The Scrapyard

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Set your story in an eerie, surreal setting.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

If I’m being honest, there was a part of me that was kind of excited. I mean, I was annoyed that my car was broken but excited. The middle of a downpour on a Friday afternoon is a hell of a time for your wipers to quit. It was a scary drive across the overpass and through town to see a mechanic. A used linkage was gonna cost me $60 and they wouldn’t get it until Thursday. The forecast called for rain all week and I just couldn’t wait that long. I also couldn’t afford to take time off of work and it wasn’t worth risking my neck cruising down the highway with no wipers in the driving rain.

So I did what any responsible adult would do when they had a problem; I called my Dad. “That’s a long time to wait for a wiper linkage, especially if you can’t find another way to work and can’t take the time off,” he said.

“I know. I don’t know what to do. I thought about trying it myself but a new one is like $200 and I definitely can’t afford that,” I said.

“Do you have a scrapyard nearby?” he asked. We don’t live in the same town anymore.

“Yeah, I think there’s one across the river.”

“Go see if they have one. They aren’t hard to change. It would only take you an hour. And if you pulled it yourself you’ll have a better idea of how it goes together. And if you break something or fuck it up, it doesn’t matter,”

“Yeah, I could try. I guess if I got it torn apart and couldn’t figure it out, I wouldn’t be any worse off. Either way, I don’t have wipers. How much do you think it would be from the scrapyard?” 

“Probably only $20 or so. They’ll have one there. I used to go get parts from the scrapyard all the time. There were probably weeks where I was there every Saturday looking for something…”

 And that’s the part that had me excited. I’m no mechanic, but I’m not useless with a wrench. With enough time and patience and maybe a little help from the internet, I can figure things out OK. 

But I grew up on stories from my Dad about all the cars he had and when they’d break and how he’d fix them. Or how he remembers spending Saturdays with his Dad working on whatever car they had that wasn’t working. But the days of the backyard mechanic were all but gone by the time I was grown up. Cars were just too complicated to fix at home or they got to the point where it just wasn’t worth fixing them for how expensive it was.

To be honest, I had never been to the scrapyard. But having a reason to go felt cool like I was getting to step into the past or something. Like I was gonna get to be a part of something I thought I’d missed out on by going to the scrapyard to get something to fix my car in my driveway, hands greasy and sweat rolling off my neck while I listened to Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac.

I know there’s nothing inherently “retro” about that. Scrapyards are alive and well because people use them to get parts for their cars. But in my mind, it was a like I got to spend some time in a world I’d only seen in photo albums and movies.

I woke up Saturday morning to go but found that it was pissing rain outside. Great, I thought. It was today or nothing. They were closed Sundays and who knew if the forecast was gonna be accurate for the week.

I spent the morning waiting for the storm to pass by pacing, drinking coffee, and watching videos online of how to replace the transmission. 

Finally, the sun broke through the grey and burned the clouds off with a vengeance. It wasn’t long before the temperature jumped and the roads steamed as the water evaporated. Within an hour, the world was dry.

I headed for the scrapyard, windows down and music up loud. I was excited. Once I got there, just grabbing my tools from the trunk and walking across the parking lot made my back wet with sweat.

I stepped out of the blistering heat and into the main office. It was dark and dingy and everything seemed to have a layer of grease and oil on it that was coated in dust, but it was cool. They had a chest cooler in the corner with popsicles and water bottles that seemed like it was stocked year-round.

It was hard for me to picture a pull and pay in the wintertime. It seemed like it would always be hot like the office was some kind of gate to permanent summer. Even if it was bitterly cold and snowing outside, once you stepped through the door, you would be welcomed with a dry dusty heat.

“Hey,” the woman behind the counter said. She looked bored and sick of sitting inside. “How can I help you?” 

“Hi, I’m looking for a wiper linkage for a 2015 Fresian,” I said.

She typed and scrolled on her computer for a few moments. “We’ve got one. Linkage is still there. It’s in row 25-A,” she said. “Right near the back of the yard.”

“Sounds good.”

“You been here before?” she asked.

“Uh, no.”

“$4 to get in. You pay for what you take when you leave.  ‘A’ row faces away from the office and ‘B’ row faces towards it.”

“OK, thanks.”

“Cash or card?”

“Debit,” I said.

She started to prepare the debit machine when the boredom on her face was replaced by a serious look. “Just fair warning, some people say they see things towards the end of the yard,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said, pulling out my phone to pay.

“I mean they see things. Weird things, like things they can’t explain.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Is the scrapyard haunted?”

Then she burst out laughing. “No, it’s not haunted. Some people just say weird things happen down there. I just wonder if the people that do already believe in that sort of thing.”

“Have you ever seen anything?”

“I don’t ever really go down there.”

“If I see any ghosts, I’ll let you know,” I smiled.

I paid, grabbed my tools, and stepped through the door on the other side of the office and into the heat of the yard. I was expecting the dust and the heat and the blue of the sky to welcome me into my fantasy, like stepping into a movie.

But that wasn’t the feeling that washed over me. Instead, I felt like a crow or a vulture, leering over a battlefield of mutilated corpses, ripe for picking at. The sun glared off the sea of metal roofs and made the air above them bend and wave. Yeah, these corpses still had plenty of meat on the bone. Meat that was rotting and baking in the sun, waiting for the crows.

I shook the thought away. That was a grisly first impression, I thought. Suddenly, I was aware of the fact that I was still standing there. I looked over my shoulder back into the office. The cashier and I made eye contact for a microsecond before her eyes darted to her phone like she wasn’t just watching me. But I could see the trace of a smile on her lips.

I turned back around. The yard was all sand and seemed to stretch on forever. I started to walk through the center aisle. The even-numbered rows were on the right and the odds were on the left. Each vehicle had an inventory number, the model, and year written somewhere on the sides. Like toe tags in a morgue, I thought. They all sat on their rotors with a rim beneath each one; the wheels had been plucked off and the tires that were still fleshy enough to be driven on were sold out front. 

Hoods were missing, engines were missing, and there were cars and trucks with no doors. Some of the vehicles with no doors were missing seats or steering wheels or had the interiors gutted altogether.

The hoses and wires that dangled from the engine bays reminded me of guts and veins. This is ridiculous, I told myself. They’re just cars. 

Not all, but most, had shattered glass and were smashed in some way or another. Some even had airbags hanging out of them. I couldn’t help but wonder about the occupants of the vehicles. How many of them walked away unscathed, watching as their ride rode away on a flatbed, and thinking “There but for the grace of God.” 

How many of them didn’t walk away? How many thought they were just driving home from work or on their way to get groceries?

Some of the vehicles had evidence of the jaws of life. Some of them didn’t even have glass. Was the driver not wearing a seat belt and launched from their seat and down the road? Meat for the crows.

How many weren’t alone? Were they drunk? High? Was someone in the backseat? Were some of the cars here in the same accident with its smashed mate sitting right next to it?

Stop! You’re being stupid. This is all because of that cashier.  You should have lied about having never been here before. She’s hazing you. Focus on what you’re doing. Row 25-A remember. 11… 13…

The sun made my skin sticky and my shirt was dappled with sweat. The veins on my arms bulged with the weight of my tools and I squinted against the bright. I wore jeans because I thought wearing shorts seemed like a weird choice. People in movies didn’t wear shorts to work on their cars. They wore Levi’s!

I kept pushing the dark thoughts of crows and meat away, but it was getting harder and harder the further I walked. Just focus on finding the carcass- CAR. Jesus. Find the CAR. 

The lot was huge. It had to be at least the length of two football fields and I don’t know how wide. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many vehicles there were sitting there.

My shoulders burned with the weight of my tools and the strap on my tool pouch dug into the bunched skin of my palm. 

17… 19… 

I readjusted my grip on my socket case. 

21… 23…

Finally, Row 25. I set my tools down at the end to relieve my shoulders. The yard was silent but it didn’t feel silent. It was like I could hear a cacophony of voices in my head, the way all the voices in an auditorium form one large sonic mass. I started into the row but something made me hesitate. I felt like I was intruding on something. 

Finally, I stepped forward. The noise in my head stopped. It was like I had walked onto the stage in that auditorium and it had gone immediately silent like they had all been talking about me. It felt like hundreds of eyes were on me, waiting to see what I did next. But I was alone. 

It’s all in your head, you fucking idiot. Find the car!

I pressed on, looking for the Fresian, pushing away the feeling of being watched. Then I saw it. Like so many others, it looked like it had been in a terrible accident. The windshield was smashed and so was the driver’s side. I walked over to it, but the closer I got, the harder it was to keep looking at it like I was looking into the sun. I got closer and dragged my eyes up to look inside.

All of the airbags had been deployed and the dash was cracked. Then I saw the large brown stains on the steering wheel airbag and I knew. Someone died in this car.

I pushed it away. So? People fucking die in car accidents all the time. It’s just a pile of steel and plastic. Quit being a bitch and get this fucking thing done so you can get out of here. I turned around and marched to grab my tools, wiping sweat off of my brow. You are a grown-up, act like it. 

I grabbed my tools and turned around again to look down the row, and still could feel the eyes and the silent voices. My foot hesitated before I started toward the Fresian again. 

There’s no such thing as ghosts or haunted cars. There’s always a reasonable explanation for things that “go bump in the night.” And it’s not even NIGHT. It is the middle of the day so grow the fuck up and get it done. I stood at the edge of the Fresian and set down my tools. 

Time to go to work. 

But I couldn’t bring myself to touch it like if I did, I was doing something wrong, something that went against the laws of nature. 

Fuck,” I said under my breath. “Fuck.” I brought both hands up, went to touch it, stopped, wiped the sweat out of my eyes, and then brought my hands down fast to the hot steel.

Nothing happened.

I just had my hands on a hot car. The eyes, the silent voices, the thoughts evaporated. I was just standing in a scrapyard touching a car.

I started to laugh. “What a fucking joke,” I said before I started to laugh harder. 

I calmed down and grabbed my ratchet and a few sockets to remove the wiper arms. My shirt was soaked through and sweat dripped off of the end of my nose as I worked. 

Once the arms were off, I popped the plastic cover off to reveal the wiper linkage and motor. I threw the cover through the window in the front seat and began to disassemble it. 

I undid it without a problem and stood back to admire my handiwork. I put it in my tool pouch and began to collect my things and put them away. All that was left to do was get home and put the linkage in my car.

I was bent over, facing away from the Fresian and putting my sockets into my case, when I heard screeching tires. I swear it wasn’t in my head, it was real screeching tires. “What the fu-” I tried to say while standing up.



I was interrupted by a woman’s scream, loud and shrill and real like she was right next to me. I started to turn.


I knew immediately that the sound was that of cars slamming into each other. I’d swear I was feet away from it.

I whirled. There in the front seat of the Fresian was a woman slumped over the steering wheel. The top of her head was matted with blood and her skull looked crushed on the window side.

I was frozen and holding my breath. Fear slithered and crawled in my belly. I blinked. She was still there. I blinked again. Still there. The feeling of watching eyes and just-quieted voices was back. 

Then, slowly, her head began to rise. I whimpered. The left side of her face was smashed in and bloody. I could see white bone underneath her hair. One wide, blue eye met mine and we just stared at each other for a seemingly never-ending moment. I was shaking. My mind screamed to run but I couldn’t; my legs wouldn’t work.

Then she spoke. “Meat for the crows,” she said quietly. Then again and again, louder and louder. “Meat for the crows, meat for the crows! MEAT FOR THE CROWS!” 

All the effort I’d been putting into my legs moving came all at once and I fell backward, over my socket set. When I hit the ground, the screaming stopped. I stared mouth agape and eyes wide with fear into the cabin of the Fresian. 

She was gone. The watching eyes were gone too. And the silent voices. I was alone. But the words kept ringing in my ears. 

I slowly gathered up my things. I was afraid that if I moved too fast, I would see her mangled face again. I crept back until I was sure that I was in the center aisle.

I turned and, somehow without running and screaming, calmly started making my way back to the office with the voice still reverberating off of the walls of my skull.

Finally, I made it back to the office. I walked through the door and let it slam behind me. “Jesus,” the cashier said from behind the counter. “You look like you’ve seen-”

“Stop!” I said a little too loud. “Just… stop.” I took a deep breath. “How much for the linkage?”

She typed into her computer but barely took her eyes off me. “$24.50,” she said.

I took my phone out to pay. “You saw something back there didn’t you? What was it?” she asked.

The debit machine beeped. “I didn’t see anything.”


“I don’t need my receipt,” I said as I snatched up my things and headed for the door.

“What did you see?!” she called after me. I didn’t stop.

* * *

I almost didn’t, but I put that linkage in. And every time I turn them on, I hear that voice with every swipe of the wiper. 

“Meat for the crows.”

I’ve lain awake every night since, wondering who else, if anyone, has seen her, wondering if they’d admit it or if they’ve told anyone, or if anyone believes them. I haven’t told a soul, but I know what I saw, and I’m sure she’s still there, just like she’s there in the nightmares that come every night.

July 15, 2023 01:27

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


06:43 Jul 21, 2023

Thé parallels between the scrapyard and battlefield/scavenger and crow are really nicely done.


C. Charles
10:38 Jul 21, 2023

Thank you! Other than the ghost, this is a true, very recent story lol I thought i would feel like a kid in a candy store but I was surprised at how gruesome I found the whole thing. Thanks for reading!


12:37 Jul 21, 2023

It's very realistic--the longing for the dad fixing a car days, the car graveyard setting, the weird moments of really considering the meaning of other people's deaths and then the second-guessing of that impact. Really cool.


C. Charles
14:45 Jul 21, 2023

Thank you!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
14:54 Jul 15, 2023

Oh, what the mind will do with just a bit of suggestion.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.