Dead Friends: Chapter 18

Hey Girl.” Came the familiar voice Lizzie had hoped to hear. Immediately she released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. That was, until the next part of the message played. “Leave a message.”

Jessica probably had forgotten that her voicemail introduction was old and tacky. Lizzie had forgotten about it. She hadn’t paid it much attention as she usually texted and when she did call, if no one answered she didn’t pay it any attention whatever the greeting was and just left a message.

For that one heartbeat of a second she had actually allowed herself the chance to take a breath and relax. That was shattered as different ways Jessica might have been killed danced in her head. The shadow man was merciless, Lizzie had learned that when Sarah was killed, but since then, he had continued to take those close to her or having anything to do with her.

That explained Josh. It was strange to think he had only awakened her that morning, having arrived in the middle of the night. So much had happened today that it was easy to forget, but now that she concentrated on it, why was Josh there? She had never met him before, but he had been the one who killed Elisabeth and Chuck. They were connected.

“Jessica. Call me. Please.” She could hear the desperation streaming from her own voice.

What if she’d been hit by a car. Sure, the shadow man had already tried that today, but he could have. It was one of the easier ways to kill someone. Though when she thought about it, there were so many other possibilities. She could imagine the elevator in Jessica’s building, the cable snapping or the doors opening allowing for her to step into an empty shaft. Either way would leave her friend to pummel to her death.

Jessica could be just as easily mugged as she walked to her car. Though admittedly Lizzie would have to highly doubt that was possible. After seeing her in action earlier today, Lizzie wasn’t sure how many muggers it would take to put her down. Just one desperate soul out to devour off the weak wasn’t going to do it. Where had that fighter emerged from? She had never seen Jessica do that before. It had been amazing.

Dennis had said something about some kind of training Jess was doing. Maybe Lizzie should look into it? Why though? Lizzie’s problems all seemed to come from the supernatural so how would throwing a punch help?

Though, if there were multiple attackers…

Lizzie knew lingering on the thought wasn’t helping her as she disconnected the call, but she couldn’t help but picturing her friend lying in her own blood as she was dying. Her keys were in her hand, she was right next to her car. Jessica had almost made it before the three had jumped out at her. The first one she had taken down, but the next two both had knives.

It would have been just like Sarah, but this time Lizzie wasn’t there to watch the light slowly fade from her friend’s eyes.

She started reading through the messages on her phone. The oldest ones were from Jess, all of them worried about her. Lizzie knew Jess would have hated her being out with Roland, and Liz didn’t blame her for it. She was just about to get into the newer messages, the ones from the number she didn’t recognize when her phone rang, that same unfamiliar number calling her.

She nearly dropped the phone, and had to fumble with it to click on accepting the call. Her heart felt like it skipped a beat a she shakily raised it to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Hey Liz, everything going okay?” Jessica asked. Lizzie let out a long breath at hearing her friends voice.

“Yeah, hey who’s number is this?”

“Dennis’s work phone. The idiot left his cell at home but had this. Thank god I remembered your number.” There was a joking tone to her voice as she spoke and it tried to set Lizzie’s mind at ease, but there were a lot of messages still. She was having a hard time reconciling that it was just because she was checking up on her friend. Especially since Jess had texted more times today and had spoke to her more than she had in the entire last month of their friendship. Still, for now, Lizzie wondered if it was best to let it go and just talk to her friend. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe her gut was wrong.

“That explains it. So what’s up?”

“Well, you tell me. Is Roland being a bastard?”

“He’s being civil.” Her mind raced to the kiss they had just shared, her memory clinging to his smell, his taste. He tasted of peppermints, like the candy he always kept with him, and the essence of pineapple she knew came from the deodorant that he used.

“He’s not being an ass. He’s still not claiming he never slept with that Natalie is he?”

“It hasn’t come up. Hey, so what’s wrong with your cell?”

“Battery’s dead. Been busy today, forgot to charge it. Then Dennis whisked me away for some camping trip getaway. God only knows where we are right now. He ran in to get some ice for the cooler and I wanted to give you a call. I’ve been worried about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“You didn’t look fine, and what was that with that woman? You went pale just by her talking to you.”

“I was just spooked, but come on, Ms. Bruce Lee.”

“I told you, I’ve been taking self defense classes.”

“Yeah, well that was pretty impressive.”

“He shouldn’t have been pushing her around.” Lizzie noticed the chance in Jess’s voice. A sadness had creeped into her tone and Lizzie wondered if something was hidden there in her past. Sarah, she had grown up with, but Jess was a newer friend. There was still much Lizzie didn’t know about her.

“Okay, I gotta go. He’s taking me up to some cabin his parents have on timeshare or whatever.”

“Thought you said you were going camping.”

“We’re in the woods and there’s no internet. I don’t care if we’re in a cabin or a tent, it’s all camping to me.”

Lizzie barely stifled the giggle as her friend said her goodbyes and the phone disconnected. Jessica was okay. She was alive and Lizzie had been worrying for nothing.

Maybe she was being crazy or had been crazy and was now pulling herself out of it. All of this silliness with some shadowy figure and a dead man who killed her best friend. She didn’t know what the hell happened, she should just admit that to herself.

“Hey miss, you got a light?” Lizzie heard from behind her, and instinctively her neck hair rose. She realized just how alone it was on the street and for the first time wondered how long Roland had been away. He should be back by now, where the hell is he?

She turned to look at the owner of the voice. It had been raspy, near whisper and impossible to know if it had been a man or woman.

When she first looked back, her heart skipped. It was him. He had found her. Hundreds of miles away and here he was. The shadow man was there, his face obscured by darkness.

But the image of the shadow man faded as another man standing tall and just barely able to be seen in the dim light. He wasn’t even close to her and she could smell his breath, the alcohol emanating from him like he was a distillery. His large coat hid his slender frame, but did nothing to conceal his gaunt dirt covered face.

The man was imposing enough, but as he bent over to lower himself to her, the streetlight caught his eyes. Lizzie could just barely see it, but she had already known. She knew that if the sun shone bright, she would see those red rings around his irises. The shadow man was there after all, even if she couldn’t see him.

“Come on, give me a light.” He said as he reached out for her. She had seen him coming, fearing it, and was quick to push herself forward and twisting the spin while rising up from the bench. She moved just in time, his hand only brushing against the back of her sweater leaving traces of dirt from his fingers.

His hands were covered in it and she couldn’t help but remember what the sheriff had said about the old man. A dead man had killed her friend. Was this guy dead too? He wreaked enough to call it in question but she didn’t have time to think about it now as he followed up reaching for her by lunging over the bench.

“What the hell.” She quickly stepped back. He came down hard to the cement and he slammed his fist into the pavement in frustration. She wasn’t waiting for his next move as she dashed around to behind the bench where the man had just been. A cackling escaped from him and he twisted himself up to look at her.

“What’s a matter little girl. Don’t want to wet the noodle?” His face now covered in blood that was running from his nose. He didn’t pay it any attention and continued to howl louder with his laughter as he pulled himself forward.

His legs came down from the bench, limp behind him and she would have expected him to stand up and come at her again. He was aggressive in his attack, continuing to come after her, not allowing her to catch her breath.

Just run away, she screamed internally to herself, but she didn’t. She got away from him so far, she just had to keep out of reach. Then what? Eventually he would catch her.

Jessica wouldn’t run away. She had stood up to it earlier today. She had fought against people, taken down that man. She had really kicked some ass. So come on Lizzie, are you going to run away for the rest of her life. Hell no!

She started to plan her attack. He was going to get up and lung back over the bench and she would grab his arm, pull him off balance and then slam her fist into face knocking him out. That’s right, it seemed simple enough. She just had to do it once he came at her.

Wait, don’t you hurt yourself more if you ball your fist the wrong way? She thought she’d heard that somewhere.

It didn’t matter as she never got the chance to test it. The guy didn’t stand. Instead he quickly crawled under the bench and grabbed her legs. She had just seen that he was under the bench and hadn’t registered the change fast enough. Her mind had still been on formulating the plan of him coming over.

He caught her off guard and by the time it clicked and her mental gears started moving, he was close. She only had time to take a step back but then he had her, grabbing the leg nearest him. She was still trying to pull it away when he lurched forward and wrapped his arms around her, pulling his weight into her leg and throwing her off balance.

She fell back, twisting as she did so to work her way free. It seemed impossible, his grip tight on her. She would have questioned his strength but It didn’t matter. She’d been through this before and she recognized the sensation of having the shadow man nearby. She could almost imagine his sing song of a chant and feel his damp breath. He was there, it was him possessing the man, and once again he had her.

The cement was hard and she crashed into it without any way of catching herself. Her air escaped her lungs even as she fought to keep it. The lungs that betrayed her felt pained and were angry with her as they tried to pull in on themselves. Her whole body hated her. It recognized the pain and knew it was her fault. She had the chance to get away and she hadn’t.

As she fought to pull air into her recovering lungs, she could feels his hands moving up her legs. He would grab higher and higher then pull his body a few inches at a time.

“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tat, tik-a-tat” in that old raspy voice kept screaming though her mind.

Stars danced around her. She was still having a hard time but she was now able to gasp in short wisps of air. Her vision was getting cloudy and she felt her eyes watering.

His hand left her leg and she felt it come down on her waist, reaching and grabbing the gap between her pants and the flesh hidden beneath. She tried to wiggle away but his grip was firm on her jeans. She shook harder, coughing with the exertion as she was finally pulling in air.

“Come here honey, light my fire.” The voice rasped, coughing spastically as it spoke.

She kicked out with her legs, and reached with her arms trying to pull herself away.

“Help! Get away from me! Someone help me.” She screamed finally finding her voice now that she had air. Her throat burned with the effort.

“No one.” He hissed, “No one to hear you.” She felt him slither over her legs, like a snake as he was working his way up. Her legs were trapped, her efforts to kick him away useless. Instead she fought to twist herself away. Maybe she could somehow push him off of her so she could get up, but it was useless.

“Get off me!” She stopped slamming her fists down and twisted again, reaching down and pushing the man down. He was so much stronger than her, but she fought with everything she had.

Her arms gave out and she tried again to twist in a way to pull herself free. His hands let go and she found herself able to move. She landed on her chest and something crunched against her. It bit into her breast, but she couldn’t stop to think about it. She had to…

His arm reach up and grabbed part of her shirt. His nails were long and dug into her flesh even through the fabric of her sweater.

Why had she thought she could fight him. She should have just run away. He never would have caught her. She wouldn’t be under him now, and none of this would be happening. Why did this always happen to her?

He was going to rape her. As sure as she knew she was going to die tonight, and that it would be by his hands, she knew he was going to violate her first.

And she had no way of stopping him…

Fresh tears rolled down her cheek and she let her arms fall to the side. It was going to happen wether she fought him or not. What did it matter? It was all over.

“What the hell! Get off of her!” She heard he familiar voice but it sounded like it was miles away at the end of a very long tunnel. She couldn’t concentrate on it, barely hearing the words but not grasping the meaning of what was being said.

Around here the world was blurry and she could feel the darkness closing in, surrounding her and pulling her into unconsciousness. She didn’t care. The coolness of the sidewalk beneath her was comforting and so inviting. Maybe they could all just leave her there and let her become a statue.

She felt the weight on top of her rip away and she couldn’t help but release a giggle. Floating man going away, she thought, floating man returning to the shadows light as a feather. Another tear rolled down her cheek. She felt it as it slid down its path.

There was shuffling around her, but it was a world away, why should any of that concern her. She heard more shouting and knew now who was yelling. It was Roland but why was he at the end of the tunnel. He should be here with her. Why had they been so far apart?

Her head hurt as she tried to think of the reason, but nothing came.

“Lizzie! Lizzie, are you okay? Do I need to get an ambulance?” He was getting closer until she finally opened her eyes. She had slipped off, not realizing she had closed them, but now her eyes wide open, she saw him hovering over her.

He looked so concerned. Was that really for her?

“Hey big boy. Where have you been?” She said and the words sounded strange to her. Then she realized slowly what had just happened to her.

The tears flooded out from her as reality crashed into her like a freight train. She could stop it but didn’t feel like she had to. Roland understood and pulled her up and into his chest. She reached out and pulled him closer, clinging to him so he wouldn’t disappear on her again. Never again, he needed to always be with her. She needed him.

“It’s okay. The bad man is gone away. I chased him.” He said to her gently.

But he was wrong and she knew it. The bad man hadn’t gone away, just the vessel it possessed.

Dead Friends: Chapter 17

Okay, Lizzie knew she’d enjoy the concert. That much had been a given even with the moment of doubt before hand by the complete and utter ignorance of her companion. She just hadn’t realized how much she would enjoy the concert.

Their tickets had been amazing, right up near the stage. The music had been loud but phenomenal, and Eddie… Eddie had been to die for.

She had watched him as he soulfully sung to the crowd of adoring fans but she could swear it felt like he was singing directly to her. He would look at her and she thought he was looking directly into her eyes. She had nearly melted to the ground leaving a drooling puddle. Roland had caught her and she was sure she saw a smile as he pulled her back up.

It was after the music had died away and they were filing out of the amphitheater that she noticed how close she was to Roland. She could feel her back occasionally brushing against his chest and thought she felt his warm breath on her neck. Their hands occasionally brushed against one another and what was this? No, her heart could not be skipping a beat. Not again and not for him.

Yet here they were walking. They had made it outside the theater and were now making their way down the street. The night was cool, and somehow she had allowed him to take her hand. They weren’t going towards the parking lot, and all she could think about was how natural his hand felt in hers and how wonderful the show had been.

They turned a corner and it was well lit, the streetlights on both sides were decorated with dangling orange lights as the area was prepared for the upcoming holiday. The streetlights themselves were lower than many of the other nearby streets and done in that faux style of classic candle lit elegance. Then she noticed they weren’t walking down a street. It was brick, a fake street not wide enough to be real but perfect for late night walks. She was sure there were kids who would ride their bikes or skateboards down it, but she saw no evidence of it. Maybe it was heavily patrolled to keep them away.

It was nice and peaceful and when had her hand snuck into his? She looked down at it and then felt helpless as her gaze climbed up his arm, up his chest until they fell on his eyes. He smiled at her, and neither of them said anything. They just walked.

Eventually they found themselves walking along the water, as Lake Michigan stretched out before them. The night had drifted into a surreal dream and if they took a step off into the water, she was sure they could walk on it, following the path of the moon that lead the way into some far off land.

“You enjoying yourself?” Roland asked as they stopped beneath one of the streetlights.

“I am.”

“Good.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and flashed her a slight smile as he kept his eyes locked into hers.

“I hate to do this-“

“Oh?”

“I need to go to the bathroom. You going to be okay here for a couple minutes.” He said. She could see his embarrassment as his face turned red.

“Yes, go, I’m a big girl.” She giggled, smiling at him and she could see how relieved he was.

“Okay. Good, I’ll be right back.” He said, and then without thinking, both of them temporarily lost in the moment and forgetting the last month and half, he bent down and kissed her. She returned the kiss until he pulled away and they were both standing there looking at each other, questioning one another with their eyes.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.”

He backed away, not turning from her until he was a few feet. Then he turned, rushing off to one of the open bars along the street. She watched him go, then sat on a bench. She hadn’t noticed it before, but as he was now not there clouding her mind, she could sit and take stock of her situation.

No, that was the last thing she wanted to do. She didn’t want to be with him. That ship had already sailed. He had sunk it.

Then why was she still thinking of him, or why return that kiss. Better question how had had he talked her into going. Obviously she still had feelings for him.

No, she had to get her mind off of him. She was not doing this again. She knew how it would end.

End…

Something about that thought seemed wrong. Did she know how it would end? Sure, he’d cheat on her and then she’d be heartbroken all over again, this time without Sarah to help her get through it.

Something about that was nagging at her. There was a thought just out of reach, but if she could grab it, maybe some of what had happened today, maybe even the last few weeks would start to make sense to her.

If it was a word it would be right there at the tip of her tongue. She knew it was there. Dammit!

She opened her purse, and pulled out her phone. It had been off since the concert and figured now would be as good time as any to check her messages. Maybe there’d be one from Jess that would explain it all, or even better, one from her uncle. At least he seemed to know something would be wrong with her…

Of course he had known she would have things going on in her life, strange things that made no sense. He had written her a letter warning her. He had even left a note on the back of her fathers grave, trying to give her a clue. Of course he had known. How had the letter started, not with a greeting, but with two apologetic words. “I’m sorry.”

Her uncle had known her friends would come back from the grave. It had been happening to him too. It seemed so obvious once she took time to think about it. How else would he have known to leave the talisman for her. He knew she would need it.

He knew but how did he know? How would he know that right away her best friend would die?

Because… Because her dying, the shadow man, they were apart of it. It took her friends.

Her phone came to life as messages rolled in. The first came from Jessica, but then a barrage of messages came from an unknown number. What the hell was going on?

Jessica… The shadow man…

Earlier that day she had seen something. Her friend had that red ring around her irises, she was sure of it and had been acting so weird. She was going to get into a fight with that guy. What would have happened if Lizzie hadn’t hurried up?

Mentally Lizzie could see what would have happened. The man had rushed to get back into his car, afraid of the small woman who was coming at him viciously. He would first back away, putting his car in reverse, but he couldn’t back all the way down the parking garage ramp. He’d have to go forward. Jessica would get back in front of the car to get him to stop, he would try to slow down, but somehow his foot would slip and he would careen Into Jessica and she would roll under his car or slam into his windshield. Either way, her head would get smashed and there would be no way she survived. Her friend would have been dead.

She knew it was true. Lizzie had saved her unlike Sarah where she hadn’t been able to get to her in time. But tonight, Lizzie wasn’t in Stevens Point to protect her friend, and some how from deep in her gut, she sensed that the shadow man was on the prowl seeking his next victim. If she was right, it would be someone she knew and cared for. It would be the one he tried and failed on earlier that day.

Lizzie only glanced at a few of the messages but she found it impossible to focus on any of them. Her head hurt and tears were bubbling up inside her. They hadn’t burst through the dam yet, but painfully waited just behind her eyes.

Screw this, she needed to know.

She called her friends number.

Beware the 13th

Happy Friday everyone, and to celebrate both April’s Fools (belatedly) and Friday the 13th taking place in April, I am giving away a free book! What better way to celebrate than with something scary.

Just sign up for my mailing list and you will receive a free copy of my novel, Hatched in either Kindle or .Mobi form.

Learn More

Dead Friends: Chapter 7

Lizzie didn’t want to go back there. She didn’t want to go back into the house that her friend had died in. She didn’t want to go back inside the small, wooden, decrepit place that some random stranger, old and naked, had come at her and tried to eat her and God only knows what else to her. She didn’t want to go near the place of that shadow man, but even more she didn’t want to go near the maggots.

Why was that troubling her? She didn’t know, and since she’d last been there, she had plenty of nightmares. She’d dreamed about the shadow man and his ticky-tat way of talking. She’d dreamed of the old man as she stared up at him with his member dangling in her face, but the ones she truly feared, the ones that woke her up in a sweat was when she dreamed she was in a bath tub covered in maggots, all of them with their hungry mouths. They were all eating her alive, tearing her apart and laying their eggs inside of her, more maggots bursting out of her.

As she stepped out of the back seat of the car bringing her back there, the image of that single white wormlike creature as it fell on her from the man’s penis kept leaping into her thoughts. Though unlike how it happened, she kept remembering it wrong. In her thoughts, it fell into her open mouth made its way into her stomach and was eating her while lying its eggs. With the butterflies she felt in her stomach, she couldn’t help but think there was some truth to nagging sense.

“Lizzie? You okay?”

Lizzie looked over to her friend who had brought her back there. She didn’t want to be back there, but they needed to get her keys and somewhere in there she had dropped them. The police when they went there hadn’t found them. They’d found her phone, but that was it. Well, the phone, and the bodies. They had found both her friend and the old man, but it was with the old man that things got weird. It was then that the cops questions had turned from helping her to questioning her about what happened because according to them, it couldn’t have been the way she had told them.

She went into the hospital three days ago, had been questioned by the police for the last two days both at the hospital and at the motel room she stayed in upon her release. They didn’t believe her story, and as much as she wanted to run away from all of it, she hadn’t. Something kept her here, pulled her, tied to it by something unseen.

“Are you sure your okay?” Elisabeth asked. Lizzie looked over at her and her boyfriend. She was thankful they had brought her out there, but tepid as she was only beginning to know these people. Elisabeth, it felt like Lizzie was using her to fill the void that Sarah had created, though Sarah, dead or not, was still trying to be her best friend. Her boyfriend though, was just as nice as Elisabeth was, and he had suggested they come out there. Well, he’d suggested coming out by himself so he could get Lizzie’s car and look for her keys.

What had possessed her to say she wanted to come back here? Sure, he’d need someone to come with him as they’d have two vehicles but anyone could have rode with him. She doubted Elisabeth would have come. The girl barely left Lizzie’s side, becoming her protector the more the sheriff dug into her with questions.

The old man…how could he have attacked her and killed her friend? He’d been dead for a week. The sheriff knew the man and had been at his funeral when they put him in the ground. He’d died of bone cancer barely able to lift his own arm, not able to walk for the last three months when the cancer got bad, so how had he attacked them?

Lizzie didn’t know. She had no answers of her own other than what she saw.

Maybe she really was crazy…

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked over at her, blinking away some of the thoughts though many remained. She just had to not get lost in them. Don’t focus on them right? That was easier said than done.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying not to remember the last time I was here.”

“I get that.” Elisabeth’s boyfriend said. Lizzie struggled to remember his name and felt she should really remember it by now as they’ve hung out for more than a day.

“Chuck, you mind going in first? I’ll stay out here with Lizzie while you check it out.”

“Sure, let me get killed in the spooky old death house.”

“Chuck!”

The color drained in his face as he realized what he just said. Elisabeth was making jerking motions with her head towards Lizzie and while Lizzie couldn’t see her face, she was sure it was more than just the nod she was using to communicate how insensitive he’d just been.

“Oh my God I can’t believe I just said that.”

It was alright. Lizzie barely even noticed as she had slipped back into her thoughts and looking at the small house in front of her. She hadn’t really looked at it the first time. Sarah had been talking but Lizzie had been on the phone with Richard. Her brother had been having a melt down because his caregiver had a family emergency. Samuel, her brothers normal caregiver had called her and told her what was going on. Samual had called their service and Tommy, the backup, was on his way. She was sure that had been explained to her brother, but he had still called in a frenzy. He had continued on and she had to listen to him rant in that computerized voice as he typed it from his end of the call.

“It’s still a dump.” Sarah said as though she could read Lizzies thoughts. Lizzie looked over, across the car to the other side and there she stood. Of course her dead friend was still with her. No matter where she went, Sarah followed now, though she did have the decency not to follow her into bathroom.

Lizzie tried to pretend she wasn’t there, but it was hard. Closing her eyes never helped. Wishing the nightmare away didn’t do anything. Sarah was there wether she liked it or not.

Sarah was right though, the house was a dump. It looked like it had once been painted a drab yellow, tough not that much of the paint was still visible as much of the original color had long peeled away. The remnants of the paint lied in a bed of debris around the base of the house having been torn away after years of neglect and vicious winters tearing at it..

Outside, you couldn’t really see that the windows were blacked out. With the sun coming down and the boards that looked hastily placed to cover them, the house just looked dark inside. Her uncle really didn’t want anyone seeing in, or he didn’t want to see what was out there. Had her uncle seen the shadow man? Had he been hiding from him?

Maybe there were answers inside? She hadn’t thought about that before, but there could be something in there that explained that thing.

Now your just reaching. You know that. You just don’t want to go back in there and trying to give yourself reasons to go. Nevermind that you’ve come all the way back out there, you need to go in or else you’ll be running the rest of your life afraid to face anything.

And somewhere inside her, she was okay with that. Why not just run away from everything.

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll go in then. It’s unlocked right?” Chuck said as he neared the door. It was obvious he didn’t relish the idea of going in alone.

“Should be. I doubt the sheriff’s department locked up after themselves and I’m not sure where my keys are.” Lizzie said as she finally moved, taking tentative steps around to the front of the car. The dried leaves crackled beneath her, fallen from the trees overhead. There were a lot of them. She was surrounded in trees. The whole area was nothing but trees, and then a clearing with an old house. It was like the house was hiding from modern world, and the only connection to it was that small driveway barely wide enough for one car. “Be careful, the woods all rotted on the stairs.”

She had stopped him just before he had stepped onto the first step. There were only three of them to reach the small landing and the front door overhang. It was odd how it was set up. The overhang was blocked off, walled on three sides so that it didn’t allow for those inside to look out past the person directly at the door. Visitors had to walk up the stairs next to the house. It didn’t allow for someone inside to look out, but outside no one could see in.

Why would he be so worried about someone looking in? It was obvious the overhang was not a part of the original design as the wood was unpainted and it didn’t fit in with the architecture. He had to have built it himself.

“Your uncle was nuts.” She didn’t know who had said it. It was getting hard as Lizzie could no longer tell if it had been Sarah or Elisabeth who said it. They both sounded alike to her.

“I see what you mean. One of the boards collapsed, probably one of the deputies that’d been trampling around out here. I should be okay using the sides.”

“You be careful.” Elisabeth called after him. He disappeared and then there was a door slamming shut, what must have been the screen door as he entered the house.

“I don’t like him going in there alone” Lizzie said.

“This house is a dump. Why did your uncle live out here. It’s in the middle of nowhere, hidden in trees. I’ve heard of getting off the grid but this is going too far.”

“And you live here because?”

“Hey, I live in town. Sure it’s small, but I grew up here and I like it. I know everyone. But this…” Elisabeth holds her hand up motion towards the house and the surrounding clearing, “This wanting to know no one. He was hiding from someone.”

“Well, he did leave me a lot of money.” Lizzie said quietly, biting back what she wanted to say. That dread turning in her stomach. Her gut told her that he wasn’t out there to hide from someone, he was hiding from something and that eventually it got him.

“Yeah, I’d be careful with that money. You got no idea where it came from?”

“None.” Though it was becoming nice having it. The lawyer had somehow found out she was in the hospital and had let her know he had the money already put into her account as of yesterday, a full week sooner than anyone had expected. That allowed her to get ahold of someone, a person that one of the nicer deputies had suggested, that would come out and clean the mess of the kitchen so she wouldn’t have to see the blood.

Once Lizzie had told the lawyer about it, he had taken care of all the details. Lizzie didn’t have to worry about any of it. She guessed with money, none of that stuff was important anymore though the revelation was still mind boggling.

Lizzie started towards the side of the house. She had to see it, to see where it happened but she wasn’t sure she could go in the house. Not yet, but if she went around back…

“Hey! where ya going?” She heard Elisabeth rushing to catch up.

“You can see into the kitchen from the back clearing.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go in there.”

“I don’t. I just want to see in, see where it-“

She didn’t finish saying it as she went around the corner. As she walked along the side of the house she could see more of the back and it was different from what she remembered. When she had left the kitchen through the back door, it had been a small clearing, no buildings just woods, but now she could clearly see a large shed. It was unpainted and old, but definitely used. She saw a well trampled path that ran from the house to it.

What had her uncle been doing in there? It was large enough to fit three cars and something she’d more often find on farms for those large tractors. Back there amongst all the woods, she couldn’t see a way for them to bring in any large vehicles.

But that shed wasn’t why she was back there, and she forced her attention away from it as they came into the back yard.

The kitchen door was open, the screen door twisted at the bottom hinge, the top broken so that the door hung off to the side. The wooden interior door still open as it had been and now as she walked up she could see that the small metal stairs that were supposed to lead up to the door had been pulled away and set to the side where there was nothing but the kitchen wall, looking obscene with their stairway to nowhere. It would have been funny if she wasn’t where her friend had been killed. It did make her wonder about the sickness of the mind that drove her uncle to move them over there, never wanting whoever climbed them to get in.

“Lizzie! Wait up.” Elisabeth called. Lizzie wasn’t sure why she was supposed to wait. She was standing there by the back door. She hadn’t run around the house, so why would it take Elisabeth so long to catch up.

“Hey, what are you doing back here?” Chuck said, looking at her from where he had been standing in the kitchen.

Lizzie barely noticed either of them, her eyes transfixed on the last place she had seen Susan alive. The tile floor was spotless. The cleaners weren’t supposed to clean up more than the mess the bodies had made, but as she looked in, the kitchen was clean. All of it. She was sure the kitchen hadn’t been that clean in over ten years as it actually now looked like a room that food could be prepared in. It was amazing and they had all done this in just one night.

It truly was amazing what mountains money could move. Who ever had come out there had gone the extra mile, that was for sure, and to have been out there on their own. Lizzie didn’t think she’d ever be able to stay out there by herself. It was all just too creepy. Too much nature, all the bugs and animals. Never mind that the last time she’d been out there, there had been a homicidal deadman out to massacre them. How had her uncle been able to do it?

“Lizzie, we should get away from here.” Elisabeth said. She came up to her gently wrapping an arm around her shoulders. It was soothing and Lizzie wanted to melt back into the woman as she guided her away. Lizzie didn’t want to go though, pushing away from those comforting thoughts as she twisted out of Elisabeth’s grip and looked back at where her friend fell.

“I did… I died there.”

Lizzie didn’t have to turn to know that Sarah was also behind her. She could hear the tears in the dead woman’s voice and knew those tears were for her own death. Lizzie wanted to turn to her but what..how do you comfort the dead?

Maybe that was what she needed to do. Maybe Sarah was a ghost and until she came to deal with it, she’d always be there to haunt Lizzie?

As much as it hurt Lizzie to have her there with her, she wasn’t ready to let Sarah go. She couldn’t help Sarah with her grief when she was barely holding on to her own?

“-nothing..” Chuck was saying, though Lizzie hadn’t heard anything else. They were talking around her about her and she tried to shake free from the thoughts that kept tying her down so she once again could to focus. There’d just been so much in such a short time it kept drowning her in randomness.

“What?”

“I’d been through the house. I found your phone and keys but other than that, I couldn’t find anything. You sure you lost your purse in here?”

“I thought I had. I don’t know.”

“Well here’s this.” He said as he held out to her her phone, dead from lack of a charge, and her keys. As she studied the phone, she saw the spiderweb or cracks down the screen. She’d hoped she hadn’t dropped it, but looking at the damage she must have.

At least now she could afford to get a new one.

That didn’t comfort her, but as it dawned on her more and more it felt more like a rock growing in her stomach. Just ‘buy it’ was giving her a sour taste.

“Thanks.” She said, her voice flat as she flipped over the phone and saw the scratches on the back. They made up an odd pattern that tickled the back of her mind. She turned the phone back so she could look at the screen. Looking at that shape in the back hurt her eyes, though she didn’t know why.

“Was there anything else we need out here or should we go?” Chuck said as he jumped down the short distance to the ground.

She wanted to say yes, but found herself reaching up and climbing into the little kitchen. She didn’t know why, she didn’t want to go in, but something inside called out to her. She could feel a thrumming course through the wood as she touched it. The air was different, cooler, and she knew if it was winter and cold outside, that air would be warmer. It wanted her in there, and would accommodate for her. She just had to finish going in.

“Woah.” Chuck said as both Elisabeth and him reached out, both grabbing her and pulling her back. She didn’t fight them. They were right, but as much as she knew it, she still wanted to go in there.

“Lizzie?” Elisabeth moved to face her and look into her eyes.

“I’m fine. We can get out of here.”

“You sure?’

“Yeah, lets just go. I don’t ever want to come back here.”

“Yeah, the place is a dump.” Chuck said as he lead them back to their cars.

“You know you love it out here.” Elisabeth was teasing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“In the woods, yes. This house, no way. I saw inside there. There’s voodoo, or witchcraft shit all over in there. I think I’m cursed for just walking through it.”

“You’re kidding.”

“He’s not. Sarah and I saw some of it when we’d gone through. It’s disgusting and creepy in there. I’d never want to stay the night.”

Elisabeth studied the two of them as they stood to look back at the house. In the woods, something rushed through some of the underbrush, and it was loud in the silence around them. There were no birds chirping and Lizzie didn’t hear any flies buzzing around her. The slight breeze pushed back strands of her hair, but the leaves surrounding her remained still and silent.

Where were the mosquitoes. It was fall, but they shouldn’t all be dead yet. There had been plenty in town, and had even been some really big nasty ones larger than she’d ever seen back home. She was here, out in the woods where they should be attacking and feeding on her like a pack of vampires at a feast.

Into the trees, there was the occasional sound of something scurrying, but even those sounds were few and far between. By the house, it was silent, dead, and that silence grew, pressing more as she had now realized it and listened for it. The open clearing and space around her was closing in, suddenly feeling much smaller, almost on top of her.

“Okay, well, I’m thinking we get out of here unless there was something else you need.” Elisabeth said. Chuck nodded and she turned to Lizzie.

“Sure.”

“So you get what you needed?”

Lizzie nodded, holding up her keys and her phone.

“Okay, so we’re probably going to head back to my house. You can meet us there if you’d like. You remember the way right?”

“I don’t know. I might just head back home. I should check on my brother, see that he’s okay, and see how Jess and Dennis are doing. Sarah was their friend too.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to follow us. I didn’t know if you wanted to drive this late or not.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Okay.”

Lizzie looked back at the house. The sun was lowering on the far side of the house casting the shadow towards them. She just didn’t know how she felt or what she wanted to do. Where should she go? She didn’t know and if left alone, would probably just sit in her car at some parking lot crying. Was that a bad thing? It probably was, but still just felt right. She didn’t want to be around people right now, no matter now nice they’ve been to her.

“So what are you going to do with the house? Sell it?”

“I don’t know.” But she did know. She wasn’t going to do anything with it. She’d be back there again. She didn’t know why, but there was something in there she needed. She should go in and look. Her back muscles wouldn’t relax until she did. That little nestling of a panic attack she’d had all morning, that shortness of breath that never left her wouldn’t go away until she did.

She watched as her friends climbed into their car and she walked over to her own drivers side door. As they pulled away, she opened her door and got in. The world around her feeling like a dream that was fading and for now it was time to leave. She wasn’t going to go back in, not alone.

Sarah was waiting in the car’s passenger seat. She was still crying.

“I’m dead.”

Lizzie nodded.

“I’m dead, and I’m still here. What am I, a ghost?”

Lizzie shrugged. What did she say to her dead friend. Lizzie sure as hell didn’t have any of the answers.

“Can we get out of here please.”

Lizzie nodded again, starting the car and turning around to drive down the driveway. They got to the end of the drive and saw that Elisabeth and Chuck had stopped at the end, waiting to turn on the main road.

Lizzie didn’t feel like she was really there. Everything around her slipping into this unreal around her and she just sat there watching. She saw as the brake lights dimmed on the back of the car in front of her and then creep into the road. Then the truck felt like it came out of nowhere as it struck the car. The car had been a small compact. The semi was a large behemoth of a vehicle in comparison and had been going way to fast at it struck the little car on its broadside.

Lizzie just sat there, not knowing how long for her to comprehend what she had just seen. It had been Sarah tugging at her arm, telling her to call 911 and telling her she needed to rush to help them.

Help who? It couldn’t be? No, not again. But yes, it was all happening again, and more of her friends were probably dead.

Slowly, Lizzie pulled herself out of her seat, getting back out of the car. She knew what she would see, but walked to where the car was positioned against a tree, both sides smashed in by the multiple impacts. There was no rush. Why? She knew what she would find.

Book Review: Paradox Bound by Peter Cline

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

Paradox Bound is the latest novel by Clines and follows a boy who grew up in a small town in Maine. Through the course of his life, this strange woman kept popping up now and again, never aging and always with an old antique car. She looked like she was from another time, standing there in her revolutionary war attire, and it turned out, she was.

This is now the third novel I’ve read by Peter Clines and this is by far my least favorite. It had some quaintness too it, and some moments I liked, but by and far I felt the novel was very predictable in how it approached the main storyline and filled with holes in some of the interactions with the minor characters.

Eli, our main character has grown up in his small town, and never made his escape when he became an adult as much as he claims the desire too. He works at a dead end job, and does nothing of merit. So when he meets this strange woman, one he has had chance encounters with all his life and has fallen in love with through their brief interactions, he chooses to help her.

This brings him in contact with the faceless men. Men who have given up their identities and had their faces removed to protect the American Dream. These men now have their sights on him as they feel he knows more than he is saying as they are after the woman. So of course, Eli now realizing that the strange woman is in danger, races after where he knows she will be, thus thrusting them into an adventure as they run for their lives. The faceless men always at their heels as they barely escape them at every turn.

I will say, one element about the book I highly enjoyed was the couples interactions with John Henry as he rides his train through history. Like I said, the book is predictable, but I still enjoyed it. If this was the first book written by Peter Cline that I have read, I would not have been so critical of it. His previous work has been excellent. This book, while it is good, I can’t praise as much. It is still a fun read, and I still recommend it. It is a fun romp through the bowels of history. Just remember, they don’t time travel. Nope, they travel through history (Okay that distinction throughout the book annoyed the hell out of me)…

Rating: 3/5

Click Here to purchase from Amazon.

Dead Friends: Chapter 11 Or 10.3?

There was another crash as she entered and this time she saw the glass from the picture frame gliding across the room, stopping just inches of her foot. She looked at it and then the direction it came from to see two dead men, entangled and fighting each other. One she recognized. The other was a complete stranger to her.

Chuck was underneath, but the new guy was on top and looking like he was pinning Chuck down. Chuck was flailing back and forth, fighting. The two of them were kicking out, thrashing the bed, Sarah’s dresser and her dirty clothes hamper and the furniture was moving as they did so. That wasn’t possible but it was happening. The picture that had fallen had been on Sarah’s dresser. These two had knocked it down. The hamper was swaying back and forth ready to topple over at any time. Then with one swift kick, it fell out over and a weeks worth of forgotten dirty clothes spilled out.

Lizzie’s jaw hung open as she watched the fight, but then she heard the gasp come out behind her.

“Stop it!”

The first yell didn’t come from Lizzie, but from behind her. “I said stop it!” Sarah bellowed and the stranger turned to them in surprise. Chuck took the opportunity to push him off and the stranger rolled with the push and used the momentum

“Yeah, and who the hell are you?” The stranger’s voice was a raspy gurgle and Lizzie watched as exposed muscle tissue from under his jaw. Half the bottom row of teeth were missing, one dangled there, and flesh from his neck hung strung down in what seemed to only be held together by hair from his overgrown beard. She could almost see through the long hair, the large hole through his chin. It was hard to look away, but she had to as she thought she was going to puke. She had started to get used to the disfiguration of her friends, they weren’t looking good themselves, their own deaths all gruesome leaving them horrified remnants to follow her around. This stranger who was obviously dead was much worse.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re in my fucking room.” Sarah said, quickly passing Lizzie to loom over him.

“Like hell it doesn’t. What the hell’s going on here. Wait.” He was confused, Lizzie watched as he struggled to fight with himself when it came to forming words. “Why can’t I talk right? What’s wrong with my mouth?”

“Half of its missing dumb ass. That’s what happen when you blow your brains out.” Chuck grumbled as he pushed himself up from the floor. He glared at Lizzie and then turned that hate at the rest of them standing by the door.

“Missing? Blown Brains.” The man was confused but getting angrier as he tried to speak.

“Can you tell us who you are? Because we don’t know you. Right?” Lizzie looked at Elisabeth and she nodded. None of them knew who the hell he was so why was he hear? So far Lizzie kind of understood why her friends were coming to her. They all had at least some connection. She didn’t know why they were back from the dead, but she knew why they came to her. She’d been the last one with them, each of them before they died. Unless this man died in the same apartment, it didn’t make sense for this stranger to be there.

“I…” He looked at them strangely, his hostility shifting, transforming as Lizzie could see his eyes getting wet. He looked around the room at them, his gaze lingering on Elisabeth, his brow raised in curiosity. Then that look was gone and he turned back to study Chuck. His hostility returned and with a fire he turned that blazing stare back to Lizzie.

“Josh. My name’s Josh.”

“Any idea what you’re doing here?” Lizzie asked but Sarah was quick to snap herself back into the discussion, and more importantly what she wanted to know.

“And what the hell your doing in my bedroom?” You would think Sarah had found them going through her underwear drawer and had pulled out one of her panties with how indignant she was.

He just glowered at Chuck. If they were dogs they’d be growling at each other, both with their macho ego’s on full display. Lizzie was getting sick of it.

And then she noticed the glass on the floor. She hadn’t thought too much of it before, but there was something odd about that. She couldn’t place her finger on why it bothered her, but it did.

“So are we done here? No more fighting?” Lizzie said.

“Who the hell are you people?” He barked. Lizzie didn’t know how she understood him, his speech was garbled by the missing parts of his mouth, but she still did. She let it go, but still ignored him, her glare lingering on Chuck.

Chuck shrugged his shoulders, looking from Josh and then back to Elisabeth. A weak smile flashed as he stepped over to her and hugged her. It felt right to see them hold each other and Lizzie realized that since they had died, she hadn’t seen them touch one another. It had been like they had been avoiding it. Now they did, and the hug grew stronger and she barely heard him whisper to her, “It’ll be okay.”

Lizzie hoped so and she turned to Sarah.

“You guys figure all this out. I’m going back to bed.”

Sarah nodded and then to everyone, “Okay everyone, now let’s get out of my room. Out out out!”

“I want to know just what the hell is going on! Who are you people and how did I get here?”

“Josh. Your dead. Face it and live with it. We don’t know who the hell you are or why your here, but there it is. Next time don’t blow your brains out.”

Lizzie heard her friend giving Josh the low down, but she didn’t wait to watch her get them out of her room. She was too tired and felt like she was going to have a lot of bullshit to deal with in the morning. She walked across the room, closed the door, and crashed down onto her bed.

She knew she’d been tired and after the initial surge of energy after being forcefully awakened waned, she was ready for sleep.

Questions haunted her. There were many of them. Why had people she had known, some friends but Chuck she had barely met, come back from the dead? Why were they hovering around her? What was the connection to the new guy, the one no one knew anything about? Though he did seem like he recognized them. She might be wrong but she thought she had seen it, just a hint of it when he looked at Chuck. And why had they been fighting?

And there was something about the glass, how it had shattered and slid across the floor. There was something odd about that and she couldn’t place what it was? Maybe in the morning she’d figure it out.

A long yawn escaped her, and by the time she’d stretched and settled back into bed, she was drifting off into sleep. This time, the nightmares left her alone.

Dead Friends: Chapter 4

Happy Halloween everyone!

Before we dig in to this weeks chapter, I just wanted to thank everyone who has been enjoying the novel so far. I think you will enjoy this one and I think it works great for being posted this Halloween.

Please, leave feedback. It is always appreciated.

*****

Beep

Beep, beep

Beep

Beep, beep

tik

tik-a-too

tik

tik-a-tok

Lizzie’s eyes shot open, her breath caught in her chest in mid a scream that never came. She was ready to scream forever into the dark, but something was wrong. She held it in, and it burned her lungs like a fire storming inside her.

There were lights. They weren’t in the room she was in, but it was nearby and illuminated just enough around her that she could see the walls.

Walls in a room that trapped her. They were white, she was trapped back at the house and it was night now. The naked man or the tik-tok man must have dragged her back there and now they were going too…

Was she tied up?

She wasn’t sure. How could she not be sure? She didn’t know but when she tried to move, the room moved more than she did as it tried to spin around her. The world was shaking, was it an earthquake?

There was a loud laugh from somewhere deep in the darkness. It turned into a cackling. The room echoed with it and she could see where pieces of tile started to shatter away and cracks formed running down from the ceiling.

Plaster fell around her and exploded into white powder that lingered in the air. The room was becoming a fog of white as more pieces fell. It was growing thick and she couldn’t breathe. She began to cough, but her throat was raw. It came out as a dry rasp and she had to struggle.

“Calm down. It’s going to be okay.”

She heard a woman’s voice and it was nearby. An angel had come to rescue her. Finally she was saved.

She heard her heart. It was pounding so loudly in her chest that it throbbed through her ears. Still over it she could hear that wonderful voice.

“Just lie back down. Everything’s okay. You’re safe now. You’re safe.” The voice told her and she felt it. The voice reached in to her and relaxed her, pushing her back down on the bed. She had realized how she had arched up her back and had been focused on the ceiling until she melted back onto the bed.

Light flooded the room and she saw where she was. The beeping equipment, the wall mounted tv and the little wooden cabinet on the other side of the room made the hospital room unmistakable. The smell hit her. How had she not noticed that anesthetic odor, mingling with the stench of shit from unchanged bed pans?

Her bed pan… how long had she been out? Had she been in a coma? Her muscles were sore but she didn’t feel like she was weak. She wouldn’t have any energy if she’d been in a coma, right? That’s what she thought but she wasn’t sure.

“Come on girl, just breathe. Deep breaths.”

Lizzie felt something touch her shoulder and she jumped, her scared eyes shooting in the direction of the voice. There was the owner of the voice, and Lizzie looked at her with eyes open wide, another scream at the tip of her tongue.

The large black woman who looked at Lizzie with so much heartwarming compassion and sadness that Lizzie felt like she should be able to trust the woman, but how could she trust anyone? She couldn’t stop her body from reacting and recoiling, kicking herself back trying to get as far away as possible. She felt the bed rocking, and didn’t know if it would tip. She just had to run, to, get away and flee from strangers.

The nurse reached out and grabbed both of her shoulders, keeping her eyes locked on Lizzie. As she did, another woman came into the room and rushed to take Lizzie’s legs and pull them away from her so Lizzie was helpless, falling flat on her back.

No, I am not going to be helpless! Not ever again!

She thrashed around.

“Elizabeth! Its okay. You are okay. You are okay. We need you to relax. Everything is okay.”

The woman’s mouth was moving. Lizzie could hear the words but they just didn’t make sense.  There was a wall inside her and she only heard the cackling. It had stayed in the room after the darkness left and she could hear it in the undercurrent. It reverberated around her. It was a part of her, inside her and it just made…her…want…to…SCREAM!

It finally erupted out from her. The scream echoed through her, billowing out from her, shattering glass around her. She didn’t know where any of it came from but she was now in a rainfall of tiny shards that glistened in the fluorescent light.

A man emerged from behind the curtain. A curtain? She hadn’t noticed that before but one whole wall of her room was just a curtain. Beyond was a lighted hallway she could only catch a glimpse of before the curtain fell back into place.

“What’s going on?” She guessed he was a doctor as he had stepped into her room, is it really your room if it only has three walls, with an air of authority.

“She woke up and immediately went into hysterics.” The woman, a short stout woman wearing flower designed scrubs. She had glasses and silver hair pulled back into a pony tail. She didn’t look old though, and the silver hair was probably died.

“This the woman they found in the woods?”

The silver haired woman nodded.

“Okay, let her go.” The doctor said as he stepped closer to the bed. He held his hands up, showing there was nothing in them. He was moving slow and kept his eyes locked on hers. “You are  going to be okay,” he said soothingly as he approached.

The woman at the end of the bed let Lizzie’s legs go and took a tentative step back. The two of them shared a skeptical glance, neither one trusting the other. Then Lizzie felt the pressure relax on her shoulders and turned as the other woman was straightening.

This one didn’t step back. The nurse stayed there, looking down at her with a deep sadness. Lizzie could see the winkles creasing her face and felt a fond affection for the woman. Something about her was like that of a grandmother. It wasn’t of her own grandma, but there was that quality she always imagined, there in how she looked at her. She pictured Mrs. Brady of that old TV show. The one with all the sisters and brothers. Mrs. Brady hadn’t been a grandmother, but she should have been as she had that kindness. It made Lizzie just want to reach up and give the woman a hug.

“Did we get any identification?” The doctor asked the nurse as he stood next to her, the pair looking down at Lizzie.

“No, there hadn’t been anything when they brought her in and this is the full time she has regained consciousness.”

“Hi, my name is Doctor Everson,” he said as he eased closer to her, bending down. She could see he had something in his hand. It was long and she could see the glint of metal. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

His voice was smooth and hearing it calmed her frayed nerves. He was a doctor. He was a good guy, the white hat from westerns, or her Prince Charming. No, doctors didn’t do the saving, well she guessed they actually did do the saving, but they weren’t the rescuers that pulled you from a burning building.  This man was just going to look her over and make her all okay. She needed to trust him, she knew that.

He still had that metal thing hidden in his hand. What was he hiding from her?

And why were they asking her for her name? The nurse had said her name hadn’t she, when she had first come in.

Lizzie’s head spun and she had to struggle to concentrate as none of this was making sense. She needed to talk, and realized the doctor was waiting for her to answer, hovering over her but not moving any closer. It was like the world was hanging, waiting on her and everyone was watching her.

“Lizzie” she said to break the stillness and it proved harder than she would have thought. Her throat was dry and it came out as a raspy breath. It sent her into a flurry of dry coughing and she would have thought one of them would have come to rub her back or offer her water. Instead they stood their, statues afraid to come any nearer.

“Okay Lizzie, is that a nickname?”

She had to say more, but feared it would send her into another coughing fit. She wished she could write it down, but didn’t see any pens or paper.

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Rogers.”

“Okay Lizzie, and is there any family I should call?”

“Rolan-” she didn’t finish as she knew that wasn’t right and it took her a minute before she remembered that she had broken up with Roland. That had been over a month ago. Who could they call? Other than her brother, who did she have now?

She really didn’t want to get Brian upset, and there was nothing he could do for her so why call him? Why should she ever call him. She was pretty good at avoiding him and didn’t want to change that

now. Not for this?

Susie would have been the one she wanted to call. Her friend until the end, the girl she had grown up with and was like a sister to her. The girl who’s dead glassy eyes kept looking at her every time Lizzie closed her eyes.

She hadn’t realized she had stopped talking just as she had started. The three others in the room were watching her and the doctor was saying something…

“Roland who? Can I get a last name?”

“Never mind him,” she said as she tried to wiggle herself up in the bed. She wanted to sit up but didn’t trust herself yet, the world still threatening to do some more spinning. “Can I get some water?”

“Sure. Nurse?” the doctor looked at the one who was standing at the foot of her bed. The nurse pursed her lips, but she nodded and turned to the first cabinet to the right. She scanned her id card into a panel to the side and it popped open. Lizzie couldn’t see what was inside of it, but she saw the large hospital cup the woman pulled out and then went to a sink to her left that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before.

“Lizzie. Is there anyone we can call tik-a-too?” She heard the doctor say and she quickly turned towards him, her shoulders again tensing.

“Where’s Sarah?”

“Lizzie, I need you to stay calm.” He said in that milk chocolate tone of voice that made her want to melt, but it was too late for melting. She had heard it. He must be one of them.

“Who’s Sarah tik-a-too?” The black nurse said. She had a note pad now and was taking notes.

They were all with him. What were they going to do to her? She thought again about that glint of metal, oh no, they were going to cut her throat. They’re going to kill me!

She tried to see what he had done with it, but he had positioned his hand so it was obscured from her view, hidden behind his body.

“Lizzie, come on Lizzie. I need you to focus and to stay calm. Who can we call. Who should know that you’re here in the hospital?”

I’m not in any hospital. It may look like a hospital, but these people want to cut me open. They’re going to slice me up like they opened up Sarah. They want to know who they can call so I can give them more people to kill.

She shook her head. At first it was a simple back and forth, signaling her refusal, but as she again worked to pull herself back in the bed it grew more furious.

“She’s having a seizure!” someone called out. She wasn’t looking to see who. She clawed at the bed, trying to melt her way into it.

Arms pressed down on her shoulder and someone grabbed her head. She closed her eyes refusing to see the knife coming at her. That had to have been what was in his hand. Though doctor’s didn’t call them knives. They were scalpels and they were even sharper that knives. They were razors that could slice through her flesh with barely any pressure. He was bringing that down on her, she knew it. It was coming for her eyes. It was always about the eyes. They were the windows to her soul, and they wanted to look inside of her.

No, they wanted her soul.

Here it comes.

Light blossomed around her. Everything turned pink as the light was pushing in on her closed eyes. Then her eyes were forced open and she saw the light that pointed straight at her, blinding her as it hovered there.

Then it turned off, and she saw through the circles of light that clouded her vision, the doctor straightening from how he had hovered over her.

“She might have hit her head harder than the EMT’s thought.”

“We don’t know what she’s been through. She had looked pretty beaten up when they brought her in. It looked like she’d been attacked.” The nurse who had gone for the water said. She held the large jug in her hand, presumably with the water and was now standing across from the doctor on the other side of the bed.

“Attacked? Here, in the woods. That’s unlikely.”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, well, get her name to Pinkerton. He’ll want an update, and if she was attacked, he’d need to start investigating, I guess.” This the doctor had said to the black nurse next to him and she took down the notes before nodding to him and heading back out of Lizzie’s room.

This was really getting pretty frustrating. She was right there, and they were talking about her like she wasn’t even there. What was she, some wild animal they needed to tame.

Don’t worry about that right now. She needed to get away from them. They were with him, and while they were talking, she guessed about helping her, they didn’t mean it. As soon as she let her guard down, they were going to strike. So, she couldn’t allow her guard to fall. No matter what, she had to stay alert to what these two were doing.

“Drink this…it’s poison.” She heard the nurse say, though it sounded more like she had hissed out the last part. Lizzie turned to see that the woman’s face had become that of a snake, it’s tongue flicking out as she was holding the large cup out to her. “Drinkssss.”

“Get away from me.” Lizzie said. She reached up and grabbed the cup from the things hand. It wasn’t even a hand, not anymore. It had become a viscous claw, talons extending around the cup and Lizzie could see where they dug into the plastic. Lizzie didn’t stop to think about it or how she got the cup away. She tore off the top and flung its contents. The water hit the serpent nurse in the face and she stumbled back, sputtering from the sudden display.

The nurse took the hint and stayed back, but the hairs on the back of Lizzie’s neck rose. She turned just in time to see that the doctor was moving to hover over her, presumably to push her back down. All he would have to do is get her down flat and then the other one would be back to strap her down.

“No! Get away!”

“Lizzie, calm down.” The doctor was repeating, his smooth voice had now a tinge of sternness. He was getting frustrated. Well, that was too bad, she was not going to make this easy for them. Her friend had died because she had made it too easy. She was done making it easy. If they wanted to hurt her, they were going to have to fight for it.

He reached out to push her down into the bed and she pushed his arms away. She didn’t hold back. As she grabbed to pull his arms away, she dug in her nails and twisted. The nails dug into his flesh.

“Ugh.” the doctor cried out in pain and confusion and stumbled back. “Lizzie, you have to let us help you.”

The room started to shake around her. The cackling was getting stronger and in the back of her mind she heard the dark man chanting. Tik-a-tak, tik-a-too, boo, boo, boo…bounced around her thoughts and grew stronger. It brought tears to her eyes as it pushed its way through anything else and it hurt. Fighting it sent lightening bolts to behind her eyes as she fought.

“Get..sedative…dy” she heard the doctor saying, but it was hard to hear him outside her mind as the voice in her head was getting stronger.

“Li…This wi…ck…you…lit..ile” The doctor said. She only caught pieces of it, but thought again about that metal he had in his hand. She couldn’t see it anymore. He did have something else. It was long. A long tube with a sharp point. A needle. They were going to try and poison her again. They were…

“Okay, its inssss.”

Lizzie spun her head to see that the nurse was standing near an IV drip. She had a needle inserted into a piece of plastic connected to it. She pulled out the needle and looked at her, a smile at the corner of that snake like mouth. The tongue flicked out and in. Then the mouth opened and Lizzie watched as long fangs flicked out as the snake thing prepared to attack.

They truly were going to poison her, but it was going to be snake venom. It would look like a natural death, death by snake.

But why would that matter?

She had no clue, but what did any of it matter anymore? Who cared about any of it?

She did, wait, what was happening to her. This wasn’t right. She was upset, she needed to fight back.

They had done it. They had poisoned her after all. The needle, the IV.

She looked down at her hands. On her left hand she saw now that the IV was running into her. They had slipped it that way. She hadn’t needed to watch for the doctor.

Damn how could I have been so stupid.

She felt herself slipping away. It would be the last time she ever woke up. She knew it. Damn, she was too young for this. She hadn’t traveled enough. She should have traveled more. Gone to England and gotten laid by some hot Englishman, or checked out China and visit the great wall.

She wouldn’t be doing any of that now.

The sedative did its job, and Lizzie faded off to sleep. She barely heard the two talking over her, but caught part of what they were saying.

“…she be okay?”

“…been through a lot, b…be okay.”

The darkness took her and she slipped away.

*****

Like the story so far and want to support my work?

 

Saying Goodbye

Mike listened to the whoosh behind him and heard the slamming of the door as it closed solidly into its frame.  The warm blast of air that had followed him out had already turned into a frigid blast swarming around him.  He was again standing out in the cold.

He should hurry, get back into the warmth of his truck where the heat was still blasting.

He couldn’t, though.  He was stuck there.

The door opened behind him, and he could feel another blast of warm air gush against his skin.  The door closed and the warm air fell away into the cold.  The person who had come out hurried around him.

He watched as the short, older man, probably a truck driver for most of his life, was rushing off to get into his own truck.   The man had looked like he was wearing a warm coat and had been quick to pull it tight against him as he hurried to his truck.

Mike thought about the man for a while, watching him as he walked quickly but carefully so he wouldn’t slip on the ice.  He walked like a man who knew how to stay safe when walking in the winter so he was probably from a northern state.  He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt and shorts like some of the dipshits Mike saw out there so he wasn’t from the south or out west.  His style was plain and practical so he had either been a long-time truck driver, or had been in a previous profession that had kept him outside.  Maybe the man had been a farmer; that would be one reason he didn’t have the trucker’s bulge around his middle.  Not that all truckers grew to be fat, some did take care of themselves better than others, but it was easy to add those extra pounds.

Mike looked down at the fat tire forming around his own midsection.  He hadn’t been driving long, but he had already noticed the extra pounds that were forming.  It wasn’t making him happy.

Add that to another reason why he wanted to get home and stay home.

Home to where his wife was waiting for him, and his son and daughter were wanting him to be so that he could be there each night to tuck them in, or wake up in the morning so that he could help get them off to school.

He just wanted to be there, holding his wife while she slept, watching her chest rise, and pull himself into the curve of her breasts.  He would feel her leg as it wrapped around his own, and he could feel her warm within his arms.   Her gentle body was a part of his, as they lay there together.

Thinking about her didn’t keep the cold around him from getting in.  The chill ran up his arms and sent his body to shivering.

He wasn’t always alone on the road.  Last summer, she had been in the truck with him.  It had been a good year, and the kids had gone to their grandparents for a couple of weeks so she could join him out on the road.

They had spent the night at a rest area, her holding him close in the small quarters of his bunk.  It was tight, barely enough room for the two of them and they had both been tossing and turning for most the night, but he still remembered it as being one of his best nights out there on the road.

Of course it was.  Lisa was with him, and that was all he needed.

Home is where your heart is, and she had his.  They both knew it.  Sometimes he wondered why he ever chose to be out there, especially with how long he sometimes needed to stay out to make sure that all the bills got paid.

Now he always stopped at that rest area when he passed through Pennsylvania and worked his way into West Virginia because he liked to think of the night they spent there.

The little moisture that was hanging on his chin and beard started to freeze, and he could feel the stiffness.  His arms were feeling the bite of the cold around him, and he knew he had to get out of this weather.  It was just too cold, even for somebody from Wisconsin.

He started across the parking lot, walking carefully over the ice to his idling truck.  He took one last look around at the snow covered trees that tried to hide the rising of the mountains behind him.  They were beautiful, almost as beautiful as her.

 

* * * *

 

He eased his truck back out onto the interstate, not forcing it up to speed as fast as he normally would have.  While not as bad as the sidewalk at the rest area, the roads were still hazardous and he didn’t want to take the chance of losing control and sliding into the guardrail.  It was a long way down, and he didn’t want to see what was at the bottom.

The sun was just about to start dipping below the mountains in the western horizon.  Its glow was blinding, but breathtaking at the same time.  Those who weren’t used to it would often get captivated by it, bustle around, and try to find a way to take a picture.  Stupid as it was, because they should pay attention to the damned road, he still understood.  It was the beauty that many drivers came out there to see.  Other than money, the dream of seeing beautiful places was why they got into this job in the first place.  They wanted to see this great country they lived in before it all went to shit.

They wanted to see it long before they were washed away in the politics of the job or the financial obsession that would drive them to perhaps run illegal with two log books, one tucked away until they needed it; long before there was the ugliness of learning about all the unfairness, about how many times drivers were screwed over by either the guys sending the freight or the guys receiving it, and the driver had no choice but to take it.

There was also the ugliness of other drivers.  Not so much the other truck drivers, but the ones in cars…the four-wheelers, as they were referred to by the truckers.  Those were the people who would dart back and forth amongst the trucks, not caring about the eighty thousand pound missile they just cut off who, even if he wanted to, could not stop if the car was to slam on their brakes.  They’d become pancakes on the road, and it’d be the truck driver’s fault because that was how the system worked.  It was always against the truck driver, always a stacked deck.

Long before the ugliness got them, truck drivers came out there and enjoyed it, saw the sights and enjoyed the beauty.  It was good that they did because there was a lot of ugliness, too.  The trick always seemed to be to find a way to not let the ugliness and darkness get into you and eat away at your soul.

Elvis Presley’s warm smooth voice started to sing from the radio, and he smiled as he heard the words: “Wise men say, only fools rush in–.”

He didn’t let it finish.  He quickly hit the little button that was a part of the headset over his ear, cutting off the music to answer the incoming phone call.  That ringtone meant that it could only be one person.

“Hello?” he said as soon as he heard the little beep that let him know the call had connected.

“Hello.” He heard the quiet voice on the other end.  He hadn’t heard too much from her that day, but knew she had been coming down sick with what their son had been getting over.  It had been bad.  He even had to go to the hospital for it.  They had been worried that she might get it because of her bad asthma.

It hurt him that he couldn’t be there to help her out and help her get better.  The hurt struck at his chest at just the sound of her voice.  He had hoped to hear that bright, bubbly voice that often times came from her whenever they talked.  That tone of voice that said, “Hey, hun. I love you and I always want to be with you.”

He really couldn’t see his life without her, even if he didn’t spend as much time home as he would have liked.

“Hey, hun.  Are you feeling any better?”

“I just got back from the hospital,” came the whisper that barely carried through the wireless connection.  He wished he had known she had gone to the hospital.  Hearing about it when she got home just made it worse because he was so far away and he hadn’t been there to take her.  One of their neighbors must have done it.

This is another time when he should have been home and wasn’t.  The moments that he wasn’t home seemed to be growing and he didn’t know how many more of them he could take.  Especially lately, when he felt like he was starting to lose some of that connection with them; that he was starting to not be a part of their lives anymore.  At what point does it become that he’s no longer a part of them?  At what point do they just finally tell him to stay away, to say good-bye?

“What did they say?”

He didn’t know what to say.  He had known that she was sick.  They had spent most the night talking when she had been up with a fever.  Well, it hadn’t really been talking, though he had mentioned that she should be going to the ER if her temp kept going up.  He had really wanted her to go.  He had really wanted to be there to take her, and he knew that part of the reason she wasn’t going was that she didn’t want to wake any of the neighbors to take her.  She didn’t trust driving herself there and he didn’t trust her doing it, either.  Not in that condition.

“It’s just the flu.  They put me one some kind of Thermaflu or something.  It’s just–,” her voice trailed off.  She sounded really tired so he didn’t want to press.  She probably needed to lie down and get some sleep.  He never should have called her…but she had called him.

“Okay, hun.  You need to get some rest.  Get better, okay?”

“I need to make the kids supper.”

“You need to get some rest.  They can throw in some TV dinners for the night.  They’ll be fine.  You need to get better.  Okay?”

He was talking in such a quiet tone, soothing, trying to coax her to his will.  He wanted her to lie down.  He didn’t know why, but it always seemed like when she needed to rest the most, she tried to be the most active.  Sometimes he thought he would need to tie her down to a bed to get her to slow down and rest.

He was looking at his phone, as though talking to it was like looking into her eyes.  He knew they could do a video call if they wanted to, but it wasn’t legal or a good idea while driving.  Looking at the phone as though it was a video call wasn’t any better, but he truly wanted to see her, to look into her brown eyes and tell her to lie down, to get the rest that she needed.  She wouldn’t listen, but he would still tell her over and over again.

“Okay,” she said.  She was actually agreeing with him?  Something about that troubled him.  “I think I’m just going to lie down here on–.”

He didn’t get a chance to hear the rest.  A car screeched across in front of him, missing his front bumper by less than an inch, and slammed into the guard rail on his right.

He quickly applied his brakes and coaxed his truck to slow down, keeping an eye on his rearview mirror, trying to look back at the accident.  He watched as the tire that had once belonged to the car was still rolling down the interstate.

He wanted to get out and help, but knew it would be better if he didn’t because then he was involved.  That meant that while he had nothing to do with it, it wouldn’t take much for someone to say that he caused the accident.

He’d seen it happen to a friend of his.  His job and his life had been stolen from him because some asshole had said that he had caused it.  All his friend had done was stop to see if he could help.  After that, it didn’t matter that the other man was drunk and was served with a DUI.  It became the truckers fault.

There were some days that this job really sucked major tits, especially on days like this when his instinct, his desire, was to get out and make sure everyone was okay.  However, he was struck with not being able to do so, which made him feel like shit.

“I love you,” he could hear his wife whisper.

“I love you, too, hun. I gotta let you go because I just saw an accident. I need to call 911.  Okay?”

“Okay.” He could barely hear her as she seemed to fade out.  Then he saw that she disconnected the call.  He quickly punched in 911.

 

* * * *

 

He was sick to his stomach.  It had already been a couple of hours since he had seen the accident, and it was starting to feel like he was eating Tums, Rolaids, or whatever it was, like they were candy.  He wasn’t sure what brand it was because his wife always bought all the medication.  They were in a big bottle, tasted like cardboard and, on most days, would help calm that feeling that his stomach was trying to eat itself.  It burned, and he just wanted it to go away.

He didn’t feel right and it wasn’t just his stomach.  His chest hurt, and he had a hard time keeping the moisture out of his eyes.  His nose ran, and he kept sniffling.  Hell, it felt like he was crying, though he didn’t know why the hell that was.  He just knew that he felt like he wanted to cry.  He was a grown man, and he wanted to fucking cry like a little baby.

What did he have to cry over?  He had a beautiful wife that he knew he could trust and was one hundred percent his partner in life.  Half the time he felt like they were soul mates, and that their lives were intertwined with each other.  They just had this connection that seemed more than natural, like they were a part of each other.

Then there were their two kids who, while they were holy terrors, were the greatest blessings that were a part of his life.

So why in the hell was he wanting to cry?  Why did he feel this weight crushing in on him?  It didn’t make sense because he didn’t have a damn thing to cry over.

Yet that voice inside of him told him part of the reason why.  He felt like there was more to it, but he felt like it was because he drove away from the accident.  He could have stopped and made sure everyone was okay, but he hadn’t.  He had put his own life, his truck, his job before someone else.  He justified it to himself, but he hadn’t stopped and the voice kept telling him just how bad that truly was.

He wished he could go back there, maybe travel back in time and do it differently.

Would he, though?  Would he sacrifice his job and livelihood for someone he hadn’t known?  What could he have done?  He had no medical training so he had no knowledge on what he should do.  He could have gone with his instincts and tried to save a life, only to cripple them or make it worse.  How would he live with himself then?

What was the right answer?  He didn’t know.

He had another stab of pain in his midsection, like acid eating him away from inside out, and he winced.  As he closed his eyes and let the stabbing pain wash over him, he could feel the moisture running down his cheek.

There was something else wrong with him.  He didn’t know what it was, but something else was wrong.

Was it an ulcer?  Had this job finally done it to him?

He felt his lip tremble, as another tear streamed down his face.

He wanted to call Lisa, to talk to her, hear her voice, and let her calm him down.  She would be able to talk some sense into him, but she was sick and needed to get her rest.

His phone rang, breaking him out of his thoughts.  He looked at its display from where he had it mounted in its cup holder.

It was a number with his area code, but he didn’t recognize it and no name popped up so it wasn’t someone in his contact list.  He guessed it could be a bill collector, but he couldn’t remember any bills they were behind on.  He didn’t know who it was.

He looked back at the road, taking a quick survey of the world around him, the cars swarming by.  He took a brief glance amongst his mirrors.  The traffic was getting busier so he must have been getting near a city.

He tried to think about which one it could be.  He didn’t think he was getting that close to Scranton yet, but he guessed it could have been possible.

He reached up to tap the button on his headset to answer the call.  As he did, he heard a beep.  He glanced back down, taking a quick look at his phone.  “Missed Call” showed on the screen.

In the upper left corner, he could barely make out the symbol, but he knew what it meant.  He didn’t have to read the little block letters saying “No Service” to know that he was losing reception.

Yeah, the mountains were beautiful, but the damned things played hell with cell reception.

He would probably have to wait.  If he was getting closer to Scranton, he would probably be getting a good signal soon.

 

* * * *

 

His truck rocketed out of the tunnel, emerging from the elliptical sphere of incandescent orange light into the complete darkness of the moonless sky.

He was never sure if it was his imagination or an actual observation, but it always seemed darker out east.  It even felt that way in the cities, like the light bulbs didn’t glow as bright. When he was out of the cities, out in the lesser populated areas, it sometimes felt outright creepy with how dark it got at night.

He had once joked to Lisa about writing a short story about it.  She told him he should.  He just shook his head, laughing.  She knew he wasn’t a writer, he knew he wasn’t a writer.  He enjoyed reading, but he definitely wasn’t a writer.

Besides, he was a driver.  He was happy, but he was happiest when he was with her.  He missed his kids, but Lisa was something more.  She completed him.  Corny as it was, he really felt like she was his other half.  He could feel the moisture coming to his face again, and wiped it away.

He checked the mirror to his left, looking quickly to see if there were any headlights coming up on him.  He really hadn’t seen any for almost a half-hour, and the road was beginning to get a little lonely.

Just in case, he checked his driver’s side hood mirror.  Just like his two immediate left mirrors, it didn’t show any motion or lights.

He took a quick look at his blind side hood mirror.  Nothing.

He turned to look at his passenger’s mirror…Lisa?  She was sitting there, in the passenger’s seat.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of her, and she was staring right back at him.

She’d always been beautiful even though, over the last few years, she had been adding a few extra pounds. Those were gone now, and she looked like she had the day he first met her.  She looked young.  Her skin was a little pale, but she had that radiance, that glow about her that had warmed his heart the first time he had laid eyes on her.

Then she smiled, and he remembered that smile taking his heart.  How it had captivated him, and had caught the words in his mouth.

Say what you want about how most truck drivers had a way of being obnoxious and flirting with women, but he had never been like that.  It had never been his way.  He had always been a nervous one, and didn’t like being all that sociable.  Yet, here he was, he was picking her up at her front door, those words were escaping him, but that didn’t stop her.  She still smiled, and then she had done it.  She had been the one to just say those simple little words, the words that started them talking and had allowed him to take a breath.

“Hey, what’s up?  You must be–.”

And then they were talking.  He didn’t know what it was about her, other than the fact that she was one of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but there was just that connection.  Something told him that he was going to be with her for the rest of his life.

Corny?

Yes.

True?

Yes.

He hadn’t been a putz.  He had dated a lot of woman before her.  He had been in good and bad relationships.  There had been many that he should have ended sooner than he did, and there had been a few that had ended sooner than he would have liked.  That was all in the past.  There was just something about her.  It wasn’t something that he saw or she said, but just something that he felt and it told him that she was the one.

She looked just like that now, sitting there flashing that smile at him.

He could feel that his mouth had dropped open and, for the first time in a long time, he was caught without words.

A roar came from outside, and he looked back to the road just in time to see that the truck had drifted onto the shoulder.  The rumble strips that lined the highway were alerting him that he was screwing up.

He quickly worked the truck back over to his lane, straightening it, and making sure he was back between the white and the yellow lines again.

He closed his eyes for a second, took deep breaths, and tried to calm his nerves and work down the sudden rush of adrenaline that had shot through him.

When he opened them back up, he could feel the sting from all the oxygen in his blood and knew that a headache would be coming soon.

Had he taken his blood pressure pills that morning?  Damn, he thought he had but, with the rising of the headache, he really had to wonder.

He was still on the interstate.  He was okay, everything was fine.  Sure, he was having one hell of a night, near accidents and all, but it was going to be fine.

He turned back over to look at his passenger seat.  Lisa was no longer there.

“Yeah, and now you’re seeing your wife sitting next to you.  That’s not really ‘fine’ now, is it?” he said to the empty cab.  He thought about adding, and talking to yourself is not an improvement, but felt it was best to keep that in his own head.

Maybe he was losing it.  Maybe he had been out on the road too long.  The longer he stayed out each time, the more mistakes started to happen.  While he didn’t feel overly tired, and knew that he had functioned with more exhaustion than what he felt now, there was always that exhaustion that he didn’t feel.

He grabbed his phone and flipped open the display, getting ready to call her.  He wanted to just say one more time that he loved her, but his phone still had no signal.  However, he saw that he had three voice messages, two of them were marked “urgent”.  He must have hit a pocket of cell coverage, but now was out of it again.

“Fucking cell phone.”

 

* * * *

 

The night just seemed to stretch on forever, and the mountains seemed to just continue to roll on.  It didn’t surprise him.  It wasn’t his first time on that route, and he had known that it usually meant a long stretch of feeling like he was the only person alive.  Especially in the wee hours of morning.

The only sound was the roar of the engine as it tried to pound its way up another long hill.  It wasn’t that the hill was all that long, not as bad as the mountains out west, but due to the extreme slow crawling speed that he could hold steady, it made the five-mile stretch feel that much longer.  Five miles at fifteen miles per hour made for a long, slow climb.

The radio had been dead for the last hour or so.  He occasionally got a little chirp to come in from one station or another, but most of them were the religious stations and usually never stayed tuned in long enough for him to even try to listen to them.

It was just a drive that took forever, no distraction, no relief.  All he was allowed to do was think about what those messages were on his phone.  Yeah, one message could be his wife giving him an update.  Two messages, she needed to really ask him something, maybe need his permission for buying something, maybe she wanted his opinion on if she should go to the hospital which, of course, he would be telling her to hurry up and go.  Three messages, two of them from a strange number, and he couldn’t think of any reason that it wasn’t bad news.

She was probably trying to get to the hospital, the car was probably broken down, and she hadn’t charged her cell phone so was using one of the neighbors.  Even though he wasn’t there and there was nothing he could really do, she probably still wanted to call, talk to him, yell at him, and blame him.

He knew that it would just be her way to blow off steam.  He’d let her yell, get it out of her system and then, in an hour or so, they would both be okay again and wouldn’t say another word about it.

He couldn’t get her out of his mind.  He was sure that having no radio wasn’t helping, but she was still there.  It was like she was with him.  He could feel her warmth in the truck and, every now and then, he would see her on the side of the road, watching him as he passed.  Occasionally, when he would check his mirror on his passenger side, he could just see the slight glow of her and smell her favorite scent.  She always loved the Victoria Secret fruity body lotions, and he kept getting the occasional whiff of it floating throughout the cab.

The engine roared. He could feel the pressure that he felt as he had been rising up the slope start to ease.  The RPMs quickly climbed and, in a moment, he had to quickly upshift.  Then a second later, upshift again.  He had crested the hill, and was now starting to go back down.  Quickly, he had to get up to gear and get the engine brake on before he would have to start using his air brakes.  Too much air brake too soon, and he could easily overheat his brakes, causing them to catch on fire.  He had to get it caught in time.

He made it to seventh gear, which was close enough.  He reached forward and flipped the switch, allowing the engine brake to roar to life in its monstrous drone, loud in the silence of the night.

“Chirp chirp,” he heard from his breast pocket.  He could see the light from his little screen glowing through the fabric.

He reached forward to the little nook in his dash where he kept his little Bluetooth headset.  It wasn’t that he was worried about the police pulling him over at that time of night, but he was concerned about trying to shift gears and holding the handset to his ear.  It was hard enough making it through the hills with both hands free; jostling a phone just made it that much worse.

He grabbed the little headset and fumbled briefly to flip it open.  It was dark, his hand twitched and, before he realized it, he felt the headset fly out of his hand.  He heard the little soft “phet” of rubber falling onto rubber and knew that his headset had just become lost to the floorboard.  There was no way he would find it while he was driving.  He would have to stop to look for it.

His phone chirped at him again.  He had another voicemail.  He wasn’t sure if it was another series of messages, or if he had just missed another call.  Something was going on.

“Shit.”

He pulled the phone from his pocket and flipped it open.  The screen showed that there were now a total of nine voice messages.  He closed his eyes for a long breath out.  Something bad was happening.

 

* * * *

 

He pressed down and held the “1” key, then heard the ringing sound as the phone dialed his voicemail.  Within a second, there was the familiar beep and he could hear the connection.  “You have nine unread messages.  Press ‘1’ to play your messages.”

Damned phone.  He had heard those new phones just allowed you to click on the messages.  Why the hell does simple have to be so damn complicated?  He pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the “1” again so that the stupid messages would start to play.

He was surprised when he heard his neighbor’s voice coming from the little speaker: “Mike, I found Lisa passed out on the floor.  She’s not looking too good.  I’m rushing her to the ER now.  Call me back on my cell phone.”

There was a beep and then the voicemail clicked into the next message: “Mike, we’re at the ER.  They rushed Lisa in. She’s having problems breathing and her blood pressure is low. Call us back.”  This time, he could hear his daughter crying in the background.  He thought he could hear his son, as well.

At least Tammy, their neighbor, was helping out.  It should have been him, though.  He should have been the one that was there.  He should have been the one taking her to the emergency room and, when his wife was getting looked at, it should have been him in the emergency room keeping his kids cheered up.  That was his job, his responsibility.  It wasn’t their neighbors.  He should be there, holding them, caring for them.

He recognized the guilt that was rumbling through him.  He knew it was common amongst many of the other drivers.  While there were plenty of those that played the show but truly never cared, there were more out there like him.  The ones who truly cared and loved their life at home.  He hated how much he had to stay away from them, how he had to leave them for weeks on end and then come home to see that they’re all grown.  His children’s lives had been passing him by, like the cars along the highway.  He needed to change that.

Yeah, he had told himself that last year, too.  That had been when he had missed his daughter’s birthday because he got held up on a delivery, then had lost the next load that would have gotten him home to see his little princess on her special day.  Or the previous year, when he had missed his son’s birthday just because they couldn’t afford for him to take the time to come home.

“When the wheel’s ain’t turning, you ain’t earning” was the driver’s credo, and it was the knife that often times stabbed him through his heart.

There was a beep and the phone went onto the third message.  No one spoke.  All he could hear was crying on the other end.  Everyone was just there, crying.  Then there was the click, and he heard the message end. What was going on?  What was he missing?

The world seemed like it was swirling around him.  He hadn’t realized how tight his chest had been seizing as he listened to the messages.  The world seemed to be going out of control.

The next message began: “Mike, you need to come home.  Lisa…Lisa didn’t make it.  They tried.  We’ve been trying to get ahold of you.  Your kids want to know where there dad is.  Where are you?  They need you here.  They just lost their mother.  They need you home, Mike.  Mike?”

He could hear the crashing of the world around him.  He was in a daze, and it felt like everything was lost.  Everything was disappearing.

Then he looked over, and saw her sitting in the passenger seat.  He could smell her fragrance.  He could feel the warmth of her love as it radiated towards him.

She was looking at him and she was so sad.  No, she was crying.  Why was she crying?  Did she miss him as much as he was already missing her?

She pointed to the window in front of him.  He turned, then saw it.

He had lost control of the truck.  He had been going down a long hill and, at the bottom, there was a bridge that would climb back up.  Somehow, he had hit the side the road and slammed into the guardrail.  That had been the crashing of the world around him.

She was pointing ahead of them, and he saw it coming.

They were slamming their way down an embankment, the truck barely managing to stay upright.  He was coming down a rocky slope, fast.  The truck around him rocked and screamed in protest, as it shook and rattled from being knocked all around.

However, what she was pointing at was up where the slope ended and a river ran wide and deep.  He was heading straight for it.

He was going to die.  If he turned the wheel and jackknifed, the truck would roll into the river.  Keep driving and he would sink and drown.

He was going to die.  He didn’t see any way that it wasn’t going to happen, but he didn’t see the tree.

 

* * * *

 

He felt himself falling.  He didn’t see anything, but he felt air rushing past him.  He felt the darkness around him changing, like it was moving.  He didn’t know how air could move, but he could feel as it swirled around him.

Was this a dream?  Was he dead?  If this was that in-between whatever nonsense, shouldn’t he see some kind of tunnel and some white light to walk towards?  Well, that was, as long as nobody up there had heard any of his jokes.  Like this one…Hey, did you ever hear what the light at the end of the tunnel actually was?  A woman’s vagina.  Bang, you’ve just been reborn.

Yeah, those jokes.

He regretted them now.  Well, of course he did.  If he was dead, he sure as hell didn’t want to tick off the man in charge.

He was definitely falling.  Was that where he was falling?  He wasn’t in a tunnel, and everything around him seemed so distant.  Was he falling into the fiery pit of hell?  Had he really been that bad in life that hell was what he deserved?

Damn, getting into heaven must have been a lot harder than he would have thought.

 

* * * *

 

He felt fire all around him.  His skin, his face, his legs all felt like they were on fire.  Little fires danced and raced along his outsides, beneath which was the dull pain of agonized muscles.  It felt like the fires were trying to burn their way to his muscles, tearing away at his flesh and melting into what was underneath.

He opened his eyes, expecting to see the harsh orange light of the fires burning around him.  He must truly have been in hell, maybe that falling sensation was more than just a dream, but the fires were gone.  The flames still moved along his flesh with their fiery tickles, but the world around him was dark.

It was the darkness that he thought he’d left.

He was on the ground.  Somehow, he was out of his truck and looking around.  He saw the bushes that he had crashed through, the needles that must now have been dripping with the blood from the gashes that had been ripped through his skin.  The fire he had felt had been all the cuts as he had been falling, rolling through them.

He didn’t see his truck so he tried to turn and get a better look.  His body was stiff, and his back didn’t want to respond.  He quickly realized that he couldn’t feel any pain below his stomach, and there was only a strange numbness as he tried to move his legs.

He closed his eyes, not wanting to think about what that meant.  He could imagine the mangled mess that was whatever was left of his legs, and saw his life on the road disappear.

Driving was his world.  He went from coast to coast, living and enjoying his life on the move.  He was everywhere, seeing everything.  He could enjoy shrimp fresh from the bay one day, and at the end of the week was sitting down for a New York thin crust pie or a Chicago-style stuffed crust pizza.  Another pang shot through him and he could feel the hint of wetness at the corner of his eyes.  He would probably never make it back down to Nick’s in Arkansas to taste the best barbecue ribs on the planet.

He couldn’t see himself surviving in a world where he didn’t drive a truck.  He had always told his wife and kids that he would love to find a job and settle down, something that would allow him to spend more time at home.  Now, faced with the possibility, he realized that he didn’t think he could live that way.  He’s a driver, it’s his identity.  How could he just hang up his keys and be done with it?

Maybe his back was just injured or bruised.  Maybe he hadn’t broken it and wasn’t paralyzed.  He wouldn’t know for sure until he got out of here and made it to the doctor.  He needed to survive, needed to live, needed…

His kids, his wife.  Think of them.  Images of their smiling faces pushed away the pain.  He saw them.  He was there with them, and memories flooded him.

It was their first time going to Six Flags.  The kids had never been to a large amusement park.  Their eyes glowed with wonder, their smiles wide as they ran from one gut wrenching ride to the next.  Their giggles and laughter danced around him.

His daughter, all pigtails and freckles, was covered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream from the giant elephant ear.  Their not-so-intelligent father, in a moment of genius, had gotten each of them their own, not realizing that just one of the monstrous deserts would have been enough to feed the whole family.  He had barely eaten half of his, his wife had just put hers away after a few bites, his son had finished his with no problem, but his daughter…she somehow managed to get most of it on the outside of her mouth.

He laughed, but Lisa hadn’t found the humor.  She had stern words for all of them.   He, of course, got most the blame for buying so many of the things; thank goodness she never found out how much they had cost.  Then she stormed off, taking their youngest to get cleaned up.

The wetness around his eyes was dripping.  He could feel the warm tears streaking across his dirt-covered face.

He let his head fall to the dirt, closed his eyes, and gritted his teeth, trying to push away the pain.  He had to find a way to survive so he could return back to them.  He wasn’t going to die out there.  He wouldn’t allow it.  He had people he loved and people who loved him back home.  He had to make it back.

Lying with his head down, he could tell that the ground around him was getting lighter.  It glowed orange through his eyelids.  He opened his eyes, and saw that something was glowing.  It was almost whiter than white, taking away all the color around him.  It was like he was in a featureless room.

He tried to turn away, but the pain from the cuts on his skin reminded him of his surroundings.  He could see the grass and the ground beneath him, the light showing brightly over it, but even the ground had lost its color.

Then a shadow was cast over him.

He looked up to see a silhouette standing over him.  It was a shape he knew well…Lisa.  He couldn’t see her features, but he got a soothing sense in his stomach that released all that tension he had been holding.

“Lisa?” he tried to say to her, but what came out was more of a croak.  His throat was extremely dry, and he sounded thirty years older.  He could feel little slivers of pain up and down his throat as he said the simple name.

The light behind her faded and he could see more detail, like her heavenly face, the one he had kissed and slept next to for so many nights.  Also, those eyes that he had once looked into as they lay down in bed, that tender gaze she would give him as they would sometimes watch each other drift off to sleep.

They lovingly looked at him now.  He didn’t have to see any more of her to know that it was her.  He could stay there forever, lost of them.

Another round of fire-like pain danced along his cuts, and he was pulled out of his trance.  He didn’t want to take his gaze away from her, but the pain was stabbing at him from all sides.  He took a deep breath and tried to push it away.  It felt like he had to use an immense amount of his will to clear his mind, but he was able to push it back.

He opened his eyes, worried that she wouldn’t be there anymore, but she was.  However, her expression had changed, and she looked at him with concern.  She was afraid of something.

“Lisa!” he said.  His voice was still raspy, but it came through a little better.  “Lisa!  It’s okay.  I’m here.  You’re with me. It’ll be okay!”

He could see the confusion on her face, but it made sense.  He looked at her closely and saw that she seemed to be fine.  She was wearing her wedding dress, which was odd.  He didn’t know how she fit in it, or even how she had gotten it back because it had been destroyed in a flood.  They had lost nearly all their stuff in the basement, including most of the old photos, especially the ones with the kids being born.  It had been sad, and it had bothered them both.  The dress had been so covered in slime and garbage that it had been deemed unsalvageable.

She had cried when they had thrown it out.  He had told her they could still keep it; it wasn’t like she was ever going to wear again.  They could keep it because it was a symbol of them starting a life together.  They didn’t need to get rid of it.  He had made a joke that it would have to be locked away with a million air fresheners, and that had gotten her to laugh.  While she laughed and sobbed into his chest, he had thrown it away.  There was no way she could be wearing it now.

She gave him a slight smile, one he knew was reserved only for him, and then she waved for him to come to her.  That smile warmed him, and he could feel some of the pain being pushed away; he didn’t have to concentrate so hard on masking it.  It just drifted away, as a calming numbness soothed his limbs.  It was like warm water slowly trickling along his body, massaging away the stiffness.

He reached forward, the movement slow and sluggish.  It seemed like the air was thick and pushing against him.  However, it didn’t bother him because she was there, looking deep into his eyes.  He brought his hand down, feeling the solid earth, and pulled.  His whole body was exhausted so he didn’t have much strength, but he put whatever he had into pulling himself forward.

She smiled at him, and he felt invigorated.  He reached out again and pulled himself another few inches.  He wasn’t moving much, but he was inching towards her.  Because he couldn’t feel his legs, it was slowing him down.  He wished he could just chop them off.  He just wanted to get to her and be with her.  He just had to fight for it.

He put his head down, reached out again, and put in more effort than he thought he had to pull himself even farther.  It was still just a few inches away from her.

He looked at her, pleading with his eyes.  Why wasn’t she helping him?  Couldn’t she see his back was broken?  She should be reaching down, taking him in her arms, and helping to pull.  She wouldn’t be able to help much, but it wouldn’t take much to move a little bit farther.  Then he could be with her that much sooner.

However, she wasn’t helping, and was even farther away from him now.  She must have moved back while he hadn’t been looking. “Lisa, help me!  Please help me!”

She looked up.  He couldn’t see what she was looking at, but a look of concern creased her brow.  Something was wrong, but what?

Who cares?  Just keep fighting.  You have to get to her, hold her in your arms, take her into your chest, let the kids come and give you their big bear hugs.

He watched as she took another step back.  She was moving away from him!

“Lisa!”

She looked up again, then looked back to meet his eyes.  Then he remembered his truck.  She had been there with him.  She had been pointing, and…

There was the phone call; someone had called him.  There was something wrong with Lisa, and she hadn’t made it.  Lisa was gone.

He looked back into her eyes and saw them for what they were…the eyes of his dead wife.  She was in front of the light.  Isn’t that what they had always said?  Your loved ones would be there to take you into the light, and there she was, guiding him.  That must be why the pain faded.  He was sure the closer to the light he’d get, the more the pain would weaken.  He wondered how far he would have to go before he could walk again.  Was that even how it worked?  He wasn’t sure, but was it important?

No, it wasn’t.  He couldn’t go with her.  He had to live because his kids needed him.  He had to find a way to survive and be there for them.  She was gone, and there was no way he could leave them without parents.  Whether or not he had to fight his way through heaven and hell, he wouldn’t leave them.  They needed him.

Lisa took another step back, but he was done following her.  Instead, he let the tears fall freely as he looked at her, and shook his head.  “I can’t,” he said, as he lowered his head onto the dirt.  He couldn’t look at her.  “Lisa, I can’t.”

He felt his heart tearing apart.  It felt like it wanted to burst out of his chest, but there was more to it than that.  There was something deep in him that wanted to clamp down and quit.  He just wanted to wrap himself up in the emotional pain, lay in the dirt, and let everything just go, but he knew he couldn’t do that.  If he wasn’t going with her, he couldn’t give up.

He didn’t know how he was going to make it.  He had to force the images of them into his mind.  He had to imagine that they were there, smiling and holding him.  They were now the ones lifting him back up.  He could almost feel their hands on his face, as he lifted his head so that he could look at her again.

“I can’t leave them, Lisa.  They need me.”

Lisa looked at him.  He could see the pain as she motioned for him to come to her.  He could see her lips moving, but he couldn’t understand what she was trying to say.  He looked like it was “come” with something else, but there was no sound.  She was motioning more aggressively for him to follow, her pained look was growing more frantic.  She would occasionally look up.  He guessed she was trying to motion to heaven, and he wanted to go with her and be with her.  There kids would grow up without parents, but they’d be able to watch them grow from heaven.

However, what kind of life would that be for them?  They’d have to deal with the loss of both their parents in one night, and never having them there for all the good times they would share.

“Lisa, don’t.  I need to be with them.”

He could see her tears now.  They glinted in the light that surrounded him.  He didn’t know ghosts could cry.

She looked away from him and looked up but, this time, she didn’t look back down.  The light around her started to dim, and he could see more.  He was on the ground, but there was debris around him that he recognized.  His clipboard was only a few feet away, and his paperwork was strewn across the area.  His road atlas was open and badly mangled.  More and more of the world around him came into focus.

He looked at her, and then followed her gaze up.  He had to shift to one side as the soreness was back in his neck, but he was finally able to look up.  What was up there?

Hanging over the side of the bridge and dangling right above him was his truck.  It had a shattered windshield that he, and all of his stuff, had been thrown out of. He wasn’t sure how far he had fallen, but he was sure that the trees and the bushes that he had cursed at for cutting him up had been the only thing that had saved his life.

Why was she looking up there?  He was down here.  He had fallen free of it.  He sure had to have been one lucky SOB, he knew that much.  He was down here, not up there so what was she looking at?

Then he heard the sound of screeching metal, and noticed that the truck had been moving slightly.  It wasn’t stationary, but had been sliding forward.  It was about to fall, and he was lying right beneath it.

He heard a scream, and wasn’t sure if it was the metal sliding against the cement barrier, or if it was his own voice.  It didn’t matter because it didn’t last long.  He heard the sound of release, saw the twin headlights, and the 80,000 pound vehicle that had been above him was now coming down.

He had less than a second to look back to Lisa, and see her sad eyes.  She hadn’t been trying to get him to go with her, but had been trying to save him.

            The light grew again, this time from the headlights as they quickly came at him.  Then it was over and everything was darkness.

 

* * * *

Like the story so far and want to support my work?

Dead Friends: Chapter 3

Lizzie didn’t know the layout of the house but she had seen the sun shining through the window so as she ran, she pushed open the door and burst out into the daylight. Then the world fell away and she quickly found herself on the hard-packed ground that was the backyard just steps away from the kitchen.

What the hell? Why weren’t there stairs there? 

She hurt, the fall had forced the breath from her lungs, and she was struggling to get turned over. Her hands burned, scraped on the way down, and now what the hell was all of this? Everywhere she turned there was green. The grass was tall, surrounding her, and it was loud with…life. She couldn’t see anything, but she heard it. The ground around her was alive with motion. She listened as things moved through it. Some was the bounce of animals as they scurried away, but there were other things, things that she could hear slithering and those noises… They sounded like they were the creatures coming towards her.

Her heart beat loudly in her chest, pounding out a scream that told her to get up and get the hell out of there. She felt it’s pulse in her ears as it throbbed. She was trying to hold her breath and hear what was coming towards her, but it was impossible. Her lungs burned and she breathed harder in her attempts to fight it.

Come on girl, get yourself out of here or you’ll be like Susie. Come on!

The slithering stopped. It had to be a snake right? logically it had to be, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was the old man? She could have knocked herself out when she fell and now he had followed her. He could be slithering his way towards her, pulling himself on his stomach, scraping that exposed penis across the ground.

No, I’m not going to think about him. He was back there, I’m out here and I can get away.

She just needed to get up and run away. Snakes were more afraid of her than she was of it, right? Or was that spiders? What the hell was she thinking as none of that mattered. She had to get out of there.

She twisted herself around and reached down to push herself up. Her hand had just touched the ground when something long and with a lot of legs crawled over it. Her hand was quickly back In the air as she recoiled, looking at the place she had touched.

What was that? It wasn’t big but long, had a segmented body and they all had legs. It was some kind of bug but it looked nasty.

She felt the wetness return at the corner of hers eyes.

No! No more tears. I just need to get out of here. I can’t cry. Come on, we can do this.

She pushed herself up and started to stand. Pain shot up from her ankle. Damn, she must have twisted it on her way down, but at least the pain was bearable. She just had to get out of there and then she could focus on it. She needed to get to the road, find a phone, call for help.

She took a tentative step and her ankle threatened to give, but it didn’t. She could walk. She had to walk, Because is she didn’t…

Behind her, that cackling laugh floated out into the woods echoing into a cacophony of noise around her. Leaves fell and birds flew to escape the hideousness of it. It reverberated. She heard trees splintering, their bark falling exposing the cracks beneath, and inside her, her heart sank.

Before turning around, Lizzie knew what she would see. She wanted to stop herself but couldn’t. She turned and there he was standing in the doorway, arms outstretched and grasping both sides. He looked like he was preparing to launch himself at her.

He was wasn’t he? He was getting ready to chase her.

Those long talon like nails, each hand a claw holding the door frame. The wood creaked under the pressure of him squeezing. He was rocking back and forth, each motion preparing to expel him from the house towards her. Those black, soulless eyes were fixed on her and the smile. She refused to look at his smile. She wanted to close her eyes to avoid it, but the moment she did, he would be on top of her.

It was no longer a question of if she could walk. Now she had to run, and she tried. Her first step away she found the snake that had been slithering near her. It wheeled up and launched at the thing that had dared to disturb it.

That thing was her and she felt it before she saw it. It was like a fire exploded in her leg and her body no longer supported her weight. The grass again rose up to meet her and it forced all the air out of her. She wasn’t sure just what had happened.

The fire continued to throb and she vaguely remembered seeing a black shape that had emerged quickly from beneath her and then, whoosh, she was falling to look up at the tree limbs that were watching down from above.

The world swayed back and forth. No, wait, that was her. She was shaking her head back and forth. It hurt. All of her hurt, and her leg especially, though not all of it. Now, part of her leg had started to go numb. That was good. At least a part of her didn’t hurt.

Was she going into shock?

No, she wasn’t hurt. How could she be going into shock?

She wasn’t sure, but as the world around her swam, she had two reoccurring thoughts. The first was how all around her, none of this seemed real. It was all just a picture show and she was watching it through some kind of game. It had to not be real. Her friends didn’t die in real life and in real life she wouldn’t be out in the woods lying on the ground just after getting bitten by a snake.

I hope the snake isn’t poisonous. She had no idea what kind of snakes were in these woods, but even if she did, she hadn’t seen enough of it to know what kind of snake it had been. It had been a vicious bugger, that’s for sure.

The other thought that kept fighting to press in on her was that she had to get out of there. It wasn’t safe for her to be lying on the ground.

Of course it wasn’t safe. I’d just been bit by a snake and my friend is dead just inside the house.

And she knew that, she just couldn’t bring herself the desire to do anything about any of it. She just wanted to lie there and wait for whatever happened, to happen. Maybe some young, dashing prince charming would show up and rescue her.

She’s seen way to many fairy tales. Which might be the case, but she couldn’t shake the thought that someone would show up in the nick of time and save her. That was how all the stories always went, wasn’t it?

But this isn’t a fairy tale and you’re not a princess.

That still didn’t mean if she stayed there, that someone wouldn’t find her…

Oh, but they would find her. They’d find her cold dead corpse just like they found Susan’s inside the kitchen. She’d long since been dead and when they put her in her grave, they could put on her tombstone:

Elizabeth Taylor

She died because she was too

damned lazy to get up and save herself.

And it would be true because here she was lying there on the ground feeling as the numbness was feeding on her, pushing away all her senses.

What did any of it matter?

Her life mattered.

From the house, she thought it came from the house, there was a loud crashing sound as something large hit the ground.

It was him. He had fallen like she had. He was coming after her, and wouldn’t be that far. He would be on top of her and then what was he going to do?

Maggots. Maggots filling her, eating her from the inside, that smiling face over her, those red teeth, sharp as they tore into her. She knew exactly what he was going to do with her.

Her mind hadn’t fully grasped what she needed to do yet, but somewhere, something had. She must have some core of survival instinct as before she had decided to pull herself away from the house, she noticed she was already doing it.

It was like her mind was pulling her out of a dark haze, conscious again of the world and it. She was on her elbows walking herself backward. She was kicking herself back, not sure where the snake had gone to, worried it would come again.

She felt that fire in her leg now, it was throbbing, and the pain was good. The pain was helping to push away some of those cobwebs that kept threatening to reweave themselves through her thoughts.

Run, damn you! The thought screamed through her and she knew it was true. She couldn’t backpedal like this through the woods, she would never get anywhere. She had to get up, and get the hell out of there. She needed to leave this house once and for all.

There was a thrashing behind her and she couldn’t help herself. She looked up at the house before she turned around. The naked man was no longer in the doorframe but he wasn’t running after her. He had fallen out like she had thought and he had to fight to get himself on all fours. Now he was there just outside the kitchen and he was watching her. She couldn’t see all his face, his mouth was hidden by the tall grass, but those eyes, they kept watching her.

She didn’t need to see the mouth. She knew the smile was there.

Around her, the woods grew dark. A chill ran down her and she couldn’t stop the shiver that touched her soul.

There was something else out there. It was watching her, and it was something much worse than the naked man.

She looked to the woods and saw it. It stood there in the tree line. It was the shape of a tall man but she knew it was something else. It was evil, darkness, the absence of life swirling in the shadow of a man and it stood there just behind a large gnarled tree.

She wasn’t sure how she stood or how she wasn’t face planting herself from the pain of the snake bite, but she found herself running away from the house and the thing in the woods. She had ran away, to the woods across the clearing, and now was fighting through branches that reached out to her. Many of them slapped her in face and arms, but occasionally one would scrape across her leg and she would bite down on her lip and push away the agonizing torment.

It didn’t last long. She wasn’t sure how far she had run, or if the naked man, or the death shadow was still following her. She thought they were, but as she had gotten away from the clearing around the house the sky had lightened and she could see the sun again. Now she was out of breath, her whole leg was ablaze, she had to pee and the tears rolling down her cheek was either because of the pain, the death of her friend, or just everything rolled together in an unmeasurable mess of emotion.

She ran as far as she could. Her legs could not hold her weight anymore and she collapsed into the closest tree. Her breath was coming out in harsh rasping gasps, the air around her thick with those white fluffy things she had chased as a kid and it was getting in her lungs. So much life around her and it was killing her.

Cottonwood. They were seeds from a cottonwood tree. She didn’t know how she knew that but it was true. The seeds were drifting around her. It was almost beautiful, they were so white and light and seemed to glow in the shifting sunlight as they drifted around her.

There really were a lot of them.

The airborne fluff continued to fall. It grew thicker. Around her was the white of cottonwood and had it not been the late summer she would have thought it was a winter snow fall, thick like a winter storm.

She was having a hard time focusing. Her breathing was coming in shorter gasps. Why was she trying to run? It was so nice out there, and it was the perfect place to just lie down and take a nap. It was peaceful out there, why not just lie down and enjoy it. She could make a snow angel. It really was so beautiful.

The ground looked so soft. It was covered in the white fluff, it looked like the snow, but she could image how comfortable it would be to lie down in all that cotton.

Is this where cotton comes from?

No, it couldn’t be, and that didn’t seem right, but it was so soft. One had landed on her hand and she felt its delicate lightness. It danced in front of her as she watched it drifting on the wind.

It was entrancing. She could only focus on the little flake on her hand. It flowed back and forth, moving to music only it could hear as it moved in its own rhythm.

She didn’t blink.

She barely breathed.

Everything had become her watching that little fluff of cottonwood seed. The world around her at first becoming white from the falling seeds, then growing dark as so many of them fell that the sun could no longer be seen.

What did any of it matter? It was just so beautiful.

She was barely breathing. The world around her was swaying back and forth. No, that was her moving, the earth around her staying still and inviting.

A laughter boomed through the trees around her and she felt the vibration as it rumbled through her. It hadn’t been that cackle from the naked man, as this was a rich deep laugh that felt like it could crack open the earth and move mountains. This felt like the laugh from a god, and it pulled her from the trance she had fallen into.

She fell forward on her hands and knees, gasping harder and coughing.

“tik-a-to, tik-a-tee, you are dying, on your knees.” a voice chimed around her, coming from everywhere and speaking in a sing song manner that swam through Lizzie’s head. She heard it but couldn’t concentrated on it. Was it man, woman, she didn’t know, but it was strong.

“tik-a-too, tik-a-tee, you are young, too young for me. tik-a-too, tik-a-tet, you will die, but not die yet.”

Lizzie took in a deep gush of breath and then coughed one hard and final time. A large clump of the white fluff landed with a wet plop onto the ground and she could breath again. She didn’t take her eyes off of it as it moved and she couldn’t not think of the maggot as it slithered out-

No, she wasn’t going to think about it, but she couldn’t stop herself. That mental image was never going away.

The woods around her faded, going dark. She looked up to see that the trees were gone and that a man was standing over her. As close as he was, she still couldn’t make out anything about him. Even in this place with the absence of light, he somehow stood in the shadows, yet she still saw him. It hurt her head to think how she could see and not see him as he stood before her, yet she also didn’t know how she knew it was a man.

“tik-a-too, tik-a-tu, devily dee, devily do. tik-a-too, tik-a-tay, Your time will come, just not today. You have much to do, you have much to say.” He spoke in that sing song cadence but it was far from sounding like it was singing. The voice had become rough like sandpaper and it gritted when he spoke. He talked slow, almost like a cowboy out of an old western, but that didn’t fit with the accent. She could hear a trace of one, but wasn’t sure from where she recognized it.

It was hard to hear him and she didn’t want to hear his words. That stupid rhyming made everything he said sound like kid’s speak and garbled noise.

As she looked away, finding the fluff covered ground hard to look at as it glowed somehow in the darkness with its own light. Looking at it hurt her eyes, but she would gladly burn her eyes out to keep from looking back up at the man who was not a man, the dark that was not dark that hovered above her.

The thing must have sensed her discomfort as it called out a long loud howl that dwindled into a laugh. She didn’t have to look up to know he would no longer be there. The fluff around her was fading and she felt the warmth of the sun now on her skin. The hot suffocating wind was a welcome sensation as the wind was again moving around her and the cotton fluff was dancing upon it rather than falling to the ground.

She could breathe again without fighting for it and she pulled in large gulps of air. She had gotten free from the house, escaped the naked man and now survived some kind of woods demon she had no way of explaining, to now be alone in the woods. All she had to do now was find the road and get help.

The cackling echoed in the trees around her, booming off them, surrounding her. She didn’t have to turn to know what was behind her,  but she did and there he was. She was surprised to see that she was barely out of the clearing from the house and could see his shape as he stood there in the tall grass.

He was still naked, his appendage wagging between his legs and that grin with those dark eyes that locked on her. How could he stand there, his bare feet to the ground. She had just crawled on her hands and knees that little bit and she could feel the cuts and scrapes. He stood there no problem, no sign of any pain, just that tooth filled grin.

The man ran towards her and she stepped back, turning to run away when she hit the tree she had been leaning on. She fell, twisting as she did and landed on her butt but she didn’t stop. She continued to back pedal quickly, watching as the man neared her, him running faster on bare feet than her spider crawling backwards.

He came to the edge of the clearing and stopped, not entering the woods. Lizzie didn’t. She wasn’t going to stop until she could no longer see those eyes. She kept fighting to move faster.

It should have taken longer but something wasn’t  right. It barely took her a minute before she was pulling herself into the street. She wouldn’t have noticed as she never looked away, oh no, never take your eyes off the devil or you become his, her grandmother would say.

She barely noticed the horn that blew as there man’ cackle had distracted her. It had been the loudest yet and she was sure her ears were bleeding as it had reverberated through her sending her into convulsions.

The last thing she felt before she passed out into the black was the hard hot cement beneath her and a dark shape that was standing over her.

“Are you okay?” A woman’s voice said, but before Lizzie could answer she was gone, that cackling laugh following her into unconsciousness.

* * * *

Like the story so far and want to support my work?

Dead Friends: Chapter 2

On the other side of the kitchen there was a skeleton of a man, his skin tight on his bones near transparent.  He was naked, covered in dirt and he stood there on the other side of the center counter.  He was fighting with Sarah.  He was pulling at her clothes and when he saw exposed skin, he bit down.  Already her arms were red with blood from where he had taken chunks of her flesh.

Lizzie stood in the doorway frozen. She had no clue what should she do. This wasn’t possible. They were there to check out the house she just inherited.  There was nothing in the lawyers description of the place that said there would be a crazy, naked man attacking them when they went there. The house was hidden back in the woods. It was supposed to be the home of a reclusive hermit of a man who had once been her uncle. Nowhere in the description was there mention of a crazy man who would eat them.

Her mind felt like it was going into overdrive as she saw her friend’s clothes being ripped. Tears streamed down her face, and she just stood there.  She watched, fighting with her own desire to flee.

Neither of them saw her there as both were turned away. Lizzie could just run right back out the door and leave this craziness behind her.  It would be easy. She could run to her car, call the police, and drive away. The realtor and the crazy man can have this place, she would leave and never come back.

Something told her that if she did leave, there would be no escape. She would return. Deep inside, she new she would have to come back there.

Why, and why did it matter now?

It didn’t. She had to do something. This man was tearing apart her friend. She had to do something about it.

She started to look around the kitchen for anything she could use.

The man ripped Sarah’s shirt, reaching for the exposed shoulder beneath. It was then that he turned to Lizzie. She could tell from the focus that he had known she was there. He grinned at her, his teeth covered in blood as he gave her a wide tooth smile that seemed to large for his mouth. He had too many teeth and all of them looked sharper than they should have been. Red drops dripped to the counter top and he bent over licking them. The blood smeared, more now streaked the counter as he continued to drip.

Sarah must have felt the change in attention as she made a burst to get away. She took three steps before the man’s thin arms wrapped around her and pulled her back. He turned her so that she was facing Lizzie and now Lizzie could see her blood covered, tear streaked face.  Strands of hair were stuck to it, and there were patches from her forehead where he had pulled some away.

To prove it, he reached up and grabbed another handful of hair, pulling it back hard until it ripped away from the scalp.  He licked it as it came free before stuffing it in his mouth.

“Just let her go.” Lizzie said.

Sarah cried harder, “Please, just please,” she sobbed.

The naked man didn’t speak. He never spoke. He just kept his gaze on Lizzie, flashing her that large, blood smeared, toothy grin. He stood there, watching her. Sarah struggled to get away but she couldn’t break from his grip. He was stronger than he looked.

“I don’t know what to do.” Lizzie said, shaming her head as she looked to Sarah, pleading with her eyes, asking for forgiveness for not saving her.

“Please, let her go.”

Sarah shook in his arm, trying to kick her foot back into the man’s exposed testes. He held her too tight, and pulled her in closer to him, forcing her off balance. Her knee hit the corner of the counter and before she could register the pain, the naked man pulled Sarah back by her hair. She let out an earth shattering scream as more hair was pulled free and she was stumbling as she lost her balance.

Lizzie watched as her friend started to fall, held by one arm around her chest and another on her long hair. The man grabbed more hair, sensing that she was getting away and both her arms where grabbing at his to push it away.

“Please let her go,” her plea nearly drenched in her tears as she shook, trembling with the fear that something worse was about to happen. The man kept smiling at her, cackling as he would pull harder on Sarah’s hair, then relax his grip as she would pull away. She wouldn’t make it very far as his grip would tighten and Sarah would again get yanked back to him.

Those eyes. That laugh. Lizzie knew she would hear that sickly cackle for the rest of her life as the nightmares would never let her forget it. That was if either one of them survived this. This mad man had Lizzie’s best friend. There was no guarantee either one of them would survive.

The man didn’t take his eyes off her, and Lizzie found herself pulled into them. Time slowed. His laugh grew louder and rang through her head like a bell, a church bell chime that with every dong in time with her heartbeat. One naked man became two as her vision doubled. Yet somehow she still watched him, the true him, and those dark, hollow recesses of eyes.

She couldn’t pull away. Time passed but it was lost on them. He had her as well, but it wasn’t in some death grip. He was in her soul, and she could feel that darkness spreading. A chill ran through her as her insides grew cold. It was in her bones, her blood, and it was spreading getting closer to her heart. It would freeze her completely if she let it.

A scream rang out. She wasn’t sure if it was from her or Sarah, but her vision pulled back and she saw both of them again. The naked man was nodding at her, that smile never disappearing, but he turned from her and looked at the prey in his arms. He licked the blood from his lips and momentarily closed his eyes in relish, his head lifting for a moment as he showed to be in pure bliss.

Then in a flash his eyes were open and alert and he was studying Sarah.

Lizzie knew she had to do something. What!? What could she do? She could rush him, she had to rush him. That naked disgusting form had his friend. If she hit him and they toppled over, then her and her friend could beat him up, or just run away. They could get out of her.

On some level, that rational brain of hers was trying to convince her that she needed to do it. She needed to attack this man or she was never going to get friend back. If she didn’t her friend would be gone, probably dead or worse.

What was worse?

She knew what worse was. There was living after life was taken from you. That half life of existing after some thing like this defiled you. She knew that. She was studying psychology after all. She knew what this did to the living corpse left behind.

Why hadn’t Susan and Lizzie taken those rape prevention courses at the ‘Y’? They had both talked about it, knowing that it was always a possibility, especially being young girls on a college campus. They lived where every woman needed to be on constant guard of rape as every year multiple attacks would happen and not go reported. It was believed that colleges were a breeding ground for sexual predators and they were prime bait.

Why hadn’t they gone?

Because, there was always another study group, or another drink with a friend to go to. There was always something that they were doing, and who had time to start dedicating to some class at the ‘Y’. They could always do it some other time. It wasn’t like it was ever going to happen to them.

But now here it was. It was going to happen to them, and it was going to happen in Lizzie’s own house. The house she had just inherited. This place she didn’t even want, and after today, wasn’t sure she would ever be able to step into ever again.

You have to live through today first before you can decide if you were ever going to come back here. Live through today first, to make it to tomorrow.

The man continued to study Sarah. He had pulled her close and was smelling the hair in his hand, then biting down on it. He noticed that Lizzie was still studying him and spit it out to nuzzle up to Sarah’s neck and lick the tears that were spilling down.

Sarah was whimpering in his grip. Her eyes closed. She would occasionally twitch, trying to pull away from him, but it was obvious the fight was out of her.

The laugh got louder. Lizzie wasn’t convinced it even came from the man as it felt like it was echoing through her head. It was misplaced as he was over there and she heard how clearly that voice cackled in her thoughts.

“Please.” She whimpered as much to hear her voice against the sound of his as to plead for her friends life.

The laughing intensified and she felt her forehead throbbing with its rhythm. Stars formed at the edge of her vision, and the pain pushed in as she tried to pull her focus on the naked man and look at her friend.

Sarah was covered in sweat and blood. It had melded together and was running from her scalp where there were now visible patches due to hair being pulled free.  Somehow her shirt had been torn, and the naked man had exposed one of her breasts. He was grabbing at it violently and there were already forming bruises. There were cuts from his nails from where he had squeezed too hard and more blood now smeared her exposed flesh.

They weren’t going to get out of this alive.

Lizzie felt her legs give out. She lowered herself to the floor and kneeled there, raptured by sobs at what was happening to Sarah. She couldn’t watch anymore. She buried her face in her hands.

Sarah screamed. Lizzie heard her fall. She landed hard and Lizzie had heard the ‘plop’ as flesh hit the tile floor without trying to catch herself. The bastard had probably thrown her down. Lizzie couldn’t look to see. She knew Sarah would be on the other side of the kitchen island and there wouldn’t be any way for her to see if she was okay.

What did it matter? They were both dead. Why did it any of it matter anymore?

If she could turn into a puddle of tears and sink right there into the floor she would. Enough tears came, she thought she would soon be in a puddle. They just kept flowing, and she felt her shirt getting damp.

She didn’t get a chance to lie down there and die when she noticed that a shadow was looming over her. It must be her turn. He was there for her.

She looked up and he was there. His member was dangling between his legs, its thick shaft was purple and she could see where there were cuts along it. Flesh had been torn away in some places, and the meat underneath was exposed. She was surprised that it was brown and ash gray underneath. It was a foot away from her face, and as disgusting as the torn piece of meat was, she couldn’t get past the intense smell of decay that emanated from it.

She didn’t want to look at it, but found it harder to turn away and study the rest of the man. She had been so terrified by his blood soaked mouth before, but now she was looking at him differently, having to look up at him, and with how close he now stood, she saw more of his deathly state.

He had scrapes all over his body, some of them still bled. The dark splotches that were all over his body she had mistaken for dirt were under his skin. It was like some kind of infections or bruises, and they made what was his ash white skin take on these unearthly patches. Maybe it was dirt, but somehow under his skin? It looked like scales with thin white lines that crisscrossed his skin. That didn’t make sense either, but it was something and he looked like he would be dirty even after an hour in water.

When people say ‘what kind of rock have you been living under,’ they were referring to him. He looked like he had crawled out from under that rock but while he had been under there, had died and they forgot to tell him he was dead. Whoever they was because he had no friends.

He cackled and reached for her, grabbing her by the back of her head and was pulling her closer to him. She knew what he would want her to do and fought against him, pulling her head back. Again she was surprised by his strength, this time feeling it for herself as she wasn’t apple to stop herself from being pulled in. The stench grew worse. Rotten meat. The wreak of it twisted her stomach and she could feel the vomit touching the back of her throat.

This really couldn’t be happening. How was it? Why did this  have to happen to them?
The tip of his penis twitched. Oh God, don’t let him get hard. Then she watched as a small white object protruded from the head. It emerged and wiggled back and forth almost like a finger beckoning her closer. She was already close enough that she could see lines, circular lines around the body, like it had segments to it. The part that had first emerged was larger and she thought she could see a large opening. Is that a mouth. Oh my Lord is that…

Is that a maggot?

She’d never been this close to one, but was sure it was. It withered its way free, and fell onto her chin.

“NO!”

She felt the scream push through her until it exploded from her lungs into a rush. It slammed into the man, and the pure intensity made him step back, releasing her as he stumbled.

Inside her something was different. She snapped, and she felt that if none of this mattered, then it didn’t matter what she did to him. He was going to kill them, and he was going to do it painfully. It didn’t matter if she fought back, it was still a nightmare, so why not hurt this bastard as much as possible before he hurt her.

Lizzie wasn’t thinking about what she was doing, she just did it. She attacked. She pushed herself up and in one motion pushed out with her hands. It connected in his chest and she felt his sudden shift as he lost his breath and then his balance. He fell back and she persisted. He hit the counter, keeping him upright but he was dazed, stunned by her blow. She followed we’d up with a knee to his groin and he made an audible gasp as he bent over.

She didn’t stop. She brought her hands together and brought them down on his back. He fell to his knees and the collapsed to the floor. Lizzie stood there, watching him. She was panting, not realizing how much exhaustion went into beating someone up, but she had done it. She had stopped him.

She wasn’t sure how long she stood there feeling proud of herself. It was longer than she should have, she knew that much.

Sarah! She needed to check on her!

Lizzie hurried around the counter hope my to find her friend okay. She saw the blood before she came upon the body. The blood had become a river flowing in the cracks toward the open back door. Then she found that lake of red around her friends head.

Lizzie was sure she would never forget how her hair was all wet and matted in the pool. She couldn’t help but think how upset Sarah would be when she saw herself in the mirror because it was matted and Sarah couldn’t go a second with having her hair not perfect. There were lumps of it that were drenched and had turned her sunlit rays of blond into a dark red mush.

She needed to do Sarah’s hair before she woke up. That’s what she needed to do.

Lizzie lowered herself down, keeping her legs together and staying poised like a lady when she looked at Sarah’s eyes. They were open, looking out into the distance.

They didn’t blink. Not even when a fly landed on them.

Then she noticed that some of the blood was coming out from the side of Sarah’s eye. Half her skull was caved in there making her face not even. That shouldn’t be like that. And her mouth… her jaw was ripped away and there were teeth missing…her smile, she was going to be pissed. Sarah was relentless about using teeth whitener so she had that super sweet, innocent as cherry pie smile that often lured in guys.

She had to get Sarah out of there. She wasn’t going to be happy, but maybe the doctors could do something.

Lizzie reached forward and pushed on Sarah’s shoulder.

“Hey, we gotta get out of here. I need you to get up.”

Sarah didn’t move. Lizzie thought about trying to nudge her friend again, but she didn’t have time for this. Sarah needed help, but Lizzie didn’t think she could carry her. Would she be able to drag her?

So much blood. It was going to get all over her shirt and jeans, but she had to do it.

She reached forward, trying to grab Sarah’s shirt top, adjusting her balance while also trying not to step into the pool of blood. It was tricky, and she didn’t realize until she tasted her own blood that she was biting her lip.

Sarah’s shirt was wet, but Lizzie got a good grip on it and pulled. Sarah slid on the floor, streaking through the blood and allowing more of it to soak into Sarah’s blouse. As she moved across the tile, there was a scraping sound and Lizzie tensed at how loud it sounded in the stillness that had descended on the house since she had knocked the naked man down.

She stopped. She had to as she was losing her balance pulling her friend and feared she would fall on her but and then her own jeans would be covered in red.

Damn why hadn’t Dennis come out there with them? Sure, Sarah and Lizzie were friends with Jessica and Dennis was just the boyfriend, but he was useful. When Sarah had needed someone to carry her new mattress up four flights of stairs because the elevator was out in her apartment complex, Dennis had done it. He had complained for the last two flights of stairs, and gotten irritated with their giggles and jibes, but he had done it.

Who else would she get to move a dead body when she needed it?

No! Sarah wasn’t dead. She couldn’t think that way. She just needed to get her out of there and go for help. They needed to find the police and get them out there before the man woke back up. He could regain consciousness at any time, any noise could do it.

She listened to her breathing. It sounded loud and raspy to her, and deafening. She tried to control it and breathe easier, but her heart was racing. Her body was betraying her. She wanted to keep quiet, still as the house around her, but every part of her seemed to cry out in betrayal. Her ankle popped as she reached forward to grab Sarah again and pull and she winced.

The man would be waking soon. She pulled on Sarah again and that scraping on tile screamed through the kitchen. Lizzie looked at the man, worried he would be waking up.

He was staring at her. That smile had returned and he was lying there on the ground staring at her. There wasn’t even any sign that he had been passed out. Had he been watching her this whole time?

“Come on Sarah!” Lizzie reached forward and pawed for clothing. “I need you to help me here. Get Up!”

Her hands couldn’t make purchase throwing her balance off.  She didn’t fall back though and had been able to push off, standing as she stumbled back until she hit the wall to regain her balance.

The man laughed at her, his cackle echoing off the linoleum. She didn’t turn to look, to see that blood red smile, but it didn’t help as her eyes stayed locked on Sarah.

The cold dead eyes that confined to stare at Lizzie. Lizzie had never seen a dead persons eyes before. She hadn’t thought there would be a change, that the eyes would look the same if someone was alive or dead, but that wasn’t true. No matter how still someone is, there was always some movement to the eye, a twitch or a throb as blood circulated through the corneas.

Only the dead remained still. Sarah wasn’t moving.

She heard something sliding on the floor. She didn’t turn to look. She didn’t have to go know the man was pulling himself towards her. The image of his blood filled mouth, the maggot that slithered from the tip of his penis, all of it was already burned into her memory. Another look in his direction would only be another nightmare she would need to avoid.

Instead she turned from the man, turned from her friend and ran out the kitchen door.