Winner of the 2006 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Fiction Collection
A collection of original dark fiction concerning itself with people, cars, and the open road.
In the novella "The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss," a man assigned community service duty with the city morgue after a DUI arrest is offered a simple deal: transport an old woman's body back to her hometown, and his record will be wiped clean. But this is no typical old woman, and -- as he soon discovers -- he is taking her to a town that is on no map. The old woman's identity, as well as the reasons behind the town's secret existence, will be revealed to him over the course of a few nightmarish hours between midnight and dawn -- the time when The Road demands its sacrifices.
In "Congestion," a man who has hated cars all his life finds himself stuck in a traffic jam on a sweltering hot day...a very different type of traffic jam.
In "Merge Right," a businessman on a long road trip comes to a long and lonely stretch of highway where every sign he passes orders him to MERGE RIGHT. There are no exits in sight, no other cars, no sign of civilization...and there is something very strange about the scenes appearing in his rearview mirror.
Also included are "The Box Man" and a preview of Prodigal Blues.
The open road is a malleable metaphor pregnant with dark and dangerous possibilities in this uneven trilogy of tales from Stoker-winner Braunbeck (Home Before Dark). "The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss" is an outr first-person account of a DWI offender who travels to a bizarre subworld where traffic fatalities are reconstructed from remnants of junked cars. In "Congestions," a harried driver trapped in a traffic jam unravels psychologically as he witnesses a parade of surreal images outside his car that may just be projections of his own crumbling mind. Though original in conception, each of these stories suffers from a glut of details disproportionate to their slim plots. By contrast, "Merge Right" is a taut piece of Twilight Zone style paranoia, featuring a man whose nighttime mission to take his dead wife's ashes to a final resting place grows creepier by the mile. At the very least, this collection reinforces Braunbeck's reputation as one of the more inventive contemporary writers cultivating the dark fantasy terrain.