Going Too fast on the Barlow Road
by Greg Ellstrom
I wish that my car had broken down that night.
I wish I had run out of gas.
I would even have taken the chance of driving off the road into a tree.
Anything to have avoided seeing what I saw down that little lane that ran off the right side of State Route 47. That little road which I felt sure was a shortcut between the towns of Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot. Even now, almost a year later, I don’t know what drove me to take that shortcut.
I was coming home from a two-day job just north of Boston. It was Friday night of Columbus Day weekend, and I was in a hurry to get home to Annie and the kids. So when I came upon this little road to the right, although I didn’t remember having noticed it before, I just felt that it was the way I was supposed to go. I turned onto it and headed into the coming darkness, my high beams cutting the way through the tendrils of mist that suddenly appeared floating above the cracked blacktop.
The road, I thought, was really desolate. Understatement! I had gone about a mile or two before I realized that I hadn’t passed a single house. The mist was thickening, becoming a sort of “creepy fog.” That was when I should have turned around and gone straight back to 47. I didn’t. Instead, I accelerated.
That was almost my undoing. I rounded a bend and started down into a hollow, when my lights reflected off the twisted metal and chrome of a car wreck not fifty yards away. I stood on my brakes, and they caught and screamed to a halt a few feet short of smashing into the wreck. Christ, I nearly wet my pants. I sat upright, squeezing the hell out of the wheel, my heart pounding.
But, I stopped being concerned about myself when I saw her in the throw of my high beams. A young woman was caught under the twisted body of a ruined sports car. Night black hair framed her face that was dappled with blood. Her eyes were closed. Her arms were reaching out, but her fingers weren’t finding anything. I was sure she was dead.
Some adrenalin kicked in, I guess, and I jumped from the car and ran the few steps to where she was trapped. I knelt down and put my fingers to her neck. I couldn’t find a pulse, but I’m never quite sure of where you are supposed to put your fingers when searching for a heartbeat. She was ridiculously cold. I would say “ice cold,” but that is too frickin’ trite, and she wasn’t ice cold, anyway. She was something else cold! Something altogether different and wrong. . . then her eyes popped open!
“Shit!” I screamed and really peed my pants a little. “You’re alive!”
She was blinking rapidly, and her right hand shot to her face to block the bright light. I took her left hand. It seemed like the comforting thing to do.
“Matthew?” She said. “Matty?”
“No. . .No,” I said. I had to say it twice because the little word stuck in my throat the first time. “I’m Todd. I just. . . came upon your accident.” Came upon! God, that sounded dumb. I pulled my cellphone from my pocket.
She spoke in a sing-songy voice. “Going too fast on the Barlow Road.” Her eyes continued blinking.
I had to get help, but I my phone had none of those blasted bars. “Shit! No reception!”
Her eyes stopped bouncing in their sockets, and she looked at me, and I saw fear in those dark orbs. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Kate.” Her voice was husky and weak.
“There’s no cell reception, Kate. I’ll have to go for help. “
I started to rise, but her hand, surprisingly strong, clamped around mine. “Don’t leave,” she said. “Please.”
"Kate, I have to. You’re hurt. . .badly.”
“Call, Matthew,” she said.
“My phone won’t work.”
“Give me your phone.” Her dark eyes stared into mine. I gave her the phone.
She took it with her right hand and punched in a number with the thumb nail. Her nails were painted deep scarlet. She tucked the phone under her hair and listened.
In a moment, she smiled. Her teeth were very white. She said, “Hi, darling. It’s me.” She listened then said, “I’m in trouble down the Barlow Road. Driving too fast,” she said. “Come, please.” She listened. “Thank you, Matthew.” She clicked off the phone and handed it to me. “Thank you, Todd,” she said. “Matthew’s coming. You can leave.”
“Your wreck has blocked the road.” Another dumb thing to say.
“Go back the way you came.”
“I can’t leave you.”
“If you don’t, you might wish you had,” she smiled. Her face which had been pale was now livid. She had to be minutes from death. I couldn’t leave her, could I?
I opted for nobility and went to the car to get a bottle of water and switch off the headlights. When I got back, I offered her a drink, but she shook her head and locked her lips. Sitting there in near darkness with a bottle in my hand, I decided to take out my very clean handkerchief and wash the spots of blood from her face. It seemed like a nice thing to do for a dying woman. I dampened the cloth and dabbed at a splash across her forehead. My finger began to burn, and I pulled my hand away. I looked at the handkerchief. There was a hole in the fabric where I had wiped away the blood. At that moment, I should have hauled ass out of there. . .but I didn’t. I sat frozen like some kind of stupid lawn ornament in the middle of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. When I looked back at Kate, she was smiling. In her hand she held a shard of glass from a shattered headlamp. “Todd,” she said, “slice open the palm of your hand.”
“What?” I began, but she stared at me and smiled.
“Do what I ask?”
So I did. I took the glass and sliced my palm from pinkie to wrist. It hurt like hell.
Kate grabbed my hand and pulled me and it to her. She started to suck on my palm. My palm stopped hurting. It felt good. It felt even better the longer she sucked my blood. She looked better, too. Color was coming back to her cheeks.
I don’t know for how long she stole my blood. Maybe two minutes. Then she pushed me away and said, “I don’t want to use you all up. That would make Matty very, very angry.”
I was weak. She looked strong. She felt strong, too, because she put her hands to her sides and tried to do a pushup with the car on top of her. It actually rose a few inches, but she had to quit and let herself slowly back down to the ground. “We’ll wait for Matthew,” she smiled. I thought she had lipstick on her teeth, and then I realized it was my blood. Realizing that, really sucked! Poor choice of words. I tied my burned handkerchief around my palm wound.
In the distance, the roar of a powerful engine coming from the direction in which I had been traveling filled the hollow. A truck with a row of spotlights across the roof of the cab came over the edge of the hollow and roared slowly to a stop. It was a big, frickin’ black truck! A Ram with a Hemi!
"He’s here,” Kate purred.
He, Matthew, got out, and he seemed to me to be nearly as big as his truck and nearly as black. He walked toward us, a tower of a man, easily six and a half feet tall, with shoulders wide as a pool table, and an afro the size of a chrysanthemum at the end of October. He crossed to us and smiled. HIs smile was as white and bright as Kate’s.
“Hello, baby,” he said. “What I tell you about driving too fast down the Barlow Road.”
“Thank goodness, Todd came along. If no one had come before sunup.. . .the joke would be on me.”
Matthew looked at me with a smile devoid of warmth. “Thanks, Todd. Now here’s what you are going to do. When I lift the car off of Kate, you are going to pull her out from under it. Got it?”
“Yes.” My voice was nearly as weak as my body felt.
Take hold her arms now.”
Kate raised her arms, and I grabbled them by the sickly cold wrists. The big man from the Ram bent at the knees, put his hands under the edge, and lifted the car off the woman as easy as you might lift the lid of a hope chest. Strange simile! Hope was something of which I was rapidly running out. “Pull her out!” he ordered, and I did, and what I saw made me abandon all hope. First, I saw the a pool of blood that seemed big enough for a couple of bodies. It had been hidden under the car. Then, I saw that a three foot piece of metal from somewhere on the frame had been driven directly through Kate’s chest right where here heart should be. Six inches of the metallic spear protruded from her back. She had been skewered straight through the heart and was grinning.
As I contemplated this ghastly anomaly, Matthew dropped the husk of the car. It crashed loudly, and my head snapped away from the horror I had seen. I wanted to cry, but Matthew roared with laughter. “Holy shit, baby. Glad we didn’t get you the car with the real wood trim. You’d a been a goner.”
Kate with the gaping hole in her chest laughed giddily at that, and I knew what I had known for awhile but which my brain refused to accept. . .this was vampire humor I was hearing. The undead! Nosferatu! Blood suckers! Yupper, that’s who I was hanging out with. But me having heard that joke. . .maybe the joke would be on them.
They were no longer paying me any mind. Matthew knelt down by his lady, rolled up the sleeve of the skin tight t-shirt he wore. And drew his fingernail across his wrist. I saw then that his nails weren’t nails, they were green, twisting claws. Black blood spurted from the wound, and he put his wrist to Kate’s mouth. “Drink some, baby,” he said. “You’ll be your old dead self, soon.”
So Matthew offered his wrist, Kate sucked his blood, and I walked back as quietly as I could to the rear of my SUV, more than ever thankful that I had chosen surveying as a profession. I was also grateful that the morning before I had been worried about being short on stakes to mark the plots I was to survey, so I had gone down into my basement and taken two old inch and a half by four foot dowels, trimmed them to sharp points and tossed them into the back of the Jeep in case I needed them. Thank God, I hadn’t needed them.
I was as swift and as silent as my drained body could be fetching those stakes. When I got back to my new friends, Matt had just taken his hand away from Kate’s mouth, was starting to turn back to me, and said, “Now I’m thirsty, Toddy!” That was when I jammed one stake into his back with all the might I could summon. I picked just the spot, because the stake went through his chest, not encountering any bone, and exited through his heart and seven or eight inches out of the front. The surprised wail that came from Matthew’s mouth was terrifying, I guess, though he was dead almost immediately. He tumbled down onto his lady friend and the stake that was through his chest went through her stomach. She gulped, her eyes bulging, and some black blood came out of her mouth. “Holy shit!” she sort of whispered. “Todd, you killed Matthew!”
“Yep,” I nodded and watched as Matthew officially passed away. He didn’t turn into a pile of dust like in some of the monster movie. Instead, he shriveled up like a big African-American raisin. When he was done shriveling, he was about half his original size.
Instead of giving Kate a chance to enthrall me or something, I took the other dowel and jammed it through her heart. The life went out of her eyes, and, for a second she looked sad, then for even less than a second, she looked happy. Then she shriveled up!
This was no time for messing around or doing things in a half ass way. I got the can of gas I keep in the rear of my car and doused the two vampire prunes with it. Then I tossed a lit pack of matches on them and watched them go up. They and the stakes burned really brightly.
I got in my Jeep, did a nice K turn, and raced down the Barlow Road, never stopping until I reached Route 47. Then I drove like hell home. When I got in my house, I hugged my wife as if I hadn’t seen her in a year.
When we stopped embracing, she said, “you smell a little like gasoline.”
“I had to burn up a couple vampires!”
She grinned. “Silly boy!”
Then I showed her my sliced and burned right hand...which made her frown.
Three days later, we moved. If I was ever to get a full night’s sleep again, we had to move out of the Lot. Annie never much cared for it there anyway. She was a city girl. The kids were too young to be anything but excited. In daylight, we went south on Route 47 on our way to wherever our new home would be. Nowhere along 47 between the Rock and the Lot,, was the Barlow Road to be found. And I looked really carefully, But way out in one of the fields where the Barlow Road should have been, I could see a narrow wisp of smoke climbing straight up into the windless sky. Were a wrecked sports car and a couple of blood suckers still smoldering out there? I imagine so.
(With, as many scary stories deserve, a tip of the hat to Stephen King.)