Coolant By Kenneth Brown Genre: Horror/Lovecraftian Horror Publisher: Gorillas With Scissors Press
Reeling from the recent struggles in his professional and family life, Ian Marshall attempts to bring things around. He has a new job, new home, and an outlook for a better future. But after discovering a box filled with the belongings of a stranger, Ian’s world begins to spiral out of control. Nightmares and reality collide into a twisted amalgam that threatens to encompass Ian. Before long all that’s left for him is the strange project he is determined to complete, no matter the cost.
“Eli? Was that the guy who quit?” Ian asked being led further back into the workshop. The two entered a hallway and turned into a locker room. Barry turned to Ian. “What did you just say?” “Eli. That’s the guy who quit, right?” The eyes on Ian’s coworker grew wide and his jaw dropped. “No one told you?” Inside the locker room the noise of the machines and yelling of the workers were drowned out. Ian turned to the older man, the question still fresh in his mind. “Told me what?” Releasing a groan, Barry leaned against one of the old green lockers that had occupied the workshop locker room longer than most of the employees. “Steve didn’t tell you?” Ian shook his head. “God dammit. No, Eli didn’t just quit—the cops had to drag him out of here.” “Did he get into a fight with someone?” Ian imagined a blank-faced man in a uniform slinging punches with another foul-mouthed machinist. A smile appeared as he thought about Tony taking a hard right hook. “Nah,” Barry answered shaking his head. “Damn fool lost it. After eight years here he finally lost his mind.” “What do you mean? Was he on drugs? Drinking?” Barry shrugged his shoulders. “Beats the hell out of me. He came in, started ranting, and gave me two to the gut and one to the face. Then he took a swing with a torque wrench at Lutz. Broke the fucker’s jaw and kept him out for weeks. Eli just kept on ranting and screaming. They had to empty out the workshop and call the cops in to come and drag him out.” “I guess his loss is my gain,” Ian answered with a labored chuckle. He hoped he had not offended the man about the termination of a longtime peer. “Ah, screw it. Never liked the guy to begin with. He never drank or smoked. I think there was one time we got him to go to the titty bar with us. The son of a bitch acted like we were wasting his time.” Barry moved away from the lockers, eager to hightail it out of the shop and away from Ian. “You’ll be working ‘til four in the morning. Boss-man wants you on overtime, taking in special orders and touching up parts. Around midnight, the last second-shifter’s will be out of here and it’ll be just you late-night boys—you, Reggie, Mark, and Tony.” “Another Tony?” “No, same jackass who’s out there now.” Barry laughed. “Like I said, give it some time and you guys will be fine. He’s just pissed he had to come in and take care of some project he’s working on.” “I hope so.” “Anyway, you’re allowed to work on side projects. Langer wants us to pay for the steel but that’s one perk you guys on graveyard shift have. You can just use it. Don’t go crazy and the boss won’t get pissed. Tony and Reggie have the keys to close up shop, so you don’t have to worry about that.” Barry moved over to the locker adorned with a fist-sized dent. From his pocket, the machinist pulled out a key. “This one’s yours,” he said, handing the key over to Ian. “Nobody’s had the chance to clean out Eli’s crap out of there yet, so that’s your first job. All right?” “You want me to throw his stuff out?” The idea of taking the man’s possessions and trashing them after such a breakdown didn’t sit well with him. “Could I just have it sent to him or his family?” “Jesus, you boy scout,” Barry said, rolling his eyes. “Throw it out, keep it, build a memorial to the crazy asshole for all I care. Anyways, I don’t think he had anyone. Never talked about having a bang-piece. Just get it done and then look at your blueprints. And oh yeah, your equipment is the closest to the locker room.” With a pat on the shoulder Barry moved away from Ian and towards the exit. “All right guy, that’s me. I’m done for the night. Take ‘er easy.” Ian gave a farewell wave to Barry. The other man did not notice as Barry was focused intently on leaving the job for the day. Now alone, Ian ran his fingers across the dent smashed in to the metal. So much force had been applied in the punch that each knuckle had individually dented the locker. Using the key given to him, Ian unlatched the lock and opened the storage locker that was now his. A pungent odor wafted into Ian’s nostrils. No doubt the stench came from the dripping, brown paper bag. “Well, that’s the first thing to go.” Ian gagged, tossing the rotted food into the nearest waste bin. With the trash gone, Ian felt free to explore the rest of this unknown man’s life. Inside the locker door were several photos of a pudgy, tanned man. The Latino man’s face stretched as he smiled back at Ian from the picture. Next to who must have been Eli was the shape of another person. Marker scribbles and scratches marred the image of the other person, leaving Ian unable to make out any facial characteristics. Though obstructed, the second figure held a lithe and curvy outline. The way in which the man held the other person had Ian assuming it must have been his significant other. “With a group like this, its no wonder you didn’t talk about your ex-girlfriend,” Ian muttered, taking the photos down. Aside from the sentimental trinkets, many of the items were standard and worth keeping for Ian. A couple of pairs of calipers and a digital micrometer set were neatly stored in their cases. Blank notepads were placed on the upper shelf. Ian even found a pair of wearable work boots, like new and fitting, if maybe a little big. Putting the items he could use off to the side, Ian disposed of the rest in the trash. Finally, at the back of the locker, buried under a pile of work shirts that were too large for him and reeked from weeks of being unwashed, Ian felt the top of a metal container. Throwing away the old shirts, he discovered an old-style toolbox underneath. Packed away behind the boots and discarded clothing, the pail must have been forgotten by the former occupant. With a labored grunt at the full weight of the box, Ian prayed to not find any more rotting garbage. With the toolbox pulled out into the light, Ian flipped the top open. “What the hell?” Ian muttered, picking up a steel cube out from the large, tin box. The steel felt heavy in Ian’s hand. He guessed it possibly weighed close to eight pounds. It was nearly symmetrical in length and width, with each side close to eight inches. Ian’s fingers ran along the edges of the metal, feeling each sharp angle. Instead of the shine a project gets after being finished on a surface grinder, the cube was rough and incomplete.
Kenneth Brown was born in the Philippines and somehow arrived to the backwoods of Kentucky riding atop of a three-legged burro. From there Kenneth was in and out of chicken coops and barn houses until being snatched up by local pest control workers who had mistaken him for the Pope Lick Goat Monster. Kenneth learned to read and write, and not to bite the other children, before making a grand escape from the local psychiatric ward, even though he checked himself in. His writing wavers between the macabre and disturbing, when it is legible and not written in crayon. At this time, Kenneth's biggest achievement is remaining in the neighboring farm house for three weeks without being noticed. He dreams of bringing steam powered monstrosities to life and wearing ridiculously long top hats and brass goggles. In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys writing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cock fighting, and staring at the summer camp across the lake while wearing a hockey mask. The burro is still hanging in there.