Ginger Nuts of Horror
To wrap up Charlott Bobd's excellent 13 for Christmas series of sppoktakular festive flash stories, we have a special guest story for fellow Ginger Nuts of Horro conrtributor, the one and only Joe X Young.
As You Mean to Go On....
In the burning hours and driving rain Lea walked alone, soaked through, shivering, hungry and exhausted. Her bag biting her shoulder, pushing her collar against the painfully fresh bruises where thumbs had pressed and fingers gouged.
It had been hours since their fight in the kitchen, since Paul’s hands dug around her throat, her eyes bulging, face turning purple as she struggled for breath. “Huhhghh” she huffed into her cold hands, rubbing them together, hoping that her breath would be warm enough to take the numbness from her fingers, his skin still under her nails where she had clawed at him. She managed a thin smile as she wondered how he felt when her thumb pushed deep in his eye socket. He’d screamed like the bitch he was.
“Happy New Year you fucking bastard.” She uttered through clenched bruised jaws. “I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, new town, new life. I’ll never have to put up with your shit again. No going back, not ever.” She uttered through clenched jaws which ached from constant cold-to-the-core teeth-chattering. Lea searched her handbag for breath-mints, it had been a long and evil day, her mind unable to focus on the mundane routines of eating and drinking, but now, in the desolate hours, heading toward a dormant town, she was starving. She found the pack, some left, but not a meal, not even a mouthful. She sucked on one; it eased her, the mint settling her stomach. Fresh vapours of eucalyptus tickling her nose.
The town couldn’t be that far away, a few miles at best. “Thank fuck for small mercies, with any luck there’ll be a bakery.” Lea muttered. The thought of hot bread spurred her on; she would be able to buy some rolls, maybe the baker would invite her in from the icy downpour. He could give her a cup of tea, save her life. She trudged along, her Birkenstocks slapping mucky water over her exposed feet. Lea no longer cared, stopping only briefly to fish the slick bits of debris from between her pale prune-wrinkled toes.
By four in the morning her vision improved. The rain had reduced to a lacklustre drizzle.
“Please have a bakery, or newsagents, a petrol station… open twenty-four-hours… hot food, hot drinks, a washroom…” The realisation that she had several options for salvation boosted her morale. Lea reached the town half an hour later, elated to the point where she hugged the sign.
‘Welcome to MAIDANTON’ it stated, under which some well-wisher had sprayed a smiley face. Lea rested her arm on the sign and took her sandals off, shaking the crud from them before entering Maidanton.
“My poor feet… Soon get you warmed up, in a few hours I’ll be able to buy you some socks” she slipped her sandals back on and hobbled into town. A few minutes later and the first building came into view. It was a petrol station. She saw the sign ‘MOBIL’ high on a post. The light wasn’t on.
“Oh please, please be open”. She quickened, limping towards her salvation, to food and rest, to dry warmth. She walked on, seeing her hopes drain away when it became apparent that the petrol station was a derelict, boarded-up. No food, no drink, no shelter. She wandered the streets; the shops all closed. No bakery or at least, no sign of one, she was certain she would have smelled the fresh baked bread from streets away and would have been able to zero-in on it like a bloodhound, but so far nothing. Dawn approached, the street lamps faded, and there, at the end of a winding street, was it… YES… A milk float. Lea tried to run, hoping to catch up with it, hoping that the Milkman wasn’t going to drive around the corner and vanish forever from her desires. Her hastening steps hurt like hell, the blisters on her feet having long since burst. He was heading towards her. She slowed. Stood. Waited. She reached in her handbag for her purse thinking surely he’d sell her some milk, perhaps he’ll have some yoghurt or cheese that she could buy too.
He stopped the float eight doors down. Lea almost cried, so close, so damned close, she should never have stopped, she was so weary, so much in pain that she was scared that she may not be able to reach him, her mouth hurt, her throat so dry she may not be able to speak… She panicked, thrusting her feet forwards, almost falling, regaining her balance, closer, ever closer, and there he was, her saviour, her Knight in a white dairy coat.
“Morning Madam” he said cheerfully, slamming a crate on an empty stack.
“Gnhrrr” Said Lea.
“Excuse me?” he replied.
Lea cleared her throat; it stung like hell, her eyes watered.
“Sorry. Erm, good morning… Can I buy some milk off you?”
“You can have it for free my darlin’… looks like you need it” He grabbed a bottle and handed it to her. “I always keep extra on the float”
“Thank you very much, but it’s not all I want.” said Lea, taking the milk and unscrewing the plastic top. She took a huge gulp, spat, and vomited. “It’s off”.
“Pardon” said the milkman, stepping back from the spreading vomit.
“The milk, it’s off… rancid.”
“and?” said the milkman.
“Is this some kind of sick joke you play on people? It’s not funny, can I have some fresh milk, quickly, I need to get rid of the taste”
“There is no fresh milk here, it’s all off”
“But you’re delivering it…”
“That doesn’t mean its fresh now does it!”
“Are you insane?”
“Just doing my job, not my fault you haven’t figured out where you are.”
“I’m in ‘Maidanton’ aren’t I?”
“Well I’ve heard it called many a name, but Maidanton’s not one of them.”
“This is Maidanton; I saw the sign, stood by it not half an hour ago…”
“I think you’d better come with me…” he said, ushering her towards the cab of the milk float.
Lea stepped forward. Better to be sitting down in the cab than standing up much longer. She sat, took the breath-mints from her purse and chewed a couple, the tang of vomit and sour milk overpowering the eucalyptus.
Within minutes they reached the boarded up petrol station. The light on the pole was on; instead of ‘MOBIL’ it said ‘LIMBO’. They carried on toward the town border and the Maidanton sign.
Lea remembered the fight, Paul squeezing her life away, her thumbnail puncturing his eyeball, forcing him back in agony, his grip intensifying as he repeatedly slammed her head against the cooker. She grabbed for something, anything, to make him stop, plunging the carving knife into his skull before they died.
The Milkman pointed at the sign. It read: ‘Welcome to DAMNATION.’
Beyond the sign a man approached, his one good eye staring at her as he freed the blade from his head.