Deadwood Diner – part 5

Deadwood diner  part 6 image

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

Mary Jane – part 5

Intense madding bright lights flood my vision, and a blaring scream overthrows the scene all around me. Instinctively my arm raises upward, an attempt to safeguard us from the impending deadly odds. Tires cry shrilly to a dead stop mere feet away and the howl from the car horn dies off as my friend steps out of the car.

“Jason? What the hell are you doing in the middle of the road?”

I swallow the bile back down, fear creeps in and harbors my response for a few seconds. Finally, I let out a breath and drop my arm, shaking my head. My eyes focus and fall on Mary Jane, she’s safe, I’m safe, and now it’s time to get the hell out of here. I offer her a reassuring smile and whisper, “Everything is going to be okay.

“Hey Rich, I’m glad you could make it,” I reply coolly but even if my voice sounds perfectly calm, my blood pumps deliriously inside. I slip my hand lightly along her elbow and help her toward the back of the car. If she’s mad as a hatter like Ray said or not, I can’t leave her here. Not alone and certainly not with the worthless, indifferent people inside that diner. I’m sure between Rich and I we’ll figure something out. Our feet slosh with the momentous tempo from the hushing windshield wipers. And each step feels like each beat lessens and slows, but I don’t pay too much mind to it because I just want us the hell out of here.

I toss my duffel bag in first and wait for her to settle into the backseat before I close the door. Rich quickly takes shelter from the rain and burrows back behind the steering wheel. As soon as I ease myself into the passenger’s seat he remarks, “Man, I’m sorry for not getting here sooner, I really tried to beat this storm.”

I flip the car vents toward the back to blow out some heat, the air is damp, but not as brutally bone-chillin’ as before. I rub my cold hands together to bring more feeling to them and reply, “I sure don’t remember thunderstorms quite like this.” I gape out of the front windshield watching as sky blackens with more unconforming clouds. It’s abnormal and incredible with the way the background looks, no inkling of stars, no trace of lightning, no distinctive shape just a blanket of darkness. The unmelodious wind pitches limbs from sparse trees along the highway and into the road like their wretched offspring and casted away.

“Yeah, well this is mild compared to earlier, I had to pull off to the side of road because I couldn’t see a thing in front me,” Rich replies motioning his finger at the rain waxed highway. He’s right, it’s not blinding or obscure like it was. And as we drive farther away it tapers off more and more. The windshield wiper blades start to awkwardly drag and squeak. He reaches up to dial the lever control back when a woman staggers out of the woods and onto the road.

I fiercely grip the dash and yell, “Rich, watch out!”

Rich jerks the wheel and slams on the brakes. We sweep across the yellow center line as he loses traction and the car fishtails and sails off the road. The car slides to a stop facing a longstanding rugged tree. The woman who stumbled out in front of us looked just like Mary Jane. Same tousled hair, same frail frame wearin’ the same oversized worn clothes, and the same horror-stricken green eyes….

I crane my head over my shoulder and breathe carefully out. “Mary Jane… are you okay…?”

The only thing that sits in the backseat is my duffel bag and nothing else. Rich bangs the heel of his hand on the steering wheel. “Shit! Jason, what the hell was that?”

I point adamantly at him. “You saw her? Right? The girl that I just helped get in your car, the one on the road with me? I think that was her.”  I’m half expecting him to say something mocking, Hell, I haven’t seen Rich in over a year. He’s probably thinking I’m suffering from some kind of major exhaustion or combat fatigue, but he meets my eyes with complete sobriety.

“No… I didn’t see you helping someone into the backseat, you just threw your duffel bag in and I didn’t see anyone when I saw you on the highway, Jason. But I’ll tell you this…” now it’s his turn to aim an adamant finger toward me and ramble on, “If you saw someone earlier, then I have no doubt that you did, because we both…” he motions his finger between us. “Saw a girl just now.

“Back up, back the car up now, we need to go back to the diner, Rich.”

He immediately yanks the shifter into reverse and leans his arm along the seat, overlooking his shoulder as he peels the car out onto the murky highway.  “Who’s Mary Jane?”

“The girl.”

The car is plastered in lumps of mud as the rear tires sling the sludge inside the wheel wells. The raucous sound thunks and beats like a body is towed behind us. “Who is she?” he asks in a tone that’s drawn and deducing. I glance out of the window as the smear of trees fly by, but none of images look anything like trees.

I lift a shoulder, skeptical of my own answer. “She’s the girl I met at the diner—”



We speed pass the underbelly of the dissipated bridge as Rich grips the wheel and shakes his head like he’s conflicted with something. “You know the diner’s closed?”

“No… it’s not.”

He darts his assured eyes briefly to me, still shaking his head. “It’s been shut down for about seven years now. I think Keria and I were probably one of their last customers.”

“No… Rich,” I refute and stare at him hard. “I just had a cheeseburger and home fries, talked to a guy about CCR and then she came in.”

“The girl? Mary Jane?”

I nod with no doubt that what I had just experienced was a one-hundred percent real, but as the outline of the diner comes into my view, there are no lights humming from within, no cars occupying the outside and no flicker or haunting neon glow from the sign that barely hangs above.

It’s abandoned, gutted and lifeless.

The second Rich throws the shifter into park I amble out, holding the door like a ballast. I find my voice and stammer out, “I… I was just in there.” I hear my sparing words echo across the deaden cracked parking lot, my disbelieving eyes rake over a half boarded-up window like someone tried to crawl back inside it’s darkness. Back into the sanctuary it once held, to the air and haunting comfort of something I can’t grasp. “What’s going on, Rich?”

Rich stands next to me, staring at the same jilted, empty diner I am and says, “I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

I turn to him as the blood flushes from my face, I’ve been in situations before that would have most grown men piss their damn pants. But right now, I’m finding that in this unusual position I can’t even formulate a cognitive thought. I drag my eyes away and glare at the ghastly dark and somberly hollow diner. It stands soundlessly glaring back at me.

The rain I had almost forgotten about lightly taps the edge of my cap reminding me it’s still present. I stifle any more questions from rushing out while Rich calls Keria.

Rich has been with Keria since college, they met here, in Deadwood. Unlike most couples who go out to dinner and a show on a typical weekend night they spend their time chasing the paranormal. Rich said he literally fell in love with her on their first date and since then they’ve been inseparable.

“Hey, yeah we’re fine. No, we’re on Highway 13, yup just passed the bridge… I know…I know…” Rich mumbles as he walks around the car while he talks, inspecting the front, making sure there’s no visible signs we actually hit something. Eventually he stands running his other hand through his rumpled soaked hair. He nods at me once my eyes roam back and he gestures for us to get inside the car.

“Okay babe, here, I’m…” he chuckles as he grins slightly toward me. “I’m okay, he’s okay… now, I’m going to do intros real quick so we can figure out what’s going on here, Keria… this is Jason, Jason this is Keria.” He hits speaker on his cell phone and balances it carefully on the grey dash.

“Hi Jason…”

“It’s nice to meet you, Keria…” I answer and wonder what’s got Rich on a writing rampage. He quickly whips out a pen and notepad from the glove compartment and starts scribbling things down faster than my eyes can keep up.

He clears his throat and asks without looking up, “Tell Keria what Mary Jane looked like, we need our descriptions to correlate so that Keria can run a search through my data.”

I describe her down to every minute detail, from her tangled sun-streaked hair down to her mud covered bare feet. How her young and innocent expression seemed so real and yet so disjointed. I mention the color of her earthy green eyes and her smaller height simply because, I vividly remember us standing face to face on the highway. And how I had to lower my head to hers reassuring her everything was going to be okay…

But it’s not okay…

My stomach drops as I take in the deserted diner again, but my reminiscing is short-lived when Keria’s attentive voice announces, “I found something.”

To be continued…


Deadwood Diner – part 4

diner pic


Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Please note this short story is a small link in a chain, so to speak. A sequel to another short story titled – The House.

Mary Jane – part 4 

I adjust my cap back on my head and feel that eerie prickly sensation as soon as I step out into the night. Thunder shakes the ground like a Cobra Gunship. I harness my nerves and scout around for Mary Jane through the pitch-dark parking lot. I wait a beat, hoping for that millisecond bolt of lightning to briefly brighten my view. But I’m shit out of luck.

My feet trudge through the pouring down rain and my eyes roam the area. “Mary Jane!” I holler out while passing by a white 1970 Cadillac, it’s the only thing that shows any prominent color. I carry myself on over to the next vehicle and catch a glimpse of her scampering between two more cars. Her drenched form is hunched over and staggering to stand upright in the hammering steel cold rain. “Mary Jane!”

I chase after her, listening to her muffled down whimpers and cries. She’s terrified and I can’t seem to get close enough to her. The punishing rain blinds most of my sight, it doesn’t matter how much I shield my hands over my cap to help, it’s relentless. Thunder slams against the woeful dark sky making my body shake. I grasp a blotchy tall figure lurking behind a truck and I follow it, the shape is too misshapen to really tell if it’s Mary Jane. My gut twists and buckles with uncertainty, but I have to make sure she’s okay.

I slosh my rain slicked boots through a crater-like puddle and terminate my next step. Rain falls thickly along the passenger’s side window of a late-model red pickup, it looks no different from any of the other cars I’d just passed. Apart from the fact that an orange hazy glow pulsates inside, pulsating with a beat. In precise time and cadence to a song by Simon and Garfunkel, “Sail on silver girl… sail on by… your time has come… to shine…” I jerk my head to the right of me, searching for the cause. No one’s inside, the engine from the weather-beaten clunker doesn’t rattle with life, but the old-fashioned chrome radio recites the song from my past.

I slow my movements and strengthen my grip on my duffel bag. My heart pounds like someone called in an air strike, the hairs on the back of my neck stands on end and I breathe in the icy air. I let out a warm humid breath from within me and it reminds me of winter, the dead of winter. My body involuntarily shudders like I’m standing in my skivvies, aggravated and unnerved I sling my soaked cap off and swipe the rain away. Stubbornly I set my cap back on and glare over the truck. “Mary Jane… is that you?

The radio keeps warbling out but when it hits the last track from the song, it carries that unreal static noise that can only come from a record player back in the day. Each time the static is louder, more hair-raising and then the song begins to play…again. I flicker my glances back and forth tensely. I’m lost at what could be the source, how could anyone around here know that song from my childhood? The disheartening thunder drums the shade of the scenery, bleak and wrong. Regardless, I stick with my mission and force my feet to move.

I dog the footsteps of every shadow, every movement, and unnatural sound. The faded cracked pavement becomes nothing but a river of rain, and eventually I find myself on the opposite side of the diner. I cup my hand around my wet soaked mouth, and call out her name. The muttering and detached cries stop and turn into breathless words, stammering and wandering words that I can’t grasp. Words that sound like a thousand voices, crawling over each other, trying to be heard in the deranged storm.

Distant lights fray out along the slickened dark highway and I see her, the small angular shape of her. Cradling her body, with her head swaying low. It takes a breath for me to unfold the grappling iron lodged inside my throat. My boots race soundlessly across the stretch between her and I until I’m standing on the skirt of the highway. The rain showers us both as I ask, “Mary Jane?”

I raise my left hand outward, prayin’ she’ll accept it. Her long dripping wet hair screens her face and I can’t make heads or tails if she even knows where she’s standing. “…It’s not safe here, just take my hand, Mary Jane…take my hand,” I plead, but the only reaction I get is her gripping her arms closer to herself withdrawing from me. I glance up and along the unnerving long road is a curve guarded by trees.

And through the timber I see a beam of headlights quivering between them.

I drown my reserve and stride out to her, meeting her stance I grip her haggard, threadbare arms and command her to look at me. Her down-casted green grieving eyes drag upward, fear infiltrates every ounce of her blanched face. Tangled unavailing words drop from her stark lips so fast that it takes me a moment to catch her trembling chin and ask, “I… I don’t understand—”

“I’m afraid…I’m so afraid…”

I release her chin and wrap my arm around her and try to shield her from whatever she fears. I lower my head and mouth against her damp hair, “It’s okay, I’m not going to let anything harm you.” I brace myself closer, hoping she’ll have enough faith in me to get her off the highway, to get both of us to safety. “It’s too dangerous to be out here, in this rain and in the middle of the…

“But it’s too late… ”

A loud screeching sound erupts through the darkened night and all I can see a blinding light.

To be continued…

Deadwood Diner – part 3


Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

Mary Jane – Part 3

I offer to shake her hand but she flinches back and mouths warily, “I’m… I’m Mary Jane.” Her words aren’t broadcasted without forethought, she whispers it out like she’s exposing something highly classified. Her troubled green eyes dodge madly around the diner, watching, scouting for whatever danger that’s supposedly stalking her. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s all a made-up creation inside her mind, because either way her fear is real. Real enough that I see it as plain as a nose on a man’s face. Maybe it’s my gut instincts or it’s imbedded so deeply in me, but I just want to make sure she’s safe and unafraid for a moment.

“Well… it’s nice to meet you, Mary Jane,” I respond and motion at the waitress to hold on a second. She calmly sits my heated coffee back on its small saucer and waits patiently while I tip my head toward Mary Jane and ask, “Want some coffee or something to eat—?”

“No…” she abruptly answers wringing her hands tightly together, she’s rubbing them so tightly that the tips of her knuckles turn as white as bone and she jerks her head toward the diner door. It dawns on me that she isn’t really answering me directly but rather a silent plea for help. She coils her mud covered legs up to her chest and nearly perches herself like a wounded bird on top of the barstool, she winces once as her eyes squeeze together. Her bizarre reaction makes me think of someone huddling up and bracing themselves for a twister ready to take whatever it wants in it’s deadly path.

“No…  no… no…” she whispers over and over covering her ears and rocking her fragile paling body. I start to ramble out a line of growing, concerned questions, but then I hear a spineless tick hit the glass door. A light metallic sound and then another, a trickling rhythmic tapping slowly one after another until it sounds like the heartbeat of a furious thunderstorm. I strain my eyes harder to see, to see the proof of what my ears are hearing. I watch as angry massive drops of rain sheet and distort the diner windows. Beating and pounding so insanely I bet you couldn’t even see your own hand right in front of your face.

No one inside seems perturbed by the onslaught except for Mary Jane, unexpectedly she whirls herself from the counter and jumps off the barstool and runs out of the diner and into the hell storm outside. I throw a quick glance toward Ray but he doesn’t offer a word other than a ‘I told you she’s crazy’ kinda dubious shake from his head. The jukebox rattles out, ‘I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part, so hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart, so hello Mary Lou goodbye heart…” 

        An uncomfortable pang inside me strips my dispassion away and I can’t ignore the fact that someone, crazy or not, just ran out of here like a bat out of hell. I pull out my wallet, slap a twenty down on the counter and swing my duffel bag over my shoulder.

And hastily head for the door.