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The music I heard blaring from the other end of the street was metal, mid-eighties.

“That’s… that’s Iron Maiden.”

Dickinson’s mighty screams urged for everyone to run for the hills, to run for their lives.

I ran, first for the hills and then for my life. After a few hours of maniacal fleeing I chanced a peek over my shoulder. There was nothing chasing me to those hills, nothing present that I should have been running from.

It was some hours before I made it home. I collapsed at the mouth of my driveway.

Ghoul rushed to my aide.

“Water,” I gasped, clawing at his shirt.

“I got something even better.”

He faded away. What is he up too? Any adrenaline left within me dissipated, bringing forth a horrid realization: my core temperature was dangerously high. The risk for heatstroke weighed heavily on my sluggish brain and I knew I was severely dehydrated; happened every time I heard that song.

“This will fix you right up,” said Ghoul, who returned to my side promptly.

Chilled hands braced behind my neck, then to my shoulders. I was too weak to sit on my own. I fell into Ghoul, who cradled me in his arms swaying me back and forth, back and forth. The friction of our bodies elevated my body heat to a low-broil.

“You gotta get me into an ice bath,” I pleaded.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Now open wide for the airplane,” Ghoul rammed an oversized spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream through my clenched lips. “There you go, just chew and let the flavors ease away your troubles.”

It was tasty, I’ll give him that, but Ghoul denied me the chance to chew and swallow. I attempted the universal sign for choking; think I even succeeded to emulate my predicament. Ghoul, however, mistook that for a compliment.

“Itsi s good, I know. It can go down a little heavy, though. Here, this well help,” A straw was jammed nto my mouth, pushing ice cream further down my throat. “Drink this.”

Whatever he gave me wasn’t a milk shake. More like a failed late, way too fucking hot. Luckily the scalding milk dissolved the ice cream and I was able to breathe once more.

“I’m trying to incorporate espresso machines with the operation. Hope it came alright,” Ghoul nodded his head at the Styrofoam cup.

“It’s terrible,” I took a knee, gathered my wits, then stood. “What operation are you talking about?”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. You took off when I was driving in.”

A massive box truck sat in front of our garage.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“My new summer gig: Ghoul’s Fine Frozen Treats. Come on, I’ll show you around.”

He took me to the back. Ghoul opened the double doors then pulled out a metal ramp to the driveway. We climbed in.

“Whoa,” I said.

Everything was so shiny and new. Sleek metal surfaces and fresh laminate flooring caught my attention right off. The cleanliness is too good, I pondered. He’s hiding something for sure. The layout was smooth as a professional food trucks; plenty of room for two or three workers to craft professional desserts.

“Check out this selection.”

The freezers were stocked to the brim with tantalizing novelties and hard-serve classics such as chocolate. Ghoul pulled open the cover to his cold table, revealing a vast spread of toppings. There was enough syrups and cherries and whipped cream and nuts to easily kill a herd of diabetic humans.

“I’m impressed. What’s next?”

“Get some sleep, that’s what next.”

Morning came too early. And I don’t ever remember volunteering to assist Ghoul with his ice cream business.

“Coffee,” I grumbled into the kitchen.

“No time, we gotta go,” Ghoul tossed tan shorts and aqua short-sleeve polo shirts at my feet. “Put those on.”

I was beat, not really in the mood to argue. The uniform was form-fitting to say the least. Bulges I never knew to exist popped out around my mid-drift. What are these, goiters? Tumors? Am I dying or just getting fatter?

He drove while I sat in the back, stooped over an ancient Dell laptop with an endless playlist of new-hire videos and training. Took all morning, but I was properly trained on how to scoop ice cream and not sexual harass my coworkers.

Ghoul parked in on the backside of Knowlton Park. It was late morning, cloudless and unnecessarily humid. The park was empty.

“There is no one here–

The sudden burst of a friendly jingle silenced my questioning. My periphery then revealed packs of children rushing towards us.

“Jesus I haven’t even opened the window,” Ghoul handed me a serrated police baton and a stout riot shield caked with dried blood. “Hold them back while I get ready.”

“But they’re just children,” I protested.

“Look again.”

The children were far from Knowlton’s wandering youth. I’d say now, after tireless research that I learned their identity to be closer to spawns of hell. They were winged and hoofed abominations, flapping overhead like demonic vultures circling a ripe corpse. I brought my shield high and burst through the back doors, fighting the little monsters back to the breach.

Crimson spilled across the sky. Fires consumed the horizons. I saw banners waving with long-dead Holy Roman Emperor Constantine’s sign. Armies of Kinghts Templar and their distant ninja cousins Ninjas Templar charged forward charged forward, brandishing their blades high to the heavens.

“Send them back to Hell!” shouted the passenger of a 67′ black Chevy Impala.

I seized the moment of bloody confusion and slipped back into the truck, locking the doors tight behind me.

“I think they got it covered,” I pointed out the window to the scene of biblical chaos.

“Oh good,” Ghoul said. “I think we’re going to try down by the lake anyways. Not so much going on there, should be an easy first day for you.”

© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.