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The Call of the Weird

by

Gordon Rowlinson



 The last three months have been murder. Maybe I shouldn’t have started by writing that. After all that has happened, that sentence isn't very funny.

Hell, I’ll start again. The last three months have been hard. I’d like to write down as much of this story as I can—while I can. It’s getting dark outside and if I don’t make it through this night, I’d appreciate it if someone would get this note to my family.

My name is John. I’m a drifter. I’m originally from a place called Euless, Texas. Some call it useless, Texas and I guess that sums up my life so far. I left Texas as things were getting a little too weird for me.

Like a discarded piece of paper aimlessly blowing in the wind, I rambled through West Texas and New Mexico. When I finally settled on the goal of finding a new life in California, I headed West. Instead of finding a new life, I found trouble.

I'm talking about Route 50 in Nevada. Route 50 is the loneliest, most god forsaken stretch of highway I've ever seen. There is about 240 miles between Eureka, NV. and Reno, NV. In between those two cities there is nothing. There is no civilization. There are no people. There are no trees. There is only sagebrush here and there. Several times I spotted what must have been tumbleweeds. By the time I passed Eureka, I could feel the tired, tortured transmission of my ancient Dodge starting to slip. Driving down the nearly deserted highway, I became depressed at the thought of my Dodge dying in the desert. The next piece of civilization was Reno and that was two hundred miles away. My transmission would never make it through the desert.

I was considering turning back when a highway sign flashed by. The rusted sign said Last Chance, Nevada City Limits. Last Chance was very well named and seemed my only hope. Thinking back with what I know now, I wish that I had gone on and attempted to limp all the way to Reno with a broken transmission. It would be better to die in the desert, then be killed by a fiendish monster.

I spotted an isolated gas station on the left. Driving closer, I could make out a small grocery store and a cheap motel next to the gas station. I quickly pulled into the middle of nowhere gas station. The wake of my crippled car spread a small billowing cloud of road dust that slowly fell back onto the hot pavement.

I parked beside the station next to the rusty Texaco sign and turned off the overheated engine. Pulling out my wallet, I did a quick inventory of my assets. I had 50 dollars and a maxed out credit card. I was almost broke. I didn't need any car problems.

I knew this place was a dead end, but I got out of the car and walked into the station anyway. The old building appeared to be a relic that looked like it hadn’t been painted since the 50s. Behind the counter, a guy with over sized sideburns and a grease monkey outfit that said “Gus,” was listening to the whining sounds of an annoying country song.

“Could you tell me how far it is to Last Chance?”

“Well dude,” the man said. “This is your lucky day. This here is Last Chance!”

I smiled and glanced around. The town of Last Chance, NV consisted of an ancient gas station, a cheap looking motel, a small grocery store, a couple of trailers, and a house.

“You guys do transmission work?”

“Sure—the guy who can fix transmissions will be stopping by in two weeks.”

As I was walking out the door thinking about my next move, I glanced at the motel next door. The sign by the road said “Motel California.” The grand and proud Motel California was a row of cheap rooms with an office at the end. A sign in the office window said “Help Wanted.”

Being that I didn't have a car that could make it through the desert and I didn’t have the bucks to pay for repairs and I had no friends that I could call, I decided to make the career decision to try for the job.

I walked into the office worried that I looked like the aimless drifter. Then I figured, “Oh, well. That is what I am.”

After a five-minute interview with this mean-looking lady, I got the gig and a chance to make some bread. The motel was run by an old couple—Mean Martha and tall Paul. The staff consisted of their lazy son who worked the front desk and Mary the maid that did the dirty work. Since the lazy son had unexpectedly took off for California—where I should be—they were currently short-staffed. Basically my job was to fill in for the missing son. This consisted of running the front desk and goofing off. It was the winter season and business was slow. After a week, I got used to the routine of the lazy motel life. I had found a new home.

It was after the second week, the day after the first snowfall, when the murders and the terror started.

Paul came to the front desk and said that Mary the maid was not in her room and was strangely missing. We both walked to the back of the place where her room was. Her car was parked next to her motel room so she couldn't have gone far. When I checked behind the car, I discovered something that I didn't want to find. In the newly fallen snow, I could clearly make out dog or wolf tracks. Beside the wolf prints, was a trail of something the size of a body being dragged into the desert.

It looked nasty. Paul came up behind me and pulled out his cell phone to call the sheriff. The sheriff, who was better at consuming mass quantities of eating coffee and donuts than solving crimes, and he said he'd be right over. But since it usually took the slow moving, slow witted man an hour to get here from Eureka, we started to follow the trial and look for her ourselves. It didn't take long to find her.

As the trail reached the sagebrush, it became red. The deeper we got into the sagebrush, the more the trail became red with blood. After 50 yards, Paul suddenly made a disgusting moaning sound and turned away. I knew I should turn my head too, but like a driver is tempted to look at road kill by the side of the highway, something dark and hidden deep inside me made me look.

The mangled body was face down in a circle of red snow. We didn't bother to check for a pulse. She was very dead.

“I've never seen a wolf act so aggressive. It may have been rabid,” Paul said in a shaky voice.

“No I don't think it was a wolf,” I said.

“Those aint dog prints!” He pointed to where the large prints led deeper into the desert.

I ignored him and followed the prints. Paul looked scared and turned to head back to the parking lot. I was OK with Paul turning chicken. I instinctively knew what the killer was and had to follow the trail. About ¼ mile into the desert, I finally found the proof I needed—although I could hardly believe it myself. At the top of a small hill, I could clearly make out in the light snow where the wolf prints stopped and naked human prints started. The evidence in the snow was clear. The killer was a werewolf.

I ran back to the parking lot to tell Paul. The fat sheriff had finally showed up and was talking to Paul. I tried to get the sheriff and Paul to go into the desert, but the cop said he should go out to the body and then stay near the parking lot until “the meat wagon got there.” Paul tried to act responsible and elected to stay with the sheriff. The whole incident had shaken him and he was too spooked to go into the desert.

It was noon when the county ambulance removed the body and the fat cop finally agreed to follow me and see the evidence I found. Before we got close to the spot, I was dismayed to see that the dry Nevada sun had melted the prints. The trail disappeared and there was no way to follow where the killer went. With the tracks were forever gone, I decided not to tell him what I had seen. No one would believe me anyway.

The pudgy policeman cursed me for pulling him out on a long walk to nowhere. We headed back and met up with Paul. As we all walked back to he motel, the round policeman tried to reassure us with his lame theory that the murderer was an out of town stranger. But when the fat cop left, Paul told me that he thought that the murderer was someone in town. I figured Paul was right. I knew that there were very few visitors through town yesterday.

I immediately went to the garage to talk to Gus, the grease monkey. I figured it was good time to split town.

I offered the guy $600—all I had saved up at the time—to fix the transmission. Gus said OK, but the specialist-guy who fixes transmissions would be by next month.

I came to the grim realization that I was trapped in a small town with a killer werewolf. I had stopped in this town and checked into the Motel California, but now I couldn't leave. I made a mental note to stop listening to classic rock radio stations.

I was in a doom and gloom mood when I walked back to the motel front desk. I tried to think of who in town was crazy enough to commit murder. Who was the werewolf? Basically the weirdest thing about the town of Last Chance, if you can call this place a town, was the collection of strange characters. In my mind, I quickly ran through the quirky cast of characters in town.

Gus the grease monkey was the village idiot. He seemed to be a lot like Comer of the old Andy of Bayberry TV show—except he was not as smart as Comer. Gus said he was a mechanic, but I doubted if he knew anything about cars. I had never seen him try to fix a car. He was always waiting for the specialist-guy to come to town. Martha, the motel owner, was plenty mean. It was easy to imagine her a killer. Every Friday I got paid in cash. I once caught her sneezing on my pay in order to spread her cold germs. Last week she found a cell phone that a guest had left in a room. She spent the rest of the day making long distance crank calls to strangers in Reno. Tall Paul, the other owner, was so silent he was spooky. He seemed like he was hiding something. Rounding out the list of suspects was, the Reverend Smith, the retired pastor who ran the small grocery store, the son that left town, the local hermit and the donut-filled Sheriff. One of these weirdos was a werewolf and a murderer.

Who was weird enough to do such a bloody murder? Hell, it could be anyone.

Something within me—maybe it was a sense of civic duty or maybe it was stupidity—made me start to investigate who the werewolf might be.

I decided to first check out the Reverend Smith. One of the things Martha told me in my first week was advice about the grocery store. She said that when in the store, never talk to the Reverend. I decided to ignore her advice and try to find out more about the strange man. The Reverend Smith was about 60 years old and a retired evangelical-style preacher. No one knew why he retired early. I casually walked into the store and started cleverly started talking about the weather. The Reverend Smith immediately launched into a long winded, fire and brimstone-style mini sermon. “The weather is hotter in hell! He will come like a thief in the night! With his winnowing fork, he will separate the wheat from the chaff!”

His sentences ran on and on and on and on and on and on and and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and never let me say anything. The subject of his fiery rant was two subjects: sexual sin and God's terrible wrath and judgment on us. After about half an hour of listening to his warped versions of the latest Hollywood sex scandals, and the details of what really happened at Sodom and Gomorrah, I finally was able to make an excuse and start to back towards the front door.

As I was running out the door, he shouted, “He will damn us to hell!” Ironically, I had already come to the conclusion that this crummy town was hell and I was already in it.

After my talk with the Reverend, I wasn't any closer to answers about who the werewolf was, but now I had a much deeper understanding of why this nut case was kicked out of his church and retired early.

Next I decided to check out Herman the hermit. Herman rarely was seen outside of his trailer. He had a beard that looked like he once played in ZZ Top and lived in a trailer at the end of a long dirt road. No one knew what his name was. However, because his mail was addressed to an H. Smith. Everyone assumed the odd, reclusive man's name was Herman. The top gears in my Dodge's transmission didn't work, but I managed to limp down the road at 25 MPH. My idea was saying hello and pretending I was making a friendly visit.

When I drove down his long dirt drive and got within sight of his beat up trailer, a dog the size of a small buffalo charged and attacked the car. He mauled the side mirror and desperately tried to bite his way through the glass. Instinctively, I pulled back from the window. I've had a terrible fear of dogs since my days in Texas. Then the demon dog jumped down and dashed to the other side of the car to check if there was another way to get inside the car. The dog left a slimy film of dog drool on my side window. There was the metallic thud of something hitting my car. I looked up and saw Herman picking up rocks. He threw a second rock that was wide by 10 feet. The third rock was high by 5 feet.

I decided that it was time to end my friendly visit. I put the car in reverse pealing out and spraying dirt on the buffalo-sized dog. With his aim, Herman will never make the major leagues. Still, I decided against visiting Herman the hermit and making myself available for target practice again.

I had my list of werewolf suspects on my mind when I made it back to the Motel California. My mind was in a daze and I wasn't paying attention when I walked into the motel lobby and down the side hall. I came to an open door to a room that had always been locked. Out of curiosity, I looked into the mystery room and was shocked to see Paul in the middle of a storage room with enough armament to fight a small war. Stacked to the ceiling were handguns, various assault rifles and what looked like all the ammo in the world. He turned and saw me.

“I'm sorry. I was just going to the broom closet and went the wrong way,” I said making an excuse and turned away.

“John! You didn't see any of this!”

“OK.”

“Look, some of this stuff is even legal.” But I'll be moving it all into my secret bomb shelter soon,” he explained. “If you keep this stash of guns secret, I'll let you in my bomb shelter when the US government collapses.”

“OK. That would be great,” I said trying to humor the maniac. He went on and explained that his crazy survivalist plan was to stay this small town until World War III was over. After most of the world got nuked, he and other survivalists planned to start up a new civilization and a new government on the rubble. I did my best to reassure him that I was not going to interfere with his secret mission to save the world. There was no way I wanted to make someone who had so many guns, feel threatened by me.

I could easily see that tall Paul, Herman the hermit, the Reverend Smith and mean Martha were all weird enough to murder. I wondered if there was anyone in this one horse town that I could cross off the possible killer list.

I quickly got in the habit of staying indoors at night and locking my door. After a month, there was no progress or arrest on the murder. I was still worried. I knew that the werewolf was still out there.

Paul asked me to go with him to Reno to pick up some vacuum cleaner parts. I was glad to join him as it was a chance to get away from the sheer boredom of Last Chance. He pulled his pickup to the Texaco station to fill up the gas tank and walked inside to pay. I followed behind to get a cold drink for the road. It was an unseasonable warm beautiful morning with a clear blue sky. There were birds singing somewhere in the distance. It looked like it was the start of a great day.

Gus was no where to be found.

“Maybe Gus is sleeping in,” Paul complained. He left a 20 on the counter

“Don't worry about it,” I said. I put a buck into the coke machine.

Paul turned to leave. I grabbed my coke. It was by pure chance that we both turned towards the door at the same time. In tandem, our line of sight passed across the auto repair bay. We both saw it at the same time. Gus—or what was left of Gus was strewn all across the auto repair bay. Someone or something had mangled the body. A gallon can of oil had tipped over and Gus's blood had mixed in with the oil in a sickening red and black mess. The garage back door was wide open revealing the probable exit route of the killer.

I turned away in disgust. Paul made a moaning sound and began to puke his guts out over the candy counter. While Paul was busy emptying the contents of his stomach over the candy bars, cough drops and travel sized bottles of Pepito Bismol, I picked up the phone and called the sheriff. After only 20 rings, the sleepy sounding sheriff came on the line.

“Say what?” said the sheriff when I told him there was another body. I usually hate it when people say “say what.” It makes them appear stupid and ignorant. However in the sheriff's case, it merely seemed in character.

“Let's wait outside,” Paul said in a horse voice.

I didn't argue. We went outside and waited in silence for the fat sheriff. Then Paul started barfing again. While I watched Paul spread the rest of his breakfast all over the asphalt, I reasoned that I could cross dead Gus off the list for being the werewolf killer. In addition, Paul's reaction to the murder scene appeared to indicate that he was probably not the murderer. Anyone who would barf so much was probably not the werewolf. With Paul and the very dead Gus off the list, the list of suspects was finally getting shorter.

When the sheriff finally showed up, he took statements from Paul and I.

I headed back to my room at the Motel California and wondered if I was ever going to get out of this crazy town alive. In time the werewolf would wipe us out one by one. Going past the West side of the building, I saw an open door and a shattered front window. I recognized the room number. A gambler on his way to Reno had checked into that room late last night. Slowly I moved up to the smashed in door and glanced in. The man's body was in several parts and scattered around the room. The werewolf had killed again.

In disgust I turned away and headed back to the gas station.

“There's another body in a room on the West side of the motel,” I said.

“Do what?” said the dumb sheriff.

“West side...” I couldn't say another word. I was sick. I turned and puked on the rack of detective paperback novels. Then, carefully stepping around the barf, I walked out of the station. When I made it back to my room, I was a little more settled. I sat down and thought about the crazy situation. I realized that these murders all happened under a full moon. Logically that was when the killer turned into a werewolf.

I had a month to find something to kill the monster. I started hunting around the motel for something silver. I jimmied the lock on the motel store room door and managed to find a silver candle stick. I figured I could melt down the silver from the candle and mold it into a silver bullet. Then I could shoot the werewolf with one of Paul's guns.

Hoping no one would see me, I quietly padded back to the lobby and tried to think up what I could use for a bullet mold. I set the candle stick down and nervously looked through the broom closet.

“That candle stick is pewter not silver,” came a low voice behind me.

I almost screamed. I jumped and whirled around to see tall Paul standing there. The creepy guy was so quiet he had crept up on me.

“Don't sneak up on me man!” I said. “Someone in this town is werewolf.”

“I was thinking the same thing. I have some 45 caliber bullet molds and I think I have some silver.” He held up a silver necklace. “Just don't tell Martha that I stole this from her.”

We both laughed and agreed to work together. Using his ample firearm expertise and my steady hands, we formed a single bullet. He managed to attach that bullet to a shell.

“This bullet will fire. I just hope that the legend is true that a silver bullet will kill a werewolf,” he said.

“We may be betting our lives on it,”

The rest of the month was nervous and edgy. People kept to themselves as it was unclear who you could trust. When the day of the full moon finally came, things got even crazier. Paul was nowhere to be found. Martha chewed me out for not sweeping the floor of the lobby and slapped me on the back of the head. Around noon, I went to the grocery store to pick up a caffeinated soda and found it closed. There was no sign or explanation.

No one talked about the full moon that night. Everyone was thinking about the killer werewolf, but no one mentioned it. The topic of werewolves had somehow become a forbidden subject.

I planned to stay up all night so I took a little late-afternoon nap at the front desk. I wanted to be rested and alert.

A single gun shot woke me up. I jumped up and ran to the entrance to see what had happened.

Paul was in the front entrance holding his .45 Colt handgun.

“I messed up,” he said. “I panicked and shot...”

I quickly ran outside. It was twilight. There was a fox was in between the motel and the parking lot. The frightened animal was running away into the desert.

“I heard something outside and thought it was a wolf!”

“You idiot! Don't you look before you shoot? That was the only silver bullet! We're totally defenseless now!”

Paul started whimpering like a little boy, so I left the fool crying on the front desk. For a gun fanatic, he sure was a lousy shot.

It was now panic time. I decided I was on my own. Our only silver bullet was gone and I decided that I might have a better chance if I stayed away from everyone. I moved out of my room and into the room in the farthest corner of the motel. I devised a barricade of the bed, dresser, night stand, that I put behind the door.

Then I waited. Like everyone else, I waited for the for the coming of the night, the coming of terror and the coming of the werewolf.


 

For some reason I think I might not be able to write much longer. If anyone finds these pages, please get this weird story to my family. I wish I had a better explanation.

After writing everything out, it all bothers me more and I keep having more and more questions. Why did I know before anyone else that the killer was a werewolf? Why do I keep thinking about when a dog bit me back in Texas?

Most importantly, why did I pull the shade down so I can’t see the full moon? I can hear a wolf howling in the distance now. It sounds musical and magical—like it's calling out to me.

Oh, God. I think part of me has known who the werewolf killer was all along. Wait—what’s happening now? I feel strange. I feel what's happening is


Read more John from Texas stories!

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2009-08-30 01:34:37
Well written, clever concept. I especially like the Euless Texas reference

2009-06-02 14:38:42
I like this story. S4




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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by Gordon Rowlinson


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