Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Story # 5: "The Stop"

Brand-new story for y'all today. I wrote this one by fits and starts, not knowing when I started where it was heading. I thought it was going to lean toward horror and it kind of did, but there's a lot of "what-if" in it that sort of makes it more of a psychological thriller. I tried to keep it light and entertaining but also realistically terrifying. I hope it works, and that you'll like reading it as much as I did writing it. Enjoy!


It was the week after high school graduation. Me and my BFF Myra were making this huge, epic cross-country road trip from Virginia Beach, Virginia, all the way to Salem, Oregon. Why Salem, you ask? Well, we had to end up somewhere, didn't we?

Anyway, we'd gotten about as far as Lincoln, Nebraska, or just past it – we were actually closer to some podunk little town called Grand Island. Which is a ridiculous name for a town in a landlocked state like Nebraska, if you think about it – but whatever.

Myra had been complaining since the last exits for Lincoln that she had to pee, and I was teasing her about going behind a tree like guys do, but she was pretty grossed out by the idea. Besides, we were in the Great Plains, and there aren't even that many trees around. I guess when you really have to pee, it's harder to take a joke, because she was pretty miffed at me.

Finally, when we got near the tropical haven of Grand Island (yeah, right!), we saw a sign for a rest stop a couple of miles ahead. Myra didn't even say anything, she just pointed at the sign and grunted like some kind of feral child or monkey or something.

I laughed and told her okay, we would pull over at the rest stop. Anyway, I could stand to pee myself. It hadn't been all that long since the last stop, but I had drunk a Big Gulp of Pepsi since then and nature was starting to take its course.

When we got to the rest stop, I pulled into the parking space closest to the entrance to the bathrooms. Before I'd even put the car into park, Myra was out of the car and running toward the bathrooms. I giggled again, despite myself, at the silliness of the situation.

I was still giggling when I turned toward my door to get out of the car. The old man's face was right up close to the window glass, and all I could do was scream. Loudly.

I quickly clicked the automatic door lock button, turned toward the bathroom to see that Myra had already gone inside, and glanced back hesitantly toward the old man. He was still there, and I was still screaming.

Haggard and in need of a shave like twelve days ago, the old man opened his mouth as if to speak and placed his weathered hand against the glass. I screamed even louder, if that was even possible.

And then, the old man curled his lips up into a grimace and he started screaming too. His scream was high-pitched and squeaky, like – well, like a teenage girl's. His shrieking was even shriller than mine, if you can imagine that.

I didn't know what to do. Here I was trapped in my car, with my BFF obliviously peeing twenty yards away, with a crazy old man screaming at me for no reason, and – wouldn't you guess it? – there was nobody else in sight at the rest stop.

This crazy scene went on uninterrupted for a good forty-five seconds or more. Then just like that, he stopped. The old man simply stopped screaming. He dropped his hand from the glass, backed away slowly, straightened his raggedy hobo attire, and started walking away. Without even realizing it at the time, I had stopped screaming too.

Instinct fought with reason in that instant. As much as I wanted to pull the car into reverse and high-tail it out of there, I couldn't bring myself to look away from the man. Besides, my girl Myra was still in the bathroom. I couldn't leave her here.

The old man was probably fifteen steps away by now, and I was still staring intently at him, physically unable to look away. Suddenly, a pounding on the passenger's side window glass broke the silence. For half a second at least. I started screaming again.

I didn't want to look, but I had to look at what was pounding against the glass. Terrified, I scrunched my eyes closed tightly, turned my head toward the window, and slowly reopened my eyes. It was Myra.

She had this incredulous look on her face, and I could hear her through the glass asking what in the world was I hollering about, and why wouldn't I unlock the stupid door for her. I realized I'd stopped screaming again. My left hand fumbled absentmindedly for the automatic door lock. I accidentally locked it again before finally unlocking it. Myra wrenched open the door and plopped down into the seat, still fussing at me for being all weird and junk.

I must not have answered her before, because Myra asked me again what in the world I was screaming about, and so I asked her did she see him. And she said did she see who, and I said the old man. What old man, she wanted to know, and laughed mockingly at me. I turned and pointed in the direction where the old man was walking away.

Except that he wasn't. In fact, he was nowhere in sight. The road nearby was clear of traffic and I could clearly see that the man wasn't walking alongside it. The terrain was flat here, leaving little chance that he could be hiding without my noticing him. He was simply gone.

What had I been smoking, Myra wanted to know, 'cuz it must be some really powerful stuff. I told her to bite me, that there had been an old man and that he'd been screaming at me and pounding on the glass and probably trying to kill me or something. Myra laughed again and said I'd watched too many horror movies last summer, and I was just being paranoid. But I wasn't – the old man was there, or at least he had been.

It was no use trying to convince Myra. She was going to believe what she was going to believe, and that was that. I glanced up in the direction of the bathrooms, remembering that I still had to pee. By now, I had to pee really bad. I looked back in the direction where the old man had come and gone. Surely, there was another rest stop not far up the road. I could wait.

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