Copyright 2000 Brad Zockoll

Purple Story Contest Balloons

Episode 1 -

It all started when Brice's Camaro went out of control. I can
see it like it was yesterday, okay? You know how old people tell you
that they can remember when President Kennedy was shot? Like they can
tell you what they were doing, like mowing the lawn with their green
and yellow John Deere tractor or driving to a grocery store in their
Volkswagen Beetle. They seem to know exactly where they were when
they heard the news on the radio or from a friend. My folks used to
tell me that they were walking in a mall early one morning when
someone mentioned the Challenger spacecraft exploding. You know,
they can even tell you what they were wearing that day. It used to
seem nutty to me, but now I know what they meant. I know exactly
what they meant.

I remember exactly the time whenever the world started falling

It was when Brice's deep blue, white-walled Camaro rounded the
corner at the Edgewater Pharmacy and then never completed the turn.
It was like Brice just forgot what he was doing and let go of the
wheel. The car never fully made the turn, but just roared right
across the street from the Pharmacy and into the front of Krause's
Hardware Store. First it sliced off a speed-limit sign right at the
base. Then it smashed its way in through the front floor-to-ceiling
window before stopping. What a noise! It was like a grenade went
off right on the main street. I can remember running over to the
car, expecting to see blood and all that. Instead, I saw colors all
over the floor. I was puzzled until I realized that the car had
smashed the gumball machine at the front door and those colors were
hundreds of gumballs rolling down the aisle. Actually, now that I
think about it, it was kind of funny.
It wasn't funny, though, whenever Cameron Hall's dad tried to
open the door of the Camaro. Myself, I was about thirty feet from
the hardware store, picking up some milk for when Mom and Dad got
home later that evening. I'm ashamed to say that it was such a shock
to my system that I dropped the whole gallon of milk. To this day, I
don't know exactly what became of that milk - as if it matters
anymore anyway.
Mr. Hall got to the car first, although people started coming
out of their houses and started running towards the store. Some
people even pulled their cars up onto the sidewalk and came across
the street to help. Lots of people saw the wreck, and being good-
natured people, they tried to help. Everybody was pretty nervous
about what they would see, and the door was so crinkled and smashed
that it stuck shut. We couldn't see Brice inside because of the
spider-webby cracks all over the front of the windshield. Two men
went over to help Mr. Hall, and I think one of the men had a crowbar
or some kind of pipe. They finally got the door opened and I kind of
shuddered because I wasn't sure how Brice would look like. I
expected all sorts of terrible scenes, but not the one that I saw.

Brice wasn't in the seat. In fact, he wasn't even in the car.

This threw everyone off, as you can imagine. You need to
understand, see, I live in a small town. The name of our town is
Delmar, because the town sits right on the border of Delaware and
Maryland. In fact, the state line runs right down our main street,
and there's a small pride in that type of uniqueness. The last
official census count put us right under 3,000 people in the whole
town. In fact, Delaware is a small state in itself, so you can
imagine, none of us were used to anything extraordinary or
supernatural going on. We have farmers, store merchants, and a good
bit of retired people - not the type of people who would attract
attention or unusual activity. But there it was: a driver that more
than ten people saw, who suddenly disappeared. I'm telling you, I
saw it with my own eyes. His head was visible in that window, so
help me. He gave no indication that he couldn't control the car. In
fact, the Camaro wasn't even speeding. Then, in a blink of an eye,
there's no driver. I thought I was seeing things; after all, it was
in a moment. But when Cameron Hall's dad pried the door open, I knew
I hadn't been seeing things.

It was true - Brice disappeared.

People looked up, white-faced. Some people wouldn't even look
up. There was a stupid shock among all of us. Gerard Hancock, one
of the old men who lived over on Lincoln Avenue, just about dropped
his jaw and yelled to his wife, "Well, looka there. The boy ain't in
the car a-tall, Miriam!" I looked up because he bellowed it real
loud, and things had been so quiet while they worked over that door
that his exclamation made me kind of jump. When I did look over to
him, I thought it was kind of weird that he was yelling to his wife
because I didn't see her anywhere in the store. Sure I know his
wife - Mrs. Hancock was one of my best customers back when I
delivered papers when I was in middle school. She always tipped me
when I came to collect. Real nice lady.

I'm looking around and trying to find out where his wife was,
because you never know if an old person is getting senile or has
Altzheimer's or something. That may sound cruel, but look, I'm just
trying to be honest about it, okay?

But here's the really weird thing about that whole incident.
When Gerard turned around to yell once again, I could tell that his
wife had been right next to him, because of the way he turned to talk
to her right next to his shoulder. His face was stunned and his eyes
grew real wild-like. He started swiveling his head back and forth
and I could see a genuine panic in his face. I moved toward him but
the car and the glass were in the way, so I tried to pick my way
around the people to get over to him, sort of help him. And just as
I reached him, he looked down to the ground, and what he saw made him
scream. All my hair stood up, because here's this grown man
screaming and looking down at the ground like he just saw the most
horrible thing in the world.

I gulped and leaned around him so I could see what was on the ground.


As I looked down in front of Gerard Hancock, I grew puzzled. All
that happened was that his wife was not right next to him. How bad
could that be? As old as he was, maybe she was still in the Pharmacy
and he forgot about it. That happens with old people sometimes; hey,
even my dad forgets his glasses or car keys, so I'm not making fun of
retired people or anything. I don't want anybody to get mad at me;
things are bad enough as it is.

Anyway, let me get back to what I was saying. I looked around
Mr. Hancock because he was trying to tell his wife that the driver
from the car was missing, and all of a sudden he starts wailing like
there's no tomorrow. I noticed that he was looking at the ground
while he was crying so I snuck a look.

There, on the ground, was a broken open small sack of
groceries. It had a split down the side and two oranges had rolled
out. It had that split that made it seem like somebody just held the
paper bag at arm's length and let it drop. I noticed that the carton
of eggs on top had a little damage, because there was yolk starting
to seep through the edge of the container.

Mr. Hancock turned to me with red-rimmed eyes and shouted into
my face. He wasn't really talking TO me, but sort of like he was
talking AT me - does that make any sense? He was so worked up he had
to yell at somebody and I was the closest person to him, so he swung
around and bawled right into my face, "She's gone! She told me it
was gonna happen and it did. I never took it serious but it happened.
Oh my dear sweet Lord. I played around and it happened."

I'm standing there thinking that there's no way that Mrs.
Hancock had divorced him or had run away from him - nuts, they both
were in their seventies and they got along great. Everybody in
Delmar knew that. Each Saturday they would head on out to dinner
before going over to the racetrack on down the highway. They loved
to watch the races at the Speedway. You see, I know that she
couldn't have just walked out on him.

Still, here he was, bellowing into my face, with tears running
down his cheeks and his mouth wide open. That was unfortunate,
because Mr. Hancock was known to chew. He had a wad of tobacco in
his mouth right then, in fact, and as he yelled I could feel little
flecks of juice dotting my forehead.
"She's gone! She was right here! She done just like HE did!"
Gerard pointed a bony finger at the smashed up car. "You know full
well that boy wasn't killed in that wreck. He left before it
happened. And so did she! Oh! Oh!" He clutched his chest. An
ambulance wailed in the distance. Then a fire siren. What was going

Cameron Hall's dad ran over to help me, because right then old
Gerard's knees started buckling and he sort of swooned into me. I
caught him, and even for a thin fellow, he sort of set me back on my
heels for a moment.
"Hey, Mr. Hancock, it'll be okay. You're wife is right around
the corner, " I said lightly. "Let's just get you to sit down and
I'll go fetch her from the store. Which one did she get these
groceries from?" It was obvious to me that he thought she had the
groceries and ducked out on him. Maybe she had put the sack down and
went to go retrieve her purse or take advantage of another sale. You
never knew.
Gerard Hancock kept leaning on me heavier and heavier. Good
thing Mr. Hall came over to steady me o we would have both pitched
backwards into the smashed up car. "Steady now, pardner," drawled
Mr. Hall, in a friendly voice. "No need to get shook up. Curt will
find your wife. Won't you, Curt?"

"Sure," I said, trying to sound like she was right outside the
door. I was getting real uneasy. The shock from Brice's
disappearance hadn't worn off yet. Now Mrs. Hancock? Something
wasn't right.
Old Gerard Hancock kept leaning, but this time he shifted his
weight over to Mr. Hall's shoulder. He wasn't having none of me
running out to find his wife. "She's gone, I tell ya. She's gone.
Took up. That boy in the car, same way. And I'm left here." He
started sobbing and clutching his chest. Mr. Hall gave me a quick
look that told me that I'd better do something. I caught the glance
and ran to the back of the store where the phone was. Funny thing
was, no body even asked me what I was doing. The five or six other
people that were still in the store were either trying to look
through the car for some sign of Brice or were just standing there
scratching their heads. Even Junior Krause, the owner's son who was
minding the store, just stood and stared at the mess of glass and
metal. He had a radio on next to him and he seemed to be listening
to it, but it sounded like a lot of shouting, as if the news
announcers knew what was happening right in the store. I reached
over and grabbed the phone receiver and punched 911.

No response.

Come on, come on, I breathed.

Still no response.

This doesn't happen with 911, you know that as well as I do.
But there it was. I glued my ear to the phone, and you might expect
for me to say something freaky like there was a busy signal. But try
as I might, I couldn't even get a busy signal. I must've punched
those numbers ten or twelve times, and Mr. Hancock wasn't looking too
good up there, I might add. Another siren, and thios time a police
car shot by the front of the store, with full lights blinking. The
tires screamed around the corner. You need to know, this never
happened in Delmar. Never.
Now I was fighting back a full-throated panic. What WAS the
matter with the phone? I punched in the town hall and police
department number - they're both the same. I told you that the town
was small!

A panicked female voice answered. "Hello? Hello! You must
understand. We have every resource on the street. We can't do
everything!" The exasperated voice yelled.
"Hey! Hold on!" I hollered back. "You don't even know what
I'm calling about! I'm down at Krause's and we had an accident and
it looks like a heart attack vic-"
"You think that's an emergency?" The voice was not really
framing it as a question.
"Are you sane?" I screamed. I was starting to lose it. "Of
course it's an emergency. It looks like we've had one death, maybe
two, and a man is struggling right now to hang on. Where are the
police? How come I can't get the 911 line to even take my call?"
"You have no idea, son. You have no idea," the voice droned,
and hung up.

Episode 3 -
That phone call did it for me. I was shaking like a leaf.
Even the police department was rattled about this. Sweat was
dripping from my armpits and despite myself, my lips were trembling.
I hate it when I can't keep control, but this is one of those times
when I was falling apart. I still had the receiver to my ear,
listening to silence, when I turned to look at Mr. Hall. Old man
Gerard Hancock was sagging against him. Mr. Hall looked at me as if
he knew what happened in the phone. His face got real sad. And then
he slowly shook his head.

I knew what that meant. Mr. Hancock. Good old Hancock the
farmer. Mr. Gerard Hancock of Delmar, Delaware died at the scene of
the accident. And he wasn't even the victim.

Or was he?

Now the people started to respond, and some were laying coats
and blankets down underneath Mr. Hancock's body. Yeah, like that
would do him any good now, I thought bitterly. He's dead. What good
does it do to make a person comfortable whenever he's already left
this world. Yet there they were, trying to give him a peaceful

Isn't that funny? They're standing in the middle of a store
that has had its front window blown out. There's glass everywhere
and a mangled Camaro blowing steam out of its front. Red and blue
police lights are flickering through the window in the late afternoon
light. Four and maybe five different sirens are going off
continuously. Probably three house or car alarms are screaming.
Some people outside are shouting and running. No phones. Nonsense
on the radio. People in shock. And here these people are, trying to
act like this is the most serene place on the Eastern Shore.

Yeah... and so, well, that's when I cracked. I'm not proud
to say it, but everything started closing in on me. I felt like the
Camaro was going to start up again and ram me right through the back
of the store. I thought Mr. Hancock's wife was going to come busting
into the store and start cursing me for letting her husband die. I
was sure that old Gerard Hancock himself was going to get up off of
that glass-strewn floor and start shouting in my face again. I even
felt like Mr. Hall was going to start trying to lean on my shoulder
with that sad face, and ask me what was going on. And if he would
ask me that, I would stop breathing. Really, that's how I felt.
That's how bad it got.
I dropped that receiver and stumbled towards the door. I lost
my balance and fell into a display of paint cans, sending me
sprawling as the cans rolled in every direction. I threw my hands
out to catch myself and landed them right in the crunched up glass
from the Camaro windshield. Sharp pains lanced through my hands as
the glass dug in deep. I turned them over to see blood flowing
I scrambled to my feet and dodged around the smashed car and
ran into the street. If I thought the inside of the store was enough
to make me sick, what happened on the street brought me to my knees.
The main street - the quaint little downtown district of Delmar -
looked like a war zone. And the smell! Burnt rubber, charred wood,
gasoline spills - even a smell like sour milk was gagging me. The
one thing I was thankful for at that moment was that we lived in a
rural community. I needed to get to the countryside.
I knew it was no use trying to contact Mom and Dad since they
were out of state until late that evening - they said they probably
wouldn't be home before midnight, so I should just lock everything up
and head to bed that night, they'd let themselves in. Well, with the
way things were going, I knew they wouldn't expect me to hang around,
and besides, if things were as bad as they seemed, they would be able
to get into town anyway.

An explosion rocked a building about a block and a half
away. Yet another car alarm went off. That made up my mind. I was
going to run. I was heading for the woods. I needed to get my head
on straight. For all I knew, somebody could be shooting. Dear Lord,
this wouldn't be a war, would it? Who would be fighting us? Not
that it mattered. I wouldn't care if it was a tourist group from the
Caribbean - bullets are bullets. I'm getting out of town.

I ran down the street. Being a small town, there wasn't much
traffic, and most of the cars that I saw had run off the road or were
smashed up, especially in Tintown, the part of Delmar that is
considered "across the railroad tracks." Ever hear of that term? It
was an old term meaning the houses weren't as good as the average
citizens. I had good friends there, so it didn't make a whit of
difference to me. I will say this, though: the tern Tintown was
used because a lot of the old homes had those shiny metal roofs from
years past, but the truth is many of the houses were old, old wood.
As I ran past Pine Street, I saw a car that had collided with the
corner of one of the houses. The car had burst into flames and the
house sucked up that fire like it was drinking it. I could feel the
heat from across the street. The fire was ready to jump to a second
house. With all the sirens, I wondered, where were the firemen?