Driven To It

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
One rainy evening, Melvin starts up his Ford and sets off on the road out of town. A trip that will eventually drive him further into darkness than he could ever have imagined.

Submitted: February 20, 2016

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Submitted: February 20, 2016

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1.

 

Well that was that. It had been coming for a while and something needed to be done about it. The message wasn’t getting through and, as they say, actions speak louder than words. Melvin swiped the keys from the crystal bowl that stood on the small table in the hall and at the same time managed to grab the waterproof  jacket that hung on the bottom of the bannister. The jacket that his wonderful wife Carol had given him as a present for his last birthday. Some gift. Well it would serve him well tonight he thought.

As the rain beat down outside he hurried through the front door and out into the ramshackle porch that he had been meaning to do up for a while now. Jeez did she not go on about that damned porch. The way the blue wood split and flaked and cracked had a certain archaic charm to Melvin. A romance born from memories of sunny days and gin and late night embraces under fleeced blankets. But not to her.  To her the porch was an eyesore, a tattered, broken shell weathered and worn and uncared for. It was an embarrassment. Compared to the neat, pristine vanillas and magnolias of the neighbourhood canvas it was a blot on an otherwise pristine landscape of inoffensive hues and wanton neutrality. An entourage of whites and off whites and whites with a dash of beige lined the streets of Sweetpenny Avenue. The facades of each dwelling reflected a community governed by regulation and normality. By blue collar nine to fivers that liked nothing more than to arrive home into the arms of their wives and children, To place their briefcases in the same corner of the hall each evening, to settle into their favourite armchair with a glass of their favourite scotch and to switch on their favourite television show. Facades that portrayed a certain uniform regularity. They did not offend the eye, nor draw attention to what were otherwise normal homesteads in a normal street.  Facades.

Well fuck the porch.

 

 

2.

 

Melvin hunched his shoulders and dashed the short distance from the porch to his truck. He heard the net door swing to behind him and snap shut on its latch. Whether it would remain closed was irrelevant. As the rain lashed at his arms and cheeks with its own personal fury he struggled with the bunch of keys, shuffling from one to the other until he found the correct key that would allow him into the sanctity of his Ford F150. He slammed the door closed and for a split second delighted in the clean muffled clunk that the door made as it settled into its place. Melvin tossed the waterproof onto the seat next to him and watch as it rested on the myriad of papers and invoices and catalogues that were so essential to his job. He smiled as the water from the coat slowly ebbed onto the documents, at first creeping around the edges before slowly soaking through to the middle. Blue ink started to eke across the pages as it cautiously explored and ventured into new territories, leaving in its wake an illegible trail of rorschachian designs.

His gaze returned to the front windscreen. Opaque with rainwater Melvin took a moment to listen. The force and fury of the storm that prevailed on the outside was muffled and almost calming from inside the truck. A stillness seemed to cradle Melvin, holding him in an embrace, a momentary pause in his existence as if life itself seemed to be waiting, anticipating, holding its breath. He didn’t even bother looking in the rear view, it would serve no purpose, instead he thrust the key into the ignition and turned. The engine choked and then roared into being, purring with satisfaction. An obedient dog awaiting its masters command. The wipers jumped into life hurriedly doing their duty, incessantly and perpetually fending off the encroaching hoards of raindrops that sought to smother the glass. The headlights cut through the darkness and illuminated the Heatherdens’ manicured lawn and the forlorn looking reindeer left over from Christmas five days since peering over the low white picket fence. The truck jerked forward then slowly eased off of the driveway and turned right, its red taillights disappearing into the blurry night.

If Melvin had looked back, he would have seen the net door swinging wildly in the wind, lashing out angrily in an untempered rage. And he would have seen the broken latch hanging solemnly to one side unable to contain this frenzied creature.

 

 

January 4th 2008

 

Little Hope had been born in the maternity ward of Asheville County Hospital in the early hours of the morning. The birth was relatively straight-forward, Melvin remained by Carol’s side throughout and comforted her as much as any man knows how. She was brave and strong and he was proud of her. As she lay there holding little baby Hope in her arms she looked into his eyes with unbridled joy. She said they were a proper family now, that there would be nothing in the world that could take that away from them, and that there would be no problem to large that they couldn’t face together. Melvin held her. Calm, content, relieved. Thankful that they hadn’t had a repeat of five years ago when poor little Michael was born with a noose already wrapped around his tiny throat. He never opened his eyes, he never cried, he never took his first breath.

 

 

3.

 

Melvin headed west. It didn’t really matter which way he was headed but he followed the course of the road and ended up heading in state towards the mountains and the relative obscurity of upstate New York. As city street lights and neon advertisements gave way to the glare of the moon and the shimmer of the stars he found himself driving on a straight road towards an unknown destination. Tall pine trees bordered each side of the blacktop and presented themselves as silhouettes up against the thick velvet sky. The rain had eased somewhat as had Melvin’s anger. This evenings argument with Carol, along with the failed contract that he had worked so hard to obtain with the Thornton brothers and Hope’s mounting school fees had driven him to distraction. He needed time to get away, to figure things out and to calm down. A drive. That’s what he needed. We all need a drive sometime, to clear our thoughts and think straight. He would drive, grab a coffee at a truck stop, sit and shoot the breeze with the waitress, and return home to find Carol fast asleep in bed. He would remember why he loved her and slide in next to her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her forehead, before drifting off into a deep and peaceful slumber himself.

His attention was brought back to the road with a distant flash of lightning across the sky. Melvin was used to seeing thunder particularly in storm lashed skies, but there was something different about this lightning. As he drove he tried to recall the last time he had seen a car. Or a truck, or any form of civilization for that matter. How long had he been driving? The clock on the dashboard showed the time as 21:46, but had done for about a year now and Melvin’s wristwatch was beside the sink in the upstairs bathroom. From what he could recall he had been driving for maybe forty-five minutes to an hour. Long enough to escape the suburbs and certainly long enough to be away from any city traffic, but it seemed unlikely that he had driven so far into the wilderness as to not have seen any other traffic. He remembered when he was a kid and his dad used to take him on fishing trips out into the country. He didn’t really like fishing much, and didn’t care for the drive in his Dads old van, that could only be described as a tackle shop on wheels. The magic tree swinging from the rear view did nothing to alleviate the smell of rank fish and sweat. But it was the only time he really got to spend with his old man. He would recall a two hour drive would seem like an eternity as he had the finer details of fly fishing explained to him. The different baits and tackles and hooks and lines and so on. It meant nothing to Melvin. But he knew once at the lake would dangle his legs in the cool fresh water and listen to the symphony of sounds that only nature can conduct on a warm summers day. Sometimes, his dad would let him have a beer as they stared across the millpond, waiting for that elusive catch.

Perhaps he hadn’t been driving that long at all. Perhaps the storm had kept most people inside and away from their travels this night. As the storm cleared and gave way to a star speckled sky Melvin drove on into the void. The trees still seemed to watch him come and go, his truck eating up the white dash lines on the highway, illuminating them, and just as quickly casting them off into the darkness behind them, one after the other. A distant rumble of thunder accompanied the earlier flash of lightning that had originally shaken Melvin from his thoughts and it was at that moment he realized what was wrong with the lightning.

 

 

April 16th 2008

 

Carol had been struggling in the months following Hope’s arrival. Being thrown into a role without an instruction manual or a guidance book was terrifying. He helped in every way he could of course. He did his fair share of the late night feeds, the diaper changes, the grocery runs comprising of everything from baby milk to vitamins, sanitary towels to cereal.  He took time out of work to spruce the place up a bit. Carol wanted a perfect family home and by George that’s what he would give her. Melvin cleared the yard, trimmed the hedges, refitted the slanted windows, cleaned the guttering and painted the porch a brilliant shade of blue. When he had finished he went to work inside the house. Washing, sanding, painting and cleaning. Working towards a vision of the suburban dream, where one would put on a supper and invite the local chatterboxes and voyeurs and critics inside ones own house without fear of derision or slander when they all later met at their weekly book club meeting.

Carol was struggling, Melvin understood this, and there was nothing that this family couldn’t face up to together. The past week he had taken time off to turn the study into a nursery. Carol had chosen a soft shade of pink for the walls and they had found an antique crib at Fortesque’s and Co. that looked just wonderful tucked away under the window.  Garnished with various cuddly toys the nursery was perfect and Carol had cried with joy when Melvin let her in for the first time.

Melvin returned home on a bright April evening clutching a soft white cuddly rabbit, with a carrot on its tummy. After announcing his arrival to Carol and hanging his coat on the bannister, he made his way to the nursery with the new addition to the menagerie. He opened the door and stopped. Melvin felt his hands weaken and he had to grab the soft toy he was holding with his second hand to keep from dropping it, pulling it close to his chest. His face went cold as the blood abandoned their veins leaving an ashen spectre of a man. His two eyes became red and blurred as he looked across the room. The walls were awash with blue paint, thrashed around the room in angry slurs that oppressed and consumed the delicate soft pink. The paint smothered the crib and the soft toy animals that could only sit helplessly as they were smothered in the sticky liquid. Empty paint pots lay in the middle of the floor, from which the final last remnants of the offending substance seemed to be trying to crawl, congealing on the wooden floor. It was an horror that Melvin couldn’t perceive. Through his tears he turned to see blue footprints leading out of the room and into the hall, ceasing where Carol’s slippers lay parked next to the lounge door.

 

4.

 

The lightning that had flashed across the sky wasn’t the electric blue that it should have been, but was a deep vibrant red. It cut a hideous scar across a velvet canvas, a bloody, jagged claw that reached from the heavens, snatching at some unknown quarry.

Melvin watched the sky, waiting for a second manifestation of this odd occurrence but none came. He had read lots regarding natures freak events, but could not recall having ever read anything regarding bolts of red lightning. Gases in the atmosphere could account for various anomalies that presented themselves in the sky, anomalies that others may have conceived as beings from another planet, or messages from some divine entity. The hovering lights above the Brown Mountains of Carolina, the Will – O – The –Wisps that danced above the bayous and swamps of Louisiana, all had their origins from atmospheric charges combined with certain chemicals released from organic materials. Melvin was sure that this flash of burgundy could be nothing more than a flash of lightning reacting with particles in the air that gave it its supernatural colour.

But somewhere, deep down in his gut he could not quite believe his conviction. This event felt unnatural and it unnerved Melvin. He pushed down harder on the gas pedal turning his thoughts to reaching the nearest service station. Tucked away in the warm glow of neon lights and with the aroma of fresh coffee drifting through the air, he would be able to gather his thoughts. Perhaps he would find someone else who had witnessed this nocturnal spectacle and they would talk and laugh and find solace in each others’ company.  Perhaps. But as the Ford gained speed, hastily making its way through the darkness, Melvin knew he wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if no one else had witnessed what he himself had seen this night.

 

 

5.

 

The rain had stopped altogether by the time Melvin noticed the pale yellow glow up ahead in the distance.  Its soft light seemed to hang like a dying star amongst the spiny shadows of the trees that sought to consume it, absorb it into their own arborous domain. As he approached the luminary Melvin could see that this star wasn’t floating at all and was attached to a large metal pole. The words ‘Mo’s’ were proudly embellished in blue across the yellow neon sign and underneath a smaller white sign with red letters invited the weary traveller in for ‘all night coffee and do’nuts’.

The truck slowed and veered to the left of the road. The tyres jumped and began to crunch their way over the gravel layby that led to the truck stop, kicking up dusty clouds either side of the vehicle. Looking at from the driver’s side window Melvin drove past the one story building. He caught a glimpse of a long counter through the dusty windows that formed the front of the diner. A row of red plastic stools lined up along the front of this and towards the back wall a blackboard that at one time might have proudly boasted a variety of foodstuffs that could be bought from a smiling waitress. Beneath the blackboard was a filter coffee machine. Melvin pulled his truck up and parked it not too far from the sign. He was aware that the only other car in the lot was parked opposite, beneath a canopy of trees. It was a grubby red Chevrolet, its rusting doors and hood covered with pine needles suggested this machine had not been started in an age. The windows were blacked out giving no indication as to the state of the interior. One of the windscreen wipes had been left half way across the windscreen, maybe in one final attempt to clean of the filth before expiring completely and succumbing to whatever fate nature had in store for this once proud machine. Melvin closed his door and locked the truck. As he started to make his way towards the side door that provided the entrance to Mo’s, Melvin was struck by a sudden pang of fear. Irrational, yet tangible he felt as though this oasis of calm had been lying dormant, waiting, with the sole intention of receiving him into its murky light, to seduce him and court him, before ultimately imprisoning him forever. He listened to the gentle fizz and hum of the neon sign in the darkness and considered the friendly welcome it offered and wondered how many others were lulled by its monotonous melody, drawn in throughout the years only to become part of some unseen entity’s grotesque collection of souls. Watched always by an insidious force that lay just out of sight, dwelling behind those blacked out windows of the rusty red Chevrolet.

Then he remembered the coffee machine. Cracking a smile and shaking his head with false bravado he approached the glass door and pushed. A small bell tinkled above him as he entered.

 

August 2nd 2009

 

Following the episode with the paint Carol and Melvin had decided that seeing a specialist might be the best course of action to try and help them through what was clearly a difficult time. Melvin had heard of post natal depression but apart from making women go batshit crazy he had never really considered its effects on both the afflicted and their families. He could think of no other explanation other than that Carol had suffered a mental break, momentarily losing control of her faculties and acting under the duress of some destructive influence. The paint had been stored in the outhouse at the back of the garden. They had purchased it years before prior to his son Michael’s arrival in preparation for decorating a nursery of his own. As events transpired and life took its own design, Michael never made it alive out of his mother womb. The paint was never required. He could never quite let go of it completely so Melvin had tucked it away at the back of the shed, telling himself it would be of use at some point. Carol had not known about the paint. Or so at least he thought, but she had either stumbled upon it, or had discovered it previously. Either way it was a fitting tool to allow her to express her feelings through an act of such obscenity and hate that it had caused Melvin to vomit.

The events of that day had been discussed and talked about, reasoned and rationalised and Carol had sought counsel. Melvin started to take a day off of work here and there to look after Hope, providing his wife with some welcome relief and things became relatively normal again. 

August was sweltering. The sun shone from dawn until dusk and barely a drop of rain had fallen in two weeks. Melvin had been taking advantage of the fine weather - putting in extra hours on site and then in his office, making up for time lost looking after Hope. He arrived home late one evening to find Carol sat in the kitchen, clutching a glass of clear liquid. A bottle of vodka stood next to it. Before he could speak felt a sharp stab of pain as the glass that was previously in carols hand flew through the air and glanced off of his left temple. The pain and the shock of the impact caused him to spin and drop to his left knee, his left hand intuitively covering the wound. If not for his reaction the damage to Melvin’s face could have been significantly worse.  The glass was almost immediately followed by the bottle of Stolichnaya that swung violently as it hurtled past his head and smashed on the wall beside the door.

From his huddle, Melvin looked up to see his wife clambering off of her stool and turning towards the crockery that rested next to the sink. Sensing a further onslaught, Melvin seized the opportunity to put an end to the attack. Instead of springing forward he kept his haunch and almost fell towards his wife, his arms outstretched groping the way squid might feel for its prey in the dark of the ocean.  He managed to wrap his arms around her, forcing her elbows in at her side from behind and restraining her from making any further movement. He managed to spin her away from the line of plates that stood upright in the draining board and turned to face the opposite direction. As he held Carol, her struggling weakened and he allowed his gaze rested on the last remaining remnants of the vodka that was slowly finding its way down the wall, and into the puddle on the kitchen floor. Hope’s anguished screams rang out from the nursery.

Carol turned and hissed at Melvin. He was a lazy, no good husband and father, Something he would get used to hearing over the coming months.

 

 

6.

 

Melvin waited in the doorway for a few seconds and scanned the diner. He surveyed the room and waited for someone to appear from the back of the counter. But no one did. He stood facing the glass at the back of the building. In between him and the rear window were rows of booths on his left hand side that looked out over the parking lot. The booths were a deep red leather and each encompassed plastic, wooden effect table. Melvin noticed the cleanliness of the place, the tables were immaculate and each had a sauce rack placed in the middle, complete with a bottle of ketchup, and a bottle of all American mustard. In a small metal cup beside these stood an assortment of cutlery, sparkling and ready to use. Underneath the accompaniments were laminated menu cards with a substantial list of choices.  There were 6 booths in all and all were laid out in exactly the same manner. Neat, precise and tidy. Whoever looked after the place was clearly proud of the ship that they ran. Windows ran along the rear but without any light other than that kicked out by the white strip lights above him there was little to see. To his right was a board with leaflets attached to it. In amongst the usual call girl cards and vehicles for sale were a number of missing persons flyers. Crude black and white pictures of middle-aged men seemed to make up for most of these advertisements, one had an old truckers cap on and a long white beard. Beneath the peak of his cap were two eyes that seemed to stare directly out of the picture. Directly out of the picture and directly at Melvin. His eyes were forlorn, sad and seemed to be calling out for help. The gentleman’s mouth was agape, as if he were frozen in the midst of witnessing some unknown horror. His jaws locked in an eternal silent scream forevermore. Melvin’s eyes darted from one poster to the next, each of men, one in a suit, one in a plaid shirt and a younger man in a polo shirt with a sweater draped across his shoulders. All had the same look of undeniable fear etched across their faces, and they all seemed to be reaching out to Melvin with their eyes, begging for a release from whatever purgatory they were experiencing.  Melvin took a step backwards and if it was possible the eyes became even more desperate, reaching out, pleading begging for a release. From somewhere far off or in the back of his mind he began to hear the men. Listening to the sound of their cries and screams as they suffered intolerable cruelties at the hands of some unmentionable entity. Melvin swallowed and tore his gaze from the prisoners, fearful that he too might be drawn in to this terrible purgatory.

Beyond the board was the counter with the row of red stools in front of it. The counter again was noticeably clean. Place mats had been intermittently laid out each with a coaster. At the far end was the coffee machine that he had seen as he drove past the building. On the other side of the counter was a cooker and a grill and numerous cupboards. Along the top of the cupboards were rows of neatly stacked coffee cups and plates. All were stainless steel, and again as clean as a whistle. Melvin thought either this place must have been brand new, or had done very little business since it had been open. The cleanliness of the diner, along with the bright strip lights along the ceiling gave the room a sterile feel to it. Melvin thought it was more akin to the environment that you might find in a hospital ward. Or in one of those Asylums that were so popular at the turn of the century when tuberculosis was rife amongst the slave populations. Nice, clean white rooms where doctors and physicians could practice their heinous crimes, and carry out hideous experiments all in the name of science. White tiles became awash with claret as blood poured from patients bodies. Seeped out from eyes and ears as crude implements found their way into frontal lobes. Steel scalpels would become brown and rusted and blunt and would lie haphazardly on tables and chairs until the next patient was wheeled in. Brightly coloured wallpaper would decay and rip and tear and reveal a hidden canvas of damp green cultivations that crawled up the walls.

Melvin was shaken from his visions by a loud bump that came from behind the counter. He slowly moved from the entranceway and made his way towards the other end of the counter. He wondered if it were the chef moving some stock or perhaps the friendly waitress ready to take his order for a hot cup of coffee. The diner was empty, and although this seemed a little strange to Melvin it was entirely surprising. He had no idea what the time was and he hadn’t seen another car or person for as long as he could remember. Not since leaving the suburbs in fact. Odd. But not impossible. He continued to where the sound had come from, calling for anyone who may have been working out back. But there was no response. On the other side of the grill was a large stainless steel door that led out to the back of the diner and Melvin assumed that this was where the sound had come from. He called out again but there was still no response. Assuming that whoever made the noise was busy, Melvin took a seat on one of the red stools opposite the closed door, in the knowledge that the owner or whoever was behind there would come out see him immediately.

Nothing happened. Melvin tapped his fingers on the counter. The coffee machine to his left was on and appeared to have fresh coffee inside. H walked over to it and put the back of his hand against the glass jar. Warm. Someone was, or had been here recently.

He called again, this time louder and waited fro a response. Nothing. Only the persistant hum of the neon lights from above. The diner was empty. In fact this world was empty. A void territory in which it seemed everyone else had moved on, leaving Marvin caught in a past existence, a world of moments ago, seemingly as if time had come along and swept up everyone in its path carrying them into the present but dropping Melvin along the way. Maybe he was two minute behind everyone else, they were busily living in the present, sipping coffee, eating ice cream and pancakes whilst he was here, left behind to pick up the pieces of the past.

Ridiculous. He stood up and turned towards the door. Whoever was here was clearly in no mood to serve customers at this time of night. Before he was able to take his first step Melvin was stopped immediately by another, slightly quieter bump from behind the door. It sounded muffled and was followed by a scratching sound. It sounded as though there were a dog or a raccoon on the other side clawing for an escape. Melvin listened. After a minute or so the same scratching sound repeated itself. And again. The sound was made all the more audible because of the silence that permeated the rest of the room. In fact the whole diner acted as an auditorium amplifying the sounds from behind that steel door. As Melvin listened they grew in frequency and also in urgency. The scratching became more and more frantic. Melvin could muster a measly greeting but he was beginning to accept that whatever lay behind that door, whatever was trying to get out from behind that door wasn’t human. His thoughts turned to the rusty Chevrolet in the parking lot – was whatever resided in their trying to get into the diner? He decided he didn’t want to find out. As the scratching continued it turned to banging and the banging turned to thumping. The door started to rattle on its hinges the sound grew and grew until it became a relentless deafening pounding that exploded in Melvin’s head. He backed away from the counter still unable to wholly look away for fear that as soon as he did all hell would come crashing through into the café, claws tearing and jabbing and lashing at him, teeth snarling and chomping and sneering through upturned lips and a grotesque smile.

As the noise grew to an unbearable level Melvin knew he had to go. The door was holding but he knew not for how long, and whatever was behind it would stop at nothing to get through. He spun on his feet, grabbed at his keys from the counter and was three steps nearer to the door when the noise ceased. He stopped. Waited. Frozen in his tracks. Fear prevented him from doing anything further and he waited for the thing to seize him from behind. He stood and waited for whatever fate was to become of him, holding his breath, not even blinking for fear of drawing attention to himself. But nothing happened. Melvin slowly turned his head towards the steel door, slowly enough to not disturb the air that lay still around him. The door remained closed. From deep inside that room he could hear slow, strained breaths. Gurgled breaths that drew air and liquid in in equal amounts breaths that were not of any sane or healthy being or creature. These were the breaths of something else. Something in between life and death. The rasping, gurgling sounds were all around him now. Not just coming from behind the door, but from behind and from the sides. It was everywhere, as if the very walls that surrounded him were alive, encapsulating Melvin in their womb. The breathing remained constant, painful and shallow and seemed to grow quicker in anticipation of something to come. Then the laughing started. A splutter at first , followed by a chuckle a mischievious child might give right before the bucket of water fell from the doorframe onto his uncle. However this was no child. It was the laugh of a dying man, drowning in his own thick liquid of hate and bile, an evil man who delighted in torturing others right up until his final days. The laughter grew into a cacophony of sounds that permeated Melvins head. He looked across for the exit and his eyes were drawn to something else. Something on the floor moving. From behind the end of the counter below the notice board he saw a hand. An old withered hand, veiny and yellow and transparent grasping at the black and white tiled floor. Unwillingly Melvins eyes moved past the hand and saw that it was attached to a skeletal arm, skin hung through the tattered and torn plaid shirt that adorned its outer layer. Just poking around the counter he saw the peak of a truckers cap. The same cap that he had seen earlier in the missing persons person that hung on the wall. And beneath that cap he saw those eyes. Those sullen, woeful eyes that locked onto his. The trucker mans mouth was still twisted in that same silent scream as he made to move towards Melvin.

With keys in hand Melvin made for the door. He took no notice of the sounds that mocked him, or whatever it was that was crawling out of the walls. It made no difference. Within seconds he was out into the calm of the night. He jumped into the drivers seat, shoved the key in the ignition and turned. The truck lurched into life, slamming it into drive Melvin spun it on its rear wheels. The truck found its grip on the dirty gravel and sped off the way from which it had come.

Mo’s was silent. The lights beamed out from inside the restaurant barely piercing the darkness outside. The neon sign hummed its perpetual tone and the Chevrolet remained motionless.

 

 

7.

 

Melvin raced away from the diner. He paid no initial attention to the direction in which he was headed, his only concern being that he keep moving. His heart raced, fuelled by the adrenaline that pumped furiously through his veins. His head throbbed and his nerves felt alive with electricity, sensing every sound anticipating every movement. He was sure that whatever he had encountered back at Mo’s was chasing him down through the darkness, closing in on his taillights as he sped along the tarmac. He leant forward urging his truck to move faster, to escape his pursuers. But no further attack came. He dared a look in his rearview but could see nothing. No fearsome eyes looming out of the sky, no claws reaching for him. He heard no flap of devilish wings above and no screech of a hungry. Still he drove, hunched forward at the wheel urging the truck onwards and away from the horrors behind them. It must have been a good ten minutes of driving before Melvin began to ease off of the gas. Rational thoughts slowly returned, ebbing into his brain like a tide washing away the chemicals that had driven spurred him onwards earlier. As they cleansed his mind he began to calm down. He relaxed his muscles and sat back at the wheel. His neck ached, and as he loosened his grip on the wheel, he was aware of the cold clammy sweat that covered his palms. The heat that he had generated in his panic had caused a thin film of mist to develop on the windscreen and side windows of the vehicle. The whole atmosphere inside the truck was stifling.

 

 

October 13th 2009

 

Melvin awoke early to the sound of a lawnmower a few houses away. He listened to the hum of the engine, as it drifted through the still morning air. Birds whistled outside the window willing the first few rays of sun to part the lingering clouds that drifted sleepily across the sky. The world was waking another fine Autumnal day.

Melvin flicked off the blanket and spun around, resting his feet on the cold wooden floor of the spare room that he had made his own over the past few weeks. Carol had become more and more volatile since the incident in the kitchen. She would switch between relentless bouts of sobbing and violent outbursts almost always directed at Melvin. In an effort to avoid any confrontation he would often arrive home from work to find his wife sat in the kitchen for him, staring at him with hate filled eyes. Eyes that plotted and cursed and flickered with a perverse kind of pleasure. Hope was spending more and more time with her grandparents in the next town along and it would be up to Melvin to pick her up and bring her home for the evening where he would sit with her, feed her and hold her until she fell asleep, when he would tuck her up in the nursery.

Carol meanwhile had taken to the bottle even more so than before. She would go out in the evenings and not return until the early hours. She would sometimes fall into the house admist laughter and chuckling, fumbling through the cupboards for the last remnants of whatever poison she could lay her hands on.

He stood up, his bones cracked as he straightened and he squinted through the pain. He was a hard working man and the sofa did not provide a for a comfortable nights sleep. The room was bare, an antique clock rested in the corner, its rhythmic ticking loyally perpetuated the march of time, but despite its tenacity it could no longer keep up with the seconds and minutes of each passing day, failing to perform its duty as a timekeeper. Failing to perform the duties that were bestowed upon it. Melvin listened and watched as the seconds hand continued tenaciously never knowing that its efforts were futile. The clock was broken. Worthless.

Melvin stared into its ivory face, eyes red and heavy. Carol had arrived home in the early hours again and had woken Hope. Melvin recalled laying there, listening to her drunken slurs, at first trying to hush the child, and then cursing it, before finally weeping and begging the Hope to sleep. Hope eventually did fall back to sleep and so did Melvin.

The hum of the lawnmower had ceased and the birds no longer twittered from outside the French doors that led into the back yard. The suns rays that had pierced the earlier gloom had faded, smothered by the rolling clouds that crept across the sky. The air cooled. As Melvin sat on the edge of the sofa, his wrists rested on his knees and his head bowed he recognized the sound of silence.

The clock stopped.

Melvin arose. The earth was still. Its breath held in anticipation. It watched as Melvin turned towards the closed door that would take him into the downstairs hall. Hope started to cry.

 

 

8.

 

Once the palpitations had ceased Melvin sat in the darkness. The fear that had consumed him over the last few minutes had subsided and he was aware that he was alone. He sat and listened for any noise that might betray the approach of any creature in the night, but none came. Remnants of national thought crept to the forefront of his mind and he questioned the terrors that only a few moments ago seemed so real.

Melvin stared into the distance. Not really knowing what he was searching for but searching for something that might provide some sort of grounding for his thoughts. The beams from the headlights illuminated the cracked tarmac of the highway and created grotesque shapes on the grizzled bark of the trees that bordered the roadside. He looked up in to the sky. The storm seemed to have passed and the rain had ceased leaving a matte black canvas to stare upon. In fact the sky provided no relief in the way of light at all. There was no moon, and no stars. It was as though light had forsaken this part of the world, had shunned it as a world to be forgotten, a place that should never have been brought into existence and that no person should ever expect to witness. An exiled wasteland left behind in time to wallow in its own obscurity, to fester in pity. To spawn its own monstrosities in the murky night.

Melvin took a deep breath in and held it. As he exhaled he swung the drivers side door wide open. The cabin immediately filled with light and the warning chime rang out melodically. He sat and waited. Nothing. He stepped out into the cool, still air of the night squinting as he first peered into the distance, his eyes adjusting once again to the darkness after removing himself from the sanctity of the trucks cabin. He looked behind him and again found only darkness. A void that seemed to reach into eternity. There was no sound at all other than that of the gentle purring of the truck. No crickets in the night. No scuffles of woodland creatures on the leafy carpet of the forest floor.  Without looking he closed the truck’s door muting the sounds of the bell chime and allowing the world to fade into pitch darkness once more.

He stayed for a few minutes, until he felt like what was a small tremor that ran the length of the road. Small and brief it rushed through the souls of his feet, a vibration that was over even before it had barely begun, but enough to take notice. The cause of such a disturbance in the still of the night was more of a curiousity to Melvin than a cause for concern. He stood waiting for a sound that might accompany the movement but none came.

Melvin stood looking both forwards and behind, searching for the source of the minor quake but he found nothing. As he made to return to his truck there was another vibration that shook the ground beneath him, this time a little stronger and a little longer. 

 

 

9.

 

The tremor faded, but as it did so Melvin became suddenly aware of a warm breeze caressing his cheeks. It was the sort of breeze that one might feel from the flickering flames of a bonfire as it gently warms the skin. Constant and pleasant. Melvin looked out into the distance behind him once more, towards the direction from whence the breeze seemed to originate and was surprised to see the horizon was lit by an amber glow. Before he knew he was doing it he found himself being drawn away from his car, and towards the spectacle. The boundary between the land and the sky, not so long ago hidden by the darkness of the night was now illuminated by a shimmering orange light.

Melvin watched the sky. The light seemed to undulate as it were a living thing. Pine trees were silhouetted against the light show, their jagged needle points started to sway gently in the breeze as if they too had felt the warmth upon their fingers, a warmth that was slowly waking them from their slumber.

Another tremor. This time accompanied by a noise. A sound that seemed to reach out from far away, and from the bowels of the earth. The anguished cry of a centuries old being only now being summoned from the ancient depths in which it has laid dormant for eons.

It was then that Melvin decided that whatever it was that was taking place on the other side of the world, he wanted no part in it. He began to slowly walk backwards, his eyes never moving from the events unfolding in the distance he slid his fingers along the side of the truck feeling for the door handle. Once he wrapped his fingers around the metal clasp he yanked the door open, and spun his body, falling into the driver’s seat. The door pulled too immediately and the interior light went out. But the world night was not as dark as it had once been. Another rumble coarsed through the earth, and this time it was joined by a crash. An almighty crunch, the sound of a hundred trees falling to the earth at the same time, their age old bodies twisting and creaking as they are stripped from the ground.  He flicked the gear handle into drive and pulled away, gently picking up speed. The road ahead remained as it always had been, long, dark and straight. On glancing in the rear view Melvin thought he caught a glimpse of something else in the sky. A flicker of a flame that seemed to rise up from the ground, and disappear almost as soon as it had risen. A forest fire perhaps? He drove onwards. The temperature in his truck was rising noticeably and Melvin cracked a window just enough to let in some cool air, but was greeted only air even warmer than that he was already suffering. The whole world, it seemed was heating up, unnaturally so.

He wound his window back up and pressed on. The whole of his rear window was no aglow with a vibrant orange light and it seemed to be catching. The heat was still rising and the tremors were becoming more and more frequent. Their ferocity had grown so much so that the truck shook with each movement, on occasion forcing Melvin to tighten his grip on the wheel to keep from veering off road. All around he could hear the crashing of trees. The very foundations of the earth seemed to be groaning and giving way. The roars came from behind and from both sides, but other than the glowing sky Melvin could see no evidence of the chaos that he could hear taking place all around him. He focused his energy on moving forward as fast as he could, pressing his foot down on the gas. He was aware of the road becoming less smooth, potholes were becoming more and more frequent. Loose gravel seemed to rest on the tarmacaderm and the bolt straight edges were now crumbling and ruined, as if this highway had endured years of decay. This wasn’t the road that Melvin arrived here on. This road was old. Old and worn by the tides of time. 

Melvin drove harder. The ground shook and the heat was becoming uncomfortable. His brow was clammy and he could feel a bead of sweat slowly creeping past his right eye. An almighty crash thundered out from the passenger side. A calamitous collision between rock and earth and rubble. He craned his neck, squinting through the line of trees that bordered the road to try and ascertain the cause of the noise. As he squinted into the darkness he could see far beyond the trees. Through the pines and the ferns he could see the same amber glow. He could see the unmistakable dance of flames rising up from the forest floor. He looked out of the drivers side window and again through the dense forest landscape could see in the distance the firy tongues of flames creeping amongst the vegetation. Once again he returned his eyes to the front of the vehicle. It was then that the familiar reds and blues of the dashboard LEDs failed and the truck interior went completely dark.

Harder. More than ever Melvin felt alone. The radio in the truck played only static. Melvin played with the dials to try to find any news of what might be happening around him, but to no avail.  He figured the forest fire might have played havoc with the reception and focused his energies of getting himself out of the situation. Faster. He drove relentlessly now, paying no heed to the ever-worsening road. If that’s what you could call it, for where there was once a smooth black hardtop, there was now only a crude track, smothered in twigs and weeds and dust. The truck fumbled across it at speed, and Melvin fought harder and harder to keep control of the vehicle on the crude roadway. The trees too, once neatly lined along the side of the road seemed denser, and grew wildly by the side of the path, their branches twisted and grotesque. Their roots protruded from the ground and writhed amongst each other.

He must have taken a wrong turn. Unknowingly exited the highway and driven down a side road that would lead to a property? A farmhouse? It would be the only logical explanation for a road such as this. Perhaps he could reach the end and find a residence with a telephone. He thought that the inhabitants may have already fled but he could always find something that would set him back on the right track. Or at the very least it may lead him back to the main road. He looked in the rear window again. The sky was no longer amber. It was a great tide of yellow that rose up above him as far as the sky would allow. It moved like liquid, a wave that was rolling towards him consuming everything in its path. Turning back was not an option.

Sweat dripped from his forehead, and his hands were wet on the wheel. The sky in front of him was now ablaze and the world seemed to be collapsing around him. He drove and drove, the track lit now by the yellow light of the fires that surrounded him. Trees grew from the path now forcing Mervin to drive around them. The road had all but disappeared. He was now driven only by a primal will to survive, he tugged at the wheel, swerving this way, and then that dodging the trees in front of him. The wheels spun and kicked up dust and dirt the headlights had long since failed, but light was no longer an issue. As he forced his way through the terrain Melvin thought he could make out some clear light up ahead in the distance. There appeared to be a clearing through the trees, perhaps a main road, a house, anything. His heart raced as he hit the gas once more. Swerving through the last trees of the forest the truck broke out into a clearing. And as he broke free from their arboreal grasp Melvin finally saw what lay before him.  The Ford slowed, before eventually rolling to a stop.

He cried, but no tears fell.

 

 

October 13th 2009

 

He crept through the hall and out into the kitchen. An empty vodka bottle rested on the kitchen top along with an ash-tray full of cigarette butts. One had fallen onto the floor and lay in half smoked, a black smear across the tiles where it had been trodden on. He continued through the kitchen and into washroom. The washer dryer was dormant and old wine racks rested up against the cold stone wall. A colourful Disney ball lay next to the door that led out into the yard and next to that a baseball bat. Melvin picked up the bat and ran his hand along the smooth shaft. He had hoped that one day he and Michael would get to play ball in the yard. They would play ball in the yard, and they would take fishing trips together. When he was old enough Melvin would take him to see his beloved football team on a Friday night. Michael. His son. A son he would never speak to. A son, whose eyes would never open and see the light of day, or hear bird song in the morning. He never cried, never moved. He was pulled from his mother, a lifeless shell. Melvin remembers being repulsed by the creature. The doctors and nurses rushed his son away, he heard shouts and cries and saw white coats and green coats rushing around the room. Carol was screaming but Melvin wasn’t. He was quiet. As quiet as Michael.

With the bat in hand Melvin made his way back through the kitchen and into the hallway. He made for the nursery. Hope was still crying as he walked through the doorway. She screamed out from her cot, a throaty hungry cry that was unanswered. On the opposite wall to the crib was Carol sat upright against the wall. Vomit trickled from the corners of her mouth and down the front of her black blouse. Her hair lay matted and damp across her cheeks.  One shoe lay a few feet away, the other was still attached to her foot. Melvin stared at her. This woman that had taken his son away from him. This bitch that had taken his son and murdered him. And here she lay whilst his daughter cried out in sufferance. She didn’t deserve a child and she didn’t deserve life. Melvin looked upon her and was disgusted. From deep within a rage and loathing crept from his stomach to his ribs and then his ribs to his throat and his mouth. Hope wailed behind him and yet the whore slept. Her body slowly raised and fell with her breaths, Her breasts swelled with each intake of air.

Melvin raised the bat above his head. Before he swung he couldn’t be sure if Carol opened an eye or not. In a brief instance he caught a glimpse of his wife looking back at him. Carol. The bat connected with brute force on her temple. The wood on bone made an excrutiatingly dull thud as all life was knocked from her body. A spray of blood fanned out across the nursery walls and dribbled onto the floor. Carol’s head was dented. The skull had caved under the force of the blow sending fragments of her own cranium into the soft tissue of her brain. Her neck had broken through the force and her head lolled awkwardly to one side. Unnaturally hanging from the rest of her body. A stream of blood ran from her nose and pooled on the floor beside her. Melvin stood and looked at his wife. No more breathing. No nothing.

He made his way to his baby. Poor hope. She had cried and cried and no one came. No one would ever come again. Hope was forsaken. He looked into his little girl’s eyes and stroked her head. He wouldn’t allow this to continue. He couldn’t allow Hope to endure the pain and the suffering that he himself had had to endure. He would simply not let it happen. She needed to be where Michael was. Quiet. And calm. And asleep.

He reached for the small pillow that lay at the end of the crib and kissed his daughter goodnight.

Melvin took a bottle of scotch from the cabinet in his study and sat at his work desk. He poured a little and swirled it in the glass. He inhaled the aromas kicked out by the drink and let it warm his inners. He pulled open the second drawer down on his right hand side and removed the revolver that had sat in there since they had bought the house. He had always kept it loaded and ready for use should he or his family be put in jeopardy. He sipped his drink and closed his eyes. He thought of Michael, of a day spent on the riverbank, laughing and joking and catching prize fish from the water. He remembered meeting his wife years ago and how they danced the night away at his old friends wedding to the sound of the local brass band.

He thought of the day that Hope was brought home into her new nursery, and how she giggled when he kissed her on the nose. A small smile crept across his face as he recalled how she had gripped his finger with her whole hand, and wouldn’t let go.

Melvin finished the rest of his whisky in one swig and placed the glass down on the wooden worktop. He lifted the revolver and unlatched the safety catch. As he lifted it to his mouth he felt a strange serenity wash over him. His thoughts and feelings drifted away into nothingness. He had no fear and no sorrow. As if in a dream he lazily moved the barrel towards his mouth. He stared vacantly in front of him as his teeth bit down on the barrel and breathed a sigh of relief.

 

 

10.

 

A vast chasm lay in front of the truck. From one end of the world to the other a bottomless pit of fire and flame rose from the depths of the earth and reached out towards the sky. Melvin turned to look behind him just in time to witness the ground shake and crack and plummet into a great void. There was no forest fire, instead the whole of the world seemed to be aflame, and it was being consumed in front of his very eyes. All around him the sky burned and the trees fell and the floor cracked and crumbled. To his left the ground slipped and disappeared leaving him on a peninsular of rock that hung out across the bowels of the earth. There was nowhere for Melvin to go. He got out of the stationary vehicle and was met by a wall of heat that made him initially shield his face. Behind him a canyon as far as the eyes could see and the same in front. And beyond that, nothing. Nothing at all. A vacuous void where nothing could have ever been and nothing will ever be again. Time itself appeared not to exist beyond this moment here and now.  A moment that was collapsing in on itself. To the right the last remaining trees fell and the ground creased and shunted before lifting itself up on and angle and fading out of existence.  All that was left now was an island of dusty rock surrounded by an endless ocean of flame and darkness. As the last remnants of the earth fell from his view Melvin could hear more sounds. New sounds. The sounds of voices rising up from the abyss. Tortured cries rang out across the chasms, moans and screams and howls, unceasing in their torment. The cries of men and women and children merged into a cacophony of anguish that at first audible, now pierced Melvin’s eardrums. He span around and around, dropping to his knees and crying out for help. He looked back towards his truck, the paint blistered and bubbled in the heat, the tyres melting slowly sank into the scorched earth. He covered his ears with his hands, and crouched into a ball. The ground shook one final time as Melvin felt a hand around his ankle. A cold stiff hand that gripped firmly and tugged hard. He turned his head to see the twisted face of the creature from the coffee shop smirking back at him. A hideous, toothless grin that sent a cold shiver through Melvin’s spine and paralysed his entire frame. Half -heartedly Melvin fingered at the soil below him, looking to grasp anything that may save his soul, but the demon had a firm hold, and was adept at his task. Melvin was dragged backwards and into the abyss.

Melvin shut his eyes. As he fell into the darkness he felt his body burn, burn with all the hatred and ferocity the old gods and new could muster.

Yet consciousness would not leave him. It would not leave him for a long time.

 

Epilogue

 

It had taken a second to pull the trigger. The bullet entered the roof of Melvin’s mouth and found its way upwards through the brain and exiting through the roof of his skull. Bone fragments and shards had decorated the window behind the desk where he sat. He had known nothing of the blast, rendering him unconscious almost immediately, but he had not died straight away.

It was in those few seconds between life and death that Melvin had truly undergone his journey, a journey that would lead him to his ultimate destination.

The bodies of Carol and Hope were found a few days later. A neighbor had noticed Melvin’s Ford on the drive and recognized that there had been no one coming or going from the property for a while. He had knocked a few times and on peering through the nursery window had found spotted Carol’s corpse slumped against the wall. The police were called and the whole place was swarming within the hour. The news vans had already arrived and were writing headlines before the forensics had finished gathering their days work.

Melvin’s body was the last to be carried off. As the coroner zipped up the body bag he took one last look into hi lifeless eyes. Eyes that looked back at him, pleading, screaming eyes, searching for a light in the darkness.


© Copyright 2020 RyanEdwards. All rights reserved.

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