The blood smears messy across the back of my hand, and I can only laugh. Really? This is my life?
It's so stupid, it's such a made-up scenario. Nobody's gonna believe this, if I live to tell them about it, and I won't blame them a bit.
Out in the middle of nowhere, just some stupid, deserted road in the backwoods of the Texas panhandle, not even properly paved. Such a tiny stretch of land that even people like me, who grew up around here, don’t know where it is.
Couldn’t be any more stereotypical for some sort of horror, couldn’t be any more cliché.
He goes, “Now, you gonna tell me where ya’ll were headed?”
My brain is so rattled right now that I barely remember my name—remembering the name of the town I was looking for is a lost cause.
“Perryton,” I tell him, “we were supposed to get to Perryton and then take a left.” From the look on his face, I’ve already guessed that one. Guessed wrong.
“Got ourselves a smartass here,” he says, and I want to cry.
Because I’m not a smartass, not right now. Right now, I’m just some stupid kid who went to an out-of-town basketball game with a friend. Just some idiot kid who thought it would be a good idea to smoke a joint on the way back home, some moron who got lost in the wrong part of the world.
“Perryton is the other way, I told you that. Which means you ain’t listenin’, or it means you’re fuckin’ with me.”
What scares me the most right now is the future. I don’t know where the next strike is coming from—will it be a fist or a foot or that giant-ass flashlight?—and I don’t know if I’m going to end up dying on this stupid no-name road.
He rams the flashlight into my stomach, and I kneel over, coughing out something that probably isn’t just spit. My insides feel like they’ve popped. He brings it down on my shoulder then, heavy black metal filled with D-Cell batteries. It hurts so bad that I can’t even scream.
I fall to the ground, trying to breathe, trying to beg, I feel like I’m drowning on myself.
How it started was I was bored, see. I was bored, and I called up my friend, and he was bored, too. So we decided to go to the basketball tournament. It was a couple hours away, but so what—a good way to kill a Saturday. He brought a tiny joint, tucked discreetly in his box of cigarettes.
And after we watched our school team, we sat out by my mom’s borrowed truck, and we smoked our cigarettes and flirted with the girls who walked by, and then we set out for home. One shortcut gone wrong, and we were lost in the middle of nowhere, but instead of caring, we lit the joint and decided to enjoy the adventure.
That was how long ago? Three hours? Two? Long enough that when I saw the headlights in my rearview mirror, I wasn’t concerned. Sober enough to deal with it, and the weed smell was long gone.
The headlights rushed towards us, and being the polite small-town boy I am, I slowed down and moved closer to the shoulder, indicating they should pass. Instead, the driver slowed down and fell back. I sped back up, took back the full lane, and continued the story I was telling my friend. Before I could get to the part about the girl throwing up in the campfire, the headlights were filling the cab again, the car right on our ass.
I once again slowed and moved over, and the car once again fell back.
“The hell’s going on?” I asked my friend.
“Probably just a couple hillbillies fucking with us.”
And then the red and blues kicked on.
A fat one and a skinny one, the fat one had been driving. They walked up to our windows together, and asked us to step out.
“What’s the problem, Officer?” I asked.
“The problem is, you’re still sittin’ in that goddam pickup askin’ stupid questions when I told you to get out of the goddam vehicle!”
I looked over at my friend. He sighed, slow, defeated, looking down, shaking his head just a bit. Universal sign for “we’re screwed.”
We both got out. I walked the straight line, my finger on my nose, answered all the questions, said the alphabet in whatever order he wanted. I assumed my friend was doing the same for the skinny cop on the other side of the truck. And then I heard something.
It sounded almost like a baseball being whacked with an aluminum baseball bat, but not quite. Maybe like if you covered the ball in bacon. Bad images began to fill my head, but I didn’t have long to think about them, because that’s when the fat cop began his questioning.
Pretty much from the start, he didn’t like my answers.
“What were you doing in Follett?”
“We got reports you were scaring people in the parking lot. That true?”
“No, sir. We weren’t scaring anyone.”
“Well we got reports, so you scared someone.”
“I mean we weren’t intentionally sc-”
And that’s when his fist swung around and caught me in the side of the head. White and black dots swimming, like stars, and some of them very well could have been, because I was suddenly looking up at the night sky.
He pulled me to my feet, one hand grabbing my hair, the other latching into the soft skin under my armpit. On my feet and then slammed down onto the hood, the tick of the cooling engine in my ear as he yelled at me just where the hell were we headed.
I told him, Sublette! And then take a...left?
Nope. Because that was when the flashlight came out.
That was a while ago, and things haven’t gotten better.
He pulls me to my feet again. My legs will barely hold me, like they know if I stand, I’m just going to get beat down again. Trying my damndest not to cry, but I don’t know if it’s working or not. So much leaking out of me right now, I can’t keep track.
Blood, sweat, snot. I know I pissed my pants at one point, because I heard him shout over the bed of the truck to the skinny cop. The skinny cop laughed and said something, but I couldn’t hear what. Blood, sweat, snot, piss, and probably tears.
He holds me by my chin, squeezing so that the bristle of my recently-shaved face feels like needles pushed into me. My teeth have ripped into the inside of my cheeks several times, and judging by his mean-ass smile as he grinds my face with his fingers, he knows it. Blood from my torn lips oozes down onto the back of his hand.
“Now listen, son. Maybe I believe your story and maybe I don’t. It don’t matter, either way. What matters is that we have two options here. We can haul you boys back to county, and we can party like this all night long. Or you can earn your freedom.”
I grunt something, I want it to convey the freedom option, but I don’t know if that’s how it sounds. Fifty bucks in my wallet, all I have left over from working a week at the grocery store, not much in the way of bribes, but maybe for small-time hillbilly cops, it’ll be enough.
He smiles and kicks me in the side of the leg. Not the first time he’s done this tonight, so when I find myself on the ground again, howling in pain, I’m not as surprised as you might think.
What surprises me is when he tucks the flashlight into its holster and begins unzipping his pants.
Really? So fucking cliché that it’d be funny if he wasn’t about to rape me. Sticking your dick in a guy’s unwilling mouth, that still counts as rape, right?
“We ain’t faggots, so don’t get the wrong idea,” he tells me. “But in my experience, ain’t nobody can give head as good as a scared teenager.”
He’s standing in front of the left headlight, and as he unbuttons his pants, I see he’s wearing tighty-whiteys, I see the Post-It-sized urine stain on the front, and I know that I can’t do this. And I know that I’m going to have to. That piss-stain, man, that’s the thing. This gross, fat pervert, driving up and down the roads doing this to whoever is unlucky enough to get in his way. With his pee-stained underwear, and his dirty cock.
I gag, and lean over to puke. It’s getting cold outside, you can tell by the way the splatter of vomit has steam rising off of it. You can also tell by the way his laughter billows out of him like smoke.
“You already chokin’? I ain’t even gave you nothin’ to choke about.”
There’s an excited yelp from the other side of the truck, and that noise again, like the metal bat hitting a meat-covered baseball. Two, three, four times, all of them followed by a grunting sound.
The fat cop smiles down at me. “Sounds like Pete finished up with your buddy.”
And then there’s someone walking around in front of the truck. I see the flashlight first, hanging down, goo dripping from the end, and then I see the fat cop go for his gun.
Too late, though. I’ve always been quick with my hands, stealing cigarettes, popping bra straps, doing that walk-a-quarter-across-your-knuckles thing that impresses everyone.
I was going for the gun even before I realized it wasn’t Pete walking around the front of the truck. Before I realized that instead of a cop hat, the flashlight-carrier was sporting a pony-tail. Instead of wearing a tan uniform, there was a black t-shirt with a picture of Jim Morrison on the front. By the time the fat cop realized it was my friend, I was already jamming the barrel of the gun against his asshole.
I squeeze the trigger and the shot sounds muffled, but his scream is loud and clear in the quiet, winter night. He falls to the ground, both hands clutching his ass, so cliché I’d laugh, if I wasn’t about to become a murderer.
I jam the gun into his mouth, and I give him just a second to think about what’s about to happen, and I hope he realizes that I just had this thing shoved against his ass, and then I squeeze the trigger again.
And suddenly, I can’t stand any of this anymore, and I drop the gun and crawl away, crawl to my friend.
That’s when I cry, because this is so fucking fucked. I was just bored, you know? Just wanted to go to a basketball game. My friend drops the flashlight, and he kneels beside me, wraps his arms around me, and he tells me it’ll be okay as he pats me on the back. It’ll be okay, we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s gonna be okay.
When I’m a little more in control, he lets me go. “I have to check something,” he says. He goes to the cop car, opens the door, and looks around.
When he comes back, he says, “We’re in luck—no dashboard camera.”
I try to wipe my nose with the back of my hand, but everything’s so messy at this point, I don’t know if I did any good. “I don’t think luck is the way I’d describe us tonight.”
He laughs a terrible laugh. He can say it’ll be okay until his face turns blue, but that laugh tells the truth.
We load the cops into the car, and my friend uses the skinny cop’s pants to stick down into the fuel tank, turning the entire vehicle into a Molotov cocktail.
We pull the pickup further down the road and then walk back, smoking cigarettes and not talking. He lights the pair of pants and we hobble away.
“It was Mobeetie, you sick fuck!” I scream. “We were supposed to get to Mobeetie and take a left!”
You can’t really hear me, though, because of the explosion. Loud and bright and violent and so cliché that you wouldn’t believe it.