It was Jason’s first time leaving home on his own, so his emotions were mixed with both anxiety and excitement.
Since his acceptance to Langford College, he had been trying to prepare himself for the transition into adulthood. That meant more freedom, but also more responsibility. His mom wouldn’t be there to make his meals or do his laundry anymore. His dad wasn’t going to be able to help him repair the ongoing problems he had with his car either. He was on his own. All he could rely on was that his parents would help him out by sending him some money each month to help pay for his expenses while at school.
The drive to Langford was going to take 6 ½ hours, so he started early in the morning on his trek. The first 5 hours went fairly smoothly. Traffic was moderate and it only rained once for about 10 minutes, but he was now running low on fuel and had to find a gas station.
The third off-ramp that he approached had a sign indicating that there was food and fuel nearby, so he decided to cut off the highway and turned towards a town named Spectral. As he passed the town limits, he felt a chill come over him suddenly as if the air conditioning had just turned on, but the switch was still turned off. The skies above began to turn a dark grey and the wind seemed to pick up as well. It looked to Jason like a storm was approaching.
A sign on the side of the road indicated that “Clyde’s Gas & Grill” was just up the road, but his luck ran out at the same time that his gas did. The 1992 Dodge Shadow that he bought for $300 sputtered to a stop on the side of the road, so Jason locked up the car and started walking toward the gas station.
As he walked inside the crowded restaurant and gas bar, the busy place fell into a moment of silence as every eye in the place turned toward Jason. He walked up to the counter and asked the waitress if there was any way that he could get some gas brought to his car up the road. She stared disgruntled at the young stranger for a moment then turned to a man at the end of the counter and yelled out, “Earl, this boy’s broke down up the road. You wanna see what’s up?”
The man threw his hat down hard against the counter and shouted, “Dang’ it, Marge! Can’t you see I’m eatin’?”
“Ya, ya,” she retorted back, “finish up. I don’t want you leaving before you can give me my tip.”
After Earl finished eating, he told Jason to jump into his truck and show him where the car was. They drove up the road and after checking the car over, Earl told Jason that it wasn’t just that he ran out of gas; there was a hole in his gas tank the size of a dime and it needed to be replaced. Jason called his dad and had the money electronically transferred to his bank account to cover the cost of a new gas tank and the labor involved. Earl called up Horace and had him tow the car to his garage. Jason was told that the part would need to be ordered, and he wasn’t going back into the city for a couple more days, so now Jason would have to book a motel for a couple of nights as well. His first solo outing was turning out to be more than what he had bargained for.
Horace had his son, Issac run Jason over to the Cleaver Motel and butcher shop. Issac told him that it was the only motel in town and they had to run the butcher shop out of it because they don’t get enough outsiders renting out rooms. It made sense in an odd sort of way to Jason.
The motel was run by Jenny Cleaver, while the butcher shop was run by her husband, Hank. Jenny appeared stand-offish, which he found odd for a motel owner. They are usually trying every trick in the book to make you pay for a more expensive room or a longer stay. Instead, Jenny just asked Jason for his driver’s license which she said she would keep in the motel safe until he checked out just as a security precaution in case he decided to run out in the middle of the night. Jason reluctantly handed it over.
He was assigned room #6. The door looked flimsy with the wood beginning to ripple after years of neglect. When he walked inside, the room smelled putrid, like a dead animal was stuck in the walls. He called Jenny at the front desk and she told him that what he smelled was the pieces of flesh that her husband had cut off of the carcasses before he sold the meat to the local stores. She told him that he can buy an air freshener in the office if he wants one, but it would cost him $7.95 plus tax.
As he unpacked his suitcase and went into the bathroom to shower, he was startled to find an elderly woman staring into his bathroom window. Her eyes were a glossy pale blue as if she had Glaucoma. The shock of the woman standing there was soon followed by the realization that he was standing there naked. He quickly covered up then pulled the curtains closed. When he was confident that nobody could see inside, he turned on the faucets in the bathtub and out came a gurgling mess of sludge and rusty water. Once again, he called down to the front desk. This time, Jenny informed him that the pipes are old and full of holes, so there wasn’t any running water, but if he wanted clean water, he could buy bottles of spring water at the office for only $5.98 each. Jason chose to go without the shower.
As he laid in his lumpy, double-size bed that evening and he looked around the room, he noticed a shadow cascading across the ceiling. The shadow was in the shape of a large claw of some sort. It swayed back-and-forth a few times before coming to a halt. Curiosity got the best of him, so Jason walked over and looked out the window. A thick layer of fog hovered over the town like an apparition. All he could make out were a few dead trees that appeared to be reaching up into the clouds of mist.
The smell of rotting flesh had subsided somewhat and a new fragrance now tickled his nose. It smelled sweet like strawberry jello. He was suddenly overcome with tiredness, laid back down in the bed, and fell fast asleep.
When he awoke and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, the sun had risen. He shielded his eyes from the sun until they adjusted to the light. When things came back into focus, he found that all of his belongings had been ransacked and thrown about the room haphazardly. On the television screen, written in what appeared to be blood, was the word, “LEAVE”.
Once again, he called Jenny to complain. “It was probably just some of the local kids trying to scare you. I wouldn’t worry about it,” she replied.
“I want to speak to the police. What is the number?” Jason demanded.
“Sheriff Campbell is probably out fishing right now so you might not get anyone, but you can try, I guess.” Jenny gave him the number to the local Sheriff’s station, and as predicted, nobody was there, so Jason left a message on the machine for the Sheriff.
“Sheriff Campbell, my name is Jason Simpson. I’m staying at the motel, room #6. Someone broke in here and made a mess of my room. I need you to come here as soon as possible so I can file a report.”
Hours had passed before the Sheriff’s car rolled up in front of the motel room. The Sheriff slowly made his way inside and looked around before speaking.
“Where were you when this alleged crime took place?” he asked sarcastically.
“I was sleeping,” Jason responded.
The Sheriff looked at him with a curious glance before replying. “So, let me get this straight; you were sleeping in that bed while your room was torn up, right? That seems a little strange to me Mr. Simpson. Doesn’t that sound strange to you?”
“I swear, sir, it is the truth! I don’t know how they broke in and did all this without me hearing it, but it happened.”
The Sheriff walked back toward the door and looked at it inside and out. “I can’t see any signs of forced entry, so someone breaking in is no longer a possibility. Are you sure you weren’t sleepwalking or something, Mr. Simpson?”
“I don’t sleepwalk!” Jason insisted.
“Be that as it may, this wasn’t a break-in. Was there anyone else in the room with you?”
“No sir, but there was a creepy old lady with glossy eyes looking in my bathroom window last night.”
“That would be Eva, my mother. She lives in the house behind the motel. She sometimes gets confused and walks up to the motel thinking that it is her house. She can’t see that much anymore, but she is harmless.”
“Sorry for calling her a creepy old lady, Sheriff.”
“I’ll let it slide this time, son. As far as the mess in here, did you find anything missing?”
“No, sir. Nothing except for maybe a grey-colored ball cap that was sitting on the other bed. It had a logo for the New York Mets on it.”
“I’ll look out for it while I’m doing my rounds. I suggest that you forget about this incident and just be on your way as soon as your car is ready.”
“Aren’t you going to at least fill out a report?” Jason asked.
“I’m not going to waste my time on this, son. Now, I have more pressing matters to take care of. Good day.”
After Sheriff Campbell left, Jason started gathering up all of his belongings and repacking them. His wallet fell from his pants pocket as he lifted them off of the corner lamp and it fluttered under the bed. As Jason reached under the bed for the wallet, he felt fingers wrap tightly around his wrist. He broke the hold and skittered across the floor on his hands and feet, staring toward the underside of the bed. Using the flashlight app on his phone, Jason aimed the beam of light underneath the bed. Fearing what he was going to see, he slowly moved it from top to bottom, but nothing was there. He glanced around the room and checked the other side of the bed, but nothing or nobody was to be seen. He marked it off as his emotions causing him to imagine things that didn’t happen.
Jason decided to head over to Clyde’s for a bite to eat. Once again, the patrons reduced their talking to a faint murmur as he entered the room. The same waitress tended the counter, so he approached her and asked where he could sit. She replied, “Why don’t you get your food to go, kid? There ain’t enough room here for anyone else.”
Jason scanned the room and saw 3 booths, not in use. “What about one of those?” He asked.
“They are reserved for two or more people, not just one.”
Frustrated and hungry, Jason ordered a cheeseburger and fries then walked back in the direction of his motel. Along the way, he passed by Spectra Cemetery, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement from behind a crypt. Assuming it was teenagers causing more trouble, he ignored it, but before he reached the end of the gate, an eerie, hollow voice transmitted across the darkness of the graveyard.
“Jason,” the voice called out. “Come here, Jason.”
The disembodied voice sent fear into Jason as he hurried back to his room and locked the door. He sat down on his bed and the television sparked to life showing an advertisement for Spectra Funeral Services. The mortician, Mister Calvin, was a pale-skinned, dark-haired man in his fifties. He spoke of how the deceased who pass through his funeral home, will never be truly dead as long as a loved one is thinking of them. Jason thought this was a little strange, but this whole town seemed strange. He couldn’t wait to get his car repaired and get out of town.
When he started to get drowsy, Jason turned off the TV and laid back on his bed, but it wasn’t long before his rest was disturbed once again. Chanting could be heard from the field across from the motel. He edged back the curtains and saw a large bonfire surrounded by cloaked individuals. All of their robes were red and the chant was in a language that he couldn’t understand. They circled the fire over and over until two more people entered the circle. One was a young woman and she was being led by a large, muscular man who resembled the butcher, Hank Cleaver. The woman’s hands were bound with rope and her mouth was gagged. He walked her over to a flagpole that stood between two dying trees, and he fastened her tied hands to the flag pole, raising her arms above her head. Hank then rang a large brass bell that sat on a monument inside the circle. Suddenly, terrible gusts of wind blew forcefully throughout the streets. The trees surrounding the restrained woman began to move against the blasting air. The fog began to disappear. The branches of the trees began to curl downward and a terrifying shriek filled the air. The tree branches reached out and wrapped around the body of the woman, squeezing her tightly until she could no longer breathe. The townspeople continued to chant as the sky turned a bright red. Then suddenly, out of the cemetery came dozens of ghostly apparitions. They circled the townspeople and then carried off the corpse of the woman that was sacrificed. Her half-naked body was dragged to the front of the funeral parlor where Mister Calvin waited. He dragged the corpse inside and the phantoms returned to their resting places.
One hour later, the townspeople were all gathered outside of the funeral parlor as the front door opened. Out walked the mortician followed by the young woman who he saw sacrificed earlier. The woman joined the rest of the group and they walked down the street.
The next morning, Jason went to the garage to check on the status of his car, but the shop was locked up tight. He was desperate to leave now after what he had witnessed the night before, but he didn’t want to let on that he had seen anything. He was afraid of what might happen to him if they knew. He rattled the door a few times to see if he could open it, and that was when he heard a familiar voice.
“Something I can help you with there, son? From what I could see, you were trying to break into Horace’s garage, and that means I need to place you under arrest.”
The Sheriff’s words resonated inside of Jason’s head as Sheriff Campbell slapped the handcuffs around Jason’s wrist.
“I wasn’t breaking in! I swear! I was just trying to find out if my car was ready.”
Jason was brought down to the jail and locked in an eight-by-eight cell. He protested the arrest several times to no avail. A couple of hours had passed when Marge arrived with food from the diner. The Sheriff pulled out one meal for himself and one for Jason. He handed Jason the brown paper bag through the bars which Jason gladly took and ate. He started to grow weary and laid down on the small cot at the side of the cell before falling asleep.
When he awoke, he was wearing a white robe just like the one the woman had worn the night before. He was tied to the flagpole and gagged, unable to move or scream. He felt helpless. All around him were red robes with hoods covering their faces. As they circled the fire chanting, Jason caught glimpses of some of their faces. He wasn’t sure if it was the shadows playing tricks on his mind, or if their faces looked strange. The chanting stopped suddenly and all of the townspeople turned to face Jason. They lowered their hoods to reveal their faces. Each one was grossly disfigured and pale as if they were walking corpses. Nearly transparent figures emerged from out of the cloaked people and hovered above them as their lifeless bodies collapsed to the ground. The last thing Jason remembered, were the ghosts of the town racing toward him all at once and the searing heat that he felt as they pierced his flesh over and over again until all existence faded to black.