A short story inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, Holiday Horror Extravaganza
Pretty much nsfw.
Forty below and I don’t give a fuck
Got a heater in my truck
“…and I’m off to the rodeo!” Even cranked to full volume, Garry Lee and the Showdown got drowned out as Lonnie sang along. Well, Lonnie shouted joyfully more than sang to the invisible black landscape, pounding on the steering wheel.
Jesus, I can’t even see the road. There might be a ditch there… or over there… “…piss me off… fuckin’ jerk… get on m’nerrrrrrrves!”
The old GMC, reliable heater and all, mooshed methodically along the deserted drifting remnants of Highline Drive, the remote way’s last traces disappearing under the West Texas blizzard. Good thing this road is dead-nuts flat and straight. Point it, hit the gas, hope I’m right. And follow the telephone poles.
Lonnie boomed out the fading words as the song ended. Still laughing, he turned off the tape deck when the old farmhouse came into view, a single bulb lighting the porch. Its bleached old clapboards glowed back in his high beams a quarter mile away.
I better stop saying fuck and shit. Momma ain’t gonna like that, ‘specially not at Christmas. Man, she and Daddy gonna be so surprised. Just like that coffee commercial. It’s just before dawn. Guy comes in, turns on the tree lights and makes a pot of joe. Momma wakes to the amazing smell, goes to check it out. Sees her son in the kitchen, they get all huggy joy joy. She calls her husband down, they all smile and cry and drink a cup together. Tears, hankies and kisses and Merry Christmas. And be sure to drink your Maxwell House.
He saw the hitchhiker too late to avoid him.
A reflexive swerve to the left sent the back end sliding. Lonnie never saw the impact but the thump was gruesome. The guy had to be dead. Overcorrecting, there was nothing he could do about the telephone pole streaking toward him out of the shadows. Seconds ago it was guiding him safely home. Now it was deafening him on impact, a direct hit, crushing the driver door into his shoulder, head thwacking, glass shattering, knees pinned, crimson dripping darkening pain in his skull.
Lonnie had to get out. Had to check the dead guy. Had to call a cop. The farmhouse was still a few hundred yards. Desperately wrenching with one good arm, the steering wheel shattered, and his knees came free.
He fell silently out the passenger door into the drifts of the roadside ditch. Lonnie flailed his way back to the road. He shouted into the darkness. Nobody in the house would hear him. Too far away. Snow muffles everything. Quiet as a tomb out here.
Damn, the guy’s still alive.
Hey, you ok? What the hell you doing out here? Do I know you? You even from around here?
I’m sorry I didn’t see you in time. We gotta get help. My daddy’s house is right over there. Get up, I’ll help you walk.
A flicker of terror in the eyes. Nnnn… wait... wa…
Well goddammit, he’s passed out. Shit.
Lonnie’s brain flipped channels back to red cross first aid, what were those rules I ignored while I was looking at Melissa’s tits in that class… nice memory… nice rack… Focus! OK, well if he’s got a broken neck and I leave him here, he’ll freeze to death for sure before anyone comes.
Get him up on my back. Jesus, this guy’s heavy. And that fur coat don’t help. At least it’ll keep him warm. Snow’s quit falling. I can almost see.
Those tits were something though. Wish I’d had the balls to… shit, this is work.
Lonnie staggered up the driveway. Something wasn’t right. He glanced along the darkened eaves and gutters of the old house. Jenny always leaves them outside Christmas lights on when she goes to bed. See ‘em a mile away. Daddy don’t like to use the juice all night, but she never forgets. I gotta get on her about that.
Christ, I am done here. Lonnie gasped up the steps and lowered his burden to the front porch. He reached for the door handle. Something else had seemed out of place as he struggled up the drive. He looked again. One set of footprints. Down from the porch, just one set, nearly covered by the waning blizzard. Heading one way: for the road.
Hey, you got a name? Talk to me, boy! What were you doing in my momma and daddy’s house?
Look mister. I’m not calling for help til I know who you are.
Rifling through the stranger’s coat, Lonnie heard a creak behind him. The front door moved.
Momma? Daddy? Hey! Louder now. Momma! Hey, isn’t anyone awake here?
Lonnie forgot his victim, pushing the door open.
Momma! Daddy! Jenny!
In the kitchen, a shadow. A sigh of relief. Momma, whatcha doing at the kitchen table so late? You asleep? A hand on her shoulder. She twisted, nightgown ripped, lewdly showing sticky smears of blood across her bare breasts. Her head, nearly severed, flipped backward as she fell to the floor to reveal the bloody stump of her neck.
Daddy! He screamed knowing it was useless, knowing already what he’d find in the bedroom. Daddy was waiting for Momma to come up after her evening tea. He took the stairs three at a time. Daddy’s body sat stiff in the corner. His mouth sneered defiantly, final words still etched on his lips: Take me, leave them alone, just take whatever you want, kill me and get out of here you piece of shit. The bed was collapsed, a broken chunk of frame jammed through Daddy’s chest. Lonnie could see it all happening, step by step.
Jenny. No. No, Jenny.
In her lacy corner bedroom was his darling little sister, his beautiful 14-year-old precious gem of a sister, his own flesh and blood who had sung The Eyes of Texas to him on the phone for good luck in the Cotton Bowl. She lay on her back, legs splayed, naked, hands tied above her head and a gag in her mouth. Lonnie sat on the floor, hunched, convulsing in sobs. What sick fuck did this to her? How many times did he do it before he killed her?
You’re alive! Oh thank you Christ! Jenny, let me cover you up, you’ll be OK, tell me what happened, please just let me hold you then I’ll get you to the hospital, OK, you’ll be fine but tell me who did this please!
No, don’t try to talk, I’m gonna go bring this piece of shit hitchhiker upstairs so you can tell me he did it, then I’m going to fucking cut off his dick and feed it to him. Then I’m going to call the cops. In that order.
He turned to go, and caught a movement.
A fur coat filled the bedroom door. A split second whish of a sound, a bursting skyrocket in his head, and blackness.
The snowplows ground out their gloppy marshmallow prey, flinging it over ditches, spewing it beyond wire fences into pastures that ran along Highline. Last pass of the night shift, all flashing orange and white and red, a cacophony of circling blinks and explosions in the blackness.
“4AM, Bubba. We gotta knock off soon.” The radio cracked Albert’s reverie in the lead truck. He smiled and shook his head. Ol’ Ziggy called everyone Bubba.
“I know, Zig. We got another four miles here on Highline. At least the storm’s stopped so we won’t feel useless. Clear roads might even hold for a day or two. Hey, ease off a minute, something in the road up there. Uh-oh, somebody’s pickup. Probably some ol’ boy got stuck. We’ll need to yank it out of the way or we can’t get by.”
“Right behind you, son. Get your crowbar and tow chain.”
Out of their warm cabs, into the biting wind fifty feet from the wreck, the men trudged through knee-high fluff. “Zig, that’s Lonnie Junior’s rig. Boy got cut by the Longhorns. Saw it in the paper. His daddy said he was so sick about it he was staying in Austin for Christmas. Didn’t want the home town folks to see him, I guess.”
“Yeah buddy. Probably figured he let us all down. When you think about it, he let his parents down, losing a free college education. I’d hide my face the same way.”
“Too bad, Junior’s a good guy. He musta decided to surprise his momma.”
“But why the shit did he drive all that way in the middle of the night?” Ziggy spat a mouthful of chew, leaving a streak of brown stain in the pure white snow. “And why didn’t he get his daddy’s tractor down here and move the damn --”
“Window’s busted, door’s crushed. Oh shit, Zig, oh no. God dammit Zig. Look, just look in there. Awwww, man, his momma and daddy… ”
“Bubba, get back. Lemme go round the other side. Dammit. Locked. Bubba, quit blubbering like a little girl. Get the hell up off the ground and bring that god damn crowbar! Right now Bubba!”
“Lonnie Junior, we’re gonna get you out of there. You’re gonna be OK, boy, just hold on! We’re gettin’ in there, Lonnie!”
“Bubba, will you shut the hell up. He’s got no pulse. His skull is crushed, just look at it. Body’s still warm. He’s probably only been dead an hour or two, like just before the snow quit. Strange though, not a trace of anything else out here. No animals, no footprints, just two tire tracks going sideways right into that pole.
“It’s OK Bubba, go on and puke up your guts.”
“Aw Zig, why’d he have to do that? Dammit Zig, he was almost home. Almost home!”
The big round man wrapped a fat arm around his buddy. “Yeah, Bubba. I know. Hey look at this. The Rodeo Song was in the tape deck. Weird, ain’t it? Boy didn’t even own a cowboy hat. Listen, get on the radio, call this in, and stay here til they show up. I better go wake up his parents.”