Do you?”
Pyreel wiggled his fingers at the moon. “Discover.”
The moon expanded, and its orange faded. It showed a man, thin and balding, holding a bottle, and stumbling. Two other men laughed at him. They were in a yard, and there was a dog.
Dryden huffed. “The moon’s . . . that’s Hydrant.”
“Now observe: the one with the bottle. The Igniter. What do you suppose he did?”
“Hydrant got off his leash. What do you mean Igniter? I looked for Hydrant. I mean everywhere. Who are these guys?”
One of the men gave the Igniter a bottle rocket. Wobbling, the Igniter put it in a beer bottle, then used his cigarette to light it. The rocket shot out. It landed five feet from Hydrant. It burst in the grass and the dog pranced away from it.
Dryden used his shirt to wipe his face. “A rocket? That’s a bottle rocket. Who are these guys?”
“They can’t beat us.”
The Igniter staggered, fell. The men squirted ketchup on his head and laughed. They talked to him and gave him a small cylinder with a wick. Then the Igniter, his tongue wadded between his lips, tottered to Hydrant. He taped the cylinder to one of the dog’s forepaws, then lit it.
“Sheez, who are these . . . I took off work. I looked for him. Who’s this . . . five days. I took off for five days, and I looked for him.”
“Eeeeasy. I am your teammate.”
Hydrant sniffed at the smoking object, then began to walk. The cylinder exploded. Pieces of the dog’s paw and leg scattered.
“No no no. That’s his paw. That’s his paw. Who is . . .” Dryden’s voice cracked. The red jogging light blinked. “Who is this fucker?”
Hydrant, his paw gone, limped, and then fell.
The Igniter sat cross-legged on the grass. A football hit his forehead. He fell back. The other men laughed.
“This guy . . . who is this shit? That’s his paw. Hydrant, his paw. You’ll get this guy?”
“Now your doggie was part of this little Earthy.”
The moon showed the two men lift the Igniter. His head bobbed, and he touched his ketchup-smeared forehead. The others gave him a white plastic bottle and then pointed at Hydrant. The creature licked its bloody stump.
The Igniter shook his head, stepped backwards. The men talked to him and he swayed. Stumblingly the Igniter returned to the dog, then squirted fluid from the bottle onto the animal.
“Oh sheez no. Look, I looked for like five days. Come on, who is this? I put up signs and I looked.”
Flames covered Hydrant. Veeringly he ran, on three legs. He crashed into a bush.
Dryden crouched, growled. The red flashed. He picked stones off the path. He hurled them at the moon. “That fucker. Take care of that fucker. Like with this guy here. You’ll take care of him?”
The orange returned to the moon, and it contracted.
“We will avenge your doggie. Our team.” Pyreel held a half-moon-shaped gray bottle. “Next year, on the eve of Earth Day, spray this on your skin, and let the Igniter smell it.” He set the bottle on a fence post, and then, swinging a machete like a tennis racket, rushed toward Mr. Torchy.
Dryden gripped his light. “But then what?”
“Then whoosh. On Earthy Day, it’s our team’s turn: we get a shot at the Igniter.”
“How do I find the bastard?”
“Discover him at Childress & Harmon Auto Body.”
Dryden’s hand flashed red. “Earth Day. Next year.”
Mr. Torchy shifted. Pyreel stood over him and pointed the machete at the moon. “Discover: I call that scent Defeat. Deee-feat.” He chopped off one of Mr. Torchy’s feet.
Dryden stomped. “Defeat, Defeat.”
Pyreel’s vehicle jumped over the fence, over the path, and then, dragging Mr. Torchy behind it, disappeared in the pond.
Dryden took the bottle, then ran toward Flint Road.
April 21, 2015
The Igniter removes from the microwave the steaming cup. “Good. Nice and good and bubbly.”
Dryden fingers the orange line of the still-capped Defeat bottle. One spray will do it.
Styxy meows, rubs against the portfolio.
The Igniter snorts. His shoelaces are untied. “Them were some big-ass boots. And them things, man? They hurt.” He rubs his rear end, and his laugh reveals a complete lack of dental care.
Dryden rolls up his sleeve. He’ll spray his forearm.
Styxy purrs, and the Igniter walks to the sink.
Dryden uncaps the Defeat.
The Igniter tilts back his head. “That spill, ya know? Not much goin’ on up here.” He jabs his fingers into his temple.
Dryden puts his finger on the nozzle, and the Igniter makes a strange noise. Something between a squeal and a grunt.
Styxy jumps off the table, knocks over the portfolio.
“Eyeyah that hurts.” The Igniter makes the sound again. Sounds like a wounded animal. He pours the steaming coffee on his hand. “Here ya go. For the coffee I spilled.” He breathes quickly, and dumps more.
“Sheez, what are you doing? Come on. It’s coffee. It’s a little coffee.”
The Igniter turns around. His hand, almost as red as his shirt, dangles before his chest. A welt has formed on his head. “Yeah, I’m a goofball. Not much goin’ on upstairs.”
Styxy’s blue eyes peek around the refrigerator.
Dryden caps the Defeat, then sets it on the counter. He picks up the portfolio. “All right, what about blues? Blues and greens. Like water? Can you do anything with greens and blues?”
Douglas J. Ogurek’s fiction appears in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Blood Moon Rising, British Fantasy Society Journal,Fever Dreams, The Literary Review, Morpheus Tales, Perihelion Science Fiction, Pulp Metal Magazine, Schlock Magazine, and several anthologies. Ogurek founded the literary subgenre known as unsplatterpunk, which uses splatterpunk conventions (e.g., extreme violence, gore, taboo subject matter) to deliver a Christian message. He also reviews films at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. More at www.douglasjogurek.weebly.com.
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