I backed off the throttle, descended to the ground and my bike changed, from a dazzling steed of light, to a 1953 Harley Davidson Pan Head that looked like it had seen better days. The tires chirped when they touched asphalt on a lonely desert highway one hundred miles west of Harlem Springs, Arizona. My name is John Brown, but my bros call me Cave Man. I ride with the Road Dogs MC, or at least I did when I was alive -- now I wear the halo patch. They came up with the idea for the halo patch at a church meeting in biker heaven. The halos are a division of the Road Dogs, only you have to be dead to wear the halo patch.
Some people might call us angels, but we like to think of ourselves as troubleshooters. Whenever there is trouble in the biker world, they send us. I was traveling alone on this mission; I didn't expect much trouble, because I just came to bring a brother home. A crack of thunder rolled across the night, lightning flashed in the distance, and I felt a raindrop hit my left cheek. The wind felt good to my face and the air held a slight chill. Zipping up my leather jacket, I cranked the throttle and shot down the highway. It felt good to be back. The only thing I missed about being mortal was the feeling of the wind in my face when I rode my scooter. That's why I always touched down about a hundred miles or so away from wherever I needed to be. It gave me some time to put my fist in the throttle and my face in the wind.
I rumbled by an old farmhouse, and a little kid sitting on the front porch looked up. Isn't it past his bedtime? I thought, and shot on down the highway. Backing off on the throttle, I pulled over to the side of the road next to an old oak tree. I heard a branch snap and saw a pair of beady red eyes in the forest. An evil laughter echoed from the woods.
My hand went to the 45 riding in a holster underneath my vest. "Begone, you vile creature or I'll send you back to hell where you belong," I said to the fiend hiding in the woods and turned my attention back to the tree. The evil laughter stopped.
This old tree had been there for a lot of years. Back in sixty-eight, I hit that tree at over one hundred miles an hour and that's what sent me to biker heaven. Up the road about one hundred yards was a turn off. A dirt road led back into the hills where the Road Dogs owned a cabin, but that wasn't where I was headed. My mission was in town. I leaned up against the tree, standing in the exact place where I died those long years ago, and pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels Old Number Seven from my coat pocket. I took a couple of shots while I leaned against the tree resting my butt. Taking a pack of Lucky Strikes from my pocket, I lit a smoke, breathing in the rich flavorful tobacco. Finished with the cigarette, I took a piss on the tree and climbed into the saddle. The old Pan Head started up on the third kick; I engaged the transmission and took off heading east into the Arizona night.
* * *
When I passed the Road Dogs' clubhouse, five miles outside of town, I noticed a couple of motorcycles setting out front. I didn't bother pulling in; my mission wasn't there. Two prospects sat out front in lawn chairs, drinking beer, but neither one of them saw me. One must have heard something, because he looked up, but I was traveling incognito, invisible to mere mortals. People, attuned to the spirit world, like that prospect, might have felt something or heard a slight vibration when I passed, but I was only visible to the world when I chose to be. I reached the outskirts of town a few minutes later. A sense of nostalgia passed through me when I passed Honeysuckle Court, the street where I used to live.
Turning left on Main Street I headed down the street, passing the bank, a hardware store and the gas station where I used to work. Across the street from the gas station sat the town's graveyard. I noticed the red glow coming off a few sets of demonic eyes peering at me from the darkness. I guess the Devil's boys are out tonight, I thought. On Baker Street, I turned right, went through two stoplights and started to pull into the parking lot of Saint Ann's Hospital, but I stopped short. A band of evil little demons blocked my path. They wore little black filthy robes, they looked liked they had bathed in pond scum and I noticed warts covering their faces, along with legions of decayed flesh that oozed pus. The repugnant smell of their breath wafted on the wind and the smell reminded me of a skunk that had been lying dead on the road for five days. When they saw me, the evil little shits hissed and raised their claws. They were here to collect souls, and I guess somehow, they knew I was coming.
I pulled forward, and they were on me climbing all over the bike, gouging at my face and one went for my throat. I threw them off, pulled my 45 and my knife. My 45 shot out beams of ultra blue light and when I hit one of the little SOBs, he would disintegrate, disappearing from this plane of existence. I slashed with my knife, piercing the brain of another one of the bastards and then gunned the throttle.
Several motorcycles sat parked out front when I parked the Pan Head, now invisible like myself, and swaggered up to the main entrance of the hospital. Two more of the evil little shits stood blocking the doorway. I pulled my hand back as if I was tossing a softball, and a ball of blue lightning shot out of my palm and hit the little fellow in the chest. He exploded into a cloud of smoke. The other one jumped for my throat, but I grabbed him by his grubby little hands and tossed him out into the parking lot. When he hit the ground, he disappeared in a blinding white flash that only I could see.
I sauntered through the glass doors, not bothering to open them. A few more of the Devil's imps lingered in the corridor, but they backed away when they saw me coming. I guess their brothers outside told them to watch out. They have some sort of mental telepathy thing going on. A group of hard-core bikers sat on a bench leaning up against the wall in the waiting room. They looked devastated. One, a sandy blond-headed young man tried to comfort a middle-aged woman who clung to him with tears rolling down her cheeks.
"I went in to check on him, and he'd slipped into a coma. Thanks for coming. After I called 911, the only thing I could think of was to call you. He'd want his brothers around him when the time comes," the woman said.
"How long did it take the ambulance to get there?" the sandy blond-headed young man said.
"About a half hour. Chico, this past year has been terrible. What with the chemo and everything. I don't know what I'm gonna do with out him."
"Don't give up hope," Chico said, a tear rolling down his face. "He could still beat this thing."
I stepped up to the woman, put my hand on her shoulder and said, "Be at peace, sister." Although she neither heard nor saw me, she quit crying. I moved my hand to Chico's shoulder. He shivered and looked up at me. My eyes widened and I thought at first that he saw me, but then I realized that he just sensed something. A shudder passed through him. "Be at peace, my brother. The bros need you," I said.
"You know, Regina, ever since they voted me in as president of the club, Sonny's had my back. If there's anything, anything at all that you need, let me know," Chico said.
"You and the rest of the guys have been a Godsend. The Road Dogs motorcycle club was his life. I appreciate everything you guys have done."
A tall, dark haired man with two-day-old stubble on his face wearing green hospital scrubs stepped up. Regina and the Road Dogs stood to their feet.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Taylor, but I think it's getting close to the end," the doctor said.
Regina started crying again. "How long does he have?" she asked.
The doctor shrugged. "He could go in a few hours, or he could linger on for a couple of days."
"Will he come out of the coma before he passes?" Chico asked.
The doctor paused. "Maybe, but I doubt it."
"Can we go in and see him?" Regina asked.
"Yes, but let's make it two at a time and limit the visit to no more than ten minutes. He needs to rest."
Chico took Regina's arm and followed the doctor to Sonny's room. I ambled along behind them. The rest of the Road Dogs sat back down to wait their turn for a last visit with one of their brothers. When I entered the room behind Chico and Regina, Sonny sat up in bed and a scowl crossed his face, although no one but me saw this. It was Sonny's spirit projecting itself outward, getting ready for the end. I looked over in the corner and saw a dark hooded figure dressed in black. He held a sickle with a long handle and he looked like the Grim Reaper himself. I pulled my vest back and put my hand on the butt of my 45. "Easy partner. This one don't belong to you," I said. The evil demon peered out of his hood with flaming red eyes, but then nodded and passed through the wall.
"What was that? I just saw a flash of something dark in the corner of my eye," Sonny said.
"Oh, it's nothing you need to be concerned about right now," I replied.
"What are you doing here anyway?" Sonny asked.
"I'm here for you, bro. I'm here to bring a brother home. The bros up at biker heaven got a big bash waiting for you."
"What was that? I saw his eyes flicker," Regina said.
"That happens occasionally with comatose patients," the doctor said.
"I thought I saw his lips moving," Chico said.
"Even though he's in a coma, there is still some brain activity."
"I ain't ready. Biker heaven can wait," Sonny said.
I reached out and took hold of Sonny's hand. His spirit rose out of his body, he stood beside me and looked down at his emaciated body, now wasted away by the cancer.
"Look at you," I said. "That damned cancer has ate you up. It's time to go."
"But I ain't ready. Regina needs me. The bros in the club need me. I still have things to do," Sonny said.
"Regina will be fine and Chico will hold things together in the club. Let's go," I said.
"Go? Go where? I don't want to go anywhere."
"Look, bro. The doctors will keep your body alive with these damned machines for a few days. I got some things I need to show you, so let's ride. There's a scooter out front waiting for you. After that, if you want you can get back in your body and try to tough it out, but it's a lost cause. It's your time," I said.
"You brought my scooter?"
"No, not your old rust bucket. I brought your spirit bike; It's waiting outside."
"Spirit bike? What's that?" Sonny asked.
"Imagine your dream bike and then multiply that by ten. You ain't gonna believe it, bro. Let's ride."
Sonny shrugged and said, "Why not."
When we swaggered out the door, Sonny's appearance changed. His body looked young and healthy, and instead of the hospital gown, he wore jeans, a black tee shirt and his club vest. We sauntered through the wall and into the lobby. A few of the Devil's misguided children lingered in the hallway. One of them lunged at Sonny and I pulled my 45 and blew its ass away with a beam of bluish green light.
"Holy shit! What was that?" Sonny said, jumping back.
"Oh that's just one of the Devil's munchkins trying to steal your soul. Forget about it."
"I want to say good-bye to the bros," he said, stopping at the group of Road Dogs sitting in the lobby.
"Don't worry about them. You'll get your chance to say your good-byes later," I said. We crossed the lobby, passed through the glass doors at the entrance without opening them and stepped out into the parking lot. Sonny's eyes widened when he saw his spirit bike setting next to mine. Earlier, when I mentioned the bike to him, sending the thought caused the bike to materialize next to mine, all though both bikes were invisible to human eyes. Off in the darkness I saw several sets of demonic eyes watching us.
"Damn! I ain't ever seen no bike like that!" Sonny exclaimed.
"Yeah, they're cool. They don't leak oil, and you never have to put gas in them. Let's ride," I said. I climbed in the saddle and fired up the motor. It put out a throaty growl that sounded like your typical Harley. Sonny climbed on his bike, jumped up and kicked it over. He gunned the throttle and grinned. "When you put it in gear, pull up on the bars when you give it throttle. Follow me," I said. I hit the throttle, pulled up on the bars leaning back in the saddle, and the bike soured into the sky. Once the bikes left the ground, they turned into their true selves. They radiated light and fire shot out of the tail pipes. Sonny let out a wild whoop and followed me. For a while, he had trouble controlling his bike and went flying off in a different direction, but he eventually gained control and pulled up next to me. A big grin spread across his face.
"These things are a kick! Where we going?" Sonny yelled over to me.
"We're taking a little trip up to biker heaven. They gave you a visitor-pass," I said and cranked the throttle, shooting up toward the stars.
* * *
Passing through the heavens, we continued to climb and the the stars surrounded us like a warm blanket. Sonny rode beside me, his eyes wide in awe. Above us, the darkness gave way to a lustrous light. A sense of joy and love radiated down on us. We passed through a cloudbank, I backed off the throttle and we touched down on a long street paved in pure gold. We traveled through a field of emerald green grass. Rugged-looking mountains loomed in the distance, and across the meadow stood a grove of trees that seemed to reach for the heavens. The sky above us was deep ocean blue and down the road lay an emerald city shimmering in its glory. The noise coming from the pipes on our scooters seemed louder somehow and almost musical.
Sonny pulled up next to me. "I've never seen anything like this. The colors are so vivid."
"Yeah, it's something to see the first time," I replied.
"What's that place up ahead?" Sonny asked.
"That's the welcome center, but we're pulling off before we get there. Biker heaven is on the outskirts." We motored on down the road for what seemed like about an hour and pulled off into a rough gravel parking lot. A rectangular shaped cabin, hewn from rough wooden logs sat off by itself. A wooden boardwalk fronted the building and a couple of wooden rocking chairs were set out front. It looked like any rustic log cabin you might see on Earth. Motorcycles of every size and description were parked next to the boardwalk. We killed the motors on our scooters and climbed off.
"That's it? That little cabin? That's biker heaven?" Sonny asked in shock.
I smiled. "Looks are deceiving."
Taking Sonny by the arm, I led him across the parking lot and up onto the boardwalk. Loud rock and roll music emanated from the building. The hinges on the log door squeaked when I opened it and we stepped into the barroom. A crowd of well-wishers greeted us when we stepped inside. Sonny stood in the middle of the room with his jaw hanging open and his eyes wide in wonder. The polished oak bar seemed to go on forever. Masses of bikers lined the bar drinking beer and whiskey while others sat at tables. Looking down the length of the rectangular shaped room, it seemed as if it went on for miles. Bikers of every description partied hard while women danced topless and naked on the bar.
"What the? How can this place be so big? It looked little on the outside!" Sonny said. He had to shout over the noise.
"I told you that looks can be deceiving. It's bigger on the inside than on the outside," I replied. A crowd of bikers came up, showing Sonny respect.
"Join the party! We've got a cabin out back picked out for you to stay in when you come back to stay! You'll love it here! It's on President's Row!" Little Danny Boy, a former Road Dog's chapter president said. He gave Sonny a big hug and a slap on the back.
"Damn it's good to see you man!" Sonny said. He looked around seeing several people that he knew, that had passed over.
After Little Danny Boy went back to the bar, Sonny said, "Little Danny Boy died in Nam."
"Yeah, I was there."
"There's Thumper, Old School, Chops and there's old Teddy Bear. I know half the people here."
"Yeah, you've got lots of friends here," I replied.
"I see some guys from some of the clubs that we don't get along with here. Why's that?" Sonny asked.
"Once you cross over, all those old rivalries are done. We all get along here. There's no rival clubs. In fact we work with some of the other clubs some times to try and keep things copasetic on Earth."
"How long can I stay?"
"As long as you want! Time is different here! I'll let you know when we need to head back; don't worry about that now! Let's party!"
Sonny mingled with the bros, while I found a seat at the bar next to my pops. Sonny came and joined us a while later and my pops bought the drinks. Sonny and my pops did some backslapping. They went way back.
"This place is unbelievable!" Sonny said, his eyes wide in wonder. Up on stage, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly blasted out an old rock and roll tune. "I can't believe it! Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly! Talk about some good old rock and roll!"
"Yeah, those old boys can play! They're on tour right now!" I yelled over the noise.
"I could stay here forever!" Sonny yelled.
Pops laughed. "I went hog wile when I first showed up!"
"If you want to hook up with one of them women, there's cabins out back!" I said.
"I can't! I'm married, but they sure are good-looking!" Sonny said.
"It's okay! You can if you want! Everything's okay here, and all the women are good-looking!" I yelled. We partied for what seemed like an eternity and then I laid a friendly hand on Sonny's shoulder. "We'd best ride! You have some unfinished business back at the hospital in Harlem Springs!"
Sonny sighed and we headed for the door.
* * *
We touched down on the highway three miles outside of town. Our spirit bikes changed from radiant steeds of light to old Harley Davidson motorcycles. We motored into town, and when we pulled into the hospital parking lot, we turned invisible once more. I fought another battle with the evil little vermin in the black robes, but most of them ran after I threw a ball of blue lightning into their midst.
"Why can't I do that?" Sonny asked.
"All in due time, bro. You haven't crossed over yet. You're still in between."
Sonny and I swaggered through the front door, not bothering to open it, and headed down to Sonny's room. Sonny's wife Regina and a group of Road Dogs gathered around the bed.
"How much time has passed since we left?" Sonny asked. The humans, still in their physical bodies, couldn't hear us.
"It's been three days. It's time, bro," I said.
Sonny looked down at his emaciated body. "What if I don't want to?"
I shrugged. "It's your choice. You have to go back in your body, but you can either give up the fight, and we'll move on, go you can keep fighting and maybe last another month or two, but look at your body. You're not gonna beat this thing."
Sonny sighed and entered his physical body. Regina kissed his cheek, Chico took his hand and a few of the bros gathered round talking to him. The heart monitor beeped and then flat lined, the breathing machine stopped, and Sonny's body died. Regina began to cry and Chico put his arm around her.
"It's better this way. At least he's not suffering anymore," Chico said.
Sonny's spirit rose up out of his body and stood next to me. "What now?"
"Go comfort your wife. She won't be able to hear you or feel your touch, but in her spirit, she'll know your there."
Sonny moved across the room and stood next to Regina on the other side of Chico. He put his arms around her. I moved around touching each one of the Road Dogs gathered around the bed.
"Be at peace, brother," I said to each one when I touched them. When I got to Chico, I said, "Be strong, bro. She's gonna need you."
"I don't know what I'm going to do. I've never had to plan a funeral before," Regina said.
"Don't worry about that. I'll handle it for you. You need to go home and get some rest. Tomorrow, I'll take you over to the funeral home," Chico said.
The doctor came in and shooed everyone out after Regina and the Road Dogs said their good-byes. When they wheeled Sonny's body out of the room, covered up with a sheet, Sonny stood in the hallway watching them take his earthly remains away.
"Don't worry about that," I said.
"What do we do now?" Sonny asked.
"We need to hang around for a while. You've got a funeral to go to," I said.
"You mean I'm gonna attend my own funeral?"
"Of course. Everyone does," I replied.
Chico and the bros took Regina home and we followed along behind on our scooters, all though they couldn't see us. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a few of the little demons in the black robes scampering along behind us. When they arrived at Sonny's place, the bros parked their scooters on the street and Chico escorted Regina to the front door. Before he stepped inside, Chico glanced out at the street.
"What?" a young prospect asked.
"I don't know man. I couldn't see anybody, but it felt like someone was following us. Like right now, I feel eyes on me but no one's there," Chico said.
"It's just Sonny passing and all. It's got you rattled. We're all in shock right now," the prospect said.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Chico said and stepped into the house.
"What now?" Sonny asked when we stepped up on the porch.
"Chico and the bros will take care of her for now. They'll probably spend the night just to be sure she's okay. Why don't we sit out here on the porch, have a few beers and enjoy the evening?"
Sonny sat down on a plastic chair and I sat down next to him.
"Where are we supposed to get the beer?" Sonny asked.
I glanced down and a six-pack of Bud Light sat at my feet. "Imagine that," I said and took one out of the six-pack. I handed it to Sonny and took one for myself. A few of the little demons showed up out front and one of them tried to come into the front yard. "No, you little shit. Back on out of here before I send you straight back to hell," I said, pulling my 45. They retreated to the sidewalk and a few of them climbed up on the picket fence. I shot one of them off the fence, sending it back to the pits of hell.
"How'd you do that?" Sonny asked.
"How do you make blue lighting come out of your forty-five like that and how did you make that beer just appear out of thin air?"
I laughed. "It's one of the perks you get when you cross over. It takes concentration. You'll learn." We killed our first beer, I handed Sonny another and took a bottle of Old Number Seven out of my vest pocket.
Sonny took a pull from his beer and gazed out at the night. "This is the last time I'll ever sit on my front porch and have a beer," he said.
"Oh, I don't know about that. This is the second time I've been back to Harlem Springs since I died in sixty-eight. When you get to biker heaven you might decide to join the halos and then you'll get to come back once in a while when you're needed."
Sonny's eyes widened. "I remember now. You came back and helped us with the Hell Raisers that time. I must have blocked that out of my memory somehow."
"Yeah, them boys were a bad bunch, and their helpers were worse. That was a dangerous time." Sonny and I sat on the front porch for the rest of the night drinking beer, and watched the sun rise in the morning.
Part One of Two