From the Malafarina Files, ‘Just Another Sweltering Day In Traffic’ a short story by the master of horror Thomas M. Malafarina

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By: Thomas M. Malafarina © 2019

“Oh my God!” Gerald shouted. “This traffic is un-friggin-believable!” His exclamation remained muffled to the outside world as he sat behind the wheel of his car. He felt himself beginning to sweat as he thumped fruitlessly on his steering wheel. Looking down at the outside temperature gauge on his dashboard, Gerald was not in the least bit surprised to see it read 105 degrees. Even with his windows closed tightly and his air-conditioner blasting on high with the temperature gauge set to its lowest setting, his car was beginning to heat up.

He looked about for any sign of a break in traffic, but he saw none. Putting his palm against the air vent Gerald realized all he was getting was marginally cool air which seemed to be getting less cool by the minute. Although it did little to help him, he suspected it was still better than opening his windows and allowing that ungodly stifling air into his car. As if the heat and humidity weren’t bad enough, the stench of car exhaust around him would surely make things much worse.

The temperature continued to rise inside his car. He had no idea what had happened to his AC unit, but he would have to get old Betsy into the garage for repair as soon as possible. He looked again for any chance to get out of traffic and again saw no opportunity for escape. However, when he turned to his left, he saw the driver of the car next to him staring at him with a strange smiling expression. He appeared to be in his early thirties with unkempt longish hair sticking up in every direction. But his most disturbing features were his wild bulging eyes and that frightening smile.

The man’s windows were closed tightly, but Gerald suspected by the way the man was sweating; his air conditioning wasn’t working at all. The guy’s smile didn’t seem to be one of happiness or pleasure but had a discomforting air about it, which Gerald immediately thought bordered on insanity. Then again, sitting in a closed-up car with no AC on a day like today might be enough to drive anyone crazy.

“Just wonderful!” Gerald said to himself as he turned away from the weird man, “Here I am stuck in traffic with a potential lunatic in the car next to me. He continued to stare out the windshield, determined not to look over at the bizarre man next door.

“Maybe if I’m lucky, the guy will pass out or die from heat exhaustion and I won’t have to deal with him any longer.” Gerald realized this was a horrible thought to have, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He was hot dammit, and this bozo wasn’t making things any easier.

A thin film of perspiration began to build on Gerald’s upper lip and soon beads of sweat formed on his forehead and trickled down his face. He wanted to wipe the streaming droplets off but was concerned his wacko neighbor might still be gawking at him. The last thing he needed was to show any sign of weakness to a lunatic and wiping sweat might make him appear frightened.

Gerald wasn’t frightened yet, although he was starting to become concerned. What if the inside temperature of his own car continued to increase? What if he had to open his window? What if that grinning fool next to him decided, God forbid, to open his own windows and strike up a conversation? Maybe he wouldn’t notice. Maybe the guy wasn’t even looking over at him any longer. But to find out, Gerald would have to look over in his direction, which he certainly didn’t want to do.

Finally, after a great deal of consternation, Gerald lifted his left hand and pretending to smooth back his hair while simultaneously wiping a bit of sweat from his brow, he ventured a quick glance at the man in the other car. To Gerald’s dismay, not only was the loonie still looking his way, but he had moved over to the passenger’s side of the car and had his face pressed tightly against the window.

Giving up all pretenses, Gerald turned and once again stared into the mad eyes of the man, who was now licking the car window, never taking his staring gaze off Gerald. His eyes glowed with a wild, animal-like zeal.

As Gerald looked on in disbelief, pointed curved horns began to poke out impossibly from both sides of the man’s skull. Flesh gave way, ripping open as blood streamed from the wounds and the protruding horns continued to grow, curving back like those of a ram. The man’s humanity disintegrated as his nose began to form into a pig-like snout and globs of yellow-green snot dribbled from the orifice. His eyes began to glow yellowish red.

When the creature opened his/its mouth it became a cavern filled with wolf-like fangs, glimmering with spittle. That disgusting tongue that had licked the window moments earlier, now coal-black and much larger, hung down over the side of the creature’s mouth. Gerald felt a scream rise in his throat, certain the monster would shatter the barriers of glass separating them and jump into Gerald’s car, tearing him to bits.

“Honk!” A horn blared, followed by a shout of, “Come on, buddy! We ain’t got all day. Move it!”

Among the blare of horns, Gerald looked out of the windshield and saw the traffic was once again moving. Against his better judgment, he reluctantly glanced at the car to his left expecting to see the hideous demon which had just been there only seconds ago. To his amazement he discovered the monster was gone, replaced by an average, everyday commuter sitting behind the steering wheel on his way to work. It wasn’t the same maniacal window licking driver he had originally noticed either. Gerald checked to make sure it was the same car he had seen, and he was certain it was. However, this man; this normal man, was not paying the slightest attention to Gerald.

As Gerald moved his car forward with the traffic flow, he caught a momentary glimpse of the man’s face in his driver’s side mirror. He would have sworn that original wild man was now staring back at him with that same crazy grin he had worn before. But when Gerald blinked the man’s face returned to that of the placid disinterested commuter.

“What the hell is going on!” Gerald wondered. “I know what I saw… or did I?” He was beginning to question himself. It was very hot in the car now and he was sweating profusely. Maybe he was dehydrated or suffering from the heat. He opened his window to try to capture whatever moving air he could find, which was essentially none. He closed it again. If he had imagined what he thought he had seen then he needed to get to his air-conditioned office as quickly as possible, since his brain obviously must be frying.

As traffic moved on, still far too slowly in Gerald’s opinion, he saw a man up ahead by the side of the road. He appeared to be some vagrant shuffling slowly along the side of the highway. He was dressed in a long black trench coat, much too heavy for such a hot day, with a wide-brimmed Fedora-styled hat. Torn and faded jeans extended from below the coat leading to a pair of bare feet. The man’s tattered clothing was covered in road dust and his gate was slow and awkward.

Instinctively reaching over to his door and pressing the lock button – although he knew it was already locked – Gerald watched the man carefully as his car crawled slowly forward. When the car was about ten feet from the man, traffic came to a complete stop once again. The vagrant ceased his steady forward plodding, turned slowly, and looked directly at Gerald’s car. His craggy road-worn face bore the leathery, wrinkled map of many years on the road. Then Gerald saw the man’s face change to that of the same crazed window-licking madman he had seen earlier. He was certain it was the same man.

The hitchhiker locked eyes with Gerald then drawing his hand from behind his back, the man pulled out a huge revolver. For a moment, Gerald thought he was going to point it at him and start shooting. However, the man put the business end of the weapon in his own mouth and before Gerald had a chance to react, the strange man pulled the trigger, sending a shower of blood, brains, flesh, and bone high into the air. His body seemed to impossibly remain standing for a moment, all but headless, before falling to the ground in a heap.

Gerald couldn’t believe the other drivers hadn’t seen the man or at least heard the gun blast. But as Gerald looked from car to car, everyone seemed to be going about their business appearing oblivious to what had just occurred. When Gerald looked back expecting to see the headless corpse lying by the side of the road; he saw instead, a man, the very same craggy-faced man he had at first seen walking with that same shuffling gate. As traffic began to move once again, Gerald’s car slowly passed the vagrant. He glanced over and saw the man in his long trench coat and jeans trudging along with his Fedora-covered head hanging down staring at the ground. As Gerald’s car advanced, he glanced into his passenger side mirror and thought he saw the man lift his head and look back with the face of the madman still wearing that hideous, maniacal grin. He shook his head to clear whatever horrifying visions he believed he was having.

Eventually, traffic began moving at normal speed and although still hot and confused, Gerald felt better knowing he’d soon be at work and would be able to relax in air-conditioned comfort. Up ahead he saw the entrance to his office complex and hit the gas, entering the parking area a bit faster than he normally would. A large sedan cut him off and got ahead of him. It took everything Gerald had to stop his car and just barely miss crashing into the jerk. Gerald didn’t recognize the car and before he realized what he was doing, he found himself waving his fist out the window and hurling every obscenity he ever heard at the inconsiderate driver, who suddenly stopped his car and got out.

The man getting out of the sedan was a big man, perhaps bigger than Gerald had ever seen with massive rippling muscles and a murderous look in his eye. As if the man’s own face wasn’t frightening enough, it began to change right before Gerald’s eyes. For a moment, it became that crazy man from the car and then the roadside. But after a moment it began to change once again.

Now the creature he saw lurching toward him between his car and the sedan was a massive, ape-like thing covered with matted fur. Its arms hung practically down to the ground and ended with large hands with long clawed fingers. The monster’s face was a combination simian/human hybrid resulting in a Neanderthal hanging brow look. Its nose had become the demon’s snout and when it opened its cavernous mouth, scores of long razor-sharp teeth jutted from blackened gums, including four tusk-like protrusions: two down from the top and two up from the bottom. The beast raised its arms high in the air and released a horrifying roar that sent chills down Gerald’s spine.

Gerald shouted, “I don’t know what the hell you are or what you want from me or why you won’t leave me alone, demon. But you are about to be sent back to whatever Hell it was you crawled up from.”

With that, Gerald pushed his gas pedal to the floor and as his tires smoked with burning rubber, the front of his car crashed into the rear of the sedan, crushing, and killing the horrible monster.

“Back to Hell with you demon!” Gerald screamed as he backed his car up then rammed the car again, practically cutting the monster in half.

He heard the screams of several women and the angry shouts of many men.

“Oh my god, no!”

“Somebody? Stop him!”

“Is he crazy?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Gerald please, stop!”

“Gerald? Stop?” He questioned. “That’s me. Why are they telling me to stop? I’m the victim here. Don’t they realize that?” He looked out the window and saw Sarah Jameson from accounting look in at him like had lost his mind.

People were beating on the side of Gerald’s car; screaming for him to get out. Now completely confused, he got out of his car shouting, “What’s wrong with you people? Didn’t you see the demon? Didn’t you see that horrible monster? He was trying to kill me! Are you all crazy?”

“Gerald, Look.” Sarah said, “It’s not a monster. It’s Mr. Robertson. It’s your boss, Gerald.”

“That… that’s not possible. It was this big muscle-bound guy… with a horrible grin… and then he became a demon, a monster. It wasn’t Mr. Robertson. Why would I ever want to hurt Mr. Robertson?”

But when Gerald looked down at the mangled mass of flesh crushed between the two entangled bumpers, he saw it was in fact, his boss, and the man was most definitely dead. He was dressed in what was now the remains of a blood-covered tattered business suit.

“Oh my God no!” Gerald cried, “I swear it wasn’t Mr. Robertson. I’m sure it wasn’t.” But whatever Gerald thought he had seen; this body was Robertson.

Suddenly the reality of what he was facing flooded over him, and he began to feel faint. Just before he blacked out, he saw a face in the crowd of onlookers. It was that face, the one with the hideous grin. Its black tongue slid from its swollen lips and slid across its teeth. Everything went black.







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