Classic muscle cars battle to the death in an all-out road war (with an obvious nod to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’)
The road war begins:
The Time: One-forty-five a.m.
The Date: June sixth in the year of our lord nineteen-hundred and
The place: A two-lane frontage road just off I-40, two and a half miles east of Cattamount, New Mexico.
The landscape (an overview): Flat roadway; the narrow shoulders of which are dominated by desert flooring with a light gravel mix that quickly transform into steep, sand-dune constructed drop-off’s on either side. Surrounding landscape reveals nearby slopes and distant mountains, both of which are made up of rocky terrain and infested with shrub and wild cactus growth. The perimeter skyline glows a bright orange from the near-full moon shining overhead.
Road Conditions: Dry with no noted hazards.
The Set-up: Two vehicles face-off less than a quarter-mile apart, each visibly damaged (one to an extreme) but actively idling nonetheless.
Vehicle one (facing the west) is identified as a sixty-eight model Dodge Charger, cherry red, four-forty big block. Current damage: partially shattered windshield and driver’s side window, partially smashed grill (from which a thick plume of smoke periodically rises), left headlight smashed and thus rendered inoperative.
Vehicle two (facing the east) is identified as a sixty-seven Grand Torino GT fastback, burnt orange, three-fifty-one Cleveland. Current damage: right passenger door and fender severely dented, windshield, right passenger and back glass completely shattered, right rear tire shredded, leaving only badly warped rim intact.
Lying upside down on its crushed hood less than fifty feet from the Charger is a blackened, formerly light blue Ford Galaxy with New Mexico State Trooper Insignia painted onto both doors. A smoldering carcass hangs limp from the driver’s seat, charred coal black from the fire that had singed the interior moments before. While in pursuit of both speeding vehicles, the trooper had briefly steered onto the gravelly shoulder at over eighty miles per hour and lost control, flipping a half-dozen times before the vehicle’s gas tank ignited in volcanic fury.
Similarly, a yellowish, rust-coated Chevy Handivan lies on its left side no more than thirty yards to the west of the Torino. Unlike the Galaxy, no part of the van has yet to ignite, though the whole of its frame is horribly mangled, its hood crushed inward while the left tire and a large portion of its back end looks to have been seared away by the oil slick, gasoline-coated pavement. Having been first flung back and subsequently tossed about with vicious abandon are a trio of tattered, lifeless forms, two adult and a small child, their twisted, mangled limbs intermingled as if originating from the same squid-like host. Having not yet succumbed to the inevitable, the car radio blares sporadic portions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ in-between piercing bursts of static. The van’s driver had managed to successfully dodge the speeding Torino as it whizzed by in an orange blur, but hadn’t been nearby as lucky as the Charger slammed it from the rear at an even higher rate of speed, causing it to spin out like a rocket-charged pinwheel before careening off the road and directly into a grouping of jagged boulders.
Thus, the present situation as she so dramatically, and tragically, unfolds:
Driver one wears a frozen sneer while gripping the steering wheel loosely at ten and two. Blood, some drying but the majority newly leaked, trails in a half-dozen pencil-thin lines from both nostrils, as well as from a nasty forehead gash. Other than the aforementioned cuts and bumps, Driver one is essentially, not to mention miraculously, injury-free.
“Done me dirty, Ace. Done…me…wrong. This was the last straw. Nothing left to take from me that mattered. It ain’t like I didn’t tell you. It ain’t like you weren’t warned. Told you and told you to leave ‘em be, and I never one was to toss out threats lightly. You know that. After all these years, why would you even doubt it? Risk it?
This here night shouldn’t be no surprise then. Don’t nobody do me dirty and just walk away. No-damn-body,” driver one spews between teeth clinched so tightly a low grinding sound can be detected between words, fresh blood bubbles forming in each nostril. Driver one gradually applies increased pressure on the Charger’s gas pedal while cautiously re-directing a hand towards the gear shift.
“We’ll see then…now we see who blinks first, Ace. As the good lord is my witness, we will surely see. Who’ll blink first, and who’ll never blink again.”
Driver two uses a bare forearm to wipe a building mix of blood and tears from both eyes while ignoring the thick streams of mucus spurting from each nostril. Following several firm wipes and a series of rapid blinking exercises birthed from pure desperation, it becomes painfully obvious that a state of partial blindness has incurred, the duration of which is as unknown as it is unimportant within the grand scheme of things.
Among the plethora of injuries also relegated to meaningless status are a badly broken right arm-shattered at the elbow-several bruised, possibly cracked or broken ribs-a left leg numbed below the knee, the attached ankle and foot completely paralyzed and thus rendered useless. Again, these potentially crippling injuries pale in light of what surely will be a fatal outcome.
Turning to re-inspect the Torino’s back seat through a badly blurred right eye, the pupil of the left having already turned a pale, milky color, driver two releases a low, guttural growl that is anguish personified. Reaching up and over the seat with the lone operating appendage still able to adhere to mental commands, Driver two’s solemn moans soon escalate into full blown screams, during which time the lone enunciated word, though dramatically stretched out, is ‘why?, repeated dozens upon dozens of times in-between banshee-shrieks.
Following a full thirty seconds of inhuman screeching, Driver two’s voice grows hoarse and ultimately falls silent. The whole of the Torino’s right side is concave-shaped, having been crushed inward from the front to rear fender, the brutal force of the blow having caused it to roll a full three times before somehow ending up topside. Topside-and still running. Not only running-but maneuverable. Not merely maneuverable, but still capable of waging war on the cowardly, would-be assassin that had dared fire the first shot.
“Never…never thought you’d…ever stoop to such…cowardice,” Driver two whispers, staring into a slightly distorted set of headlights a few hundred feet ahead, though it’s uncertain whether the warped, 3-D imagery is a result of blunt vision trauma or the other vehicle’s current condition. Though there’s little doubt the Torino is easily the most severely damaged of the two, Driver two shakes this off as immaterial.
Driver two accepts Driver one’s ‘strike first’ mentality as logical strategy within the framework of the big picture, though it does little to quell the building rage associated with the act itself.
“Guess in hindsight I shouldn’t…shouldn’t be surprised at that…not at all. Blind-siding the opposition was always your style. Always were the sneaky, double-crossing type. Never could….never could really trust you, even in…the best of times. But…” Driver two concludes with a weak shrug, gradually accelerating as the darkened sky fills with a whitish vapor trail pouring from the crushed tail-pipe, “you did make one very….very…crucial mistake in your thinking…yes, you did. You left me with…nothing….nothing…left to….”
Choking on the very words as the last trails off to a whimper, Driver two glances into the back seat one final time.
“There ain’t nothing left for…either of us. Which means…their ain’t nothing left…to lose. In your blind stupidity…your blind selfishness…you’ve taken it…taken it all.”
Similarly, Driver one also inches pedal towards metal, a spit of sparks spewing from the Charger’s crinkled tailpipe like segments of a fragmented sparkler.
“Bring it on then, Ace. Long as you don’t mind being tossed around like a bb inside a tin can…again…I sure don’t mind doing the tossing. You and I both know I always was the best.”
Continuing to rev the engine until its steady purr mutates to an earsplitting roar, Driver one wraps a gnarled, sticky palm around the Charger’s circular gear knob and preps to shift over and back.
“Bottom line is this, Ace….the only way you’re getting ‘em is over my dead body, and from this night’s early returns, the odds of that transpiring ain’t looking good.”
Driver two’s working foot pins the brake even as the gearshift is placed in drive, the Torino’s rear left tire peeling tread even as the back right rim spins and screeches, the building friction creating a glowing maroon aura around its fiery perimeter.
“Come to poppa, then, if ya dare!’ Driver two yells, though the words are easily drowned out by the engine’s own thunderclap bantering. Spitting a fine, red mist onto the hood that the windshield, if still present, would have otherwise blocked, Driver two then spews forth a familiar cadence usually reserved for paying audiences. Paying audiences who were privy to miked-up performers spouting previously scripted jargon along the lines of pro wrestlers or carnival barkers.
“Time to meet your maker, gal, courtesy of the one…and only…Demolition Man.”
A millisecond later, Driver one mimics the act, confident in that the Charger’s full set of wheels and minimal damage quickly end any debate on which vehicle holds an advantage.
“You’re going down, Ace!” Driver one retorts in kind while pumping a fist from outside the missing driver’s window, the verbal response likewise swallowed up by typhoon-like chaos engulfing all nearby airspace.
“Ding-dong, the King is dead! Long…live…the Queen…the Queen of Lean…the Queen….of MEAN!”
In less than five full seconds, the Charger reaches a speed of sixty-seven MPH, as opposed to the Torino’s top-out of just under forty-eight.
As the vehicle’s draw to roughly within fifty yards of one another, numerous headlights approach from both directions.
Neither vehicle alters its b-line course towards the other as the distance quickly halves and the pavement is bathed in the approaching lights of five New Mexico State Trooper vehicles, two from the East and a trio from the West.
The accumulative effect of the numerous sirens are no match for the sonic-boom collision that follows, nor are the blaring head and blue lights any competition for the thunderous explosion that briefly illuminates the desert landscape like a blazing, noonday sun.
Milliseconds before contact, each driver was allowed a flashpoint image of the other’s respective expression. Each had worn matching masks of bloodied rage; eyes pulled wide, teeth bared, the flesh of their faces pulled taut to the point of tearing away from its host.
Upon colliding, the Charger’s excessive speed had allowed it an obvious advantage as its greater momentum had essentially lifted the slower and slightly lighter Torino airborne and flipped it upside down before shoving them both a full seventy-five feet down the smoking pavement. Such trivial victories mattered little in the final outcome, however, as both drivers were later determined to have expired instantly upon impact.
Driver one sustained a broken neck, fractured skull, and compound fractures of both arms, while Driver two was literally cut in half at the waist, the head and torso thrown from the vehicle while the bottom half below the waist remained securely belted onto the drivers seat. It had taken the troopers a full half hour to locate the upper half laying across a jagged rock bed, their initial clue to the whereabouts a steaming strand of intestine whose severed edges had snaked out onto the dusty shoulder. In addition, Driver two’s arms had seemingly ripped from the shoulder sockets upon impact and were found still attached to the steering wheel, the accompanying hands locked in a virtual death-grip.
As grisly as the crash scene is upon initial viewing, it wasn’t until the contents of the Torino’s backseat were discovered that a recently certified rookie trooper darted behind a growth of shrubbery in order to vomit.
By the time the heart retching image was revealed to all those present, more than one veteran officer had felt the dire need to join in.
LATE NIGHT CAR CRASH CLAIMS EIGHT, INCLUDING TROOPER
(AP) Cattamount, New Mexico – 7 June 1970
A fiery, late night car crash less than three miles from the Mixon County line claimed the lives of eight, including an on-duty New Mexico State Trooper. State officials say the crash, which occurred at approximately one-fifty a.m., is still under investigation at this time. Local and state authorities, as well as Mixon and Choctaw County fire fighters, arrived at the scene just moments after the incident but were unable to revive any of the victims. Details are pending upon notification of the next of kin.
FATAL AUTO CRASH WAS NO ACCIDENT, OFFICIALS NOW STATE
(AP) Cattamount, New Mexico – 11 June 1970
Highway patrol and local officials now state the fiery, four-car crash that lit up skies in and around Mixon county during the early morning hours of seven June was, in all probability, not the result of a fatal accident, but more along the lines of vehicular homicide. Two of the victims, Jessie ‘Demolition Man’ Campbell and his estranged wife, Wilma ‘The Queen of Mean’ Sanders Campbell, were both veteran stunt and demolition derby drivers, and records show the two had been entangled in what officials call an ‘openly hostile’ child custody battle. Local sheriff’s department spokesman Jerry Riles has confirmed that on the very night preceding the crash, Wilma Sanders Campbell had in fact notified authorities that her husband had taken their two young children from her house by force. Further, Deputy Sheriff Riles stated that Wilma Campbell later informed them that her husband had contacted her, claiming he’d taken the children to his mother’s home in nearby Lacaroche. Riles states that Jessie Campbell’s mother, seventy-six year old Gertrude Campbell, has since stated the children were never at her residence as supposedly claimed by her son.
After an extensive study of the crash scene, authorities now believe the former couple were engaged in a ‘grudge match’ of sorts out on the Mixon County frontage road that was quickly turned into a roadside graveyard for several unfortunate drivers who just happened to wander into their vengeful path. Officially listed as deceased at the crash site are:
Jessie Campbell – Male, age 43
Wilma Campbell – Female, age 39
New Mexico State Trooper Peter Jay Wilcox-Male, age 28
Jackson Wheeler – Male, age 41
Debra Wheeler – Female, age 32
Cindy Wheeler – Female, age 9
Conroy D. Campbell – Male, age 6
Julie Campbell – Female, age 4
The Campbell children (listed above) had been riding with their father at the time of the crash. Local authorities speculate that Wilma Campbell might well have been oblivious to this fact.
“It’s a sad, sad situation,” Spokesman Riles commented, “so many innocent lives snuffed out due to two peoples inability to properly communicate with one another, their very own children taken in the process.”
Both the Sanders and Campbell families have reportedly requested separate burials, though it is still undecided which service will accommodate the deceased couple’s children.
It is reported that a who’s who of Hollywood stunt people will attend each service, along with many well-known drivers from the demolition derby circuit.
Go to the 'article' section to Read Terry's review of Quetin Tarantino's 'Death Proof', now available on DVD.
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|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|Did I review this? Oh damn I seemed to not find this one. Terry has a knack for doing grindhouse style horror and do it in a way that will rival a lot of the old masters from the Pulp Era. Terry writes like the lost pulp era author.|
|Reviewed by Doug Boren
|Once again Terry has succeeded in causing major chills, revulsion and disgust...way to go! excellent side trip into brutal and senseless violence with the ultimate consequences as intense as they are inevitable. I'd have to say the descriptive imagery was top notch,and the emotional pull irresisatable. Good job!|
|Reviewed by Cleve Sylcox
|Wow! I'm not sure if I want to drive down Hwy 40 through NM now, "gulp"...Great, very well written. You did a remarkable job of portraying these events.|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Excellent write, Terry, but what makes it even more so terrifying is that scenes like the one in your story play out in real life, often with tragic circumstances. Very well done; bravo!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :(
Saving this one to read again!
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
|All the more terrifying, Terry, because tragedies like this happen IN REAL LIFE. It's always the innocent who suffer the ramifications of a night of "fun." Well done!
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.