Damnation Alley

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Book: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny Read Free Book Online
Authors: Roger Zelazny
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Classics
hell of a lot to talk about. Now his brother was probably taped up in bed someplace. Saved from the fire and the junk heap, which was something, anyway. He was the only square worth saving, Hell decided. Then he chain-lit another cigarette and flipped the butt toward the rubbish. A rat fled. He remembered his initiation. He'd been sixteen at the time. The bucket had been passed, and he'd stood tall and proud in his shiny jacket and gleaming irons, and though slightly drunk, he did no sway. One by one, they had urinated in the bucket. When they were finished, it was dumped over his head. That was his baptism, and he was an Angel. He wore the stinking garment for a year, and when two more had passed, he was nineteen and he was Number One. He had taken them on the rounds then, and everybody knew his name and stepped aside when they saw him coming. He was Hell, and his pack owned the Barbary Coast. They ranged where they would and did as they would, until he'd gotten into bad trouble and gone away and dark days came over the Coast. The town was perpetually ini tiated, as he had been, by rubbish from the heavens. _Their_ pack was bigger, though, than his; and one day they had struck. His cell had been six by eight, and he'd shared it with a man who had liked little girls, well, if not too prudently. After trying to kill him, he'd found himself in solitary. At least he'd preferred it to the garbled ramblings of the wild-eyed, blue-eyed man they'd put him in with. Craig had sometimes foamed at the mouth, until Hell hit him in it one day and the foam turned red. They'd pried his fingers loose from his throat at the last minute, breaking one. They'd thought he'd go mad in solitary, himself, they later told him, after they'd released him into a full cell of his own, many months later. They'd thought he'd needed company, because he'd been a pack man. They didn't understand. They'd thought a gang of them was the Angels and a single Angel was a bum. They were wrong, though. He didn't go mad, or at least he wouldn't admit it if he had. He just sat there. He didn't play games, he didn't count numbers. He just sat there. He'd learned then that they couldn't hurt him. And he'd waited. For what, he hadn't known. This, though. This. This was what he had waited for, as he'd sat there, dreaming of the Big Machine. What was it? Fire? Probably the fire, he decided, as he looked at the sky and sniffed. He slapped another mosquito. It still smelled like rain, and he wanted a drink. The cricket stopped, the bird stopped, as light poured into the world once more, white and bright and glaring. The skies opened as he sat there, like a sea of phosphorus washing out beyond its shores. Everything about him was suddenly limned in an unnatural brightness, and the bole of the great tree was shrunken by a brilliant entasis that attacked from the north. Every piece of scrap in the heap before him took on a life of its own, and he could almost, listening, hear the rubbish talk of its days and use and usefulness upon the remaining roads of the world. The rubbish spoke to him of the countryside, and he listened until the door beside him creaked and he heard Greg's voice.
    "It's just about ready, Hell."
    "What're you doing out there?"
    "Jackin' off in my mind."
    The door slammed. Tanner sat there for a few more minutes, and a light rain began to fall, taking the bright gleam off the world, silencing the rubbish, drenching the bird in its tree and the rats in their lairs, tickling his face, spattering his boots, raising a smell like ashes from the earth. He stood then and entered the garage, shaking droplets from his beard.
    "All set," said Monk, gesturing at the car. "Want to Wait and see if the rain stops?"
    "No. It'll probably start to get dark again soon."
    They moved to a window. For the space of a few breaths, they watched the rain. Outside, the people still lined the streets.
    "Dumb bastards," said Tanner. "Don't know enough to get in out

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