Somewhere close, way too close behind them in the traffic, a horn honked.
“That wasn’t what I think it was, was it?” said Beth.
Kevin shifted in the driving seat. “Jesus. Couldn’t have been.”
Beth killed the radio.
Kevin checked his mirrors.
They chanced glances left and right, looking at the occupants of the vehicles around them. Their expressions were all fixed with the same disbelief, the same incredulity.
The same fear.
WTF? No one in the city had a car with a horn anymore. Those that did had the things rendered inoperable.
No sense tempting fate.
Christ, most vehicles here were electric now, just so the temptation to rev the engine wasn’t there.
Their speeds were even limited to thirty miles an hour.
You needed to get somewhere on time? Then you left with plenty of time to spare.
You screwed up, took a wrong turn, got stuck in traffic? Your problem.
Those were the new rules now.
Everyone here had to stay on an even keel, at all costs.
Nobody wanted to show any sign of-
The horn honked again. Sounded like it was only three or four cars back.
“Stop,” said Beth under her breath, wringing her hands. “Please stop.” She reached into her pocket and came out with the pink inhaler, swallowing down a quick puff.
“I thought you got rid of that thing,” said Kevin.
“I hung on to it. Just in case,” she said, her voice racked with anxiety.
The horn sounded once more, this time for three very long seconds.
“Right, that’s it,” said Kevin, pushing open his door and stepping out into the road.
The weight of what he found himself doing was not lost on him.
Jaws literally dropped inside the vehicles as the other commuters watched him walk back along the freeway. Expressions implored him to stop, to reassess his actions.
To chill the fuck out.
The driver of the Chrysler sat with his left arm resting on the open window, his right hand planted on the center of the steering wheel. He angled his head at Kevin and smiled.
“Would you please stop that?” said Kevin.
The driver shook his head.
“Do you know what you’re doing?”
The driver nodded, now honking the horn repeatedly in short bursts. “Yep. Shoveling chum into this here water to bring in the big fella.”
If Kevin had to guess, by the accent, the guy was Australian.
“You really don’t want to do that,” said Kevin, reaching in to remove the man’s hand from the wheel.
The driver grabbed his arm with his other hand and twisted it violently, bending it far past the point nature intended. One more millimeter and Kevin’s arm was going to break.
“Of course, I want to do it,” said the driver through clenched teeth. “It’s the whole reason I’m here.” He patted the passenger seat. On it sat the biggest gun, the only gun, Kevin had ever seen in his life.
“I’m a big game hunter. And I’ve come here to hunt the biggest, gamest trophy of them all. The only beast of its kind. Serenity. What a poncey name to give such a magnificent beast.”
Kevin’s arm was still in the man’s vise-like grip and there was no sign of his easing it. “I’ve heard tell the city gave birth to it. The people here, I mean. The Rat Race. All that stress, all that pent-up frustration somehow brought it into being. Society’s anger generating its own anger management, creating its own ‘anger manager’, you might say.”
Tears formed in Kevin’s eyes with the pain, pain that was fueling an emotion he thought he had put to bed forever.
“Now look at you all ,” the driver said, gesturing at the people staring right back at them. “All on your best behavior, all minding your p’s and q’s, afraid of raising your voice, of getting even the littlest bit bent out of shape.”
The man honked out a little tune on the car’s horn. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Or whatever the hell you are. Daddy’s got a little treat for you.”
The window of the BMW behind Kevin buzzed down.
“Hey, Mister,” the voice came. “Lay off the god damn horn, and give the man back his arm.”
“Or what?” said the driver.
“Please. Stop,” a small, frightened voice said.
“Beth.” Kevin growled. “Go back to the car. Please.”
“No,” she said, defiance in her voice.
“Oh-oh,” said the driver with a laugh.
There was a hiss of pneumatics as the door of the bus in the next lane over opened. The driver got off. “Man, if you don’t knock it off, I’m going to stick my hand right down your throat and pull you inside out.”
“Yes!” hollered the Chrysler driver in celebration. “That’s the spirit. That’s what I’m talking about.”
A palpable hush descended upon them all at once, as if the very oxygen had been sucked out of the atmosphere.
Kevin, Beth, the BMW driver, the bus driver all spoke as one: “No. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The doors of the vehicles all around opened and the occupants climbed out like robots to join them.
“We tried to warn you,” everyone said simultaneously. “To not provoke us. To induce the rage.”
The driver released Kevin’s arm, who no longer seeming pained from the arm lock he’d been in, and reached for his weapon.
“But it’s going to be all right,” said the assembly. “Serenity is coming.”
With that, the hundreds standing on the road bowed their heads, slipping into some shared meditation, and vanished, their clothes, their hats, their scarves, their watches, their jewelry falling to the ground around their empty shoes.
Right as that ground started to shake.
Cracks opened in the asphalt, hairline at first, growing into great fissures.
The ground heaved upward and dove like a humpback whale after an intake of breath. The wave catapulted the Chrysler twenty feet into the air. It came back to earth with a crash, on its side.
Struggling to regain his senses, the driver grabbed his weapon and clambered over the seats out onto the side of the vehicle, right as the asphalt rose again.
Only this time it was not simply concrete and tarmacadam.
It was alive.
A fist the size of a Mini Cooper climbed into the air and crashed right down on the Chrysler as the driver jumped clear. Clear into the palm of a second massive asphalt hand that closed around him like a cage and began to contract.
He shouldered his weapon and started firing into the walls of the concrete death chamber. Emptying the entire magazine of high caliber bullets, however, had little effect.
As he prepared to reload, the cage stopped shrinking and he was lifted high into the air, until he was brought eye to massive, empty, black pit of an eye with Serenity itself.
“Sssh,” the titanic being said, putting its finger to its cavernous mouth and looking out across the city. “You hear that?”
The driver listened a moment and shook his head.
“That’s right,” said Serenity, its concrete tongue grinding across those tombstone-sized teeth. “Nothing. Silence. All is calm.” The monster spoke with that same unified voice of the city’s population, of those who had vanished only moments before. “That’s just the way we like it.”
The driver slammed home his next magazine and prepared to fire.
Serenity shook its head, tutted, and closed its fist tight.
“And that’s the way it’s going to stay,” the titan said, sinking back down into the underworld, returning its subjects to their sedate, unperturbed daily lives as it went.
Create your own monster, Chuck Wendig said. Something new. And write a story around it. So I did.