Aphelion Issue 296, Volume 28
July 2024 --
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Road Trip

by Ray Prew

No coverage, not even one bar, the battery was dead anyway. It was still daytime, but there was an overcast and the sky had a perfectly even dullness, so there was no way to tell what time of day it was, much less which direction was north or south or anything else for that matter. A two-lane blacktop road snaked up into the distance and disappeared into some trees, or a forest if you wanted to get technical about it. It also snaked down toward some lumpy hills and disappeared there as well. What sounded like a two-stroke chainsaw could be heard in the distance, but it was impossible to tell whether it was up in the forest or down in the lumpy hills. This had been happening more often lately. Two different ways to go, with a dead battery and no bars, and nobody left to blame.

The Schroder brothers, Barry and Brad, looked at each other undecided which way to go. They had been on the road for two weeks driving aimlessly, as they usually did every summer. Touring the country with no real direction was their version of a vacation.

Barry tossed a coin. It came up heads, so follow the road into the forest it was. The road must lead somewhere he figured as he looked at his brother Brad. The two brothers followed the road deeper and deeper into the forest.

It had been two days since their last killing. As usual, Barry cut off the head of the homeowner and took it for a souvenir, while Brad cut out and ate the homeowner’s wife’s heart. They carefully packed the head away in the trunk of their El Dorado. So far, they had killed easily twenty people across five states over the last four years.

The brothers had no real reason to kill all the people they did; they just shared a collective insanity they inherited from their parents. Their father was himself a serial killer that died in a shootout with the police. Their mother was a manic-depressive that was committed to a mental institution when they were children.

Throughout the course of their childhood, they were bounced from foster home to foster home, sometimes together, sometimes separated. They were finally reunited as teenagers when they both were sentenced to a reform school. Once they had served their sentences, they were released. They had been inseparable ever since.

As Barry drove the El Dorado deeper and deeper into the forest they were both struck by the lack of phone poles or electric lines. The engine started to sputter and backfire. They looked at each other and lamented their lack of foresight in not filling up the tank at the last gas station.

They couldn’t afford to run out of gas, or get pulled over by an eager beaver patrol cop and have the head discovered. The police would eventually search their home and discover Barry’s basement trophy room and all the heads he had collected. They were careful in their killings; they left no evidence behind, not a fingerprint, or a footprint, nothing.

Then they saw it, a mailbox next to a dirt road. After a brief discussion, they reasoned anyone this far from a town and without any noticeable electric lines would probably have some gas stored. They started carefully down the dirt road. It had a steep incline and was rough and uneven.

T.C. McAllister unhitched his horse from the plow and put it in his stall in the barn. T.C. always believed in taking proper care of his animals. He looked up at the overcast sky disappointed he couldn’t get more work done, but he didn’t want to chance getting caught in the rain. He made sure the horse had ample oats and water, closed up the barn and went inside.

He went inside and kissed his wife stirring a pot of rabbit stew over an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. They had been married for thirty years and were just as much in love today as the day they were first married.

T.C. and his wife were devout Christians, as their parents were before them. They read and discussed the Bible with each other nightly. They attended Sunday services weekly. They raised their sons to be Christians and to always help their fellow man.

The brothers drove the El Dorado onto the farm and stopped next to the farmhouse. T.C. heard the sound of the car and came out to see who was on his land. He looked the brothers over with a slightly suspicious eye. He wasn’t used to visitors this far out.

The brothers told him they were just about out of gas and asked if they could buy a few gallons from him. T.C. looked them over for a bit and decided they looked clean cut enough and agreed to sell them some of his gas.

He motioned for the brothers to follow him. From atop the barn two crows perched and watched them silently. Brad and Barry exchanged a smile as they grabbed the gas can from the trunk and followed him behind the barn. They stood smiling as he filled their gas can.

He finished filling the can, handed it to Brad, and asked what they were doing so far from town. They responded they were seeking thrills and adventure. Before T.C. even realized they had moved the brothers were on him. Barry held him tight while Brad cut the old man’s throat. The arterial spray of blood covered Brad’s face.

Brad ripped the old man’s shirt off and used it to wipe the arterial blood from his face. They walked back to the car and set the can next to it, and calmly walked into the old couple’s house the old woman turned startled from her stove as the two strangers calmly walked into her home.

Brad grabbed her and immersed her head into the boiling pot of stew! He held her there until she stopped struggling and no more bubbles came up. When he was satisfied she was dead, he pulled her out and threw her to the floor.

They discussed cutting off the old man’s head and eating the old woman's heart but decided they weren’t worth the trouble. They already had one head in the trunk; there really wasn’t room for another. The woman was too old for her heart to have any real taste. The brothers looked around the farmhouse to see if there was anything worth stealing but there was nothing of value.

They left the old woman lying on the floor with the stove going, unmindful of the house catching fire. As they left the house, the crows on the barn cawed and flew away. They filled the car with gas and drove back to the road.

The road eventually led them to a seaside amusement park. The brothers both loved amusement parks and decided this was the best place to rest and decide their next move. They parked the El Dorado and entered the park to look for the concessions stand and a place to charge their cell phones.

As they walked through the park they saw a man painting clown faces on children and even on a few adults. They passed by a small building filled with video games and promised themselves to stop there before they left. The roller coaster looked exciting and decided that would be the first ride.

Finally, they found what they were looking for by the merry go round. A concession stand that sold snacks, hotdogs, sodas, and souvenirs. It was manned by a pretty young blonde girl that couldn’t be more than twenty years old.

Barry distracted the young girl running the concessions stand, ordering hotdogs and beers and flirting with her, while Brad shoplifted a few souvenirs. They walked away quietly chuckling at the young girls naiveté, looking for a quiet spot to sit and talk. They saw a small cluster of picnic benches by a pier with hardly anyone around and decided it was perfect.

They sat on a picnic bench by the pier drinking their beers trying to decide which ride to go on first enjoying the view of the ocean despite the overcast sky. Barry wanted the Ferris wheel but Brad was afraid of heights, they finally settled on the roller coaster.

As they sat and talked, two beautiful women, one a blonde the other a redhead and their dates sat down at the next table. The blonde and her date started arguing about whether or not to find some pot to smoke. Her date, a tall bearded man with a bald head, wanted to get stoned. The blonde tried to talk him out of it, asking him not to spoil the day. He simply reached across the table and slapped her telling her to shut up. The other man chimed in he wanted some pot too. His date, the redhead, started to cry. He just sneered at her.

The brothers rankled at the sight. They only killed for fun not to be bullies. They exchanged a knowing glance. Brad offered to go behind a nearby shack and sell them some of his weed. Barry knew what his brother had in mind and put up a half-hearted objection claiming they really didn’t have any pot to spare. Brad countered with they needed the money for ride tickets and souvenirs.

The four men went behind the shack out of sight of the public. As Brad pretended to reach into his pocket, Barry grabbed one of the men and turned his head completely around. His neck made a sickening sound as it snapped. His friend looked aghast as the man slumped to the ground. He opened his mouth to scream but never got the chance. Brad kicked him hard in the testicles and punched him in the throat as he fell, crushing his windpipe. They casually walked back to their table as the two women looked at them quizzically.

The brothers simply smiled at them and shrugged. Brad told the women the weed they sold their boyfriends was potent and that they went for a buzz walk. Barry advised them they probably wouldn’t be back for a while. The two women looked at each other got to their feet and walked away angry and disgusted.

Brad and Barry went back to their beers and snacks as they waited for their cell phones to finish charging. When they were done, they decided to enjoy the park figuring it would be best not to be there when the two men were discovered. As they walked away, two crows landed on the roof of the shack and silently watched them.

Six rides later, three of them on the roller coaster; they decided to go back to the picnic area by the beach. As they walked back, they saw the rollers of a few police cars. There were the two girls they met earlier crying as they spoke with the cops. From their vantage point, they could see the two men they killed were on gurneys, covered by blankets, being loaded into a coroners’ van.

They both looked at each other with the same thought, disappear before they were spotted. They casually wandered back through the crowd to the video game arcade. The man they saw there earlier was still painting clown faces on children, Brad considered it the best disguise they could manage on short notice. There were other adults walking around with clown faces so they wouldn’t draw much attention to themselves.

Barry convinced Brad to buck up and deal with his fear of heights so they could use the Ferris wheel. The top of the wheel would give them a perfect vantage point to view the park and wait to see if the police had left.

After two rides on the Ferris wheel, Brad doubled over and vomited. He couldn’t handle anymore rides on the wheel. They decided to split up, Barry would monitor the picnic area from the wheel, and Brad would stay on the roller coaster.

Two hours, and several rides on the Ferris wheel later, Barry determined the police had left with the two men, and very probably, the blonde and the redhead had left the park as well. He picked up his brother at the roller coaster they headed to the men’s room to wash off the face paint so they could be on their way.

As they walked through the park, they saw a teenage punk grab an old lady’s purse and run past them, knocking her down in the process. On a spur of the moment decision Brad grabbed the punk and spun him into a phone pole. He bounced off hard landing on his back with a grunt. As he tried to get to his feet, Barry stomped hard onto his testicles.

Some of the other park patrons helped the old woman to her feet while one summoned the police. The brothers looked at each other apprehensively as the saw the two responding officers were the ones they saw earlier talking to the blonde and redhead.

Brad picked up the purse, handed it back to the old woman, and asked if she was all right to the applause of the small crowd that had gathered. Their pulse quickened a bit as one of the cops approached them, while the other put handcuffs on the punk. They were still wearing the clown makeup but shared the same fear that they might be recognized from the descriptions the two women must have given.

He shook both their hands and remarked they did a public service in stopping the thug. He had grabbed a few other purses over the last week and they were glad to finally have him in custody. Brad and Barry looked at each other and shared the same thought. The cop was incompetent.

They smiled, shook his hand, and continued on their way. They both breathed a sigh of relief and tried hard not to laugh. They both agreed they were pushing their luck and should leave the park as soon as they could.

Brad and Barry continued on their way to the restroom to wash off the clown makeup. Brad laughingly suggested to his brother that he should keep the disguise, telling him it enhanced his appearance. Barry responded by hitting his brother in the arm and calling him an asshole.

They turned a corner by the merry go round and stopped short. There were the two girls they met earlier. They hadn’t left the park at all; they were by the game booths trying to toss wooden rings around pegs to win a prize.

They turned and retraced their steps before the girls turned and saw them. Before they had taken five steps they saw the two cops they met a few moments ago talking to the young girl running the concessions stand one of them was taking her statement and the other was looking around at the crowd.

So far, the day had been fun for them but the fun was starting to fade. Neither the blond and the redhead nor the concessions stand girl had seen them wearing the clown makeup, but their luck and that disguise would only go so far. They needed to leave and leave now!

They decided to split up and take different directions to the restroom. The concessions stand girl hadn’t gotten a good look at Brad, so he would walk past her. The blond and the redhead probably hadn’t gotten a good look at Barry so he would walk past them. They figured as long as they looked away as they walked past they were unlikely to be spotted.

They started to regret their stop at the park. Killing the two idiot boyfriends was fun, but this was the most danger they had faced this summer. Normally, they did their killings in more secluded areas, with no chance of being seen. Now they were in grave danger of being recognized. Being caught would end their fun permanently.

As Brad walked past the concessions stand, the two cops were still there talking to the girl. He turned his head and looked the other way hoping he wouldn’t be spotted. He saw a young father slap his son of about ten years old for being disrespectful to his mother. Brad hated people that beat kids because he was beaten so often by foster fathers. He wanted to teach the man some manners, but it was no use, he couldn’t afford the commotion especially with the two cops right there. He simply grit his teeth and continued on his way.

The blond and the redhead at the ring toss game gave up on their attempt to win a prize and turned to leave. Barry saw them begin to turn and crouched to the ground pretending to tie his shoe. He breathed a sigh of relief as they passed by him without a second look.

They both made it to the restroom without being spotted. As they washed the clown makeup off their faces, they quietly recounted their stories of nearly being spotted to each other. They thought they were alone in the restroom but they were wrong. One of the stalls opened up and a fat man with white hair came out. He told the brothers he heard everything they had said but promised not to yell for the cops if they each gave him a hundred dollars. Brad and Barry simply looked at each other, in one move grabbed the white-haired man, and shoved him back into the stall. They shoved his head into the toilet. They kept him there until no more bubbles came up and they were satisfied he was dead. They pulled his pants down and seated him on the toilet making it look like he was relieving himself, then closed then closed the stall door. They finished washing off their makeup and walked out into the sunlight.

They made their way through the crowd, and back to the El Dorado. And as they approached it, a crow flew directly over their heads and landed on the hood and then looked at them. They stood some distance away and watched the crow watching them. Another crow flew directly overhead and landed beside it. The first crow squawked and then both flew away. They watched the crows disappear, looked at each other, and then got in the El Dorado. Only one way to go this time, with five bars and a full battery.


© 2023 Ray Prew

Bio: Ray Prew was originally from Rhode Island, but now lives in Florida. He is a graduate of the New England Institute of Technology. Ray has been a blue-collar worker all his life, and started writing as a hobby. He spent 9 enjoyable years as a phone psychic. Ray’s work has been published in Spinetinglers magazine (6 times) one of the stories was used in a trivia quiz. Two Spinetinglers stories are on You Tube, one story called Some Monsters Are Real is narrated by someone, and the other was made into a short video called Ray Prew’s let me out. He has been published in Blood Moon Rising (7 times including 2 poems), Aphelion magazine (12 times including 2 poems) as well as several other magazines. He has an anthology book of published and unpublished stories available on Amazon called Delightful Nightmares. His work has also appeared in the anthology Vicious Circle season one put out by sinister grin, the anthology Chaos of Hard Clay put out by banjaxed books, and one poem in an anthology of vampire poetry called vampoetry.

E-mail: Ray Prew

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