A pretty relevant question for the following story. And, if there’s some kind of lunatic – who is it? The narrator? Her counterpart? The author? Or even yourself as you’re reading this story ;-)? Just that’s for sure: nothing’s like it seems at first sight.
Horrible. There was no other word to describe our date that night. First, there was his messed-up restaurant reservation, then the ketchup accident in the sleazy diner and finally, as a “highlight”, this awful movie we watched … from the front seats.
For most of the time, he had been more of a silent guy. Now, back in the car, he went into chatting mode. His insurance job, his brother, who bought a run-down house, his dear Vauxhall something, which, most tragically, he recently had to junk.
Stoically we put up with his fluff.
“We should have dumped him right after the movie.” Beatryce crossed her tattooed arms. “After all, he might come up with the idea of making out at the front door.”
“But taking the train at this time of night isn’t that much of a nice experience, either,” Amy claimed, adjusting her pair of glasses again.
“And why would it be so bad, if there was something going? I think he’s quite cute … somehow. At least if he doesn’t try to plan a date, hehe.”
“Cute? Layla, the guy is as cute as a panda-shaped wet facecloth.”
“You’re unfair, Beatryce! Just because he isn’t the ‘rockstar with long dark hair’ type of guy!”
Beatryce stared out of the window, pouting. “Still better than the ‘mummy’s boy with recognition complex’ type,” she muffled. Layla just gave our eagerly communicating counterpart a dreamy look, curling her blonde tresses with her finger.
“Well, if you ask me …”
“It’s just that we don’t ask you, Tyler!” Beatryce hissed.
Tyler was, however, not refraining from sharing her impression. “It’s just … to me, he acts like a psycho.”
“Oh, look who’s talking!” Layla snapped back.
Amy, on the other hand, totally went for it. “Do you really think so, Tyler? In what way?”
“Well, first he’s playing the timid guy and good listener,” Tyler started, “and suddenly, just as we’re in the car, he’s showing off his ego like that. Did you get that thing with his brother? Or the story about his colleague? He always knew better, of course! He is the big bopper around here, no doubt! A bit extreme for a first date, don’t you think? And then this tick he has of constantly striking his hair…”
“Really? I didn’t notice that at all.” Layla dropped her tress. “And his ego … I don’t know. I don’t think it was too extreme. What is he supposed to say after all? That he’s just another idiot?”
“That would at least be honest,” Beatryce murmured, focusing her attention on the street.
“Hey, wait!” She turned in the direction of the junction the car had just crossed. “Weren’t we to turn right here?! He’s even too stupid to follow that simple instruction!”
“Didn’t we tell him we have to go to the campus?” Amy asked reluctantly. Beatryce gave her a grumpy nod, while Layla took over the task of giving him a decent hint.
“Did you know the main road is blocked?” she wondered in view of his hasty answer that quickly brought him to another of his stories.
“I thought the construction work was already finished,” Beatryce grumbled. Tyler looked sceptic, too.
The by-pass soon lead us out of the town’s periphery. Extensive properties with neat one family homes lined up along the dark country road. Layla, who had taken up to play with her tresses once again, sighed. “This is so nice, isn’t it?”
“’Nice’ or the epitome of smugness,” Beatryce threw it back in Layla’s face, causing a miffed silence.
“I don’t even know where we are,” Amy whispered, adjusting her glasses.
Tyler gave her an evil grin. “Maybe, he doesn’t know, either.”
But basically, he didn’t seem as if he got lost. The calm expression on his face, the confident way he was steering the car – everything pointed at the fact that he knew the route more than well.
In the meantime, the scenery was becoming even more rural. Apart from a few farmhouses, whose dim lights shone out of the distance, only dark acres and meadows lined the street. We turned left and the vastness of the fields gave way to the dense vegetation of conifers and deciduous trees. By now the street lights had disappeared completely.
Tension spread. Amy chewed her lower lip as always when she felt nervous. Layla curled one tress after another. Even Beatryce had slipped out of her isolated pose, now drumming her fingers on the window ledge. Tyler had a chuckle to herself.
A deer sprang on the street before us, only a few yards ahead, but decided to move on to the other side of the forest in view of the dangerously approaching lights. Lucky us! A road kill would have been the last thing for the spoilt evening to bear.
Hence, the incident reminded our unremitting driver of another subject he was more than enthusiastic to share with us.
“Taxidermy, is it?” Beatryce scoffed. “I surely didn’t credit him with that kind of hobby.”
“I think as a hobby, it’s actually a bit gross.”
“Oh Amy, to you everything is gross that goes beyond collecting stamps or owning a library card.” Layla nudged her. “I find that really interesting.”
“But must he describe these things in such detail?”
“Psycho! That’s what I’m saying. Look – here comes the hair-stroking again!”
“Tyler, shut up!”
“Did you notice the rope in the trunk?”
“That was a tow rope. Probably from the incident with his old car.” Beatryce rolled her eyes, but Tyler was just getting into her stride.
“After such a long time?” she hissed. “Wasn’t he on vacation some weeks ago? He could have taken it out by then.”
“Maybe he put it back?! After all, you never know …”
“Right, you never know!”
“Baah, the part about the stuffed birds was really disgusting!” Amy interfered in their discussion.
“Yes, he seems to know a lot about anatomy …”
“What are you heading at?” Layla replied with a resentful look. Gradually, Tyler’s comments got her really bugged.
“If he has already stuffed something bigger as well?” Tyler sent the provocative look right back to Amy, who had meanwhile sucked in her complete lower lip, chewing on it extensively. “Maybe his last date?”
Amy squinted her eyes.
“You’re crazy!” Layla bawled her out while listening dutifully to his current report at the same time.
Tyler bowed forward. “Take a look at the glove locker!” she whispered.
“Just take a look!”
“I can’t just open the locker like that!” Layla hesitated. Beatryce took over for her, pulling open the dark grey plastic hatch.
“Hum, duct tape?”
Tyler nodded knowingly. Now even Layla seemed scared. “Er, but what for …?”
On the parking lot near to his office there were some martens roving about, was his plausible answer. Since they had managed to chew through the coolant hose of his old car, he always made sure to have the tape on board.
“See, Tyler!” Layla sighed with relief. She didn’t seem completely convinced though.
“And this object in his door pocket …” Tyler went on with her theory undeterred.
Beatryce glanced through his arms at the upper compartment of the door, from which a long, black handle was sticking out. She shrugged. “Could be a flashlight.”
“Who’s still using flashlights in the age of mobile displays?”
Neither Beatryce nor the others replied. Therefore, an inconvenient silence rose after he had finished his last descriptions on the skinning of martens. In our tangled thoughts and quarrelling, none of us had really listened to him. Layla uttered an awkward giggle, assuming the last pieces about skinning martens, she had got earlier, were meant as a joke. Even she wasn’t into chatting anymore. Not to mention any kind of intimacies. (Maybe with the next date.) For now, she just wanted to go home. She held back a childish “How long ‘til we get there?”, and stared out of the window.
Tyler started humming. Something from her childhood which used to soothe her back then. Beatryce was drumming on the ledge again.
“Somehow it was better when he was constantly jabbing,” Amy broke the silence. “Now, it’s really creepy.” She tossed a hopeful look at Layla, who didn’t answer back this time. Beatryce didn’t react, either. He stroke through his hair once more. If he had gagged us with his stories?
‘Gagged’. Amy felt a shiver down her spine. Layla replied something clumsy, picking up her tresses, twirling them in her fingers. Again it went quiet. Apart from the constant sound of the engine and Tyler still humming to herself.
“Tell him to pull over!” Beatryce nudged Layla.
“Why don’t you tell him yourself?”
“That would come across pretty strange, wouldn’t it? You’ve been chatting with him the whole time, anyway.”
“And why shall he pull over?”
“Just ask him. I want to know if he’ll do it.”
“Tell him, you have to go somewhere or something like that. And you, Tyler, just stop the goddamn humming!”
Tyler muted, while Layla was turning towards our wannabe date.
“He doesn’t want to stop the car! And now?” Panicking she faced Beatryce.
“Ask him again! Say it is urgent.”
On his feedback, Layla took a deep breath. “’Gravel pit’? What gravel pit?”
“Beatryce, I don’t want him to take us to this gravel pit!” Amy sobbed, clasping her arm.
“It’s okay, Amy. We will think of something.”
We turned left. A narrow forest road with an unsound pavement. From here we could already see the clearing where the pit was located at the foot of a steep slope. Some yards ahead a rudimental parking spot became apparent. He pulled the car over and stopped it askew on the gravelled area. Layla made a forcefully thankful face and pushed the door open. Maybe a little hasty.
“Yes right, show him that you are in a panic!” Tyler rebuked her. “So he will come after us with his taser right away.”
“Oh shit, oh shit!” Meanwhile, Amy was trembling all over her body. Beatryce pulled her arm, trying not to lose her temper.
“Come on, Amy, let’s find some tree!”
“And next?” Layla said intimidated. “We cannot just run away!”
We perceived the clapping of the driver’s door from behind. Obviously, he had gotten off the car as well. If we could see anything at all, his voice called over to us. It almost sounded spiteful. Demonstratively, we held the glowing display of our phone up at him, still in search of a decent cover tree.
We found it in form of an old oak tree with a broad trunk. Amy slipped down on its birch and began to sob immediately. “Fuck, girls, I don’t want to die!”
“You won’t,” Beatryce tried to comfort her. Visibly stressed she drew the light on the forest floor.
“We should have never gotten in that fucking car with him!”
“Yes, Amy, I know. But I would be very thankful if you just stopped bawling.”
Her glance met a loose branch. Then a rock. The branch again. While she was still thinking, Tyler picked it up without further ado. “Well, that’s at least some kind of basis, isn’t it”, she murmured. In the same moment, his voice was shouting at us once again. Artificially concerned. As if he didn’t suspect that nothing was okay, nothing would be okay.
“I think, he’s coming over.” Nervously Layla stroke a tress from her face. There was a swish: the sound of feed stepping on dead leaves. Beatryce turned off the display as we held our breath, trying to make him out through the rustling.
He seemed upset by now, though he tried hard not to show it. Like a weak searchlight, his display was blinking behind the trees, with him staggering through the darkness and calling for us in a nervous tone. The car’s headlights shone up from the direction we had come from. He must have left it on.
“What now?” Amy moaned, struggling to keep her nerves.
Tyler looked at her with flashing eyes. “We seize the car! And then get the fuck out of here!”
“You mean we just run off with his car, leaving him behind in these woods?” Layla pointed out anxiously.
“If you prefer to end up a trophy in his collection between the Marten and his Fido we can also stay here and wait for him to get us.”
“Oh shit, oh shit!”
“Okay, we do as Tyler says,” Beatryce decided, giving the rest of us a serious glance. “Amy, concentrate!”
Tyler’s plan didn’t work out completely. We had barely left our cover behind the tree when he suddenly appeared right in front of us. Luckily, Tyler hadn’t thrown away the heavy branch, yet. Now she pointed it at him angrily. The way she was acting baffled him once and for all. In a fury, he went over to some barely harmless name-calling mainly questioning our mental state. Then he grasped at the branch. He missed it, though, and collected a painful blow on the shoulder instead.
“Damn!” Tyler cursed, who had been actually aiming for his head. After all, his second move was more successful. He managed to grab the thin end of the branch and pulled it roughly through her hands, leaving some bloody scratches behind. Despite, Tyler clasped her end tightly. She fastened her grip and started rushing around him so he was forced to turn on the spot. Still, she only achieved a slight moment of confusion, before he grabbed the branch with his other hand as well and tore it through her fingers with full tilt. Finally, she had to let it go. In a fluent movement, he tossed the awkward weapon aside and grabbed her right arm instead. Then this comment that his stuffed animals were but far more affable to him.
“No!” Amy screamed, falling literally into a freeze like a scared animal, while Beatryce started to throw herself back and forth to escape the grip. Tyler grabbed the opportunity to slap him right in the face. Irritated by the sudden attack he held on for a moment. Tyler was already heading for a second stroke when Amy got in her way, her entire constitution set in escape mode. She dashed off. After a few yards, she lost her footing in the dark and collapsed to the ground. Did he push her? Or did she stumble? She started to whimper softly, seeing him already bowed over her. Again he grasped for her arm.
“That’s enough, now!” Tyler drew it back in a rush, rolled over and jumped to her feet. He looked at her utterly perplexed. If he saw the crazy glare in her eyes? A wobbly step in her direction and she hurried around him, picking up the branch on her way, just to hit him in the back the next moment. In a raving fury, Tyler started to swing at him. Now it was him who screamed in pain and who began to totter. Another blow and he was staggering dangerously close along the slope. With the following, he lost his grip completely and toppled backwards over the edge. Out of breath, we looked as his dark figure was tumbling down the hill before it finally came to a halt on the bottom of the pit.
“Oh, shit!” Layla dropped the branch. Amy was finally at her self-control’s end, now crying her eyes out like a schoolgirl in a horror movie.
“Come on, now!” Beatryce took a deep breath. “Let’s go back to the car!”
The key was still there. Relief spread. Apart from Amy who silently wailed to herself. Before Beatryce started the engine her eyes fell on the black handle in the side compartment. Attentively, she drew it out and put it on the passenger seat beside her.
“Looks like a flashlight to me,” Layla commented on the discovery with a frail voice.
“It’s a taser, though.” Tyler grinned.
“Whatever,” Beatryce hissed, turning into the forest road. “I just hope the next date will be easier.”
C. Holister (c) 2018