Strange Doors Anthology by John Argo
DarkSF is the Dark Chocolate of Science Fiction
Jean-Thomas Cullen writing as John Argo
= The Marks on the Roads =
All along the highways of the USA are these sudden black skid marks--always the same, with no explanation. You've seen them many times, and often wondered what they mean. The skid marks always make a double S, like the signature of the shadowy demiurge, the alternate and unmentionable god erased from the world's scriptures; whose shadowy memory lingers in the air and on the highways like a palimpsest (a dimly visible remnant of a previous writing underneath some beautiful ancient calligraphy on parchment, if you hold it up to the candle light just so).
You're driving along on a clear road surface, and suddenly these skid marks appear--and just as quickly disappear. They start before you in the middle of the road, veer smoothly in one direction and then the other, forming a near-perfect twin S-figure, before vanishing into nowhere. Or maybe into another world, and a vast city glowing in night and fog, where dark angels patrol in unmarked cars.
Three young adventurers on the run from the law are about to go on a ride to the border lands of hell, through a territory that can only be described as purgatory.
Michael is a sensitive young artist, with a beautiful but edgy girlfriend named Lisa.
When Michael's older brother Ben gets out of prison and starts committing crimes again, the three go on the run.
Michael's motivation is to somehow try and save his older Brother, whom he loves. Michael also loves Lisa, a dark angel with plans of her own.
Before Ben gets released, moves in, and changes the dynamics forever, Michael has been secretly watching a couple of fascinating young women (his own age and Lisa's) across the way. As a painter of portraits--a hunter who captures souls on canvas--Michael has been fantasizing about painting his two sister-neighbors. One is Em, paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair. The other is Monica, a stunning beauty who, in his painterly opinion, might not have the body of a Lisa, but Lisa's facial features are plain compared to the luminous beauty and drama of Monica's. It's not in the cards--and Michael will never see them again, because he and Lisa and Ben flee in the middle of the night, just ahead of a detective who has been shadowing his older brother.
As a nocturnal race across America begins, unexpected tensions flare among the three (Ben, Lisa, Michael). Along the highways to perdition, things take a stranger turn when the three fugitives veer off at those marks on the roads that we all see—skid marks suddenly taken, leading nowhere and vanishing before they curve dramatically toward the road shoulder…
This is one of those Strange Doors you would do well to bypass. Keep driving, and don't look back. Don't try to figure out where those twin black skid marks came from, or where they vanish to at the end of that sudden squiggle of half-melted rubber ripped across the road surface. If, however, you simply must solve the mystery, then join Michael, Lisa, and Ben as they follow the Marks on the Roads. Each will find his or her own destiny at the end of the dark lord's signature.
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