The Hidden — Chapter 4: ZELDA — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 4

CHAPTER FOUR – ZELDA:

Zelda awoke with a terrible headache.  This “fresh country air” had done nothing for her allergies.  Nate was crazy about the idea of living out here in the sticks, though and he was so cute about it that she just had to go along.  He had insisted they leave the city and build an entirely new life.  

“It’ll be a fresh new start,” he’d told her.  “The money is one thing, but we need more than money – we need each other.”  Nate had been nearly fanatical about the idea.  Frankly, it didn’t make that much difference to her where they lived, as long as they had a chance for happiness.  But she had to admit things were much better between them since they’d left the city.  Here their life seemed simpler, less complicated.  Nate laughed more and Zelda found herself taking time to look about and appreciate her life.  She had actually planted a flower garden!

In the city, they had dreamed of a time when they could lay back and spend time together doing the things they’d always wanted.  Now, suddenly that time had come and best of all they were still young enough to enjoy it.

Throwing on a light robe, she shuffled to the kitchen to put the coffee on.  Country living was nothing new to Zelda since she had grown up on a small farm in southern Illinois.  But her ambition to be on the stage had made her quit those rural climes and move to Chicago, where she met, fell in love with and married Nate.

Back home her friends had teased her about becoming a famous movie star, but that had not been her true dream.  Ever since her first appearance in her ninth-grade production of “Oklahoma!” she’d been fascinated with the idea of being in live productions.  Acting out the lives and loves of fictitious characters who were nothing like her gave her a marvelous feeling which she was unable to achieve in real life.  

In the theater, she could live an exciting life with virtually no risk.  It wasn’t Zelda Miller out there on stage, it was a charmer in a play.  If the audience booed, it was the character they disapproved of and not her.  But she need not worry about the audience disapproving because Zelda was a natural.  She was almost always chosen for the lead role in whatever production she tried out for.  Acting came easily to her as natural as breathing or walking down the street.  

Zelda sometimes thought it was easy for her to assume the role of someone else because she had no personality of her own.  She’d never told anyone this of course — not even her parents who were so proud of her.  In fact, everyone was proud of her when she put on a good performance in the various school plays and civic productions.  They would applaud thunderously while she took her bows, and she was the center of attention for days afterward whenever she came to town for shopping with her mother.

She received lots of attention from her peers.  The girls all wanted to be her friend and the boys paid extra close attention while she spoke.  

The adults of the town were quick to voice their approval as well.  The men would exclaim, “You sure were good the other night!”  And the women would hug her and congratulate her mother saying, “You must be so-o-o proud of little Zelda! Why I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the silver screen someday.  Maybe put this little town on the map, eh?  She certainly has the looks… and the talent!”

Of course, her mother was proud of her Zelda and she encouraged her to do all she could to get into Northwestern University.  She helped her fill out the applications and she made sure Zelda spent lots of time with the Northwestern representative during “College Night” at school.  She bragged to all her friends and relatives about Zelda’s acting prowess and her prospects for a glamorous career – the kind Zelda’s mother never had.

But looking back, Zelda wished everyone could have been proud of her and given her such attention just for being Zelda – plain old Zelda Miller from southern Illinois.  What was so wrong with that?  Did she have to become somebody famous to get their attention?  

Maybe the reason she’d moved to Chicago and pursued a career in acting was not that she wanted it so much but because it was expected of her.  She couldn’t let her parents down or disappoint her teachers.  Hell, the whole damned town depended on “Little Zelda” to become the next Marilyn Monroe and give them all something to be proud of.  Well, it wasn’t fair to put that kind of pressure on a person – to make her responsible for the justification of their own existence.  

Small wonder that when the time came to prove herself in the big city, Zelda’s accomplishments fell somewhat shy of everyone’s expectations.  It was one thing to be a celebrity in a small town production, but it was something else entirely to be just one of many faces in an acting class — all talented, all sharing the same ambitions and aspirations, all competing for the lead roles.  

It was worse yet to be number thirty-seven in a cattle call with the lights glaring in your eyes and three people sitting way back in a darkened theatre passing judgment on every move you made, every note you sang.

Miss… Miller?  Is that a natural tremolo in your voice or are you simply scared to death?

Perhaps that was why when she’d met Nate, working in a local supermarket it had been so easy for her to fall in love with him and his dreams of the future.  Marrying Nate was a way of saving face, both within herself and with the folks back home.  After all, no one could blame her for abandoning her career to marry the man she loved.  

In fact, it was kind of romantic and rather noble.  She was like the heroine in the romance novels her mother was so fond of.  Poor Zelda Miller had so much potential and could have been a star, but she gave up all that glamour and fame to be Mrs. Nathaniel Malone… almost poetic really.  Too bad it was a lie.  The truth was, she’d lost faith in her dreams and herself.  Marrying Nate was the smartest thing she could have done.  

There was no use pretending she was going to make a big splash on the stage either here in Chicago or anywhere else.  The one thing her mother and all that attention back home had not prepared her for was competition – stiff competition with hundreds of other would-be Marilyns who were quite willing to do literally anything to get what they wanted.  Zelda was just not that aggressive or driven.  It was easier to change her goals than to see them through to fruition.

And she’d been happy actually.  She really did love Nate.  He was kind, gentle and so intense in his quest for a better life for each of them.  Until recently, his dreams had been enough to sustain them both.  He was full of energy and eagerness, and he had vision.   The kind of vision that you could hitch onto and let yourself be gladly pulled along.  Nate promised her the kind of life any girl would hope for:  a home and family and the kind of security that sounded so attractive to a young girl who had been thrust out into the vast, hard world alone.  

Zelda had been feeling overwhelmed and out of her element.  What Nate had offered her sounded so warm, safe and comfortable when compared to the cold cruel arena of the performing arts.  She rationalized that, even if she were to become a big star someday, everyone knows that its lonely at the top.  And loneliness was something she was too familiar with and could most definitely do without.  

So She had married Nate, and shared his vision… for a while.

One day however she had glimpsed sadness in his dreamy blue eyes.  Nate, just like her, was starting to lose faith in himself.  His confidence was slowly running down.  He was like a radio-controlled toy with a failing battery; sometimes the current would flow and he would charge ahead as though nothing was wrong while other times he would wake in the morning with no juice at all.  He was pressing all the right buttons, but nothing was happening.  The signal was dead.  That was before the lottery came along and changed their lives entirely.

After dressing, Zelda prepared a simple breakfast of poached eggs and toast.  They may be living like country folks, but she wasn’t about to start cooking like some country farm-frau, serving stacks of pancakes and such.  She called Nate in from the yard.  

Shutting the lawnmower off, he tramped through the front door looking so damn pleased with himself she had to smile.  Nate looked healthier these days and more handsome than she could ever remember.  He was spending a lot more time in the sun and it had streaked his light brown hair with flashes of golden blonde.  It fell stubbornly across his forehead, despite his constant attempts to swipe it back out of his eyes.  This habit, combined with the freckles splattered about this lightly tanned cheeks gave him a boyish charm which she found quite appealing.

“That’s it?” he asked seating himself.  “How’s a hard-working, grown man supposed to survive on a breakfast like this?”  His words were harsh, but she knew he was teasing.  Both of them had been working on trimming back their diet – low fat-this and diet-that.

“You are not a hard-working man anymore, Mister Malone,”  She ran her hand lovingly across the back of his neck as she joined him at the table.  “You’re a man of leisure… with LOTS OF MONEY!  And that’s why I love you so much.”

He took her hand and kissed it, his mouth full of breakfast.  “Well, who cares why just as long as you stay!  What’ve you got planned for today, Hon?  Just what does the wife of an independently wealthy land baron do in her spare time?”

Zelda smiled and then looked at him seriously.  “She goes shopping of course!  What good is all that money if you can’t spend it like it was going out of style?”

His laugh made her feel warm inside and she leaned across the table and kissed him.

“Good, good!  Go on into town and buy yourself something extravagant.  I’m sure you’ll look radiant in it.  Just don’t run off to Paris without me,” he warned her.

“Actually I had in mind something like groceries. We’re low on a few things.  But I might take some time to poke around some shops while I’m in town.”

“Okay, sweetie.  I’ll be working in the yard all day anyway.  So, have a good time. But first, I’ve something to show you in the bedroom…”  His leer made her feel even warmer inside.  

The town of Snyder reminded her very much of her own small hometown in Illinois, only it was not quite the mirror image of what she remembered. The bank was on the south side of the street instead of the north.  However, it was still directly across from the post office.  And the curve in Main Street was on the wrong end of town. But there was the Amoco station, right where it should be on the corner.  The Lutheran church, the one she and Nate kept saying they were going to check out one of these days was on the east side, by the highway.

Looming large over everything, its rusty tin siding providing an ominous backdrop for the rest of the buildings was the ancient feed mill. As Zelda drove past, she considered it. Surely, it must have been one of the first buildings erected in Snyder. Its pointed roof stretched high into the air, providing home and aerial playground to hundreds of swooping, careening pigeons. Driving beneath them with the sunroof down, Zelda prayed silently that none of them held a grudge against transplanted city types, moving into their little town.

Zelda decided at that moment, she didn’t like the mill. If there was one thing she could change about Snyder, it would be the presence of this hulking giant with the dark windows, looking upon the world with vacant eye sockets, staring gloomily from an enormous rusty skull.

Still, it was somewhat similar to the one in her hometown, right down to the huge, antiquated “Supersweet Seeds” sign clinging tenaciously to the side. She supposed these archaic, malevolent-looking monstrosities were a necessary evil that all small midwestern towns must endure, but it brought back memories that were not all good ones.

There were times in her past that she would rather not remember. When she left for the big city, she thought she was leaving behind all those bad times — the bad things her subconscious strived so hard to blot out. But occasionally and with increasing frequency, she found those memories coming back now that she had returned to small-town life.

One thing that was different was the new shopping center on the west edge of town where Zelda parked in front of the grocery store. She’d already browsed through the antique shops downtown and the ladies apparel shop here in the center. Now it was time to get down to business with some groceries.

As she walked up and down the aisles, examining the labels and comparing package sizes, she thought about her life with Nate. She marveled at how different things were going to be now that they had money. They would be able to travel — she’d always wanted to see Europe! Or maybe they’d spend time on cruises. But, best of all, they would have time for each other and, maybe now, they could think of having children and building a family. This was something they had been putting off until they were financially secure.

Well, you don’t get much more secure than seven million dollars, thank God, thought Zelda, whose biological clock had been ticking for some time now. Her life with Nate was becoming idyllic, but she needed to be a mother to make it complete. No matter how rosy their financial future, it was the one thing their money couldn’t buy. It was the one thing she needed above all else.

These thoughts were running through her mind as she approached the checkout-counter with her cart full of groceries. While standing in line, she spotted a poster, obviously home-made, asking the whereabouts of this child:

Susie Dawn Chamness

Age 11

Last Seen: Aug 3, 1993

Below the picture was printed instructions on who to contact with any information and a reward was offered. The picture was black-and-white, but the spirit of the little girl shone from it all the same. Her face was beaming with eagerness, and her long golden curls fairly glowed. But something deep within her pale eyes showed a hidden sadness, perhaps a longing, as though she had knowledge beyond her years — knowledge of something she would rather forget.

As Zelda stood looking at the angelic face of this child she tried to put herself in the place of her poor mother. How tragic it would be to give life to a beautiful child like this only to have her snatched away when you’d learned to love her with all your heart, as surely her mother must. This sort of thing was all too common in the city, but here in this rural community, it seemed out of place.  Zelda wondered…What could have happened to her way out here?

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2017 NaNoWriMo NOVEMBER & DECEMBER Bi-monthly Goals! — Derek Barton

Capture 10

It’s been two very busy months already…  Hard to believe how fast time has been marching past me on the road this year!  Having these bi-monthly goals really has kept me productive, but at the same time, it has made the days feel like sand flowing through my fingers!

So quick recap of last month’s goals and outcome:

  1. Outline first two books of Elude SeriesSuccess! I have both developed and set up for NaNoWriMo!
  2. Develop the character cast and their background of Elude Series — Success!  The list of my characters keep growing and I need to do more backstory on some, but I am prepped with the majority.
  3. Create a NaNoWriMo Prep Folder in Scrivener and complete the list of development items – Success! A quick progress report on that: I am already hip-deep into the writing and have done already 15,700+ on Elude so far in November!
  4. Write 1,000 words per day – blogging, outlining, writing – Partial credit. I wasn’t able to really do that much actual writing and it’s hard to account how much I did especially when writing up characters, working on outlines and newsletters, etc.
  5. On October 1st, start editing phase for The Bleeding Crown – Success! I completed the first round of editing on 10/29.  I will be picking up this manuscript again in December after my NaNoWriMo Challenge.
  6. Design book cover for Rookie: Pitfalls of Year One – Not completed.  I have decided to shelve this idea for now.  I like the idea of working up a non-fiction reference book for new writers, but I do not want to stop my momentum right now with my Epic Fantasy and my two horror series.
  7. Write new book blurbs for all my works and revamp all of the Amazon ads. – Not completed. I also changed my mind about this for now.  I will probably revisit this in the future.
  8. Complete a newsletter for each month. – Success!
  9. Find a part-time post or two – extra income to help with new bills and investment in writing projects/marketing. – Success! I am working my day job right now 6 days out of 7.  It is our busiest time of the year so it requires overtime anyway.  On the 7th day I work a part-time food delivery job (just like… Vic Vargas in Elude! Ha!  Hope I have a better experience than he did.  LOL!)
  10. Lose at least 15 pounds in the next two months through refined calorie counting/nightly walking/weight lifting. – FAIL! But to be fair, I have been working so much and have had a lot going on with my writing that I have just not had the energy or time.  I am going to certainly forward this goal on to the next round.
  11. Read a writers craft book, listen to podcasts and youtube blogs weekly on marketing/writingPartial credit. I have continued to make time for writing videos and reading blogs, but I didn’t read a writers craft book.
  12. Start a new series of blog posts. – Success! Very happy with the new series I am doing.  My father and I are doing a collaboration called The Hidden which is an origin story of the werewolf ideology.  His original manuscript was written in the 90s so it is a throwback to that time (think Stranger Things, IT).  I am releasing excerpts every two weeks. The Hidden
  13. Research and find alternative artists for projects (i.e. poker cards portraits, calendar and bio cards). – Fail. I put this also on the backburner and I really don’t know when or how I will get this accomplished.  If anyone has ideas or knows of an artist who would want to go into a partnership, please let me know!

Result – 8 out of 12 goals met so 67%… Not great, not bad.  But I will keep fighting the good fight!

 

November & December Goals:

  1. Complete the NaNoWriMo Challenge – 50,000 Word Count for Book #1 and Book #2 of Elude
  2. Start Round #2 of editing for The Bleeding Crown.
  3. Start Round #1 of editing for Elude Series #1.
  4. Decide on Cover Art for Elude Series.
  5. Start a savings plan for professional editing of The Bleeding Crown.
  6. Create marketing ads and decide on a marketing campaign for Consequences Within Chaos Audiobook.
  7. Lose 15 pounds by end of year.
  8. Research possible Phoenix and Arizona Book Festivals/Comic-cons to participate in.
  9. Continue to send out monthly newsletters.
  10. Keep up The Hidden horror series every two weeks.

Little fewer goals than the prior goal blogs, but being that I am working and writing daily, I think I can give myself a bit of pass on that.   

I do appreciate the support I get from you guys and family alike!  It is very much appreciated!!

The Hidden — Chapter 3: PASSING THROUGH — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH CH 3

 

CHAPTER THREE — PASSING THROUGH:

Shortcut, my ass! Thought Roger Spearman as he disengaged his cruise control and lugged the big Lincoln down a side road off state road thirty-eight.  The car had electrically operated seats with lumbar support and air-ride suspension.  She also ran like a raped ape out on the open highway, but his swollen bladder felt every bump and jostle of this badly neglected strip of asphalt.

Gawd!  I am really out in the boonies this time. 

His back seat was littered with shiny cans.  They were the spent casings of a twelve pack of silver bullets which is how Roger always referred to his drink of choice – never as Coor’s light.  He’d drunk it in bars from Richmond to Portland, in dives too numerous to mention.  From sleazy southern tonks to the glass and chrome décor of the some of the finest northern hotel lounges, his routine was nearly always the same.  He would park his large and somewhat doughy butt on a bar stool and demand a “cold silver bullet”.  When the bartender had filled his request, Roger would smile and salute, drain off a huge, adam’s-apple bobbing gulp and quip, “Ahhhh!  That one had my name on it!”  Sometimes this line would elicit a chuckle but it was usually of the polite variety.

Now at this moment, though, the beer sloshed in Roger’s stomach, and his over-worked bladder cried out for release.  He could swear it was splashing at the back of his throat.  As his headlights dimly illuminated the dark road before him, he did something he hadn’t done since he was a small child.  He reached down and pinched off his penis, hoping to staunch the flow of hot liquid that threatened to burst forth.

This would be his third stop since leaving Indy where he bought the beer.  There had been one stop at an ancient Union 76 station in Martinsville and another at the Starvin’ Marvin’ in Bloomington.  At forty-six, his kidneys weren’t what they used to be.

He would have been a lot better off to stay with the interstate, but no!  He had to go and listen to McNally.  Chester McNally had worked this area before and claimed that the best route between Chi-town and Louisville was to run 65 to Indy and then skirt the city on the 465 bypass.  Halfway around, you jump off on 37 and take it south to Paoli, a wide spot in the road, where you would then pick up 190 for a straight shot over to Louisville.

“Nothin’ but Podunk towns from Bloomington on down,”  McNally’d assured him. “No speed traps or state cops either.  And hell!  The local mounties don’t know a radar gun from a squirrel rifle.  It’ll cut forty minutes outta your trip.”

Well, father south it might be all right, but so far there had been too many stop lights and small towns to suit Roger.  Once he got this big boat rolling down the road, he liked to keep it that way – cruise control on a steady seventy-five and the air and the tunes at full blast.  So after threading his way through Bobby Knight’s hometown, he started looking for a way to cut back over to 65 and get the show on the road.  Once back on the interstate he might just have to push that cruise control on up around eighty or eighty-five to make up for some lost time.  His radar detector, Cobra lay coiled on the dash, its red eye blinking steadily.

At Bedford, the dual-lane ended and so did Roger’s patience.  He pulled over and whipped out his Rand-McNally (certainly no relation to Chester!) and found a squiggly gray line which was designated state road 38 and seemed to wind its way in the general vicinity he wished to pursue.  The sound of tires spinning on gravel joined with the hissing crack of his last bullet as he opened it and headed out to cut his losses.

But 38 never made it to the interstate, it petered out with a detour somewhere south of a town called Snyder.  For the last hour, he’d been wandering the back roads, turning first one way and then another trying to find his way back to the highway.  Every time he thought he was heading in the right direction, he wound up back in Snyder and his frustration was reaching a seething peak.

Ordinarily, he would have asked directions in town but it was late and they’d rolled the streets up here a long time ago.

The road he was on now though seemed to show some promise.  He was almost positive it was running in the right direction and there were few of those sudden right-angle turns that were common to the smaller, less-traveled routes.  As he cruised slowly along beneath a bright, full moon, he searched for an area away from any houses where he might stop to relieve himself.

He was a salesman and as such he was not a bashful man in most things, but his bathroom habits were something else entirely. He suffered from what is sometimes called “shy kidneys”, and it was difficult for him to relax in a public restroom.  Many times he stood awkwardly waiting with sweat blistering his brow, while the man at the next urinal finished his business and went to wash his hands. Usually, he would be so locked up by this time that he would have to wait for the sound of the door slamming shut as the man left before his straining muscles would ease their iron grip on his bladder.  It was a source of great shame for him and he’d never discussed it with anybody.  Now he looked for an isolated area, knowing full well that, if he suspected for an instant he might be surprised, he would be unable to perform the function.

Luckily, he was having no great difficulty finding a secluded spot, there were few houses in the vicinity.  He passed a darkened farmhouse and his headlights swept the mailbox.  The name Burchill stood out in large reflective letters on its side, but Roger didn’t bother to read them, his mind occupied by more pressing matters.  He grunted as the car bounced through a series of potholes beyond the house and ground to a halt.  He shut off the engine and swiped a beefy hand across his face.  It came away wet.

“Jesus!” He groaned aloud.  “My back teeth are floating!”  His hand slipped once on the door handle and then he jerked it open.  As he heaved his bulk up and out of the car, an empty can rolled out of the back and went clanking underneath the car.  He paid no attention.  Roger Spearman was many things, but an environmentalist was not one of them.

The warning buzzer screamed at him to remove his keys from the ignition and he slammed the door silencing it.  Immediately the interior lights blinked out, leaving him alone in the deep dark on a country road in the middle of nowhere.

“Hold on baby, hold on!”  He mumbled through clenched teeth as he swayed drunkenly around to the back of the car.  He staggered comically, one hand still clutching fiercely at his crotch while the other fumbled with his zipper.  He leaned up against the rear bumper, hissed in a sharp breath as he released his death grip and fumbled his penis out into the night air.

The twelve silver bullets did their job and he didn’t have long to wait.  He sighed with relief as the thick stream arched through the moonlight and splattered in the gravel at the side of the road.  Roger stepped back, spreading his legs a bit to avoid being splashed and chuckled to himself.

“That must be why they call it pee gravel!”  He wisecracked.  “Here all these years I’ve been spelling it wrong.”

As the pressure eased and his leg muscles relaxed, he began looking about.  It had been a scorcher of a day, but now the night air was cool and sweet.  A gentle breeze wafted through his sweat-dampened hair and fluttered the cheap tie that hung loosely over his round belly.

Behind him across the rod lay a cornfield and before him stretched a well-worn pasture that ran on back to the edge of the yard at the farmer’s house.  A full moon drifted through the sea of clouds above and brightly illuminated the evening sky.  As Roger squinted and peered out into the pasture he saw what at first appeared to be huge rocks scattered here and there.  Upon closer examination, they appeared to be cattle, sprawled sleepily in the moonlight.   He resisted the childish urge to “moo” at them, but the thought made him smile.

He stood there, head tilted back, shoulders bunched, swaying slightly neath the stars until a noise from the darkness brought him out of his reverie. The stream of urine was cut off sharp, like someone kinking a garden hose.  He jerked his head around and scanned the road both ways.  Nothing but darkness lay either way and he began to think about just how alone and isolated he was out here.

It was well past midnight, and not a soul was stirring for miles.  There appeared to be no other houses on this god-forsaken strip of back road and no one on earth knew of his whereabouts.  He was lost and drunk in unfamiliar surroundings – a bad combination.   If anything were to happen to him way out here, no one would ever know.  Slowly like the dark stain growing in the road beneath his feet, fear began crowding into his brain.  He cast an apprehensive glance behind him into the dense growth of corn and then turned to look at the cows again.  Was it his imagination or had they moved?  They seemed to be lying loser now than they were before.  Now he found himself wanting to look in every direction at once.

Maybe he was just being foolish but all of a sudden this idea didn’t seem to be such a good one.  He could swear someone was watching him.  He could feel their evil little eyes upon him as sure as he could feel the night air, cold and clammy on the back of his neck.

Something definitely moved there in the corn!

There was a sly, subtle rustling sound and then… thump.   A heavy footfall.

Roger stared into the corn, his breath caught high up in his chest here his heart hammered mercilessly.  In desperation, he burned his gaze into the impenetrable curtain of stalks until his eyes nearly bulged from their sockets.

Nothing.

But there was something.  He knew it.  He was as certain of it as he was of his own name.

“Stop it, Roger. Cut it out!  There’s nothing out there, you’re just getting yourself spooked, that’s all.”  His mind raced into denial.  He was standing beside the road, penis in one hand and his head craning around to gape stupidly at the corn.

Slowly he let out a shaky breath and tried to finish his business. But, in an instant, he could see it was no use.  His nerves had him as locked up as if he’d been standing in front of a crystal urinal in the middle of Carnegie Hall with a thousand women watching his every move.  He stuffed himself back in his pants and decided to finish this somewhere else – preferably in a nice, brightly lit men’s room.  He would find his way back to the highway and head for the nearest truck stop or late-night restaurant.

Roger’s hand had just reached the door handle when the rasping chorus of insect noises abruptly halted.  Total silence rushed in to take its place and every hair on his body leaped stiffly to attention.  He halted in his tracks and waited, jangling nerves stretched and thrumming in his ears.

His horror-stricken mind screamed as his ears picked up the unmistakable sound of claws scratching the surface of the road behind him.  It was like dog’s nails on the sidewalk, only slower.  With agonizing stealth, they slid along the gravelly asphalt and clicked loudly.  He was dimly reminded of the click of baseball cleats on a lock-room floor.

Something big was behind him in the pitch black.  He could hear it breathing — slow and heavy, a trace of a gurgle at the base of it.  Deliberately, he forced himself to twist and look, his taught neck muscles reacting sluggishly to the command.  His head wheeled like a heavy turret atop rusted bearings.  He could almost hear the squeal of corroded metal as he forced his fat jowls to swing around to face the nightmare at his back.

As recognition flashed across his pallid features, a scream boiled up like steam and slammed its way out of his throat.  His bladder let go completely this time.  There were no issues with nerves to lock it up!  He turned back and scrambled madly for the door.  He could feel the beast charging forward as he yanked the car door open and dashed to throw himself behind the wheel.  Instinctively knew he wasn’t going to make it.

For the first time that night, Roger was right.

An enormous weight struck him from behind and propelled him forward, striking into the edge of the door.  The sharp corner of the window frame was driven hard into his chest and his breastbone split wide allowing his frantically pumping heart to be impaled.

The interior light glared like a beacon in the night, illuminating the blood which gushed from Roger’s chest and spewed in two strong streams from his nostrils onto the white upholstery of the car and running down the side window and door.  He flailed his arms and legs frantically for a brief moment, like an overgrown beetle, pierced upon a stick.  Then he slumped forward and expelled a huge, steamy breath – his last.  By the time the creature sank its teeth into the side of his neck, Roger Spearman was already dead and gone.  His eyes rolled heavenward and his body limp as a ragdoll.

As the creature drug his fresh meal back into the corn, no one was around to hear the sounds of the feast.  Even the cows scattered about like statues in the pasture slept blithely unaware of the carnage.

As the night wore on, the door ajar buzzer in the Lincoln droned on and on.  The battery was strong, six hundred and fifty cold-cranking amps of direct current power, so the interior light continued to glow bright and clear all night long.  The light attracted several moths and a bevy of June bugs swirled about and occasionally cracked their hard backs against it.  The crickets resumed their night chorus carrying them out in long ratcheting sighs which ebbed and swelled on past sun up.  And the moon contuned to sail high above, amidst iceberg clouds, watching over the darkened field as it had for eons.  The cool and aloof, silent observer to the long summer night.

Gradually the clouds drifted away and the sky lightened.  Off in the pasture, some of the cattle were beginning to regain their feet.  Roosters began crowing in the barnyard and a small pride of farm cats prowled along beside Sam Burchill as he walked out across the road and down to the abandoned car.  He gave only a moment’s notice to the dried blood that caked along the door and puddled in the driver’s seat.  His face remained an impassive mask as he climbed in and turned the key.  The big motor roared to life an purred nicely as he pulled it around to the back of his barn.

Sam left the car idling as he climbed out and slid the big red door back on its track.  Inside was a wide, open room with a few farm implements parked back in the shadows.  A flock of pidgeons flapped frantically about in the rafters overhead.  They stirred up dust which speckled the few shafts of light that lanced through the gloom.  The barn smelled of old wood and dry rot – warm smells that had percolated in the summer heat.

He pulled the car inside and killed the engine.  Hay fell softly down from the loft, sifting through the cracks in the ancient loft floor, as he pulled a musty old tarp over the car.  One red taillight peeked out from beneath the cover, reflecting the morning sun shining in from the east.

Sam didn’t seem to notice and didn’t even give a backward glance when he left the barn.  Darkness enveloped the Lincoln again as he pulled the door closed and trudged slowly up to the house amidst the swarming cats.  There was blood on the side door.  A splash from the garden hose would wash it out of existence.  Wash away the last small traces of Roger Spearman.

But first, this was a working farm and there were chores to be done.