A Glass of Water
Whispers in the Wind
Night of the Scorpions
The Trail to the Left
The Triple B Ranch
The Cowboy on the Hill
Bill walked down the side of the road, golf club in hand. The sun had set. Time to head home for a quick shower and dinner before the game came on. It was definitely nice having a golf course right across the street though the free nightly practice hadn’t improved his game as much as he had hoped.
Bill always felt a twinge of dread when he turned the corner onto the dirt road that lead to his house. Bats. The street light on the corner was their beacon. They came from everywhere to circle wildly around the light. Driving by this nightly spectacle was creepy enough, walking under it was definitely worse. Bill gripped his club tighter and continued towards his house.
Bats fluttered and flapped in every direction. Start and stop motions as they zigged and zagged around the night light, too busy to notice Bill’s approach. Or so he thought.
Bill’s pace picked up as he rounded the corner and headed down the road. He wanted distance from all of those bats.
Something whizzed above Bill’s head. He spun around swinging his golf club in every direction. With the sun having set, anything flying at this time of night was virtually invisible but he knew what it was. It was a bat.
Bill stood in the road holding his club, ready to swing. Looking all around he saw nothing. As he turned to head home a bat flew directly into his face. It was as if time stood still. Eyes meeting, brain comprehending what each is seeing for a mere half a second, the fluttering.
Bill yelled and cussed, swinging his golf club wildly, smacking the bat and watching it crash to the ground with a thud.
Adrenaline rushed through Bill’s body, he let out a deep throaty scream of victory as he stood over the twitching, dying beast.
But this incident did not go unnoticed. This strike declared war. Hundreds of bats now flew directly towards Bill. Diving directly at his head, bats biting and swarming, spinning around him.
Bill turned to run but tripped, smacking his head against a rock as he fell to the ground. Unconscious, Bill lay bleeding in his driveway. Unable to fend off the attack. Hundreds of bats covering his body. His fingers being chewed away. The bats making sure he would never hold a golf club again.
Turning a certain age seems to bother some people more than others. 30 is one of those ages. For some, 30 marks a time in their life where they believe they should have accomplished certain things. When life hasn’t turned out exactly how it had been planned, turning 30 could drive you insane.
This is Michelle’s story.
Maybe it was time for a change. One last glance just in case she had missed anything, Michelle shut off the lights then closed the door behind her. Leaving the city far behind, Michelle headed out into the open desert. Destination unknown.
Driving alone through the open desert was the best way Michelle knew how to clear her mind when it became too full. Today was her 30th birthday. No party, no gifts, just another busy day for her few friends. Oh sure, one or two might actually notice the date on their computers later or even tomorrow, then send out a belated text or an email. But there was no one special in her life who was going to make a big deal out of today.
Never ending days at work had blurred into months of take-out dinners alone on the couch staring at the T.V. This was not the life she was supposed to be living at 30.
Today the thought of actually being 30 with no real future was almost more than she could take. Where was the doting husband? The kids or even a family pet? If this was what turning 30 was going to be like, Michelle thought, then maybe she would just rather not.
With the gas tank just about on empty it was time to stop and grab a drink or maybe a snack. Michelle pulled up to the pump and parked. Her eyes watered and squinted as she stepped into the bright convenience store and headed to the candy isle.
Wiping her eyes to clear her vision, Michelle scanned the rows of tempting, sugary snacks. Suddenly she felt a presence as if there was someone standing very close behind her. The hairs on her neck stood up and chills ran down her spine. First a breath, then a whisper. “…Michelle…”
Michelle spun around. There was no one there.
Michelle looked up and down the candy isle. Nothing. She looked over to the counter. The clerk glared back. Now feeling extremely self-conscious, Michelle headed straight to the back of the store to the restroom trying her best not to run.
Quickly locking the door behind her, Michelle stood at the sink washing her hands then splashing cold water on her face. Obviously, Michelle thought, she had driven too much and was a little tired. She was starting to see things. Starting to get jumpy. Better turn this fruitless road trip around and head back home.
As Michelle wiped the water from her face she caught a glimpse of something behind her. In the mirror she could see a girl standing behind her. Instantly she recognized this girl. The hair, the clothes, the face. It was Michelle, just younger, staring back at her with a look of complete disgust.
Michelle spun around to face this girl but no one was there. The room was far too small for someone to have walked in without being noticed. Michelle turned back to the mirror. The image was gone. The only face looking back was a very tired one, not the angry, younger face of a former self.
“Yep,” Michelle said to herself in the mirror “you need to go home and go to bed. Happy 30th birthday.”
As Michelle headed to the front of the store to leave, the store clerk yelled to her “Lady you need to pay for all your stuff before you go!”
What was he talking about? She hadn’t even picked anything up. She hadn’t had the chance. Confused, Michelle stopped and answered “But I don’t have anything.” The clerk, bored with the conversation already, replied “You have been in here for over an hour. You need to pay for everything you ate and drank or I’m going to call the cops.” Stunned. An hour? Michelle’s heart raced. “I think you have me confused with someone else, that other girl I just saw…” Michelle trailed off as the clerk leaned over the counter at her and growled into her face “I have you on camera. There is no other girl. It’s just been me and you in here.” Michelle slowly pulled out her credit card and watched in complete shock as the clerk rang up item after item after item.
Michelle ran to her car. She couldn’t get away from the convenience store fast enough. Her tires kicking up rocks and dust as she sped out onto the road.
Trembling as tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew she had only been inside the store for only a few minutes but the clerk’s words repeated over and over in her mind. “you have been in here for over an hour…”
Her thoughts coming now in halting sentences.
Roll down the windows.
Get fresh air.
Stop and find a hotel for the night.
The next town is an hour away.
Stop and find a hotel for the night.
“you have been in here for over an hour…”
Turn on some music.
The warm night air felt good blowing through the car. The crazy store and clerk now barely seen in the rearview mirror. Michelle took a deep breath of fresh air as she reached to turn on the radio. Music will help keep her company.
Coming directly from behind the driver’s seat Michelle heard a voice say “turn the music off”
It was her voice. Not the voice inside her own head. No this voice came from behind her. In the car with her. Michelle slammed on the brakes skidding off the highway into the desert. With the car’s engine still running Michelle leaped out immediately spinning around to see who was in the back seat.
There was no one.
Michelle stood staring at her car in disbelief. She had heard a voice as clear as day tell her to “turn the music off.” But there was no one there. She was alone. Hesitantly Michelle climbed back into the car. She didn’t feel alone any more.
Just up ahead a small motel appeared as if out of nowhere. Relieved, Michelle pulled in and headed to the office to check in. As she approached the motel clerk he greeted her with an angry and puzzled look on his face. “Ma’am is there something wrong with your room again?”
Michelle’s head started to spin. “…uh?” was all she could get her mouth to reply.
“I already told ya it was the last room I have.” The extremely round and sweaty clerk came from around the counter. “Let me walk you back and check on everything one more time.”
In a daze Michelle followed the large man back outside and down the row of dark and quiet rooms all the way to the end. Using his own key, the clerk opened the door to the small room. The light was on. The bed was made. Everything appeared to be in order. The grumpy, sweating man turned to Michelle and said “looks fine to me.” And lumbered his way back towards the office grumbling about her being crazy.
Michelle’s brain was spinning. She stepped into the room and shut the door slowly behind her. In the closet her clothes were already hanging. In the drawers, her clothes were neatly folded. She was already here.
Michelle sat on the side of the bed, too tired, too confused. Sleep. She just needed to sleep. Michelle reached over and turned out the light. Her eyes closed, her head sank deep into the pillow. The air conditioner only able to blow a tiny breeze. Slowly the air grew heavy and thick. She could feel someone climb into bed next to her. Terrified, Michelle fell out of bed and ran screaming for her car.
The tires peeled out as she swerved to miss an oncoming truck honking at her reckless driving. Michelle floored the gas sending the car skidding sideways down the desert highway. Hyperventilating, she frantically reached for her phone only to realize she had ran out of the room with nothing. No purse, no wallet, no phone, no shoes. She was barely dressed.
Michelle floored the gas almost praying a police officer would pull her over. She just wanted this horrible birthday to end. She just needed to get back to her home, to get back to where everything made sense.
Bright lights quickly filled her rearview. From out of nowhere a car was on her bumper. Already driving way over the 75 mile an hour speed limit, speeding up was not an option.
The blinding lights from behind highlighted the horror on the road up ahead. In a blink of an eye Michelle could see a person standing in the middle of the highway. It was the girl. The girl who looked just like Michelle. With split seconds to make a decision, Michelle yanked the wheel in an attempt to avoid hitting her. The car flipped into the air crashing down into an embankment.
A full week later when Michelle hadn’t show back up for work so Police were called to check on her. Just inside the door of her apartment sat two travel bags packed and ready to go. They found Michelle’s body laying fully clothed alone in bed. In her right hand she tightly held her set of car keys. She had died from a massive cardiac arrest.
Months later Michelle’s car was found far out into the desert and down an embankment. The police ruled it as stolen.
Trevor was home one extremely hot evening after a very long day of work. A cold beer and some T.V. That was it. Food may not even happen. Just too hot outside to cook. Alone in the sprawling ranch style home his family built years ago on land passed down from generation to generation, it was Trevor’s turn to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the open desert of his family’s heritage.
The oversized couch swallowed his body perfectly. The remote barely hanging in his left hand, Trevor’s head nodded back.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Startled awake Trevor was momentarily confused. He hadn’t heard a car pull up. His nearest neighbor was over a mile away and it was 100 degrees outside. No one was walking to his house this time of night. Had he simply not heard the tires on the gravel driveway like he always did?
Hesitantly, he walked to the door just as another …Knock! Knock! Knock!
Puzzled he opened the door to find a very old man with a walking stick. The crinkled old man looked as if he was over 100 years old and had lived all of it in the sun. He looked at Trevor with icy blue watery eyes and whispered “Can I have a glass of water?” Relieved it was only a simple request for some obviously needed water, Trevor rushed to get a large glass and welcomed the old man inside.
The old man nodded a thank you and drank slowly. Still confused as to how this old man made it anywhere let alone clear out into the desert and onto acres of fenced desert property, Trevor asked “Sir, can I ask what brought you here?” “Water” the old man whispered. “Yes, I know sir but HOW did you get here?” “Walked” the old man whispered.
The old man set the glass of water down and slowly looked around Trevor’s home. He seemed puzzled by most of Trevor’s belongings. The art, the books, especially all the technology seemed to fascinate the old man, but he said nothing. His icy blue watery eyes staring, taking in every detail. Trevor could tell the old man was not interested in hearing about any of it, he just wanted to look.
Unsure as to what exactly he should do next, Trevor offered “I can drive you wherever you need to go. Or can I call someone for you?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.” Whispered the old man. The man slowly walked to the window and stared out into the night. “That won’t be necessary…”
The old man slowly walked down the hall to Trevor’s bedroom. There he sat on Trevor’s bed. Trevor followed him into the room. It no longer felt like his own. Somehow it felt like this old man had lived there his whole life and Trevor was a guest. An unwanted guest.
The feeling made him back out into the hallway. From the hallway he watched as the old man lay down and closed his eyes.
The hair on Trevor’s arms stood on end. A wave of strange energy swept past him as he stared at the old man lying on his bed. Why was he here?
Trevor went back to the couch and sat down. He turned off the T.V. How could he enjoy watching anything with a strange old man sleeping in his bed? Trevor got up and went back down the hall. Something told him to go check on the old man.
A cold breeze blew through Trevor’s entire body as he stepped inside the room. The old man was not sleeping. He had died.
Shaking, Trevor reached for his phone to call for an ambulance. How was he going to explain this? He didn’t even know the man’s name. He simply came asking for water then died in the bed? Is anyone going to believe this?
Trevor walked back down the hallway and dialed 911. Explaining as best he could, the confused operator told Trevor they would send help out immediately but due to how far away from the city he lived it would still take roughly 20 minutes.
Trevor hung up the phone and walked outside. He needed some fresh air. This night had taken some crazy turns and now he had emergency responders coming to his home for an old man he met less than ten minutes ago who is now dead in his bed.
Trevor took a deep breath then went back inside to go show respect and cover the old man with the sheet until help arrived. As Trevor stepped into the room waves of confusion and panic ran through his veins. The old man was gone.
Trevor’s mind raced. He was just there a minute ago. Dead. Heck, he was barely moving when he was alive. How far could he have gone? Trevor’s heart was in his throat. Emergency help is on the way and now there is NO old man dead in his bed.
Trevor ran through the house calling to the old man “Hello!? Are you still in the house?” But there was no answer. He looked under the bed, in the closet, nothing. “Hello?” Trevor hurried down to each room calling “Hello…?!?” Nothing. The old man was gone.
Scared he had simply dreamt the whole thing Trevor called back to 911. Apologizing profusely, he had no explanation for what had happened and was sorry for the inconvenience. The operator’s tone let Trevor know a false report of a death should never happen again.
Shaken, Trevor sat the phone on the table and wandered around his house. His mind jumped from scene to scene. The knock on the door. The old man. The water. Did any of that really happen or had the extreme heat gotten to him? They say the heat can play tricks with your mind. This was quite the trick.
Trevor poured himself a shot to steady his nerves.
A good cold shower would help clear his head. Trevor walked down the hall and turned to go into his room. There was the old man lying dead in his bed just like he had been before. Trevor couldn’t breathe. Waves of panic swept his entire body. Trevor ran to his phone and frantically called again for help.
The operator was not amused by this third call. “Sir this line is for emergencies.” Almost hysterical from fear Trevor screamed into the phone “There is a dead strange old man in my bed!” the operator replied calmly “Sir I have spoken with you twice already. We are not sending emergency response to you. If you call again with another false report we will send a police officer to come arrest you.” “SEND THE POLICE!” Trevor yelled then threw his phone across the room.
20 minutes alone in a house with a dead stranger? Trevor was more than happy to have the police and whoever else wanted to come get this man out of his house.
But 20 minutes can be a really long time…
Trevor sat in the dark on his couch. He closed his eyes trying to keep sane. If he closed his eyes his brain might not explode. Sitting in the dark Trevor heard a whisper. It sounded like someone calling his name.
The hairs stood on the back of his neck. The whispers grew louder and sounded as if they were coming from his bedroom. Almost paralyzed from the fear Trevor sat on the couch squeezing his eyes shut. But the whispers called him. “Trevor, water… please…”
His eyes shut as tight as they could, desperately trying to hold back the tears. This was not happening. Shock had set in.
Trevor stood up and slowly walked towards the pleas for water. Down the hall to his room, Trevor no longer felt his body, he simply floated there. Trevor saw the lifeless body lying on his bed. He sat down next to the man. Trevor lightly touched his skin. It was so thin and leathery. The old man’s body so frail. Trevor whispered “Rest in peace…”
The old man’s watery blue eyes opened. Trevor fell backwards and off the bed as he scrambled to run out of the room and out of this nightmare! Trevor ran outside and stood in the driveway. Shaking violently Trevor paced up and down trying to get his thoughts together.
About an hour passed when Trevor could finally see the flashing lights heading towards his home. The police approached Trevor cautiously. Unsure as to what exactly had happened here, their demeanor was less than friendly.
Trevor told them the whole crazy story. The police officers went inside to investigate. A few minutes later they walked back out. There was no old man in the house. They found nothing. Concerned for his mental state, the officers suggested Trevor get a good night sleep then call his doctor in the morning. There was no need to arrest Trevor. He was an honest man who too much work and heat probably had got the best of him.
The officers got back into their patrol car and left.
Trevor walked back into the house. He was numb. He grabbed a glass of water then headed down the hallway to his bedroom. He turned off the lights and sat in silence next to the old man laying in his bed.
She pulls her hair straight back into a tight ponytail. Stuffs the loose ends into her dirty baseball cap then pulls her long ponytail out the back. Old ripped shirt and jeans. Heavy steel toe boots. She’s ready to work.
Her backyard is open desert. The mission this morning is to clear a deadly patch of Cholla. Jumping Cholla. Cactus known to leap off at unsuspecting passersby. Thorns so long and sharp they easily pierce through the heavy duty gloves she wears. Cactus dangerous enough that it needs to be controlled or removed.
She knows todays work is not going to be much fun but it has to be done or it will continue to grow into a nightmare maze of spikey jumping thorns. She grabs her tools and heads toward the back yard.
There is an obvious transition from the open and easy to walk through desert into the ominous thick patches of Jumping Cholla.
Her chest tightens as the fear sets in. This patch of cactus is not going down without a fight. She feels it.
She uses her heavy duty rake as a defense to enter into Cholla territory. Slowly she pushes back at the angry plants to see which parts willingly fall off and which parts are ready to leap out at her with frightening speed and force.
Spikey balls of pain fall all around her as she steps ever so slowly trying with every controlled move to not disrupt large amounts of jumping thorns. Slow progress is made carving a trail further into the thick patch. With every awful clump she removes, another seems to fall in its place.
Sweat dripping into her eyes, she can’t risk wiping them, her arms now covered in thorns. The salt will just have to sting. There is no turning back now. She is fully in and committed to winning this fight.
Pushing and fighting her way through, a sense of victory is starting to emerge. She powers on knowing eventually she will see the light at the end of this very nasty Cholla tunnel.
Thirsty from so much intense work she turns to reach for her water. The hours must have passed quicker than she realized. Surrounded by thorns and overgrown cactus the shadows slowly creep in.
She looks behind her to see there is no visible path. Every bit of cactus she thought she had removed now somehow replaced and multiplied! She is surrounded. The Cholla have started closing her in.
Panic sets in as she realizes there is no path, no direction, no water. She is surrounded. The Cholla are ready to fight back.
Her sweaty hands grip the rake tight. It is her only weapon to fight this overwhelming attack. She closes her eyes tight trying to get the sweat and sting out so she can focus, but clearing her vision only makes the reality of her confinement bring on a full panic attack.
Heart racing, short of breath she spins around dizzy and scared. Where is the house? What direction am I facing? She grabs her phone frantically pushing the screen but there is nothing. It is dead. No signal no power. No way to cry for help.
She throws her phone at the Cholla that are inches from her face but that only sends more pieces of flying shrapnel into her cheek. Pain shoots through her face sending hot streams of tears stinging down her bloody cheeks.
She falls to the ground only to have a thick layer of Cholla spikes pierce her knees and shins. Stabbing through her jeans bloody pieces of her flesh hold hundreds of thorns.
She screams and tries to make a break for it. Kamikaze style she runs full speed wildly through the Cholla with it firing back from every direction.She feels the hot, sharp pain in the side of her neck and knows another clump has landed. She is the target and the enemy has zeroed in.
Disoriented, terrified, shock sets in. The Cholla are spinning all around. Her arms and legs no longer move. The Cholla tighten their hold. Coming in from all sides. Spikes piercing every inch. Encased. Held in place like a bloody and twisted scarecrow. Waiting to be found.
Jon and Nathan met through friends one night while out having drinks. They immediately hit it off much to the pleasure of everyone they knew. Before long they had moved in to a great little condo by the beach, happily living the dream.
Inspired by a night of binge watching “Finding Bigfoot”, Nathan came to Jon with an idea. Jon was so smart, handsome and camera worthy, why don’t THEY go out and film themselves hunting for creatures? The Bigfoot people never found anything so they wouldn’t have to either! Then they could post it for all of their friends online to watch and laugh.
This idea was just silly enough and fun enough to get Jon’s attention. At the very least this would be a great excuse to shop for some new camping gear and take a road trip. Why not?
They jumped online and searched for a new tent and sleeping bags. Happy they had something new to focus on, Jon sincerely thanked Nathan for always coming up with exciting and creative things for them to do. He was the fun half of this pair. Jon had a hard time loosening up. Nathan had no trouble at all.
Packed with far too many changes of clothing for a weekends excursion (“Jon you have to bring extra shirts in case you sweat…I want you to look good on camera”) they drove off towards the desert for a fun filled weekend of camping and Nathan filming Jon finding lost creatures in the wild. It was already too much fun.
They made it to their campsite with plenty of time to set up in the daylight. Nathan had already practiced setting up the tent in their living room the night before so he was ready. In no more than a half hour Nathan had created a mini home away from home and was full of way too much energy for Jon. Jon needed a nap before any “creature hunting” was going to take place. He went inside the tent and slept while Nathan wandered around scouting the area for good places to pretend to be lurking around.
The day slowly faded into night. Jon built a small campfire while Nathan played with the settings on his camera. (“Now you know this isn’t the Blair Witch! I don’t want snotty nosed fake sobbing out there Jon! I want you to be the hunter! Fiiiiiind the beast…”)
Nathan was so ridiculous Jon had to laugh. Fine, if Nathan wants a hunt he can have a hunt.
Armed with nothing more than an iPhone and a flash light the two set off to record what they were sure at the very least was going to be the next YouTube sensation.
The desert is not the safest place to go wandering around at night. The rangers had warned of this when Jon paid for the campsite at the front gate. “Stay on the trails and close to your tents at night” was the serious and stern reminder before they drove off. But honestly, Jon and Nathan hadn’t driven clear out to the desert to just walk around filming a public campsite! Their friends would not find that entertaining at all.
Earlier while Jon was napping, Nathan found a few areas not too far out into the desert that seemed easy enough to get to and had some large rocks to creep around. But now in the dark, he had no idea where he was wandering them off to. It definitely was harder to tell where any of the trails were at night. The big rocks he had planned on creeping around didn’t seem to be there anymore. Nathan was completely lost but playing it off like the director in charge!(” …just a little further..right up here…it will be perfect”) In Nathan’s mind being temporarily lost was not a big deal. They would find their way back sooner or later or the sun would come up right?
Jon was secretly loving every bit of the attention. Normally Nathan was the star of the show and Jon was more than happy to sit back and enjoy. But now the spotlight was directly on him and it felt good.
A few more yards up ahead they would start filming. Nathan formally introduced Jon to the audience and they were off! Jon whispered to the camera as his search for any kind of desert beast was in full swing. Jon’s slow, exaggerated movements and serious tone cracked Nathan up so bad he had to stop and restart the filming several times. This trip was turning out to be one of their best times ever.
Still trying to keep his serious demeanor, Jon climbed on top of a group of boulders pretending to look out into the darkness in search of a beast. Whispering loudly, Jon described the suroundings, ramping up the excitement for his audience. The creature they came for was just up ahead! ( “…sshhh…I think I hear the beast behind me …”)
Creeping around the large boulder Jon’s right foot slid and twisted sending him falling backwards off the rocks down into the darkness.
Thinking this performance could earn him an award, Nathan called to Jon.
” …yes…yes…ok next time I need a scream with the fall…”
Silence from the other side.
Nathan ran to the group of boulders Jon had been playing around on. It was so dark he really couldn’t see Jon anywhere. ” Ok this is NOT funny!” Nathan yelled out slighlty confused.
Something moved…then growled.
Nathan’s heart started to race. ” Jon?”
Several concerned campers alerted the rangers upon leaving that the fun duo they met a few days earlier never came back to their campsite. Search and Rescue were called and canvassed the area. The campsite had been untouched. The car still there. Jon and Nathan were gone.
Eight days later Nathan’s badly damaged cell phone was recovered over three miles from their original campsite. Authorities were able to retrieve Nathan’s video but will not release it fully to the public saying it is part of an ongoing investigation. No other remains have ever been found.
Jon and Nathan are still officially listed as missing.