The Force Within
by John W. Steele
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Reggie stood dumbfounded in the parking lot. Rain continued to drizzle from a slate grey sky. He climbed into his truck and took a long snort. His vision blurred, and a voice exploded in his skull. “We need to head for the Dew Drop Inn, Reggie,” it whispered.
He looked around the truck and into the yard but saw no one. “Who are you?”
“I am Samael. I have been your guardian for thousands of years. Together we determine what is good and what is evil. And by the wrath of our mighty arm, we establish justice in this world of insatiable depravity.”
For reasons he could not yet define, Reggie felt invincible. The tires squealed, and they sped down the highway.
* * *
They hid in a darkened corner at the Dew Drop. A pitcher of beer and three double shots sat empty on the table. Reggie flailed his arms and raved like a lunatic. “The arm of the Lord shall come upon them like a whirlwind. And all adulterers shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Selah!”
A short fat man with an ill-fitting toupee sat at the bar. He watched the ball game with Max the bartender. “That dude’s carrying on quite a conversation back there, Max, ya think? Who the hell is he talking to?”
A skinny redhead sat on a bar stool near them, the cheeks of her butt peeked out from holes cut in the seat of her jeans. “Yeah, shut that asshole up. He’s scary,” she rasped.
Max was a gorilla of a man with a ponderous belly. His forearms were covered in tattoos, and his face was mottled with scars “Oh, that’s Reggie,” he said. “He comes in here once in a while. He’s kind of weird, but he’s harmless. Let me go talk to him.” Max wiped his hands on his apron and walked over to the table.
The little man persisted in his litany of retaliation. “For the arm of the Lord will fight my battle. He teaches my hands to make war so that a bow of steel is broken in my grasp!”
“Reggie... Reggie, keep it down will you? You’re frightening my customers.”
Suggins looked up from the table. His eyes were glassy, and his face sagged. “I lost my job, Max.” He started to sob.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Reg, I really am.”
“I need another drink, Max.”
“I got to cut you off, Reg. It’s for your own good. Why don’t you go home while you’re still ahead? Let me call you a cab.”
“Go home to what? A wife that hates me?” Reggie’s mouth curled into a frown, “Everyone thinks they can push me around, but soon they will learn of the power that is mine.” He got up and stumbled from the tavern.
* * *
It was one a.m. when Reggie pulled in the driveway. He staggered up the stairs and gently opened Nora’s bedroom door. She lay dozing in bed. Her breasts rose and fell like a gentle wave, the lines of her bosoms highlighted beneath the blue silk nightie that clung to the ravishing curve of her hip. She’s still sexy and beautiful as ever, he thought.
He wanted to tell Nora how much he still loved her. He wanted to hold her and promise her he would change and try to be like Mel. He wanted to pull up her negligee and fuck her passionately, like before, when she savored his touch. “I’m home, Nora,” he said softly.
She awakened and turned her back to him.
“I’ve decided you’re right, honey. It’s time we got a divorce. You can have it all. The only thing I ever wanted is you.”
“You’re drunk again, Reggie. You’ll change your mind tomorrow like you always do. Go to bed and leave me alone. I’ve got a tennis match in the morning.”
“That’s okay, Nora. At last my eyes are opened, and I know that what’s inside me is all I will ever have.”
“Get a life, loser,” she said.
Reggie staggered to his bedroom and collapsed in the bed.
* * *
They lay together on a secluded beach in the Caribbean, their naked bodies lathered in coconut oil and glistening in the light of the majestic sun. White sugar sand stretched out forever and crystal blue waves sighed gently on the shore. An endless sky the color of turquoise merged with the ocean, and sea gulls crooned a distant melody.
Reggie rolled over and entered her. He looked deep in her eyes. The arm fondled her breasts. It reached up and massaged her cheek gently with its thumb. “I’ll always love you, Nora,” he said, and he kissed her. She moaned and the world stopped spinning.
* * *
The morning broke clear and magnificent, and the clouds dispersed. A golden sun appeared on the horizon. Its radiance flooded the bedroom and burned cherry red in Reggie’s eyes. Like a man resurrected from the dead, he awakened with Nora in his arms. He looked at her and smiled. Her pillow was drenched in blood. Her head lay twisted like the neck of a broken doll. He raised Nora by the shoulders. Her arms dangled, and her head drooped. “Oh my God, what have you done?” he shrieked.
He ran into the bathroom and stared in the mirror. Samael’s knuckles peered from his sternum like the vertebrae of a large starving animal. “You killed her, you evil bastard! You murdered my Nora!” He drove his fist into the mirror, and his face shattered. Reggie fell to his knees and sobbed; tears rolled down his cheeks, and he wept bitterly for a long time.
When he could cry no more, he dragged her body downstairs and propped her in the La-Z-Boy. He washed the blood from her throat. He straightened her hair and said, “You look tired, honey. There... that’s much better. I promise you that Mel will never stalk you again.”
“Mel chases me like a hungry dog, Reggie,” she said.
“I know he does, dear, and for this we will destroy him. Soon we will be together again, my love. Samael shall rise with the glory of the sun. The time has come for us to redeem your honor, my darling. I will ride like a knight into the maw of the ungodly and slay the heathen who defiled you.”
Nora’s eyes popped open. “Murder the beast, honey. You’re the only man I’ve ever loved.”
Somewhere in the distance, a siren howled. Reggie glanced at the clock. It was ten-thirty. He went into the kitchen and pulled a syringe from the refrigerator. He held it in his arm, and his eyes rolled. When finished, he filled a water glass with vodka and guzzled it down. Samael awakened, and the arm jolted in his chest. They walked into the garage and climbed into Nora’s Lexus.
* * *
It wasn’t difficult to find Mel’s electric red Lambo. It sat in the VIP lot in the front of Muscle City. Reggie parked Nora’s car behind a black Hummer and waited.
They emerged from the spa like gods, two perfected specimens of humanity adorned in black spandex. They strode across the parking lot in perfect symmetry, in perfect form, perfection personified in a world flawed by design. Mel walked with his latest squeeze, a buxom blond named Amy. Her hair was the color of gold, and the curves of her body were exquisitely proportioned. He had his arm around her waist, and his hand rested on the swell of her buttocks.
Reggie stepped out from behind the Hummer and waved. Amy squinted. “Isn’t that the little man who works for you? I remember him from the time you gave me a tour of your lumberyard.”
“Well, I’ll be damned, if it isn’t Edgy Reggie,” Mel said. He lowered his hand and squeezed her butt. “Watch this, doll.”
“Why don’t you just let him be, Mel? He looks strange, like a rabid squirrel.”
“You can’t be serious. Reggie is nothing but a joke. He’s probably here to kiss my ass and beg for his job. Let’s have a little fun.”
They sauntered up to the Hummer. “Hey Reg, it looks like you went out and got a little tuned up last night,” Mel said, and he laughed.
“Maybe we did, Mel. I want you to know that it’s not your fault that I got fired. You were just doing your job. It must be hard to do that to someone. I just wanted to say I got no hard feelings.”
Mel smiled. “It’s great to be me, Reg. There are two types of people in this world: winners and losers. You’re a loser. Besides, what are friends for?” He flexed his bloated pecs, and his teeth gleamed.
“That’s right, Mel. What are friends for?” Reggie smiled. He stuck out his hand. “Let bygones be bygones.” The arm hammered like a wrecking ball.
Their eyes met and they glared like two boxers prepping for round one. The giant grabbed the little man’s hand and squeezed. “I told you to stay away from this place, Suggins. I don’t want to be associated with trash like you.” Mel tightened his grip, a vein inflated in his temple, and his forearm trembled.
Reggie didn’t flinch, and a bomb exploded in his guts. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, Mel. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” A hand flashed out and grabbed the big man’s windpipe. It dragged him to his knees, and he struggled on the blacktop. Bloody drool oozed from his mouth, and his eyes bulged from the sockets. “Let go of him, you crazy bastard!” Amy screamed. The little man flexed his arm and tore out Mel’s esophagus. Blood spurted from the gaping hole, and Mel lay choking on the blacktop.
A crowd of spectators gathered near the entrance, their eyes leaping from the sockets and their mouths agape. Reggie raised his arm, and blood dripped down his wrist. His face contorted in a wrathful grin, and he yelled, “Who is like unto Samael? Who is able to make war with him? Let them step forward that they may prove their valor on the field of honor!”
Someone screamed, “The fucker’s nuts! Call 911!” The women ran for the safety of the gym, and the men scattered into the parking lot.
Suggins cast the gory gob on the blacktop where it landed with a splat. He shook his fist and cried, “Infidels! The Lord will send forth his burning anger, and all whore-mongers shall perish in flame!” He climbed into the Lexus and sped down the highway.
* * *
The speedometer read 110 mph, and sirens screamed in the distance. Reggie weaved in and out of traffic, and the horn blared. He turned left on Sherman and proceeded west until they reached the manicured entrance at Ponderosa Gardens. He crashed through the entry gate and shot up Paradise Lane until he reached his condo. Reggie swung into the driveway and slammed the Lexus through the garage door where it came to rest against the concrete abutment in the rear. He scrambled from the wreck and kicked open the fire door, then ran down the hall and entered the living room.
His chest heaved and sweat poured down his face. Reggie got down on his knees and took Nora’s hand. “You waited for me, honey. I knew you would.”
“Oh, Reggie, that was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen. You crushed that evil homewrecker. Now we can be together again,” she said.
The sirens grew closer, and a cruiser pulled in front of the condo. Red and blue beacons flashed on the wall. A black armored SWAT unit entered the driveway, and a dozen troopers surrounded the house. A voice rumbled from a bullhorn. “Come out with your hands up, Mister Suggins. We don’t want to harm you.”
Reggie stood up and smiled. “It’s time my darling. The moment of truth has arrived. Did you know that the Berserkers were the baddest motherfuckers that ever lived? Before they went into battle, they ate Amanita mushrooms and drank barrels of mead.” He pulled a syringe from the bib of his trousers and booted the contents into his arm. “This is our last battle, my love. Soon we shall enter Valhalla, and you will reign as my queen for eternity.”
The little man dropped his overalls then tore off his shirt and stood naked in the window. The arm projected from his chest like the trunk of a mighty elephant. Nora stood up from the chair and kissed him goodbye. Her tongue entered his mouth. It felt like leather, tasted like salt. Tears roll down her cheeks. “Be careful, honey, I’ll be here for you when you return.” She collapsed in the chair, her face a mask of clay.
Reggie took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. He entered the foyer and kicked the door. The hinges snapped, and it crashed with a boom on the sidewalk. He strode out on the walkway and stood defiant before the army. In a loud voice he cried, “We who are about to die salute you!” The mighty Samael stretched forth his fist and prepared for combat.
The officer in charge alerted the SWAT team on the radio. “Hold your fire. He’s unarmed. We can take him alive. I’ve notified the psychiatric center and advised the crisis unit.” The officer raised the bullhorn. “I’m Captain Jake Darrow. We’re not going to harm you, sir, but you need help, and we’re going to take you in.”
Reggie stood like a gladiator his head held high and his fists balled. “I give you fair warning, Captain. Samael will crush the heads of our enemies, and your blood will stain the ground!”
Sergeant Delf Kaminski stood on the front line. His headset hissed. “Sergeant, take O’Neill and Brooks, and restrain the little runt. He looks like a snotty kid that’s having a tantrum. You think you can handle it?” Darrow asked.
Kaminski laughed. “Yes, sir, I’ll take care of the light work.”
“Don’t get stupid. Keep your guard up. This character might have ripped out Mel Stover’s throat.”
“He took out Muscle Mel? Who the hell would dare mess with him?”
The troopers approached with their guns drawn. Nearly eight hundred pounds of brawn covered in black ballistic plate inched toward the swaggering monster pacing on the sidewalk. The SWAT team followed behind. A dozen red lasers hovered on the on the little man’s chest.
“My name is Sergeant Kaminski. We’re not going to harm you, sir. We want to help you.”
Reggie raised his fists, and his eyes grew wide. “We accept your challenge, Sergeant. This will be a fight to the death. We hold no animosity for you or your squadron. But the arm of Samael knows not fear or mercy. If attacked, we will defend, the ground will quake, and your soldiers will lie wasted on the street.”
The army inched closer. “That’s okay, Mister Suggins. We know you’re having a hard time. We want keep you alive, is all.”
A wild grin formed on the lunatic’s face. Samael clenched tight his gnarled hand. Reggie beat his chest and yelled, “Enough talking! If you want it, come and get it!”
“I don’t like the looks of this,” Darrow said. “He’s too confident. Taser the little piss ant and take him down.”
O’Neill fired his stun gun. The electrodes hissed through the air and penetrated deep in Reggie’s chest. He stood firm like the trunk of a mighty oak.
“Uh oh, it looks like it’s party time,” O’Neill said.
Suggins clenched his jaw, and his body shuddered. “You have drawn first blood, and now the avenging arm of heaven shall deliver me from mine enemies!”
“Let’s do it. Go!” Kaminski cried. A dozen troopers stormed the little giant and knocked him to the ground. He disappeared beneath a mountain of black armor. They struggled like a swarm of hyenas in battle with a lion. An arm pierced through the dog pile, and Reggie shot up from the mound. His hand gripped O’Neil’s throat. The trooper choked, and his tongue dangled from his mouth.
Rapid gunfire erupted. Open craters formed on Reggie’s body, and he fell to the sidewalk. O’Neil struggled to his feet and staggered away.
One by one, the officers climbed out of the heap. “Who the hell is this guy?” a man in black helmet asked. The cop squatted to cuff the dying man. “That’s not necessary, Corporal. The battle is over,” Kaminski said.
Blood oozed from Reggie’s chest, and his face turned the color of chalk. He raised a broken arm and motioned Kaminski to come closer. Delf dropped to one knee. “It’s not your fault, Officer. It’s what’s inside a man that makes him or breaks him. I forgot that for a long time.” Like the sun gone below the horizon, the force within withered, Reggie’s head fell to the side, and he was gone.
Captain Darrow emerged from the barricade and approached the body. “That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” Delf said. “What the hell was he talking about, Jake?”
The captain shook his head, “Who knows what goes on in someone’s mind or why they do the things they do?”
The paramedics wrapped Reggie in a body bag and laid him on a stretcher. They raised him up and slid him in the cab. The beacons flashed, and they hauled him away.
The ambulance stopped at the security checkpoint on Paradise. They spoke to the guard for a moment, and the gate swung open.
The vehicle rumbled. The chassis shook like something hammered by an earthquake. Someone inside the medevac screamed. The rear doors burst open, and a bloody naked man with a wild arm thrashing ran down the highway.
* * *
Copyright © 2020 by John W. Steele