Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of Eerie Terror

#41



Once again Brian Grisham (author of Hilltop Drive) delivers another nail-biting nugget! Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you realize you're lost? Sure, who hasn't? You just stop to ask directions, right? Well, read on, Faithful Fiends, and you'll think twice before you ever ask for directions again. Believe me you will...

 
 
 

Between Somewhere and Nowhere

By Brian Grisham
About the author


"ALBERT, ARE YOU SURE YOU KNOW where we're going?" Mira asked as she held the California interstate map out in front of her.

"Of course I do," Albert replied.

"I donít know, hon.  I think weíre going to end up being late for your sister's wedding."

"Look," Albert explained, "weíre just cutting through the interstate to avoid traffic."

Mira gave Albert a dirty look and said, "You've been dishing out that lame excuse for the past hour and a half. Thereís nothing here but trees, mountains and a winding road that leads to nowhere.  Admit it, we're lost."

"Iím telling you, we are not lost.  Just a little sidetracked."

Mira pointed toward a sign ahead of them and asked, "What does that say?"

Albert adjusted his glasses and read out loud, "End of highway -- Welcome to Young Valley County, Home of the Mighty, Pink Willies."  Albert peered at Mira and asked, "What in the hell is a Pink Willie?"

"Iím not sure if I want to find out," Mira said with a smirk.

Albert looked back at the road and confessed, "Okay, so we're lost."

Mira tossed the map in the backseat.  "We wonít be needing this for a while.  Stop at a gas-station or something and maybe someone can give us directions."

"How about Zed's Bait and Tackle?"

"What?" But, before Mira could continue, Albert steered into the parking lot and parked the Ď55 Chevy. Mira eyed him and asked, "Weíre going in there for directions?"

"Yeah," said Albert and continued, "Iím sure lots of people come passing through here asking for directions to the nearest lake or what not."

Mira gave him that same dirty look and replied, "Yeah, right. Come on, let's get this over with."

The wind blew lazily through the afternoon and as Albert exited the jeep he could smell the hint of ocean air that so much reminded him of his grandparentsí house in Santa Cruz. For a moment he stood beside the car, enjoying the surroundings. It felt wonderful on his skin, in his pores and in his lungs as he breathed deeply. Though, once inside, Mira and Albert were hit with the powerful stench of dead fish.  They cringed in disgust, but braved it out and continued further in the store.  To their left were two short racks supplied with lures, fishing hooks and other fishing equipment, and on the far wall were three enormous glass tanks.  Mira thought to herself that those would have to hold some pretty damn big fish, but, as she neared them she saw that the tanks were full of live worms.

Mira quickly spun around for a different view.  Carefully the couple rounded the corner and found the register where an old man was bent over behind the counter.  He made a growling noise, coughed violently then spat out onto the floor.

"I didnít see that," Mira whispered.

Albert smiled nervously then stepped up to the counter. "Excuse me, sir." The old man didnít move. "Excuse me, sir!" Albert said louder then slammed his hand on top of the counter.

The old man calmly looked up at them, straightened, then said, "Oh, sorry. Didn't hear you people come in." He reached for his waist and flipped a switch. "Hearing aid was turned off."

The couple eyed each other impatiently.

"The nameís Hod.  What can I do for you kids today?"

"Do you know how far this road goes?" Albert asked.

Hod studied him a second longer, then answered, "Not far. A mile or two is all."

"Would you know how to get to Canyon Crest from here?  My wife and I seem to be lost."

"Never heard of it. Are you two in some sort of a hurry?"

"Yes, we are," Mira replied.  "Can you tell us how to get back on highway 7?"

"Missy, Iím afraid I canít.  I havenít been outside this town my whole life.  And, well, we donít get many visitors.  Not many at all." Hod opened a box, laid out some fishing lures on the countertop and said without looking up, "I'm just an old store clerk who enjoys fishing... every now and again."

Albert pulled Mira closer to him and whispered, "I don't think this guy's going to be of any help."

"Well, obviously! How old is he, eight hundred!" Mira snapped.

Albert covered her mouth and suggested, "Maybe he can tell us how to get to a gas station, and there we could figure a way out, okay?"

Mira snarled and whispered sharply, "That was my idea in the first place."

Albert ran his fingers through his hair and positioned his glasses and said, "Say, you wouldn't know where we could find a gas station close by, would you?"

"You mean Potterís gas station?"

"Yeah, or which ever is the closest one," Albert answered.

"Well, you stay on this road a little ways, then you take the second left, not the first or you'll end up in Happyís Diner. The food is good, but don't eat the meat. It took me three weeks to get my bowel movement workin' right-"

"Umm, donít worry.  Weíre not planning staying here that long," Albert replied with a smile.

Hod scanned Albert cautiously then continued, "You go down Black Pond Street- that's where you turn left at- and the gas station should be on the right side of the road."

"Got it," replied Albert.

"But, then again, it might be closed," Hod added.

"Whyís that?" Albert asked, feeling like he was going nowhere in a big hurry.

"Because of the electrical storms that frequent around here.  You see, every four or five months these storms affect the power for a day or two. Itís also been known to cause... hallucinations."

"Oh, really," Mira said as she rolled her eyes.

"Yep. People here have been known to see floating lights in the woods. Others have seen weirder stuff."

Albert eyed Hod and asked, "How about you? Have you seen anything weird?"

Hod froze momentarily and looked as if he was holding something back. Then, at last, he said, "Nope, but the tales Iíve heard kept me up nights."

"I see," said Albert.  "Well, I think weíll try the gas station just in case."

"Good deal.  Hope to see you two around again soon."

"Thanks for your help, Hod," Albert said as he and Mira left the store.

Hod grinned as he turned and peaked out the window and watched Albert and Mira get into in their Ď55 Chevy and take off. He pulled out his dentures, set them on the counter and brought out a jar filled with plump, pink worms. Hungrily he eyed the jar.  Hod then opened it up, scooped out a handful of worms and stuffed them into his mouth.

"What a weirdo," said Mira.

"No doubt. Interesting story though."

Mira looked at Albert and asked, "You donít actually believe that do you?"

"Hey, I just found it interesting, thatís all."

"You scare me sometimes. Now, hurry up or weíll be late for your sisterís wedding."

"Hon, the weddingís not until tomorrow morning. Weíre perfectly fine."

"Yeah, thatís if we can find the freeway," Mira said sarcastically.

"Okay, hereís Black Pond Street," Albert muttered as he turned left. While driving, he noticed how odd this little town was.  There were no people walking along the streets or at any of the small markets that seemed to spring up like weeds.  He thought that if he had never stopped at the bait and tackle store then he would have likely figured that the whole town was deserted.

And, rightly so.  There were no cars driving on the streets either. Oh, there were a few parked cars here and there with an occasional tractor, but none were actually moving and that left a cold chill in Albertís heart. Just, where exactly were all the people?

Within minutes they pulled up in front of the gas station. The words, "PotterĎs Gas", was crudely painted in green across a white board above the fuel pumps. Again, there was no sign of people, except for an old, black Studabaker parked beside the station.

"Ugh, when we find the freeway, Iím driving," Mira said as she walked up to the door that led inside the gas station.

Albert followed behind and said, "Look, we can discuss this later. For now, letís just concentrate on getting out of here.  I saw a car on the other side, so hopefully somebodyís here."

"For your sake, somebody better."

"Damn, itís closed," Albert said as he pointed to the Ďclosedí sign which hung on the other side of the door.

"What?  You got to be kidding me!" Mira cried.  She then pressed her face against the glass door and peeked inside, but the lights were off and it was too dark for her to see anything.

Albert sighed, turned around and headed back for the car. Miraís face was red with growing frustration. She wanted out of this town. It was creepy, old and the people here- well, person here- was too weird. She wanted to get the hell out no matter which road they took.

"Look," said Albert. "Weíll just continue down the coast. Weíre bound to run across a main road or a bigger city, and hopefully someone from there could help us."

Mira walked briskly to the passenger side of the car and said angrily, "Okay, fine. Whatever. Just get us the hell out of here."

Albert moved toward Mira and attempted to hold her close, but she quickly shook him off. "Look, everything will be okay. In a few minutes weíll be out of here," Albert said.

Mira looked up at Albert then unfolded her arms.  She hugged Albert tight and kissed his lips. It calmed both of them down and Mira clung to him, relieved that they would soon be out of this dirt hole.

Then, from behind, A man wearing a red, greasy cap with yellow lettering that read, ĎPotterís Gasí, suddenly peeked out from the glass door.  He cautiously opened the it and shouted, "Who in the hell are you?"

Albert jumped and Mira followed it with a surprised scream.

"What do you people want here?  Canít you see weíre closed?"  The manís face was gaunt and marked with scars, and his gray eyes narrowed as he took a step closer.

Albert smiled with relief and said, "We need directions out of here. Can you help us?"

"No," the man shouted even louder.  "Weíre closed!  Come back tomorrow!"

"Tomorrow?"  Albert asked angrily.  He glanced at Mira then said, "We just-"

"Go away! I canít help you!"  The man then turned around and started back behind the gas station.

"No! Listen to me!" Albert shouted, "Weíre just lost and we need directions to get back on the freeway."

"Youíre not real!" The old man shouted and ran further behind the gas station, disappearing from view.

"Great," said Mira.  "Just great."

"Iím going to find him.  You wait here inside the car," Albert said as he made his way toward the back of the station.

"I donít think so," Mira cried.

"Look," said Albert.  "Just stay put, itíll just be a second."

Mira tried to object, but Albert had already went after the gas station worker and all she could do was sit and wait.

Albert reached the back of the gas station and found the back door opened. Carefully, he took one step inside and found the man with a hunting rifle pointed at him.

The gas station worker growled and shouted, "Youíre not real!  Go away and leave me alone!"

Albert froze with his wide eyes locked on the barrel of the rifle and he held out his hands to demonstrate that he wasnít even going to think about making any sudden moves.

The gas station worker inched forward and spoke with a highly agitated voice, "Youíre not real.  Hod was right.  The lights... the lights!"

"Wait, wait!" Albert exclaimed anxiously.  "My wife and I just came from a tackle store not too far from here. Hod told us that youíd might be able to help us."

The old man studied Albert a little while longer then slowly lowered the rifle. "You spoke to Hod, did ya?"

"Yes," Albert replied.

The man held the rifle to his side and asked, "Well, how in the Hell did you end up in this dirt town?  Shit."

Albert lowered his hands and asked, "Youíre Potter, right?"

"Indeed, I am," Potter replied, revealing a mouth full of missing teeth. "You said you needed directions out of here.  To tell you the truth, I donít blame ya."

"Look, um, I think youíre probably the only person here who could.  I mean, it looks like you and Hod are all thatís left in this town."

"Ah, yes.  It may seem that way, but with the storm looming, everythingís closed down and people are hiding out in their homes until it blows over," Potter explained.

"But, that doesnít make sense.  Why would so many people be afraid of a little storm?"

Hod eyed him and replied, "Now, this isnít an average kind of storm, if you get my drift."

"Mmm, yeah.  Hod explained it to me.  Hallucinations, right?"

"Right, indeedy."

"Well, I donít plan on being around when and if this storm blows through. All I need to know is whereís the nearest freeway.  I mean, you and Hod have been here all your lives, youíve got to know something of this area."

"Hold on a second," said Potter.  "let me get you something."  He then went inside the gas station and in a few seconds came back out with a road map.  "Next time, you kids should bring one with you.  You never know where youíd might get lost."

"Eh, thanks."

Potter smiled with his toothless grin and replied, "Donít mention it. Itís on the house."

"Yeah," Albert said with a heavy sigh.  "Thanks again."

And, as Albert turned to walk back to his car, Potter grabbed a hold of his arm, gazed frantically into his eyes and whispered harshly, "Iíve seen things- these men, with fish heads. They tried to capture me, but... I blew them away." He brought the rifle back up and shouted. "I blew their heads right off!"

Albertís mouth dropped open, and he froze in place, not knowing if he should run for his life.

"Donít stop for them!" Potter exclaimed.  "Theyíll kill you and eat you! Eat you right up!"

"I- I wonít," Albert said nervously.

Potter removed his hold, walked back for the gas station then said, "Pray, Albert.  Pray that you make it out of here in time."  Then he vanished into the darkness and closed and locked the door behind him.

Albert stared at the closed door for a moment longer, wondering if Potter was going to run back out screaming hallucinations again.  But, he didnít and Albert hurried back to the car before someone else spotted him. Certainly, there was that possibility that the next person might be as off balanced than the last.

As Albert returned to the car, Mira opened the driver-side door from the inside and asked, "Well, did he give you the directions?"

"Not exactly," Albert replied and handed the map to Mira. "See if you can find where we are."

Mira glanced at the map then looked back up at Albert and said, "But, we already have a road map."

"Tell me about it," Albert said while he put the car into drive. "But, I think you should just look at it anyway to be on the safe side.  The guy seemed to be genuinely worried for our safety."

Mira unfolded the map and fingered through the index of cities and towns within California, and after a few seconds she looked up at Albert and declared, "Itís here!  I found it!"

"No way, where?" Albert asked as he peered over at the map.

Mira turned the map over which showed the portion of the state they were in, and moved her finger down on the little black dot with the words- Young Valley County- right above it.  "There."

"I guess Potter was okay after all.  I mean, with all of that talk about men with fish heads abducting people and all.  I figured he was another crack-pot."

Mira raised her eyebrows.  "Men with fish heads?"

"Yeah, I know," said Albert.  "Believe me, itís a long story."

As Albert pulled out of the gas station parking lot, Mira followed a road that lead toward the nearest freeway, but something was wrong.  The thin, read line just ceased as if someone had forgotten to complete it.

"Um, honey.  It says here that the road is a dead end," Mira said at last.

"What? Thatís impossible."

"Nope, look here. The road just ends," Mira said as she pin-pointed the red line.

Albert studied the line that marked the road and said, "Why, that says this road ends about twenty miles up. Shit. See if you can find another road out."

"I just did, Albert. The map says there are no other roads leading in or out."

"Are you sure youíre reading that thing right?" Albert asked.

"I think I know how to use a map!" Mira exclaimed.

Albert sighed heavily then said, "Well, the map has to be wrong then. It must be a misprint or something.  How could we get here in the first place?"

"I think we should turn around and take the road back from where we came," Mira said.

"No, weíre not turning around. Iím going to keep driving straight and see where this road leads. Thereís no way this leads to a dead end."

Albert and Mira continued driving down the road, hoping that it would take them somewhere... anywhere, but, when evening fell, they both started to get extremely worried. What strange things could possibly be out there? Mira kept her eyes on the forest outside, praying that she wouldnít see anything classified as "weird". Though, for an instant she could have sworn she saw a dancing light, bobbing in the dense woods. She closed her eyes and thought about home, and about finally getting to Albertís sisterís house.  There, she would forget all about Young Valley County and the strange people who lived in it.

Indeed, it was all behind her now.  Mira imagined herself, within a month or two, laughing away over how she and Albert got lost in a small town on the way to a wedding.  How pathetic.  And, her and Albert would just laugh it off as one of those silly things that happens from time to time. Surely.

"Shit!" Albert yelled.

"What is it now?" Mira asked tiredly.

Albert slowed the car down to a crawl.  Then, he stopped completely and there they both faced a wall of dense forest.

"The roadís gone!" Albert exclaimed.

Mira looked over at Albert and started to cry.

"Iím going to get out and take a look," Albert said.

"No!" Mira shouted and grabbed Albertís arm. "Donít leave me here alone."

"Why? Itís only going to take a second."

"You remember what that man told you?"

"Oh, you donít actually believe that about the fish men, donĎt you?" Albert interrupted.

"Well, then lets just turn around then. We can make it to your sisterís by eleven," Mira pleaded.

Albert sighed and said, "Iím not turning around until I get a look at the road before itís totally black out there."

Mira gazed at him with frightened eyes.

"Donít worry, hon. Itíll just take a few seconds."

Mira slowly let go of Albertís arm and watched him exit the car and face the forest. He then closed the door and stepped closer, adjusting his glasses.

"Turn on the high beams," Albert said at last. Mira did so and Albert dropped to his knees, inspecting the pavement.

"What do you see?" Mira called out.

"This is impossible!" Albert shouted back. "The road... it just ends!" He then picked up a chunk of pavement, showed it to Mira then threw it into the woods. "How can this be possible?" Albert then got back up on his feet and said, "Iím going to see whatís back here."

"No! Donít you dare!" Mira shouted.

"It wonít be long."

But, before Mira could say otherwise, Albert disappeared into the forest. She wanted all of this to end soon. She looked up at the sky and saw that there was only a faint hint of deep blue left. She sighed and rolled her window all the way up and locked both doors.

Ten minutes passed by.  Then twenty. Other than the wall of forest in front of her, there was nothing else outside but pitch black. She knew Albert could be trouble, but she didnít want to go outside in the creepy darkness with... with whatever might be lurking out there. She waited another fifteen minutes- still nothing.

At last, she decided to exit the vehicle, but just as she pulled on the door latch, a giant fish head slapped against her window. Its eyes were solid black and they bulged hideously outward. Mira screamed as loud as possible, and before she could lock the door again, the fish man swung it open and pulled Mira out of the car by her hair.

Mira screamed in all out horror as she saw that the rest of the creatureís body was that of a man, wearing a sports jacket and slacks. In its human hand it held a giant fishing hook. The creature sliced it through the night air as if it enjoyed listening to the swooping sound it made.

"Nooooo!" Mira screamed.

The fish man spoke as if it was choking, and its grossly, pink tongue lolled in its gaping mouth. Then three more fish men appeared behind the first and Mira saw that one of them wore a gray uniform with grease smeared all over and a red cap with "Potter" written across it. The other fish man wore clothes with the name Hod written on the name tag. Mira screamed and the fish man with the red cap replied, "blub lublublublublub." Then its mouth opened wide, extending its gills, then closed.

"What did you do with Albert?" Mira cried in terror as she laid there on the broken pavement, unable to move. "What did you do with my husband?"

One of the fish men climbed inside the car, started the engine and backed up to turn around. There, Mira spotted two more fish men, holding something with their hooks. Mira grabbed onto both sides of her hair as she realized it was Albert. One of the hooks had entered through his eye and out his mouth. The other hook was through his stomach and out his back. She watched as the two fish men ripped open Albertís body and extracted his guts onto the road. Then, Mira peered up at the fish men surrounding her. Their hooks were raised high into the air, and Mira knew she was going to die.

"No, please donít!" Mira cried hysterically.

The fish men looked at each other then back at Mira, and all at once they thrust their hooks down on her body; through her stomach, face, legs and chest. She felt an instant of pain, and then nothing. The fish men then cleaned Mira and carried her and Albert back to Young Valley County, where they cooked the bodies over an open flame and feasted on human flesh and mighty, pink willies.

The End




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Between Somewhere and Nowhere is copyright Brian Grisham. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)