Eat, Monster Blue Bottle
Belinda A. Taylor
When you're driving and tired, there's nothing like a hitchhiker to wake you up.
Getting lost in 90 degree weather is no way to end a life. I would constantly entertain myself with outrageous fantasies when stuck in a situation like this. On some gravel road in the middle of nowhere. Hoping that a town would appear. The heat was gripping me inside the truck, and making the air beyond my windshield dance and move. The rolled-down windows did nothing to help me. I saw my dried-out body driving around in circles until a stray sheriff's car had to run me down to shake my mummified foot from the gas.
"It's funny," I said, "Earlier, I thought I saw a dog with you."My attention was refocused on the figure moving in the distance. I lost sight of it as the road dropped into a small dip. The constant vibration of my truck was beginning to drive me nuts. I began to wonder how something as simple as a gravel road could be relaxing when I was a boy, but so annoying for an adult. I could only figure it was because I was used to the smooth, well-paved roads of the city I had lived in for the last ten years.
The figure came into view again as I topped the hill and the road levelled out. I cringed a bit as I thought I saw a large dog walking beside him. I wiped the sweat from my eyes and saw just the boy, and fumbled for my bottle of water. "I need to get out of this heat," I said, as I slowed the truck down. Then, "Hey, kid, is there a town up this way?"
He turned and examined me with gray eyes. It was almost insulting to be assessed by someone who didn't seem to have half the experience in life that I had gained. He appeared to decide something.
"Yes." His voice was very smooth.
"Thank God. Are you going that way?"
A smirk from the child. Something in me wanted to be insulted by him, I had an impulse to hit the gas and leave him in the dust.
"Yes." He answered.
"I'll give you a ride if you can keep me in the right direction."
He just nodded and walked around the truck and got in. I looked down at his bare feet, and was amazed how clean they were, not even a touch of dust on his feet or legs. He held a cobalt blue glass bottle which he placed easily between his thighs as he looked forward. I forced the old truck into gear, and we moved forward. He didn't ask any questions, which was unusual for kids that live in this part of the world. At his age, I was always curious about people passing through, only being able to reach beyond the small town through books and television. It didn't take long for me to get a little irritated by the silence he was so much at ease with.
"It's funny," I said, "Earlier, I thought I saw a dog with you."
His eyes didn't move from the road ahead. "No, I don't have a dog."
I nodded. "I figure just a trick of the heat. I hate how hot it gets here in the summer."
I think he shrugged, but I couldn't be sure. It might have been imagination on my part. I continued to talk about my childhood here and how boring I found it. And how I wanted to travel. My family had all been content to stay in the country and farm. It was a hell to me. I always had an itch to be someplace else where there was more to see and do. I didn't want to marry one of the girls I had known my entire life, though that was what was expected of me.
"You want to travel?" I was starting to feel awkward with his silence.
"I do," he said. His voice wasn't affected by the constant bounce of the road. I couldn't tell if he meant 'Yes, I want to travel' or 'I do travel'. One more thing to add to a growing list of things that made this kid creepy.
His head turned to the passenger window, looking out into the field of green that reached forever and made this place seem even more suffocating. "Ended up in this mess because of this truck," I muttered to myself, not caring if the kid was listening or not. "I bought this truck on my own. I didn't get anything from my father. My brother told me they wanted to sell it because they were having some money problems. Only they couldn't, legally. My name is on the title.. Growing up here sucked ass. I left it behind when I got out."
I actually felt as though the boy was paying attention, but he still said nothing.
"But there was no way I was going to let him sell the first thing I could call my own." I remembered the amazed look on my brother's face when I showed up for the truck. I think he really believed he would be doing me a favor by getting rid of it. "Let me tell ya, kid, I don't need any more favors from him."
I looked over at the boy. He was holding the glass bottle up to the open window. It was hard to pull my eyes away from that deep, amazing blue. I got caught up in it, and saw something swirling inside.
I jolted my eyes away as the truck lurched. I looked down at a pale hand on the steering wheel, holding it straight. And back at his gray eyes watching me.
"Don't gaze at it too long, you need to drive," he said.
My hands were firm on the wheel again. I felt like an idiot, ranting about my brother, then getting hypnotized by that damn bottle the kid had.
"He didn't do nice things." The kid didn't ask. He made a statement.
I shook my head. "No, I wasn't like him, growing up. He was quarterback on the football team. Played baseball, Prom King, the works. Those were his glory years. I was a little dork. And for the most part he made me feel like I was an embarrassment to him and my family." I took another swig from the warm water bottle. "When his friends picked on me, he didn't do anything about it. Never, not once, I hated him for that. I never got the nerve to ask him why, back then."
"But you did, this time." The kid was holding the bottle up to the window again.
"Yeah, when I came to get this old thing," I shook my head. "He didn't have an answer, and seemed pissed I would even bring it up. But I really wanted to know why he would just watch them smack me around and laugh about it."
I could feel his eyes on me. I didn't want to look, I knew he had that bottle up. "People do things they regret." Everything that fell out of his mouth was more than a little kid ought to know. He seemed out of place.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"Not here," he answered.
"It's dangerous to hitchhike, especially someone your age."
I looked at him as he smiled at me. He held the bottle close to his chest, thumb over the round opening. "Agatha is waiting for me, She'll be happy for me to get home sooner."
"Shouldn't she come and get you?"
He shook his head, as if I should know better. "She has things to tend to."
I began to wonder if I should take this kid to the police station when we made it to town.
His movement was almost too quick for me to notice, as he pointed the bottle's open end out of the window, a moment before something hit the side of the truck hard enough to make us tilt. We fishtailed on the gravel road even before I hit the brakes, forgetting I was driving a stick shift. We stalled coming to a stop. He was looking back out the rear window. I was breathing hard, clutching the wheel, afraid to look what we hit.
Until I heard the whisper of a growl.
My eye went to the rear view mirror. I saw something roll out of sight to the left of the truck. I turned, craning out of the open driver's window as whatever it was continued to roll and toss into the field, hitting the growing crop, kicking up dirt, and unearthing the green as it slid. It stopped, and I gasped as it separated into two creatures, which circled each other. Neither seemed real, one with four legs, and tight muscle, spines on its back, and a large, gaping maw. It hissed and the spines moved like hair, then became liquid, and almost mist, before snapping back to their solid form. The other creature was made of leftover things, things people toss in a ditch. Grass, bones, old straw, burlap and rope, with congealing mud holding it together. Its mouth was apparent as it bared its teeth, but the rest of its face was obscured by stuff hanging down. And they both gave the air of wanting to kill.
"What the hell.." I said, as they launched at each other again. Snarling, ripping and tearing at each other. The growls should have been loud; you should have been able to hear them for miles the way they where going at each other. But the sound barely carried to the truck.
"Do you need help?" the boy's smooth voice inquired.
I shook my head, not wanting to look away from the horror.
"It's polite to ask. I'm quite sure you can take care of it."
I realized he wasn't talking to me.
Finally, after tearing a haphazard trail through the field, the creature with the gaping maw and spines grasped the other by what I had to assume was the throat, pushing down with its front legs as it stretched its head up to the sky.
There was a sickening whisper of flesh being torn as it ripped its victim's head off and proceeded to swallow it whole. Part of me wanted to be sick, the other half was fascinated. I watched it devour the loser as it struggled in death. In the end there were only a few stray pieces left. It didn't seem concerned about them as it turned and looked at us, its moss green eyes taking in my truck.
"We shouldn't stay here." I said.
My panic kicked in as it turned and started towards us. I reached for the ignition and found no keys. I looked at the boy, who was swinging them on his index finger. I reached for them, all sorts of nasty words on my tongue.
"We can't leave him behind." He tilted his head, eyes fixed on the creature approaching us. "He'll catch us anyhow, he's quite fast. I bred him that way."
I stopped, my eyes wide as saucers as the thing appeared in the open passenger window. The boy reached his hand out and scratched it above the eye. A whispered purr of contentment floated to me. The kid held up the bottle and the creature flowed into the opening. I watched it until nothing remained. I stared hard at the bottle for while, waiting to see if anything moved inside. I looked up at the smiling boy as he handed me my keys.
I started the truck. "You don't have a dog."
He shook his head. "You didn't ask if had a pet."
I nodded. "No, I didn't."
The heat didn't seem so bad after that. I was happy to see trees spring up in the distance, and houses dot the horizon.
© Belinda A. Taylor 2008 All Rights Reserved
Date and time of last update 09:44 Wed 12 Nov 2008
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