Where Am I Going?

This is my entry for the WritersDomain 2017 scary story contest.

Where am I going?

The old truck rattled in its seniority, unable to keep the rain from dripping in through weathered seals. The driver was rough, shadowed far past 5 o’clock, and smelled every bit as much as he looked freshly exhumed from wormy earth.

“Hope you wasn’t walkin’ too long in all this. Saw your car back a ways so I was lookin’ out for someone.” His tone was all gravel and pavement. I said nothing.

The rain made the road slick and shiny and the headlights almost useless. The lightning was blinding every time it gave me a terrifying snapshot of the surrounding forest. The dark had a way of twisting even the most benign and beautiful things into counterfeit demons.

“Curt—” My lungs inflated with the force of the airbags this truck never had. Curt found the rest of his sentence, exasperated. “—m’name’s Curt. Curtis for long. I ain’t tryin’ to scare you, miss.” He’s definitely said that before. “Wha’s your name?” He asked, eyes on the road.

I hesitated.

Why does he want my name?

“M-my name is Beth.” I looked at him, guilt coloring my cheeks as I failed to think of any name that wasn’t mine. A moment passed.

“You cold, Beth?” I nodded. “Thought so, Beth.”

Curt turned a dial on the dashboard and the heater rattled to life. The warm smelled of gasoline and burning dust. I hadn’t realized how cold it was in the truck. Goosebumps rose with the temperature as lightning continued to strike in the darkness outside.

“S’there someone waitin’ for you north of here, Beth?” My stomach jumped at the sound of his voice and sank at the question.

“Yeah, my family in Hauser. I was planning on surprising them.”

Why did I tell you that?

“Why don’cha give ‘em a call now you’re on your way home, Beth? Family oughtta know you’s safe with me.” His eyes filled with the light of the storm as he gave me a look. A knowing look.

“I don’t have a—” Why? “—my phone—my phone with me.” My blood felt like it was pumping backward.

“Y’ain’t got a phone?” An odd smile spread on Curt’s face. “You expect you was just gonna walk to a pay phone, Beth?” His chuckle was soft as a rock polisher. “I thought all you kids had them fancy ones with the movies on ‘em, Beth.”

Curt was not a young man—a middle-aged man, at least, worn down by sun-scorched labor. The smile deepened the creases in his face and the dark of the truck poured shadow into every groove. The wet on his teeth reflected the cool green light of the dashboard. He turned his head to focus this infectious smile on me.

The truck began to slow.

Adrenaline overpowered every other sensation in my body. The truck halted on the side of the road.

Curt’s filthy, calloused right hand left the wheel. In stunned slow motion, I watched as his fingers stretched my way. My eyes frantically searched the truck for anything that could compete with Curt’s substantial arm. My search stopped as his hand found its mark.

“Sorry, Beth,” Curt grunted as the glove box fell open. He dug around for a few seconds and pulled out an old black cord attached to a phone so old that it bent at the waist. “I ain’t sure if this thing works anymore, but we can give ‘er a try.”

My blood ran warm again as Curt fiddled with the cigarette lighter. A battery symbol disappeared from the outside glass of the phone after a dim second of life.

“—to stay off the roads if at all possible. We have received half a dozen reports of fatal accidents, cars driving off the road all along the 101 in Coos County alone. The weather warning has been exte—”

The radio cut out under Curt’s lead fist. The phone lit up again in his hand. “The fuses is all a mess in there, Beth. Cigarette lighter don’t work if the radio’s goin’. Phone might take a minute there, Beth.”

My heart forgot its purpose. My body ached as the adrenaline forced its way through arteries to jump me back to life. I stared straight ahead, stunned, relieved, startled, and reassured in the span of eight seconds.

The phone’s little red battery blinked at me.

The truck lurched back into motion. “You know, Beth, I used to take my girl out to a little place near here,” Curt mused with a venomous grin. The phone blinked. Curt looked me dead in the eye. “You ok, Beth? You look sickly, Beth.” I snapped my eyes away.

Street lamps cast their light on me. Curt glanced nervously my way every few seconds with his green teeth and his red flashing eyes and darkness pouring from the cracks in his face.

I nonchalantly adjusted against the seat belt strap. It stopped with a dull thud. Good.

“I just want to get home, Curt.” I tried to sound urgent.

“I-I’m takin’ you—”

“Home. Please. Curt.”

“I promise, Beth, w-we’re goin’ home.” His face twisted into an uncomfortable smile as it flashed bright green.

I seized the wheel.

He struggled. His face was all shock and green and tears and bright then red as the lamp post forced the engine and his body into a too-small space.

Some spare coveralls from the backseat were a welcome change from the numbered jumpsuit—and easier than getting anything off of the crumpled driver.

Always crumpled.

The green battery light on the phone meant I could call home. I got the machine again.

“Hi, mom. Me again. Another one found me. I got it, though. That’s nine today if you count the nurses. Be home soon. Love you.”

I knew she wouldn’t answer. Dad stopped answering after he became one. My real family would have thanked me for saving them from him.

Walking again.

Headlights.

I’m going home.

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