The unrelenting dirt road twisted and turned in front of James, small rocks popped under the tires and a cloud of dust billowed behind him as he drove on through the forest. He was visiting his brother over a long weekend of three days. A trickle of sweat fell over his brow and into the rims of his glasses. He was a city person, he had never been in the country for a day in his life, and, although the hot Italian sun and rough terrain was bothersome, he found a sort of peace in it that was unique and irreplaceable.
He remembered the words of the leering old man that had sauntered out of his old barn, his crumpled lips bulging with tobacco. James had asked the man “Ciao sir, Do you know how to get to Ridge End?”
That was where Wayne had gotten his new log cabin, the one he would only use for vacations.
The man had smiled, as if he was glad to see someone at his barn after years of loneliness (even if they were trespassing), and said through stained teeth, “Of course good sir, in about a half mile there will be a fork in the road. Just take the path to the left and continue up in until the road starts to turn. Then you’ll take another left and you’ll be there in no time.” James had smiled in obvious relief and thanked the man graciously. The man had offered him some gas for his car, to which James had politely declined. However the man insisted and turned back to his farm to get his fuel. He had returned with a small can of gasoline which he had poured into the tank of the car, smiling all the time.
James remembered the man with comfort, glad that there were people out in these rural areas who were always willing to help. He was starting to feel drowsy. The hot Italian sun could definitely do that to a person. He nearly tipped his head and nodded off when he saw something up ahead. A fork in the road! He smiled with excitement and his heart began to pound fast. Finally, after three months, he would see his fellow brother!
He took the left path and continued to drive up the road. He noticed that the dirt road was growing much narrower than it had been before, as if it were recently constructed. It was becoming more and more difficult to keep his Honda on the path. The road played a trick on him; it began to grow in elevation, just like the chain lift to a roller coaster. James was not awfully surprised by this. He was after all, in the mountains.
James glanced down nervously as he grew higher off the ground. The trees around him grew shorter and the hills loomed around him like a set of walls ready to close in. “The hills have eyes” James thought to himself with a grim smile.
Then just as suddenly as the road had started ramping upwards, it leveled out, becoming flat once more.
The road was very unpredictable, and most certainly dangerous, James starting to slow his car down bit by bit. The last thing he needed was to crash at a time like this. The road remained elevated, but even. He continued to drive slowly and carefully, until he heard an awful retching sound come from the back of his car. And then the engine died.
He had run out of gas.
He swore explosively to himself before getting out of his car and slamming the door shut. “How the hell did I run out?” he thought angrily to himself. “I got fourteen gallons of gas at the station a few miles ago, and that man just gave me some extra!”
Then the smell hit him, it was like rotten eggs mixed in with some other foul, unrecognizable stench. It was coming from the gas tank. I wave of anger crashed down over James. “That son of a bitch, he filled up my car with something bad.” James scowled ferociously, literally trembling with rage. He had no other choice. He would be forced to walk all the way to Wayne’s cabin.
He began his trek up the winding dirt road, his handmade loafers scratching against the rough ground. He had no water and no food. It was only about a half hour later when James began to realize the seriousness of his situation. He was hot thirsty, and very tired. He normally took walks all the time in the cool morning on the city streets, but here it was different, and it was dangerous.
Another half hour passed and still the road did not end. There was no sign of the left turn the man had told him about. Sweat began to pour down his face, and James found himself beginning to suffer from dehydration. He was no longer angry at the man for destroying his car. He just wanted to get out of the hell his world had become.
His vision blurred as perspiration began to seep into his eyes. He lifted his head from the ground and wiped his face with one hand. He blinked with surprise, right ahead of him there was a log cabin and there was a truck parked beside it.
James smiled, and his heart was filled with relief and gratitude from whatever god had saved him.
He half ran, half stumbled up onto the porch and knocked impatiently on the door. He was answered almost immediately. The man before him was large and intimidating with a plain white shirt through which his muscles bulged.
For a moment, James was frightened that the man would send him packing. But this did not happen, instead, the man smiled one of the warmest smiles James had ever seen and said “Ah, ciao sir, how can I help you? Can I interest you in some water or sweet tea?”
He nodded his head vigorously as the man said “Come on in, you look pretty thirsty…?” James remembered that the man didn’t know who he was. “My name is James Ellery. I’m really very sorry to bother you, but my car broke down about a mile ago.”
The man took all of this in stride, as if he were used to hearing this story. “My name’s Leroy Darett. A man down the road wouldn’t have happened to sell you some gas would he?” James was surprised and he immediately replied that someone had. Leroy scowled angrily before opening his fridge and pulling out a pitcher.
“Yeah James, we get a lot of people who come to our little cabin cause of him, damned idiot keeps experimenting with fuel, trying to find a substitute for oil.” James was intrigued as Leroy handed him a glass full to the brim with ice and sweet tea. He took a large swig before responding, not even bothering with the straw. The tea tasted a little strange, as if someone had added a bit of lemon to it. But he paid this no mind and asked Leroy “Has he ever gotten in trouble with the police?”
Leroy laughed heartily “What Police are you talking about? Around here, the police is the man with the biggest gun in his hands.” Still chuckling, Leroy replaced the jug in the fridge as James asked “have you any family?”
Leroy nodded his hand and said in an undertone “Yeah I do. Would you like to meet them?” James glanced around. From what he could see, the cabin was completely empty except for him and Leroy. He thought of an urban legend his father had once told him about a man who invited people to stay in his house before killing them overnight.
James took another large gulp of his tea to spare him from having to answer Leroy’s question. Suddenly, this place didn’t feel quite as welcome as it did a few minutes ago. “Do you know how to get to Ridge End?” He asked evasively.
He had come to find his brother, and he would see his brother.
“Why Mr. Ellery,” Leroy said, his visage curving into a wide smile. “You already are in Ridge End.” At that precise moment, James felt his lips grow numb before he passed out.
“Hey look! I think he’s waking up!” hissed a female voice. “Shut up Margaret,” replied someone else, also female. James woke up to these nagging voices, he was cold and completely naked, with the exception of the manacles that bound his arms and legs. There was a bubbly giggle, and he felt a sharp nail dig into his stomach.
He recoiled as much as the chains would allow, and tried to say something through the rag stuffed into his mouth. His bleary eyes refused to open. “What happened to me?” he wondered.
Then it all came back, the man at the barn, his car, and Leroy.
His heart, which was previously keeping up a sluggish thud in his chest, was now pounding furiously, as if trying to be freed. He had a headache for some reason, probably an aftereffect of the drug that Leroy gave him. Tears of terror seeped out through his shut eyes.
Something sticky and slug like dragged itself across his face. He strained against his chains madly as the two girls in the room continued to talk.
“Elizabeth! That’s disgusting! Don’t lick his tears!”
James was on the verge of being sick into the cloth in his mouth.
“Sorry, I just wanted to know what they would taste like, I’ve seen a lot of tears but never tried tasting them.”
There was a momentary pause and the second girl asked, shamefully but curiously, “What do they taste like?”
The other girl laughed then and answered “Like Saltwater.”
James opened his eyes and immediately shut them again. He wasn’t ready to see his surroundings quite yet, but one of the girls had seen him do it.
“Oh, look, did you see that! He opened his eyes for a second! Come on, we can convince him to look at us if we try!”
Both of the girls adopted sickly sweet tones, as if trying to teach a dog a trick, but James refused to open his eyes. He wouldn’t let himself be parted with his dignity. Then, a cold hand touched his face, caressing his cheek. He drew back once more only to have the hand follow him. He was too weak to fight back, and a thumb and a forefinger forced one of his eyes to open.
Standing before him were two beautiful young girls. They were both garbed in white robes that hung down to their bare ankles. They both appeared to be around seventeen years old. One was an albino, her eyes pink and hair colorless, and the other, the one forcing open his eye, was a blonde with ice blue eyes, They were smiling at him with pristine white teeth, as a child smiles as she plays with her food before she eats it.
He appeared to be in some sort of cellar. The floor was cold and he was lying on a ground of straw, his legs not yet strong enough to move. There was a sudden cry from above and both the girls jumped. “Margaret? Elizabeth? Are you playing with the new meat?”
They exchanged hurried glances before quickly scurrying out of the room. Shortly after that, James blacked out.
James awoke once more to the sound of repeated chanting. His mouth was still gagged and he was not wearing any clothing. This time there was rope binding him instead of chains. He opened his eyes to see a mass congregation of people, all dressed in the ceremonial white robes that he had seen Elizabeth and Margaret wearing.
They were all outside in the middle of the woods, it was nighttime. Torchlight illuminated the faces of many of the people, they were young and old, and they all had their eyes shut, they were swaying, chanting the same words over and over again in some unknown language.
James became suddenly aware of the burning on his back. There was a fire somewhere behind him.
James was suddenly grabbed roughly from behind, and someone turned him around so that he was facing the direction of the fire. James could not move his arms or his legs. They must have given him some sort of drug.
He saw that it was Leroy Darett himself who had grabbed him and who was now climbing the steps of what looked to be a podium behind the roaring bonfire. Upon that podium, James’s Brother Wayne was tied up, and held upright by a wooden pole in which he was bound to.
Leroy appeared to be sprinkling something upon the head of James’s brother. After he was done with that, he descended from the podium and held up his hands. Immediately thereafter, the chanting stopped and the people in the crowd opened their eyes.
James recognized one of them as the man who had given him the false gasoline. Two others were Margaret and Elizabeth. It was then when Leroy opened his mouth and began to speak.
“Brothers and sisters of my own kin, Welcome to the night of the flesh!”
This was met with a great cheer from everyone in the crowd.
“Tonight is the night!” Leroy continued, “That the flesh will be returned to Lord Pluto!”
There was another cheer from the crowd.
“And now, for the ritual to be complete… we will bring about Cerberus!”
This time the crowd did not cheer, and instead began to chant again. James could only stare helplessly as Leroy jumped onto the podium and pulled out a slim silver knife from within the folds of his robes, and cut the throat of his brother.
Crimson blood sheeted out of the thin cut in Wayne’s neck, Leroy used a chalice to gather up the gather up some of it as it streamed down Wayne’s throat and onto his bare chest.
Leroy abandoned the podium then and came toward James. He dipped one of his fingers in the chalice before withdrawing it and painting a symbol onto James’s cheek in blood, a sort of “P” that descended into an “L”.
James remembered from school what this was. It was a symbol of the Roman god of death, Pluto. Was this how he was going to die? Sacrificed to a false god by an inbred cult?
He felt a noise rumble up from the back of his throat, and then intensify. It was laughter.
Leroy turned around before flinging the rest of the contents of the chalice into the flames of the fire.
A huge black dog jumped from the depths of the flames, its three enormous heads snapping and growling.
James was still laughing when the dog mauled him.