Categories > Original > Horror > The Road Trip

Part 5: Cove

by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

a land-locked derelict...

Category: Horror - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-10-28 - Updated: 2008-10-28 - 2090 words - Complete

We rode on again without conversation; it seemed that silence was the watchword on this dark journey. It was so awkward, and totally different from our typical ongoing dialogue about anything and everything. Especially when one might think we had more to talk about then than we had ever had in our lives.

I still don’t know what made that unholy sound, and I hope I never have to meet it. There was something about the way that howl sounded, and even more in the freaky way it echoed, that otherworldly and unnatural don’t even begin to describe. I’m not even sure how much of it was the source of the sound, and how much was caused by whatever was happening there that night, but both of us watched the road warily as we went, expecting some monstrosity to leap out of the fog at any moment. Mark suggested later that perhaps a coyote was all it really was, and maybe the distortion we heard had something to do with Project Metronome, which we both agreed, even at that point, must be the source of all this trouble.

It was only when another sign drifted out of the mist that I realized we had spent too much time brooding over that noise when we should have been paying attention to which way we were going. My fragile sense of relief evaporated when I read this new message of ill omen:


All this time, we had been driving in the wrong direction.

I could feel panic threatening to trample my senses, everything sliding out of control. I looked over at Mark and saw that he was still coming to grips with the situation. The idling of the engine was the only sound as we both sat there wishing that hateful sign didn’t exist.

“This is not happening,” he muttered.

And I, quite frankly, wished I could just agree with him, as I usually did when he said things like that. The idea to do what I did next had popped into my head several times since our fateful meeting with the mad highway patrolman, but until then I just didn’t have the nerve to try it. (Hell, it had even occurred to me to try it once before the cop, just on a whim.) I think I was afraid of what I already knew would happen.

Without a word, I reached over and flicked on the radio.

Not the tape deck, mind you, the radio. The censored, commercial-drenched pop-fruitopia wasteland of the airwaves. Mark knew I couldn’t stand it— it was like Chinese water torture to me— and he just turned and stared at me, first in confusion, then in alarm. I know the same idea must have occurred to him at some point; I just beat him to the punch.

He didn’t utter a sound as I scanned up and down the dial. First AM, then FM. White noise was all the rage that night, for it dominated all frequencies. Not that I was terribly surprised— as I said, this was the sort of thing I was dreading. The irony, that I would actually want to hear the radio.

I flicked it off just as quickly, for in that moment I feared some creepy voice was going to start speaking, telling us the sorts of things we really didn’t need to hear right now. We control the horizontal and the vertical, perhaps. Or maybe an advisory of foggy weather— oh, and listeners, remember to be on the lookout for otherworldly predators roaming the desert. Or the call letters of some station no on earth has ever heard of. Though what really spooked me was the thought of some voice getting on the air and addressing us, right here in our car.

“Never liked radio anyway,” I muttered, but it didn’t come off as smartass as it should have. “We went too far, Mark. We should have turned back before we met that cop…”

“I know,” he replied. I could tell that the simple act of driving had steadied his nerves somewhat. At first I was afraid he was going to try to argue that somehow this Project Metronome had merely disrupted communications, that perhaps the town had been evacuated… Perhaps he considered such possibilities, for he muttered, “…Something like that, there’d be army guys everywhere… roadblocks… something…” Then he said, “I don’t think it’s the radio, either. Something about all this scared that cop… I think he was completely out of his mind by the time we ran into him.”

“I killed him…” I said. “I killed him, and I don’t even know his name…” To this day, I wish I had thought to dig around and try to find out who he was.

“You didn’t do it on purpose,” Mark told me, his voice firmer than I had heard it all night. “He was going to turn on us sooner or later, you saw how out of control he was… You did what you had to. You… you tried to do right, and it all went wrong… I know you didn’t try to kill him… Let’s talk about something else.”

I again tried to picture myself explaining this to a judge. To my mom. To my own best friend, if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. I appreciate what he said, and maybe he was even right, but it just didn’t feel that way. Though I fear I may be called upon to fight in the future at this rate, I hope I never have to cause anyone else’s death. His face will haunt me for the rest of my days, no matter who absolves me of it.

And again I forced it from my mind. Mark was ready to talk about the situation, and I suggested that if we were going to have a chance in hell of surviving this, we were going to have to get our act together by the time we reached Cove.

I think the conversation did us both a world of good. Much had happened in the last couple hours, and we needed to clear our heads and come up with as much of a plan as we could. Over the dark, hazy miles between Eyrie and Cove, we compared notes, discussed ideas, and tried to prepare for the unforeseen. For that half an hour or so, it felt more like old times, Mark and I hitting the old drawing board.

By the time we reached the outskirts of town, it felt like we were ready for anything short of space invaders.

We had debated the best approach, and realized early on that there was no hope of stealth in a station wagon, to just roll into town as if unaware that anything was happening. Though we expected Cove to be as empty as Eyrie, we decided that our greatest (and most likely) threat would be military police, in which case we might be turned back if we were lucky. (But sneaking around would ruin any chance of that.) Next in line was locals, whom we feared might be as crazed as the highway patrolman we met. (Since we had no real weapons, we decided to play dumb and try to avoid any hostilities.) As for anyone (or anything) else that may have taken up residence there lately, Mark kept the tire iron under the seat. We knew we would probably have to get out of the car sooner or later, but we hoped not to have to reveal our only weapon unless it was absolutely necessary.

I think we both held our breath as we rolled into town. It was even worse than Eyrie; that damn road sign changed everything. A possible murder rap, bizarre howling in the night, unexplained phenomena, an empty ghost town, and now it all had a name: Project Metronome. Of course, it may have had a name, but it was still without a face. In spite of our preparations, we really had no idea what to expect.

When we encountered no one and saw not a hint of activity, it did nothing to ease our fear that we were walking into a trap. Under the glare of streetlights, a stillness that betrayed no sign of human presence. One place after another, just abandoned to the desert without explanation. It gave me the creeps, somehow just knowing that every house and building we passed was empty.

We had both agreed to find a gas station first. Fill up. Act normal. On some level, I think we both still believed that we could still just turn around and drive away from all this.

As I suspect that poor cop thought he could. After all, he did come up on us from behind. I really think he did try to drive back… Who knows what the name of the town was that he found back there? I doubt it was called Moriarty.

Of course, while we’re on the subject of cops, we didn’t make it directly to the gas station. For, sitting on the curb at the next intersection, was a police car with its lights off. But we both still immediately recognized it for what it was. Mark hit the brakes, and I feared in that moment that our game was over before it had even begun.

But there was no response from the car; it was as empty as the rest of the town. I don’t know what possessed us, but we parked nearby, and Mark and I got out. Mark looked around to make sure we were alone, then he took out the tire iron. We may never meet the source of that ungodly sound, but that night we were more afraid of it than we were of any reaction the locals might have to us.

Mark stood back, covering me, as we agreed. I don’t know how he always talks me into things like this. Then again, he is stronger than me, and would be able to do more damage if push came to shove, so I guess it made some sense. The cop car’s window was wide open, so I could see it was unoccupied. I opened the door and took in the scene before me.

It was just like something out of those old “Bermuda Triangle” stories, only this boat was as landlocked as could be. Yet what I saw made me fear the true nature of Project Metronome still more. The driver’s seat may have been empty, but in the passenger’s seat there rested a box of stale donuts, opened but uneaten, and a mug of cold coffee sat on the dashboard, undrunk. And to top it all off, the keys were still in the ignition. The first ghost ship ever issued by… the Cove PD…

I stared at that insignia on the side of the car even longer than I had at the interior. Seeing the word “Cove” on that logo made it more real, more plausible than the signs had. And discomfortingly less dreamlike. After all, anyone could just put up phony road signs, but this…

“I don’t think we’re in New Mexico anymore, Toto,” Mark said from behind me.

And I was already agreeing with him, as if on some level I wouldn’t have before. I took it as confirmation that we were indeed alone in this ghost town, and on some ungiven signal, we both dropped all pretense of acting casual.

I reached in and unlatched the shotgun mounted on the passenger’s side of the dashboard. There was also a flashlight that looked like a Mag, but was marked as a Cam Light. Since the keys were still in the ignition, I pulled them out and unlocked the glove compartment, finding spare shells and a powerful-looking revolver— a spare sidearm was my guess— and a small box of ammo and a holster for it as well. We popped open the trunk and found more ammo, a second flashlight, as well as a first aid kit, a megaphone, two walkie-talkies, and a crowbar. There was some other junk, but we didn’t see any use for it.

We spent a couple minutes arming ourselves, taking turns watching the streets for any sign of activity, then prepared to explore the derelict town of Cove.
Sign up to rate and review this story