As I turned a sharp curve in the winding road I saw the elderly man standing in the middle of my path waving his arms. I stopped and pulled to the shoulder. I looked around assessing the situation. There, on the side of the road sat a boat of a car, a white haired lady waved from the passenger seat. How could I not help an elderly couple on the side of the road. They were five miles from anything in any direction. As I pulled over and got out, I had a fleeting premonition followed with uneasiness and it was gone.
The man stood there with the hood up so I walked over to see what I could do. After a little bit of head scratching and moving around we decided it was out of gas. I didn’t have a gas can with me so I decided use a bucket with a spout on it to retrieve fuel. I ran into town to the gas station and right back.
When I returned the shadows had deepened across the road and the birds were out singing their evening chorus. There came a rare moment of synchronicity: the road ran east to west, the tree cover a complete canopy overhead, the turn in the road where the couple broke down caused a west facing gap in the treeline, behind me the trees ended in an east facing pasture. This created a tunnel-like effect on the section of road I drove. At the moment the setting sun reclined on one end of my verdant tunnel and the full moon rose and paused to wink at her brother on the other end. If either one of them had been a little higher tree cover would have blocked them out. They appeared as if they were both sinking into the road.
I took a moment to enjoy the serenity of the scene as I parked, took out the bucket and pulled the lid off the makeshift gas can. I’ve bent to pull the funnel through and reattach the lid.
Smiling at the venerable gentleman I took a deep breath drawing in the honeysuckle scented air. I frowned at the gas tainted scent and lifted the bucket to pour.
That’s when Johnny arrived. Upon seeing his truck coming I had a moment of complete disorientation. Shaking the gas fumes out of my head I braced myself for confrontation.
He pulled over slowly and blocked my truck between his truck and the couple’s car.
I couldn’t focus on his face and thought it had to be the glare on the windshield.
I quickly learned how wrong an assumption I had made.
When he got out something was seriously wrong with my ex husband.
His features wouldn’t sit still they moved is if there were things underneath the skin of his face and arms. It was pushing towards me giving his features disturbing motion. I heard the elderly lady gasp and the old man cry out. I didn’t have a chance to look at their way. Johnny attacked me; he leaped an unnatural distance across the space separating us and went for my throat.
“I just wanted to talk to you!” he started screaming, “Why Couldn’t you leave things alone? You’re not supposed to be asking questions. You were told, You were warned, Now I have to hurt you!” His words ran together.
He has his hands on my throat and I couldn’t focus on his face. Whatever was wrong with him was too disturbing to look at. He seemed to be a man one moment and in the next, his features would push into a canine semblance. Mirabel’s words rose up in my head: something was wrong with him.
Suddenly the old man was there, knocking Johnny off of me with a crowbar.
I jumped up and held my hand out for the crowbar but Johnny was on his feet and leapt at me again. The old man fell back hitting the ground. The makeshift weapon spun out of his hands. I couldn’t reach the crowbar and had to scrambled away from the thing that used to be my ex husband.
Frantically, I looked around for a weapon. The bucket was the only thing at hand; I grabbed it by the handle and swung it around impacting Johnny’s head. Gasoline went everywhere, the majority of it washed over Johnny. I could feel that some had gotten on my arms and legs. Johnny was screaming trying to get the gasoline out of his eyes. I ran for it, going straight into the treeline hoping to draw him away from the couple. Poor people, their car wasn’t running and mine was blocked in. I didn’t know where Johnny’s keys were and I wasn’t going to ask him for them.
Best option: run like hell.
I heard him slamming through the trees behind me, yelling incoherently about how I should have left it alone. I reached into my hip pocket and pulled out my cell phone to dial 911. The operator answered and I told her where the couple was and that that I was in the woods running from my psychotic ex husband. She told me to find a safe place and try to get back to the road.
I told her I would try.
She asked me to stay on the phone with her.
At this, I asked her if she had ever tried to run and hold the phone at the same time.
She agreed that this might not be possible.
I paused and looked back, I had lost track of Johnny during the call.
She asked me to keep the phone on but in my pocket so they could locate me later. I couldn’t hear anything over the rushing of adrenaline and blood in my ears and the woman on the phone.
Agreeing with her; I put the phone back in my pocket.
I scanned the trees around me, then knelt on the ground trying to be invisible well I searched.
After a moment I sighted him moving from one long shadow to the next. Johnny had gotten closer.
He saw me and I jumped up into a full out run.
He called my name.
I put on a burst of speed.
The forest which was so lovely before had gone silent, our little drama the only sound.
The humidity wrapped around the noise we made muffling it.
Everything was wet from the constant rain. The composting leaf cover had a musty odor, the new growth gave of a lush tang, every foot fall released the odor of rotten vegetation and damp earth.
I could hear Johnny mumbling and whining to himself as he crashed along behind me. I was afraid to look over my shoulder. Too close!
The unevenness of the ground under the ground cover made running treacherous.
Several times I almost banged into a tree or tripped over hidden rocks.
I prayed steadily that I wouldn’t fall into a hidden hole or mud sink.
I concentrated on putting distance between myself in my pursuer.
Dimly I became aware of a giant wall of growth in my path. Bamboo!
I ran into the bamboo stand fearing snakes but wanting to get away from the man behind me more.
I realized what a bamboo stand in the woods meant almost too late.
I came out on the other side and almost took a tumble into a dry creek bed.
A quick grab at a tree branch saved me.
I swung out and landed on the other side of the creek, feeling a rush of adrenaline at my acrobatics.
I could hear him stumbling through the bamboo.
I turned and ran hoping the creek bed would slow him down.
A couple of minutes later I heard a scream from behind me and knew he had fallen. I almost turned around and went back at that point but could hear him scrambling on the rocks so I kept running.
All of the sudden I burst on to a field.
The abruptness of the change halted me in my head long flight.
Blinking I stared around.
There about thirty yards away was a group of teenagers around a bonfire.
I ran towards them waving my arms until they saw me coming.
I didn’t have the breath to explain I just began pointing behind me.
Johnny must not have been very far behind me because I saw their eyes widen.
A couple of them actually jumped into their trucks and drove off.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and put it to my ear but I had no breath to speak.
Two of the boys ran towards me, the others just stood and stared.
I reached the bonfire and slowed down holding my phone out to one of the boys.
A moment later Johnny slammed into me knocking me off my feet.
We tumbled into the fire.
I heard the teens scream. The one I had given my phone to must have realized what I wanted him to do with it because I heard him calling out directions to the lady on the other end.
After that momentary cognition I became consumed with the goal of escaping the pain of the flames.
Johnny held on to me and we began to burn.
My violent thrashing broke his hold and I rolled out of the fire and kept rolling until the flames on my body were out.
The gasoline on Johnny’s clothing and body exploded into flames and he started screaming.
I scrambled over and tried to reach for him, to draw him out of the fire but the bastard grabbed my hand and tried to drag me in.
The gasoline that had gotten on me and previously failed to burn immediately caught fire.
I struggled to pull away from him but he was too strong, I was burning, I needed to get away and put out the flames again.
A teenager ran to help me and Johnny grabbed his ankle; flames licked up the boys leg and the kid ran.
The pain was becoming unbearable.
Whatever was wrong with Johnny had given him a heretofore unknown strength.
I was going to die if I did not get away.
Again I search for weapon a tool for release.
My hand fell upon a log exactly the size of a baseball bat. I swung it with all my strength and could hear the crunch of bone.
The intensity of his screams increased and his grip loosened.
I struck him again and again one hand released but he rolled on to my leg trapping me under him.
I swung down and hit him in the head with the stick
He started biting me.
I struck again and again and finally he went limp.
When he did the remaining boys pulled me from the fire and put out the flames.
I was in so much pain I passed out.