Ghost Beaver Kick

Select Your Own Adventure™
34

It was dark, and the streets were as quiet as a small town library on a Friday night.

   A dry wind rippled through the fences, throwing candy wrappers and paper into the faces of anyone under five foot five. At six feet, Jim Hayawaka-Smith was safer than a crab at thanksgiving.

    Down the emptying street sat a sewer grate churning out a steady torrent of steam. It was the sort of thing that appeared in every mystery movie made since the fog machine was invented, but rarely in real life. Jim didn't think it was possible for an industrial smoke machine to be jammed in the city's sewer system, so he had to believe it was real. Still, plodding over with his hands stuffed in his coat, Jim peered down into the mist. The steam continued to spill out of the grate, as if the presence of a living, breathing Hayawaka-Smith didn't bother it any more than the cracks in the road, the flickering street lights or oily puddles Jim had sloshed through to get there. All in all, the sewer grate was pushing the casual sort of indifference only sewer grates can push. Jim sniffed a little, decided he didn't like the smell of it, and wandered off. The grate couldn't have cared less.

    It had rained all that day.  When it first came, the rain was welcomed. North Bay, like most of the country, was suffering from a terrible drought. It hadn't rained more than a thimbleful in three months. Farmers had cried into tin cans for keeping and cows had been known to start smouldering when left unattended.  So when the rain came, people looked out their dirty windows and smiled. Farmers danced in the puddles, cows set sail in the creeks, and the price of hamburger suddenly dropped. But when the rain that had started at peacefully at dawn went angrily into its third day and eleventh hour, coming down harder than a schoolteacher's union on the suggestion of a pay cut, people started to notice. It had stopped being the kind of rain they needed and had turned instead into the sort of rain that drives up the price of sandbags. But by 8 p.m. it had stopped, and the indifferent sewer grates and nonchalant drains had done away with most of it. By 10 p.m., the farmers had retired to watch football games from different time zone and the cows had returned ashore, heavy with foreign booty and well on their way to a crippling vitamin C deficiency. Jim Hayawaka-Smith, as sober as a goldfish in a drinking glass, walked the streets of North Bay and narrated.

    "There's a certain way a city feels... after dark, when all the respectable people are indoors. It's quiet. Cool. There's not much going on for a guy like me. Tonight the city has this look, like a mother who expected better. I started to make my way down to the bar. I thought maybe I could get a drink, see a show. I didn't see--"

    Jim continued on. There were few people on the street, but they didn't take much notice of him. North Bay had seen stranger. The sewer grates oozed indifference as Jim's flickering shadow moved along them.

    If they had taken notice, there were two things most people noted about Jim Hayawaka-Smith:

    1. That he looked, smelt, and sounded decidedly human and

    2. That he was male.

    Others who were more observant might have noticed him standing at six feet, six inches tall, with a heavy build, a splash of finely angled brown hair on his head, two or three days worth of stubble on his face, a small mouth and a set of gray eyes that could stare at you over candlelight softly, silkily, and invitingly.

    Not that they ever did. Jim was as single as he was single-minded. Also, he never paid for dinner.

    "The steam from the sewers curls around the wet walkways," Jim continued. "Alley cats march behind trash bins and cower in front of dumpsters. There's a heaviness to the air, but not the comforting kind."

    Jim was happily narrating when he heard the scream.

    It was piercing. The people on the street took note, looked toward the sound with mouths agape and eyes boggling, and then swam hurriedly in the opposite direction. Against the weak stream of people, Jim began jogging toward the sound. He felt both excited and uneasy. Here was something for him to do.

    There was a second scream, softer than the first. It had a gurgle in it. Jim didn't know what that meant, but he felt like it would be a good thing to know. The more he learned about the sort of things that made women scream twice in a big city after nightfall, the better he would be at avoiding them.

    North Bay was a city built around itself. From the air some cities look like grids while others look like crop circles, but North Bay was remarkable for looking exactly like a drawing that Jessie Remington, age 5, had made with a red Etch-a-Sketch in 1983. North Bay wasn't based on Jessie's work, but it was a curious coincidence that the two looked so much alike. Or they did, anyway, until Jessie gave the old Etch-a-Sketch a good shake. Then her drawing had looked like North Bay sister city, Moore, which at this time found itself in a state of nonexistence.

    The long and short of it was that if anyone wanted to get anywhere in North Bay, they had best either know the city or spend two days planning an attack using a map, a magnifying glass and a military grade stress ball. Fortunately, Jim knew the city well enough to get home an average of four out of five times, so running through the back alleys he felt he would be upon the source of the scream soon.

    Rounding a corner, Jim found the woman and his feeling of excitement dried up faster a redhead's lips in January. There, sprawled on the ground before him, was the deadest woman Jim had ever seen.

    Her left leg was hooked almost as far upwards as her right, giving her the appearance of a human anchor. Both her arms were above her head, and her head was turned at an unnatural angle. Something was seriously wrong with her neck, and Jim didn't think it was the sort of thing makeup would cover, though she was covered in quite a lot of it.

    One would have expected the sorts of things that people see in movies to be sprawled around her: pearls, a purse, some coins, a tube of worn lipstick, or an orphaned future vigilante. There was nothing to be seen, and Jim was happy about that.

    Regardless, Jim felt his stomach take a quick trip up to his throat, say hello, and then plummet back down like a drunk firefighter on a newly waxed pole. As the intrepid team of special effects engineers hadn't made their way over the the alleyway with the underground smoke machine, nothing was stopping Jim from seeing every angle the woman had ended up in.

    The scene was unpleasant to look at, so Jim switched from his eyes to his ears. He listened. There was no sound. No one was running behind him or before him. It was suddenly much too quiet for a back alley of a city street on a Tuesday night. So like an uneasy child playing with a breaker box, Jim bravely set aside his feelings, switched from ears to mouth, and began to punctuate the silence with a dashes of narration.

    "Poor girl," he whispered, "never stood a chance."

    Like an enthusiastic owl, Jim walked in small circles, his head constantly on the woman.

    "This was somebody's daughter, somebody's sister, and maybe somebody's date."

    Two things happened when Jim said "date."

    The first: Jim decided that a drink would probably be a pretty nice thing to have, after all.

    The second: something skittered by behind him making a skittery type of sound.

    Jim's reflexes were excellent. He spun around, holding his arms out and making a gun out of his fingertips.

    He knew he looked ridiculous, and he suddenly wished he was someplace dark.

    The skittering continued, moving from Jim's left to his right, and then there was the smash of a trash bin, the cries of a cowering stray cat, and the skittering danced off into the distance. Jim was a fast man. He could have chased down whatever made the skittering sounds. But he didn't. Disassembling his hand-made hand gun, Jim turned, walked five minutes, bought himself nineteen Liquid Steak shots, went to the threatre, purchased a ticket, sat down, clapped a little and watched GHOST BEAVER KICK - THE MOVIE.


To find out more about THE MOVIE, turn to Page 9

To return to the THEATRE, WHERE JIM FINALLY ENDED UP, turn to Page 1