Category Archives: Horror

Red Thunder-4: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Third Interlude

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019R RED THUNDER-4

 

SUBJECT:  1957 FORD THUNDERBIRD CONVERTIBLE AMELIORATION

TO: ALL DEPARTMENT HEADS

LOCATION: LABS: 1-25

PRIORITY: URGENT

64-32818

REPORT:

I.

  1. Progress in Lab 4: Decisive positive results ahead of schedule.
  2. Integration Ratio reduced by .018
  3. Spatial Cognizance Acute
  4. Live test exceeded stress calculations
  5. Action: Immediate commencement to Phase Three

Bone

II.

  1. Labs 1-3, 5, 9-14, 16-19: full systematic failures.
  2. Termination Code: DPB-2549
  3. Scrap all previous procedures.
  4. Action: Lab 4 Documentation Disbursement to All Labs by 1400 Hours

 

III.

  1. Labs 20-25:
  2. Resume Alpha-X biogenic testing.
  3. Increase control methodology
  4. Increase rapid response by 3.45

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Questing Beast: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Fourteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019Q QUESTING BEAST

1965

Girl was out.

She prowled around the woods. Marking one tree and then tearing out a bush by the roots because it was stubbornly in her way.  Her misshapen paws pulverized the things that got in her way. Girl’s tail brushed the earth, picking up twigs, leaves, and other detritus on its sweep to the right; the items sent flying off to the left on the tail’s return arc. Her coat was shaggy and matted, tufts of grey replacing some of the blacks. Girl heeled, turning her head one way and then the other.

There.

The sound.

A round of barking was followed by growl vibration. The thing she was after sped off. Girl clicked into Tracking Mode. She went from at rest to forty-eight mph in just under ten seconds.

She barely panted.

The deep bass clicking noise came from above her. Night and dense leaf coverage made it near impossible to see her quarry. Her prey was springing from branch to branch, tree to tree, heading in a straight line north. Girl could follow this: the sound of the clicking above sped up, pauses for breath at short intervals. Twigs, bark, and leaves fell in its passing, leaving a trail for Girl to trample over in pursuit.

Just ahead, a different sound after a landing on another branch. A creak, followed by crack, and pieces of bark from the trunk, and the bough, fell to the ground.  Girl froze. Waited. Her target did not follow. The breaking through the tree’s canopy, the sounds of leaping from one limb to another, sent a cacophony of noise that was easy to follow.

She did, gaining speed, closing the distance. If they had been on the same level Girl would have had her jaws embedded in its throat already. A short series of barks stirred them both on. She sprinted around trees of varying widths. Tall bushes were conquered by massive leaps over and beyond. She tore through the brambles that were increasing in density. They tore back, thorns sharp and greedy, but Girl went on.

The clicking noise was moving off its straight path. Girl smelled familiar scents, recognized her surroundings. She sped past the grove of trees, the grassy clearings, the car. She was on a path she knew well. The booming clicks didn’t matter anymore. They were both heading in the same direction; the same destination.

Girl clicked to her top speed and zoomed off. Ten more mph then before. Her tongue lolled out the side of her open jaws, drool spinning out behind her.

As she broke free of the woods, Girl slowed enough so she wouldn’t wind up in the lake water. Standing between the soft ground and grass that gave way to gravel and rocks, Girl looked out over the still water, a lit reflection off to the edge. Looking up and beyond, Girl noticed in the distance a change from above. A glow began to rise, cutting away the dark bit by bit. She walked onto the rough shoreline, turned to the woods, and waited.

The sound of branches breaking, some hitting the forest floor, merged with the fast-paced clicking discordance. Girl’s ears perked, moved over to compensate from where the sounds were coming from. Her tail was stiff and her teeth danced around the vibrations from her growls. Tension ran through her as she made ready to leap.

The leaves and wood exploded as her kill went airborne. Except it wasn’t in Girl’s straight path. A final side leap changed its trajectory. The growing light saw it land a good distance from Girl. Its yellow-green slimy skin bounced the sunlight that hit its back into Girl’s eyes. It was a momentary blinding, but it was enough. Girl’s reaction was split second.

Just not on the right side of that split.

The plunk in the water took her intended victim out of range. Girl began howling so loud that any birds and animal that had been returning quickly turned tail and left. The barking that followed was aimed at the lake. The lake didn’t care.

A sound behind her ceased the barking. Three horn beeps. She knew the sound. Girl sat on her haunches, still staring out at the lake. She waited for the car to stop, for the lights in her face to go away. The car wheels were running over the gravel, nice and slow. It came her way. She finally turned to look at the car as it slowed to a stop. The headlights followed.

Her head did its tilting thing. She saw him get out and come towards her. He stopped just beyond the reach of her jaws. He crossed his arms over his chest. His head made its own motion that made as much sense to Girl as hers did to him.

She barked. Three times. Waited.

“Those idiots renamed you well. ‘Giatisant.’ You are a barking beast, girl. One great big Giatisant! I heard you all the way back at the glen.”

A low growl started low in the throat.

Slowly holding out his hand, he eased over, scratching her head, then under her jaw, then down her back. He patted her on the side and sighed.

“C’mon, Girl. Time to get back. Sun is coming up, and we don’t want to be seen, not that there’s anyone out here to see us. C’mon. Let’s go.”

He walked back to the car, aware she wasn’t following him. Opening the passenger side door, he patted the red leather seat as he turned to face her. She was still in the same place, but that’s not what bothered him, much.

Girl was stark still, dead on staring at him.

“Shit. C’mon, Girl. We need to get out of here.”

No movement.

“Hey. Girl. Now. Get in the car.”

She was now laying down, her massive head on her massive front paws. She licked her lips.

“OK. OK. I’m sorry, Girl. I shouldn’t have called you by that name. I won’t do it again. Just stupid on my part.” He waited. “Girl?”

The great Staring Contest by the lake ended in his defeat. He sighed.

“C’mon, Schatzi. Let’s go.”

He almost closed the door on her wagging tail. It thumped against the seat in a hard rhythm. He started up the engine and Girl settled down, head already hanging over the side of the door. He revved the Thunderbird’s engine, made sure the top was down, and they took off.

 

Present Day

Things had been getting out of hand for a while.

Aggression grew sharp and raw.

Reasoning went the other direction.

Things got out.

Things always got out.

There was a car in the woods.

Parting Sorrow: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Thirteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019P PARTING SORROW

1968

Debra brushed some dandruff off of Tim’s shoulder and then fixed his tie.  He squirmed a bit but settled when he saw the moisture building in Deb’s eyes. Tim was glad his sister was home from college. He’d never say it, but he missed her.

“There, better than new.”

She punched her brother on the arm.

“Hey!”

“Hey, you. I’m sure you deserve it for something or the other while I’ve been gone.”

She smiled. He returned it. Together, they walked downstairs and out to the backyard where the ceremony was going to be held. In only a couple of hours, their Mom would finally wed Sheriff Will Kane.

Seven years after Eddie, Patricia’s husband, Debra and Tim’s Dad, disappeared. Seven years and the law pronounced him dead. A little over four years since Patricia went on a first date with Will. Bittersweet feelings had a starling’s effect over the festivities, mourning and celebration weaving in and out of the Kelly household.

The Army was appeased by the certificate, which helped financially. Patricia had scraped every penny, financial aid, and loans she could so Debra could get to college. With Tim getting close to leaving as well, Eddie’s pension release was a godsend.

She’d beaten the tearing inside of her from putting the petition forward with the state, and then going for the funds.  She still missed and loved Eddie. That was never going to change, she felt. But, Will made her happy, and she loved him. Here. Now. Patricia was the one who proposed. Will broke out into a face-splitting grin, held her, and said yes a thousand times.

The chairs faced away from the house towards the wedding canopy that Tim built, with Will’s help. He had gone into the woods to collect fallen branches, sturdy enough that, when assembled, would stand true. Patricia fussed when he’d go off to search in the woods, only leaving the kitchen window when she saw him return.

Tim had asked Deb if she wanted to help decorate the arbor when the wedding was a sure thing. He was already underway with the materials. He knew she kinda felt left out of things, but being hundreds of miles away would do that, and his asking made her really happy. Deb had decorated it with purple flowers and ribbons, their Mom’s favorite color. Looking the yard over, Deb was the one who light-bulbed a need Tim hadn’t thought of.

“Mom’s going to wear heels. I might, too.” She and Tim, again with Will’s help, foraged for flat, smooth stones. Over the last two days, and up to the near to last minute, they laid a mosaic path from the house to the Wedding Arch.

The guests started arriving, dropping off their gifts in the living room, food in the kitchen for the party afterward. Sam from the luncheonette was “catering” the majority of the fare, but he was light on the less greasy items. Everyone knew him. Side dishes, lots of vegetables, and desserts appeared to accompany his offerings.

Will arrived with most of his men. Tim was stone silent when he noticed a couple of State Troopers mixed in among them. He and his car were well known to some of them, especially these two. Will laughed when he saw Tim’s face, patted him on the back, and told him not to worry.

Today.

Debra went upstairs. Her mother’s room had finally quieted down. An hour earlier a mini whirlwind hit, makeup brushes flying, hair swirling up and around, a fog of hairspray making anyone inside and ten feet outside of the room cough like crazy. Debra critiqued the use of the spray, citing the recent Miss America protest as her stand to do away with this instrument of female torture. Patricia shushed Debra, shooing her out of the room right after she hugged and kissed her. They smiled at each other as she was leaving.

They smiled at each other when she returned.

“Mom. You look beautiful.”

“So do you, sweetie. So do you.”

Turning to the full-length mirror, Patricia looked herself over. She didn’t go for a gown this time; her parents had bought hers’ when she and Eddie got married. They, too, were gone now. With ample discounting in town, Patricia wound up with a graceful light grey dress, dotted around with small crystal inserts that sparkled when the light hit it just right. The dress, the hair, the makeup: she had to hold back the crying.

Debra already had some tissues in hand, just in case.

Coming behind her mother and hugging her, gently, she caught herself on the verge as well.

“I miss him, mom,” she said, a light tremor shaking her voice.

“Me too, sweetie. Me too.”

They broke and spent the next five minutes fixing their faces.

Tim knocked on the door.

“Hey, it’s time.”

“In a second, dweeb,” Debra called out.

“Hey!” Tim answered, needling his sister as he opened the door. After he was okayed in.

Patricia sighed, and smiled. “Next steps,” she thought, “and some things never change.”

Debra led the way as the bridesmaid; Tim walked Patricia down the aisle way. Everyone stood, followed them making their way to the back of the yard, and settled back down when a beaming William took Patricia’s outstretched hand.

The ceremony began. All eyes were fixed on the couple.

~~~~~   ~~~~~    ~~~~~

All eyes included the two pairs hidden among the brambles and trees surrounding the back yard.

A low grumble sound started by his side.

“Shh, Girl. Shh, sweetie.” His hand was stroking the sparse fur on top of her head. It was an instinctual movement. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Pat. He wanted to growl as well, but the freedom to do that had been taken away from him long ago. Things were different. The two of them were very different, now. They remained, watching, both fighting urges to rush forward, change outcomes.

It came to an end with a lingering kiss and all the guests applauding and yelling their congratulations. All except them. He watched as Pat and Will walked back towards the house. Then, he fixed on Debbie and Timmy.

He wasn’t sure which couple crushed him more.

“C’mon, Girl. C’mon. Time to go. We don’t belong.”

Girl whimpered, getting to all fours as he stood. His plan was to just fade away and get gone. His mistake was doing it backward, straining for any view he could stand.

A quick yelp; Girl had wormed her way behind and between his legs, and stepping on her tail wasn’t what he planned.

Patricia and Will had already entered the house. Debbie and Timmy were standing by the back door, guiding the guests in.

Tim thought he heard something. It sounded like something he hadn’t heard in way too long. His head snapped around to where the sound came from.

Their eyes met. Both froze.

By the time the word “Dad?” left Tim’s mouth, the woods were empty.

 

Present Day

Shh, Girl. Shhh.

Pat.

Debra.

Timothy.

There was a car in the woods.

Nap-Of-The-Earth Flight: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Eleven

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019N NAP-OF-THE-EARTH FLIGHT

1961

The Chevy Bel Air was not made for the back roads. David cursed under his breath every time they hit something, and the steering wheel shook in his hands. He barely regained control at one point after hitting a tree root that tore through the earth. He was also starting to lose control of himself: he didn’t tell David he was still dropping Bennies like candy, even though he swore that was over and done with.

His last hit was hours ago; David refused the urge to take one in front of his only friend. Just barely. He was coming down; the ragged route they were taking and Eddie’s urging him to slow down was not helping in the least.

Parking his car, finally, David got out and looked around at the massive trees as a whole. He instantly began to shudder. Nam memories, the training, the ambushes, the bullets flying, just too much. He closed his eyes, breathing hard, almost hyperventilating. Eddie came over and put his hand on David’s shoulder. It was grounding. It was enough.

David retrieved a flashlight from the trunk of the Chevy. They’d need it soon, Eddie told him, assuring David that they wouldn’t need it for long. They had to get back to chow down and alleviate the worry lines that Patricia was wearing when they left the house.

David was envious. He hadn’t had anyone in his life who cared about him since soon after he got back from his last tour. Driving them away was easier than facing the devils inside him.  Three someones. Thinking of Eddie’s family set up made him want a Benny even more at the moment.

They trudged through the tall grass and proceeded through tough, dry bramble. A little blood was poked out as they made their way clear. The further into the woods they got, the more the trees were growing thicker. Again, Nam.

David had to stop. The urge to pop every single pill he had left was riding high. Eddie hadn’t realized he wasn’t right behind him until he turned to motion him to silence. There was just light enough for David to catch the worry he saw pass over Eddie’s face. David walked on and caught up.

Being on alert, the two went light-footed, passing through a dense grove of trees. They stopped;  a clearing showing just beyond the ridge of the tree line.

Eddie pushed his left hand down fast and crouched.  David followed ASAP.  The left hand fisted up. They froze. David noticed Eddie point to him, then motioned him to follow. He gave him the thumbs up.
They went into stealth mode, taking in their surroundings, listening for things they did not see.

What they did see made them both smile, lips closed.

The very cherry Cherry-Red Thunderbird. Eddie hadn’t really believed it existed. David just fell in love.

Satisfied they were alone with the car, they approached, still heads and eyes on a swivel. Approaching the T-Bird, David wanted to whistle but suppressed that urge. It was beautiful. The red leather seats accented with the white piping and inlays. It was soft under his hand; he ran it over the seat back. Eddie was walking around the car’s perimeter, taking in the details he still could with the ever fading sunlight. David resisted getting behind the wheel for just a breath before he opened the door and climbed in.

A shattering noise came, off to the left. David’s car. It was in that general area. The screeching of metal tearing apart sent them both into high alert. Eddie dropped, going prone behind the T-Bird’s rear.  David hadn’t closed the car door. He tucked and rolled out, going to deep knees by the rear tire. As he scanned to the left, then the right, David rolled up his pant leg and drew out the combat knife he had strapped and hidden.

Another thing he didn’t tell Eddie he was still hooked on.

A couple of heavy crunches more in that general area and then silence. Eddie crawled over, putting he left hand out and palm forward. They waited. Nothing. They waited a bit longer. Still nothing.

The sunlight was almost completely gone. The darkening sky was cloudless which worked both to and against their advantage. Light enough to see; light enough to be seen. They didn’t see anything. They didn’t hear anything. There was no choice. They had to move.

Clicking noises surrounded them the instant they stood. David moved his palm forward hand in front of him. Eddie didn’t know either. “Run,” Eddie said, low and angry. David instinctively took the rear, his knife clenched and ready.

The attack came from both sides, fast and furious. Eddie, in front, was bowled over, enough force used to send him tumbling up to the tree line, his back connecting to one hard scaly trunk. Dazed, Eddie almost missed what came next. Raising himself, first on his elbows, and then to his knees, he was too far away and weaponless to be of any help.

Two things were all over David. People. Things. He shook his head, needing it to clear. He saw David on the attack, his knife sadly only a momentary advantage. He was being circled. Thrusting out, he missed on the first two tries. One landed a glancing punch to David’s shoulder, sending him off balance. The other sent a bone breaking kick to David’s left knee. On his way down, his arm went up and down, the combat knife tasting flesh and blood.

Eddie was standing, leaning on the tree when he saw David lose the knife. The one who kicked him picked up the knife. The other one was on one knee, black looking blood leaking down its leg, both hands in claws ripping along David’s back. The knife slashed along David’s front. One long reach back and a swing, and David’s head came flying towards were Eddie stood.

Then the things turned their attention to Eddie and raced towards him.

Clicking noises sounded at Eddie’s back as he retreated, his survival instincts clicked into high gear.

As he entered the woods, he knew he needed a weapon.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

After climbing up the tree, jumping to the next one, and then using that tree’s abundance of leaves as camouflage, Eddie worked on an overhead branch, solid enough to be used as a club. Not too entrenched that there’d be no use expending energy on it. This one tested true to his needs.

As he pulled and pushed, he ran through what had occurred. It was no use thinking about any reasoning behind the two who were after him. The facts were: they were fast and strong; they killed David; most likely they were still in possession of David’s knife; and judging by the intermittent clicking noise, they were still coming for him.

In the distance, a quickly receding series of ground thumping sounds came at the right moment. The tree branch came off, the cracking partially covered up whatever it was that most likely destroyed David’s car. He swung it, feeling for its balance. It wasn’t a perfect weapon. He’d have to make it one.

The canopy of leaves surrounding him started shaking. “Damnit,” he thought, as he hurled himself off of his perch, the makeshift club firmly placed into his right armpit. Landing on the tree limb just below, he heard two separate light landings above and to either side. He swung upwards, connecting with a hand or a foot. He wasn’t sure, but a plummeting body was good enough.

No cry on the way down. Above, the clicking got intense and angry sounding. Eddie was winding up to take another swing, but the club went flying as his face was backhanded. Eddie landed, his back again meeting painful force as he fell onto the hard limb. He kicked out, caught the figure in the gut, giving him the room to move.

Eddie jumped, tumbling down, the whipping branches slowing him enough so that when he hit the ground Eddie was winded, but nothing was broken. He quickly glanced around as he stood. The club had landed near enough. Grabbing it, he took off again. He needed another advantage point.

He wasn’t going to get one.

The Click was on him. Eddie got one good hit with his club, but that was all he got. David’s knife bit into his right thigh, missing the arterial but sending pain ripping up his leg. Tried as he could, he couldn’t avoid the punch in the side of the head that took him down.

As he was being pummeled into unconsciousness, his last thought was of Pat.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Patricia waited up all night. Debra and Timothy tried to stay awake with her in the living room, worried sick about their Dad and Uncle David. Tim folded first. Debra soon after.

Debra woke up to daylight and the sound of her mother speaking on the phone. She started to tear up as she listened from the couch.

“Hi, Sheriff. It’s Patricia Kelly. No. Nothing is all right, I think.” She took a deep breath in and slowly let it out.

“Eddie didn’t come home last night. He and his army friend. Neither came home last night. Please, John. Help.”

~~~~~ ~~~~~

Sheriff John Miner was called to the site by his deputy, Will Kane. As his Ford Fairlane pulled alongside Will’s, the tightness in his chest was finally expelled. Getting out of the cruiser, Sheriff John put his hat on and walked over to the remains of a Chevy Bel Air.

“Again,” he said. A statement, not a question.

“Yes, Sheriff. It’s as Mrs. Kelly said, same two-tone colors. The rest, well, there it is.”

“Eddie and his friend?”

Will shook his head. “No trace of either of them. The boys and I followed the paths they must have made: bent, broken grass; couple of pieces of material caught on bramble spikes. Trail goes dead after a bit. Came back and got you on the horn.”

The Sheriff took off his hat and slapped it against his leg and let out a drawn out “Shit!”

He wasn’t looking forward to an ongoing search. Again.

Putting his hat back on, he realized he really wasn’t looking forward to telling Patricia and her kids the news.

 

Present Day

Training.

Training and natural skills.

Evade. Gain advantage.

Lose it.

Capture or kill.

There was a car in the woods.

 

 

Monday Mourning: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Ten

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work.  Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019M  MONDAY MOURNING

1961

Monday, December 11th, 1961. Three events mattered that day to retired Corporal Eddie Kelly, Army: Adolph Eichmann was found guilty of war crimes in an Israeli court; JFK officially began a war in Vietnam; and David was dead. His severed head sailed past him, barely missing Eddie’s by a hair’s breadth.

Eddie turned and shot into the woods, looking for anything he could turn into a weapon. The sounds behind him were sickening unto themselves; the wet sound of rendering flesh. The clicking noise grew louder behind him, centering on where Eddie had left David’s body. His friend’s dead body.

Still in combat readiness, Eddie rocketed through the woods making as little noise as he could. He made out a climbable tree to his left. Scaling it with ease, Eddie tested out a viable branch that stretched out towards a different tree. He took a deep breath, steeled himself, and ran across the narrow length, jumping just as he felt the limb start to bend.

Safely across, he duck walked towards this tree’s trunk. The foliage was thick, and Eddie took advantage of this, catching his breath, and giving him a moment’s rest; his mind insisted he replay the events that led him here.  Hopefully, it would help lead him the way out of this.

He met David Fox on his last tour with the Army. Instant buddies from ’56 to ’58. Long hauls for both of them, but they were there in an advisory capacity only, helping train the ARVN Ranger units under their oversight. They met on the transport flying out of the US; by the time they landed in South Vietnam they were solid.

The April 1956 siege and fall of Dien Bien Phu was the reason they were there. The US was ramping up their mandate: get the ARVN ready steady for what they all knew was coming. The insurgent’s attacks were escalating. It’d be a full-blown war before any of them knew it. Eddie and David were well versed on what their jobs were: they went total Boot on the South Vietnamese troops.

Eddie shipped back home a half year before David. He had a wife and kids waiting, and re-upping wasn’t an option for him. It was all going FUBAR, and all the signs laid out it would only get worse. David wanted one more shot; there was a bit of payback in his decision. Eddie understood. Didn’t agree, but he understood.

They connected after David returned, phone calls bridging the gaps in the distance. He’d been up to visit Eddie and his family before. This time, it just happened to fall on a really sensitive day. They were out on a drive in David’s Chevy Bel Air, shooting the shit. David was overjoyed about Eichmann’s trial, having lost too much family on his father’s side in the camps. Eddie felt the news brought some justice to the world. Not enough for all the dead, but it was something.

Both of their moods, though, were slashed to pieces once the car radio was turned on.  Things had been getting worse in Nam: insurgent attacks had ratcheted up in the last few months, and the Diệm government retaliated by decimating the Communists still on South Vietnam soil. Advisory reasoning was shoved aside: the Vietnam War for the US had officially begun.

Thoughts of reenlistment went through both of their heads. Eddie felt the need to break this train of thought. He had previously told David of the weird things going on in the woods a little further on. A T-bird appearing out of nowhere, and then nowhere to be found when it was searched for. Missing people. Smashed cars here and there: not the T-Bird. Never the T-Bird. The few times it had been seen it had always been described as pristine. Bringing it up again got them both fired up, trying to replace the news in their heads and the wooden blocks in their hearts.

Eddie navigated; David drove. They stopped and looked around the few spots that Eddie knew someone saw something or claimed to. First stop was where the Ford Falcon was found. They got out of the Chevy and looked around. There was still enough light left, but it was just an empty space. David found the marred Basswood the car had hit. Eddie thought some dry rot was setting in; he noticed some mushrooms further back in the hole the car had left. Anything that might have been of interest was scavenged in the year since whatever happened, happened.

Next, they went to the outcropping where the Golden Hawk Studebaker was turned inside out. The sunlight was inching away from them by the time they arrived. The four missing teens were still being talked about almost two years gone. Eddie showed David the marks that were gouged out of the rocky ridge. No one could explain it.

The sun was sinking. David looked out over the tree line, the light playing across the leaves, shimmering over the random patches of ice and snow on top of them. A few stars could be seen above and beyond.

“Man, this is beautiful. Thanks, Ed.”

“Davey, we have one more stop, then home to whatever Pat is making for dinner. C’mon.”

Eddie got into the Bel Air, his mood lightening. Just before David opened the car door, he noticed something: there was no noise except for the wind. Strange, he thought.

David disregarded clicking sounds he thought he heard as he got in, shut the door, and turned the engine on.

 

Present Day

Turning around and going for that meal would have been the smartest thing to do.

Would have.

There was a car in the woods.

 

 

LAB 4: CLASSIFIED : #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Interlude 2

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019L LAB 4: CLASSIFIED

logo

Date: REDACTED

TO: All Staff-LAB 4

From: REDACTED

Subject: Termination Protocol-Lab 4

PART I:

Due to the continuation of disappointments in behavioral actions, and failure to bring in line, the following Test Subjects must be terminated precisely at 0300 HOURS, REDACTED:

  • REDACTED
  • REDACTED
  • REDACTED
  • REDACTED
  • REDACTED

It is imperative that this action must take place preciously at the stated time.

Use:  

All results must be detailed and delivered promptly at 0800 on REDACTED.

Failure to meet expectations will not be accepted nor tolerated.   

PART II

Find and contain Girl immediately.

Once contained, do not terminate.

Repeat: do not terminate.

Further testing orders will follow.

 

Kaleidoscope In Her Eye: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Nine

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019K

KALEIDOSCOPE IN HER EYE

 

1967

Mouth agape, Samantha was stunned by what Lisa told her. Tied hands and feet, ass planted on the ground, her back thrust against the cooling VW Microbus, she had no options but to listen. Most everything she thought she knew about Lisa was a lie. She tried to run through memories of their sessions. Nothing stood out that sounded false, and there were the state and hospital records to back things up. She couldn’t understand how wrong she had been. Was still. Samantha’s confidence, already shaky at this point, crumbled even further.

Lisa went back into silence mode after she dropped the bomb. Testing? A glass-walled cell? Samantha was beyond puzzled. She hurt from the beating, the way the ride to this grove battered her along, and the fear she felt about her parents, then herself. It was all just too much.

Mocking laughter brought her attention back to the present. The slap that followed burned on her cheek, her head conking on the body of the VW. Anger welled up as she turned her head back to face Lisa.

“You went away for a bit, Dr. Sam. Isn’t that against your training as a psycho?” She grinned widely.

“Therapist. Psychotherapist,” Samantha spat out, immediately regretting that she let the other woman goad her like this.

“Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t really matter now, does it? So, where was I?” Lisa looked around the site, up to the sky, and turned back to Samantha. She cocked her head to the side. Waiting.

Dropping her gaze, Samantha reluctantly said: “Something about testing.”

“Oh, yeah.” She patted the ground around her, fidgeting a bit.

“Did you know I killed my first guy in this spot? Yes, this very spot. That never came up when we chatted. I think it was six or seven years ago. Yeah. Wasn’t like I meant to, really. Things just got a little out of hand. I wasn’t thinking very straight at that point. Dumped his body here. Blood was everywhere. Everywhere.”

Lisa’s voice faded, her eyes taking a glassy turn. Samantha waited. Moments passed before the narrative picked back up.

“I got back into my brand new car. The very first car I owned outright. Stupid but, again, wasn’t thinking very straight. My driving was just as crooked. Went too fast, hit a tree, and didn’t get much further after they got me.”

Silence.

“They?” Samantha couldn’t help herself from asking.

Lisa shook her head. The wrong looking smile returned to her face.

“Heh. I lied before, just a wee bit. There was no jail cell then. I was spirited away, but the jail? Nah. The glass cell, the rest? That’s what happened after I killed that guy, wrecked my car, and they snatched me up. Yeah, yeah. They. The guys. D Line. They were still controlled, then. Shame. We eventually had some wicked times together. Until it became my job to terminate D Line.”

Samantha bit back saying anything. Lisa went on.

“Boom. Bye Bye. That happened a few years ago. It’s funny in a way. I was their victim at first; in the end, they were my puppies. Rabid puppies, but still.”

Silence.

Lisa stood up, looking around again.

“What the hell is keeping them?”

Samantha continued staring at her.

“Yeah, I don’t know either,” she sighed, sitting again in the same spot. “After some time in the glass being gawked at the rounds of drugs began. Then the operations. More drugs. Physical work. Drugs. Sex. No Rock ‘n Roll. Heh. Things changed. Others got terminated. Weird shit went on in other labs, we heard.”

“My first task when I was deemed ready enough? They let me choose. Guess who I chose, Dr. Sam. Guess.”

“What are you talking about, Lisa. This doesn’t make sense.” Silence. “Lisa!”

This slap was harder than the first one.

“Stop calling me that. Stop. It’s not mine.” A long pause.  “Hey. You didn’t guess.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. NO! Please, no more hitting. I’ll…I’ll try a guess.”

Samantha raced through all the things she knew-thought she knew-about her assailant. One person stood out as a possibility. It was better to play this insipid game then more pain.

“Your father?”

“Bingo. Right on the nose. Oh, nose. Yours, not so good right now.” Lisa reached over with both hands, wrapping them around Samantha’s swollen snout, and quickly jerked it. Samantha screamed.

“There. Never going to be as pretty as it was. Better than the smooshed thing I left you with. So, yeah. Dad. Two years later, he was still a bastard. Had a new plaything, too. I snuck onto the estate, waited until they were done, and drove my knife a few times through and through. The plaything I took with me. She was next in line.”

“Estate?”

“Yeah. He was filthy and rich. I know. I know. You thought I was trailer trash. Wrong. You got so many things wrong. You couldn’t see straight.”

“I don’t know what to think anymore. Lisa, please…”

“I said don’t call me that. Lisa. Not my real name. The plaything. She was Lisa. Right now, I have no idea what she calls herself. Last time I heard my name was from Daddy’s dying lips.” She laughed. “I bet you’re dying to know what it is, aren’t you?”

Samantha just nodded.

“He blubbered ‘You. Doris, you bitch. You bitch. You’ and then he bled out. It was worth it, in the end.” A noise came from the ground behind her, close to the grouping of the trees. “Ah, finally, damn took their time.”

A fog-like dust storm began to fill the area. It grew dense, and a strong wind circled around, adding debris from the ground to the swirling. Doris/Lisa stood up and brought Samantha up with her. It was hard for her to stand. She was held up by the others hand pressing into her chest and wedged against the Microbus side.

A continuous barking sound began, coming from the middle of the twister. The wind died away and everything blown about landed on the ground. In the center was a car. Red, shiny. Doris/Lisa was humming; a Beach Boys song, but Samantha couldn’t concentrate enough to remember the title. What she saw in the car frightened her even more then she had been a second ago.

It was a dog. Huge. Barking like mad. Samantha was shaking. She had never seen such a malformed creature. Lisa/Doris began laughing.

“Girl! Girl! Oh, this is just the icing.” She walked towards the car and beast. There was nothing to keep Samantha upright. She fell face forward, the pain knocking her out for a few moments.

She came to quicker this time. Something had changed. Her legs. They were all pins and needles, but they weren’t tied anymore. As she tried to wake them up, the barking stopped and became a horrible growl. Then there was a scream. One long shattering scream.

Her arms were being lifted.

A soft voice spoke into her ear: “Shhh, sweetie. Relax, relax. You’ll be safe now.” Samantha was crying; the man who spoke was rubbing her hands and forearms, helping the circulation move along.

The wailing scream began to die down and went silent. The barking started up again, turning into a piercing howl.

He spoke again: “Sweetie, listen. The keys to the VW are on the driver’s seat. Give yourself a few minutes. Your feet and hands will thank you. Leave here. Don’t look back.”

Her tears stopped flowing. Testing, she slowly began to rise. It hurt, but she could do it. Leaning against the van, Samantha looked around. No man, no dog, no car. No Lisa. She hobbled over the grove, searching in vain. Nothing was there.

The hobble turned to mild limping to walking by the time she reached the VW Microbus. Getting inside was a bit of a problem, but Samantha did it. She closed the door, started the engine, and drove away.

The hospital was her first destination. Once inside the ER, the fussing over her began: her nose was reset, a cut on her head was stitched up, and the hospital staff swaddled her in bandages. They finally put Samantha in the same room as her mother. She’d have a scar on her head after smashing it on the side window, but she’d live. Her father had one broken leg as well as his left arm. Scar too. He’d live as well.

Someone had called the Sheriff. He arrived as they were all together, tears mingling from the three enough to create a tiny river of their own. He was shooed away by all three. He’d get his full statement in the morning. Samantha assured him it really was all over. Details would follow. He nodded, smiled, and left.

Everyone was released over the next two days. Recuperating at home didn’t sit well with any of them; they wound up at their clinic helping others while the staff buzzed around the three of them. Samantha finally relaxed. Her parents would be ok. They’d live.

She booked a flight for the next day after a very long cry fest with Vanessa. She hadn’t known what was going on and was worried sick. Diving into the work in the Haight kept her as sane as she could be.

Vanessa met Samantha at the gate. They fell into each other’s arms and didn’t let go until the next morning. Samantha was dragged around, moving in and out between the throngs of hippies, avoiding the police and the protestors. Vanessa showed her the best places, in her opinion, to eat, drink, and make merry. Sammy shared those opinions.

A day at the street clinic rejuvenated Samantha. She kept catching Vanessa looking at her, smiling. She smiled back, and then it was the next patient to be taken care of.

That night, they went to the park and grooved with everyone else listening to some freeform rock. Vanessa even got Samantha to drop a half tab of acid with her. They flew together, sailing under the stars, letting the music fill them as they danced, danced, danced. This was magic. Everything else blew away.

Samantha didn’t notice that a 1958 red Thunderbird had crept through the crowded street just beyond the park’s border. The horn honked once. Then it was gone.

 

Present Day

Some would say “Poor Doris.”

I wouldn’t.

She overstepped one time too many.

Her master’s voice took on a different meaning after that.

There was a car in the woods.

 

 

Juno Plummeting: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Eight

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019J Juno Plummeting

1967

Samantha woke with a coughing fit. Slow and sluggish, she was having trouble focusing. She was in pain. The pain grew as her attentiveness sharpened. There was a horrible taste in her mouth. Working her jaw amplified an abrasive texture against her face; something hard and gritty pressing into it. She coughed again, hawking out something moist. The pain in her nose hit her, hard. She was having problems trying to breathe. Samantha opened her eyes slowly, shutting them instantly. A blurry, swirling mass of color hurt her head. The pain was intense.

Samantha attempted to get up. An inner scream cut through her held back by firmly clenched teeth. Her hands were pressed against each other, pulled tightly behind her back. They wouldn’t budge. Her legs were in the same condition. Samantha forced herself to keep trying. Her body arched up, the struggle of forcing her extremities at the same time seized her. “Tied up. I’m tied up,” she finally realized. Slowly, so slowly, Samantha eased off the tension and further pain she was causing. The realization momentarily broke her.

Panic was starting to circulate.

A feeling of hopelessness began to slink through her. It wormed its way through, nibbling at Samantha’s essence. Life’s myriad of moments cascaded, flipping scenes too fast to catch and hold them. Birthday parties, heartaches, driving, being driven, dancing, vacations, school, more school, even more school.  Her first kiss. Mom and Dad. Grandma. Vanessa. Mom and Dad. MOM AND DAD!

She remembered. The car. Her parents were in the car. The crash. It all happened so fast. Someone is running towards her. The pain. Someone…Lisa. Lisa, running towards her. Her arm raised, fist hurtling forward. Awakening.

Thinking of Lisa brought her to her sessions, then her studies. Years of studying, training. What she needed to do flowed through her now. Distress tolerance skills. She grabbed onto the one that always helped her. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Counting breaths in, then out. Repeat. The repetition focused her. The focus calmed her.

Fear started working away at it.

A hard bump sent her up and down, the quickness too sudden. Her face hit the flooring, pain shooting through her nose all the way up through her skull. The groan she let out was met with a nasty little giggle.

“About time, Dr. Sam. Thought you’d never wake up. Hoped so, too. Really hoped.”

“Lisa?” The name was croaked out; followed by a series of coughs, each one an escalation of pain.

Silence. A Lisa silence; drawn out, taking her time in answering, or not, in all of their sessions.

“Yeah. Me.” In case you was wondering, we’re driving. Not sorry about that bump in the road. Anyways, we’re almost there.”

It took a moment to process. “Where is ‘There,’ Lisa?”

Silence, again.

“Lisa, please, talk to me. We’ve always found a way to talk things through.”

A barked laugh. Samantha hoped it would be followed by something more.

Silence.

A different tactic. “Lisa. Can you help me understand something?” She waited for a moment. “I have been going over our last enc…session. Can you tell me why my leaving affected you so?”

The horn on the car took a staccato beating. When it stopped, Lisa still said nothing.

“Lisa. My decision to move was nothing against you at all. Not one bit. You said I was trying to throw you away as others have. I wasn’t. I’m not. I wouldn’t leave until I had the right person to take over for me.” Nothing. “Lisa…”

“Stop saying my name,” Lisa growled. “Shut up already. Just shut up.”

The vehicle they were in drove on. Uncomfortable on so many levels, Samantha wanted to get up off the car floor. Asking for help did not seem like an option that would get her anywhere. She began rocking from side to side, finally forcing enough to roll her onto her side. Her back met a hard surface. It wasn’t comfortable, but at the moment the pain that lanced through kept her there.

Looking around, she saw why she had the space to move. She wasn’t in the back of a car. They were in the cabin of a VW Microbus. She knew what it was. Vanessa bought a used one in San Francisco, sending her over a dozen Polaroids, inside and out, with circles and arrows punctuated with exclamation points. Lisa didn’t own a VW. She drove a beat-up Dodge Dart; a hand me down of a hand me down.

“Soon. Soon,” Lisa quietly said.

Samantha was pretty sure Lisa wasn’t talking to her.

~~~

A quick right turn onto an even bumpier path. Lisa was doing a lot of weaving now; the jerky movements were sending small waves of pain through Samantha.  With some straining, Samantha could see a bit out of the windows at the top of the van. Trees. Lots and lots of trees.

The VW stopped, idling in place, then moved on at a crawling pace. The weaving continued, but not as ferociously. A “Yes!” was followed by the Microbus being turned off, brake set, and the opening and closing of the driver’s door. Samantha could barely see the top of Lisa’s head through the windshield. She was standing still, both hands behind her head, fingers knotted together. Samantha imagined that Lisa had her eyes closed, muttering a prayer, or a condemnation, to whatever brought them to these woods.

Looking around the cabin, hoping to find something that could help her, she wasn’t prepared for the wall she was leaning on to slide open. Samantha tumbled out onto the ground. She missed hitting her head on a pointy rock by inches. Her breath was knocked out of her for a moment. She looked around once she settled, and then up.

Lisa was standing over her, staring down. The meeting of their eyes was not a pleasant experience for Samantha. All of Lisa’s anger tells were on full show: the flexing in and out of her fingers; the clicking noise she made with her teeth; the angle she held her head, just off to the left; and her eyes, bulging more than she had ever seen before. Danger dangled off of Lisa. Danger and hatred.

Lisa bent over and lifted Samantha, grabbing her upper arms and pushing her backward, leaving her upright leaning against the VW. Taking two steps back, Lisa squatted down, facing Samantha. But, her eyes were moving all around, resting on one location, then another. Lisa was looking for something, and Samantha had no idea what it was. Fear shot up when Lisa locked eyes on her.

“Y’know, you haven’t asked once about your mom and dad. What does that say about you, Dr. Sam?” Lisa sat. “Mind elsewhere? Anyways, as I was putting you in the VW, I saw them both moving in their car, trying to get out, to get to you. I could tell by the blood on their faces they were hurting. Yet, they still tried to reach their darling.” She leaned in close. “And you can’t even ask about them.”

Sitting back up, Lisa continued: “Dr. Sam, you think you know everything. You’re a bit distant, did ya know that? A bit?” She snarled out another laugh. “You’re with me in the room when we meet, but not all the way. Something was occupying you. I felt you pulling away, and as it took you further and further, it made me angrier and angrier. Until you went the whole distance. You’re leaving. I don’t care about any other kooks you ‘take session’ with. You were leaving ME! People leave me all the time. Use me. Toss me aside. Drink makes some of it fuzz away; fucking and fighting take the rest. And then, you.”

Samantha was reeling. Lisa of the three-word sentences, the constant silences: this wasn’t what she expected. Not one bit. She was this wrong?

“Still got nothing? Let me fill you in on a couple of things. The gossip chain went around about how strong I was, getting the upper hand on the Sheriff and his men. Then slipping so fast out of their reach, and staying that way. I heard; practically no one knew me too well. Shades, a hat covering my hair, different clothing; they paid no attention to someone nursing a coffee or a beer.

Have you wondered, Dr. Sam? Miss Ph.D.? How could I do those things? Well, time I filled you in on some truths.”

Samantha stayed silent, listening.

“Not everything you ‘know’ about me is completely true. Yeah, I had one shitty young life. Won’t even call it a childhood. Nothing childlike about it. All that family stuff? True. But my juvie records? Even unsealed they weren’t telling the whole story.

See, my doings pissed off the wrong people. I screwed, then knocked some teeth out, of the wrong guy. I’m in a jail cell, fall asleep, and the next thing I know, I’m waking in a different cell. All glass walls and empty of anything ‘cept me. Empty of my clothes, too. Everything is dark outside of this cage. I screamed, pounded on the glass. Nothing. Not for a long while.

Then the testing began.”

~~~~~

Present Day

It wasn’t pretty, the testing.

It went on too long and way too far.

Lisa wasn’t the only test subject.

Lab 4 was brutal.

There was a car in the woods.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author’s Note:

Hey.

I wasn’t planning to extend this one more day, but…taa daa…this story goes one more day. A story amidst the larger story theme.  Some, and only some, threads start getting pulled together. Some. Not all. Ramifications still need to ensue. Things still need to be discovered. Others may have to kick the bucket. We still have two weeks to go before all is laid out before you.

Shhh. It’s ok. Here’s a nice cup of tea and a plate of cookies.

Tomorrow is another day.

 

 

 

 

 

If You Come To: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Seven

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019I IF YOU COME TO

 

1967 (continued)

The VW Microbus was idling, the driver focusing the binoculars on the back bedroom window. There. Movement. The curtain was open. Just like it had been for the past week. There was a clear view inside the room. At the angle the VW sat, three-quarters of the room could be seen: the bed, dresser, and door to the hallway.

The redhead walked by the window, stopping just beyond the panes. Ah, the neck brace was gone. This brought a grimace to the driver’s face. Inside, she was taking off her pajamas, getting dressed for the day. No shower, this time. The driver kept watching until the woman opened the room door, walked out, and closing it behind her. Something new came into view: a suitcase came into view. It had been obscured by the door.

The two-tone Bus backed up out of the brush shielding it, turned down the hilly dirt road, and made its way to the house. No one could be seen in front or around the sides. Another plus. They must have given up on patrol. Looking through the bay window, there were three figures sitting down to breakfast. The driver finally paid attention to the grumbling, growling sounds just below. The VW picked up a little speed and left.

“Food first. Then, her,” Lisa thought. She turned the Microbus away from town, heading down the interstate to a diner where no one knew her.

~~~~

“It’s fine. It’s fine, Mom. Just a little sore, that’s all. I’ll live.”

Samantha had been rubbing her neck, which set her mother into protective overdrive. She sat with her parents, at their insistence, staring at the cup of coffee in her hands. They had breakfast in front of them. Her Dad ate sparingly; her mom just moved things around the plate.  She knew her parents were still afraid for her. She was still afraid for herself, but things had to move along. The Sheriff finally calling off his deputy watchdogs didn’t help.

The manhunt for Lisa Davies came to a big nothing. The Davies family lived a county over and had a reputation for hunting out of season, going places they were not supposed to set foot on. They taught Lisa well in that if nothing else. The State Troopers felt she had left the area completely. The Sheriff thought so too and told the Wander family the same. He apologized, again, for not coming through. He’d keep an eye out, meaning his men would drive by every now and then, but there were other matters that had to be seen to.

She laughed, and cringed when he said that.

It didn’t matter, much. Tomorrow she’d be leaving for San Francisco. Vanessa was jumping out of her skin elated. Samantha had to let her be excited for both of them for a while. She felt numb inside when the fear didn’t take over. At this point, she wished she was already on the plane.

The day was spent packing. Samantha had to remind herself that this wasn’t just a trip. She was leaving. Moving. Samantha sat on her bed looking around her room. The piles of clothes, her books, her LP’s, all her things. Her mother, who stayed home to help her and spend as much time together as possible, came in with an old camp trunk. The one suitcase wasn’t enough. It was all too much, too overwhelming.  Her mom sat down next to her and hugged her. They shed tears together as they leaned into each other.

Things changed in a New York minute once evening settled around them.

Samantha’s dad insisted they go out for dinner; a celebratory and farewell gesture. Reluctantly she agreed. She chose a restaurant a few towns south simply because she did not want to rehash anything from the incident. The people in town meant well, but.

The night was chillier than she thought. As her parents walked to the car, she stepped back inside the hallway and took a jacket off of the coat rack. A honk, her dad, got her out of the house, putting the jacket on as she walked to the car.

A squeal of tires sounded out from just beyond their yard. She couldn’t see anything, the streetlights not yet turned on. Then it got louder as it got closer. It was a Hippie Van, and it was heading right towards them. No. It was on a clear path towards the family car.

“Mom! Dad!” Samantha yelled in vain, as the Microbus T-boned their Pontiac. It backed up, coming closer to Samantha. She was frozen to the spot. The driver’s door was flung open, and the driver sprang out, running towards her.

Lisa. It was Lisa. Samantha was having trouble processing what was going on. Her thoughts were strangling any cognitive information. It was only seconds, but they were gone in a flash. Lisa wound her arm back and punched her in the face. Samantha collapsed into unconsciousness.

It would be some time before she came to.

 

Present Day

If only Samantha heeded Dylan Thomas.

“Do not go gentle into that good night” he wrote.

If only she had said: “No, I don’t want to go out.”

Would it have changed the outcome?

We’ll never know.

There was a car in the woods.

 

 

Haight Expectations: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Six

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019HHAIGHT EXPECTATIONS

1967

Dr. Samantha Wander rarely lived up to her last name. She was content to live in the same area she grew up in, only venturing out of state during her college through doctorate years. Her psychologist Ph.D. in hand, she returned to her home town. It felt normal.  Her one-year post-doc internship took her to an adjacent county; she barely stood the daily travel. Attaining superb evaluation results, Samantha submitted all the necessary paperwork, and all the years of hard work were validated.  A place had been saved for her in her parent’s medical practice; her skills were needed.

Her best friend Vanessa was the polar opposite. She traveled every chance she could during their school years. Sometimes she was able to coax Samantha to join her; most times studies stood in the way. Vanessa went for the same degrees, same schools, and shared rooms with Sammy, her private nickname, throughout their educational escapades. Opposites in some ways, but exactly alike in their passion for the growing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs.

Vanessa went out to the west coast for her yearlong internship, promising Samantha she’d come back east after the year was over.

She didn’t.

San Francisco captured her completely, the lifestyle, the music, the climate; it claimed her, body and soul. She’d been putting the bug in Samantha’s ear to please come to San Francisco. There was a spot open in the clinic that Vanessa worked at, but it wouldn’t remain open for long. Haight-Ashbury was the place where it was all happening. Already, at the tail end of June, it was happening on overdrive, and doctors of all stripes were needed.

Samantha promised Vanessa she would think about it. Really think about it this time. The phone call Vanessa had made laid it all out on the table. “I need your scrawny-ass-red-headed stubborn self here. With me. Now. Stat! Pronto! Rápido! I’ll even put flowers in your hair!”

“I love you too,” she said, and they talked for a little while longer.

Samantha wrote out her pros and cons list as she did with every major decision. Putting her pencil down and pushing the paper away across the desk, Samantha swiveled her chair to face the window in her office. The street was the same as it had always been. The patients rarely varied, rarely advanced on the goals they set together, sometimes falling deep into the holes they kept digging for themselves. The hilly terrain, the abundance of trees: all the same, only morphing with the seasons.

As she shook her head, Samantha’s legendary exasperated sigh passed through her lips. Vanessa called it Sammy’s Sigh of Grand Despair.  She laughed at this, which drew other memories pouring in. Hugging herself, all she understood at the moment was that she was missing Vanessa, with a vengeance.

She told her parents about leaving that night, and the discourse went on long into the night. Coffee,  verbal pros and cons, more coffee, further debates, detailed analysis, some crying, some accusations, coffee, defeats, mild acceptances, and finally bed. By 3:23 am, Samantha was planning how she would let her patients know. She wanted to call Vanessa, give her the news, but felt some sleep was imperative to be able to face the morning appointments.

The day progressed mainly how she thought it would. Most understood, all wished her luck, and too many fell in upon themselves. A few went into mild hysterics, but they were able to calm down with Samantha’s help. She assured them that a replacement would be found before she left. Her schedule confirmed that she would see the majority of her patients over the week; the few bi-monthlies she would call.

The one she absolutely dreaded fell on the second day. Her expectations for that session were not very positive, given the history of their encounters. Lisa Davis had, and still was living, a very painful life. Abused by family, physically, emotionally, and though her juvenile records were sealed, sexually as well. Alcohol, sex, and physically releasing her anger were her coping mechanisms. She always picked up the “wrong guy” at one bar or another. More times than not, her encounters left her with bruises and torn clothing. A few times it landed her in the hospital.

Her temper was quick to rise and harder to quell, and she exacted revenge when she could. Tall and wiry, Lisa was in and out of trouble. Her last outburst landed her three months in county, followed by six months in a psych ward. Things settled down inside of her during those nine months, enough so that she was released on the condition she met the court-mandated twice-a-week therapy demands. One more incident, one more going over the line, and it was upstate prison time. She knew it.

Knowing it and caring about it were two different things.

Samantha thought she was prepared for a Lisa Davis outburst; they had been making progress, she felt, and her overall emotional roller coaster seemed to be leveling out. Samantha was wrong. Lisa was edgy when she arrived. Her father was putting demands on her, this time about money. Samantha did some heavy lifting in this session, with Lisa putting up roadblocks along the way.

Their session was almost at an end. Samantha had no choice but to tell Lisa the news so she wouldn’t hear it elsewhere. It did not go well. No matter how she presented the facts of her leaving, Lisa took it deeply personal. Deeply. Things escalated in a hurry. The hurt on her face, blaming herself, flipping it around against Samantha, her issues of abuse, abandonment, disrespect, getting used. Back and forth, back and forth. Every negative emotion overwhelmed Lisa. It finally built into a bursting, all-consuming rage.

Lisa leaped up off the couch. Tears were pouring down, her face turning a hellish red. All of her muscles were constricting and clenching, her hands drawn into vein-popping fists. Samantha bolted out of her chair, trying to make her way to the office door. The thrown framed diploma went flying past her, shattering against the door. Lisa jumped back at that and cringed as the coffee table, with the box of tissues, followed the smashed frame. The door was blocked off.  Samantha backed away slowly, moving behind her desk. She screamed. Lisa, lurching towards her, howled.

When the staff finally were able to make their way in, they stopped, gaping at the destruction.  Everything in the office was in disarray. Books, bookcases, wall hangings, furniture, and other odds and ends were strewn around the room. Lisa had her back to them. Her hands were wrapped around Samantha’s neck, pushing her back against the room’s window.

Samantha was clawing at the strangling hands, scoring rows of broken skins, rivulets of blood mixing together across Lisa’s hands and forearms. She was losing and knew it, her throat squeezed, the intense pain, the lack of incoming air. Through her protruding eyes, she saw her father run up, followed by other staff. It took a blow to the back of Lisa’s head and a kick to the inside of her knees to get her to drop her hands. Down on the other knee, Lisa started to lunge at the guy to her right.

She didn’t get that far. Samantha’s father had picked up the now broken brass desk lamp, swung it with angry force, and again connected with Lisa’s cranium.  She was down. The only sounds in the room were the gulping for air from Samantha. Everyone else was doing what they could to calm their ramped up hearts. Someone had already called the Sheriff’s office.

Her breathing became easier but painful. Samantha’s father led her out of the room, her mother joining them as they made it to the hallway. The Sheriff and his men arrived just Samantha and her parents made it to their car.  He walked over to them and got the gist of what happened. The Sheriff had other questions. Samantha’s mother put a stop to that. She needed the hospital, they could talk later, and the family got in the car and drove off.

It wasn’t until Samantha was being discharged that they found out that Lisa regained consciousness just before the Sheriff entered the office. She hauled off and punched him between the eyes. Really, really hard. Next, she kicked the closest deputy between his legs, tackling and tossing the other deputy out of her way. By the time all were fit enough, Lisa was gone. All law enforcement in the surrounding counties and the State Police were put on alert.

The Sheriff placed one of his men at the Wander house. Instead of feeling secure, Samantha was overwhelmed. She closed the door of her room, picked the phone up, and sat on the floor, back leaning against her bed. She called Vanessa, and the two of them cried through the telling of the events, ending with smiles they both could feel from the other over the phone line when Samantha told Vanessa her decision. The call lasted a while; plans were made. Vanessa was supportive and encouraging.  She regaled Samantha with all the things she would experience when she arrived at the Haight. The Love In happenings.  Live music everywhere. A peaceful stampede of hippies taking over the streets. Acceptance from the young; intolerance from the Hawks.  “It is so alive,” she said.  “We can be. Alive. We can do what we are meant to do, meant to be. You and me.” Samantha listened to it all, interjecting enough so Vanessa knew she was already with her in spirit.

A shiver ran through her, her mind taking her elsewhere. This all sounded wonderful to Samantha. Yet, it was drowned out by one consuming thought:

Lisa was still out there.

 

Present Day

A not so pretty picture was painted that day. Painted and then torn to shreds.

It would not be the only thing ripped apart, in the end.

Lisa was still out there.

There was a car in the woods.