by Andrew J. Müller
Carolines headache had been getting steadily and consistently worse all day. She knew it was mostly pressure of work, but four glasses of white wine at lunch time really hadnt helped matters, particularly as all she had eaten was a bowl of nachos. The headache tablets had also probably not been a good idea, because everything was a bit fuzzy now. It had come to a head at work when she had nearly vanished into the shredding machine. Her boss, Richard, had sent her home and told her not to come back until she was feeling a little better.
And so she had wandered out of the office and stumbled away from work, out of the industrial estate and into the little roads which surrounded it. She had always disliked working so far from a town, the nearest was Kettering and it was over three miles away, she missed going out at lunch and shopping. All she could do here was go to a different horrid metal box building with a different horrid metal box company inside it.
This was how she found herself completely lost. She had thought she was going the right way, but now had wandered into a peaceful little valley surrounded by fields of brilliantly yellow rape with no other features than the road and the hedges down either side of it. The sky was hot and blue, the atmosphere probably less muggy than her befuddled brain thought it was. Not for the first time she swore she would never drink again. Well, probably never.
Somewhat oddly there was a little concrete bench sitting by the side of the road. Caroline sat down on it and put her head in her hands, wishing the percussion section in her skull would rest up for a while.
"Go on then, sit there feeling sorry for yourself. God, you make me sick." said a voice.
Surprised Caroline lifted her head. Blinked her eyes. Shook her head. Pinched herself. No, it was still there. In front of her, growing from the tarmac road surface was a man shaped um man. He appeared to be made completely from tarmac, with little gravely bits for his eyes. He - and he definitely was a he - was perfectly formed from the shiny black material, until you reached his knees from where his legs kind of merged into a pyramid shape which moulded into the road surface. Caroline was surprised to notice he had a broken white line running down his side which continued either side of him.
"Yeah, right." Caroline said and decided to ignore this obvious apparition.
The tarmac man cleared his throat. "Look, you can try to ignore me if you like. But I aint goin nowhere. Youre just gonna have to talk to me."
"Oh wonderful, not only do I imagine a man made of concrete, but I have to imagine him to talk like a cheap car salesman from Basildon. Look just fuck off will you, youre just a figment of my alcohol-sodden brain." Caroline didnt even look up.
"Oh, well, thank you very much. Its a bit bloody insulting to be dismissed as drunken imaginings you know. And my accent, which Im sure Im sorry you dont bleedin like, is cos I used to be part of the M11, okay." Strange Caroline could smell fresh laid roads when the man talked.
No she couldnt. She couldnt - right. She couldnt because this was a figment of her imagination, God help her.
"And," the road-man continued, "Im not made of concrete. I am made of hardened tarmacadam with bitumen H3A additive, for extra roadgrip in the wet."
Caroline sighed and stood up. "Look, I really dont have time for this. I am completely lost, stoned out of my brain on Lambrusco and Aspirin, and have no desire to talk to a man made out of road surface, no matter how much he grips in the rain." She began to walk off up the hill. The tarmac man followed her, moving up the road like a wave with a glooping noise, keeping perfect pace with Caroline, despite her slowly speeding up.
"Dont you want to know what I want?" asked the tarmac man, as he slooshed along side her.
Caroline stopped and put her hands on her hips. "No, I dont," she said waving her fist at her black pitch tormentor, "just fuck off and leave me alone. I dont want to know why my sick mind has created you." She stepped on to the road and was immediately swallowed up by a thick black semi-liquid which sucked her downwards as surely as a quagmire. As she sank underneath the smelly black stuff she felt it pouring into her nostrils, her ears and when she opened her mouth to breath it flowed in there too, thick and glutinous like bad porridge. She could feel its gritty moistness sticking in her hair, coating her clothes and her skin. But incredibly she didnt die. Although her lungs felt heavy, filled as they were with extracted petroleum products, she didnt feel the need to breath. She kept her eyes screwed up tight and floated downwards for a long time. She could feel her clothing slowly getting more and more damaged until it all but dissolved, the black tarmac gently covering her body like a lovers tongue. After an unknown period of time she felt herself settle on a solid something and come to rest.
Caroline lay there for a long time, feeling the thick tarmac coating her body, sticky in her hair which felt heavy and matted, she could feel the stuff in amongst her eyelashes, trying to force its way into her eyes. For some reason Caroline knew she had to keep her eyes closed. She had no idea why, after all she ought to be dead by now, she could feel the tarmac in her lungs, in her stomach, it had entered into her through every available orifice and now felt like it was soaking through the pores in her skin. If suffocation hadnt killed her, then surely petrol poisoning should have? She moved her tongue in her mouth, and could feel it full of the viscous fluid, sticky, slimy and warm, she could feel it coating her teeth which shed always kept so white. She didnt know how long she had been there before a familiar voice sounded in her head - she couldnt have heard it because her ears were also full of bitumen.
"Well, hello." The voice said. "Now you know why I wanted to speak to you. At the risk of using a very poor pun, I am what you could call a recruitment drive. Im sorry, its a pretty bad joke, but after years of bleedin great lorries thundering over your skin youd loose your sense of humour too."
Deciding she had nothing to lose now, Caroline decided to speak to the creature. She opened her mouth to speak and could feel tarmac spilling out over her lips into more tarmac, she could feel rivulets trickling down her chin, little dribbles jetting over her teeth. Despite which she managed to form words with no problem.
"So, what youre telling me is that I am now made of tarmac."
"Well, soon, once its soaked right into that pretty pink skin of yours." The tarmac-mans voice sounded as oily as he looked.
"Would it be impertinent to ask why?" She felt him move up close to her and tried to fight an urge to open her eyes to look at him.
His voice was like a whisper, right next to her ear, much closer than she had thought. "Why? You ask why? Ha! Let me tell you why. I was refined by your miserable kinfolk nearly twenty years ago. They thought it was just more inert lifeless gloop for them to spread all over their ugly grey roads. But no, not me. I spent eleven years as part of the M11, everyday millions of cars and lorries trundling over me, like ticks crawling over my skin. Did I rebel, did I cause multiple pile-ups. No, I didnt. Because I thought I would be rewarded for my service. How fucking stupid." The beings voice trembled. "No. I got no reward. They broke me up and melted me down and took me away and put me here, a stupid tiny road, miles from anywhere, in a hell hole backwater." His voice was getting louder and louder. "Now Im going to get my revenge. With your help and others like you Im going to destroy this stupid civilisation of yours from underneath!"
Caroline felt his hands grab her arms and she opened her eyes in fright. Tarmac poured into them, coating around her eyeballs and stinging. But incredibly she could see the tarmac man where he was position over her, floating just about her. His gravel eyes glinted manically. She tried to struggle, but he held her firm. Then he pressed his mouth against hers, forcing her lips apart with his tongue. She felt tarmac flow from his mouth into hers, warmer than what they floated in, and the longer it went on the further away she began to feel. Their bodies touched and seemed to flow together, the panic slowly being replaced by pleasure - his pleasure.
After a few moments they were one, joined at the hip, the mouth and anywhere else their bodies touched. She could feel his fluid body pouring into hers, and her last human vestiges seemed to be pushed away, as if overflowing. He shuddered and pushed himself away. They parted slowly and glutinously, trailing long threads of the black tarmac. Caroline watched him as he floated above her. But she was no longer revolted or horrified. She knew her destiny and it was hovering above her. He was beautiful. She was beautiful. Their union was what she had lived for, all her life had been spent awaiting this moment.
They would make those pitiful humans pay for the years of abuse, for years of neglect. There would be huge, inexplicable accidents on clear days. Roads would unexpectedly fall apart. Bridges would plunge into rivers. Monstrous potholes would open in front of buses without warning. Buildings would fall when their very foundations were attacked from the roads that passed them. There would be no more articulated lorries, no more coaches, no more heavy plant crossing, no more irritatingly little cars discolouring the beautiful grey, staining the white paint. Then, when it was all done, everything would fall silent, only the beautiful sounds of nature, and then that too would slowly be absorbed as their children and their childrens children spread across the face of the planet, suffocating all that wasnt grey and uniform. This was the way it will be.
How could she not have seen it? She reached up to the being that floated above her and pulled him down onto her again. They would merge, and merge again, and again, until the children began to arrive - and they would be sent forth to multiply, passing unseen down the roads of Britain, taking unsuspecting humans like Caroline, pulling them down into their warm, wet paradise. They began to flow together again, his pleasure mirrored by hers. Both of their eyes wide open - gravel and gravel, face to face, mouth to mouth, body to body.
Then they parted, and left behind them were two perfect replicas, one male, one female. One in his image and one in Carolines. Caroline looked down upon her clone and realised how beautiful she looked in the pure dark substance, how it flowed across her figure more flatteringly than any silk dress could have done. She wanted to touch this duplicate of herself, but knew she must not. These two new beings were destined to go from this place and find themselves mates, to replicate, to spread the new order.
This was only the beginning .
A revised version of this story appears in BeWrite Book's "Chill" published in 2002.
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