Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

The 2002 SL1 Saturn wasn’t pretty, but with just under a hundred thousand miles, a minor crack along the bottom of the windshield, and some minor rust beneath, she was a steal for $1500.  Frank Hamilton could care less about appearances.  With a two hour drive to and from work each day, he needed reliability and a way to save on outrageous gas prices that drained his paychecks.

“Now if I could just trade that bitch in for a junker, I’d be set,” Frank confessed out loud, bemused at the differences between his new-used car and his old, nagging wife, Mary.  Appearances certainly weren’t everything. Fifteen years in a run-down marriage had taught him that much.  Reliability?  Only when it came time for her to remind him again what an asshole he was for choosing a job half-a-state away and with long twelve hour shifts.  Paycheck Drainage?  When Mary was unhappy she spent money. Check that block for sure.

As Frank began his long drive home along Interstate 90, he continued to ponder on the depreciating value of his tired marriage, as well as many other exhausted 2am thoughts.  “Well, at least I have you to depend on, my ancient friend,” he reassured the car.

The Saturn hummed its steady appreciation.

It’s funny what happens when we turn that ignition key and embark with our four-wheeled partners of the road. There’s a sense of unspoken trust between man and machine as both become “one” on those long missions called, The Drive Home.  Sometimes, it is our confessional, as we bear all within the confines of manufactured parts; our mobile sanctuary.  At other times, they become fellow collaborators in our need to temporarily dump emotions through fits of rebellion, performing acts of law-breaking speed with just one foot to the gas pedal, or rolling that window down to yell obscenities to passing drivers we will never see again.  There’s an illusion of power behind that steering wheel, and a taste of momentary freedom before returning to the doldrums of our tired routines.   If you doubt this “oneness” I speak of, consider how many times you’ve driven home, dead-tired, arrived in your driveway, and have had no recollection how you got there.  Is this “automatic” mode, or is it really a kind of “auto-magic”?

Frank fell under the spell of such magic as time slipped into oblivion, his favorite rock station blaring the sounds of Led Zeppelin.  For a moment, he was Robert Plant, singing loudly, boldly and proudly the worst rendition of Black Dog imaginable.  But within the car, both stage and audience, he was a legendary rock god.  Auto-magic!

Thirty minutes later, Frank’s blight on vocal stardom came to a crashing halt as the caffeine betrayed him.  The rocks above his eyes began to fall, his vision slipping in and out of focus.  Frank rolled down his window to let the cool night air stimulate his senses, but the hypnotic blur of yellow dashes on dull, unchanging highway continued to lull him to sleep.  The music only distracted from his concentration as did staring out into the meaningless void of shadowed scenery reserved for daylight use.

Frank looked down at the odometer: 99,989.  His new-used Saturn would become a senior citizen in just eleven short miles.  He tried to keep himself busy by counting down the mileage.  Unfortunately, the demon of fatigue had other plans as Frank fell asleep before the next mile and…

~~~

…jerked his head up violently as the bright afternoon assaulted him through the windshield.  “Shit!” He was almost convinced he’d driven off the planet and into the sun as he quickly lowered his visor and slammed on the breaks.  He nearly lost control of the Saturn before coming to a screeching stop, sliding sideways in the center of a two-lane road surrounded by farmland.

A nearby cow behind an old wooden fence turned to look at the strange man, dismissed him, then continued to chew on the grass.

“I’m dreaming,” he declared to the cow.  Frank looked at the illuminated liar on his dashboard.   It continued to defy all reason:  3:15 pm.

“No way in hell is that right.”  But the sunny afternoon supported the lie.

“Think, Frank, think.  There’s a reasonable explanation for this.”  But no matter how hard he tried, Frank could not remember anything beyond falling asleep at the wheel shortly after his Zeppelin concert last night.

“Someone drove me here after I fell asleep.”  He wanted desperately to believe this, but it didn’t explain how he woke up driving, alone, in his car.  Frank could not commit to the fact that somehow, he’d fallen asleep last night around 2:30 am and managed to continue driving unconscious for nearly twelve hours.

Besides, he was no longer on Interstate 90.  Frank had no idea where here was, or if he was even in the same state.  Nothing looked familiar.

“Okay, think back to last night, Frank.  Retrace your steps.  Maybe you just don’t remember the drive, as strange as that sounds.  Maybe you’re suffering a delusion brought on by sleep deprivation.  Maybe-”

Maybe you’ve gone fucking nuts.

As Frank tried to reclaim a thread of sanity, he happened to notice the windshield.  The crack that ran along the base was gone.  He ran his hand along the glass, his eyes needing confirmation from another sense.  It was definitely gone.  He noticed other irregularities as well.  The car smelled different.

Bleach?

Yes, that’s what it was.  The Saturn reeked of bleach.  Also there was an industrial-sized roll of plastic wrap lying on the passenger side floor. Also, a red and white cooler, not his, rested on the seat beside him and-

“Oh, shit… no way!”

Frank stared in shock at the odometer: 55,682.

That’s not right.  None of this is fucking right.  

“I’ve got to get out of here,” he decided, not willing to consider this madness any longer.

He needed to regain his bearings; find out where he was for starters, then, try to piece together the missing fragments between last night and now.  He started the Saturn and turned the car around, hoping to back track along his route and stir up any memories.

“Just keep driving, Frank, until you find a gas station, restaurant–anywhere with people–and find out where you are.”  It felt good to have a logical course of action even if trapped inside an automotive madhouse.  Frank continued to take sideway glances at the cooler, unwilling to stare at it too long and acknowledge its existence.  But he couldn’t help noticing another detail.  A blood-smeared handle continued to draw his attention.

“Not my fucking car!”  The admission, sounding like a defense, finally made his situation real.  “I’m just going to find somewhere to ditch this thing and get home.”

Get as far away from this car as I can before…

Like a well-timed portent of impending doom, Frank heard the police sirens from behind him.  He checked the speedometer:  70 miles per hour.  Shit!  He immediately slowed down, pulling over into the shoulder lane, hoping the state police cruiser simply needed the right of way.  No such luck, the cruiser pulled in behind him.

“Fuck!” Frank shouted.  “This can’t be happening.  Not now.”

He suddenly wished he were Dorothy and could tap his muddy work boots together and magically return to Kansas, or at the very least, back to last night when he was still just a sane man driving home from a long day of work.

But now, he was here, in this car, and by the looks of things… that wasn’t good.

Frank, there’s fucking blood on the lunchbox!  his mind screamed.

A tall state trooper wearing sunglasses began to approach the car.

“Shit!” Frank reached over with shaking hands and knocked the lunch box off the seat.  The lid fell open as something with blood-matted hair rolled half-way out the top and took a peek at him with dead eyes.

Frank jerked back violently, reaching for the door handle and trying not to vomit.

“Problem, Sir?”  the state trooper asked, looking down through the window at a safe distance.  His hand rested uneasy along the top of his gun holster.

Frank looked desperately at the officer, using his hands to gesture something he hoped was universal sign language for, “I’ve gotta vomit…now!”

The officer seemed to catch the hint as he backed away while moving to the left, allowing Frank to open the car door and unload.

“Better?” the trooper asked.

Frank waved dismissively and tried to smile.  “Thanks,” he managed to say when some of the blood returned to his face.

“Have you been drinking today, Sir?”

The question seemed to come at him from a million miles away.  Frank needed out of that car before he lost it completely.  He began to get out.

“Now, hold it!”  the trooper barked.  “I need you to stay right where you are.”

Frank heard what he believed was the sound of the trooper’s gun being drawn.  He didn’t care.  Nothing was worse than returning to that hellish car.  Frank managed to get half-way out as the trooper helped him to the ground.  Next thing he knew, Frank’s hands were behind his back, the sound of clicking hand cuffs registering before he realized he couldn’t move his arms.

“Now, just stay where you are.  Keep your head facing away from me, you hear?  I’m going to check your vehicle for anything unsafe.  Is there anything you’d like to tell me, before I start?”

“Not my car!” Frank spat through tears.  Overwhelmed, he began to laugh hysterically.  “Watch out for that head in the lunchbox… scared me shitless…”

“What was that?”

Frank continued to laugh.  “The rest of… whoever that is… probably in the damn trunk.  I haven’t checked yet.”

The officer retrieved his portable radio and was calling for assistance.  Frank heard the trunk pop open.

The dispatcher came back over the radio.  Frank made out bits and pieces, “…Warrant for arrest… car matching description… considered armed and dangerous… registered to Scott Warren, wanted for suspected homicide…”

“Well, there you have it, Officer,” Frank said.  “There’s your man!  It’s his fucking car, not mine!  Not mine!”

“Oh, dear Jesus!” the officer said after a squeaky hood was raised.  “What the fuck have you done?”

“What is it?  What’s back there?”  Frank had to know.

The officer was over him in an instant, his knee pressed firmly into his back while he began to search his pockets.  “You have the right to remain silent…” His voice sounded strained.

“What’s back there?” Frank whispered. 

“You know damn well what’s back there,” the officer hissed.  “They’re all cut to shreds.  How the hell could you… looks like you butchered four people… and one’s just a child, a fucking child!”  The knee dug into his back.

“It wasn’t me!”  Frank cried.  “I’m telling you, I did nothing wrong!” 

“Tell it to your executioner, Asshole!”

Frank turned his head to look into the officer’s face.  “It’s not even my car!  It’s his!  My name’s Frank, not Scott!  Just check my damn I.D.”

In the reflection of the state trooper’s sunglasses, Frank caught a glimpse of himself, or rather, a glimpse of Scott Warren.

“No!  No!  No!”

“Shut up, killer!  I’ll break your arm if you don’t stop moving!  Damned if I don’t.”

Frank continued to protest as the sounds of multiple approaching sirens drowned him out…

~~~

…He bolted upright as the Saturn struck a guard rail creating fireworks outside his window.

“Shit!” he yelled, turning sharply to the right.  The Saturn fishtailed as he slowly regained control.  The night air mixed with adrenaline woke him up in a hurry.

“What the hell?” he asked the night.

The night had no response.

The radio was blaring what sounded like the end of a Led Zeppelin concert.  He hated that Rock crap.  He noticed the crack along the windshield.

“When did I do that?”

He checked to see if the lunchbox was alright.  It was gone.

“Not again,” he whispered.

The illuminated odometer caught his attention and made him laugh: 99,989.

He tried to remember how he got here.  Everything was a blur… again.  He took a quick glance at himself in the rearview mirror and gasped. Blue eyes this time?

What he wasn’t surprised about was that he knew where he was going.  He knew who was waiting for him when he got there, too.

“Mary?” he asked the night.  Yes, that felt right.  That would have to be enough for now.  Maybe she would have answers. He honestly didn’t believe she would know anything… none of them ever did. He would enjoy the interrogation regardless.  

He turned off the radio. He was not a man who bothered himself with trivial things.  He was a man of strange purpose and was often dictated by stranger compulsions.  As bizarre as these situations he found himself in, he always dismissed them and focused on each new opportunity. He gently caressed his Saturn’s steering wheel and laughed at an old inside joke shared between man and machine:

You’ve always been the perfect get-a-way vehicle.

“Mary,” he repeated again as he drove automatically toward the Hamilton house.  Scott Warren was smiling like the devil.

~~~

“Previous Owner”  Copyright © 2012, 2017 Scott Scherr.  All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

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