An Unlikely Detour
Darkness slowly enveloped me, like I was wrapped in bandages of black. My body floated; hoisted upwards by unseen hands.
I recalled the days leading up to that moment. It started with a thunderstorm… It seemed to end with a storm, a thunderous call of rumbles that quivered against my skin. The sky lit up with violent lights like a hundred camera flashes. The lightning edged an outline of white along every road sign, bush and stone. The black sky temporarily turned dark gray, reminding me of the desolate land surrounding me on all sides.
I was lost in New Mexico, somewhere deep in the desert, not even sure if I was still driving on the highway. If you could call it a highway, it was two lanes and a sliver of side road. The road signs were too generic to give me a clue as to my whereabouts. I would have checked the map but my car’s overhead lights had stopped functioning months ago. I also feared removing my eyes from the road. Stopping on the side roads seemed just as dangerous, steep ravines dropping off, leaving barely a skirt of pavement to fix a flat or wait out the storm.
Driving so long in the dark, I forgot why I was out there and only wished to return home.
But then I remembered; there was no home. This was my final and desperate hope to find another life, somewhere across the country, in another city. There had to be something better than the vise from my last job and the strangling vines from the city that clutched around my throat. It was freeing to let go of everything, but yet frightening… The end could have been worse than the beginning, or the middle.
I drove hours through the rainstorm, the downpour dousing my windshield and blinding me. I was driving slowly, around thirty miles per hour, but I still felt like I was driving too fast. I would have slowed down some more but I was desperate to find some civilization, even if it was another abandoned gas station.
The words on the signs were barely visible. I passed a green sign that had the names of towns that I didn’t recognize, and even then, they were too far for me to reach before midnight. My heart sunk at the prospect of driving throughout the night in the middle of nowhere.
I had nothing to distract me but my thoughts. The radio had died two years ago, and the CD player had chewed up my last CD. My album was still jammed in there, a compilation of my favorite songs, the last of my music before I had sold the rest. I failed to retrieve the CD; I had even attempted to remove the faceplate to reach inside but the CD wouldn’t budge.
The CD player was as stubborn as my last boss. He still possessed several books, movies and objects of mine that he never returned. He feigned ignorance at having them, eventually forcing me to relinquish control over my property out of frustration.
I released everything from that crumbling city, emotionally, physically and anything else. If I had anything left, it was stuffed in my trunk, the only place in my car that didn’t leak. Reminded, I watched the stream of water flowing along the corners of my roof before sliding towards the dashboard.
So the drive was long and obnoxious. There was nothing for me to occupy my mind except the occasional lightning that revealed my path, but it revealed nothing but desert and road. Low lying hills stroked the horizon on my right but I could not see them. Occasionally, I would get excited about spotting a piece of trash; the random object gave me hope. It was ridiculous that a piece of trash would secure my hopes of returning to civilization.
The lack of interesting sights and the constant bombardment of rain was torture for me. It was dull, boring, and making me claustrophobic. I was desperate for a conversation with someone. There was nothing but water and darkness. My headlights were unable to pierce through the sheet of rain; the light was a dull yellow stopping three feet in front of the vehicle. I couldn’t even see the pavement anymore.
Occasionally, I looked into my rearview mirror, searching for another lost soul to commiserate in the unending rain. If I could only find another person struggling on the road, it would make me feel less lonely. I had only the stink of my jeans to keep me company like an imaginary friend. The smell was awful but it was something to think about. I would have spent more time choosing a cleaner pair of clothes but I was strongly motivated to create as much distance between me and the motel.
The rain sounded like hundreds of nails clapping onto the roof. I would worry that it would dent my worthless vehicle. It was a silly concern but I had retained few possessions.
My small car was named Orange Rabbit because its red coloring had faded into a dull orange. It seemed fitting to me; I had an inane fear of rabbits since I was bitten as a child. I didn’t know why something so soft, furry and cute would want to hurt me but it taught me to never assume anything about anybody. It was a hurtful lesson that I blamed for my inability to grow into relationships. This was a silly notion in itself, just because of a rabbit.
I had to stop at a detour sign; large orange and white barricades blocked my continuation on the road. I couldn’t see anything beyond the barricade, my high beams reflecting off the glittering white to blind me. With the heavy rain pooling across my windshield, my wipers were struggling to keep up with the flood of water.
The detour sign pointed right but I didn’t see anything. I looked left as if to check for passing cars. There were three short bushes huddled on the roadside; a plastic bag desperately clung to the branches, whipping in the storm’s harsh breath. Strangely, I felt compelled to save the bag, as if it was a puppy waiting to be rescued.
I looked right; violent flashes of lightning brightened a road that ramped upwards and winded towards the top of a plateau. The white light highlighted the gravel lines from previous tire tracks, preserving them in a copper hue.
I looked left again, trying to find another route around the detour. Even through the heavy rains, I could only discern bushes, a dip into the ravine and a line of barbed wire fencing.
Looking behind me, I still couldn’t see anything. There were no cars; there were no houses. There was just the road sign to keep me company.
I would have stayed there all night, unwilling to take my dilapidated vehicle up the steep climb on the gravel road. Evaluating the ramped detour, I feared slipping off the side, or reaching halfway and then sliding backwards. There were no railings, no signs, there was nothing but a gravel road and tire tracks to suggest it was real. At second guess, it could have been a dirt mound from construction work.
I considered that it was a joke, some country hicks who had too much time on their hands and decided to play a practical joke on outsiders. As far as I knew, they were waiting at the end of the detour to hunt and herd people like cattle, some deranged horror story turned real.
I looked to my phone, and it reminded me that its battery was discharged while flashing red bars. That was depressing. Even my phone wasn’t available to me. That didn’t surprise me; I spent too many hours talking to my mother last night to stave away the fears from the creepy motel owner. His teeth were too bright but his face sagged with chiseled muscles. His eyes drooped like he had too much sleep and couldn’t keep them open.
I didn’t like the way he looked at me.
Resolving to take the detour, in hopes of finding something better than darkness and rain, I drove towards the right, my car’s tires scraping against the gravel to grab traction. I moved slowly, afraid to slip off the edge and go tumbling into a ditch.
The ramping roadway curved towards the right; the darkness gave way from the edges of the corner as I crept. The farther I ascended, the more concerned I became that my car would slip off the side. It was a scary climb as if riding into the unknown, a great beast awaiting me at the top to swallow up the Orange Rabbit.
A copper sheen emitted from the roadway, like steam rising from pavement after a hot rain. The water droplets pounded across my hood like horses dancing across stage. The noise was deafening and disheartening.
The heavy rain created avenues of sludge. Mud waterfalls plopped off the plateau walls. New fears arose in me, being buried in an early grave; I would be screaming hysterically like those single, naïve women from horror movies. The more I dreamt up paranoid thoughts like those, my feet tap danced excitedly.
The storm had seemed to come out of nowhere, as if pulled from the sky, pooled from the deep recesses of space. Like a nebula hovered too close to Earth and spat out the clouds from its stockpile. Unceasing, the storm continued while hovering over the land as if to smother it.
After an hour’s drive up the side of the plateau, I reached the top. I sat idle with my car. We stared at black metal gates with chips of white paint still clinging on the edges. The gate was closed but there was no chain. A house lingered in back, away from the fencing, sitting quietly against the backdrop of storm clouds. A sheet of gray barricaded the sky in a panoramic bowl.
It was not inviting. It was a dark place, glowering in the corner like a reclusive student glaring in the back of the room. You really didn’t want to bother him. I looked to the left and right of the gate, searching for another road. But the detour stopped at the house. That seemed ridiculous to me; someone plotted a detour to end at a random three story house with beat up white siding.
It was so large and dotted with so many windows, it could have served as an orphanage for boys and girls rejected by all prospective parents, left alone in the middle of nowhere so no one would be forced to be reminded that they existed; shunned away so no one would feel sympathy for their pathetic existence.
On the bottom floor, a light flickered in the corner window. I hadn’t noticed it before, but then again, I was concentrating on its shadow looming across the earth, its dark recesses pulling me inside.
I sat idle for several minutes, debating about returning to the highway, even returning to the motel that was at least seven hours behind me. The house wasn’t scary, a simple home with white siding and at least three floors of windows. I could see the curtains pressed against the panes as if drawn onto them.
I didn’t want to leave my vehicle so I slowly drove against the gates. It took longer than expected; my tires spun on the mud but the car refused to move. I feared rolling backwards and slipping off the ledge. The vehicle finally jerked forward and pushed the gates open, just a little. I drove faster and pushed through like puss pushed out of zit.
As the gates gave way, the vehicle skidded forward, almost ramming into a fountain that was buried in mud. Slamming on the brakes helped little to keep me from sliding around. I steered opposite of the push but that only seemed to make the wild turns worse. Eventually the car rubbed into a patch of grass that survived the rivers of mud.
Fearing that the storm would only worsen by creating mudslides, I chose to park against the fence’s corner, far away from the house. Even at concentrated slow speeds, Orange Rabbit shifted erratically. After several minutes of reversing, turning, driving, turning, shifting and reversing in order to push my car against the corner, I was finally parked comfortably against the gate. Too close to the fence to exit the driver’s side, I climbed over the stick to exit on the passenger side.
I didn’t hesitate; I was desperate to escape my car. Using my coat as an umbrella, I rushed outside, slipping twice and almost twisting an ankle while racing through the rain to reach the house’s porch. I even hoped that the rain would wash away the stink in my jeans.
Nearing the house, my heart stomped against my chest; my knees wobbled. For some strange reason, I didn’t want to enter the house.
I suddenly returned to the car while panting unevenly. Every breathe felt forced against my chest. I didn’t want to return to my car but I feared the house. The fear won me out.
by Jax E. Garson
Jennifer Alexander was searching for a new life. She packed her possessions and set out to find a job in a new city. During a heavy thunderstorm, she is detoured from the highway and led towards an abandoned house on top of a plateau.
This house is not ordinary, packed with antique furniture from decades ago. The technology is antiquated. The house appears to be abandoned but there is evidence that someone had once lived there recently.
The thunderstorm drives many people to seek the comfort of the house, a family of three, a manager, a female couple, an old man and a couch potato. The heavy rains strand them there, some of their cars falling off the cliff in mudslides. The house is like a time capsule of 70s and 80s furniture and items, except there does not appear to be any outlets or phone jacks.
On the first night, strange sounds scare the new residents, odd and spooky noises. The following morning, they discover someone missing. After searching the house, they are clueless as to how and why the person disappeared. People are frightened that something haunts the house and seeks out to harm them.
Thomas Dreckerd is the only person that does not believe in ghosts; he is determined to learn the answers to the disappearances and the source of the noises. Jennifer grooms an attraction to Thomas and follows him on his exploration of the house’s many mysteries.
As people continue to disappear, the mystery intensifies. The other residents begin to blame Jennifer. The others turn against her after several days of pummeling thunderstorms continue.
Jennifer and the others realize that they are not the only ones in the house. There are secrets. But something else lingers. Will they be able to stop what is happening? Or will they each be doomed to fate?
This story is set in the Blue Star Series universe but it hangs independent from the epic story. This story relates to a specific marker mentioned in Restoration of Atlantis. It is a haunted mystery and romance with science fiction elements.
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