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 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.
“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…