Hour 13: Clutch (By Kyle Willis)

Hell is a highway that cuts through the Southwestern U.S.

Brynn Edwards was 23.  Her mother was a teacher.  Her father was a doctor.  They molded her soul to match the sweet face that was framed by honey-blond hair.  

Twenty-three years of Heaven brought her straight to hell.

The car had clanked.  She had no idea what was wrong, but the thing just died.  Right in the middle of a desolate highway somewhere between Vegas and Salt Lake.  She’d cursed more in the last thirty minutes than she ever had in her whole life.

The cell service she’d paid a pretty penny for was defunct in this place.  Three calls into her boyfriend Jason had resulted in nothing but static.  

“No, motherfucker, I can NOT hear you now”.

She’d been flush with relief at the sight of the eighteen-wheeler approaching.  Its armor slightly fuzzy in the streams of heat rising off the asphalt.  It appeared just in the nick of time, as Brynn had started wondering what four hours of exposure to the elements would do to the spray tan she’d paid $50 for two days ago.

The trucker was named Elroy.  Burly, brawny, a red Nascar cap congealed to his scalp.  As she climbed into the truck, she noticed him trying to discreetly lick away a spot of tobacco that had crusted to his gray goatee while he’d enjoyed a burrito some one hundred miles back.  

Elroy leaned over to help Brynn get into the truck and secured.  He leaned too far and his foot slipped from the clutch.  The truck coughed and lunged forward, causing an awkward meeting of their heads.

“Sorry.  Foot came off the clutch.”

They’d exchanged pleasantries as they continued on the highway.  Elroy promised the existence of a small town twenty miles ahead where Brynn could recompose, get a tow, and be on her way to wherever she was going.  

Brynn was polite, but not transparent.  She was almost sure Elroy was an okay guy, but didn’t necessarily wasn’t to find him again in her rearview when she was on her way again.

The town finally came up.  Holiday Grove.  Elroy turned on the offramp and coasted down to the town entrance.

It was eerily empty.  There were nearly fifty cars in a parking corral.  Every door in the motel was wide open.  Smoke climbed from the diner.  But there wasn’t a single person in sight.

A mangled SUV occupied a section of the dirt road linking the highway to the hub of the town.  Parts were strewn about.  

Elroy and Brynn both went on high alert.  The truck came to a stop.  They both went quiet, surveying the surrounding area.  

A Highway Patrol substation was straight ahead.  The phone number was plastered on the window.  Brynn reached into her bag and pulled out the phone that had failed her earlier.  She dialed the number.

RING.  RING.  RING.  

The telephone in the sub station rang just behind the connection in Brynn’s ear.  No one was picking up.

Then.  A whistle.  Low.  Slow.  Monotone.  

It may have been the wind that was stirring up.  But that was debunked when another whistle followed.  The whistle was a line of communication.  From one person to another.  Or one thing to another.

CRASH!

A human hand shot through the driver’s side window and latched onto Elroy’s throat.  Digging into his veins and arteries.  Crimson streaming through its fingers.

Screams erupted from Brynn’s lungs as she hopped out of the truck and dropped down to the sand.  She looked under the truck and saw three pairs of legs at the driver’s side door.  The beings they belonged to seem to be clamoring for a piece of Elroy.

Brynn tucked herself into a hiding spot under the box of the truck.  Against.  

Elroy was gone.  But his body was still catching up to his permanent sleep.  He’d managed to keep his foot on the clutch this whole time.

But there was a twitch.  

His foot came off the clutch.  And the truck lurched forward.

Brynn scrambled.  She sensed the weight of the truck moving, but couldn’t get out in enough time.  The tires she’d hidden against betrayed her.  The truck was on a slight incline, and rolled backward.

Right over Brynn’s knees.  Crushing them.  

Brynn put a hand over mouth to muffle a scream in a last-ditch attempt to shield herself from the strange people ripping apart Elroy.  

But then her phone went off.  Jason was once again trying to reach her.

But they got her first.

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