Chaser by Nick Perilli | Flash Fiction | #thesideshow

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August 13, 2017

Chaser

Kevin left the hospital at two in the morning. He had a solid evening of making rounds throughout the place. A three car accident on the highway brought him here near-tailgating an ambulance, but an elderly gentleman with a penchant for suing hospitals for the smallest infractions kept him inside. His briefcase held a pile of paperwork signed, initialed and paginated for the viewing pleasure of the partners tomorrow.

The parking garage, having the faint smell of gasoline and stagnant water, stood empty, for the most part. On level four, only his car and another sat side by side near the elevators. A woman—middle-aged, middle class—was in the other. She was turned away from him, but he’d seen her before. Around the hospital.

After unloading his briefcase into his car, Kevin knocked on her window. Three light taps.

“Hello,” Kevin said, smiling and holding his business card against the window. “I know approaching you like this might seem shady, but I wonder if you’re in need of some legal assistance? Has there been a death? A dismemberment? Slip and fall, perhaps?” He tried to flatten the wrinkles in his suit.

The woman turned to him. Her mascara pooled a little, just under her eyes. Kevin saw the nurse’s badge on her chest, but the glare of the garage lights obscured her name. She rolled down her window.

“No man, I just come out here to cry after my shift,” she said with a blank expression, then rolled the window back up.

“Gotcha,” Kevin said, stepping back toward his car. “That’s horrible.”

 

Home was twenty-five miles north of the hospital, just outside the city. Everyone would be asleep by the time he got there. Five miles north, his eyes started closing on their own. The car veered just enough to startle him awake. He pulled to the side of the road to rest.

He woke an hour later and continued north.

“All the 80s hits you love,” the radio said. “It’s so late I can say whatever the I want. I don’t care. I’m playing throat-singing.”

And she did. She played Mongolian throat-singing.

Ten miles north, he found himself behind an ambulance—dormant, dark—and started following it without thinking, taking three turns he wouldn’t have otherwise. This would be the back way home—quicker, but winding and woodsy.

“All the 80s you love,” the radio said. “My dad was a backup singer for these next guys. He beat me once on accident. He was aiming for my brother.”

More Mongolian throat-singing.

Kevin would need to correct his route—break free from the ambulance’s and take the next left down Nies Road. They made the turn first. A left down Nies, then a right climbing Mont. It weaved through the narrow wood roads, with Kevin in tow.

The ambulance mimicked him before he acted.

“All the 80s you love,” the radio said. “I straight up don’t believe in the universe. Like its existence. To believe that I am so insignificant fucks me up so bad that I reject the idea. Dead air. “I’m taking calls. Let’s chat.”

Baby, crank up that smooth Mongolian throat-singing.

The ambulance flipped the lights and started the siren, relieving Kevin.

They made all of Kevin’s turns quicker, now. Left down Arbor. Merge onto Davis. Take the second turn in the roundabout onto Crunkletown.

“All the 80s you love,” the radio said. “My producer is telling me that I didn’t give the station’s number out last time.” So she gave it out, but the numbers blurred in Kevin’s ears.

The Mongolian throat singing helped calm him a little. He was panicking, and the echoing Eastern pitches and gentle accompaniment were a soothing constant. A beautiful art form, he thought.

He matched the speed of the ambulance down every road. He knew the destination. That was obvious, by this point.

Other sirens filled the air now, these ones louder and more violent.

Kevin and the ambulance turned together as one onto Grays, and the ambulance hopped the curb in front of his house, which was collapsing into itself. Sinking into the fragrant dirt.

“Sinkhole,” one of the EMTs yelled. The other—a younger one—repeated it back to him, sounding excited. Kevin figured this wasn’t something they had the privilege of seeing every day. He knew them. He’d followed them before, to a four-alarm house fire where they pulled four bodies. The sole survivor spat on Kevin when he approached. She took his card and threw it into the ashes of her homes. Then did the same with his briefcase. Then tried to do the same with him.

The older EMT spotted Kevin, parked in the driveway and stepping out of the car with a quizzical look over his face. The EMT put his hand out, telling the lawyer to put his business card away. Kevin did have one out—force of habit. The new embossed card stock felt damn lovely in his fingers.

“Fire and rescue are on the scene,” the man shouted. The younger one repeated it back to him. He was in-training.

Then, the sinkhole took them. It expanded like the dynamics in a piece of Mongolian throat singing sometimes did—with sudden, surprising force and guile. The land gave way and both of them lost their footing.

Kevin picked up his phone after watching it happen; he needed to call someone. His family, maybe, but they were deep in the house. He started hitting numbers anyway.

“All the 80s you love,” the radio said. “We have Kevin from right here in Omaha on the line. Go ahead, Kevin”

“There’s a sinkhole in Wagner County,” Kevin said. “Grays Lane.” The ground softened beneath him. He took a step back, watching his car pulled forward. “If anyone in the area needs some legal assistance, please contact me at—”

He cut off there.

 


About the Author

Nick Perilli is a freelance writer and musician living in Philadelphia with a canary. He graduated from Arcadia University’s MFA in Creative Writing program with humans. Work of his can be found in Maudlin House, Between Worlds, and Empyreome Magazine.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicoloperilli