There's a reason why some places are called "ghost towns" ;) 1,431 words
|Lana picked up the brochure on her way out of the saloon in Tombstone, Arizona.
"Take an honest-to-goodness covered wagon to an honest-to-goodness ghost town for a rollickin' good evening!"
That sounds like an honest-to-goodness, great idea! Lana thought with a smile. Her friend, Trish, wasn't feeling well on their vacation today and had decided to rest in their motel room. That left Lana to wander around town looking for things to do. This tour sounded like fun. She called the number on the flyer and booked a spot on the 4:00 PM tour.
When she arrived, she walked up to a strange old man with a torn, black cowboy hat and bad teeth. He gave her a lecherous smile.
"Ready?" he growled. His voice sounded like a lot like the rusty tailpipe of the '70-something Ford pickup dragging on dusty blacktop as it drove by.
Lana looked around. "Isn't anyone else coming on the tour?"
"Nope. Just you, muh dear."
Shit! Lana was a pretty, young girl, on a post-college tour of the country with Trish, her roommate and bestie. She wasn't exactly comfortable going to a deserted town by herself with this creepy old coot.
As she went to tell him she was canceling, he threw her backpack into the back of the covered wagon and hooked the wooden steps to the back of the wagon for her.
"Thank yeh fur bookin', young lady. Times is tough in these parts. Uh need evrah pinny uh can git!" He tipped his hat to her.
Damn! Poor guy! Now she couldn't bail, could she? She decided not to say anything; she just smiled at him as she climbed the steps and sat down in the wagon.
The man walked around to the front of the wagon and hopped on. He took the reins and gave a motion. The horses began a slow trot.
As the wagon bounced over the creviced dirt road, Lana's stomach churned. She tried to swallow down the bile that began to rise up her throat, when the man spoke again.
"They say there was uh man that done killed some girls out in this here town. That was some years back, though." The man spit off the side of the wagon, a dribble of tobacco juice rolling down his bushy beard.
Way to make me feel comfortable, old man! Lana thought, choking down a fresh wave of bile, the stomach acid biting at her raw throat.
"Them ladies was out here last they seen 'em. Never did find the bodies."
Lana leaned over the back of the wagon and threw up, vomitus splashing on the dusty dirt below.
Finally, the pair came to the ghost town for the tour. Wind whistled through the cacti and holes in the rotten wood of the buildings. Weathered, wooden doors clattered like monotone wind chimes. Rusty hinges squeaked like hawks diving for a rodent kill.
The wagon wobbled from side to side when the old man dismounted. Lana's stomach lurched one last time. She said a silent prayer of gratitude as creaky old thing finally came to rest, giving a sigh of acid-laden breath.
Lana staggered as she walked, hunched, under the covered wagon to the back. As she climbed out, she tried to stand up straight, her arms crossed over her roiling stomach. She almost succeeded. Sick, half-lidded eyes looked at the amused face of the old man.
"Sorry 'bout that there, miss. This kina ride ain't for ever'un."
Lana nodded in agreement. "You can say that again! Ugh..."
Finally, she managed to stand up straight, her stomach just now beginning to calm. She looked around.
"So what's the tour?" she asked, eager for some walking and fresh, musty air.
"Ackshly's lookin' like rain," the man said, his statement punctuated by a bright flash of lightning.
Lana looked westward to see a massive black thunderhead looming above in the darkening twilight.
"Prolly time to be gettin' inside. Best place is this here house," he said, hand indicating the dusty, aged collection of boards and broken windows nearby.
Lana ran to the house, just as massive, heavy raindrops began to fall from the sky exploding in splatters on the dusty ground like rotten, overripe fruit. The old timer followed her into the house, the floppy brim of his torn hat collapsing under the now-heavy rain. He pulled the gray, hole-riddled remnants of the door behind him.
Lana was now in a dark, unlit, probably-haunted house at night with a strange man in an abandoned town with the bitter taste of stomach acid swirling in her mouth and the rancid smell of the house in her nostrils. How fun! she thought to herself, sarcastically. You sure know how to pick awesome activities for your vacations, Lana!
Lana stepped through a doorway on creaking floorboards into a larger room. The living room?
There was an old roll-top desk in the corner, but the rest of the room was bare. She walked over to the desk as the old man entered the room behind her, finding her way by the light of her cell phone while the increasingly frequent thumping sound of heavy rain outside chattered on roof and walls.
Curious what was inside, and having nothing else with which to occupy herself, Lana pulled open the desk, releasing a massive cloud of dust. Several of its roll-top slats crumbled into airborne sawdust from the upward motion. She coughed and choked, waving her small hand in front of her to clear the foul air. The old man stared at her from the center of the room, his gaze oddly intense.
There was a single paper on the surface of the desk, protected all these years by the rotten wood slats. Lana picked it up, back turned to the old man, and held her phone next to it for light. It read:
"I hope this note gits to sumbudy what can do sumthin about wat I dun.
Im so sory. I dont no wut came over me but sumthin did.
Sumthin posest me I thinc. I wuda never killed them peepol utherwize.
Any ways I's killin' miself on akownt uv it.
God rest my sole."
As Lana finished reading the note, realization dawned on her, and she gasped. Her gasp caused her to breathe in more of the dust and airborne detritus from the desk, and she began to cough as her mind raced. This was a suicide note! Some sort of murder-suicide. From a long time ago by the sounds of it.
As she coughed, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She whirled, holding up her phone for light, when she saw it. A black shadow walked toward and entered the old man. The old timer didn't seem to notice it.
"Are you ok?" Lana asked, her brows furrowing in concern. What was that shadow? Just a trick of the light? It was really dark in here now, and the only light was from her phone.
"Yes'm," the man said, stepping softly toward her.
"Well, good. I thought I saw this... shadow go into you."
He didn't respond to that as he moved toward her. She supposed it hadn't been a question.
As he reached her, his arms shot out, calloused hands wrapping around her neck, gripping with unnatural strength. Her phone clattered to the hollow floor.
She struggled but couldn't budge him, eyes bulging in terror, in asphyxiation. She pounded on his wiry, thin arms over and over and over, losing strength with every blow. Her small, soft hands went to his, her eyes pleading with silent desperation. But his eyes remained hard, heartless.
When her knees buckled, he held her still. A soft clucking gag managing to escape her lips as she expired. He held her for several minutes more. The shadow released him, and his hands sprang open. Realization and tears welled in succession as he watched her crumpled body on the filthy floor.
The old man picked up the phone and dialed 911, though he knew it was too late. A shadow moved in the room.
An hour later, the police officer turned her damaged neck, and a trickle of blood dribbled from Lana's blue lips. The map of the location to all fifteen murdered bodies, one hundred years past, was written on her face. An old man dangled from a rope in the center of the large room.
The room was bare, except for one desk, now empty after all these years.