Chadpocalypse - 2:11 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
If you want to catch up, here's a link to the collection: https://www.abctales.com/collection/chadpocalypse
2:11 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Chad burst forth into the raging sunlight of the Midway desert slapping at the air in surprise. The bright light drove daggers into his eyes and he nearly fell to his knees. He brought his hands to his face and was surprised to find it had been wetted by tears. Gasping, he pulled in a lungful of hot, dry air. White spots blotted his vision from a mix of hyperventilation and the baking heat of the sun.
Madeline’s clipped voice cut through the haze. “Come on, we don’t have time to waste.”
“When do we ever have time to waste?” asked James, panting.
Chad squinted at him. James was trying to hide tears of his own, but not doing a very good job of it. “Can we talk about what the hell just happened?”
“There’ll be time for that on the plane, but we need to go now.” She put a firm hand on Chad’s back and pushed him forward.
“Where exactly do we need to go?” Chad looked out across the shimmering desert and saw nothing but the black tarmac of the highway and a rundown shed ahead of them. A tumbleweed blew across the landscape, completing the image.
“I’ve got something in the garage that can get us out of here in a hurry.” Madeline pointed to the shed.
Chad panted, trying to keep up with her. It was a force beyond him that moved his feet one in front of the other, but somehow, he managed. A sense of dread mounted within him, and he could feel the horseman moving closer with every breath they took. Whatever Joe did, Madeline was right, it hadn’t lasted for long. “He’s on our ass,” Chad managed through gasping breaths. In the last two days, he felt he had run more than the rest of his life combined.
Madeline nodded as the three of them ran around to the front of the shed. Inside were four dusty walls and not a lot else. Chad looked at Madeline and James in turn, hoping for an answer. They said nothing.
In the distance, there was a muffled boom, followed by rumbling earth. Madeline hurried into the shed and moved tools aside, revealing a secret panel. The tin walls whirred as the dusty floor slid back to reveal a dimly-lit hole. Chad was about to express his lack of desire to go into another mystery hole when a shiny black car emerged from the floor.
Calling it a car might have been a bit of a misnomer; the vehicle more closely resembled a boat than anything else. It was a wide, black Cadillac, polished to the point where the glinting rays of sunlight from the desert beyond became blinding reflections.
“That thing is going to help us outrun Death? Seems appropriate enough.” Chad had pictured something speedier, like a sports car, but he supposed all-black everything was dismal enough to work.
James put a hand on the car. “I’ve never seen one in person. This is one of The Order’s chariots.” His voice was filled with wonder and awe.
“Well, whatever it is, I hope it goes fast.” Chad stole a look at the diner and saw the structure shaking on its foundations. The shed had stopped whirring, but the ground beneath them still trembled. By the diner, there was a mighty crack as the dry desert split in two like a stale breadstick. Realizing how low on time they were, Chad ran around the side of the vehicle and flung open the passenger door. There was a loud clang as it collided with the shed’s siding. Chad winced, knowing a rebuke was coming.
Madeline shot him a withering look. “Be careful with that! This vehicle is one of our best kept secrets and you’re going to ding it before we even get in a chase?” She huffed and opened the driver’s side door extra slowly to emphasize the point. Even as she slid into the driver’s seat, she was still favoring Chad with a sideways glare.
James followed suit, getting into the passenger seat, and treating the car like it was made of glass. As soon as his door was closed, Madeline turned the key, filling the shed with the vehicle’s ferocious roar. To Chad, it sounded like the guttural exclamation of a beast waiting to be uncaged. Chad reached up and buckled his seatbelt, feeling the pit of his stomach drop out at the thought of the vehicle’s power. Right as the metal buckle clicked, Madeline floored the accelerator and the car shot out of the shed like a rocket. In a matter of seconds, they were back on the highway, trailing a plume of dust behind them.
As they peeled away from the diner, Chad stole a glance back. The earth surrounding the place had continued to crack and steam was rising in great gouts. The low rumble continued, growing in volume and intensity, until eventually the diner sank into the earth. A mushroom cloud of dust rose into the afternoon air, blocking the sun and casting a long shadow.
“What the hell?” breathed James.
Madeline adjusted her rearview mirror and bit her lip. “Hell indeed.”
Chad thought of Darla and the wonderful grease-laden meal she had served him a day earlier. “I’m sorry for bringing this here.” A heavy weight settled in on his chest, and he swore that somewhere in the distance he could hear laughter.
“Their deaths are on you Chad,” called a voice on the wind. “You should have taken my offer.”
Chad looked around to see if the others had heard anything, but if they did, neither showed it. As if on cue, a spectral figure emerged from the mushroom cloud. They were moving so quickly that it was hard to make out, but Chad saw the white fire and could feel the rider’s presence in his bones. Death looked at them, and Chad could feel the promise in his gaze. No matter how fast they ran, no matter how far they drove, he would be there to greet them at the end.
Madeline pushed a red button on the side of the steering wheel, and soon, the diner became nothing more than a memory as they sped across the desert. In his head, Chad heard the grinding laugh of Death as he watched them rocket away. There was no fear or anger in it, only overwhelming confidence pushing Chad deep into the car’s leather seats.
He suffered in silence, watching the landscape pass by in a blur of boring, dry, heat. Over time, the deserts turned into long fields filled with automated sprinklers, and eventually to tall stalks of corn. The car passed through the shadowy corridor, and Chad dozed. The day wore on and before he knew it, the sun was low on the horizon, giving the landscape a red-purple glow. Even in their predicament, he had to marvel at its beauty. “You don’t get sunsets like that in Midway.”
Neither James nor Madeline responded at first. Much like their first drive, James had spent most of the ride with his face leaned against the window, half-asleep. Somehow, despite all they had experienced, he looked peaceful. From his stupor, James muttered: “All this time, I assumed he was drinking to get over a lack of belief.”
Madeline gave a hollow chuckle. “If only.” She flexed her fingers around the steering wheel as if checking to see it was still there. “That was always the problem with Joe. He knew the higher power was there and he could never forgive any actions that went against it.”
“Can you blame him?” asked James, his eyes lowering.
Madeline squinted. “Yes, I think I can. There’s a lot of evil in the world, and the divine don’t often choose to deal with it unless they absolutely must. The fact of the matter is, you’re never going to be able to save everyone, and sometimes you have to settle for those you can.”
Chad spoke up. “What was that inside him?” he asked.
“That was a demon we were sent to exorcise from a small girl.” Madeline winced at the mention of it. “We tried to save her, really did, but in the end, the only option was to damn the both of them.” Her expression was pained, but she showed no signs of remorse or sadness.
“Damn a little girl to Hell?” Chad scoffed. “I’m starting to doubt The Order’s intentions.”
“Watch it,” snipped Madeline. “The diner may have fallen, but it’s one of many safe havens. The Order has a code of conduct and letting that Soldier Demon out of the girl would have cost countless lives.”
“Right, and that’s for you to decide.”
Madeline’s face grew hot and Chad could immediately tell he had crossed a line. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, Chad, but let me remind you of something. Were it not for The Order, you’d be dead right now under Death’s heels. This very car you are riding in is provided by the organization you seem so keen on deriding, and the plane that’s going to ferry you to the end of your quest is provided by the very same.”
“Who said anything about a plane?” Chad felt legitimately confused.
“If you read the briefing on War and Famine rather than moping in the back, you might understand.”
Chad remembered the dossier she had given him the night before and winced. “I may have left—”
“Don’t be dense, we make copies.” Madeline opened the center console and pulled out a folder. “I’ve already booked seats for the two of you to Milan.” She tossed the folder back at him. “I suggest you hit the books.”
Chad opened the folder and looked down at the familiar face of Famine. “Oh good, we can talk to this asshole and his stupid horse again.” Chad flipped through the pages. “I don’t suppose we really have a choice in this, do we?”
“Well, the other option is waiting for Death to come and finish you outright.”
“What she means to say is: No, we don’t,” amended James with a yawn.
“No, you don’t. Now read up, it’s going to be a long flight and a longer fight after it.”