After a successful day of neutralizing an outbreak of bezelkots in a two mile radius for his client, Garbol forked right to get onto the 270 South onramp behind a line of cars. Bezelkots were a kind of golem that took over companies and micromanaged them into a stupor, and they had a particular affinity to the D.C. area. The lane slowed before he reached the interstate.
As the onramp merged, the line of cars in the next lane crept forward, bumper to bumper. Garbol put his left blinker on and crept along in the temporary lane with the rest of the mergers, looking for an opening. Not a single driver in the next lane allowed room. In fact, when the pony tail ahead of him tried to edge in, the bushy beard and mustache in a beat-up, red Corolla looked right at him, then punched it and forced him back out. Even in his tiny Geo Metro, Garbol couldn’t slide in.
Ugh. It was going to be a long drive home. He hadn’t realized it was rush hour. A wizard’s life is blessed with certain oblivions.
His cell phone rang. It had to be something serious because he’d turned it off and hexed it to only ring when it was an emergency.
“Hello?” It automagically went to speaker.
“Garbol. Danny here. We’ve got some kind of snake monster on highway 66. Word has it, it’s swallowed three people and isn’t slowing down.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Shall I send you the GPS coordinates?”
“What’s a GPS?”
“On you pho… never mind, where are you now?”
“Just south of Rockville.”
“Cheez. Okay. When you get to 66, it’s a little bit past Vienna.”
Ahead where the onramp lane ended, the cars were forced to push into traffic, slowing down everyone and jamming traffic up worse. Garbol grabbed the top of his cue stick propped upright on the passenger side and spun it.
“Ward me a bumper for a traffic jumper,” he muttered. He felt the ward surround his car and merged into the next lane, the ward jostling the cars and pushing them out of his way. Traffic was at a standstill.
He pulled out some oregano from his kit, dumped it into his hand, and incinerated it in his palm. Grabbing the smoke, he fluttered his fingers creating a circle of fumes.
Hundreds of smoky green blobs appeared and surrounded his car, slowly shaping into things approaching angry monkeys with fish tails.
“Greetings, my good friends. Ahead with you and direct these idiots properly to loosen up this jam.”
They flew down the road, growing as they went, a few already stopping to give instructions to a few drivers. It’s a universal truth that humans always do what happlecaps tell them.
Soon the lanes started moving. A butch-cut red-head tailgated him in a blue Tacoma within a few feet for several miles. Garbol conjured a Limburger cloud to blow out his tailpipe. The man frowned, then jogged left into the faster lane, causing a young man driving an elderly lady in his Altima to slam on the breaks. The truck roared ahead with the rest of the lane, flipping off the Altima.
Traffic zigged and zagged, the cars pushing each other, never giving an inch. He jockeyed to the right lane to prepare for the 66 West offramp and passed another onramp emptying onto the highway. He—and he alone—gave a few car lengths to allow the packed line to merge, but they ignored him and all sped up to merge farther ahead resulting in them getting jammed up, endangering the flowing traffic by nosing in at lower speeds, and slowing the entire lane down to a near stop as they struggled to get over, still refusing to take the spot he allowed.
Cars in Garbol’s lane, slowed by the jam, jumped into the next lane on the left, endangering those drivers and slowing them down, causing a chain reaction all the way to the HOV, traffic almost at a standstill once again.
His cell phone rang.
“Garbol, where are you? This thing is causing mayhem, and it swallowed at least five people.”
“I’m coming as fast as I can,” said Garbol.
The wizard grimaced and thrust his hand forward. “Like a bridge over troubled water, give me passage to the slaughter.”
A transparent incline shimmered in front of him, up and over the car ahead. He gunned the engine and crawled up, accelerating to fifty-five, the top speed he dared on the narrow elevated strip he’d created above the highway. As he drove on, the cars behind him followed him up and came down hard on his tail, honking and shaking their fists for him to go faster.
The almost invisible bridge lowered ahead of the jam and set him down, but the traffic in the lane to the right was bumper to bumper to get onto 66. He turned on his right blinker and slowed to match their speed. Moving up and down the line of cars, no one let him in, so when it slowed down enough, he forced himself into the biggest gap he could find. The big black hair in the white Acura behind gunned it and pushed up next to him. They drove side-by-side, each taking up half the lane, the woman half into the shoulder, yelling and waving her hand.
The urgency of his duty spurred Garbol to keep his half of the lane, slowing to allow the woman ahead, but retaining the spot behind her as she passed. Before he could pull into the slot a brown Buick Encore roared by him honking, centimeters from his driver-side rearview mirror.
The offramp moved along below the speed limit but smoothly ahead, and he was on 66 quickly. When he came up on the next slowdown, he estimated it to be the one caused by the monster. Garbol let out a growl of frustration.
He grabbed his cue stick and whacked it on his dashboard. “Help a fellow, make like Jello.” The car started to jiggle. He cranked the wheel and aimed it down the white dotted line between two lanes. The car shlooped through, squeezing and squishing its way along the sides of vehicles, squirting forward until a giant, grub-colored worm appeared ahead. A femoblister.
Cars scattered to each side of it, front and back. The worm’s body slithered into and out of a school bus, its head poked through the broken windshield of an eighteen wheeler, and it devoured an extremely obese man, pulling him out so that his bluejeaned legs waggled helplessly.
Garbol pulled up in front of the monster, opened the door and got out, stick in hand. He leaned over and honked his horn. The femoblister threw its head up and schlucked down the rest of the man, then turned toward Garbol.
Garbol clutched his cue stick with both hands above his head. “I swear I would not be a fibbin’, the use I’d get from a giant ribbon.” He winced at his own horrible verse. He twirled and dragged the stick side ways, a red ribbon forming in its trail as if he unfurled a bolt of cloth.
The worm lunged at him. Garbol whipped the ribbon so it snapped out at the worm and wrapped around its middle. The worm thrashed and yanked against it, but the wizard held it with one hand in the middle of his pool stick while the other hand waved at each end of the worm and conjured up membranous sacs, one around its head, the other around its tail.
Garbol jerked his cue stick back and the ribbon tightened, squeezing the worm’s middle so that the body thinned and the bulk bulged outward. He continued to wave his hand from side to side, and the ribbon grew wider, pushing the bulges further out. A greenish black bile oozed out of the mouth, and some yellowish brown gunk out the tail, the sacs catching the excrement at both ends. The ribbon grew wider, the bags fuller.
The obese man slurped out of the mouth and passed through the sac membrane like a ghost through a wall. As the bags filled, seven more people came out the mouth end, and one poor soul out of the tail, each of them coming out relatively clean through the membranes.
When the ribbon had reached the ends of the worm and beyond, Garbol levitated the sacs toward him, each the size of a house, floating above his shoulders. He pointed his cue stick at the encased worm, and flicked it around. The worm tied itself into several knots until its ends were stubs, completely immobilized.
Garbol let out a big breath relieving the strain and stress of the power he’d expended.
A news man and a camera team came up in front of him. A crowd gathered.
The reporter spoke into a microphone that had a cube in the middle with the number six on it. “Mr. Garbol, we’re getting reports all over the region about your grand exploits. The way you used magic to unjam the traffic and keep it running smoothly. Let me ask you a question for our home viewers. With all the horrible traffic during rush hour, and your great power to fix it—why haven’t you done anything to help with the problem?”
Garbol glared at him. The crowd jeered. “Yeah.” “Why not?” “We endure so much!”
Garbol surveyed the crowd, warded himself, and jabbed the sac of excrement. The sac exploded sending goo over everyone in the vicinity.
“Why don’t I fix your traffic problems?” He passed his pool stick to his other hand and jabbed the other sac, splattering the crowd with bile, a bucketful drenching the reporter. “I’ll tell you why. Because not one of you miserable drivers deserve it.”