End of the Road
“Daniel has really shaped up,” Denise thinks as she comfortably grips the steering wheel, lazily eyeing the headlight illuminated road and listening to her son, Daniel, talk about how his school is going.
“…Yeah, I really like my roommates, and my teachers seem cool so far. Mostly, I just like being out of the house. Not that I want away from you and Dad, it’s just nice to be in charge.” he says.
It’s amazing, less than a year ago they were not sure he’d even be going to college. He had the grades and, thanks to Denise and her husband’s low tax bracket, all the expenses were practically covered. It’s hard for Denise to conceive that six months ago they were picking him up at the police station and now they are picking him up from college, and Servi Deorum Chatloic even.
It’s more of a drive to see him than Denise would prefer, and they ended up having to wait in line too long checking out of student housing. Now it’s getting late, practically midnight, but Ipswitch is right up the road and they will finally be home. “At least they have time to catch up and I can get to know the new him better,” she thinks. “Like, his new interest in growing up, in programming, and apparently this new electronic music, synthrave, or wave, or something like that.”
Denise sees a faint yellow glow from the dash, “Darnit, Looks like we’re gonna have to stop and get gas. Tell me if you see anything, Daniel.”
“No worries, I could use a soda,” he responds.
Daniel puts his arm and flat hand out the window and allows his hand to be whipped up and down by the rushing air.
Up ahead, in the beams of the headlights is a green reflection. As it gets closer the highway sign becomes legible, “Bolton 5 MILES”.
Daniel speaks up, “Bolton, 5 Miles, Mom.”
“Do you think they’ll have gas?”
“As a man of the world now, I have learned one thing, Mom. If a town has a name, it has a gas station.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true, but will it be open?”
“Mom, even hicks have technology now. We’ll be able to swipe the card and pump ourselves.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“So have you met any nice girls at college?” she asks. “Or is nice girls even what you’re interested in?”
“Are you asking me if I’m gay or are you asking if I’m into kegger sluts?” Daniel asks.
Denise is a little taken aback by the casual use of the word sluts from her son, but she tries to brush off the awkwardness and move on, “I was thinking a little more down the lines of are you pursuing girls at this point, or only interested in school and your future, but sure, I’ll bite, are you gay or into kegger… sluts?”
“No, Mom, I’m not gay, and yes, I would like a nice girl. I’ve met a few, but nothing has gone anywhere. Just the usual.”
Again, Denise is confused as to if ‘the usual’ means flirty banter or drunken sex. “Why is this so confusing?” she thinks. “I was young once. It wasn’t even that long ago. What is it about getting older? When I did those things as a kid it was a part of getting smarter and growing up, but now, when my kid may be doing them, I view it as the bane of society and how we have lost our way.”
“I’m guessing from your quietness, Mom, that you’re thinking about giving me the sex talk, yet again, so, no, I am not having sex with any of them.”
“I wasn’t thinking that!” she lies.
“Whatever, Mom. I know you better than you know me. While I’ve been growing up and changing for nineteen years, you’ve been the same consistent mom.”
While there was some truth to what he was saying, she still didn’t like it. “I’ve changed!”
“Well, yeah I guess so. You drink less wine and read more books at night.”
“See, I have changed,” she says with sarcastic pride.
“Looks like there is a gas station coming up, Mom,” Daniel says with a point toward the windshield.
Ahead they see the dim lights of a gas station first and then a small local store. She pulls up to the pumps hoping that they are open, or at least able to pump gas. She looks at the gas station with disappointment, noticing that it is dark, but finds some relief when she sees the pay terminals on the pumps, “Oh, thank God.” She stops at one of the pumps and the duo gets out of the car.
“Daniel, I’m sure it’s a nice little town.”
Daniel ignores the politeness of his mother, “There’s a soda machine. Want anything?”
“No, I’ll pump the gas, just hurry up. I want to get home and get to bed. I have to work in the morning and it’s already very late,” she says to him.
“Yup,” he responds.
Daniel strides over toward the red glowing soda machine sitting in front of the darkened gas station. He looks up as he goes, chest puffing out in awkward teenage confidence, noticing the tall tree points, silhouetted in front of the starry night. In a worldly effort, he tries to think something profound about the view but is quickly distracted back toward the vending machine.
He steps up the curb and to the machine. “Coke, Diet, Sprite,” he prattles off to himself while digging in his pockets for some bills. At the bottom of his left pocket, he finds a wad of crumpled one-dollar bills. He straightens two of them out on the corner of the vending machine and slides them into the money slot. He takes a pointless moment to make his choice, knowing that he will pick the same one he always does. He bumps his fist on the bright red button indicating Coke. There is a whizzing sound, and a clunk, and then nothing.
“Fuuuuck,” he exhales to himself, his chin falling to his chest. Then, as teen boys often do, he decides to fix it by giving it a solid smack or kick. He looks to his right to see if he can get away with his assault of the dispenser and sees literally nothing, nothing but the dark road they came in on. He looks to the left and sees the dark market, but not entirely dark. There is a waving light in one of the windows. “Is that a lighter?” he questions to himself.
In the dim window across the parking lot, he can see a lighter waving back and forth and behind it, several hands waving. Are they waving him away? Are they waving him closer? “Fucking hick tweakers,” he says to himself with contempt.
He starts walking back to the pumps, “Mom, the stupid machine is busted and there’s some tweakers in the next building trying to get our attention.”
“What?” Denise says, looking up while still gripping the pump handle. In the window of the store, she sees the same thing, a lighter and several hands waving. They appear to be waving frantically, “Do they need help?” she says, puzzled.
“Who cares?” Daniel rhetorically responds.
“We care, Daniel. That’s who cares,” she says with disappointment in her voice.
“Fine, I’ll check it out,” the teen says with a huff and immediately starts making his way toward the store.
“Daniel, wait!” She calls to him.
Daniel doesn’t stop. Why on earth would she have expected him to? He hasn’t been one for listening up until now and she can’t see any reason why he’d start at nineteen.
As the boy approaches he can tell that the people inside are yelling.
As he gets within yards of the window he can make out a face. A face with red hair and light skin. A face that would be kinda pretty if it wasn’t completely consumed with terror. He can finally make out the words she is yelling. “Run, get the fuck out of here! Don’t come here! Get in your car and call for help, you dumb shit!”
The boy looks on in shock. While being nineteen makes one feel like they can take on the world, in reality, at nineteen few have taken on much and Daniel is not the exception. He is frozen in confusion.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck! Behind you! Behind you!” The would-be-pretty girl yells at him. He turns around to his mother. He sees her, pumping gas, looking at him in bewilderment, the pumps, the car, and, behind the car, he sees another girl. A naked girl with a pale, almost blue skin, with a body that is bruised, a body that is plump while also emaciated, a corpse, a corpse with a hideous smile that conveys nothing but hunger.
“Mom!” he yells running toward his mother. “Look out!”
She looks to her left and right, then shrugs her shoulders. At that moment she registers the fear on her son’s face. A twister look of terror that she had never seen before, but immediately conveys that whatever was causing it was right behind her. She quickly turns with only enough time to register the rictus, the awful, tooth-filled smile and hear a metallic burning sound as the lights of the station go out with a sizzle.
Denise throws up her free hand in defense as the corpse grabs her by the wrist and side of her neck and flexes. With a wet pop and a meaty tear, her arm is ripped from the socket by the walking horror and thrown over its shoulder, discarded as it moves in for the main course. The fang-filled maw bears down on her neck slicing through the meat and bone like massive razor blades. Daniel watches as the creature rips it’s head back pulling the meat with it leaving an almost comical shark bite in his mother’s body.
“Noooo!” he cries as he stumbles back, falling to the ground on his hands and butt, knees up, unable to stop gawking at the horror before him in the starlight.
The creature throws the mother’s body to the side and leaps like a cat on to the hood of the car, licking its blood-stained hand.
“No,” Daniel whimpers.
The creature leaps upon the boy, dragging its jaw from his belly to his neck, ripping his insides open, exposing his guts. Daniel feels nothing. He just looks down at the creature laying over him as she, almost lovingly, stares at his gaping wound, staring at her next meal.