Now, most men would have crumpled into a pile of quivering goo at the sight of a horde of mutated alien-mantis hoboes bearing down on him. Others would have run off screaming. Ol’ Rolling Joe Stone, though?
Well, he couldn’t stop laughing.
In fact, he hadn’t had such a ring-a-ding-ding since that time he rescued that troupe of Finnish ballerinas from that Russian hypnotist and his werewolf daughter.
Giggling all the way, Joe dropped low and blasted out the shins of the kid who’d cried “interloper” like a damn professor of English literature.
The kid fell grasping at his stubs and squirming around like a slug that’s had its back-half stepped on by a big boot.
“Best I could do, beanstalk,” Joe said to the squirming kid. “Don’t like shooting a fellow American but near’s I can tell you’re about half bug now.”
All his shells spent, Joe took off running towards the bull’s office. In the background sounded the Death Train. It moved slow in its turn on the switch but was getting ready to point straight to Kansas City for a one-way run. Once it got going, there’d be no slowing it down.
Joe didn’t run straight for the office. First he looped back over the alien corpses he’d left behind and stopped at the dead railroad bull’s body to retrieve a truck key from the breast pocket. There’d been no way for him to know it’d be there, but fortune smiled often smiled upon Joe.
Joe patted the bent-up copy of As a Man Thinketh folded up in his pocket and recited out-loud in sing-song voice the opening phrase:
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
With that he fairly flew towards the bull’s shack where sure enough a battered pickup truck awaited.
Behind Joe skittered the hobo creatures in pursuit. They were making a chorus of chirping sounds now. The train yard sounded like a Missouri meadow in summertime.
Joe hopped in the bull’s truck, slipped in the key, and turned the ignition. The machine rumbled to life.
He flipped the headlights on to see dozens of black insect eyes looking back. The hobos’ mutation was speeding up, it seemed. They were all more bug than man now. Sad thing to see, but it did have the benefit that Joe no longer had to hold back. The time for uppercuts and shin-blasts was over.
Joe hit the gas and barreled into a pile of mantis-men. Green juice splashed across the windshield as they thudded off his vehicle. Joe hit the wipers and pounded the roof in excitement. He’d not had such fun since that time he broke that stallion down near the Mexican border where a Navajo skinwalker named Clarence had been fighting back a pack of zombie banditos.
In the distance the train had completed its switch and was ready to run for Kansas City. Already the thing was speeding up.
Joe cranked down on the gas and let out a whoop and a holler. The race was now most definitely on.
Copyright 2020 Jeff Suwak