Gerald and Delores go camping in the Everglades
|Written for The Daily Slice.
Prompt: Write a horror story of 1000 words or less about a color. Red and black are cliche in horror, guys. Come up with something really original! SCARE ME WITHOUT RED OR BLACK.
Gerald tossed the last piece of gear into his Dodge Ram and then slid his four foot frame in behind the wheel. His wife, Dolores, eight inches shorter than her husband, was already buckled in. She wore a worried frown. Sleeping in a tent in the Everglades wasn’t her idea of a good time, but she had relented to Gerald’s plan.
“Ready?” Gerald asked.
“I have lots of bug spray.” She held out a plastic Wal-Mart bag as proof. “This stuff should keep the creepy, crawly things away. I have a book to read and a pillow under my butt. I’m ready.”
When the couple first met at a little people’s convention in Louisville, she soon discovered that Gerald thrived on living on the edge…pushing the limits, he called it. One hour and a few drinks after the introductions, Gerald made a bold statement. “I’m going to marry you.”
She said, “Okay.”
That was five years ago. Since then, they had worked the carnival circuit from coast to coast, gone sky-diving, and had swum with great white sharks off Australia’s reef. Because Dolores loved Gerald, she accepted his recklessness and most of the time she admitted; living with him was an adventure.
Gerald put the Ram in gear and pulled away from their Sarasota, Florida home. Dolores dropped the bag on the floor, settled back and opened the book.
“What is it?” Gerald asked.
“Yes, the big fat one on your lap.” They laughed as she closed the book and showed Gerald the cover. Her small hands caressed the slick jacket cover like a mother touches her newborn.
“It’s by Stephen King…Under The Dome.”
“I thought you said his books were spooky and gave you the creeps?”
“They do, that’s why I like them. You should try reading one, he has an uncanny way of making the imaginary monsters in our minds come to life.”
“Naw…I got better things to do, I don’t need any monsters in my life.”
After passing through Arcadia on route 70, Dolores fell asleep. From Gerald’s shirt pocket, his iPod pounded out Bon Jovi. “We weren’t born to follow…come on and get off your knees’’.
Life is good, Gerald thought as he looked over at his sleeping wife. He felt good. He liked the powerful feeling the Ram gave him. He checked the radar detector. It was turned on. The speedometer rose to 90.
“Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow and that your saints and sinners bleed. We weren’t born to follow. You gotta stand up for what you believe.”
Five miles off route 27, just south of Leroy’s Bait Shop, Gerald found the Meadowlark campground, a cup of cleared land surrounded on three sides by saw-grass and shaded by a hammock of scrubby oaks. Just beyond the flowering inflorescence glow of grass, slivers of Okeechobee Lake peeked through; reflecting the sun’s fading light.
“It’s beautiful, Gerald”, Dolores said.
“Sun’s going down, Sweetheart, no city lights here. It’ll be dark before long, why don’t you relax, enjoy the scenery. I’ll unload the truck and set up the tent.”
With her book under her arm and waving a bag of bug spray, Dolores went to a nearby picnic table. She dropped her bundle on the table’s weathered top and turned toward the lake. Captivated by the Everglades’ natural beauty, she strolled closer to the dense growth that surrounded Okeechobee, a haven where the timid hid and the bold lurked.
Gerald was right, a camping trip can’t be as miserable as she had imagined. After-all, she had bug spray and what could go wrong in such a beautiful, peaceful place. She climbed upon a log, hoping to get a better view of the water beyond the grass blanket.
As the sun turned to liquid silver, the blotchy brown log, adorned with dull yellow spear-head markings, moved.
Gerald heard his wife cry out his name.
A cold chilled crawled up his spine when a second scream broke the silence surrounding Okeechobee Lake. Gerald ran. He ran before fear crippled his movements, before panic gripped his soul and rendered him helpless.
He found Dolores in the dim light. A monster had her on the ground in its clutches. Gerald’s mind raced, trying to make sense of what he was witnessing. The horrific scene clouded his mind; he couldn’t breathe, his heart skipped and he choked on his own scream.
Monsters are supposed to have hairy arms, aren’t they? They live in closets or under our beds, don’t they? They’re not real, are they? Don’t they dwell in King’s mind or Lovecraft’s novels? They shouldn’t be in the Everglades.
The monster that had Delores in its grasp didn’t come from any book or King’s mind, but had slithered from the grass. A python had buried its fangs into the little woman’s throat. Two enormous writhing coils squeezed her torso; a third gripped her legs as Gerald looked on in disbelief.
The adventurer, the risk taker, Gerald the husband hammered the snake with both fists, pulled on the contorting coils, trying to free his wife. Her bones cracked, sounding like egg cartons being crushed in huge hands. Gerald looked into his dying wife’s eyes. She couldn’t speak, but mouthed the words, “Help me.”
In desperation, Gerald reached for the heavy book. He beat at the snake’s yellowish-olive brown triangular head and quickly realized it was a crazy and feeble attempt to save his wife. Baring its fangs, the serpent hissed and lunged. The snake’s jaws clamped onto Gerald’s forearm, at the same time it swung its tail, knocking him to his knees.
Dazed, confused and in pain, Gerald watched as the snake coiled around his wife’s head and squeezed the last breath from her body. He hung his head and wept.
From the undergrowth another monster, larger than the first, emerged, circled the defeated man and in seconds; wrapped him in death throes.
The iPod played.
“We weren’t born to follow…come on and get off your knees”