Tumbleweed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Night's ominous cloak of gloomy darkness hides deadly secrets in the vast barrens of the desolate desert....

Submitted: September 05, 2018

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Submitted: September 05, 2018

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There’s an unspeakable terror lurking amid the rocky-red windblown alkaline dust shrouding the isolated desert outpost of Tumbleweed.  Sybil Weaver, a sexy Hollywood starlet, a box office icon torn from glamour into a violently afflicted state of personal disaster labors in the consuming anguish of her broiling internal turmoil.  Alone and on the run, she desperately hopes the Satanic biker gang doesn’t track her down to where she’s hiding in the sleazy roach-infested rat-hole motel.  In her bedraggled mind, the terrorizing moments of that fateful evening play over and over like a looped video.  

She didn’t mean to accidentally witness what those vile heathens were doing to that helpless victim under the crumbling ruins of the decaying viaduct on that dreadfully dark moonless night in the sprawling desert wilderness.  It was late.  She had been to a party at the resort with Sebastian van Rooden, director of her latest blockbuster action thriller, based on the novel of her own authorship.  

Her head was swimming with strong drink.  Margaritas, Piña coladas, daiquiris - what a party it had been!  The famous action film director took Sybil for a ride in his expensive Mercedes convertible.  The cool desert night air breezing through her hair felt so exhilarating.  He pulled off on an unpaved side-road that led out into the hidden gulches and low hills of the vast sandy barrens of the desolate rocky badlands.  It was an ill-omened night in the limitless arid expanse.  Stopping the car, he stepped out and walked a few paces away to answer a call of nature.  She heard a cry.  She looked his way, but in the deep gloom could see nothing.  

Suspicious, thinking him playing a prank, she got behind the wheel of the car.  She’d show him a joke.  What would he think if she left him stranded out here in the middle of nowhere at night?  

The sandy road was too narrow to turn the car around, so she drove forward searching.  Her head buzzing in the nocturnal vacuum with only the filmy glow of the car’s headlights, Sybil didn’t notice the motorcycle tire tracks that threaded like foreboding grooves along the dusty trail; however, her ever-alert woman’s intuition had been alarmed.  An enigmatic sinking sensation in the pit of Sybil’s queasy stomach told her something wasn’t right.  She had to drive a mile farther into the dangerous off-road terrain before reaching a suitable widening of the goat-path that would permit her to negotiate a three-point turn.  

Wheeling the car to left, she applied her foot to the brake pedal.  A glint of something odd had caught her wandering attention.  Squinting her eyes to focus, a barrel-size tangled wad of tumbleweed shambled grimly from the shadows across the bluish-white funnel of the headlights, then disappeared again into the brooding darkness of the eerie desert night.  As her mildly intoxicated gaze zeroed-in on the commotion that had attracted her attention, she saw something under the immense looming arch of the old viaduct.  For an instant, her reeling brain couldn’t make sense of what her peering eyes beheld in the twin-beams of the car’s headlights.  Like a domino effect, the full brunt of the lurid horror began to dawn on Sybil.  She recoiled in nauseating shock.  A biker gang with red Satanic symbolism stamped on their black leather vests clustered obscenely around a bone-white object.  Sybil couldn’t tell if it was animal or human, but the mean outlaws were brutally assaulting what they held in their aggressive clutches.  The horrid sight of the gory depravity was appalling.  The vulnerably compromised clump of squirming flesh jerked and twisted pitifully, writhing wildly against the greasy grips that held it down on a stone altar.  A sinister hooded figure ritualistically wielded an enormous dagger over the struggling victim’s exposed flesh.  

Hit with the sudden bright headlights of the idling car, the perverse molesters paused in the heinous act to gawk with leering expressions that quickly morphed from peeved to angry vengeful hatred.  Sybil screamed as half the gang of obscene leather-clad predators began marching straight toward her.  Shifting the car into reverse, she spun dust with the back tires teetering on the verge of getting stuck in the deep sand.  Slamming the gearshift into drive, she floored the accelerator.  The car was sluggish in its response.  The tires were sinking into the soft sucking sand.  The snarling bikers were almost within arm’s reach of the passenger door when the car lurched forward sending a rooster-tail of roiling desert smoke into the ugly faces of her vicious attackers.  

Zooming along the bumpy off-road trail, Sybil nearly ran over her director who was staggering in the darkness in the middle of the sandy track.  She hit the brakes just in time to avoid crushing him under the smoking car.

“Get in, Sebastian!” she shrieked, “For God’s sake, hurry, get in!  We’ve got to get out of here, fast!”

The drunken film director had barely plopped himself into the passenger seat when Sybil stepped on the gas.  He hadn’t time to close the open door which, under the sudden powerful forward thrust, slammed violently shut nearly chopping off his pudgy fumbling fingers.

“Christ almighty, Sybil, what the hell’s the matter with you?”

Ignoring his slurred imprecations, she sped along the gravel-strewn sandy trail back toward the highway, where, gunning the engine and squealing tires onto asphalt, she raced the sporty convertible all the way back to the safety of the Lone Cactus vacation resort.

Shaking uncontrollably and beside herself with nervous agitation, Sebastian sent Sybil to her bungalow assuring her that he would report the matter to the little police station in the neighboring small town of Tumbleweed.

Though she had extreme difficulty getting to sleep, when Sybil finally did drift into unconsciousness shortly before dawn, she slept like the dead.  The day had advanced far over into the afternoon before she woke from her alcohol-aided grog.  Without even a shower or bite to eat, she hurriedly wrapped herself in a brightly colored caftan, slipped her feet into rhinestone sandals, and trotted briskly to her director’s private cabana.  

A sharp intake of breath hissed through her clenched teeth when she saw the door slightly ajar.  With mounting fear, she cautiously pushed the door open and called faintly into the shadowy interior, “Sebastian?  Are you in here?”

Sybil dared not cross the threshold as she peered into the gloom.  Her eyes slowly adjusted to the low light.  She saw her director lying on his back in a gruesome pool of repulsive blood.  A huge butcher knife impaled his chest.  It had been stabbed through a sheet of paper upon which a grim message was scrawled in large letters, “You’re next”.

Shrieking in horror, Sybil turned and ran away in maddening panic.  She had no recollection of where it was that she ran to.  Her next memory was of waking to find herself in the confines of a strait jacket in a padded cell, but that was over now.  She had been set free, or had she?  Cosmetic surgery to alter her appearance beyond recognition, hiding like a frightened rodent in a two-bit desert motel, popping pills to keep from collapsing under the brutal tragedy of another nervous breakdown - what sort of freedom did Sybil really have?  She was cursed, yet even so, the desperate yearning in her blood cried out for the thin thread of life.  She was hoping against hope that she’d see on the evening news a report that the authorities had caught up with and arrested the notorious Satanic biker gang.  The hoped-for salvation hadn’t thus far happened, so she must remain on guard, 24/7.  It was insanity - chaotic nightmare insanity; too much stress.  She didn’t know how much longer she could endure the unbearable strain.

Surely, the chief executive officer of the Hollywood film studio didn’t get her released from the sanitarium just so she could die a medieval death as the ill-fated victim of human blood sacrifice at the filthy hands of a murderous biker gang in the unseen wastes of the high desert?  Low talking muffled its way through the paper-thin wall of the dive motel.  Someone in the next room was listening to the radio - Moon Martin singing Bootleg Woman.  

Suddenly, Sybil felt a flashback coming on.  Dwelling on the horrid events of that evilly-shadowed night often triggered other ghastly recall.  This time it was a flashback from her demented tortured childhood.  With nervous haste, she desperately tore open her purse.  Where were they?  Where were her damned nerve pills!  Groping frantically in the hidden bowels of her purse, Sybil’s badly quivering hand fumbled against the dingy yellow prescription bottle.  Clasping it tightly, she yanked it out and held it close to her face to examine its contents.  There were at least a dozen caplets remaining.  Breathing a sigh of relief, she snatched the lid off, tossed one of the chalky pellets into her mouth, and quaffed it down with a gulp from a plastic bottle of mineral water.  She lay back on the stiff mattress of the cheap motel room bed and waited for the narcotic to take effect.  

Like a mist before her mind’s eye, the haunting memory fought against the sedative to re-enact itself for the umpteenth time.  Closing her eyes in effort to aid the medication speeding through her veins, Sybil Weaver braced herself for the flashback emerging from the phantom psychological fog.

In the grievous vision that ensued, she saw the solid door of the padded cell being unlocked by a hulking orderly who followed the psychiatrist - Dr. Mortimer Banes, chief mental illness specialist at the Gallows Hill hospital for the criminally insane - into the small off-white chamber.  The psychiatric professional stood before the sallow-faced figure slumped in the back corner.  The mental patient was a woman of middle years with spastic disheveled flame-red hair that was beginning to fade into the first hints of aging silver.  The rubber cot bolted to the wall had not been slept in.  Seating himself on the sparse bed, Dr. Banes spoke in a soothing tone laced with sadism and treachery, “Good morning, Sybil.  Do you remember me?  I’m Dr. Banes.  I’m the mental health physician in charge of your case.  It’s really an honor for me to have the responsibility of treating such a globally popular celebrity, so beautiful and alluring, as yourself.”  The snide medical man licked his thin lips lustfully.

The supple chapped lips of the voluptuous woman remained silent.  Slouched with her back propped in the corner, Sybil sat perfectly still on the spongy floor.  The strait jacket in which she was tightly bound deprived her of the freedom to move her arms.  Her pale bare feet protruded gangly from pea-green pajama pants.  She stared blankly into empty space - her dull gray eyes utterly vacant of thought or emotion.

“I think it’s time we loosened your tongue with a dose of truth serum,” the taunting Dr. Banes snorted.  Without taking his eyes off the helpless patient, he spoke to the orderly, “Tell nurse Thorndike to bring the injection of sodium pentothal.”  In strict obedience, the muscular orderly turned and walked out of the padded cell, leaving the doctor alone with his powerless patient.  

Dr. Banes moved over to the woman’s wan limp body.  He stooped down and gripped her sensual jaw in his bony ascetically cleansed hand, the immaculately manicured fingers massaging her impuissant cheeks, “You’re going to talk to me, Sybil.  You’re going to tell me everything.  Later, who knows what may happen?  If you’re a really good girl, I can easily arrange for the two of us to be left alone.  For a nominal fee, security will look the other way.  It will be just you and me, late into the night, for as long as I desire.”

The sound of Nurse Thorndike’s soft tread shuffling along the corridor reached the lecherous psychiatrist’s keenly alert ears.  He moved away from Sybil and had just enough time to seat himself placidly back on the empty cot before the RN entered with the ordered injection.  Wasting no time, she shoved Sybil’s droopy body over on one side, jerked her pajama pants down to expose the right buttock, stabbed the needle into the naked white flesh, and jammed the plunger home.  Rubbing the nearly invisible puncture wound with an alcohol-soaked wad of cotton, the nurse stood and looked at the tyrannical physician, who, with his steely blue eyes never wavering from the defenseless patient, spoke with commanding force in his deep voice, “That will be all, Nurse Thorndike.  Thank you.”

The RN disappeared back down the corridor whence she came.

“Now, my darling Sybil, admit to me the truth.  You know that the reason you’re in here is because you wrote that dangerously explicit book.  Admit it, Sybil.  Confess to me how rashly you behaved in publicly exposing such illicit secrets of the Forbidden Occult.  Those money-grubbing peons at the studio even made you the gaudy star of the film based on your unpardonable disclosures.  Why did you do it, Sybil?  Why did you compromise yourself so hazardously?  What did you hope to gain?  Was it revenge?  Do you imagine yourself a revolutionary?  Do you want to be remembered as a martyr?  With modern mass dissemination of information, it may be too late for me wipe you from the pages of history, but I can snuff out your life, Sybil; and I’ll hurt you before I send you into eternal darkness.  I’ll hurt you deep inside where it really counts, so you better talk.  If you have any sense of self-preservation at all, you’ll be wise to make your guilty confession to me, and when you speak, you damn well better tell me exactly what I want to hear.”

The vicious psychiatric medical man leaned back against the padded wall of the cell and crossed one leg over the other, confident that he was now going to witness his vulnerable patient wag her tongue, in spite of her determined reticence.  The drug coursing through her squirming veins would force volubility.

Slowly, as with a great struggle against a powerful psychological enemy, the tearful desperate patient’s chin began to tremble.  The chapped lips parted and the pasty dry mouth began to clumsily articulate human speech in the English language, “It was the babysitter.  Mama never should have left me alone with the babysitter - not that babysitter.  My life, my young impressionable mind was laid bare to the malicious attack of a cruel devil.”

With a nonchalant grin of lascivious victory on his neatly shaved Neanderthal features, Dr. Mortimer Banes prompted the blubbering patient, “Why did you write the book, Sybil?  What was your hidden agenda?  What underground breakaway faction are you working with?  Tell me your inspiration for wanton violation of established secret society protocol?  You non-conformist little wench!  Talk!”

“No hidden agenda, command from the babysitter witch.  She initiated me into the Craft. The inspiration for my book Bloodstone and Broomcorn: Curse of the W.I.T.C.H. came from the babysitter in whose care I was placed the summer before I started first grade.  She spelled her name backwards.  Thus written it was Ah Satan.  When reading her name in a mirror it spelled Natasha.

As the morbid scenes from her afflicted past crept through her anxiety-ridden brain, Sybil was haunted at a deeply subconscious level about being alone in the remote desolation of the high desert.  She knew no one at the lonely badlands outpost and no one knew her now that her face had been rearranged.

The Tumbleweed motel out on the old mine road was the only place offering lodging for a hundred miles in any direction.  The Lost Butte diner at the dusty time-worn truck-stop across the street was the only outlet for gas, diesel, or eats.  The sleazy motel night clerk had given her the key to room 13.  The accommodation was repugnant.  The dreary room reeked of ash-trays and stale booze.  Sybil Weaver was literally all alone in the middle of nowhere.  

After drugging herself with the nerve pill, she thought, while waiting for the prescription sedative to relax her, that she had better rise early and head east.  She had to keep moving, because the longer she remained in one location, the greater the chances that the Satanic biker gang would track her down.  Little did she know that the diabolical biker gang was the least of her worries at the moment.

The rustic isolated community of Tumbleweed had a dark shadow looming over it.  There was a serial killer on the loose.  In news bulletins, the FBI had been advising people not to glamorize serial murder by gossiping about it.  In addition, federal agents were warning citizens to keep their doors locked and not open to anyone they don’t know.

The press had dubbed the rampaging homicidal maniac the ‘Sand Man’, because post-mortem tox-screens revealed high concentrations of Diphenhydramine (the primary ingredient in sleep aids) in his victims’ blood.  Predominantly targeting females between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six, the Sand Man first struck six months ago at an outlying RV park.  Since that first brutal murder, the unidentified killer has slain thirteen people.

Sybil had not heard of the thefts that had taken place at the abandoned drive-in theater.  She was utterly unaware of recent numerous reports of strange lights in the night sky.  She knew nothing of the disk-shaped object a sheep rancher had witnessed hovering over his barn, nor had she heard the tragic news about the family of four that had disappeared without a trace from the parking lot of the very motel in which she lodged for the night.  

Sluggishly drifting into the dense fog of drug-induced limbo, Sybil didn’t see the shadow on the curtains - the dark lurking figure with a large oblate cranium.  The ominous shape stood there, watching.  Sybil was oblivious to the purple vapor billowing through the crack under the door into her musty cheap motel room.  The insidious vapor swirled and puffed filling the stuffy air with a ghostly presence.  Sybil coughed a little, then coughed again.  It wasn’t until she began choking that she realized something was drastically wrong.  

Placing her hand over her mouth, she jumped up off the bed and ran into the bathroom.  She slammed the door shut and locked it.  She turned on the exhaust fan and gasped for air.  The narcotic dissolving in her stomach was making her very drowsy.  She heard a thumping sound.  Someone or some thing had entered room 13.  In wide-eyed horror, Sybil stared at the bathroom door handle as it twisted ever so slightly back and forth.  Something on the other side was attempting to gain entrance.  

There was a moment of eerie nerve-twisting silence.  For upwards of five whole minutes not a single solitary sound issued from the other side of the motionless bathroom door.  Sybil prayed desperately that the unknown stalking menace had gone, but a sudden heavy thump against the door crushed the clinging spirit of her last awful hope.  The thumping increased in violence until it became pounding.  Coughing in vaporous fumes and gagging in panic-stricken fright, she watched as the door vibrated nearly off its hinges from the incessant powerful assault.  She knew it would not hold out long against such brutal punishment.

Like a trapped animal, she looked to the window for escape, but it was far too small to climb through.  The whole door - knob, hinges, clothes hanger attachment and all - vibrated and shook under the increasing force that was being applied in a siege to break it in.  Slowly, Sybil quietly crept into the bathtub, then crouched down, her whole body shaking in uncontrollable fear.  Closing her eyes against the thunderous racket of the hideous attack, she placed her hands over her ears and huddled into a sobbing weeping trembling knot of blind terror.

The next morning, when the maid entered to clean room 13, Sybil’s personal effects were all that remained.  However, the motel maid did find something odd in the bathroom, and that was a blood-spattered speaker of the type that people remove from the short post to hang on the partially rolled down window of their car door while watching a movie at the drive-in theater.


© Copyright 2018 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.