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Mari Anne Summers Allison Beth Summers Beloved Mother, Wife Beloved Daughter, Sister 1940 - 1996 1976 - 1996
I've come out here for eight years on the anniversary of the car accident and it still hurts so damned much. The therapists all said it would take time. Fuck time.
My father doesn't come any more. Five years ago, he met Marilyn, a woman in her thirties, and remarried. For the first time since Mom and Allison died, he was getting on with his life. I thought I'd be happy for him, but after Marilyn convinced him to put us behind him, I'm pissed that he doesn't come around.
A blank space for my father waits next to my mother's name on the tombstone and another, with Allison's name and dates, is just to the right. And yeah, there's another space on the tombstone next to Allison's name, but I don't look at it. They should all be empty.
I kneel before the headstones and look from one to the other as if my mother and Allison sit there, hanging out.
"Another year," I say. "I'm still in New York." I glance at my mother's headstone. "And still single." There's some comfort in this monologue; it's a connection between here and hereafter. Maybe God opens up a radio frequency down to the living so that my mother and Allison can hear me and know that I still care about them.
My mother would tell me to get on with my life. "I'm living. I have my gigs and my job at the bookstore. I just can't keep a girlfriend for very long, that's all." Looking around the cemetery, I wish things were different. "I miss you guys so much."
The man who slammed head on into them at sixty miles an hour didn't die. Mr. Walker couldn't explain what happened, though he said he didn't do anything wrong. Bullshit. Was the car possessed? He said that he was driving along and then the car took off on him. Serene Southern Drive turned into a collision scene so brutal that they had to pick pieces of bark from Allison's skull and-it was just real fucking bad.
My mother and Allison were driving to the supermarket for groceries. The seatbelts had been released seconds before the accident. The police said the two belts hadn't even fully retracted. What the hell happened? The only answer my father and I got was that it was a malfunction. They hadn't gotten them completely on yet. Who expects a sixty-seven-year old man to suddenly play hot rod chicken?
"Sometimes I think about getting the old band together. It's kind of in honor of you guys and doing tributes and making you proud of me. I think it's just so I can see Katarina again. But after all that happened, it's a bad idea." I sigh. "I'm not as together as I want to be. None of my relationships last more than six months." I shake my head. "You don't need to hear this ... shit. Yeah, I've been cursing a lot lately. Better than punching people." I stand up. "I just wanted to say hi and ask you to give Grandma and Grandpa my love." I glance up at the sky as if my grandparents are looking down on me.
Is there an afterlife? Do we reincarnate for another go round? I'd like to think there's something more than worm food waiting for me at the end of my life, but I can't say what. Maybe I'll see my grandparents, my mother and Allison; maybe I'll see New York City one more time.
"See you guys soon." I don't actually mean it. I just say it like I do to practically everyone I know. I'm about to walk away from the graves, when something like someone's tentative touch brushes my arm. I turn back, half expecting to see Allison standing there with her teenage girl smile that melted all the boys' hearts.
A hot breeze abruptly kicks up.
"Take care, Rick," a woman whispers like a breeze.
But no one's here, just my anger, loneliness, and me. Fifty yards away, a man in shorts and a T-shirt digs at a fresh grave. He shimmers like a mirage in this retched heat. He stops and stares at me. Goosebumps break out on my skin and I shudder with fear that I can't place. Why be scared of a gravedigger?
The heat must be messing with me; I usually don't hear people's voices trickle through my brain. I place a stone on the top of each headstone and offer a prayer of safekeeping; I'm not a religious man, but for family, it feels right.
I head back to the old, dirty taxi waiting on the narrow road that runs through the cemetery. A growing pile of dark earth obscures the gravedigger, but it's strange that he's digging someone up. I shudder again. It's just my imagination running away with me.
I'm mildly annoyed that my nerves are getting the better of me when I should be somber and peaceful. The memories of my life before the accident are good and that's what I always hold on to when I go home.
The breeze swirls up from the ground, sighing with desperate loneliness that sends a chill through me. I imagine that a sigh so terribly alone should be reserved for very old widows, widowers or ...
Knock it off, Summers, it's bright daylight in the middle of July. The dead don't come out this time of day, only at night when it's not this blisteringly hot. Maybe they're smarter than we are.
The driver's door closes as I get back in the cab, lost in sadness and memories. I stare back up the hill at the two headstones. I don't want to leave, but how long am I going to sit here, especially with the cab's meter running? The trip back to the city shouldn't take too long, though I'm in no rush to get back to my apartment that's going to be Hellish with useless fans barely pushing suffocating air around.
"I'm ready," I say and the cab pulls forward. "Back to the city."
I start sweating almost immediately and then I get a strong whiff of rotten meat.
"Wanna turn the A/C on?" I stare at my mother's and sister's headstones, then others that dot the green grass as the cab slowly pulls away from the curb. Something thumps against the driver's side of the car and the back tire rolls over it.
"What the hell was that?" I cautiously move to the window and look out. Nothing. I glance out the back of the car.
The cab driver lies on the road behind us, his head attached to his body by bloody strands of muscle, his eyes staring blankly after his car. I'm suddenly nauseous, made worse by the stench, and light-headed from the abrupt unrealness of the taxi cab driver lying on the road, practically decapitated. My sweaty hands stick to the vinyl seats and I wipe them on my pants.
"Hey!" Stricken with a sense of dread, I turn to see who's driving. A woman's face reflects in the rearview mirror and I think: she's dead. The thought zips through my mind, exploding like a Fourth of July firework. The driver is a dead woman in her mid twenties. Maybe she's not dead. But her skin is that odd shade of dead blue that you see in zombie movies.
I look over where I saw the gravedigger. He's face down on the ground and it looks like the coffin lid is open. Ah, crap.
I glance back at the driver. It's definitely a young woman. My curiosity is stronger than my good sense to flee and I lean forward. My big mistake. The driver's head turns slowly on a stiff neck.
Your neck would be stiff too if you were dead in a box in the ground for-
I gasp and throw myself back. The dead doll eyes tremble and stare through me. The lips, devoid of color, form a wordless sigh. The make-up covering the bullet hole in her forehead is gone, leaving a blackish-red circle filled with thick ooze. A fly crawls around the circle looking for something to eat. But it's not until I hear a sound, a word, that I realize I'm in a shitload of trouble.
My heart races in my chest. My breath is so unsteady that if I try talking I'll stutter. But my mind's not working to speak. What would I say anyway? Please stop, I'd like to get out now? Yeah, like that happens in all the horror movies.
I don't know how the dead girl got out of the grave, but I'm not staying in here. I grab for the passenger side back door handle, but the lock descends into the door and all I can do is jiggle the handle.
Okay, Rick, stay calm. Stay calm? I can't catch a good breath between the terror that's crushing me and the unbearable heat that's tortured by the smell of this thing. I roll the window down, but no one's around to help me. I glance back at the hideous driver, then stick my head out the window to breathe the hot air. The heat slams against my face, but at least it's better than the stench of the driver. I draw in a deep breath, grateful for the cleaner air.
The front passenger window rolls down. Reflected in the side mirror, the dead girl, pretty but for the damned bullet hole in her head, leans over. "Rick," she says, "Pull your head in before it gets ripped off."
Her eyes stare, but I doubt they see. They seem to quake in their sockets, the iris trembling very quickly from side to side.
"I'll take my chances out here, thank you." I look at anything but her because when I do, chills run through my body and I want to scream.
"I can't afford you getting hurt," she says, her words coming slowly from a thick tongue that hasn't spoken since before the bullet sank into her brain.
"You may not be aware of this, but you're dead and you're stinking up the car!"
"Deal with it, Rick." The woman pulls the taxi over. The driver's door opens, then the driver's side back door opens and she pulls me into the car. Her hand tightens around my ankle and the cold of her dead hand freezes my skin through my sock.
"Let me go!" Panic sets in and I kick at her, but she avoids me.
"We have plans." Her other hand grabs my bare leg. I gasp in pain from her icy touch. She yanks me back in with strength belied by her thin body. "Now sit still." She slams the back door, gets in the front seat and we're off.
I sit up and rub my leg, trying to get some warmth and feeling again. "What do you want from me? Where are we going?" The stench twists my stomach and even breathing through my mouth is bad, because the stink of decay sticks to my tongue and forces its way down my throat. If I pass out, it'll be a saving grace. Maybe then my heart will stop jackhammering in my chest. "What are you?"
She just laughs.
The smell intensifies and I sit as far from her and as close to the window as I can, trying to breathe in any air that isn't tainted with death. It's no use. Then the nausea wins. Holding my breath only lasts a few seconds and the next breath I take is like swallowing thick bile. I'm gonna vomit.
I squeeze my eyes shut and the little food in my stomach forces its way out between my teeth.
"That is really gross," the woman says.
"And you're a ravishing beauty." I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and try to breathe through clenched teeth without losing the rest of my stomach.
"Why, thank you."
I keep my eyes closed and focus on Kerri and the breath exercises we've done together. Yeah, that's it, breathe slow and deep, ignore the smell of-forget it, this isn't working at all. I might as well just-
"Oh, Rick, did you make a mess back there?" The woman sighs angrily. "Now the car's gonna stink."
"Right. As if it didn't reek before." I keep my feet away from the mess on the car floor. "What do you want from me?" No matter how hard I try to keep my voice steady, it trembles and I feel like a little boy who's scared shitless. Okay, I may not be a little boy, but I'll own the scared shitless part. My hands and jaw tremble and I wonder if it's from my heart doing a staccato in my chest.
"You'll see. We're going to a familiar haunt." The woman turns her head and her mouth stretches in a rictus grin.
Suddenly, the radio snaps on. "Truckin" by the Grateful Dead rolls out of the front speakers.
I jump and gasp.
"How apropos. It has indeed been a long strange trip." She chuckles dryly. "I could really use a drink. Judith hasn't talked much in the last few days."
"I was Judith Baxter until my husband put a bullet through my brain because his dinner wasn't hot enough. Men are such bastards. For you though, I am death, come to claim you and your beloved."
"My ...? I don't have a beloved."
"Yes, Rick, you do."
I try the door handle more aggressively, this time to no avail. I'm shaking and I can't stop. I'm seconds away from wetting myself, or soiling myself, or both, and neither sounds appealing. "Let me out of here!" The door jiggles, but nothing more. I roll both back windows down, hoping the hot breeze will pull some of the stench out. Either it's lessened or I'm getting used to it.
"Where are we going?" I demand of the dead woman, but she says nothing and all that answers me is the Dead's Bob Weir singing how cities across the country are really all on the same street. Okay, Rick, it's time for a plan. I stare out as we come to the cemetery gates. I can fit through the window. Better than staying in the cab ride to Hell.
As soon as the taxi comes to a stop, I try throwing myself out, but I'm not as fluid as I'd like to be and instead of floating out the window, I get my upper torso out first, then push off the seat with my feet. Suddenly the window rolls up, pressing into my stomach. I gasp and try pulling myself back in.
"All I ask is that you sit still," Ex-Judith Baxter says. "We have somewhere special to go to. But you can't do that, can you?"
The window rolls up, cutting into my stomach. I wince and groan in pain.
"What is it?" Judith asks. "A little pain? How high do you think the window can go before you suffer bodily harm? Another two inches? Three?"
The edge of the window presses painfully into my stomach. "Let me go." Tears spring from my eyes.
"What do you think'll happen? The window's not sharp enough to pierce flesh, so that leaves internal injuries. If the window closes too much, something inside you will rupture. You may not die, but you will be damned uncomfortable. By that point, of course, you'll be useless to me so I might as well let the window keep rolling up until the dull glass ruptures the rest of your organs and your body breaks in two."
"Open the fucking window!" The pressure worsens as the window tries closing. My back is pressed against the window frame, wrenching my spine. "Okay! I'll come in!" Sweat drips in my eyes, blinding me. Tiny little white dots blossom in my vision. My heart thuds like war drums in my brain. The pain rolls in waves to my feet and my head. If she doesn't let me go soon, I'm gonna pass out.
"Hm. Do you think your spine would crack in two, paralyzing you before the window cuts through you?"
I imagine what she said, is going to happen any minute. How much longer until my spine snaps? The pain takes my breath away until I'm suffocating and drowning in the thick heat and the pain explodes in my back. "All right! Let me go!"
I feel close to being crushed as the glass inches higher. Another inch and something will explode, crack, or break and I'll be dead. "I'll do what you want."
"That's real good of you." Her sarcasm drips like the sweat down my back.
Suddenly the pressure of the window draws back and I take a deep breath, afraid at any moment residual pain will cause something to pop, like my spleen, and it'll be all over. I fall back in the car and stay on my side, praying the pain in my back subsides quickly. "God damn it!" I shout, pissed, more than anything else. My spine is sore and no matter how I move, it hurts. At least lying down I can't see the dead woman. That makes me feel somewhat like the universe isn't totally fucking me.
Maybe this is a joke. Maybe someone's doing this as a practical joke. The woman's really alive but made up to look that way. Right, and for a practical joke I'd love to smell like death, too.
My friend, Dallas Richards, once said that in the face of the incredible or unbelievable, it's easier to go by the theory that such things can't be, than to accept the evidence and facts that are in front of you. He's right.
I don't have any more escape plans. The door's locked and the window's set to kill. The stench seems to have lessened and that's about all I'm thankful for. My heart rate's slowed to its usual rhythm and all symptoms of passing out have receded. Whoever this woman is, she's got my attention. All I can do is stay calm and enjoy the ride and the music. Mitch Ryder sings about the Devil in a blue dress and I think, no, today, she's in a green summer dress.
After ten minutes or so, the pain in my back's subsided, though it still hurts when I move. I sit up and look out at the passing scenery. The taxi speeds along Route 3 heading away from New York and jumps on Route 17 North. The stench is all but gone and since I agreed to behave, Ex-Judith hasn't tried killing me.
Excerpted from Forever Will You Suffer by Gary Frank Copyright © 2006 by Gary Frank. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 10, 2008
What a good read and great book. I truly enjoyed reading this book, it give a breath of fresh air to the horror genre. Gary, has done an excellent job of telling the story of a centuries old promise of 'Forever you will suffer.' The book starts out with Rich Summers going to the cemetery to visit his mothers and sisters graves. When he returns to the cab that has been waiting for him. He notices an awful smell. The cab starts driving away and there is thump under the car. Rich looks out the back window to notice the original driver dead in the road. He is dropped off at a old girlfriends house only to find out she is in hiding because of stalker. This is where the roller coaster ride starts and you will not want to put this book down. Who is who and what is what. This is how you will go through in the book. It keeps you wanting to turn the pages to find out what is next. You will never know how this book is going to end until you turn the last page. This kind of writing is what will make Gary Frank a best selling author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 23, 2006
Author dwelled on descriptive details and did not put enough into the story. The book is in the Horror genre and I felt that he worked too hard with verbage to MAKE it horror. The story might have flowed had he not gotten stuck trying to gross the reader out or scare the shoes off him (which didn't happen).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Eight years ago, sexagenarian Walker suddenly drove over sixty miles an hour hitting head on the vehicle containing Rick Summers¿ mom Mari Anne and his sister Allison their seat belts inexplicably opened a nanosecond before impact both female Summers died. Walker walked away swearing he could not brake or steer the out of control car. Three years later Rick¿s dad remarried, but he never visits the Mount Moriah Cemetery near their hometown of Fair Lawn nor wants his son in his new life. Rick comes every anniversary to tell his mom and his sister how well he is doing, which he knows is a lie. --- Finishing his visit, Rick enters his cab, but quickly notices his human driver lying on the road dead replaced by a rotting female corpse once called Judith. Unable to escape, he is driven to the Fair Lawn home of Katarina ¿Kat¿ Petroska, whom he once loved. She is not there, but a hostile Meggan assumes Rick was stalking Kat who recently vanished. Hell has returned to Fair Lawn with Rick being the focus of one particular female resident with a memory longer than a lifetime and eternity to cause harm as she did eight years ago. --- This tense horror tale grips the audience from the moment that Rick turns to leave the cemetery only to hear the whisper ¿take care, Rick¿ but no one is there and never slows down until the final confrontation in Rick¿s hell. The frightening story line is action-packed with reanimated corpses doing harm to any one near Rick. Fans will keep the lights on all night as Gary Frank writes a scary thriller that leaves the audience constantly looking around to insure no invasions from the grave has occurred. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.