Roadside Attraction: Part 4
The room felt moist and stank of rotting cloth. It was empty with only one other door to his left shut tight. He could see the objects covered in tarp were a variety of furniture stacked in odd and precarious fashions into small pillars. Spires within spires. “Hey Tony, c’mon man. I’m done,” he called into the shadows. Only silence answered him. “Tony?”
Then another voice spoke back from behind one of the spires in the corner. “No point, Scottie.”
The light jittered in Scott’s hand, causing the beam to dance wildly against the wall. No, no, no, no…
His heart pounded in his throat as he rounded the tarped pillar. Two glassy eyes stared back at him from the corner. Scott screamed and fell back onto the ground.
“There should’ve been a point by now, Scottie.” It was Reggie, but only as he would have looked if someone had dug him up. His eyes were cloudy and large patches of hair were missing on his pale scalp. In his left hand he gripped a handgun with fingers missing chunks of flesh. “Don’t you think?”
Words failed Scott as he stared in horror and regret.
The corpse of Reggie leaned forward, his body cracking and distorting as his weight shifted. “We’re in the same boat, Scottie.” His voice faded in and out, like a bad phone connection. With his free hand he clawed across the dirt floor towards Scott, still frozen with fear. “So come down into the dark with me.” Closer. “It’s sinking fast.” Closer. “We’re gonna have a hell of a time.”
Scott could smell the rotting putridity of Reggie’s flesh as he neared, now only feet from where he lay. We have to go, right now we have to-
“Go!” A hand snatched Scott from the floor and broke him from his paralysis. “Scott, what’s wrong with you we have to go now,” Tony screamed at him. Sweat poured down his face and his eyes were wide with terror.
Scott shook his head, trying to find his bearings. “Wait…it’s Reggie…”
Tony shook him by the shoulders. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Scott swung the light back to the corner which now sat empty and stared.
“You need to pull your shit together, right now. You were right, something bad is going on here, so let’s go.”
Scott finally nodded and wiped at his nose, which he realized was running. “Yeah, ok.”
As they headed for the exit, the other door burst open. Suzie stood naked, backlit by a room of candles. Scott caught glimpses of odd runes and symbols painted in red upon the walls behind her. Blood covered her hands and ran down her inner thighs. She stood still for a moment and he could see both of her eyes dancing in her skull. Her mouth opened and emitted a low, guttural chant. “YOLE…YOLE-YOSSE…YOLE…” She took a clumsy step forward and landed on her ankle, but she remained upright. She took another. And another. The bones cracked as her legs contorted and bent beneath.
“Fuck this!” Tony slapped Scott in the shoulder and ran for the stairs.
Scott followed suit without hesitation. He pumped his legs as hard as he could down the hallway as the candles threw dancing light onto the walls around them. They reached the stairs and began stumbling up them. Scott only now noticed that they were unevenly cut as he continued to trip every few steps. He pushed forward and up, though, as he could hear the Suzie in the darkness behind him. The crunching steps quickened their pace and began to grow louder. Scott looked up and saw that the square of light was still maddeningly far from them. How far had they actually traveled?
“Come on!” Tony yelled from only a little further ahead of him.
As his light glanced from wall to wall, Scott could see the symbols from before begin to take on a greenish hue. It pulsed, dimmed and grew back. Suzie’s low chant grew louder, and the symbols grew brighter in rhythm. Soon, the stairway was bathed in the blue-green glow from the walls.
“She’s getting closer,” Scott called desperately. He could feel his legs begin to burn, threatening to give out under him.
“We’re almost there,” Tony called back breathlessly.
Scott looked up and saw that he was right. Only a little further and they would be out. They could shut the door and be free of the madness here in the dark. Suzie’s voice continued to chant closer behind him, her crunching and rabid steps gaining. He tossed his light behind him and heard it strike alarmingly close.
And then they were out. Scott scrambled out of the hole and Tony slammed it shut behind him. He walked over to Scott who had doubled over to catch his breath and pat him on the back. “C’mon, we’re still not out of the woods yet.”
Scott nodded and stood. His breath caught in his throat.
The mirrors of the spire had disappeared, and now the space was as illogical as it had first looked to Scott as it housed 20 or more robed figures. They were clad in all black with symbols drawn in red on their chests. They were the same style as those on the stairway and the room Suzie had emerged from below. Their faces were covered by absurdly tall hoods that offered no visible way of seeing. The figures themselves were lanky and stood double Scott and Tony’s height, and their arms came down to where their knees would presumably be.
“What the hell…” Tony trailed off.
Suzie began to batter against the closed hatch they had just closed. Scott scanned the room around them and saw that the robed figures had left the way out for them open. He ran for it, grabbing Tony by the shoulder to drag him along. The figures made no attempt to subdue them or slow them as they crashed through the door.
For a moment, Scott was conscious enough to look up and see that the sky had turned blood red and the spire reached into it with the markings on its surface glowing blue-green. And then everything was dark.
Scott hesitated to walk through the door. It was odd that it was propped open at this hour. The clock in his car had read 10:36 p.m. when he pulled into the apartment complex. He knocked on the door and scanned the darkened living room. The kitchen’s light was still on and threw long shadows from the couch and recliner. “Hello?” There was no answer. Reggie was normally a bit more mindful than this. Don’t get worked up, muchacho. He just got drunk and passed out in his bed.
He shut the door behind him and approached. He could feel something off. A weight was sitting in the room with him; a large and invisible lump of invisible mass was causing the air to flex around him.
A whimper came from around the corner in the kitchen and Scott felt his heart jump into his throat. He placed his back against the wall that separated the small living room from the even smaller kitchen. He held his breath and strained to hear something above his pulse in his ears and the hum of the fluorescent lights.
There was another whimper. A sharp intake of breath from someone crying. It’s Reggie. You knew this was going to happen. He stepped into the brightly lit room and saw him. Reggie sat with his back against the sink, his head hung between his knees drawn up towards his chest.
Scott took a step towards him. “…Reggie?”
Reggie’s head lulled up to him. Snot and tears ran down his face and mouth. He took a deep breath and looked down at his left hand which was gripping a gun. The gun.
Scott froze once he saw what he was holding. The weapon’s stark black body sat like a pit into the bowels of the world, drawing both of them into it. “Reggie…why do you have that out?”
Reggie shook his head and drew in a shuddering, wet breath. “I can’t find it, man. It’s been eight fucking years and I can’t find it.”
Scott sat down on the floor opposite him with his back against the refrigerator. “Look…we’ve talked about this. You don’t have to-”
“But what’s the point?” Reggie cut him off. His voice was shrill, making him sound more like the ten-year-old Scott had met, crying beside a swing set. “It’s been eight years Scott, and we’re still here in this goddam apartment in this goddam town.”
You know he’s right. He shook his head, trying to muster up a conviction he didn’t feel. “I know you’re frustrated, man. It’s just a bad time, right now, is all. Next week we’ll get out of here for a little while and you’ll see.”
Reggie uttered a chuckle devoid humor. It was desperate. “See what? That everyone else has a job that’s going somewhere or somebody they’re going to marry? No thanks.” He drummed his fingers on the grip of the gun.
Scott shrugged. “I don’t have either of those.”
“And you’ve stocked four bottles of sleeping pills in the bathroom.”
Scott couldn’t bring himself to meet Reggie’s eyes as that sickening darkness wormed its way into his chest and down through his guts. The past six months had been long and arduous. They’d both been passed over for promotions at the grocery store they worked at and the rent was going up another $150 once their lease renewed. Reggie’s parents had left the state years ago (not that they had been supportive while living near him) and Scott’s parents lived paycheck to paycheck, most of which went to credit cards. Life seemed to have passed them by.
“You’re in the same boat as me and we both know it’s sinking fast.”
“You don’t know that for sure, Rich. You can’t just give up.”
“I know enough that the best-case scenario for me isn’t worth sticking around for.” He looked back down at the gun. “I wish there was a way to just disappear, so no one would have to know. To just skip town to Donesville and never look back. That way no one would have to act like they cared.”
“Jesus, Reggie, I care.” Scott could feel the darkness tighten within him.
Reggie’s eyes searched around the room as he pondered. Scott hoped he had tapped into something that could speak to Reggie, even a little. Finally, Reggie’s eyes found his and he said something that chilled Scott’s bones. “What if you didn’t have to?”
Scott was stunned. Why wouldn’t he want to care? How could he not? Reggie had always been there. He was openly sweet to other people in a way most men felt uncomfortable being. He wrote poetry that, though not publicly adored, touched Scott’s heart when he could convince him to let him sample a bit. Scott felt almost as if a splash of cold water had brought him back to reality. Was he really going to just sit here and let one of his best friends leave the earth after years of laughing, learning, crying, fighting, sitting and living together?
Reggie lifted the gun to his temple before Scott realized what was happening. He whispered, “There should’ve been a point by now.”
Scott stumbled to his feet and screamed for Rich to stop. He was washed in an explosion of sound and light.
And then there was nothing. No sound, no Reggie. Just a corpse with no meaning where his friend was sitting seconds ago. He screamed and cried at the body, but was able to make no sound. Scott was overcome with fury and darkness.