Category Archives: Taking Risks

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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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gentle Into Night: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Five

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

 

AtoZ2019GGENTLE INTO NIGHT

1963

There was a car in the woods.

Schatzi was standing at the edge of the grove. She was barking continuously, growling in turns, but she would not advance any further. Timmy finally caught up to her, got down on his knees, and threw his arms around her. Deb was not far behind.

“Schatzi, stop barking. Schatzi!” Deb yelled out as she approached. Their dog went belly down, whimpering cries replacing the barks. It wasn’t until she came up behind Timmy that she saw.

“Oh shit,” she said, covering her mouth with her right hand. “Oh, shit. Don’t. Don’t start with me, Timmy. We have to get out of here.”

Timmy, focused entirely on Schatzi, was stroking her head. “Shh. There, girl. Relax. I’m here.” Deb put her left hand on his shoulder. “We’re here. Shh. Shh.”

“Timmy, we really really really need to get out of here.”

Her hand squeezed, Timmy yelped, and then he looked up.

“Oh. Wow.”

The cherry red Thunderbird was facing them. Timmy stood, and Schatzi followed suit. Tail tucked, she growled, staring down the car.

“Is it?”

“I think so,” she answered. “It’s the TBird. Timmy, c’mon. We’ve got to…”

The engine came to life, revving in place. The sound increased, tires spinning out on the patch of ground it was on. The smell of burning rubber and oil filled the area, choking the three of them.

“Deb,” he choked out, “there’s no one there.”

The convertible roof rose from the half closed position and smoothly dropped open. The revving continued, building in stationary speed. Clouds of dust started to rise around the car.

The driver’s door opened.

Schatzi hurtled towards the car. Deb and Timmy yelled out at the same time, but Schatzi didn’t alter her attack. Teeth bared, she dove through the open door. As her teeth sunk into the seating, she ripped away at the leather red and white. She tore out a chunk of the backrest. With the speed of the revving the roof closed, the door slammed shut, and the howl that came from the interior of the Ford pierced Timmy’s heart. Deb was streaming tears.

It had happened so fast that neither had time to react. Timmy tried to rush forward, but Deb held onto him tight.

“Let go of me. Let go!”

She was stronger, but Timmy was working on pure adrenaline. Just as he came free, a shooting wind sent the dust into a frenzy, kicking it up and, covering the entire area. When she wasn’t coughing her lungs out, Deb had the image of the last snow story, coming down so heavy it was nothing but a wall of white. She wrapped her arms around her brother, pulling him close, and turned their backs to the car so the flying debris was not in their faces.

“Deb, let go. Deb. Let. Go!”

Her arms opened, slowly. The wind was dying down, allowing the dirt and grit that had been airborne to fall back to earth. They turned to look at the car.

Trees, torn up grass, glinting ice on the outskirts. This they saw.

But no car.

But no Schatzi.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Patricia left the hospital against the doctor’s wishes. Sheriff Will’s wishes as well. He had deputized a whole mess of townspeople to search for her kids. He knew Pat; there was no way she was going to stay in the ward as long as she could walk. She just got in the front seat of his Fairlane, and that was that.

As they were hitting the roads to add to the search, the radio squawked every other minute or so. Every report came back with a disheartening “No.” Pat didn’t say much as she devoted her energy to looking where they dovetailed off the road. It hadn’t helped that the wind drifts covered any broken snow.

The tree that had waylaid them was gone now, cut up and making its way to the lumber yard. Pat knew they were there by the number of cars parked along the sides. Getting out, she took brief notice of the variety: Will’s deputies; townspeople’s private vehicles; and a brief shock of State Troopers in the mix.

The Sheriff got an update from one of the Troopers, and Patricia got an earful from those taking a break. She asked where they looked, how far out they went, did they see any tracks, any signs. The same bleak responses fell on her heart.

A final question made most folks uneasy, some sad, but all gave Patricia a side look when she left them to talk to another grouping.

“Did you notice, or see, anything out of the ordinary?”

Patricia and the Sheriff joined a group just heading out again. They were all carrying things the kids might need, if. Patricia steeled herself, didn’t cry out, didn’t make a scene, but that needless “If” was a sore that ate away at her as they walked and called out.

The sun was bending to the west when the walkies-talkies sang out. The kids had been found and were alive. This was repeated along the searchers. A huge mixed yell of happy acknowledgment rang through the trees. Pat and the Sheriff started to run once they got the whereabouts of the rescue. The others raced alongside.

The kids were bundled up in blankets upon blankets, drinking hot tea from thermoses brought just for them. A small bonfire was roaring, giving off just enough heat. Behind them was the ravine with their dead Chevy.

The three of them met in a flying bear hug. Timmy “ouched” but he didn’t break free.

“Mom,” he said. “Mom. We didn’t know what happened. We…”

“We went looking for you. You’d been gone way too long. I was…we were afraid something might have happened to you.” Deb looked and saw the bandage that peeked out from the wool cap her mother was wearing. “Oh, something did happen.”

Patricia didn’t answer. She kept hugging, kissing them on their foreheads, rubbing their backs, and the moisture in her eyes did not quit for a second.

“Let’s not talk about what happened to me until later. Some things happened that I have to think about; try to make sense out of.” She paused, realizing someone was missing.

“Schatzi. Where’s our girl?”

Deb started to tell her what had occurred. Timmy was reluctant to say anything, his head hanging low. He got elbowed and interspersed the details as best as he could.

“We searched. Couldn’t find anything besides the stirred up dirt. Deb and I backtracked, got lost once or twice, but we found the car.”

Deb continued. “It was cold in the car. We scrounged up two of Schatzi’s blankets, one hidden under the front seat, the other squished in the back. Our best find: a box of long matches from one of our cookouts during the summer. Timmy and I searched for dry wood. It wasn’t easy, but there was a grouping that worked just fine. Cleared the snow with our feet built the wood up, and started the fire.”

“Deputy Doug said he saw the smoke. That’s how we got found.”

“Sweeties, we need to get moving out of here before it gets dark.” Patricia’s face darkened. “Let’s put out the fire, grab your school books, and let’s get home. The Sheriff said he would drive us there.”

They did as she asked, no questions, no fighting, no stubbornness. Her heart felt shattered that they would be returning without Schatzi. “That’s two I’ve lost to this place,” she said to herself. “No more.”

Moving quickly, they reached the Sheriff’s car in no time. Almost all the cars had already left, getting the passed around good news. The remaining few gave Patricia and the kids long hugs; cheek kisses went around, hands were shaken. Timmy hated the kissing part, except when he got one from a classmate, Becki. He blushed and tried to hide. Becki just smiled.

Last to leave, the Sheriff turned the engine over and made sure all three were secure. The sun had been going down by this point. It was near dark. Putting the car into drive, he crept onto the road and headed to their home.

Everyone was quiet. Deb had nodded off. Timmy had his head leaning on the window, a sorrowful sight when the Sheriff looked in his rearview. Pat had scrunched down, head back on the car seat, staring at the interior ceiling.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” she softly recited.

Sheriff Will gave her a side glance. He knew that poem. He and Pat had been in the same classes ever since first grade. High School they wandered off in different directions, but English class was one they shared in Senior Year.

Looking briefly, he noticed that Patricia’s head lolled to the side. “Good, she was asleep,” he thought. It’s been a rough day for her, if not a rough four years. He focused on the road as they made their way back.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” Will repeated. He was glad to be leaving the woods.

Behind them, a chorus of clicking sounds blended with the settling winds.

 

Present Day

 What are those clicking sounds?

Where was the deadly red car?

And Schatzi.

Where was Schatzi? Was she?

There was a car in the woods.

 

******************************************************************************

The poem Patricia and Will  were referring to:

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp.

 

Elegiacal: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Four

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

AtoZ2019E     ELEGIACAL

1963

“Schatzi. C’mon. This way.”

She had been too large for Timmy to carry out of the ravine. He scooted along the edge, finding a rocky path just out of site where the Impala landed. The German shepherd followed him; she found the outcropping and jumped from rock to rock. Schatzi stopped a third of the way from the top. Sitting down, she barked until Timmy’s head crested the lip of the gorge. With Deb crabbing behind him, Timmy found another set that looked more like planned steps. He gulped and went over the side.

Deb screamed, then called out some choice words.

“I’m telling Mom.”

“You idiot, I’m going to tell Mom,” she paused. With a lowered voice: “When we find her. After. We will find her.”

She watched as Timmy guided Schatzi up the new path. They both made it up to the last ledge, but it was too much of a distance for the dog. Deb laid down, her arms dangling over the edge; Timmy boosted Schatzi up as far as he could. It was enough. He pushed, Deb lifted, and Schatzi was on solid, icy ground. Timmy climbed out, also with Deb’s assistance.

They looked at each other, brushing off the dirt and snow that covered them.

Walking back to where they originally climbed out, Deb started looking for any sign of their mother. There were some footprints that cracked through the ice cover. She smiled and pulled Timmy along.

~~~~~   ~~~~~   ~~~~~

Patricia walked, slid, fell, repeating the pattern more than she liked. They had gone further off the road than she at first thought. It could have been a lot worse. Somehow, they missed all the trees. If that huge bank of snow hadn’t settled in the ravine, well, she didn’t want to think about that. The kids were banged up but fine. Her head hurt like the dickens, and she had a pull in her left side. She wanted to stop and rest a bit, but that was not going to get the help they all needed.

The wind gusted up and then died down just as quick as she moved along. What skin showed on her face hurt, her eyes teared up, and it was a losing battle trying to protect them. Patricia plodded on, looking for salvation.

Then she heard her name. Thought she did, but…no, that was impossible. She stopped to listen, but the howl of the wind came instead. “Pat, no. It wasn’t him,” played on a painful loop in her head. Her body shuddered, pushing her to keep on. Patricia hadn’t wanted to admit to herself that they wound up in the area she never wanted to see again. Looking towards her left, she saw the horrible familiar sights. “No, no, no.”

Patricia. Sweetie.

“STOP THIS,” she screamed, breaking into a dash. The tears fell this time, soaking into the scarf just wrapped below her eyes. “Stop,” she cried out.

Looking behind her as she ran was a mistake: Patricia thought she saw something, someone, but that thought was cut short as she stumbled into a tree and knocked herself out.

If she had been awake, she would have heard the crunching of the icy ground coming closer.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Schatzi went sniffing, cutting between Timmy and Deb, running behind them, surging ahead. She’d jump into a pile of snow and then pop out, tongue lolling out as she investigated a new tree, bush, and a log. When she was told to heel she did, but it only lasted a few eye blinks, and then off she went again.

Deb’s voice was hoarse, and Timmy was getting quieter, as they called out and looked for their mom. They had come to a dead end, losing sight of her footprints at a small copse. She didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to tell Timmy that.

“I’m cold,” he whined, leaning over, looking for any prints that continued past the tree. Deb did the unmentionable: she took him in a big bear hug. He returned it in kind. She thought she’d start crying, and almost did. Schatzi stopped that before any tear fell.

She began barking like mad, intermittent with low hissing growls. Timmy went to her, but she bounded off across the icy ground and into the trees beyond where they rested.

“Schatzi, get back here, now,” Deb yelled. Timmy called as well, but when their dog didn’t stop, he broke free of his sister and started running after.

“Timmy. NO!” She kicked the tree, a little too hard, and gave chase. Her big toe began to throb; it didn’t slow her pace.

Schatzi was faster than either of them. Timmy lost sight of her as she jetted away, but he followed her barking. Deb kept Timmy in her sight, begging him to stop. Schatzi barked. Timmy ran. Deb followed.

Then the barking stopped.

“This way, Deb. She’s this way.” He was pointing off to the right. She caught up to him, and they both stopped, catching their breaths. Deb took notice of where they were. The trees are larger than when they started out. How close they all were to each other. Looking up, the canopy of branches were thick and intertwined. It filtered the sunlight, breaking it apart into hundreds of solo rays.

“We should not be here, Tim. C’mon. Schatzi will find us. C’mon.” She pulled his arm. He resisted.

“Stop it. I’m not going anywhere. Schatzi! Schatzi!”

He broke free and ran into the gathering of trees.

Deb had no choice but to follow.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Patricia groggily came awake. Her eyes fluttered, not wanting to open them. She realized she was warm, very warm. There was no howl from the wind, only some beeps, someone moving around.

“Pat, sweetie, hi. Wake up, ok? It’s ok.”

Patricia came to, her eyesight a bit fuzzy but soon cleared enough to see June standing over her. June, her neighbor, her friend. A nurse. Patricia’s face began to scrunch up, tears beginning to fall.

“Shhh, you’re ok, sweetie. You’re in the clinic. You were near frozen solid when the Sheriff brought you in. We got you just in time.” June stroked Patricia’s hair, sitting down next to her, then took Patricia’s hands in hers and rubbed them tenderly.

Patricia looked around the room. There wasn’t anyone else there besides the two of them.

“Where? Debra. Timmy. Where are they?”

“Sweetie, they should be in school. The Sheriff went to fetch them just a little while ago. The roads are bad. A tree fell and it was the dickens removing it. Took way longer than it should have.”

“No. They were with me. In the woods. They missed the bus. We skidded off the road. Fell into a ravine. In the woods. I went to find help. I…I…what time…what time is it?” Her voice rose in pitch, coming out faster. She was shaking, but not from the cold.

When she heard the time, Patricia screamed and tried to get out of the bed.

A bit more than two hours had passed since she left them. June tried to hold her frantic friend down, tried to calm her, but Patricia’s frenzy was too high. A needle pierced her skin.

“Please. Get the Sheriff. Anybody,” she drifted back against the pillows. “My babies are out there. June. Please.”

June left in a hurry. The beeping and behind her, the noise outside by the nurse’s desk, her breathing slowing, her eyes feeling heavy, Patricia whispered: “Please, God, Please.”

Patricia. Sweetie.”

“Ju…June?” She looked through half closed eyes.

June wasn’t there.

“No,” she mumbled. “You’re…” and the sedative did its job.

 

Present Day

There is more to this tale, and it will be told.

The tempest to come will soon unfold.

Patience, patience, the time will soon fall

When the rest will be given, given in all.

 

There was a car in the woods.

 

Deviate: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Three

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

 

AtoZ2019D       DEVIATE

1963

“I’m sorry, Mom. Deb’s coat and stuff were all over my things,” Timmy whined in the back of the station wagon, twelve years old but sounding like he did when he was seven. Schatzi sprawled over Timmy’s legs, panting while her head was scratched. The family’s German Shepherd was watching out the window, her head resting on Timmy’s shoulder.

Up front, fourteen-year-old Deb yelled back: “Shut up, Dweeb. It’s your fault we missed the bus and Mom has to drive us to school.”

“Debra! Enough. The two of you. The roads are treacherous enough without you two bickering.”

Deb crossed her arms and threw herself back against the seat. She hated her full name, ever since her Bobbsey Twins started stretching her sweaters. “Hey, Bra,” the boys called outgoing from class to class. Since the name game, it lessened a bit, until one teacher or the other called out her full name.

Shaking her head, Patricia kept her eyes on the road. The snow from late yesterday hadn’t been too bad, but it was wet snow and turned to ice by the time morning came. Timmy couldn’t find his boots, then his gloves, while Debra. Deb. She had to remember so there wouldn’t be any more hysterics.

Deb had been taking her time coming downstairs. After the third call, Patricia went upstairs, knocked and opened the door, and froze in the doorway as Deb was finishing putting makeup on. A bit of yelling, tears, enough “but everyone is doing it” claims, confiscation of said makeup, the siege of the makeup removal, the door slam as Patricia went back downstairs, with the worst to come: the first “I HATE YOU!”

The bus had come and gone way before either of them were ready to leave the house.

Patricia had let the Impala warm up before she started to honk the horn. Timmy came out first, Schatzi following, and the two of them jumped into the back of the wagon and settled down. Deb followed, head down, taking her time. Patricia honked the horn one more time, to little effect.

The roads were slow going as it was; Patricia eased the Impala along, making time add up as she slowed around the bend. She heard a bark from the back, then another, with Timmy trying to shush her. Deb just let out a drawn-out sigh.

Schatzi’s barking increased, ricocheting through the wagon’s cabin. Patricia eyed the rear view mirror. Schatzi was standing, muzzle pressed against the rear window. Timmy had scooted over, the attempt to calm her a losing battle.

“Shut that dog up,” yelled Deb, turning around to glare at her brother.

Just before she had a chance to say anything, a large Poplar tree came crashing down on the road, its heavy top hitting the end of the station wagon. The impact sent the Impala spinning, three full revolutions across the iced road surface. It spiraled off the road a distance away from the tree, and then slid down into a shallow ravine. With a hefty “THUNK” the front end became embedded in a huge slushy drift of snow.

The snow saved their lives.

She and Deb had hit their heads, thrown forward when the wagon met snow. Timmy yelled that he was OK. Schatzi whimpered a bit before she started barking again.

Patricia tried to start the car, but nothing happened. Inside, she was cursing, words she had heard from her father and Eddie, her late husband. She’d never said them out loud before until an explosive “Shit!” escaped from her lips. Deb smiled. Timmy’s mouth dropped open just enough. Schatzi tilted her head one way, then the other.

“You got her to stop barking, Mom,” Deb piped up.

Getting out of the vehicle and slamming the door was the only retort she felt safe in giving. Walking to the front, Patricia tried moving some of the snow out of the way with her hands. She barely made a dent. Continuing, Patricia heard two doors open and closed behind her. Deb and Timmy joined in, both on the other side. Looking back, Schatzi was still inside, barking her head off.

They were able to clear away enough snow so the hood could be opened. The front was pushed inwards, bending the radiator. Timmy had been looking under the chassis and found a growing pool of oil.

As he stood, he noticed the hands on the hips posture his mom took when she was very angry. He kept quiet but realized there was something else going on. Deb was just being Deb, so he ignored her. But mom was shaking just a teeny-tiny bit, biting her lips that were pulled inwards. This frightened him just as much as the crash did.

Looking beyond the wreck, Patricia came to a decision.

“We are not going anywhere with the Impala. The sun is warming things up enough so we won’t freeze to death. Yet.” Deb rolled her eyes to the sky. Patricia noticed.

“Deb, you and Timmy stay inside the wagon. It’ll warm up under the sun enough.” She looked at her son who was just on the point of opening his mouth. “Yes, Schatzi stays with you.” Mouth closed again. “You both have your lunches. Please share some with her, but not enough so you don’t get enough. Am I clear?”

They both nodded.

“I’m going to go back to the main road and flag anyone who is out driving. If we are lucky, Dave and his plow truck will come by, looking for  snow removal work. Timmy,” she said, “Schatzi will need to be walked. Do NOT go far from Deb and the Impala. Understood?”

He nodded, looking a tad guilty. Of course, he wanted to go exploring with his dog. She hoped he’d listen this time.

“I’ll come back in an hour if no one is on the road. If we have to, we’ll hike it into town.” With that, she zipped up to her neck, wove a woolen scarf that had been left in the car around her face, and pulled the hood of her parka over her head. A quick goodbye and a “listen to your sister” saw her climbing up the ravine, her feet and hands using exposed tree roots for a ladder.

Then it was quiet.

Schatzi had lain down in the back and Timmy joined her. She wasn’t asleep. He noticed she was very alert. Waiting. Some sub-vocal growls wafted out here and there. Timmy joined her, dog cuddling, and closed his eyes.

Deb had come back inside. It was too cold still, sun or no sun. Like her mother, she zipped, tugged, and folded herself into her winter wear. Every five minutes she’d glance at her Timex. Fifteen minutes had passed. She felt like she wanted to scream. Or cry. Or both. Timmy started to snore; Schatzi joined in. Deb smiled and closed her eyes.

The closing of the back door woke her up. Turning around, she could see Timmy through the window. Holding something high, he was laughing as Schatzi jumped up and took something from his hand. “Goofball is feeding him. Good,” she said to herself, yawning. Looking at her Timex, she jumped out of the seat and out of the wagon.

Coming around the back, Timmy lost his laugh when he saw her face. Schatzi went stiff, her tail drooping between her hind legs.

“What’s up, doc?”

“You idiot. We’ve been asleep for almost two hours. Have you seen Mom?”

He shook his head, looking around.

“Take your lunch. I’ll get mine. She should have been back already.”

For once, Timmy didn’t argue with her. He grabbed his lunch box, giving some more food to Schatzi. He’d lost his appetite.

“Come on. Let’s go find her.”

“But,” was all he got out before she started to climb out of the ravine. He followed, taking one last look at the wrecked Impala.

Present Day

Schatzi found something.

There’s more to this story.

There was a car in the woods.

Because The Night: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods; Chapter One

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

 

AtoZ2019B        BECAUSE THE NIGHT

1959

Gary slid down the ice-covered hillside, losing his footing, winding up in a windmill of freefall. The blood trail he left on the way down was nothing compared to what he had run from at the top. Bouncing along, the accumulation of cuts, bruises, and bones breaking, left little for him to think about.

Except fear.

Reaching the bottom, the wind was further knocked out of him as his progress was halted by a tree trunk. The moonlight was spotty, but bright enough for him to see the broken, jagged edges; the tree itself was on the ground. Gaining his breath in painful gulps, he realized that if he rolled more to his right, he might’ve been gored by one of its level branches.

Getting to his knees, the thought came that it was in that position exactly for that outcome.

Screams from above. Tommy? Ricky? He couldn’t tell. John was already in pieces, mixed in with what was left of his Studebaker Golden Hawk. Gary had told him he was driving too fast, but they all told him to shut it.

“Candyass,” Ricky and Tommy said at the same time, then “Jinx!” and punched each other in the arm. “Shut up, Maynard,” laughed John. It was the last thing John was ever going to say to him.

Gary tried to stand, but his body wasn’t having any of it. His pounding heart felt like it would burst through. The screams, getting less frequent and fading away, only made the night’s events explode in his head.

The four of them had been cruising around, taking hits off of the Mary Jane that Ricky scored. It was a school night, and they should have all been in bed, but John called, and that was that. It started out with them all lusting over that Tuesday chick from the Dobie Gillis TV show, as they did more often than not. John liked Dobie and felt he should have a Thalia on his arm, doing the Back Seat Bingo with her. The others teased him that he’d only get a Zelda. That’s when the nipple twisters and arm punches began.

John had started calling Gary “Maynard” first, the others following suit. Gary thought the character was the best part of the show and tried to act like a cool imitation around school. As much as he hated it, the nickname stuck.

From Tuesday Weld to school to Maynard G. Krebs, back to Tuesday Weld, the topic of conversation led to where their collective heads were at since October: the mystery car in the woods. This time, they were fired up enough. Tonight, they would find the car or die trying.

They were right on that part.

They were racing around the back roads, driving up and down dirt paths, laughing and smoking. Ricky reached from the back seat and gave John a Wet Willie. John turned around, an arm raised, and something got in their way.

The car somersaulted along a rocky outcropping, landing back on its tires. Gary had been thrown out of the passenger side window, which had been opened to lessen the weed smell. He landed flat on his back, hitting his head hard on the stony ground. Gary searched for the car, his friends, but his eyes weren’t going along with that. His focus was cutting in and out, so, laying there, he only heard what came next.

Whatever landed on the car was big. The sound was heavy, the Golden Hawk squealing as one by one the tires blew out. Gary heard a door opening, John yelling something. A flurry of wet clicking sounds melded into John’s screams, punctuated by the noise of his flesh being ripped apart.

As John’s wails passed, Gary’s eyesight was getting clearer. He wished they hadn’t. Blood, or what he thought was blood, was everywhere, black in the night instead of red. Ricky and Tommy were probably still in the car, muffled cries coming from the car, and Gary did his best to get up, hoping to help his friends.

But again a huge blob landed on the car. Metal was tearing, a car door was flung, and it barely missed. Gary was backing away, not sure what to do, not sure what was happening. A large thump near him startled him onto a patch of ice, which sent him over, and down, the hillside.

The screams on the outcropping dwindled, with one last yelp of pain. Gary knew that was Ricky this time. It was a solo scream and telling. The clicks were loud and all consuming.

The fear pushed him to move. Crunching, slurping noises now filled the night. A warm stream dribbled down his legs as he hopped from one tree to the next, dragging himself when he couldn’t. The woods were silent except for his exertions.

Pulling himself into a thicket of bushes, cutting and pricking himself more, Gary drew into himself. He was shaking all over, the cold finally reaching his awareness. He quelled his teeth chattering as best he could and attempted to take quiet, shallow breaths. Gary did not move otherwise.

The quiet was overwhelming after a short while. Waiting created anxiety; the anxiety grew until it flamed his fear back to the surface. The fear made him think he was better off trying to get out of the woods. That thinking pushed him to stand up, leave the thicket, and hobble away.

He didn’t get very far when the clicking surrounded him.

Present Day

The remains of the Studebaker Golden Hawk were found a week to the day once all four sets of parents realized their boys were missing. The Sheriff couldn’t put this one off, as much as he wanted to. Popular boys gone missing was not what he wanted to be remembered for. Especially if they were found dead.

Thing was, the car was found. Only the car.

The tires were in shreds. All the windows were just shattered glass, which was how they found the remains as the sun glinted off the pieces on the ground. The Hawk was twisted out of shape, squashed in places, gouged in others. But there was no trace of the four teens. There was no blood.

The search went on, officially, for the better part of a week. The parents and family friends continued a little while longer. Betty Joe Davis, who had wanted to be John’s anything, knew of his desire to find the mystery car. It began to make sense that that was what the boys had been gallivanting after, ending in every parent’s nightmare.

The tales kept growing.

There was a car in the woods.