"All I'm sayin', man, is that that older chicks are where it's at!" explained Erik with his palms wide open and empty, as opposed to his friend opposite of himself who was doing the heavy lifting of the convenient store groceries as they both stood alongside the small refrigerated section. Erik pushed his thick blonde medium length hair back from his model perfect face. "I remember you last year in college man, before we graduated. Who do you think you're talkin' to here, bro?"
Josh glanced up from the refridgerated door, having to glance around it now that condensation was beginning to gather from prolonged opening. He gave Erik a direct glance before speaking. "Man, she has a fucking son our age! Doesn't that kind of draw a line of sorts?"
Josh shook his head in an attempt to slide his long brown hair from his face and over his shoulders, a few remaining strands tickling his short scruff of a beard. "Not to mention, he is a friend of our friends. He is in our social circle…" Josh continued. "He isn't a bud of ours or anything… but it's his mom who he lives with down the hall from our apartment!" Josh went on with a grin at the reality of it all.
Josh's words ceased to halt Erik, who was leaning lazily with his back against the left bordering refrigerator door as Josh continued to gather water bottles into his already full arms, the basket pilled to the lip with protein bars, shakes, and beef jerky. Erik, without hesitation, reached into his pocket to pull out a pack of menthol. Retrieving one by sticking his tongue to the filter in the box and pulling it into his mouth effortlessly, he met the end of it with his other hand which held an ignited lighter.
"I don't think there gonna' let you smoke that in here, dude," Josh breaked lowly as he turned back toward the cash register noticing that the attendant was absent, and remembering that he hadn't seen anyone when he had first come in either…
Erik took a long deep drag before speaking, expelling a smooth thick haze of smoke as he minced words. "We're in the fuckin' back woods of West Virginia! They don't care about this shit…"
He took another long drag. "Look, bro," Erik spoke grinning ear to ear as Josh met him at eye level, "Back on the subject… ALL I did was give her my number. She texted me and I texted back… We're keeping it hush hush. I haven't even nailed her yet. What the hell are you worried about? Ben finding out? He's a scrawny pussy!" Erik laughed with his eyes squinted.
"Look, I'm not one to cock block you, bud," Josh spoke as he turned back toward the front of the store and grabbing a bag of family sized M&M's before walking, "All I'm sayin' is that Ben is involved in our social circle, and him and his mom live two doors down from ours. I just need to know if I should prepare for drama or not when he finds out that you're stuffing his mom nightly" Josh gave Erik a half grin.
"Hahahaha, whether you like it or not," Josh began again, "that 'scrawny pussy', Ben, has a killer DVD collection and I like to still be able to borrow shit from him when you're finished on your path of destruction" Josh laughed whilst struggling with the arms full of freeze dried foods and drinks.
Josh took a moment to glance at his longtime best friend, close since being dorm mates their freshmen year at state, both having been accepted strictly based on a football scholarship. Josh had thrived in college. Meanwhile Erik barely floated, getting into as much trouble as he knew how and not having changed much since. They had been teammates, dorm mates, and continued to room together in a loft apartment in the city to this day. As vastly different and similar as they both were, Josh couldn't have wished for a better friend or family member.
Erik, as if on cue in the trail of Josh's rare thoughts of endearment, put his cigarette out in the 'Take a penny, leave a penny', communal tray between two coins. He glanced over the counter to the dark back room where there seemed to be no light coming from as Josh clumsily dropped the items upon the counter top, allowing them to roll in eight different directions. No attendant or cashier in sight still.
"Thanks again, man, for helping me out here this fall. It would have been some real shit if I had to do this on my own," He spoke with acknowledgment to Erik who looked as if he was ready to light up yet another cigarette. "My parents asked me for this favor and he was my favorite uncle, years ago anyway, and I hate to see his place go to shit". Josh hoped their mediocre handymen skills would cover the job.
Erik gave a short over the shoulder glance while speaking, distracted by something. "Oh hell yeah man, no problem here. I've been needin' to take a vacation, or whatever this is, haha. I don't mind helping ya' fix it up, dude." He confided. "OH! And did you remember to call the county and make sure the electric is still running to the house?" Erik looked dumbfounded, but gave a shrug. "Hey, you told me to remind to you to call them, bro. Haha! You just didn't tell me WHEN to remind you."
Josh opened his mouth to give a graphic response, but before he could…
"What the fuck?" Erik let out as he noticed a small bell which was hiding behind an ancient and dusty stack of knock off brand candy bars which were obviously well past their best sell date.
DING DING DING DING
Erik rang the bell again and again; attempting to rouse a sign of life was made evident from the back of the store room. To no response, Erik smiled widely and glanced toward Josh. "I guess that means it's free today," Erik spoke while giving a dumb impression, his words laced heavily with an Appalachian accent, in an attempt to mimic the dialect of the natives of where they were traveling through.
"I FUCKING HEAR YOU!" Josh and Erik both nearly jumped as the voice, laced heavily with trail cigarette damage and blind anger, sounded from the darkened room behind the counter.
Both men nearly took a step back at the sight of what emerged…
A sunburned, wrinkled to the point of pathology, disturbed looking elderly man emerged from the back room. He appeared to have one glass eye, the real one focused on Josh, the glass orb leaning in Erik's direction. He held a slight limp when he walked. Regardless of his close approach, the letters on his worn name tag were distorted beyond recognition. The air in his aura stank heavily of cheap whiskey and non-filtered cigarettes.
"I guess y'all wanna buy this SHIT?" He asked in a gruff and near humiliating tone as he approached the cash register which looked like it could have been straight out of the fifties, pressing the buttons on the seemingly non electric machine whilst not taking his glances off of the young men before him. He seemed to eye the leather jackets worn by them both, their gelled hair, and their fresh faces. "I take it y'all boys ern't from 'round herr?" He spoke in a difficult to follow dialect.
Josh opened his mouth and took a semi breath to speak, but before he could release his short but polite words which he'd had in mind, Erik had decided to step in and incorporate his input.
With a teeth showing grin, Erik spoke condescendingly. "Something's wrong with your gas tanks outfront. I reckon at shit aint a workin'?" Erik laughed a little, unable to hide the sarcasm in his words as he attempted the accent of the clerk. Erik continued to laugh, lowering his head slightly as his snickers turned into a cackle.
Josh, embarrassed and quite uncomfortable all around due to the situation, turned his head and glanced in the opposite direction to the dusty magazine rack against the other wall a short distance away, featuring nude models on the covers of Playboy from, judging from their hair, the 70's and the early 80's. Josh cocked an eyebrow as he rose from his perch against the counter, curious to see a vintage skin mag… And that's when he heard it.
After the sound of a loud click, Josh, in his peripheral vision, saw both of Erik's hands go straight up in the air on either side of his head. Josh, slowly turning around, witnessed the source of the loud clicking noise as his heart sinking into his stomach at the sight.
The old cashier held a loaded and cocked riffle, the end of it pressed firmly up against Erik's nose.
Taking a step back, Erik pushed his thick blonde hair from his shaking face. "Holy shit man, I was just kidding. Seriously, what the fuck?" He clumsily spoke, his voice a bit fallen. Erik's muscular chest heaved up and down with shallow, but compressed, breath. His heart could be seen pounding through his shirt. He took another step back Josh stepped in.
"Here, just take it. Keep the change," Josh explained as he glanced briefly up at the glass eyed, worn cloth of a man, and wrapped one arm around his purchased items on the counter, and sliding them into the hand basket. "I'll leave this by the door when we leave," Josh explained, referring to the basket.
He quickly grabbed Erik's arm, his eyes wide and unblinking, focused on the door ahead, the sun already filling the sky outside with an orange sunset. Pushing through the doors, to the truck, dumping the items inside, and tossing the ancient metal basket back toward the ice box which to the front of the store; Josh made a quick sprint back to the passenger side of Erik's huge black Toyota truck, where Erik was already starting the engine with a shaking hand.
Within seconds they were back on the one lane roads which lead uphill over a meadow area, heading steadily toward a thick wooded area in the distance which elevated even higher. In spite of the cold autumn air which had invaded the truck, neither could move yet to adjust the temperature.
Josh, after a few moments, was the first to speak as Erik kept his gaze on the road before him with firm, white knuckled hands on the black leather steering wheel. "I warned you Erik," Josh breathed out as he glanced out the passenger door window and witnessed his own reflection in the side view mirror of himself. "I warned you not to fuck with these people. You're not from here. These people can get crazy, they don't think straight, and they take everything personally," Josh went on.
He eyed his own features in the side view mirror before him as the sun cast light through the meadow which they were driving through. His angular handsome face, paler than usual, outlined by his long, straight, brown hair and his thick, but clipped short, facial hair which covered his jaw and chin. He slid his leather jacket off of himself and let it fall behind his back slightly, pinned against the seat. His thick muscular arms showing through his flannel, short sleeve, button down shirt.
"What the fuck was that guy's deal?" asked Erik, hands shaking, as he left one grip on the steering wheel as he reached into his jacket pocket for another cigarette to calm his tremors. "All I did was make a crack at the weird way the dude talks," He spoke, refusing to take any shred of responsibility for it. Yet, not much excuses a gun to the face.
Josh turned and glanced at Erik quickly. "Man I lived here for the first thirteen years of my life, before my parents moved out. And fuckin' hallelujah they did." Josh continued to explain. "These people… it's like Mars here. As backwards as you can be," Josh shook his head, "And no one worries about the law because everyone is the sheriff's cousin," he laughed non jokingly, mostly to himself, shaking his head again.
Erik lit up another smoke, cracking the window a few inches. The thick smells of aged and harvested corn filled the car under the wave of tobacco smoke, giving Josh the mental image of a bonfire somewhere.
"Sure is a good thing you got ME out of there," Erik seemed to calm down a bit. "I would have totally laid his ass out!" Erik laughed while taking his eyes off the road momentarily. Josh looked at him with a stern visage. Suddenly…
Erik jumped, dropping his cigarette between his legs and into the leather seat as the glowing ember on the end of the cigarette scorched a hole in the fabric. One more final loud 'honk' sounded from the car engine behind them as it nearly tail gated the truck bed.
In a moment of paranoia, Josh, worrying it was the gas attendant with the gun from earlier, undid his seat belt and sat up, turning his body fully around to get a glance.
Erik, thinking the same thoughts as Josh, asked, "Is it him?!" He asked concerned momentarily, seeing a glimpse of the car in his left side mirror and realizing it was more than likely not him, due to the make and model type of the Chevy behind them.
Erik let out a sigh of relief, moving to the right of the road assuming they were just trying to pass… yet they did not. "Fuckin' hill billy red neck fuckin' shit!" Erik howled through gritted teeth, tired and annoyed, as he slowly let on the break, bringing his truck to a complete stop. "Did you get a look at the guy?" he asked.
Josh hadn't been able to get a decent glance at anyone by looking out the back of the truck due to the fact that they were hauling so many construction items and necessities to last them for the next three months. He fixed his position in the seat as Erik turned the engine of the truck off slowly.
Just as the sun was sitting, a ray of light penetrated the tints of the windows of the Chevy and a figure was apparent to Josh. "Oh, never mind," Josh rolled his eyes and turned back around, "it's just some chick," Josh dismissed.
Erik's gaze perked up as he bent forward, looking in his left side view mirror in an attempt to get a glimpse. "Shit, really?" Erik spoke. "What, what does she look like?"
Josh looked at Erik bewildered as his friend asked him questions in an excited tone, having just recovered from nearly having his head blown off.
"What the hell's the matter with you," Josh laughed loudly. "One swing to the next with you," Josh finished with a close, sitting up and opening his passenger door. Erik took a quick look at himself in the rear view mirror for no longer than a second and opened his own door.
As both men met around to the back of the truck they glanced at the small blue Chevy parked directly behind them. Slowly, the driver door opened, and up stood an emerging bottle blonde haired, blue eyed, sexy woman, probably just a few years older than both of Erik and Josh. She wore a pink tank top and tight blue jean shorts. Slowly as if on the prowl, she approached them both, her smile becoming more evident. She glanced them both up and down without saying a word…
Placing a hand on her right hip she finally spoke. "Sorry to honk y'all boys down," she let out in a husky tone. "But pieces of your all's stuff was fallin' off the back of your truck," she pointed up at the mass heap of belongings, luggage, bags and equipment which had been messily piled into the back of the truck. It probably broke more than a few state safety regulations. "ONE of your metal things, couldn't tell ya what it was, hit my wind shield," she explained with a more serious expression.
Erik gave her a wide smile in return, stepping in close, as Josh remained content with his back leaning up against the closed bed door of the truck and eyed it from front to top, seeing no damage.
"Well, talk about happy disasters," Erik let out flirtatiously as he held out a hand to take hers in a weak shake. "Name's Erik. Nice to meet you," He gave her a full smile as she happily sat her hand in his palm.
"My name's Tess, nice to meet you both," she breathed, while looking past Erik now to Josh, against the back of the truck still. "And who's Jared Leto back there," she pondered allowed to Erik about Josh, her eyes struck to him now, now giving him a the check out and obviously liking what she was seeing.
"Hahahaha," Erik laughed loudly. "OH MAN! She called you Jared Leto," laughed Erik again. It had become somewhat of an inside joke between the both of them. The many women which they encountered together had more than once referred him to the singer's name. "That's Josh, my best buddy". Erik reached for another smoke as Tess walked past him.
Josh, exhausted and doing his best to be cordial, barely able to tolerate making new friends in his short mood he was currently in, extended his hand and gave her a firm hand shake.
Suddenly, almost causing Josh to lean back, Tess reached up and brushed by a piece of his hair which was hanging near his face, tracing the length of it all the way down to his broad chest.
"Wow, nice hair… I always thought long hair was sexy on a guy," Tess grinned in her words as Erik stood in the background, making various vulgar motions with his hands while her back was turned to him, Josh doing the best he could to prevent from laughing allowed.
Josh couldn't help but noticed her partially exposed and firm ample breasts in front of him, sun kissed and covered in a very thin layer of smooth sweat. She certainly didn't seem to mind him looking at her, from Josh's perspective.
"BOOO! Haha," Erik laughed as he jumped over and put an arm around both Tell and Josh, his gaze resting on her figure. "I have an AWESOME idea…" Erik began. Josh glanced upward and onward, off into the distance, preparing for what it might be. "You like beer and barbeque, Tess?" continued Erik. "You know our destination is only another ten miles from here…" he began his suggestions.
"DAMMIT!" Shouted Josh, as he slid box after box of belongings out of the truck by himself. Erik had already made his way into the house, giving a tour of a house he had never been in before to a woman they had just met on the road a few miles down.
Josh contemplated demanding Erik's help. Ironically enough, they both worked out together constantly and were made of solid muscle, but to ask Erik to help him move furniture was dead end question in his opinion.
The sun was already beginning to fully set, the sky getting darker. And now they were in a far more wooded area than before, his truck parked before his deceased uncle's… now his… house.
Josh finally took a moment to take it all in, seeing Erik and Tess in the far right corner of the house turning lights on here and there. Spanish moss and vines had nearly taken the thing over. The style of the house greatly resembled old Victorian, but Josh was for certain that it wasn't that old. Multiple trees grew around the property, a large wrap around porch still strongly intact it seemed as he made his way forward. A few broken windows here and there, cracks in the lower brick portions of the house, the lower hinge of the door obviously loose.
Slowly Josh made his way inward as he began to hear music playing, seemingly from someone's phone, either Erik's or Tess's, somewhere in the house on the first floor. Immediately after stepping in, Josh looked up the huge staircase to the left of the main hallway, which stretched straight back to the back of the house where a back door could be scene. To the left, was a large sitting room, filled with paintings of family members and photographs which couldn't be well made out in the dark.
Taking a few steps to the right, there was the dining room, where a grand dark wood table made for ten, covered in cob webs and possibly unused for decades, rested in its home. One thing Josh noticed, almost immediately, everything in the house was red. The mahogany wood the furniture was made from, the dark cherry wood floorboards, the dark scarlet of the wallpaper.
Finally, making his way back past the dining room, using the main middle hallway as a means, he looked through another doorway on the right, showing a rather open kitchen area, furnished with tools. Another door on the left side of the hallway, making another entrance into the large sitting room he had seen before. Finally, at the end of the hallway, his sight beheld a grand living room. On the far right wall was an enormous fire place, nearly high to fit a shorter human being standing up in. A bear skin run, its head still grimly attached, was laid out before the opening of the unused fire place, blackened ashes still remaining inside of it.
In the middle of the far wall, the backdoor exit showed Tess and Erik standing and chatting in the back yard. It was on a slight slope, a reminder that the house was at the top of a hill. The sunset could be seen in the distance, casting yellow, orange, and red along the autumn leaves of the trees in the hills and the valley's in the far distance, not a sign of civilization in sight. Josh thought it was quiet strange that there were no windows for the back of the house to let the sunset in. Even the back door was solid.
Dark… If Josh could think of one word for this home it was dark. Dark…
Sitting down in one of the dusty chairs in the main living room, he blinked a few times, pondering the bear rug on the floor with a slight grin, listening to the laughing of Erik in the backyard, his deep brooding voice echoing through the house. Josh had removed his button down shirt and wore only a sweat soaked, white, tank top and black jeans.
Suddenly the light decreased in the living room. It seemed to slowly and coldly grow darker in all corners of the room at once. Josh stood up quickly, the only light on was the electric lamp attached to the wall in the long red wall papered hallway. He began walking back toward it as it flickered, the smell of wet leaves and forest filling his nose as he moved to shut the front door.
He leaned inward toward the dining room, feeling for a light switch anywhere, flicking it upward to no avail. He turned left, at the base of the staircase, making his way to the sitting area which he had seen before when first arriving at the house. Even though he could scarcely make out windows in the distance which exposed the small yard to the left of the house, there was no light.
He flicked a switch, after finally finding it.
He flicked it off and then turned it back upward again. This time, with the reek of burned plastic in the air, the overhead chandelier finally hazed on, shining a pale orange at its best with its worn bulbs. Dark crimson wallpaper, with a repetitive black print lined all four walls. In the far end of the room he could see a piano, random chairs scattered about, and the other entrance which exited to the end of the main hall near the large living room.
Finally, having brought some light to the downstairs for Erik and Tess to at least find their way back inside, Josh went back to the front door to the few boxes which he had brought inside. He pulled an oil lamp out of the large box with 'Supplies' scribbled on the side of it before sliding the glass off the top.
"ERIK" Josh howled down the main hall to the blackened dark back door. "Bring your lighter to me." He shouted directly, no longer hearing the two talking in the back any longer.
Josh raised a curious eye brow, debating on whether or not to check on them. Instead he dug through to the bottom of the box, finally finding the matches, and lighting the lamp and reseating the glass back on top before making his way upstairs…
Josh began to fall asleep almost instantly in the old bed which he lay in. He had been driving since before sunrise that day and didn't care how old or filthy the sheets may have been. There were more than a couple of rooms with beds and he grabbed the first one he saw, slowly letting the oil lamp fade out on its own.
He lay sprawled out between the thin white sheets, nude, arms outstretched. His hair was a tangled mess around his head, flat against the mattress like tree roots sprouting off. His breathing slowed, and his eyes began to heavy further and further…
Josh lifted his head fast, but ever so slightly, at the sound of a soft hum. A soft hum which was coming from inside his bedroom… Near him, the hum echoed. The light of the oil lamp barely glowing, Josh squinted his gaze into the darkness, barely able to make out the closet door to the left and the small fire place in the center of the opposite wall. He saw his bedroom door was closed on the right.
Just when Josh laid his head back down, he felt it. A small touch against his shin, distinctly the touch of a fingertip.
Jolting up fully awake, nervously, he ripped the sheets off of his sweating, nervous body, exposing nothing but his own legs and the sheets. He shut his eyes and reached down and rubbed the spot which he had felt touched, knowing well that sleep deprivation will cause funny little things such as this.
He slowly laid back again into his previous position, letting his mind slowly relax again. He shifted his weight on the bed and stretched his limbs out farther this time, wondering why he wasn't feeling the end of the bed under his feet, with his legs hanging over. He was rather tall.
Josh jerked violently again, ripping the sheets off. He felt it again. The touch. It had lingered longer this time. He gritted his teeth, pissed at himself. Angry for his inability to sleep, he reached over and turned the light up slightly on the oil lamp. He laid back finally, gulping the nervous lump in his throat, the sheets only covering his lower legs.
Just when Josh had made the mental decision to get up and grab a bottle of water…… it happened.
The loud noise echoed as a hand from seemingly out of nowhere, from under the sheets reached up and grabbed onto Josh's leg. Then a second hand…
In horror Josh motioned to sit up, but his efforts were met by two hands from under the bed, between the head board and the mattress, reaching up and wrapping under his armpits and clasping onto his shoulders. He lifted his hands to attempt to slide out but they were behind held by something behind his head…
'Another pair of hands?' He thought in fright. Nervously, he jerked and twisted his body, howling and yelling in sheer terror.
As his heart was reaching its peak, his veins throbbing with panic, a woman suddenly appeared from under the covers. She slid upward between Josh's thighs and sat weightlessly upon his midsection.
The sight of her made him fill with solace. Relaxation sighed through him as his expression softened and his heart beat slowed. Her long ebony dark hair tangled around her firm fleshy form. Her breasts, perfect and round, better than ANYTHING he could have ever dreamed up, above a slender smooth waist and a perky bottom which felt soft and velvety against his now calmed flesh.
Slowly, the restraints released him, and he swung her around onto her back, positioned strongly between her thighs, her hands against his muscular chest, her face eager. As he dove down for her, he suddenly landed flat on the hard floor boards.
Glancing around in shock, his vision slowly returning from his dream, he saw no woman… No mysterious hands from the shadows… No one.
He blinked slowly, standing nude to the left of the bed, laughing to himself as he ran his fingers through his long hair and pushed it back from his sweat soaked face and chest.
"Damn…" Josh whispered to himself. "DAMN!" he let out again with a grin at the memory of the woman in his dreams, hoping he was certainly going to have THAT dream again. The vividness and the surreal life of the dream left him light headed, still questioning whether it was a dream or not as he slid on his boxers and exited for the hallway toward the upstairs bathroom.
Three steps into the hallway… and Josh heard it…
Clink… clink… clink clink… CLANG!
Metal clanging, and suddenly a violent smash followed by loud banging noises sounded in the room next to his. All this, Josh was beginning to think he was having a nervous breakdown.
Josh glanced up at the door, realizing he had been a driving himself crazy since they arrived, slowly becoming more and more unhinged with every strange noise.
'However,' he thought, 'if dreams like the one I just had is the end result, I'll GLADLY take insanity', he laughed to himself.
The banging became more violent as the seconds passed.
Josh, firmly, stepped forward, grabbing the door knob, and turning the handle without further hesitation… only to be frozen in his tracks at the sight before him…