I liked that her name is Alison. I’d always wanted to date a woman whose name was also a kickass song.
I mean, Amanda would have been great too. Even Sara(h?) from the Hall & Oates song. You know, the one with the “smile.”
But, this was Alison.
If you ask anyone in the world to describe me, nine times out of ten they’ll open with “Well, he doesn’t lack confidence.” And, really, that is pretty much bang on.
Yet for some reason it had taken me two months to ask Alison out. And I had so many opportunities.
I am not sure why it took me so long. Maybe that is how it is supposed to be with the special ones. With the real ones.
As with most things in life, I tried not to overthink it.
Driving along that dark highway together, I could not have been more content. Her voice gently wrapped itself around words and coaxed them into existence.
My peripheral vision enjoyed watching her ponytail dance as she became more animated in her story telling.
The good kind.
And then I heard/felt it.
“What was that?” Alison asked.
Before I could reply, the engine quit completely. I guided my Ford Escape to a silent stop on the shoulder of the highway.
Alison stared at me.
“Tell me you’re not doing this.”
“Well,” she began, “you are either pulling the old fake running out of gas gambit. Or this is the opening of some shitty slasher flick.”
“It’s definitely not a gambit…”
“Seriously?” She asked, pulling out her phone, and with it the plug on the date. “No service.”
As I thought about the last house we had passed, a good five miles back, she poked me in the ribs.
“Someone is coming.”
“Excellent,” I smiled, hoping that maybe the date could be revived.
We watched as the approaching headlights moved erratically from side to side on this completely straight stretch of road.
“I don’t like this,” she whispered as the light caused the shadow of a once mighty pine tree air freshener to move around her face.
“I’ll get out and flag them down.”
As I reached for my door hand, she grabbed my other arm. Hard.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Please. I have a gut feeling.”
As I searched for words, she opened her own door and half-dragged me across the front seats. I climbed out after her.
“You want to hide?”
“Please.” I could hear the desperation in her voice. I grabbed her hand and we ran for the darkened bushes up a small incline from the side of the road.
I couldn’t believe that we were hiding on potential help. But, the look in her eyes…
We settled in, out of sight. I realized that I was still holding her hand and let it go. She didn’t notice, as she was fixated on the approaching headlights. They were moving more quickly, if not any straighter.
A chilling breeze blew up.
The truck engine roared loudly.
Music blared through the speakers.
And then the brakes screeched.
The truck came a stop, sideways across the lane closest to us.
The engine revved.
An animal howled somewhere a distance behind us.
Alison gasped and leaned into me.
The driver’s side window slowly went down, and Hank Williams Jr. poured out.
We squinted, but couldn’t make out the driver.
The muzzle flash and loud popping, however, was unmistakable.
Alison buried her face into my chest as I watched someone pump more than a dozen bullets into my car. I’m not sure that “surreal” would do it justice.
Suddenly the truck peeled out and continued along in the direction it had been traveling.
As Hank Williams Jr. faded, I felt myself breathe again.
I don’t want to impugn Hank Williams Jr., or his fans, but that was what it was. And we were where we were.
Alison finally lifted her head.
I stared for a few moments. “New rule: We listen to all of your gut feelings.”
She got over the shock more quickly than I did. She jumped up and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go.”
She started running in the direction that the truck had come from. There hadn’t been any discussion, but I would have probably agreed.
We ran in the dark. I’m not sure for how far or for how long. Terror and adrenaline had tag-teamed to cause us to start gasping long before we should have been tired.
Still, we ran as fast as we could. Until…
Alison stopped. I kept going for a few more steps. I turned back to face her and saw that she was pointing towards the side of the road. I squinted the outline of a house into view.
She was gone towards it like a shot.
“Slow down,” I said, to no avail.
I arrived at the front step seconds after she did, but she had already pounded on the door ten times.
The only sound we could hear was our own pulses pounding in our ears.
I was only half aware that I had picked up a chair and was swinging it towards the window in the door.
Glass was still finding places to land inside of the house when Alison’s hand shot in through the opening and unlocked the door. I opened it and we darted inside.
As dark as it was outside, it was even darker in there. And the smell of must and mould was overpowering.
We listened and allowed our eyes to adjust.
Alison’s hand squeezed my forearm. But, I had already heard the reason for it. It was…
And it wasn’t far away.
I fumbled in the dark and picked up what I thought was a heavy candlestick holder.
Alison hid behind me, while simultaneously pushing me slowly towards the sound.
Each step we took together, the noise got louder.
It was definitely coming from the next room. We had made our way to the closed door. I placed my ear against it.
I turned and nodded to Alison. Her eyes widened.
I reached for the door handle with one hand, as I raised the candlestick holder above my head with the other.
I took a couple of deep breaths.
Then I threw the door open, brandished my weapon and yelled, “Come on, motherfucker!!”
But, there were no motherfuckers there.
We watched a rocking chair — propelled by a breeze through a half open window — creaking in the suddenly appearing moonlight.
Alison laughed first. “Come on, motherfucker?”
“I… couldn’t think of anything badass to say!”
She hugged me. You couldn’t have removed the smile from my face with a wire brush.
We laughed some more.
Then I heard a different sound. And again.
Kind of a thwack.
I realized it was bullets splitting wood before I heard Hank Williams Jr. again.
I threw Alison on the floor, and myself on top of her.
We were cheek to cheek as more and more bullets whizzed over our heads.
So, I kissed her.
And she kissed me back.
It was like a beautiful explosion of softness and warmth and cherry lip balm.
And then a large shard of wood landed on my head. “Alison, we have to get out of here.”
I crawled over to the window and forced it all the way open. Alison followed me. I helped her through and quickly followed behind her.
Within seconds we were running flat out through the woods behind the old house. Direction was unimportant. Distance. Distance is what mattered.
With branches smashing faces, and ankles rolling, we ran.
Until we saw lights.
We stopped together. Our hands found each other.
Then we heard horrible sounds.
We crept closer.
It sounded like rage-filled chants.
We trembled, but soldiered on.
We came out of the trees and saw a large clearing before us. A group of people surrounded a slightly raised stage.
There were screams and menacing laughter.
And in the center of the group, on the stage, stood a terrifying figure.
The malice emanating from the beast was palpable.
We were frozen in our tracks.
Then it began to speak…
“When Governor Palin and I are in the White House…”
Alison screamed and passed out.
I soiled myself.