Fast Cars, the sign said.
It was in front of a used-car lot in the neighborhood where I grew up.
Fast Cars. My friends and I passed it every day on our way to school.
Our bikes were the fast cars of our imagination, our Mustangs and
Corvettes and Thunderbirds. We longed for four wheels, but we were
confined to two and on them we hurtled into the future.
I've built my own fast cars. They're in this book, and they're eager
for passengers. They're not made of metal, glass, nuts, and bolts,
but rather of the fabric of wonder. All of them have a starting
point, and all of them have a destination. You can sit behind the
wheel, but I have to steer. Trust me.
We will travel, you and I, across a tortured land where hope struggles
to grow like seed in a drought. In this land, a place with no
boundaries, we'll run the freeways and back roads and we'll listen to
the song of the wheels and peer into windows at lives that might be
our own, if we lived in that land. Sometimes we'll have the wind at
our backs, and sometimes in our faces. We'll see storms in the
distance, whirling closer, and we'll smell the forest and the sea and
the hot concrete of the city. Our road will lead us onward, deeper
into the tortured land, and as the speedometer revs and the engine
roars, we may find strange visions on that twisting highway.
A man who awakens one morning to find a skeleton in bed where his wife
had been the night before.
A small-time thief who steals a makeup case, and learns a dead horror
A roadside diner, where a Vietnam veteran comes seeking shelter from
A young man in prison, who finds beauty and hope on the wings of a
Halloween in a very special residential area, where trick-or-treating
is deadly serious.
A red house on a street of gray houses, and a breath of sweet fire.
The adventures of a has-been serial hero, who dons his old costume and
goes in search of a serial killer.
A priest obsessed by a porno star, and his realization that both of
them are being stalked by a third shadow.
We will see worlds within worlds from the windows of our fast car. We
might even see the end of the world, and we might sit on a front porch
for a while and sip a glass of gasoline on a hot December day.
Some of these roads are tricky. Some of them have sudden curves that
want to throw us off into space. Some of them bubble under the
blinding sunlight, and some of them freeze beneath the cold white
moon. But we have to take them all, if we want to get from here to
there. And isn't journeying what life is all about? The question of
what lies beyond the dark hills, beyond the steaming forests, beyond
the locked door?
The key to a fast car can take you there.
Novels are limousines, stately and smooth. Some of them can ride like
tanks, slow and heavy, well-armored. The fast cars of short stories:
those are the vehicles that let us zoom close to the ground, with the
wind in our hair and the speedometer's needle vibrating on the
dangerous edge. Sometimes they're hard to handle; they have minds of
their own, and they call for close attention. They can crash and burn
so easily, but their sleek power yearns for speed. In such a fast car,
we can go anywhere. No locked door can keep us out, and if we want to
see what lies around the next bend, or the next hill, all we have to
do is steer toward it. We'll be there, roaming through the tortured
land, with the lights of other lives and different worlds passing on
I'd like to thank a number of people who have encouraged me in my
building of the fast cars in this book. Thank you to Frank Coffey,
who published "Makeup," my first short story; to Dave Silva of
The Horror Show, and Paul and Erin Olson of
Horrorstruck, for their friendship and encouragement; to
Stephen King and Peter Straub for setting the pace and leaving burning
treadmarks on the pavement; to Charles L. Grant for his
black-and-white visions; to Joe and Karen Lansdale for true grit; to
Tappan King of Twilight Zone magazine; to J.N. Williamson and
John Maclay for their first publication of "Nightcrawlers"; to Dean
R. Koontz, and he knows why; to those good ol' boys Tom Monteleone and
Al Sarrantonio; to Ray Bradbury, whose short story "The Lake" made
me cry when I was a little boy; to Forrest J. Ackerman, my true
father, who raised me on Famous Monsters of Filmland; to Tony
Gardner; and to Sally, who always stands beside me.
The fast cars are waiting. Listen: their engines are starting up. We
have a distance to travel, you and I. Buckle your seat belt. I'll
have to steer, because I know the roads. Trust me.
Ready? Then let's go out, in our cocoon of speed, and see what finds
Robert R. McCammon