Excerpts

Prologue

Often, the most important lessons in life are the hardest learned, for the prudent and the foolish alike. The wise man is as accustomed to making mistakes as the fool. The only difference, is their reactions to the mistakes they make. At the heart of it all, the prudent and the foolish are much alike; they’re both just trying to make it through life. While the prudent man’s way is hard, the foolish man’s way is made even harder by his inability to learn from his mistakes.

If folly had a name, would we call it evil? And if prudence had a name, would we call it good? Perception may say so, but that may be a bit arbitrary, considering the likeness between the two.

Most times, regretting poor choices can help us right a wrong and make amends, such are the meager mistakes of the wise. But there are those who blunder so far on the side of error that colossal regret will never bring redemption. One bad decision can lead to another until remission will never be gained. It is the fool and the fool alone who employs such bad judgment. Dare it be me? For I, myself, have made such reprehensible decisions. The awful finality of my choices in that arduous mountain range, I will never outlive; the bloodstains on my hands will last forever and sanity will likely never return to my shattered mind.

My name is Sheriff McConley. I once believed that fortune favored the brave, but now the only thing that I am sure of is an ancient proverb, which states that pride goes before a fall.

So, if I am the fool, I must ask myself: What of my adversaries, Malik Sythe and Darius Dillon? If the fool is cast to the wayside, then what will be the end of them—possibly the most vile, putrid human beings to walk the face of the Earth. Is there a special place in the bottomless pit for the likes of these, or will I make my bed in Hell alongside theirs?

Chapter 1

It was 10:00 p.m. on the money when Bad entered the tavern, right on time, just as he had been every week for the past twelve years, since I was made bartender. I had been expecting his visit and was well prepared for it, but I sure hadn’t been looking forward to it.

The seven-and-a-half-foot-tall giant stooped through the side door, took a short step in, and stood up straight. Even after twelve years, I still got the chills every time I saw the beast.

Standing inside the doorway, he looked to his left to the far end of the bar. Farmer and Gardener were looking back at him, but quickly looked away. He flashed his attention to me, standing directly across the bar. More intimidating than his size, was his evil glare. His face showed no emotion and his eyes were black as night; empty as death. I said nothing. I could tell he wasn’t happy with the welcoming party at the other end of the bar, and beyond that, Harlot wasn’t here.

Farmer and Gardener only made it to Town once a week to load up on supplies from the General Store and offload the most recent harvest. Now and then they would hang around for a few beers, but it was never long before they were on their way. And right now, they needed to be on their way.

Bad finally spoke in his usual, intimidating growl. “Bartender!”

Keeping his eyes on me, he took a step forward. In one stride, he was standing in the open space directly across the bar from me. He slid the backpack, which he always carried into Town, off his shoulder and onto a barstool.

I finally replied in my usual, welcoming voice. “Bad. How you doin’, man?” I turned for the liquor shelf on the wall behind me and started working on his drink, a bottle of, whatever.

His haunting voice shattered my thought. “Never mind how I’m doin’, man! Everything good with you?”

I swallowed hard. Then I spoke. “Everything’s fine, Bad. You’ll see.” I turned back from the liquor shelf, poured a double shot of whiskey in a glass, and placed it, along with the bottle on the bar in front of him.

I knew why he was here; I just couldn’t figure out why Farmer and Gardener were still here. Other than Harlot, who was currently absent, no one ever hung around when Bad was expected. Despite their efforts to keep the conversation quiet, I could hear the two whispering at the other end of the bar. I had been trying to get them out of the Tavern for twenty minutes before Bad’s arrival, but they kept insisting on having one more beer. Now my concern was that one more beer would be their last one ever if they didn’t shut up and leave.

Bad glared down the length of the bar.

“He’s looking,” Gardener said as he aimlessly looked off at the wall.

Farmer replied in a loud voice beneath his breath. “Chill out, we’re cool.”

The two were beyond intoxicated, and I couldn’t help but feel a little responsible.

Bad slowly turned his attention back to me, his evil glare sent a wave of fear through my mind. He stood there shaking his head with discontent, and if there was one thing I wanted, it was for Bad Motherfucker to be content.

The intoxicated conversation continued making its way down the bar.

“Why does Bartender get to talk to him and we don’t?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Let’s get outta here, Farmer.”

Neither of them lifted an eye in our direction as they continued speaking behind their hands, loud enough to be heard.

“Maybe I’ll just go down and introduce myself,” Farmer commented.

It was high time I shut the Farmer and Gardener show down.

“Farmer!” I shouted. They simultaneously looked up; neither one could have possibly looked more stupid as I continued. “Why don’t you and Gardener call it quits and get out of here?”

Without word or warning, Farmer stood from his stool and started down the length of the bar in our direction. I hoped like hell he was just going to the shitter. There was no way he would be drunk, stoned, or stupid enough to approach Bad.

Keeping his eyes on me, Bad lifted the glass in his massive hand and took a sip. His eyes were full of malice, penetrating an overwhelming fear into my core. He lowered the glass and turned his empty snake eyes on Farmer, who was slowly approaching. I picked up the whiskey bottle and filled the glass, then turned my attention back to Farmer. I couldn’t believe it, he was rehearsing his salutation aloud as he staggered down the length of the bar.

“Hi,” he argued with himself. “My name’s Farmer. Should I hold out my hand? Shit, what am I doing?” But time ran out. He stopped two steps from where Bad was standing.

Glaring down, the brute dwarfed Farmer, who stood a solid six feet tall. Farmer slowly lifted his head and found himself staring into the dilated eyes of madness. A sobering look formed on his face. There was a brief silence, as though Farmer had forgotten the reason for approaching and now had no idea what to say. So, he said the only semi-intelligent thing he could come up with, making more of a statement than asking a question.

“You’re…Mean Motherfucker.”

Bad’s eyes went wide, his face turned to an evil smirk and he replied in an exaggerated voice. “Mean Motherfucker! Mean Motherfucker’s in Town?” He looked to the bar, picked up the whiskey double and shot it down like water.

Though completely petrified, Farmer’s intoxicated drivel mumbled out, “My name’s…Farmer.”

I stood behind the bar, completely shocked that Farmer would have the audacity to approach Bad. After all, he had lived in town his entire life and he knew the rules.

Glaring down at Farmer, Bad tapped his glass on the bar as if I were far away.

“Bartender!”

I was standing right there.

“Pour me another!”

I picked up the bottle and poured the glass full.

It appeared Farmer was in luck. Apparently, he had caught Bad, on a good day. The fact that he hadn’t already severed Farmer’s head from his body was nothing short of a miracle.

The giant growled. “I know who you are, Farmer. I just don’t know why you came down here. You know the rules!” His massive hand engulfed the glass, spilling half the drink before lifting it and gulping the rest down like air. Slamming the glass to the bar, he continued, “Do you have any idea who I am?” He turned his attention back to me, “Where’s Harlot?”

Not knowing where Harlot was, I quickly became concerned for my own well-being. Luckily, I had what he came for; at this point I just wanted to get down to business and send him on his way.

I looked at Farmer and spoke in a collected voice. “Farmer, why don’t you and Gardener get out of here? Those drinks are on me.”

Without a word, Farmer spun an about-face and started back toward Gardener, who had ducked from sight at the end of the bar. He moved quicker with each step, down the length of the bar, straight out the door at the other end of the tavern and into the street. Gardener scurried out behind him.

Eager to get it over with, I retrieved the bag I had ready behind the bar.

Bad didn’t say a word, he just stared through me with his ice-cold eyes.

I proceeded to place the bag on the bar in front of him, but he snatched it from my hands.

He opened the bag. His face lit up and his voice filled with excitement. “Oooo! Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

My response was brief, but confident, “That’s the chronic!”

He held a big bud to his nose and took a whiff of the stinky green.

“They’re gonna love it!” He briefly marveled, then growled. “Is the rest of it on time?” He placed the stinky bud back in the bag.

“From what I understand, there’ll be six hundred pounds a week from yesterday.”

“Well, I hope you understand correctly.” He rolled the two-and-a-half-pound bag of weed up and placed it on the bar. He then reached into a side zipper of the pack and pulled out a big wad of cash.

“Same price!” He began counting out a thousand dollars on the bar.

“Always the same price for you, Bad.”

“Better fuckin’ believe it, Bartender.”

I’d been here twelve years and still had no idea what the price was. Anything was fine as long as he didn’t eat one of my arms before he left.

I reached out with both hands and gathered the money, pulled the wallet from my back pocket, and stuffed it in.

“Where’s Harlot?” He asked a second time as he reached into the top of the backpack.

Not knowing the answer, I turned for the horn on the wall directly behind me. I wasn’t sure where Harlot was, or why she wasn’t here—after all, we only did this once a week. I held the receiver to my mouth and cranked the handle, hoping to get Keeper at the Inn, with even bigger hopes that Harlot was there.

He answered. “This is Keeper.”

“Keeper, is Harlot up there?” I spoke beneath my breath, hoping to conceal my voice.

“Sorry, Bartender, she ain’t here.”

“Damn. All right, hang up. I’m gonna try again. Don’t answer this time.” I hung up.

Shit! I could feel Bad staring through the back of my head. I lifted the receiver and turned the crank. No answer. That brain-dead son-of-a-bitch better answer.

I paused for a second, then cranked harder. I could practically hear the horn on the other end howling through the floor.

Finally, a timid voice answered, “Hello?” I knew the paranoid voice was Weirdo, and he sounded messed up.

I spoke in a low yet clear voice, hoping not to repeat myself. “Weirdo, is Harlot down there?”

“Ummm, aaaah, is this Bartender?”

“Who else? You stupid monkey! Now is she there or not?”

“She’s with Freak.”

“Well, go get her, Bad’s here.”

The horn went silent.

I hung up, slowly turned back, and looked at Bad, who was still standing directly across the bar, in the empty hot-seat space. I hadn’t had time to replace the stool since Mean had ripped it from the floor about an hour earlier.

Surprisingly, his voice softened a notch. “You better get the hot-seat replaced, Bartender.” He looked down at the floor where the stool was normally positioned, then turned and started rummaging through his pack. “Looks like there’s guests at the Inn,” he commented as he pulled a small box from the pack and placed it on the bar. “Before I forget, here’s Cop’s package.”

Not knowing there were strangers in Town, I asked, “Guests at the Inn, huh?”

He pulled yet another bag from the pack and placed it down. “This should take care of Freak and Weirdo for the next week. How they coming with that shit?”

As I reached out to take the package for Cop, the horn howled, and not a moment too soon. It wouldn’t be long before he inquired of Harlot’s whereabouts again.

“I better get that,” I turned back and picked up the receiver. “This is Bartender.”

“You called for me?”

It was Harlot, and by the sound of her voice I could tell she’d been smokin’ rock with Freak.

“What the hell are you doing? You’ve got bad company waiting on you, girl.”

“Oh, shit!”

The horn went silent.

I momentarily stood holding the receiver before hanging up. Moving slower than usual, I turned back and faced the bar. I didn’t even want to think about what might happen if she didn’t come through that door in the next couple minutes. I tried thinking of something to say to ease the tension, but I was at a loss for words, and Bad wasn’t one for idle chitchat.

His impatient voice shattered my thought. “I asked about Freak and how he’s coming with that shit!”

And I feared what would happen if he had to ask about Harlot again.

I responded in the most confident voice I could find. “As far as I know, Freak’s right on time with that shit.”

“I know that was Harlot on the horn! Where the fuck is that tramp?”

Now I was terrified, composed on the outside, but inside I was truly shaking.

“Yep, you’re right…Bad, that was her on the horn. She’s on the way…any second now.” I stood there feeling as if I might spontaneously combust.

Suddenly, I heard a commotion behind me and the cellar door shut. That quick, she appeared from around the corner to my left. A slender, five-foot-nine, hundred-and-twenty-pound sex machine, and she looked ready to work. I sure was glad to see that whore as she strutted passed the end of the bar, making her way to Bad on the other side. Now, I was hoping she would take her work up the street, to the Inn.

The lewd beast came alive with expression.

“Oh, yeah, honey! You’re the best thing I’ve seen since the last time I saw you.”

He kept his eyes on her every move until she stood directly in front of him.

She reached up, put her hand to his massive chest and spoke in a seductive, yet frightened voice. “I’ve been hoping you’d come back to see me, big boy.” She gave a push; Bad slid back into the stool behind him. She climbed into his lap, straddled her legs around the brute’s waist, and began grinding herself into the massive bulge in his paints.

Her voice rolled with lust. “Ooh, I want it, baby.”

Bad lay back in the stool, caught up in the moment.

I shook my head and turned away. Not here, I thought. Not on the bar.

It wasn’t long before Bad had his hands up her shirt. He then slid a hand down between her legs and lifted her like a child off to the side. Placing her feet on the floor, she pulled his shirt and motioned for the side door.

“I’m gonna take you home with me,” she said.

He stood up, reached for the backpack, and slung it over his shoulder. He then grabbed the bottle of whiskey.

“Until next week, Bartender.” He lifted the bottle and gestured, as if to toast a drink, confirming his satisfaction with our meeting.

“Okay, Bad. Taker easy man.”

He paused from turning away and looked back. “I’ll taker any way I can getter.” He let out a short grunt and turned for Harlot, who was pulling at the side of his shirt.

The giant hunched his enormous body out the door and slammed it behind him.

I let out a genuine sigh of relief and went for a drink.

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The Light Witch

Note: Not in book format

Prologue

There exists a dark and mysterious realm invisible to the naked eye; it is a place where wicked dwells, and evil spawns. Though the evidence of this otherworldly dimension is all around us, it goes unnoticed by the masses as they race through their meaningless lives. The inhabitants of that place invade our homes and mingle in every facet of society. When they are encountered, they deliver terror and confirm our worst fears. While the entities from this inscrutable place desire to haunt the living, their only real purpose is to expand the caverns of Hell.

I’m Sheriff James McConley, and this is a story about my encounter with a being from that dark and mysterious world. An encounter that would forever change my perspective on the paranormal and leave me questioning the essence of reality.

Like many, I once believed that the greatest tragedy in life was death. My experience with a devious entity brought me to realize that the greatest tragedy in life, is finding out that everything you believed to be real, is not real at all. Upon making this discovering, I was left with doubt and uncertainty that continues to erode the foundation on which my sanity is based.

If reality is vastly determined by what we believe, then it is subject to be manipulated by merely believing in something that would otherwise not be real.

I am reminded of a story about a lost hiker in the mountains. It was early afternoon when the man realized that he was heading in the wrong direction. He wandered around for hours until dusk had turned to night and he was forced to take shelter. While the daytime temperature had risen to over seventy degrease, the nighttime variance was known to dip well below freezing, especially this time of year.  Without thermal clothing and no means of starting a fire, he was unprepared to spend a night in the wilderness. Knowing he was going to freeze to death, the man huddled beneath an overhanging rock and etched a note into the dirt. I’m so cold, if I only had the means to start a fire I could make it through the night. The next morning a search-and-rescue team found him dead. The autopsy indicated that the man had froze to death, but it had been unseasonably warm in the mountains and the temperature that night never dropped below sixty degrease.

So, I ask, does a firm belief in a thing constitute its reality? Is perception and belief alone, enough to change what would otherwise be an infallible truth?

Before my encounter with this dark and diabolical entity, I would have said no. Now, I am forced to ponder such questions, and the resounding answer seeks to abolish the last of my sanity.

Chapter 1

Traveling back roads and staying clear of the beaten path, Patrick and Marcy were venturing across the country with hopes of finding rare oddities and experiencing places few ever see.

The headlights cut a trail through the darkness, but the eerie night engulfed their van, forcing a sense of despair that neither wanted to acknowledge. Unable to see the near future, they continued trekking deeper into the night, venturing farther into desolation, and closer to demise.

After a long bout of silence, Marcy spoke in a soft voice, “I’ve never seen it so dark.”

“Pretty dismal, that’s for sure,” Patrick replied.

The headlights suddenly revealed a man standing in the road.

“There’s a person!” Patrick braked and brought the slow-moving van to a stop.

“You have got to be kidding me. Out here, in the middle of the night?” Marcy was frightened.

The van sat idle as they stared out the windshield at a man in the road with his back to them. He was vaguely visible a few yards ahead, at the edge of where the headlights met the darkness. He was wearing a backpack and holding a flashlight, which was dead.

Marcy locked her door. “What’s he doing?”

“I have no idea. This is downright freaky.”

“Let’s turn around, Patrick. Somethings not right, I can feel it.”

“Yeah, but the roads too narrow, we’ll end up in the ditch.”

Patrick lifted his foot from the brake and the van rolled forward.

“What are you doing? Don’t get any closer.”

The van stopped.

“I’ll tap the horn, that will get his attention.”

Beep! Beep!

“Patrick!” Marcy objected.

The man didn’t even flinch.

Patrick shook his head. “What the hell is this guy’s deal?”

“Maybe he fell asleep standing there,” Marcy suggested.

“Yeah right, I think the weight of his backpack would have pulled him over if that were the case. Come on buddy, what the hell are you doing?”

“This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Marcy said.

Patrick hit the horn: Beeep! Beeeeep!

The man slowly turned around in a cumbersome motion.

“Oh, my gosh!” Marcy braced herself in the seat.

His eyes were glowing bluish white and his face held a lifeless expression.

“What the fuck!” Patrick expressed.

The man’s head fell limp, he buckled at the knees and dropped to the ground, pinned face down in the road by the weight of his backpack.

“Holy shit! I think he just died,” Marcy said.

Patrick reached for the door handle.

Marcy grabbed his arm. “What are you doing? You can’t go out there.”

“He obviously needs help.”

“Yeah, but you saw the look on his face. What if he’s sick or something.”

“I’ll get out and holler at him, see if he responds.”

They looked at the man in the road, he was lying face down beneath the weight of his pack. Suddenly, he moved his arms.

“He’s moving,” Patrick noted.

They looked at each other.

“I have to get out and see what’s going on,” Patrick concluded.

“All right, just don’t get too close.”

Patrick pushed his door open and looked into the darkness. “I can’t even see the ditch.” He noted as he stepped from the vehicle.

Marcy watched his every move as he shut the door and walked to the front of the van

Patrick called out, “Hey buddy, are you okay?”

The man labored to get up, but he collapsed back to his chest.

Patrick took a step forward.

“Don’t get too close, Patrick,” Marcy warned.

Patrick called out again, “Are you okay?”

“Er…na…ha.” The man mumbled and continued struggling beneath the weight of his backpack.

Patrick started walking toward him.

Marcy sat in the van silently denouncing his action.

“Are you okay?” Patrick asked again as he approached.

The man was now making it up to his hands and knees. “What the hell happened?” He finally spoke in a coherent voice.

Patrick walked up to his side, grabbed the man by the arm and helped him to his feet. “You fell over. Are you all right?”

The man shook his head and blinked as though he were trying to gain his focus. “Uuh, I think so. What happened?” He asked again.

“I don’t know. You were standing in the middle of the road. I blew the horn; you turned around and fell over.”

“Oh man. The last thing I remember I was looking at that star out there.”

Patrick looked. There was nothing but blackness beyond the headlights. “I don’t see a star,” he said. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’m hiking across the country. I started in Maine and I’m hoping to be in California this fall.”

“Well, that’s quite an endeavor. You really should have a flashlight.”

“Ah, yeah. I had one.” The man looked down; his flashlight lay in the road. He took a short step and picked it up.

“Looks like your batteries are dead,” Patrick noted.

“That sucks, those were my last ones.”

Marcy opened her door and shouted. “Is everything okay up there?”

Patrick flashed his attention. “Yeah, his batteries are dead.” He looked back at the man. “My name’s Patrick.” He held out a hand.

“I’m Bob, Bob Fulton.”

They briefly shook.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any extra batteries, would ya? It’s impossible to see out here without a light.”

“I think we can help ya out with that. Let’s go.”

They started for the van, both choosing to forget about the strange incident and neither one said another word about it.

“Let me see what we have.” Patrick walked around to the driver’s door.

Bob stopped a couple of feet from the front of the van. “That sounds good, I really appreciate it.” He looked around into the darkness.

Patrick climbed into the van and shut the door.

“What’s going on?” Marcy asked.

“His batteries are dead. I told him we’d give him some.”

“I mean, what’s going on? Why was he standing in the road with that dead look on his face?”

“I don’t know,” Patrick shrugged. “He seems fine.”

“Well, he didn’t look fine.”

“Can you grab the flashlight from under your seat? I’ll give him those batteries.”

Marcy reached below her seat and grabbed the light.

Bob walked around to the driver’s door and Patrick rolled his window down.

“So, ah,” Bob started and stalled.

“We’ll give ya the batteries out of our flashlight. The other ones are buried in the back somewhere,” Patrick explained.

“Yeah, great. But ah—I was wondering if maybe I could get a ride. It sure is dark out here.”

Patrick looked over at Marcy.

Marcy looked skeptical. “I don’t know, Patrick. I mean, what’s he doing out here?” She spoke in a low voice.

“He said he’s hiking across the country.”

“Well then, give him these batteries and let him hike.” Marcy held out two C batteries.

Patrick took the batteries and looked out at Bob. “Sorry, my girlfriend doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but you can have these batteries.”

The van continued at an idle in the middle of the road.

Bob returned a disappointed look. “Well…okay.”

“Here’s a couple C batteries, if those will work for ya.” Patrick handed them out.

“Yeah, that’s what I need.” Bob took the batteries. “Thanks, I really appreciate it.”

“Those are good ones, they should get you through the night,” Patrick noted.

“Thanks.” Bob looked at Patrick and nodded. “Are you sure you can’t give me a ride? Just until we get somewhere a little more civilized?” Desperation filled Bob’s voice. “It sure is eerie out here; I really don’t feel very safe.”

Patrick looked over at Marcy in the passenger seat. “What do you think, baby? He seems nice enough, and it would be pretty creepy out there.”

“I don’t know, Patrick. We don’t even know his name.”

“He said his name’s, Bob.” Patrick looked out his window. “You said your name’s Bob?”

“Yeah, Bob Fulton…from Pennsylvania.”

“Hmm, any relation to Robert Fulton?” Patrick inquired.

“No—who’s that?”

“I think he invented the cotton gin.”

“No, that’s not him. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin,” Bob responded.

“You sure about that?”

“Pretty sure.”

Patrick looked back at Marcy, “What do you think, baby, ride or not?”

“Well…he seems alright. I guess.”

Patrick turned his attention back to Bob. “Okay, we’ll give ya a ride. Go around to the other side and climb in through the side door.

Bob’s face lit up, “Awesome! Thanks!” He turned and walked around the front of the van.

Patrick shimmied between the seats and slid the side door open.

Bob stepped up and started removing his backpack.

“There should be plenty of room,” Patrick said as he shuffled some stuff around on the floor.

“I really appreciate this. It’s downright spooky out here,” Bob said as he lowered his backpack off his shoulders and into the van.

“I can imagine. We’ve been getting a little creeped out too, and we’re in the van.” Patrick worked himself back into the driver’s seat.

Bob climbed in, slid the side door shut and sat on a bench seat against the driver’s side panel of the van. “Hi, my names Bob.” He held out a hand to Marcy.

She turned in her seat, “I’m Marcy.”

They briefly shook.

“I can’t express enough gratitude,” Bob said.

“Welcome aboard, Bob.” Patrick put the van in gear and started into the pitch-black night.

.     .     .

Bob believes that Patrick and Marcy just saved him from spending a spooky night on the dark country road alone. It was nice to be in the van, off his feet and in the comfort of two friendly strangers. But if Bob could see the near future, he would have taken the batteries and said goodbye.

Patrick and Marcy were uneasy about the mysterious encounter in the road, and Bob himself had no answer for it. Regardless, no one said a word about it as the van continued into the night.

.      .      .

An hour had passed since they picked up Bob. Patrick navigated the narrow dirt road, hoping for it to improve and hoping for the darkness to dissipate. Bob had been rocked to sleep on the bench seat in the back and Marcy had fallen asleep in the passenger seat.

The van continued cutting through the night, seemingly guided by a spark of a light that had appeared to Patrick a few miles back. The farther they traveled, the more fixated on the shimmering light he became. Unable to judge how far away it was, he presumed it to be a flickering star, a million light-years away. Then suddenly, the brilliant pinhole of light began to get closer and Patrick became transfixed on its brilliance. It grew no bigger nor did it intensify in brightness, it was just as vivid at ten feet, as it was at ten miles, but Patrick could tell that it was now right outside the windshield.

He became mesmerized by its brilliance and it spoke to him. “Let me in.” A whispering voice came from the air around him.

He quietly responded, “What? Who said that?” He couldn’t pull his eyes from the hypnotizing light, which now appeared to be a foot in front of his face.

“Let me in,” it beckoned.

Patrick was pulled into a complete trance, but aware that the light was speaking to him. “What do you mean?” he mumbled.

“In, let me in, Patrick,” The hypnotic voice answered.

“Why?”

Marcy and Bob continued sleeping as the van traveled on.

“You have no idea what you’re missing.” The enticing voice grew more tenacious with its plea.

“How do you know my name?” Patrick felt the urge to let the mysterious light enter his head.

The van veered off the narrow road, drifted into a small thicket of trees and Bob was thrown from the seat, “Shit!” He hit the floor.

Marcy was thrown forward in her seat. “Aaaahh!” Her eyes snapped wide and she braced herself with both hands against the dash.

“Hang on!” Patrick yelled.

Marcy screamed and clenched her eyes.

The van had already come to a stop.

Bob pulled himself up between the front seats. “What the hell happened?”

Patrick and Marcy opened their eyes.

“I don’t know!” Patrick looked around. “I must have dozed off.”

“You fell asleep? Patrick!”

“Sorry! I…I fell into a weird dream.” He responded, unsure of what had happened.

“A weird dream? This will be a nightmare if we can’t get the van out of here,” Marcy said.

The van sat idling, swamped in by small trees on both sides. The headlights shined into a thicket of saplings which engulfed the front of the vehicle.

“I’ll get out and assess the damage,” Patrick suggested as he killed the engine.

“Looks like we have a broken headlight,” Bob commented.

“If that’s the worst of it, we’ll be okay,” Patrick replied.

Marcy reached beneath her seat and grabbed the flashlight, then looked back at Bob. “I think you have our batteries, Bob.”

“Oh, yeah.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the batteries. “Here you go.”

Patrick pushed his door open into a small tree.

“I’m gettin’ out too,” Bob said as he slid the side door open.

Patrick rolled his window down and shimmied out the narrow opening in his door.

Marcy finished replacing the batteries in the flashlight. “Be careful you guys, it’s awfully dark out there.” She warned as she handed the light to Patrick who was now reaching in through the open window.

Patrick and Bob worked their way through the brush and met at the front of the van.

“Looks like a busted headlight, a cracked grill and a nice dent in the bumper,” Patrick noted as he flashed the light around.

There were small trees and brush packed beneath the van.

“Why don’t you jump in and try to back out, Patrick. I’ll stand out here with the light and make sure nothing gets snagged underneath.”

“Sounds good.” Patrick handed the light to Bob and worked his way back to the driver’s door.

He climbed in and looked at Marcy, she was looking back at him with anticipation. “How’s it look?” she asked.

“No major damage. Everything should be alright.” Patrick started the van and turned on the headlight. “Good thing I wasn’t going any faster, it could have been a lot worse.” He pulled the shifter into reverse and gave it some gas.

Marcy sat there with a skeptical look on her face as the van started to move.

“Looking good!” Bob shouted as he knelt and shined the light beneath the vehicle.

The van continued backing from the wooded thicket and onto the narrow dirt road.

“Thank God,” Marcy expressed.

“Alright!” Patrick squared off in the road and brought the van to a stop.

The side door slid open and Bob jumped in. “Minor setback!” He said as he pulled the door shut and took a seat.

“Yeah, but now we only have one headlight.” Marcy said as Patrick pulled the van into drive and started off.

“Don’t worry, baby, we can get that fixed in the morning when we stop for gas,” Patrick assured.

“We really need to find a pull-off and get some sleep,” Marcy suggested.

“Trust me, I’m awake now.”

They traveled for less than a minute and steam started rising over the hood.

“Crap! The temperature gauge is rising,” Patrick noted.

“What’s that mean?” Marcy asked.

Patrick stopped, put the van in park, got out and walked to the front of the vehicle. He looked at the grill and shook his head. A moment passed before he looked up at Marcy and Bob who were staring out the windshield. “It means we have a stick in the radiator.” He made his way back to the driver’s door and climbed in.

“Looks like there might be a pull-off up ahead,” Marcy noted as Patrick put the van in gear.

They traveled a few feet and an intersecting road came into view ahead on the right.

“Looks like a driveway,” Patrick said.

“Yeah, there’s a mailbox!” Marcy was thrilled.

“Not a moment too soon, we gotta get off the road.” Patrick angled into the drive.

“I don’t see a house,” Marcy said as the van pulled in and the headlight lit up the driveway.

The lane curved through the trees and disappeared into the darkness.

“Well, there’s a mailbox, so there’s gotta be a house back there,” Bob affirmed.

Patrick replied, “Yeah, but we should wait until daylight to venture back there.”

“Okay,” Marcy agreed. “Let’s just park right here and get some sleep until the sun comes up.”

Patrick killed the headlight and shut the van off. Everything was vanquished to blackness.

Bob clicked the flashlight and the inside of the van lit up.

“Lock your door, baby,” Patrick said as he pulled the key from the ignition.

“We’re gonna crash out on the bed back there, Bob. You can make yourself comfortable on that bench seat or on the floor.”

Patrick and Marcy worked their way between the front seats and started for the bed in the back of the van.

“Sounds good.” Bob sat on the bench seat which ran parallel with the driver’s side panel of the van.

It was only a couple of minutes before Patrick and Marcy were comfortable on the bed and Bob was stretched out on the seat.

Bob turned the light off; everything went dark and silent.

Chapter 2

Sleeping only moments, Bob was awakened by a noise outside. “Patrick, you awake?”

“Huh?” Patrick had just fallen asleep.

Bob called out again, “You awake?”

“I am now.”

“Did you hear that?” Bob asked.

“Hear what?”

“Listen.”

They whispered back and forth in the darkness.

Patrick was suddenly alerted by a strange noise outside.

“What is it?” Patrick asked as if Bob knew.

“I don’t know.”

Marcy woke up. “What’s going on?”

“Shh, quiet,” Patrick instructed. “Something is rubbing against the van,” he listened attentively. “It’s gotta be an animal…a person would need a light to be out there.”

“Why’s it brushing against the van?” Bob asked.

“I don—”

Ka-thud! Something hit the side of the van.

“What the hell was that?” Marcy demanded.

“That was no animal.” Patrick draped his feet from the bed and sat up. “You got that light, Bob?”

“Yeah, somewhere.” Bob started feeling around in the dark.

Patrick worked his way to the front of the van, climbed into the driver’s seat and hit the lights. “What the Fuck!” He was startled by the sight of a man standing in front of the van holding a baseball-sized rock.

Marcy sat up on the bed and looked to the front of the van. “Holy shit! He looks pissed off!”

“Let’s get outta here!” Bob suggested.

Patrick put the key in the ignition, fired up the van and put it in reverse. He accelerated out of the drive and across the narrow dirt road: Smash! Into a shallow ditch on the other side.

“Aahhh!” Marcy fell back on the bed.

“Woah!” Bob hit the floor.

The vehicle stalled.

The man walked toward the van, holding the rock as if he were going to throw it.

Marcy sat up and braced herself. “He’s coming!”

Patrick turned the key. “Shit! Come on!” The engine turned but wouldn’t start.

The man stopped a few feet in front of the van, seemingly lost in the glare of the single headlight.

The engine fired, Patrick pulled the vehicle into gear and floored it. The wheels spun, roosting dirt and gravel as the vehicle pulled from the ditch and launched forward.

The man threw the rock—Smash! It spider webbed the windshield, distorting Patrick’s view. “Shit!”

“He’s a lunatic!” Bob yelled.

Patrick held the pedal to the floor: Clunk—Thump! He ran the man over: Crash! The front of the van dropped into the ditch on the left side of the driveway. Beeeeeee— Patrick was forced into the steering wheel.

Bob was thrown into the back of his seat and Marcy rolled onto the floor. —eeeeeeep! The horn stopped as Patrick pushed himself back. “Are you guys okay! Marcy, you okay, baby?”

“What the hell was that!” She replied, trying to pull herself up from the floor.

“Bob, you okay?” Patrick asked.

“I think you ran that guy over,” Bob responded.

“Serves the fucker right!” Marcy said in a shaken voice.

“Hang on!” Patrick put the vehicle in reverse and pressed the peddle. The rear tires spun and dug into the dirt. “Damn it!” He put it in drive and gassed it but the vehicle went nowhere. He shoved it back into reverse and floored it; smoking the tires.

Bob was on his knees, bracing himself between the front seats.

A woman suddenly came into view of the headlight.

“What the fuck!” Bob exclaimed.

Patrick let off the accelerator and the van came to an idle. “She’s got a gun!”

Marcy sat on the floor holding onto the bench seat, unable to see what was going on. “What’s happening!?” She asked, afraid of the answer.

The woman raised the shotgun and pointed it at the van.

“Get down!” Patrick ducked below the dash and Bob hit the floor.

Marcy rose to her knees and looked out. “Oh shit!” She dropped back to the floor.

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