I have always liked to write and I thought my blog must entertain some people. My daughter suggested adding fiction to the offerings.”Why don’t you write some poetry or short stories and post them?” So, here is a flash fiction piece.
Geoff punched at the GPS with his finger but it remained stubbornly mute. Beside him, Heather slept on, her mouth slightly agape and head turned toward him. He smiled. For a spitfire, she looked deceptively sweet with a mop of blond curls she hated. They resisted her best styling efforts. She had that pink complexion that you sometimes saw on redheads and if her eyes opened they were an innocent blue. Looks are deceiving.
In some ways, he was glad she wasn’t awake. He could only imagine the fuss when she woke up and discovered they were lost. It wasn’t his fault the GPS crapped. Or that they were out in the north woods somewhere without cell service. It wasn’t even his fault that his uncle was an eccentric near-survivalist –type hermit. Or that he was a crazy rich weirdo. Geoff had cleared everything so he could accept Uncle Bob’s invitation to his place in the bush. Yeah, so Bob’s your uncle, all right.
Geoff glanced at the dash. The fuel light blinked merrily. “Shit,” he swore, aloud. When had that come on?
Beside him Heather shifted and sat straighter.
“Where are we?” she asked peering into the spruce trees that dissolved into blackness at the edge of the road. “How much farther? What time is it?”
Heather never eased into wakefulness. One minute she’d be asleep and the next peppering him with questions like she was now.
“It’s 8:13,” he said, quickly. It was the only one of her questions he had an answer to and he didn’t want her checking the dash.
“Where are we?” she repeated, her voice rising. Heather was a city girl and though she’d never admit it found solitude un-nerving.
It was solitary here, though. It had been over an hour since there’d been another vehicle on the road and there hadn’t been any welcoming lights from acreages or farms, either.
Geoff sighed. “I don’t know where we are. There’s no cell service, the GPS crapped and the fuel light is on.”
There was a shocked silence. “Goddamn it, Geoff. What are we going to do?” Heather demanded.
Geoff shrugged and when he glanced over to Heather, her face was twisted in annoyance and in the light of the dash, looked almost ugly. He did not need this. Did she imagine he wanted to be lost, out of gas and beyond reach of communication? That old bugger Bob better make this trip worth his while.
They drove on in a silence that grew more hostile as their gas burned away. Heather saw it first.
“There, up ahead. It’s a service station. We can get gas there.”
As soon as Heather spoke, Geoff could see the light, too. The heavy darkness smothered it but it was there. Off to the right, a lone building occupied a gap had been cleared out of the forest. It flashed gray and weathered in their headlights and the asphalt in front of it was cracked and potholed. Geoff steered them carefully into the reddish glow that fell from the light on the single old-fashioned gas pump and turned the engine off.
The service station looked deserted except for the shimmer of the red letters in the cracked front window. Sputtering red neon spelled OPEN. The hand-lettered sign over the front door was faded and he could just make out the business name. Last Chance. Last Chance was right. He snorted.
Still, if he could get gas, he could buy new filters or whatever the gas out of this antique pump plugged up. Surely it would get them as far as Uncle Bob’s.
“Geoff, I don’t like it.” Heather’s voice quavered a little. He looked at her sharply. It wasn’t like Heather to go all scaredy-cat. Her eyes were wide and her skin had lost colour. It looked ashen in the dim light. She was staring at the Last Chance. “Let’s just go.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Geoff snapped. He was uneasy himself. It wasn’t like the owners hadn’t heard them drive up. The only other sounds out here would be owls hooting and -the hair rose on the back of his neck, wolves howling. These weren’t thoughts he planned on sharing with Heather.
“We can’t drive off. We’re all but out of gas. We can get gas here or we can sleep in the car in the middle of nowhere. No one knows where we are. It’s take a couple of days for them to look for us.”
Immediately, Geoff regretted his hasty words. Heather seemed to curl back into her seat and he could hear her sniffle. Unaccountably, he felt annoyed again.
“You stay here,” he said. “I’ll go and rustle up someone to serve us.”
“Don’t be long. This place creeps me out.”
Geoff didn’t want to admit it but the service station wasn’t sending warm vibes his way either. The shadows were too dark, the building too dilapidated. Crusted dirt and cobwebs decorated its cracks and crannies. Old oil stains darkened the pavement and when he stepped outside the air had a close acrid smell. How much spilled gas had seeped into the asphalt? A dry wind scraped across the road, driving a crumpled plastic bag against the base of the pump.
Geoff took a breath and leaned back into the car to say, “Lock the doors behind me. I’ll be right out.” The quick snap of the locks was lost in the whining wind.
Four steps to the door. Geoff knocked tentatively and nothing happened. Silence. Then he knocked again. Still nothing. No sound except the lonely moan of the wind. The sign said, OPEN, so he tried the door. The old-fashioned handle moved easily at his gentle pressure. The door wasn’t locked. Geoff called, “Anyone home?” and stepped into the dim interior of the service station.
Heather watched through the passenger window. She saw Geoff knock and then try the door. Then he disappeared into the blackness of the service station’s interior. “Geoff,” she whimpered and sank further back in her seat.
The wind picked up tiny bits of gravel and drove them against the car. The light over the gas pump flickered and faded. It was getting hard to make out the gas station door. How long had it been? Geoff had said he’d be right out; he’d promised. Heather grabbed her phone and got the same message. No service. Where in god-forsaken hell were they? No GPS, no cell service, no gas.
Heather waited a bit longer. Where was Geoff? She peered out at the filthy, fractured glass of the main window. The neon glow was the only thing she could see. Why hadn’t a light come on? This was crazy.
BANG! A wicked gust of wind picked up the Last Chance sign and flung it against the storefront. One hinge tore loose and the signboard twisted crazily. Still no Geoff.
Heather turned and looked in all directions. Nothing but the wind and the night. The sign was the final straw. She was not sitting in the car and waiting for…for who knew what demented thing to come for her. Geoff was going to get a piece of her mind. She gripped the car’s door handle. A quick yank and it was open. Heather nearly fell onto the asphalt.
God! It reeked out here. Spilled diesel, gas, old oil. The wind drove dust into her cheeks and lifted her hair wildly. Heather ran to the service station door. It opened quietly and with a banshee howl the wind blew her in. The door slammed shut.
Dead calm descended. The car settled and one tire fell flat. Dust collected on the windshield and over the gas pump, the light popped and blew out. In the streaked window, the neon sign crackled. A faint light smoldered behind it. The red of neon flared a last time and died away. Silence reigned.
A ghostly hand appeared in the window. It unhooked and removed the OPEN sign. A moment later the same pale hand lifted a printed placard into place. Opening Soon, it read.