Categories > Original > Horror > The Road Trip

Part 6: The Borderlands

by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

clues about Project Metronome

Category: Horror - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-10-29 - Updated: 2008-10-29 - 2157 words - Complete

Mark carried the shotgun, I had the pistol. He kept his armed, I kept mine holstered for the time being. In my hand I held the crowbar, and slung over my shoulders, my backpack, now stocked with a combination of equipment from the cop car and the Woody. We each had a flashlight and a walkie-talkie— just in case.

“Groovy,” Mark said in his best Bruce Campbell imitation, and we both shared a nervous laugh.

Then I said, “Let’s try to stick together. With any luck, we won’t have to use these things.” We had checked to make sure the walkie-talkies actually worked, but we were unsure of their range, not to mention their battery power, or what effects the night’s mysterious phenomena might have on our signal. “Sorry. I just really don’t want to get separated out here.”

“Not even to use the john?” Mark asked, a crooked grin creeping up on his face.

I rolled my eyes.

“Hey,” he laughed, “I’m just trying to lighten things up.”

“You know,” I told him, “in horror flicks, it’s always the smartass who gets killed first.” Then I wished I hadn’t said that, as if I had somehow just jinxed him. “Sorry. You know what I mean. I just don’t want us to end up shooting each other or something. This place… it’s like it’s haunted…”

“Yeah, I know.”

Mark jumped back inside the Woody, and I rode shotgun— literally. While we were arming ourselves, we had concluded that the first thing to do before exploring was to set up our escape, so we set right out to find a gas station. It turned out to be as vacant as the one in Eyrie— the lights were still on and everything— leaving us free to top off the tank. We also filled several gas cans from the store shelf and stowed them in the back of the Woody.

We were now ready to explore Cove. For real. But where to start?

That was the question both of us pondered, scanning up and down the dark, foggy streets. They set the sort of scene out of which anything could materialize without warning. When Mark tapped me on the shoulder, I started and almost screamed.

“Shit!” I muttered. “Don’t do that!”

He pointed down the street, and it only took me a moment to figure out what had caught his eye: a small house with a single light on. All of the other homes were dark, so I immediately became curious about who had left the light on for us. It struck me that we might not be as alone as we had originally thought, and I was glad for our weapons.

We pulled it together and headed for the house. About half way there, the mist parted in a swirl of breeze, and for a moment we saw skidmarks on the road, as if someone had peeled out in a major hurry. I took a step in that direction, and nearly tripped over a wide-brim hat. I picked it up and saw that it was marked as New Mexico Highway Patrol.

There was something seriously not right about that, and after a moment I figured out what it was. As that crazed highway cop lay dying, and Mark made his desperate attempt to save him, I had been trying to radio help… and the officer’s hat had been sitting right in the passenger’s seat of the cruiser. But if this wasn’t his hat, then whose… The idea came to me in a flash of insight that wasn’t quite deduction.

“His… partner?” I mumbled, wondering what could have happened here to so thoroughly unhinge a veteran lawman.

“What?” Mark asked me, understandably.

“I think he had a partner,” I told him. “The dead cop. And I think something really bad happened here. See, it says New Mexico, which means it came from…”

I was about to say our world, and my entire train of thought derailed. My rational mind resisted it fiercely, but the rest of me was starting to see that resistance as foolish, and I had an increasing amount of reality to back it up. I could see a similar conflict playing itself out on Mark’s face, and I couldn’t help noticing the irony. I, who had always professed to believe in other dimensions, had always insisted such things were possible, now found myself face-to-face with the real thing. And my mind was trying to reject it.

Dammit, boy! There’s no such place as Eyrie…

I remembered the doomed cop’s words, and knew somehow that he had been here in the last few hours. I also took stark comfort in the fact that so far our sanity was holding up a lot better than his had. Then again, we also had no idea what happened here, or if it still posed any danger to us.

The fog parted again, and for a moment I could see how close we had come to trampling important evidence. In the dust, near where I found the hat, were two sets of footprints. The only thing that had saved them from being erased was the angle from which we had approached them. One went forward, then shuffled back toward the beginning of the skidmarks. The other, though, simply stopped just beyond where the other set halted and turned back. As if the other person had wandered off into thin air. Every time I picture those footprints, the image always raises the hairs on my neck a little.

Having no more clues to mull over here, we decided to move on to the house. We knocked several times, but there was no answer. The door was locked, but Mark loved to tinker, and had figured out how to pick locks years ago. Though we kept our guard up, just in case someone was here.

I turned on a light in the front room, illuminating a most habitual degree of clutter. We moved cautiously through the house to the room with the light on. It turned out to be a bedroom with a desk near its lone window. The light we saw from the street was coming from a small desk lamp. On the desk were haphazard piles of papers.

There was one page in the center of the desktop, with a pen sitting next to it. Purely on impulse, I picked it up and read:

To Whomever Finds This:
If you are reading this, then that means I was able to get out of Cove before they found me out. I dare not mention my name because the Company has people everywhere on 42. They started there, and now I’m sure they’re paying off the authorities here with their so-called “development” money. Ever since Camcron Industries built that “research facility” up in Dusty Heights, there have been strange lights and sounds from out in the desert. I wrote a letter to the paper about it, but they never printed it. I fear they’re playing with things that should not be tampered with. I fear something awful is going to happen. Now I see a police car outside. I guess they’ve come for me. Now I doubt anyone is ever going to read this, but still I hope someone out there will find the tru

And at the bottom of the page was scrawled two words:


The note was written in a very hasty hand, increasingly so near the end, and to this day I wish whoever had written it had taken the time to be more coherent, or at least give more details. If he was so afraid of getting caught, why had he bothered to write the damn thing at all? The image I had in my head was of some paranoid old man, trying to be melodramatic, and feel more important than he thought he was, and instead just ended up making this conundrum even more of a pain in the ass. Then again, like the officer, he may have simply been out of his mind by the time he wrote it.

But at least now we knew where to start looking.

I let my eyes drift across the table, searching for further clues, and I found only one, a road map. I stuck the note in my pocket, and we unfolded the map on the table. As we expected, it contained the names of places we had never heard of. And a couple we had.

“Highway 42?” Mark remarked.

Then again, according to our map, we weren’t on Highway 40 anymore. At some point past Moriarty, New Mexico, we had ended up on The Old Mesa Road, which intersected with Highway 42 (marked as a triangle, rather than the familiar “shield” symbol). There was a way station near the junction, and a scattered string of smallish-sounding towns dotting Highway 42. Dusty Heights, Coyote Downs, and Ashton being the nearest. Someone had drawn an “X” in between a place called Dusty Heights and scribbled the words RESEARCH FACILITY in the same hand as the note.

I also looked down Old Mesa Road to see that the last town before Eyrie was called Stark, not Moriarty.

“Come on. Let’s go,” I said. If this note was to be believed, then there wouldn’t be much else to find here in Cove. “It’s time we got to the bottom of this.”

“To Dusty Heights?” Mark asked, but I could tell from his tone that there was no need to answer. His voice reflected the same determination and cautious optimism as my own. I think the same idea had occurred to him, for after a moment he said, “Let’s go. We might still have a chance.”

Though my mind still hung on to the pretense of denial, I was more than convinced by then that we had somehow wandered into another world.

And if this Project Metronome was the cause, then perhaps we could find a way to use it to get back to our world. Perhaps there was still time to reverse whatever “Camcron” had done here. The Company… that phrase just sounded really ominous to me.

I folded up the map, and we made our way back to the gas station. We stocked up on food, and more Cam’s Cola now that we could get it inside for free, as well as some other gear. While Mark cleaned up the broken glass from the back seat, muttering “Dad’s gonna kill me…” and such, I started packing for our journey to Dusty Heights. Once all was in readiness, Mark started the engine.

And nothing happened.

Try as we might, neither of us could get the Woody to start this time. For a moment there was a return of the panic that had plagued us in Eyrie, but this time cooler heads prevailed. Mark’s father had insisted he learn as much about cars as he could before allowing him to have one, so I covered him while he popped the hood and made a brief examination of the rest of the car.

“On the bright side,” he told me, “I’m sure no one’s messed with it. It was probably just time for the Woody to break down again.” He yawned, then added, “And I’m so damn tired I’m gonna fall asleep standing. What time is it anyway?”

I looked at my watch. According to it, it was now past 7 AM. And I said, “Almost seven-thirty… Shouldn’t it be dawn by now?”

And the heavens answered with mocking silence.

Though I knew what he meant. I was also having trouble keeping my eyes open in spite of the night’s excitement. Yet it was still dark out, and I wondered how so much time had slipped through our fingers. I wondered if we might just have to get used to the darkness and fog here.

“Let’s get some sleep,” he said as we got back in, “and I’ll see what I can do when I’m awake.”

As I locked the door and leaned back in my seat, I thought about suggesting watch shifts, but in the last couple minutes I had come to realize that I was as worn out as he was. So I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the fog that dimmed the world outside, and I thought to myself, We crossed the border… We’re in the Borderlands… This is what happens to places that get lost and forgotten… This is what becomes of all those places people stop in that no one else has heard of… Places between places… Real ghost towns… We’re in the Borderlands…

This is the last tired thought I remember thinking before I drifted off.
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