In preparation for NaNoWriMo I decided to write a very short story. This one clocks in at just over 1400 words, so it is a very quick read. Hope you enjoy.:
Traveling through the desert is usually so mind numbing as to make anyone lose a little sanity, with little dotting the landscape besides a few cacti and some bristly shrubs, and certainly no good places to stop for a bite to eat. The drive from Bakersfield to Vegas was no exception. That drive is not what one expects when they think of deserts. There are no dunes, there are no pyramids, there are no camels, just a wide expanse of pavement, sand, and boredom.
Somewhere down the 15 freeway, between nothingness and limbo, where time seems to lose all meaning, lies the one thing to break up the drive. The Calico Ghost town. I arrived at the gates well after closing but I didn’t give a damn. I needed a break. I needed to stop staring at the long stretch of pitch black freeway that was threatening to make my eyes bleed. The town was little more than a tourist trap, but the building were authentic enough that at night one could hardly see the telltale signs of modern commerce The security on this place was nonexistent, so with a hop of a short fence I had the town to myself.
There always seemed to be a bit of irony to me that “Ghost towns” around the country saw more visitors in one day than the town ever held as residents when it was in use. I was seeing the ghost town as it was supposed to be seen, vacant. Walking down the paved entry way, a nice modern upgrade to be sure, I narrowly missed a large metal basin. On the side of it was painted “Chinese bathtub; Back scrubs 5 cents, Full scrub 10 cents (try it for size)”. I am sure it got a chuckle from time to time.
I was an intruder in the otherwise empty existence of closed down gift shops and dilapidated buildings. Walking down the main street I was led to Lil’s Beer Garden. Rolling my eyes in disgust I looked around, determined to find something ghostly in this “Ghost Town”. I veered off the path and walked up the old wooden steps of the Calico House Restaurant. The old weather worn wood creaked under my shoes and I stopped, closing my eyes and breathing in the smell of the old wood. Wood this old has a smell like nothing else and it almost has the ability to take you back through the memories of the place.
My eyes shot open and I looked around in the moonlight, not able to see a damn thing. I hadn’t moved but it sounded as though someone had taken a few steps on the porch that I was standing on. Perhaps one of the rangers for the park saw my car and was checking it out, but would they creep around like that? I stared intently in the direction of the noise and let my eyes focus. As I stood there, my eyes began to adjust and I was able to see more and more as each second went on. I noticed some slight movement, like a piece of dark cloth flowing in the wind, or ….. Hair.
It was just a glimpse but I swear I saw long hair blowing in the nonexistent wind. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and yet when I looked to acknowledge it there was nothing there. I took a step in the direction of what I thought I saw and the old wooden boards groaned in protest. I rounded the edge of the building and my arms broke out in goosebumps. Not 10 feet in front of me was a woman in a flowing, older styled nightgown. The hair I saw moments before definitely belonged to her. Her hair was long, beautiful, and raven black, cascading down her back and moving ever so slightly as if blown by a light breeze. I was acutely aware of how eerily still it had been all night.
I tried to speak but was only able to croak out a strangled “Hello?”. The woman turned and smiled at me with the most welcoming smile I had ever seen. It was a big full faced smile, genuine, and seemed to convey that she was happy to see me. Strengthened by this friendly smile I said “Are you lost or just taking a break from the road?”. I tried to smile back coolly, and I am sure I succeeded in looking a fool. She smiled again - was that pity I saw in her eyes?
“My name is Neil. Neil Bakley. It is a pleasure to meet you”. She didn’t respond verbally but walked over to me and lightly grabbed my hand, tugging at it as she started walking around the back of the building. As she moved, the nightgown clung to her body and I couldn’t keep my eyes from straying. She was gorgeous and the hand that gripped mine was smooth and soft. I didn’t question where she was taking me, figuring that a little excitement and adventure in one’s life could just be the cure for all that ails.
I stepped up my pace to walk beside my mystery woman and she responded by hooking arms with me, pulling me close as we slowly walked. It was still fairly warm out but she was freezing. She must have been driving with the AC on full blast and she hadn’t warmed up yet. I unhooked my arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, bringing her close to me for warmth. We walked and I talked about … nonsense mostly, work, friends, my dog, my plans for this vegas getaway. All the while she kept walking, leading me.
She would look at me while I talked, nodding and smiling. She appeared to be genuinely interested in what I had to say, and if she wasn’t she certainly did a good job of hiding it. I wasn’t really paying much attention to our surroundings as we made our way through town. At some point she had placed her hand on the middle of my chest and we stopped walking. She closed her eyes and we stood silently, my heart rate increasing as I drank in her closeness. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as it built up to a deafening Thump, Thump, Thump. As soon as she removed her hand it stopped, to my relief, and we kept walking.
We were nearing a small rock fence with an iron gate. The sign above the gate read “Calico Cemetery” in black letters on a white sign. The woman moved from my side and pushed her way through the gate, her pitch black hair flowing behind her. Once she passed the gate she looked back and smiled. I followed her into the Cemetery without hesitation.
The area within the fence was dotted in burial mounds with grave markers of weather worn wood. In the poor lighting I was unable to make out any of the names on the markers. I walked around the mounds, out of respect, and followed blindly, one step after another. An animal cry in the distance pierced the silence and glanced around nervously. “Ok Ok, what creatures are in the desert? Llamas? Goats? Squirrels? no, no… Wolves?” I thought, trying to remain calm. I couldn’t see anything, and the sounds quickly faded, and I turned my focus back to my lady. She didn’t seem to be there anymore. The only thing there was a mist and, well.. nothing at all.
Before I heard the creature cry out I had stopped in front of a mound and she had been on top of the mound. Now the mound of rocks was gone and a hole was in it’s place. I peered in but the shadows didn’t allow me to see much. I heard a feminine chuckle, quiet and cruel, and that was followed by a firm shove from behind. That’s how I ended up here, in dirt, with only the occasional worm and burrowing beetle to break up the monotony. Please, if you are ever in the area, driving down 15 towards Las Vegas, and you have a shovel in the car,would you be so kind as to stop by the Cemetery in Calico and start digging? I pray there was a new headstone put down for me.
Hope to see you soon. Watch out for Raven-Haired ladies.