This Timed Writing Challenge was something made up on the fly last night. The goal was to use Random Generator, gather some helpful details, and spend what time I had left (until 11pm, my bedtime), attempting to write a complete short story.
Well I failed last night because I’m wordy and give too much info. So this is me finishing the story from last night, because I knew where I was going with it, I just started falling asleep.
What I wrote in 25-ish minutes
As the rental car rolled to a stop on the dark road, her fear increased by the moment. Valeria Ingram had been in the passenger seat of the rental for eight hours. She and her fiancé Eduardo Phillips had been driving home from a weekend with her family. They had decided that driving would be more interesting and way cheaper than buying a plane ticket.
And they were right.
They’d had an unusually uneventful weekend with her family. Uneventful meaning she didn’t walk away from the experience with regrets. Her family was loud and rowdy and opinionated. Her parents constantly asked why they weren’t married yet, her older brothers harassed Ed, attempting to involve him in shenanigans. And all the nieces and nephews could drain a persons energy pretty quickly.
But nothing happened that wasn’t typical of her family, no one was rushed to the emergency room this time, there were no Turkey-to-fireball situations like thanksgiving last year.
It was the ride home that was currently causing her distress.
It began fine, with them packing the trunk with their luggage and all the nonsense that her mother sent them home with. Hugs and shoulder squeezes goodbye. Then they piled themselves into the car and drove off, waving out their windows as they did so.
When they got off her parents street and headed toward the highway entrance ramp they discussed plans for the next eight or so hours ahead. They had snacks in the car so they wouldn’t need to stop for food until lunchtime, when they’d also have a bathroom break. They’d agreed on a scenic route to see small town landmarks they missed on the way in. Typical road trip plans.
It was a few hours in when things began to grow, strange. Ed, who’d made the executive decision that he should drive the whole way, began to stare blankly out the windshield. It took Val a minute to realize it wasn’t your typical, “I’ve been driving a while” stare. His demeanor would change, his shoulders would tense, his grip on the steering wheel would tighten, and she could see the muscles in his jaw flex from clenching.
After a while, noticing these episodes come and go, she asked, “You okay, Ed?”
He seemed to immediately snap out if it when she spoke up. “What? Yeah, fine. Why?” He’d asked.
“You just looked a little tense there, you wanna switch out? I can drive a while.” She offered.
“No I’m fine!” He said cheerfully. “We’re not far from a rest stop. I’ll hop out, stretch my legs a bit, just getting a cramp.”
“Oh, okay,” she sighed, relieved. “I could use a stretch myself.
He seemed fine the rest of the trip to the rest stop, where they both got out, stretched their legs. Valeria decided she’d step into the small building that held the restrooms. There was always brochures and fliers for local attractions and parks. She liked collecting them on trips.
She picked one up for a local fall festival, a giant rock that had a gift shop and a diner named after it, and something called The Lion’s Den. It appeared to be an old youth camp. It was on their way home, and on what appeared to be a lovely lake.
They climbed back into the car and got buckled in. She showed Ed the brochures before they pulled out, The Lion’s Den was on top. “What’s this?” He asked, a muscle in his jaw clenching.
“Oh, just some brochures.” Val tapped a finger on the Lions Den. “That looks like it was an old camp! I think they rent out the cabins for vacationers now.” She shrugged. “Seemed neat.” She said. “It’s on a lake!”
“I didn’t realize we were so close.” He mumbled.
“What?” Val wasn’t sure she heard him right.
“I just said I didn’t realize there was anything like that near here.” He shifted the car into gear and pulled out a little faster than he should have.
“Oh.” She sensed something was off.
A few more hours in and she’d been trying to shrug off the bad vibe she was getting from her fiancé, when they stopped for lunch at an old fashioned drive-in diner. She became distracted by the old fashioned menu boards, speaker you could hang on your window for music, and the car hops on roller skates.
They both ordered a burger, but they each got different sides to share. She got a raspberry shake, and he got the car hop’s recommendation, a fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade. As they ate, Ed seemed to relax, he tension seemed to release and his was becoming closer to his old self.
They began to laugh and joke, Ed telling her something one of her brothers had said, and she’d laugh and roll he eyes. When they finished eating they cleaned up their trash and put it in its place. As they were getting back in the car, Val caught Ed staring at a tree covered mountain in the distance. She noticed his fists were clenched and she watched him.
Ed had never been violent with her, never said a mean thing to anyone as long as she’d known him. They’d been to for nearly a decade, known each other for longer. They were both nearing forty, but they were happy with how things were. And they had similar ideas for the future.
But Valeria did not know a lot about Eduardo’s past, his childhood and youth. For years all he’d ever tell her was he didn’t have a happy or an easy childhood and he didn’t like to talk about it. He’d told her his family was gone, and that’s why he enjoyed hers so much. “Even the rowdiness, and the nonsense?” She’d asked.
“Especially all of that.” He had smiled when he said it, that sweet friendly smile, the one that drew her to him when they’d met.
When they were finally back in the car and on the road, she tried to keep conversation going, talking about what work would be like Monday, wondering if their neighbor had been sure to water their plants. She point out when she saw animals off in the distance in fields.
But as they drove on Ed became less and less vocal. Soon his responses turned to grunts and soon after that nothing at all. The tense jaw and white knuckles on the steering wheel were back and she very quickly stopped talking.
You could soon cut the air with a knife, and she grew uncomfortable with the silence. She turned on the radio and tuned it to the first station she could get a clear signal on.
A low monotone voice came over the airwaves. “And you’re listening to 101.7 the Lion’s Roar. This is the ‘Righteous Hour’ with me, Brother Saul.”
Val’s brows furrowed as she listened to the host. He sounded like your typical talk radio host, flat toned and quiet. But there was something odd, no, off about it. First, it sounded old, not his voice, but the recording. Like it had been playing for a long time.
“Give your self to the Righteous One. Use your power for The One’s Will and do as the One commands.”
“Oh no thank you.” Val spoke aloud, reaching to turn off the radio. Ed slapped her hand away without saying a word or looking in her direction. She drew it back and held it to herself.
“Ed?!” She said in shock, staring at him. He never said a word or took his eyes off the road. “Why did you do that?!” She asked, shocked more than anything else.
Ed managed a grunt but never moved an inch.
That was the beginning for her, the beginning of the worst ride of her life. She moved herself as far away from him as she could in the confines of the car, and only stared out the window.
It was hours later, and the sun had begun to set when she realized that he’d taken a detour. He’d veered off the main highway m, which would’ve take them almost the whole way home. It was what her father would have called the scenic route. But it didn’t look anything like what would have been on their way home.
But then she saw it. She’d almost missed it in the growing darkness. A billboard with a vaguely familiar logo. She reached into the cubby hole in the her door and pulled out the stack of brochures. There it was, right on top.
“The Lion’s Den”
Not long after the billboard, the headlights of the rental car began to reveal only gravel road lined with old growth fir trees. The road had a steady incline and gradually turned right. On Valeria’s side was nothing but the rock of the mountain they seemed to be climbing. On Ed’s side seemed to be nothing but a drop off of unknown height.
“Ed,” she managed to whisper. “Where are you taking us?” She asked. “Why?”
She did not expect an answer, he hadn’t spoken in hours. But he did, finally. It was low, flat, monotone. But there was almost a growl to the single word. it sent shivers down her spine.
After a few seemingly endless minutes, the road flattened out and widened. They pulled up to a old wooden fence, that had to be thirty years old. It looked neglected, as if it had been decades since anyone had been there.
The unimpeded moonlight shown upon several buildings sitting the grounds, and structures Val could not identify in the darkness. The moon and the headlights of the car were the only sources of light. Until Ed shut off the engine.
Still quiet as death, Ed climbed out of the car and walked around to the passenger side. She was not fast enough to think to lock her door. Hours ago she would have never thought she’d have to lock a door against this man. He pulled her door open and reached inside and grabbed her wrist. She was choked by the belt that was still buckled around her.
He grunted in dissatisfaction and leaned in and unbuckled her seatbelt. It was then that she noticed that somehow even his scent had changed. His smell gave her the feeling that she should run, like prey smelling it’s predator.
She was dragged roughly out of the car and pulled her behind him as he walked to the nearest building. There were no lights inside or out, no sounds either. Not even a breeze to stir the leaves on the tree.
Instead of entering the building he pulled her around it, where, as they drew nearer she could she a massive statue in the center of a field. He pushed her to the ground at the base of this statue. She could feel the tiny cuts on her palms when she caught herself with her hands. She turned to add, tears in her eyes, about to speak, when she looked up at the massive statue looming over them.
The statue was the body of a man, a bare as the statue of David, arms reaching into the dark sky, toward what could only be the full moon. But this man was not just a man. The statue’s head was a lion, baring it’s teeth, his mane trailing down his chest, a crown of thorns atop his head, glaring down at those below that witness it.
Ed stared up at the statue, spoke no words, and raises his hands above his head like the statue in front of him. Then suddenly he fell to his knees, the sound of the rocks cracking against them made Val cringe.
She watched as he bowed and rose, over and over, seemingly never taking his eyes off the statue. Then, a low hum seemed to grow deep in his chest, building and building until it was a guttural roar. The quiet man she once knew, her shy fiancé was roaring at the base of a grotesque effigy of some god unknown to her.
It took a moment but she soon began to recognize that there was more than just Ed’s roar. There were several, coming from all around them. And then she saw, emerging from the shadows of buildings, the tree line, everywhere and no where. People. They were surrounding them and the statue, roaring their own praise, falling to their knees before it.
Except for one man, sunken eyes, long gray hair and beard, and, from what she could see in the light, a burn scar across his face. He stepped forward, and stood next to Ed, who rose before him. Everyone, who looked as rough and worn as he, stopped suddenly. The silence was shocking.
“Eduardo, my son.” The old man said in a raspy voice. “You’ve heard the Righteous One’s call, we prayed he would bring you back. And you are home.” He proclaimed, resting his hands on Ed’s shoulders, their foreheads meeting. The man released Ed from the embrace, and looked him in the eye. “And you’ve brought us a friend.”
The man turned his gaze upon Valeria and the look in his eyes told her to scream.
Valeria Ingram and Eduardo Philips we’re both reported missing three days later by her parents, when phone calls to their cellphones and home went unanswered. Their rental car was never returned, leading authorities to believe they went missing at some point on their trip home. Locations in their planned route, which Ingram had shared with her parents, for safety reasons, were checked for surveillance.
They were seen at the rest stop where they stretched their legs and Ingram was shown collecting brochures. Phillips was seen via security cameras behaving strangely, pulling his hair and stretching as if to reach the sky.
There last known location was Gilly’s Drive In Diner. They cannot be seen in security footage anywhere along their planned route and credit card activity stopped at the diner.
Two weeks after their disappearance and missing persons reports were filed, cellphones and other personal belongings identified as their were found strewn along the highway they would have taken home.
To date there are currently no leads and no reported sightings of the couple. authorities ask if you know anything or have seen anything, to contact them via their non-emergency or the anonymous tip line.
So? How’d I do? I legit have some background? This whole thing was compelling. I specifically skipped my melatonin so I wouldn’t fall asleep finishing this!