Backroads: Chapter 2

We had been driving for what was maybe an hour or so, it was hard to say I had no real perception of time without a clock in sight or a watch on my wrist. All I knew was that I managed to get halfway through the album I was listening to when Carter pulled off the highway and started driving down some side road. The trees lining the roadside were simply ancient, they had massive trunks and branches which stretched over the road on either side creating a nature made ceiling; I imagined that if the trees could talk they would sound like those wise old Native American chieftains. With deep raspy and wheezy voices that sent a whisper of ancient majesty, and old knowledge swirling about the air around all who might listen to their words.

We drove for about thirty minutes and the road slowly got bumpier and bumpier. I gazed out the window and noted that the road was no longer paved, gravel started to kick up behind us making a scratchy sound against the tires, as the truck bounced along the dirt road. If we were in a small car, the bouncing probably would have been twenty times worse, and I would have likely gotten a concussion within the first five minutes of driving down the dirt road.

We bounced along the road for maybe another fifteen minutes or so with the trees getting thicker and thicker choking out the sunlight before as if by some unspoken magic spell, the trees just disappeared all together; leaving wide open fields of grass which changed from a moss green color, to a straw yellow color, then even that gave weigh to a vast desert landscape. Greenery was scarce, and dust like dirt dominated every inch of the landscape. I pulled my headphones out asking, “What did we cross the border into Nevada or something?” Carter and Jackson just looked around with a slack jawed looks on their faces, neither saying a word. Alan just shook his head as he looked out the windows. “That’s weird man. Well I guess we know what they were talking about now.” Alan said a half smirk on his face. “Well there it is I guess.” Carter said pointing toward the windshield.

About a mile ahead of us where shapes which were easily identifiable as buildings, looking like some old western town like you would see in an old cowboy movie. The buildings where made of wood not going much higher than maybe two stories, but standing fairly wide, stretching out maybe seventy five feet. The closer we got the bigger the buildings appeared, making the gas station clerks ominous words start to make sense, kind of.

We pulled in and I began to feel like we had crossed some unknown boundary and going back in time to some forgotten era. The wood on the buildings was worn and faded gray, the boards looked brittle and weak, on the brink of snapping in half bringing their respected constructs down with them. The buildings exteriors made the town look old and abandoned, but the intact windows and brushed steel doors stood out as odd as they reflected the sunlight. The street lamps scattered haphazardly about the area looked like something you would find in New York City and not in the middle of bumble fuck nowhere; the gleaming white steel poles and frosted glass bulb covers, just didn’t match the run down appearance of the deserted town.

 

I opened my door slowly, drawn out of the truck by my curiosity of the odd surroundings we now found ourselves in; scanning the old dirt road for any possible signs of life. The boys all got out about two seconds after I did, mimicking my movements searching the streets searching for some welcome sign of life. But there wasn’t any, no birds chirping, no crows cawing, not even the awful racket that cicadas made in the heat of summer. It was dead quiet, just sounds of the four of us moving and breathing to keep us company.

I shivered from the eerie feeling that seemed to drift around the town like a bad smell. The chill that this place gave me ran up and down my spine a total of five times sending me into a brief fit of violent shivers. I walked over to one of the windows of the building closest. Peering I saw nothing but darkness, an utter blackness. I backed up and saw that big black curtains covered the windows. “Huh interesting.” I said, mostly to myself but that didn’t mean that I didn’t catch their attention. Carter called to me “What’s up Abernathy?” I turned back to them and saw that each of them were looking around themselves. “Well, there are curtains pulled closed behind theses windows.” “Same over here.” Alan said as he inspected what was once an old Bank. “Yeah here too.” Jackson said from his spot in front of what was once a General Store. “Wow, here too. That’s kinda freaky.” Carter said as he tugged at the door of the Barber Shop he stood in front of. The door gave easily which meant that it was possible none of the doors were locked. “Carter.” I scolded him in a harsh whisper. “What are you doing?”

“I wanna see inside.” Carter said as he went inside of the Barber Shop. Jackson rushed in with an excited skip in his run, Alan followed a similar excitement in the way he moved. “Oh my goodness I am road tripping with three preschoolers.” I said as I rushed after all three of them with every intention of pulling them back to the car and making sure we left. Yanking the door open and about to shout at them for being stupid and impulsive. I was stopped in my tracks by the fact that the room in front of me was completely empty now. “Carter, Alan, Jackson where are you guys?” I called into the empty void. I heard no sign of them and saw no sign of them. All I saw was that this Barbershop was a Barbershop in name only. All that was inside was an empty room with no lights and a door across from the door that I stood at, and a ladder that went up into a second story room like an old school attic.

“Shit.” was all I could say. I looked around behind me and around on the ground searching for a rock to prop the door open with. Finding one I pushed the door out as far as it would go and placed the sizable stone in front of it and waited to see if it would hold. It moved roughly half an inch and settled into it’s found comfort zone. I crossed over the barren road back to the truck and began my search for one of the thousands of flashlights we brought with us. I dug out one of the bigger ones knowing it would have better light. It had an LED bulb so that meant it would be bright as hell and that’s what I wanted.

Walking back to the doorway I peered in and called in again “GUYS THIS AINT FUNNY” when I didn’t hear anything again, not even a snicker. I sighed heavily and slowly walked into the building with uneasy steps. When I found them I was going to smack all of them upside the head. “Guys” I called as I walked closer to the door that divided the front room from the rest of the building. As I walked across the floor I noticed the severe lack of dust, it was odd that a ghost town would be dustless. Maybe it was recently abandoned, that would certainly explain all of the very modern touches to an otherwise ancient town.

I got to the door and wrapped my hand around the doorknob, turning slowly and opening it even slower I opened the door. The room beyond was pitch black, an abyss of shadow and mystery. The only things that I could perceive where the objects closest to me and the objects that the beam from my flashlight shown upon. What I did know was that this was apparently a Costume warehouse. The witches mask right next to my face was clear and near indisputable proof of that fact. I looked around the room and saw that it expanded the entirety of the building. The ceiling was low so I knew that the “Attic” probably held some rooms, or more costumes I wouldn’t know till I checked.

I searched the room for possible movement, a sign that they were in here just screwing around. I saw nothing and so I called softly “Guys, seriously this isn’t funny at all.” I continued to look for signs of motion, and listened for possible stifled snickering. I still saw and heard nothing, and with a heavy sigh I said to myself. “I really should not be wandering into the creepy dark costume shop all by myself.” Leaving the door open I began to walk down the short aisle from the door and into the depths of this rayon madhouse.

Each step that I took was slow and calculated as I brushed past the protruding costume fabrics. The aisle leading into the center of the room was cramped and the costume fabrics brushed across my arms like the fingertips of a lovers would during post-coital bliss. It tickled and left goose bumps all across my arms. The aisle ended at a T-shaped cross section, I now had two choices of direction go left, or go right. Both directions turned towards the back of the building and continued on. I felt like a rat trapped in a maze. Sighing I headed to the left and started my way through occasionally shining my light over the top of the endless aisles of costume racks to see if I could see any sign of their heads moving about. Of course there wasn’t and so I continued through the hedge maze of cheap costumes past.

I turned right with the aisle, following wherever it led me and after ten minutes of walking through I called out “Guys, seriously this is getting less amusing by the minute.” Of course there was no response and I was starting to get a little anxious. Suddenly I heard footsteps behind me and I turned on my heel. “Guys?” Nothing there. I heard some of the costumes rustle around a bit creating this creepy scratchy sound that hung in the air and sent chills up and down my spine. “Guys, I am so serious, this isn’t funny at all.” I said my voice was stressed and cracking. Still nothing.

I continued down the walkway for another few minutes until it intersected and I now had three choices of direction. Left, right or forward, the second I came to the intersection I heard footsteps behind me again, I turned around and saw nothing. Than I heard footsteps to my right, nothing there, than behind me again, nothing. “Guys, your starting to piss me off.” I said with not nearly enough anger in my voice, quite in fact I was more freaked than I was mad. More rustling of fabrics in every direction and I could not figure out where exactly as I searched the area around me. “Guys seriously. Not funny anymore.”

I was getting irritated and I decided to try something else. I knelt down on the floor of the aisle and searched under the costumes for signs of their feet. Unless they knew how to fly they wouldn’t be able to hide their feet. I scanned across the carpeted floor for them, once again nothing, and that was sure as hell weird. I heard more rustling fabric and running footsteps and than the slamming of a door. The room was suddenly darker than it had been before. I stood quickly and looked around for the door I entered through hoping to god it was all my imagination. Their was no longer any soft illumination from the outside light, which meant the door had closed. “Shit. Guys please, come on I’m not playing around anymore.”

More running footsteps came from behind me and this time when I turned I followed them, picking up my pace as I went. I didn’t get more than a few feet when the running footsteps were suddenly behind me. I turned back around and followed them again, I took turn after turn after turn and before I knew it I got lost amongst the hundreds of aisles and costumes. “Okay come on guys. I don’t like feeling like the big breasted bimbo skank hoe who gets killed off at the beginning of the horror movie simply because she is too stupid to run for the front door and instead runs for the stairs. The joke is over.” Nothing, again big shocker. I began walking through the darkness again with nothing but the beam of my flashlight to guide me through the endless aisles.

I heard a door slam at the other side of the room. “Guys this is getting ridiculous.” I said my voice cracking from my stressed state. I started to hear my heartbeat pumping in my ears. My throat began to tighten a little and my breathing was all I could hear over my pulse. I walked slowly to the back, searching for the door that slammed. The aisles I walked down turned and twisted in an erratic fashion, the rustling and the footsteps had stopped and all that they left in their wake was a deafening silence even more frightening than the noise that they had created. I picked up my pace a little when the silence got to be too much to handle. I was probably three aisles away from the door and I was beginning to get more and more anxious as I approached. I got to the door and yanked it open to see yet another void of silence and shadow ahead of me. “Great, I hate sequels.” I said as I made my way in.

This second room was very different from the one before it. It was completely barren, nothing inside cluttering it up, nothing but open space. Everything was visible in the light created by my flashlight. There was no door leading to another room, this had to be the back of the building. The emptiness of the room was also just as disconcerting as it was a relief and for the same exact reason. It was completely empty, there wasn’t a single sign of Carter, Alan, or Jackson. This unnerved me to no end, where in the hell where they. “Guys.” I called into the room even though it was obvious that they weren’t in there.

I scanned the room a few times trying to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything when I was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground. An ear curdling scream erupted from my mouth as the unknown figure knocked me to the ground. The flashlight fell from my hand and rolled some ten feet away and pointed to the back room. I turned to lay on my back and before I saw my attacker I balled my face and struck right where there face was. I made contact as I saw the familiar green eyes and the brown hair. Before I could stop my fist from contacting with his bottom right chin I had made contact and he was quickly rolling off of me. “Ow, Abernathy what the hell.”

I scrambled into a standing position and saw Carter and Jackson come in laughing their asses off, but the second I glared at them they shut up immediately. “In what twisted backwards world is scaring the life out of one of your friends funny?” I said still glaring at them. “Abernathy, it was just a bit of fun. Come on laugh, it was a joke.” Alan said trying to calm me down. “I should have kept hitting you for that bullshit you son of a bitch.” I said letting my anger take a hold of me. My vision began to go red, and I didn’t want to deal with them anymore. I picked up the flashlight and pushed passed Carter and Jackson standing in the door way. “I told you he would get pissed off.” Jackson said I felt him turn around and follow after me.

I walked quickly through the costume aisles not knowing my direction but clearly getting somewhere because in half a minute I was halfway through the building. Of course the second I realized that was the exact same second that I got lost. I came upon the intersection that I had been at before and was lost as to which way led back to the door. “Left.” Jackson said to me realizing that I was trying to figure out where to go. “That in no way makes this okay Jackson.” I said as I turned and walked through the aisles again. “I know, and I am sorry. We didn’t think you would get so scared.” I laughed lightly and snapped at him “Clearly you were dead wrong in that assumption weren’t you. That is the first time today you three are MAJOR ASSHOLES.” Jackson knew that I would get pissed and he knew how I would react, so he knew better than to argue with me at all.

I got to the first door in another thirty seconds and nearly ripped the thing open. The light hurt my eyes as I walked out. Jackson was a few feet behind me and Carter was behind him followed up by Alan. “SHOTGUN.” I growled as I made my way to the car. “Oh come on we haven’t explored enough Abernathy, PLEASE.” Jackson asked holding his hands in the air pressed together as if he was at mass and was praying to the Madonna. I let out a soft sigh. Why did I forgive so fucking easily. “How long were you guys planning on ‘exploring’ exactly.” I said putting air quotes around the word exploring. Jackson grinned madly at my caving so easily, again, he knew I would. He glanced over to Carter who began to talk “Well I was thinking of making a day of it, you know hang out and check the place out and than going back to the motel for the night. Probably should have kept the keys, but didn’t know we were coming here so. What do you think?” I just rolled my eyes and nodded the plan seemed alright. “I have only one condition, you guys decide to play Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, and Jason Voorhies casting me as the blonde bimbo again. I get a free kick to your most private area. Am I clear?” Carter kind of ghosted his hand over the body part in question, reflex I guessed, still he nodded in agreement. “Than I guess we’re staying.” I said prompting an excited laugh from Jackson and wide grins from Alan and Carter. “Now I’m serious, no more creepy shadow people. Understand?” They nodded at me like it was nothing which meant that they hadn’t heard a damn thing. I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

The rest of the day passed as days spent with friends usually do, way too quickly, we had tried to get into the rest of the buildings but they were all locked. Carter toyed with the idea of smashing one of the windows but Jackson stopped him. Ever the level head he brought up the possibility that the buildings might all have silent alarms and that getting arrested for breaking and entering would put a damper on the trip. Carter as hellbent as he was on getting into the rest of the buildings had to concede that Jackson was right, as he usually was. So we stuck to playing around with the costumes in the open building. In the end it was almost like those costume montages that you see in some movies, each of us trying different costumes and acting like different movie personalities and making utter asses out of ourselves. Still it was fun and that was what these trips were for.

As the sky grew dark Carter had opened the back and pulled out the cooler, we had been screwing around all day and none of us really noticed until than that we hadn’t eaten anything that night. Carter tossed each of us a coke and the snap and fizz of our respectable cans being opened one after the other polluted the air. “To a day well spent.” Carter said with a loud infectious laugh we all raised our cans in the air as to toast and began to drink. “Alright, enough of this cordial BS lets make some hotdogs.” Carter said as he pulled the portable grill out from under a massive pile of travelers bags. Jackson went to help him and I pulled my bag out. I rifled through each pocket searching for my most prized possession, it took a minute but I finally pulled my iPod out from under a pair of pants.

I pulled the iPod out of my bag and hooked it to my belt. “I’m gonna look around some more okay guys.” I called over my shoulder as I put the headphones into my ears. I pulled a flashlight from the glove compartment in the front and pushed play. I began walking, after a few feet I turned to see Carter, Jackson, and Alan all collected around the grill grinning like schoolboys. This trip was already more than I had hoped it would be. I smiled as my three closest friends erupted in laughter and a small soft chuckled erupted from my center. I had missed this, the friendship, the smiles, the laughter, the fun.

In the midst of my reverie I had become unfocused and nostalgic, however when a shadow in my peripheral vision moved with such rapid motion. I shook my head furiously, an attempt to quicken my reunion with reality. Looking in the directions that the shadows of the world seemed to move I directed the beam of my flashlight to see, nothing. It was as if the shadow had moved simply because my mind willed it to. Or maybe it was a simple trick of the dark. My imagination was once again getting the best of me, I had an eery feeling that I was being watched, scrutinized like a scientist might scrutinize bacteria under a microscope. I felt eyes on me, I turned back to the truck and saw that one of them had pulled out a camping lantern to illuminate the area. The sun had completely set by now, it seemed odd that it had gotten dark so quickly it was only 7:00 pm and yet there wasn’t one lingering sign of sunlight. I checked to make sure Carter, Alan, and Jackson were all there, half suspecting them of trying to pull yet another scare stunt. All of them were there however which made the feeling of unease that I had intensify to an alarming level. A small tingling sensation ran up my spine and than back down. I inspected the area around me, shining my flashlights beam on everything. There was nothing there that I could see, but I could still feel it. It was the same feeling I had at the gas station when ol’ blue eyes had stared at me. “He…He…Hello?” I whispered softly into the abandoned ghost town, there was no answer.

I continued my exploration, now even more wary of my surroundings. I kept my eyes open and took cautious steps as I explored. I was still getting chills from the feel of being watched and my skin had reacted goos ebumps manifested on my arms and my hair stood on end. “Why am I always the idiot who decides to go and investigate the ‘strange noises’.” I muttered to myself as I began walking down the short alley that was between the Saloon and the General Store. “And of course I am now walking through a dark alley. You would think with all the horror movies I’ve seen I’d be smarter than this.” I continued to talk to myself in an attempt to keep myself from freaking out.

Out of the corner of my eyes the shadows moved again, I turned quickly trying to find the source of the disturbance. Once again I found nothing, I let out a slow deliberate sigh. My hand had begun to shake and I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. My breath had quickened in its pace, it was almost as if I was hyperventilating and try as I might I could not seem to regain my composure. I continued through the alley not really wanting to know if there was anything at the end but adamant to find out nonetheless.

The sky above was still littered with an endless stream of clouds but occasionally there would be a split in the cloud cover and the moons luminous silver light would touch the ground if only for a split second. I could smell the hot dogs that the others were cooking now. It smelled wonderful and was calling to me. Beckoning me to come back, and yet there was this nagging feeling in the back of my head that told me to keep exploring. The internal conflict was more than annoying, on one hand there was the animal need to eat something, on the other there was my morbid human curiosity that would not be satisfied until this place was fully investigated.

I took yet another deep breath and began walking forward once more, deciding to continue with my personal inquiry of this foreign town. Out of nowhere I began to think back to my horrific dream from the night before, the club, the woman, ol’ blue eyes. Almost as if my mind was trying to tell me something, the dream and the town were related. Still it was impossible, that dream much like the fear I was experiencing at the moment, was simply a fabrication of my over active imagination. I stepped forward and out of the alley. The wide expanse of the desert met my eyes, swallowed whole by shadow and darkness with nothing but the occasional moonbeam providing a small glimmer of light.

I looked out into the expanse of this strange land and finally realized that we were out in the middle of nowhere, I had known this earlier of course but it wasn’t till now that I truly realized what that meant. No one to call for help, civilization miles away in either direction, hell it took an hour to drive here. As I inspected the vast nothing out of the corner of my eye I noticed a rather large immobile shadow. I turned to look at it but it was too far for my flashlight to properly illuminate and the world around it was to dark for me to make it out from my current distance. I cautiously stepped forward, moving at a slow deliberate pace for fear that the mammoth shadow might spring to life.

I slid my feet slowly through the dirt and sand that covered the dry cracked earth beneath me as I moved closer to the unknown object. Soon I was right next to it and I could finally make out what it was, a car, a car that I recognized. The sleek model, the tinted windows, the black paint job. The black impala from the gas station, ol’ blue eyes’ car. It was parked behind the General Store, and as I inspected the back of the building I noticed the second story windows were illuminated by bright yellow lamplight. My guts churned and a very bad feeling overtook me. We needed to leave now. I turned on my heel and sped walked to the truck and my friends, I didn’t run because I didn’t want to make any real noise so that I wouldn’t bring any ones attention to our presence there.

As I walked through the alley my attention was brought to the side window of the saloon, light flooded the dark alley from the window. I peered in to see if there was anyone wandering about inside. I could see no one but I saw a very familiar sight, a sight that took the breath from my lungs and turned my skin to ice. The Geometric wall lamps, the pool table up against the far wall, the stage at the center back of the room, the bar in the center of it all. It was the bar from his dream and as he stared in shock he noticed a stairwell at the front corner of the room that led to the second floor. Descending the stairs was Ol’ Blue Eyes.

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