This week’s prompt:
A person with a tail, bad directions, crazy socks
“We’re lost,” Jennifer complained tossing her phone on the dash, the robotic voice from the radio informing them that once again the satellite connection was lost and no more data was available.
“We can’t be too lost,” Noah said, trying to sound reasonable and assured. “We’ve not have passed any roads in miles.”
“And this one is running out of pavement,” Jennifer pointed out, unnecessarily.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Noah frowned at the road quickly turning to red dirt and gray gravel. “That weird girl at the gas station said we needed to take this road, and we had no choices to turn off since then, but this is not the right way.”
“No shit,” Jennifer grumped as she rebooted her cell phone for the third time in as many miles. “We probably should not have trusted girl wearing a monkey tail and those atrociously obnoxious socks.” She added.
“Tail? Noah asked. “I didn’t see a tail, but I will agree that the socks were weird.” They fell into an uncomfortable silence as the road stretched on.
“We have to come up on something eventually,” Noah said. “No road goes on forever.” He stopped and thought for a moment while Jennifer sulked.
“That was downright poetic,” he announced. “Can you make a note of it?” He glanced at Jennifer, who gave him a disapproving look.
“Or not,” he added. “I am sure I will remember it later tonight.”
“No doubt,” Jennifer agreed blandly.
“We will stop and ask directions as soon as we see somewhere,” he assured her.
“It’s been forever since we saw so much as a house or even a barn,” Jennifer pointed out. Outside the car was the narrow gravel road, flanked by steep ditches, and endless fields of green plants about 7 feet high. They could see nothing else. It was like being alone in the world.
Earlier they thought they might just turn around, but the road was not wide enough to accommodate the sedan, no matter how many times Noah tried. Forward was the only direction they had. Noah worried what would happen if they met another vehicle coming the other way. It was not wide enough for two to pass, and the ditches were too steep.
“There will be something soon,” he said with a confidence he did not feel. And as if conjured by his words, they could see a break in the fields.
“Oh, there!” Jennifer bounced in her seat excitedly, pointing wildly at the evidence of something other than plants. If nothing else, they could finally get turned around. He glanced at the gas gauge and was happy to see it was still three quarters full. Though that was odd since they had been driving for a very long time. He hoped the gauge was not broken.
Noah slowed the car, the crunching of gravel loud under his tires. The pop and thunk of stones on the sides and undercarriage made him wince. We he saw on his left was indeed a break in the endless fields of corn, or wheat, or whatever it was, and even looked like it might have once been a roadside produce stand. Though how a produce stand could survive with this little traffic was something he did not understand.
“Thank, God,” he sighed and hit his turn signal out of habit. The absurdity of the action made him stop for a second. It was in this pause that Jennifer grabbed his right arm with a white knuckled grip. “Keep going,” she said in an uncharacteristically high pitched voice. “Don’t stop here! Go! Go!”
Noah wanted to protest, it was just a toothless old man with torn and dirty overalls, caked with mud and dirt leaning against the old stand, but Jennifer’s panic made him put his foot on the gas instead, straightening the wheel and guiding the large car back onto the narrow road.
“What got into you? We could have turned around,” he protested, but her face was white and her hand shook on his arm as she watched the stand disappear in a cloud of road dust and distance.
“What was that all about?” he asked as she turned back around, releasing his arm.
“Did you not see it?” She asked.
“It was some old farmer standing there. He looked harmless.” Noah said.
“You didn’t see in the truck bed?” Jennifer asked in a small voice.
“No,” Noah said. “What was in the truck bed?”
“It wasn’t water melons he was selling,” Jennifer said. “It was people.”
“Don’t be absurd!” Noah almost hit the brakes, be decided not to stop.
“You didn’t see it,” she insisted and started to cry. These were big fat tears, not the small angry tears she had when they fought. “It was not vegetables.”
Worried, Noah patted her leg and took her hand, slight cold and still trembling in his. “Try your phone again,” he suggested. Maybe you can find out where we are now.”
Jennifer looked down at the screen and saw the same message. No GPS and no signal. She looked up at a sharp gasp from Noah.
“What?” She scanned the sides of the road quickly, frantically.
“That man,” Noah was looking in the rear-view mirror. “That old man. I just saw him at the side of the road.”
Jennifer turned to look behind them, but a reddish cloud of dust already obscured the road and fields to either side. “I don’t see anything,” she said. “Are you sure?”
“I am certain!” Noah said firmly. “He was just standing there in those filthy overalls.”
“How would he get that far ahead of us?” She asked. “Even if their are other roads back there it seems unlikely.” She kept a closer watch outside none the less.
The road stretched on. They kept driving and still nothing. No roads, no houses, just endless fields. The gas gauge did not budge.
“Great,” Noah sighed. “One more problem to worry about we are going to run out of gas and not even know until it is too late.”
Once again, as if the mention of gas summoned it, a break in the fields. This time Noah slowed down and hit the door locks, looking very carefully as they came up to the new stop. This was an ancient gas station. There was no way the pumps still worked and the shack behind them looked ready to fall down.
“Oh god! Drive!” Jennifer shrieked. “Drive faster!”
Noah saw what she had now and hit the gas hard. Too hard. The enormous sedan swerved and fishtailed on the gravel, throwing up clouds of dust and rocks as Noah fought to control it. Jennifer continued to scream.
“It is them!” She kept saying, but there was a loud thunk, and the car was filled with white. The fabric of the airbags shoved Noah back and powder filled the cabin.
Dazed, Noah shoved the deflating airbag from his face and made a quick mental inventory of any possible injuries. His nose hurt, the powder from the airbag was making him cough and his seat belt would leave a mark on his shoulder where it caught him, but other than that he seemed to be OK.
“Jennifer?” He asked reaching out for her hand. He heard a groan and looked over to see her rubbing at her face. “You all-right?’ He asked. Unfastening his seatbelt. He leaned over to get a better look at her but a tap at his window drew his attention out of the car.
“Gee mister,” the strange looking girl from the first stop said, a big grin on her face. “You take a wrong turn or something?” she asked, a look of concern on her face. Something thin and brown came into view, tapping on the window again. It looked like a monkey’s tail, but before he could get his head around it, Jennifer began screaming again.