GPS—a Spooky Little Halloween Story
“I think you missed a turn back there,” Alex squinted at the road map on his phone.
“Where?” Patrick’s voice broke as the sedan jolted over a pothole. “Back at the gas station? Or before that at the strip mall?” He gripped the steering wheel and leaned toward the windshield, peering into the gloom of twilight and trees.
“I don’t know. Maybe you took an extra turn when we passed that fruit stand thing,” Alex braced a hand on the dash as the pavement ended and the car tipped sharply to the right.
“What fruit stand thing?” Patrick flipped the headlights on.
Alex pushed his glasses up on his nose. “The stand selling corn and stuff.”
“Corn isn’t a fruit. You mean a vegetable stand?” Patrick exhaled. Night fell fast as the trees swallowed the last of the light.
Alex shot his brother a glare. “Does it really matter what kind of stand it was? You got us lost.”
“The stupid GPS got us lost,” Patrick ran his fingers through his black hair. The car crawled along a narrowing road. Tire grooves cut into the packed dirt and the car swayed.
“I should just turn around,” Patrick checked his rearview mirror, but all he saw behind him was the same dense halflight that waited beyond the headlights.
Alex held his phone up to the window. “I can’t get any bars.” He moved the phone around. “Wait, there’s one. Nope. Wait…nope. My phone keeps shorting out or something weird.”
“You’re weird,” Patrick said automatically.
“You’re weirder than me. I’m the least weird, that’s why I’m Dad’s favorite,” Alex shot back.
“There’s no way you can be Dad’s favorite because you just called corn a fruit,” Patrick’s shoulders relaxed as the arguing relieved some of the tension closing in around the car windows.
The trees crowded the road as it narrowed to a single-car dirt lane. A branch screeched across the roof and the entire metal exoskeleton of the sedan shivered.
Patrick’s stomach flipped and he swallowed bile. He glanced at Alex, who was cleaning his glasses on his shirt, then leaned over the steering wheel and peered harder at the darkness.
“Just turn around,” Alex put his glasses back on and braced both hands on the dash, clutching his phone in his fingers.
“Try mine,” Patrick smacked his phone into his brother’s shoulder.
The screen glowed over Alex’s face as he swiped it on. “Nope.”
“When the road opens up, I’ll just turn around and head back. Or maybe we’ll find someone who can give us directions.” Patrick took a deep breath.
Alex locked his door. “I saw this YouTube video where these guys went into the woods to look for some dude who could control electricity, and as they got closer, the camera started to short out and they must’ve got too close because the camera stopped shooting visual and all you can hear is them screaming at the end.”
“We’re not in a YouTube video, Alex. We’re lost,” Patrick huffed.
“Do you think Dad will notice that we’re missing and come find us?” Alex tried his phone again.
“It doesn’t matter if he notices or not. We have the car,” Patrick sat up as the trees opened up around a small shack with a light on in the window. He pressed on the brakes and put the car in park.
“I thought you were going to turn around,” Alex pressed on the door lock again, just to make sure.
“Maybe we should ask for directions,” Patrick stared at the shack. A shadow flitted on the other side of the curtains that muted the light from inside.
“No way, Patrick,” Alex sat back and hugged his arms across his chest. “I saw this YouTube video—”
“Stop it with the YouTube stuff!” Patrick snatched his phone off of Alex’s lap and tucked it in the cup holder on top of a bag of Swedish fish, then put his hand on the door handle.
Alex’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re not going out there, are you?”
A strip of light streaked out through the dark as the door of the shack cracked open and long, clawed fingers curled around the edge.
“No way,” Patrick threw the car into reverse and peeled out on the dirt. The car jumped and shot back into a tree, wrenching Patrick’s neck and throwing his head back against the headrest. As his vision cleared, he saw the shadow slip out of the narrow crack in the door and disappear underneath the car.
Alex held his breath and clutched at the dash. Patrick shifted into drive. The car lurched once, then the front end jerked up and all Patrick saw were the stars dotting the night sky. He closed his eyes and hugged the steering wheel as the car slammed back to the ground. The windows shattered and spit glass on him. A wet, warm trickle tickled his eye lashes as he blinked at Alex, who slumped back against the seat. Through the glare on Alex’s glasses, Patrick couldn’t tell if his brother had his eyes open.
“Alex,” Patrick stretched his arm across the cab of the car, then snatched it back and sat up as the shadow fingers curled in where the window had been.
Mickenzie shook her phone and held it up against the windshield. The SUV crawled unevenly over the narrow dirt road and tilted against into a branch. “Damnit,” Mickenzie swore over the squeal of wood on metal. “This a brand new car, you f*%^&$ tree!” She took a second to glare at the darkness, then peered at her phone again. No bars. “How the hell did I end up out here when I was trying to get to the grocery store? I just needed some damn milk.”
The trees opened up and she hit the brakes. A building that looked like an oversized shed squatted in the middle of a small clearing. A light shone through the single window and out of the door, which swung on its hinges as if someone had just rushed outside. But those were details at the edge of Mickenzie’s consciousness as she stared at the silver sedan. A huge crack webbed across the windshield and the driver’s door lay on the pockmarked dirt. Her headlights sparkled off of shards of glass strewn across the clearing and highlighted long gashes that raked the length of the car.
“Holy shit!” Mickenzie swung the SUV as tightly as she could through the clearing and was headed back onto the narrow dirt lane when the front end of the car lifted up.
For a moment, all she saw were the stars that dotted the night sky.
My father-in-law had an idea last year for a horror story that involved GPS. His greatest fear is that his technology won’t work, so it makes sense that his greatest nightmare might involve getting lost someplace dark and spooky with no signal. This is not the full-blown horror story, but this is a short little tale starring my youngest brothers-in-law and the parts of their personalities I have the vocabulary for.