The Scythe

A Two-Fisted Dieselfunk Tale!

Dr. Jackson, come quickly!

Dr. A.C. Jackson dashed into Examination Room Four. His assistant of three years, nurse Rita McCray, crouched by the window. Her face was a mask of fear and shock. “What is it, Rita? What’s wrong?”

“Those rubes have Reverend Mason surrounded in the street!” Nurse McCray cried.

“What?” Dr. Jackson gasped as he ran to the window.

He knelt beside Rita and peered over the window sill.

Four white men – their clothes and boots spotted with dirt and splashes of blood – surrounded a pudgy black man whom Dr. Jackson quickly recognized as Reverend Malcolm Mason, pastor of Third Baptist Church.

“I’m going out there,” Dr. Jackson said, leaping to his feet.

Rita grabbed his wrist and held his hand to her chest. “Dr. Jackson, don’t! You’ll just get yourself killed.”

“I have to do something,” Dr. Jackson said.

“Look out there,” Rita said, thrusting her finger toward the window. “The movie theater…my brother’s grocery store…the hospital…all on fire! Those devils have brought Hell to Greenwood. The best we can do now is lay low until this all blows over.”

An agonized scream tore across the blackened sky.

Dr. Jackson looked out the window in time to see Reverend Mason fall to the ground, blood pouring from a gaping wound in the side of his head.

Dr. Jackson slid down the wall and collapsed onto his haunches. “Damn, too late. Reverend Mason is…”

“I know,” Rita sobbed. “Reverend Mason was a good…”

A loud knock on the front door startled them.

Dr. Mason slowly rose to his feet. “Who?”

“Don’t go to the door,” Rita whispered.

“I have to,” Dr. Jackson replied. “Someone might need my help.”

He sauntered toward the door.

Another knock – this one stronger than the first – shook the mahogany door.

“Who is it?” Dr. Jackson called.

“My friend here is hurt and needs some medicine,” a nasal voice replied.

“You don’t sound like a negro,” Dr. Jackson said.

“You don’t either, boy,” the man on the other side of the door snickered.

“Please, go away,” Dr. Jackson shouted.

“Look, just give us some bandages and some medicine to stop pain and we’ll leave you and your place untouched,” the man replied. “We ain’t gonna hurt you, boy. Now open up!”

“Hold on,” Dr. Jackson said as he ran to a metal cabinet at the rear of the lobby of his practice. He yanked the cabinet door open and then withdrew two rolls of cloth bandages and a small jar filled with an amber cream.

Rita crept out of the examination room.

Dr. Jackson waved his hand toward the examination room as he shook his head. “Hide!”

Rita scurried back into Examination Room Four.

Dr. Jackson unlocked the front door and then opened it. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

Standing before the doctor were two men. One, he recognized from the Tulsa Star newspaper as Earl May, owner of May’s Masks, who was exonerated of the rape of a nine year old black girl. The other man, while dressed in soiled overalls and reeking of alcohol and sweat like his partner, seemed out of place. His brunette hair was immaculately groomed, his teeth were perfectly straight and there was not one blemish on his tan skin.

Neither man appeared to be injured at all.

Dr. Jackson extended the medical supplies toward Earl May. “Here you go. The salve is my own concoction; a mixture of arnica, camphor and brandy.”

“Now, that’s a shine for you,” the well-groomed man chuckled. “Smart and stupid all at the same time.”

“What? What do you mean?” Dr. Jackson asked.

Earl May leered at Dr. Jackson in a way that made the doctor feel like a rabbit that had just burrowed into a den of foxes.

“You should have stayed inside, boy,” Earl May said.

Dr. Jackson tossed the bandages and salve into Earl May’s face and then spun on his heels and darted toward the door.

A loud boom rent the air.

A searing pain clawed its way through the doctor’s calf.

Dr. Jackson collapsed onto one knee.

A second shot struck Dr. Jackson’s lower back. He collapsed onto his side.

The doctor rolled onto his back, desperately grasping at consciousness yet feeling it slip between his fingers.

Dr. Jackson scooted toward the door, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.

The well-groomed man stomped the heel of his boot down into Dr. Jackson’s chest. “Do shines go to the same Hell as the white man? Why don’t you write me and let me know.”

Fire erupted from the muzzle of the well-groomed man’s revolver.

Waves of darkness and silence swept over the good doctor. His vision faded…his heart fluttered…and he was gone – taken by the waves to the land of Forever-Night.

 

Two

 

A.C. Jackson awakened in moist blackness and blistering heat. A small light, the size of the head of a pin, floated in the darkness, flitting about like a bee in a field of roses.

“Is this…Heaven?” Dr. Jackson whispered.

No, it is not.

The voice was soft, yet strong, like a brass dinner bell. It did not, however, ring in his ears, but in the depths of his mind.

Dr. Jackson swallowed hard. “Hell, then?”

A soothing chime rang in his head. The rhythm and tone of the chime gave Dr. Jackson the feeling that it was giggling.

“Not Hell, either,” the chiming voice sang. “You are at the crossroad between the realm of the quick and that of the dead.”

“And where are you?” Dr. Jackson said. “Please, show yourself.”

“Do you not see me?” The voice inquired. “Here, let me come a bit closer.”

The miniscule point of light flew toward Dr. Jackson until he could finally make out its shape.

“You’re a…a…”

“A scythe,” the voice chimed. “The scythe, actually. My name is Ikukulu.

The scythe?” Dr. Jackson asked.

“Of Death,” Ikukulu answered.

“And you talk?”

“If not, you’re insane; you are holding a conversation with me, after all,” Ikukulu replied.

“True,” Dr. Jackson said, nodding in agreement. “So, am I dead?”

“Very,” Ikukulu answered. “However, I brought you here to offer you a second chance at life.”

“How? Why?” Dr. Jackson asked.

“When I venture out with my master to gather the dead, I am always amazed – and somewhat puzzled, I must admit – by the struggle you mortals put up to stay alive,” Ikukulu replied. “Life and Death are merely phases of existence, yet you cling to Life as if it is the most precious thing in creation. I want to experience Life in the way you do in hopes that I might one day understand.”

“And just what do you need me for?”

“I want to become one with your Ori Inu – your subconscious mind,” Ikukulu replied. “Doing so will allow me to feel what you feel; do what you do; be who you are. In exchange, I will grant you life…and a portion of my power, so you can avenge your death and the deaths of all those people in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

“How?”

“Just agree and I will return you to the realm of the quick posthaste.”

“I…I agree,” Dr. Jackson whispered.

“Excellent!” Ikukulu sang.

The tiny scythe flew into the gaping gunshot wound in Dr. Jackson’s skull.

A cold, white light fell over Dr. Jackson like a blanket. He felt himself moving through something thick and gummy and dank.

A moment later, he was on his knees in the doorway of the torched remains of his practice.

Dr. Jackson pulled himself to his feet and perused his surroundings. Most of the shops, churches and schools were burned to the ground. The sky was black with smoke and great craters dotted the streets. Not one living soul – besides the doctor – was anywhere to be seen.

Dr. Jackson sprinted across the street toward where West’s Funeral Home used to sit. He stopped at a chocolate-colored hearse that was parked in the driveway and peeked through the driver’s window. The key was in the ignition, where old man West always left it.

Dr. Jackson opened the driver’s door. He caught a quick glimpse of his reflection in the lantern mounted on the side of the hearse. He snapped his head toward the lantern and stared – in shock – at his reflection. The bullet wound in his forehead was closed and not even a scar was evident. He appeared to be fifteen years younger than his forty-six years of age and his salt-and-pepper hair was now jet-black.

He rubbed his fingers across his smooth cheeks, shaking his head in disbelief. “A second chance at life, indeed.

Dr. Jackson slid into the driver’s seat of the hearse and turned the key. The car coughed and spat in protest and then came to life.

Dr. Jackson hit the accelerator and the hearse sped off, leaving behind his beloved ‘Negro Wall Street.’

 

***

 

Dr. Jackson brought the hearse to a stop across the street from May’s Masks.

The street was quiet. The smell of baked bread, engine oil and iron assaulted his nostrils.

He crept toward the dimly lit mask shop. When he was within a foot of the door, he felt a slight tug on his insides, as if his internal organs were being pulled by lines of fishing wire. He did not resist the pull as it grew stronger, the pull becoming a hard yank.

And then, he vanished in a cloud of dirt, which reeked of decay, mildew and muck.

A moment later, he reappeared inside of Earl May’s shop.

The corners of Dr. Jackson’s mouth curled upward into a smile. Thanks to Ikukulu – the Scythe – he now had power and he was eager to show Earl May just how much.

A low, clanking noise issued from the back room.

Dr. Jackson crept toward the sound until before him sat Earl May, pounding away at a Death’s-head mask formed of tin.

Lost in his work and with his back to Dr. Jackson, May took no notice as the doctor sauntered toward him.

“Nice work,” Dr. Jackson whispered.

May leapt to his feet and turned to face Dr. Jackson with his hammer raised high above his head. “Who the hell?”

May’s eyes widened in shock as he recognized the man standing before him, his suit caked in blood and reeking of death. “No…it can’t be! We killed you!”

Earl May brought the hammer down.

Doctor Jackson raised his arm to block the blow.

The hammer slammed into the doctor’s forearm with a loud crack.

The head of the hammer flew across the room as the hammer’s haft shattered.

To Dr. Jackson, the strike felt no more bothersome than a blow from a rolled up newspaper.

The doctor countered with a strike of his own, his fist flying into Earl May’s chest like a cannonball.

The mask maker slid backward, coming to an abrupt stop when his back collided with the wall behind him.

May collapsed onto his knees, clutching at his chest as he struggled to suck in quick, erratic breaths between his slack and drooling lips.

“Can’t breathe, eh?” Dr. Jackson said as he crept toward Earl May. “Your sternum is fractured. Tell me the name of the man who shot me in the head and I’ll fix you right up.”

May lowered his gaze. A line of spittle fell onto his lap.

Dr. Jackson drove his knee into May’s bicep.

May screamed in agony as the bones in his upper arm shattered from the pulverizing force of the blow.

“I will break every bone in your boorish body if you don’t tell me the man’s name right now.”

“Okay, okay!” May cried. “He’s my cousin…lives in Atlanta, Georgia…”

“His name!” Dr. Jackson hissed.

“Woodruff,” Earl May gasped. “Ernest Woodruff.”

 

Three

 


Now ain’t this a kick in the head?”

A beautiful woman, with cinnamon skin and a strut like a lioness on the hunt, stormed into A.C. Jackson’s office.

“What’s wrong, Marie?” The doctor asked.

“That Scythe cat hit another Coca-Cola truck, Dr. Cygnet,” she replied, calling him by the name he had worn since relocating to Atlanta a little over a year ago.

“Scythe?” the doctor inquired, feigning ignorance.

“That’s what all the newspapers are calling him,” Marie replied. “He keeps sabotaging Coca-Cola shipments, setting the trucks on fire…terrorizing the drivers. Deliveries to pharmacies are late as hell. I ordered a crate a week ago and still haven’t gotten it.”

Marie’s curly, brown hair danced upon her shoulders as she shook her head. “I can’t run a pharmacy without Coca-Cola! Applesauce!”

“Negroes need to get together and we make our own fountain drink,” Dr. ‘Cygnet’ said.

“Earl Woodruff would burn Auburn Avenue to the ground if we tried that,” Marie said. “There wouldn’t be a…applesauce! I am so sorry, Dr. Cygnet.

“It’s okay,” Dr. Cygnet replied.

“No, it’s not,” Marie sighed, lowering her gaze. “After all you went through in Tulsa…I should have been more sensitive to that.”

“If you didn’t speak your mind, you wouldn’t be you, Marie,” Dr. Cygnet said, gently raising her chin with the tips of his fingers. “Don’t change that; it’s one of the things everyone loves about you.”

The doctor kissed Marie on the forehead.

Marie’s cheeks reddened. “Well, ain’t you the bee’s knees?!”

And the cat’s meow,” Dr. Cygnet said, walking toward the door. “And for the hundredth time, call me Jerry…we’re partners.”

“Negro doctors don’t get the recognition they deserve,” Marie said. “So, I want the world to give you your due. Besides, one day, you’re gonna be my husband, so I wanna show you off.”

“Your husband?” Dr. Cygnet chuckled. “We haven’t even gone out to dinner yet.”

“I guess we’d better do something about that, then,” Marie said.

“How about this Friday? Dr. Cygnet asked. “At the Municipal Market?”

“It’s a date,” Marie replied.

Dr. Cygnet nodded, tossed his fedora onto his head and stepped a foot out of the door. “I have a house-call; if it runs long, I will see you in the morning.”

“Be safe, Doc’,” Marie said.

“Always,” Dr. Cygnet replied as he left the office. “Safer than Citizen’s Trust.”

 

***

 

The night air was muggy; warm. But the heart of the man sitting at the wheel of the chocolate-colored hearse was cold; as cold as the grave.

The tin Death’s-head mask he had taken from Earl May’s shop – now tarnished a dull grey – turned each exhalation from his nostrils into an eerie, metallic hiss.

The mask, his mahogany, leather vest, mahogany denim trousers, dark brown boots and worn leather gaiters gave him the appearance of a militant Papa Ghede – the Haitian Vodoun spirit of the grave. A fitting image for the Scythe of Death.

A flash of red and white whizzed by the hearse.

The Scythe whipped the hearse onto Peachtree Street and he took off behind the speeding truck.

He slammed the heel of his combat boot down onto the accelerator as his gloved hand shifted the hearse into high gear.

The vehicle flew down Peachtree Street like a bullet fired from a carbine, quickly closing on the Coca-Cola truck.

The Scythe cut the wheel hard as the hearse came upon the truck’s left flank.

The hearse slammed into the side of the truck.

The truck swerved to the right, squealing as its driver tried to right the vehicle.

The Scythe slammed the hearse into the truck’s flank once more.

The smell of burnt rubber filled the air as the truck’s brakes and wheels struggled against the hearse’s onslaught.

The truck came to a crashing halt, its right side bending around the thick trunk of an old oak tree.

The Scythe parked the hearse a few feet behind the truck and then hopped out onto the dark street.

He vanished in a putrid cloud of dirt and then appeared a moment later at the driver’s side door of the Coca-Cola truck. He dug his fingers into the door and then ripped it off its frame.

With a snap of his wiry arms, the door somersaulted through the air, crashing to the ground several yards away.

The Scythe reached into the truck, wrapping his fingers around the dazed driver’s neck.

“No, please,” the driver cried.

The Scythe yanked the driver out of the truck and tossed him onto the pavement.

He waved his hand across the driver’s face. A second later, the driver went pale and he began to thrust his palms before and above him, as if he was trying to escape from an invisible box.

“No! Let me out of here!” The driver shouted. “The walls…closing in…can’t…breathe…can’t…”

The Scythe of Death stepped around to the back of the truck. He studied the large padlock that secured the sliding door. With one stomp, the lock snapped and fell to the ground. He pushed the door upward and inspected its contents. Inside were forty wooden crates, all marked with the Coca-Cola logo.

The Scythe stacked three of the crates on top of each other and then carried them to the back of the hearse, where he loaded them in.

He then withdrew a stick of dynamite and a match from the hearse. He struck the match on the palm of his glove and used it to light the stick of dynamite.

He tossed the explosive into the back of the Coca-Cola truck and then leapt into the hearse and sped off.

He peered at his side mirror and watched the Coca-Cola truck erupt into a ball of fire.

A metallic laugh hissed from the mask as The Scythe sped away into the night.

 

Four

 

I want this Scythe palooka’s noodle!

Ernest Woodruff pounded his fist onto his redwood desk. “Find him; give him the Broderick and then bring his battered body to me so I can lay eyes on that hatchet man’s mug before I bash it in!”

“No disrespect, but that won’t be easy, boss,” the driver from the previous night’s attack by the Scythe of Death said.

“What?” Woodruff spat.

“Like I said, no disrespect meant, Mr. Woodruff,” the driver said, his blistered face leaking pus onto the collar of his uniform shirt. “But the Scythe…he ain’t no ordinary lug. The way he moves…the things he can do…it’s like he’s magic or somethin’.”

“Magic, huh?” Woodruff said. “Well, if he is magic, he will be brought down by the best magician money can buy.”

“Harry Houdini?” The driver asked.

“No, Houdini is an escape artist…a prestidigitator,” Woodruff replied. “I’m talking about real magic…and a real magician…Dai Vernon.”

 

***

 

Dr. Jerry Cygnet stepped into the lobby of his practice. Marie rushed to him, wrapped her arms around his neck and then planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

“Someone is in a good mood,” Dr. Cygnet said.

“When I got here, I found not one crate of Coca-Cola at our door, but three!” Marie said. “Ain’t that the bee’s knees?!”

“It certainly is,” Dr. Cygnet replied. “How did this minor miracle happen?”

“I don’t know,” Marie said. “I’m just grateful that…”

The door flew open, interrupting them. Two men entered – one, dressed in a tailored, navy-blue silk suit and a navy blue Hamburg hat. The other, dressed in a Coca-Cola uniform – and approached Marie and the doctor.

Doctor Cygnet recognized the man in uniform as the driver of the Coca-Cola truck he attacked the previous night.

“How can we help you, gentlemen?” Dr. Cygnet asked.

“The shine…umm…shoeshine man who works in the lobby of our place of employment told us the pharmacist here sells an over-the-counter salve that works wonders on burns and for pain,” the man in the suit replied. “As you can see, my friend here is in need.”

“Well, then, follow me,” Marie said, walking toward her section of the practice.

The men followed closely behind Marie, admiring her curvy body as she glided behind her glass display case.

Inside the case were several bottles of medicine, jars of salve and bottles of Coca-Cola.

“I see you work for Coca-Cola,” Marie said, nodding toward the driver’s shirt.

“Yes, I do,” the driver said. “We both do. My name’s Mr. Wallace and this here’s Mr. Wilson.

“Pleased to meet you both,” Marie said. “I’m Marie; Marie Lefleur. Thank Mr. Woodruff for me, won’t you?”

“Thank him for what?” Mr. Wilson asked.

“For the two extra crates of Coca-Cola that was shipped to me,” Marie answered. “I figure the company did it to make up for the late shipment. Nice touch.”

Mr. Wallace and Mr. Wilson exchanged glances.

“Well, here you go,” Marie said, placing a jar of white cream on top of the display case. “That’ll be two dollars.”

Mr. Wilson slid a five dollar note across the counter toward Marie and then picked up the jar of salve. “Keep the change.”

Marie plucked the note from the counter and slipped it into the pocket of her frock.

The men turned and headed toward the door.

“See you around,” Mr. Wallace said over his shoulder.

“You’d better hope not,” Dr. Cygnet said, stepping out of the shadows in the lobby.

“What’s that?” Mr. Wilson inquired, leering at Dr. Cygnet.

“If you see us again, that would mean you suffered some sort of trauma…some sort of calamity,” Dr. Cygnet replied.

“I suppose so,” Mr. Wilson said, opening the door. “Have a great day.”

“You, too,” Dr. Cygnet said.

The men left the office, allowing the door to slam behind them.

 

***

 

Marie removed her frock and tossed it onto the coat rack. She straightened her sequined, silver dress, running her hands along each smooth curve.

The door creaked open.

Marie snapped her head toward the door. “I’m sorry, we’re closed.”

Mr. Wilson – and two more equally well-dressed men – sauntered into the office.

“Doctor Lefleur, right?” Mr. Wilson said. “These are my colleagues – Mr. Pratt and Mr. Turner.

“It’s Miss Lefleur,” Marie said. “I have a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy, so technically, yes; however, I am not a medical doctor and – not to be rude – but as I said before, we’re closed for the evening, so if you’ll please follow me…”

“What’s the rush?” Wilson asked. “Got a hot date?”

“Actually, I do,” Marie replied. “Now, please, go.”

Mr. Pratt and Mr. Turner lurched forward and grabbed Marie’s arms.

“We’re going,” Mr. Wilson said. “And you’re coming with us.”

“Let me go, damn it!” Marie screamed.

“Shut your mouth, smoke,” Mr. Wilson spat. “Or I’ll skin your black…”

The lady said let her go.

Wilson whirled around toward the metallic, hissing voice.

The Scythe stood in the doorway, the setting sun forming an eerie, silver-crimson aura around him.

“And if we don’t?” Mr. Wilson asked.

“Then, I’ll do this…” the Scythe of Death whispered, vanishing in a cloud of dirt.

Half a heartbeat later, he appeared an inch from Mr. Pratt’s back.

The Scythe wrapped his arms around Mr. Pratt’s neck and then vanished with him. The air within the lobby was replaced with foul-smelling dirt, which left Marie, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner gagging and unable to see more than an inch in front of their faces.

Mr. Pratt’s tortured screams tore through the putrid cloud. Mr. Turner jumped at the blood-curdling din.

Marie snatched her arm from Mr. Turner’s grasp, dropped to her knees and – using her familiarity with the environment in lieu of her vision – crawled to her counter and took refuge behind it.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner stumbled out of the office and onto Auburn Avenue, coughing the rank dirt out of their lungs and brushing it from their clothes.

The Scythe appeared before them.

“Where’s Pratt?” Mr. Turner spat as he thrust his thick fingers into his suit jacket.

The Scythe exploded forward, driving his elbow into Mr. Turner’s collarbone.

Mr. Turner screamed as his hand slid out of his jacket and fell to his side. His revolver hit the ground with a metallic thud as his arm bounced lifelessly against his thigh.

“That is a fractured clavicle,” Lazarus said, pointing at the bulge in Mr. Turner’s collar. “And this…”

The Scythe thrust the heel of his boot downward into Mr. Turner’s knee.

A sickening din – like the trunk of an old oak snapping under the force of a gale wind – followed.

Mr. Turner collapsed onto his back, screaming in agony.

“…is a torn lateral meniscus.”

“You crazy son-of-a-bitch!” Wilson drew his revolver and squeezed the trigger.

The Scythe vanished just before the bullet met its mark.

He appeared before Wilson, thrusting his arm forward. The tips of his fingers speared Wilson’s throat.

Wilson staggered backward, clutching at his crushed windpipe.

A burning sensation suddenly shot across the back of The Scythe’s upper arm. He stared at it. A trail of blood spiraled down his forearm out of a thin gash in the flesh of his triceps.

He perused the area for his attacker.

A black Rolls Royce Silver Ghost limousine sat in the middle of the street.

A cabin door of the limousine opened. A man, dressed in a black, tailcoat tuxedo, exited the vehicle. In one hand, he held his top-hat, which he slowly slid onto his head. In the other hand, he held a deck of cards, which were spread like a fan.

The man drew a card and – with a flick of his wrist – hurled it at The Scythe.

The Scythe lunged sideways.

The card zipped past him, striking the door of the doctor’s office. One corner of the card embedded itself deep into it.

He looked over his shoulder at the card – the tarot card of Death.

“Good evening, sir,” the man said, bowing with a dramatic tip of his top-hat. “Please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Dai Vernon…magician extraordinaire.”

The Scythe replied with a sweeping wave of his hand.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turner forgot their pain as they were ensnared in the crushing grip of fear.

Both men wailed in terror as they struggled to escape the stifling confines of some invisible grave.

Dai Vernon fell to his knees, his breathing shallow; his eyes wide with consternation.

The magician fumbled with his cards. With trembling fingers, he drew one from the deck. He licked the back of the card and then slapped it onto his forehead.

Lazarus peered at the card – an illustration of a broadsword with a golden crown hovering over it – the Ace of Swords.

The card seemed to shift; to liquefy. Its edges melted into Dai Vernon’s forehead, becoming one with the tanned flesh. The sword and the crown oozed into the shape of a closed, vertical eye. The eye blinked several times and then opened wide. Vernon no longer appeared to be afraid.

The magician stood and – with rapid flicks of his wrist – unleashed a volley of tarot cards.

The cards sped toward the Scythe of Death, whistling as they cut through the night air.

The Scythe disappeared in a cloud of dirt.

He reappeared before Dai Vernon and then lunged forward, driving the side of his head into the magician’s nose.

Dai Vernon staggered backward, a web of blood spreading across his face.

The Scythe exploded forward, whipping his left leg in a wide arc. His shin slammed into Vernon’s abdomen.

The magician flew backward, landing, with a thud, on the hood of the limousine. A trickle of blood fell from the corner of his mouth.

“That pain you feel is a ruptured liver,” The Scythe said, appearing over the magician. He raised his fists above his head. “The pain you are about to feel is your face being pulverized into dust.”

The Scythe brought his fists down with frightful force. His fists, however, met only the magician’s tuxedo and top-hat, which Dai Vernon was no longer in.

The hood of the limousine collapsed under the force of The Scythe’s blow. The front tires issued a loud popping sound and then hissed in protest as they fell flat.

He spun toward a rustling sound behind him.

Standing before him was Dai Vernon, now dressed in a white, double-breasted suit, white shoes and a white fedora. A red rose sat in hi lapel.

Vernon held up his fists. Between each finger protruded a tarot card. The cards were fused with the flesh, forming rectangular claws.

The magician smiled and then sprang forward, slashing furiously with his ‘tarot-claws’.

The Scythe parried and evaded the blows with feline grace.

One strike, however, met its mark, rending his glove and opening a deep gash in the back of his hand.

Another strike ripped open the flesh on his chest.

The Scythe grabbed Vernon’s wrist and pulled him forward and off his feet.

Dai Vernon stumbled forward.

The Scythe hammered his fist into the middle of Vernon’s forearm.

The magician’s arm made a loud, snapping noise as it bent upward at an odd angle.

Dai Vernon shrieked in agony.

He twisted Vernon’s wrist and forcefully pushed the magician’s fist toward his own chin. He swiped the magician’s claws across his own neck, slitting Dai Vernon’s throat.

Blood sprayed from the wound in a wide arc and then rained down on the magician’s suit, polka-dotting it with splotches of red.

The Scythe of Death vanished in a cloud of dirt as Dai Vernon fell, lifeless, onto the pavement.

He appeared in the lobby of the doctor’s office. “Ms. Lefleur?”

Marie rose from behind her counter, her fists raised below her chin. “Come on, then. Let’s dance!”

“I mean you no harm, Ms. Lefleur,” he said. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

“Actually, I do,” Marie replied. “But thanks to you, my dress is all covered in stinky dirt now, so…”

“Go home and change,” The Scythe said. “I am sure he will still be waiting for you when you reach your destination.”

“He?” Marie’s eyes widened with shock. “How do you…”

“As dolled-up as you are…it has to be for a ‘he’,” The Scythe said. “Now, go; and don’t fret, these men won’t darken your door ever again.”

Marie went to the door and peeked outside. “Dang, I guess they won’t. Your handiwork?”

He nodded.

“Okay, then,” Marie said, stepping out the door.

She poked her head back into the lobby. “Thanks.”

“Go,” The Scythe whispered.

Marie’s head vanished from view. A moment later, the door slammed shut with a loud bang.

“I gotta get that fixed,” The Scythe said, shaking his head.

And then he vanished in a cloud of dirt.

The Scythe 1

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

25 responses »

  1. You got me. Not one for the punk sub-genres, I dug this one. It reads more like the Pulp Fiction of the 30′s and 40′s. And I dig Pulp.

    The fight scenes were good. A lot of descriptive moves and results. Reminds me of the Illiad and Fritz Leiber tales. They would describe the individual duels and the wounds they would inflict with attention to detail. Great start. I’ll be following this.

    • Balogun says:

      Thanks, so much, Kirk! Yeah, I wanted to go more with a pulp feel than noir.
      As you follow Lazarus Graves, I am eagerly following your Blacknificent “With the Blood of Scoundrels”!

  2. Michael says:

    I have never read this genre of fiction before, but thanks to this story, I am becoming a fan. Well done Balogun!

  3. Anita says:

    That was an amazing story, wow! It was like reading Mickey Spillane and The Shadow plus magic and the realm of the dead. It has a movie quality, or a comic book, very gripping. This is fabulous, I hope you’ll be writing more of this story, I would definitely read it.
    .

  4. [...] you can shake  a stick at. Balogun’s an up-and-coming advocate of the Steamfunk Movement, shoots off tales like there’s no tomorrow, assembled a League of Extraordinary Black People, and [...]

  5. Excellent story, Brother Balogun! I’d love to see this in paperback…hint, hint :)

  6. This is cool! The illustrations add to the whole reading experience. I hope I can read more of Lazarus Graves.

  7. [...] I posted a short story, Lazarus Graves: The Scythe of Death, which was my experimentation with Dieselpunk. A reader told me he loved the story, but I should [...]

  8. [...] era and will share some Dieselpunk fiction I write as well. For starters, check out my story, Lazarus Graves: The Scythe of Death. I am writing Part II to this tragic Dieselpunk tale at present and look forward to sharing that [...]

  9. teemtwo says:

    Steampunk & steamfunk are new to me & I haven’t read a lot of it to be honest but I love this. Two thumbs up!

  10. Very Cool! I am really diggin’ the Dieselpunk vibe!

  11. Fujimoto says:

    That was amazing. The highlight for me was definitely the battle at the end. Both Scythe and Dai Vernon were just so cool and classy. Regular Dr. Jackson is such a sweet guy, and Marie was very appealing. I now imagine a few years later Marie using her skill in pharmacy to create all kinds of toxins to defend herself with, like flowers that squirt knock-out gas and rings that can extend needles coated in a lethal poison.

  12. ironmanandrew says:

    Thank you Fujimoto! I am always looking for new and interesting blogs to look at. Most of my work is rote. I work for a medical supplier jrsmedical and while the work is satisfying, sometimes it is a welcomed respite to read something like this. keep it up!

  13. […] have also created the Pulp hero The Scythe, the resurrected Dr. A.C. Jackson, who was murdered in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 and returns to […]

  14. […] trauma superheroes suffer at their becoming. Many have told me that they love the origin story of The Scythe, who readers will get to see more of when the novel is released in summer, 2014. What they have […]

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