Had I listened to the country bum in the caffe maybe life would be different. However, I have gone my whole without listening, and I would make no exceptions. And that is what it would cost me- my whole life. “Strange things done in the Midnight Sun By the Men who Moil for Gold…. the Arctic Trails Have Secret Tails that Will make Your Blood Run Cold”- Robert Frost.
I was passing through a small town. The sun was setting and I was going 75 mph. I wanted to get to the hotel before late night, get a few hours of sleep, and with luck, tomorrow I would arrive on time at my families reunion party. Was I really eager to get to my family reunion? Absolutely not. I detested my family and they detested me. I supposed it is only fair. However, I did have a good reason to go. My aunt Marry had just passed away and I was told she left a substantial amount of money in the will for me. Mary had married an oil tycoon that died at an early age. She was already swimming in luxurious clothes and gaudy jewelry when she met her second husband and he too was well off- although his specifics, I am not sure of. That was about the time I separated from my family and traveled away from Louisiana and its nightmarish hell bent weather. Nevertheless, her second husband died and now, well- now she was dead- and I was going to collect my part of the family fortune.
My eyes were getting heavy and I see a sign for a small cafe. I was just going to stop in for a little bit of coffee. I was driving in the middle of nowhere, and I knew it was the last opportunity I had to get some caffeine. The stretch of road I was coming to was one lonely soul, and I needed to keep my weary eyes alert.
I stepped out of my car and grimace. The days I had spent growing up in Louisiana were returning at an excessive pace. I pull out a cigaret and leaned against my car for a moment as I took a drag. I had been driving all day and my whole body ached.
I took another drag of the cigaret and place it out as I entered the cafe. There was one other person seated in the dimly lite room that wreaked of coffee and cigarettes.
There was a cash register but nobody around. “Hello?” I cry out as I look around me. The gentlemen seated in the corner continued to read his paper, and was either to engulfed in an article, or too uninterested to even glance at me. Suddenly a bulletin board caught my eyes. There was tac’s bearing newspaper articles that had been ripped from their pages. There must have been three dozen articles of missing people and animals.
“Well, that is Louisiana for you. Southern Charm,” I said with a certain sarcasm.
“May I help you?” I was startled by a bonny man who came from the back room and was staring at me with curiosity as I swayed my attention from the bulletin board to his aged face. You could tell he was a smoker by his leathered skin, and rotten teeth. Looking into his eyes made me consider letting go of my cigarette habits, but the keyword was- consider. I would certain die a nicotine craving individual.
“Coffee, sir,” I say to the man. He is silent as he fetches a cup and walks over to the coffee pot. I sit down on the stool, and tap my fingers anxiously.
“Where you going?” The man asked and he had deep sense of curiosity placed in his words.
“Down highway 34 and to the Holiday In.”
“I reckon you shouldn’t,” says the man as he pours the coffee. He places the top on it.
“Why do you say that?” I asked inquisitively.
“You saw the bulletin board,” He said as he handed me my coffee but did not look up into my curious blue eyes.
“People disappear when that sun goes down past the sugar cane fields. At first it was just animals from nearby farms, but then people started to disappear. There use to be a community of famers not far down the road but almost all of them have vanished or moved away. Gone- Like they were never there,” he says in a wretched crackling voice. I frown as he pulls out a cigarette.
“Well, I use to live in Louisiana. I am heading towards the hotel about- three- four hours away. I am sure I can handle myself.”
“I would not do it,” says the man again but this time he shook his head and took a drag from his cigarette. “They call highway 34 the drought of Souls. Did not pick the name- just the name it kinda got.”
“That is quite imaginative,” I say.
“Your an arrogant fellow- not the first of your type I have seen come through this cafe. You city educated- book learnings and all. I warned them just like I warned you. Some of them get through okay but some of them are never heard from again.”
I was beginning to get uncomfortable, and began to understand why his cafe was in habituated by one man who showed absolutely no interest in socializing. I payed for the coffee, thanked the man for his advice, and got back in my car.
This is what I could not stand about Louisiana. Aside from the smell of chemical plants, the swamps that harbored nothing but rodents, and the weather that was normally humid and hot- I hated how close minded everybody was. It was as if time had moved on in the rest of America while many parts of Louisiana was stationary and did not change at all. I sipped my coffee and turned on the radio. There were no radio towers nearby and so I plugged my iPhone in and turned up the speakers.
God I did not want to see my family. In fact, I inquired if a lawyer could interact on my behalf and have the money delivered to me through him, but everybody insisted that I come. I was a writer for a small newspaper in North Carolina. Yes, I thought about flying, but I never took to the skies like my family did. My family loved traveling over seas and going on new adventures, when I found ample amounts of excitement right here in America. Something about flying left me moderately unsettled. No, 9/11 did not help, and the whole process was so elaborate that I was quite comfortable driving my Toyota Camry down the road. It would be worthwhile. The sum I was going to receive would be in the millions- or at least- that was the rumor.
I was sailing down the highway and I had pushed the car to its limit at 85 mph when a loud pop could be heard and my car began to spin. Although, it happened in a matter of seconds, it felt like time stood still as the car finally came to stop. I let out a nervous gasp, and then a sigh of relief as the car to a safe halt. I had popped a tire. “Great,” I say out loud. “Just fucking great!” I get out of the car as I fumbled for a cigarette. I walked around to the back end of the car and shake my head in frustration as I glare down at a completely flat tire. I stood there for only seconds when a blunt object hit the back of my head.
I awoke slowly as my eyes lifted to a man who was gazing back at me. He spit his dip into a can. I have always hated when people dip. I thought it to be a sickly habit, and I realize there is some irony from this, because I smoke. The man looked into my eyes as I regained continuousness. I was light headed and it took me several minutes before I noticed I was tied down into a wheel chair.
“What the fuck happened to me- my car- the tire,” I was remembering it all and I looked back into the green eyes of the country hick bum. He smiled at me.
“Ya, always takes folks a few minutes to remember,” he says with a grin that displayed several rotten teeth.
“What is going on?” I asked and you could hear the fear in my every word as it drained out of me like a slow oil leak.
“I have never had one at your age. You have wonderful skin, and those eyes of yours are so blue,” he said smiling. “You will make a spectacular specimen. Lucky your smoking hasn’t messed up that pretty face of yours.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked with arched eyebrows and with the growing realization that I was in deep trouble.
The man rubbed his hands through my hair, and then spit into a can. “Open that mouth.”
“Nice teeth- nice hair- wearing good clothes- you aint the normal types in this part,” says he. He had a droopy chin that complimented his droopy eyes and a straw hat sat upon what was a balding head. He was not a big man and although, I did not know where I was, I knew I could not be far from the highway. There was no way this man could have carried me very far. Then again, I had no idea how long I had been passed out.
“Help!” I start screaming. “Help me! Somebody! Help!” I yelled at the top of my lungs while the man stood up and just shook his head, and gave an eerie grin.
“Boy nobody can hear you- nobody will hear your screams- not even God himself.”
“I have money,” I say as I begin to cry. “I am- I am – going -to – I am going to my aunts house for a lot of money. I will pay you whatever you want. Just let me go!” I was still screaming but you could hear the horror in my voice and tears trickled down my face like never before.
“Well, boy- let me show you what I got in store for you?” He said more than he asked and I looked at his tooth rot as he smiled.
He got behind the wheel chair and pushed me into another room.
“I swear, I will pay you- whatever you want- I come from money.” It was true, I did come from money, and I would have paid anything to be released. I never did like horror movies, I did not like to be scared, but right now- I was living inside of one- a horror movie- a nightmare of grand proportion.
“Look around the room,” he said, and my mouth just hung as I looked around a huge room filled with- …. I looked at I was shocked. “Your a-“
“That is right boy, I am a taxidermist, and this is where I display my finest pieces. You will go in here. Already picked out a spot for you.” He pointed over in the corner of the room.
I finished my statement a moment later, “No- I was gone say- your a monster.” My lucid comment was brief, and he did not like it.
The man slapped me across the face, and grunted. “Your lucky your so pretty- don’t want to mess up your figure but if you were not such a perfect specimen I’d beat the shit out of ya- kid. This is my work. This is my life. These animals and people are immortal. You should be happy.
I looked around the room at what I saw. There were stuffed cats, dogs, animals of all types, but most of the room was filled with stuffed humans. It was a chilling site, to say the least. It almost looked like the set on a stage. Two stuffed women sat on a couch, and both had a cup of tea in their hands. There was a piano where a stuffed man rested his fingers on the keys. It looked so real- but it was not. It was all fake. He had murdered all of these people. They were dead, despite his attempt to humanize them with lipstick and paint on their faces.
“Please sir- I will give you money and all you got to do, is let me go. I won’t tell anybody about this.”
“I just cannot do that.” He said.
“You know people are looking for me,” I say as try to pull myself together.
“Save your breath boy,” he says as he eyes me with curiosity and takes some dip out of a can and places it beneath his lip. “I have heard it all- your not my first- won’t be my last. Just think about it boy, I am making you immortal. That is the finest of all compliments a man can ever receive. Your lucky I aint chargin’ you!”
“I do not want to be immortal,” I say in a hushed sob.
“Now before I can properly work on you I got you into a freezer. I want to preserve your features. So lets take you to the freezer.” He pushed the wheelchair and the only sound was the squeak of the chair at first. I was silent and listened as he erupted in conversation again, got some work to do, and your blood will solidify and you be,” he pauses and says with smile, “immortal.” As he neared me to the freezer he began reminisce, “Nothing more fitting than immortality. Although, I must admit, I do enjoy the whole process. Now some people would say removing the organs and guts is nasty, but I just love it, boy. I truly do.” We came to a stop and unlatched the freezer with a key.
I cried as he wheeled me into a large meat locker There were other people frozen and body parts that he had obviously severed from other humans. For what reason- I would never know- and nor did I want to know.
“Sweat dreams boy,” He says, and he turned the freezer light off, leaving me tied hopelessly in the wheelchair. I heard a lock fasten and the lights went black. It was a blackness that no human could ever feel unless they were in my skin. It was hell’s darkness. The odor was toxic and I was beginning to get cold.
“Nobody could help me now,” I repeated, “Not even God himself.” Those were my last words.