“God, there’s just miles and miles of nothing!” Stacey complained.
Aaron looked at her with amusement.
“A. It’s kilometres, B, this trip was your idea. ‘Let’s go somewhere different,’ you said.
I did tell you it would be like this. Hundreds of k’s between little towns that have nothing much in them. ‘Let’s be adventurous,’ you said. That sense of adventure didn’t last long, did it.”
“But there’s not even any phone coverage,” she said.
“Told you that too,” he reminded her.
“I said there’d be places with no coverage.”
“But hundreds of miles, sorry, kilometres?” she cried.
“So, you wanna turn back? We haven’t booked anything. You said not to. It’ll be part of the adventure, you said.”
“Stop doing that!” she said crossly, “Reminding me what I said. You could have tried harder to talk me out of it!”
He laughed, “So now it’s my fault, is it? Luckily, I’ve got a great sense of responsibility. Anything you do and don’t like, I’m responsible. So, shall I turn around?”
“Oh, shut up! And stop being so reasonable. Keep going till the next town. I’ll decide then.”
“Yes ma’am,” he responded.
“It’s only a few more k’s. It’s called Shelby.”
“Dunno. It’s a bit off the highway. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess. Don’t even know if there’s anywhere to stay.”
“There wasn’t at that last place or anything to eat either. Good thing I packed sandwiches wasn’t it.”
“Yep, chicken and avocado. My favourite.”
“Oh shit! You hate avocado! I forgot. You never said anything!”
He grinned cheerfully.
“Yep, I’m just a angel.”
“Oh God,” she wailed, “This trip has gone to Hell. Why did you let me talk you into doing this?”
“Because I wanted to go as well. Don’t worry about it. The avocado didn’t kill me.”
“There’s the sign to Shelby,” she pointed.
“Okay, let’s see if there’s anything there,” he said as they reached the turnoff, and saw the
small town unfolding in front of them.
“It looks a good size,” Stacey commented.
“Hope they’ve got a motel.”
They drove down a wide Main Street, with a few houses on the approaches, then a number of shops, a hotel and a service station. Stacey pointed to a sign.
“That says motel down that side street,” she said.
Aaron turned and soon, they saw a motel sign. He stopped in front of reception. Stacey jumped out and strode inside. He watched her go. She was tall and lithe, as tall as he was. He was amused that she wouldn’t wear high heels when they went out, telling her he didn’t care if she towered over him. She hadn’t as yet. He noted the carpark was quite full. It was late afternoon. Maybe something of note was on in the town. The ‘no vacancy’ had not been lit up, so perhaps there was still an available room. Stacey came out, brandishing a key. She set off and he slowly followed her. She opened the door to number 15, and he parked in front of it. He hauled their cases out of the back of the car and carried them inside. Stacey had already turned on the kettle.
“I want a cup of tea,” she announced, as he put their cases on the floor. He looked around. The room appeared quite neat and spacious, the double bed covered with a colourful duvet.
Stacey plumped herself down on the bed.
“Something a bit weird happened in reception,” she said to Aaron.
He sat down on the only chair in the room.
“Oh? Like what?” he asked.
“There was no one in reception when I went in, then a little girl, about twelve, came out. I said I wanted a room. She gave me this strange look for quite a long time, said, “Are you sure?” then this lady came bustling out, ordered her back inside, and we did the business. Only cost $80.00.”
“Why would that little girl ask me, ‘Are you sure?’ And that strange look.”
“What was strange about the look?”
“I dunno. Just made me feel, I shouldn’t get the room. Now why would that be?”
“Who knows. Maybe she’s just a weird little girl. Anyway, what about that cup of tea.”
“Don’t feel like one now. How about we wander down the street and maybe get a drink at the hotel”
“Sure, why not. Just gotta go to the loo first.”
A little while later, they left the motel and walked down the street. They turned from the side street into the Main Street and headed for the hotel. As they passed a narrow lane, a hand reached out and clutched at Stacey’s sleeve. Startled, she realised it was the little girl.
She beckoned them to follow her down the lane. After exchanging puzzled looks, they followed her. She walked to a large dumpster, looked around anxiously, then ushered them behind it, and crouched down. She said urgently, “Bend down! Don’t want anyone to see us!”
They obeyed, then Stacey said, “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
“Why did you come? What are you doing here?” the girl asked.
Confused, Stacey said, “We’re on a road trip. We just needed somewhere to stay for the night.”
“Well, you picked the wrong place,” the girl said.
“Why?” Aaron asked.
“Tonight’s the night they pay homage to Thanatos, and they need the blood of a human to do it, so they need a human sacrifice.”
“Okay, “ Aaron said quietly.
“Let’s back this up. First of all, who are you, who are ‘they’ and what makes you think we’re the ones marked for sacrifice?”
The little girl said earnestly, “My name’s Alice, my Mum’s one of them, and they’re Satanists who worship Thanatos, the god of death, and one night a year, they pay homage, and tonight’s the night.”
“Okay, so why us?” Aaron asked, glancing at Stacey who had listened in sceptical albeit petrified silence.
“You’re the only strangers in town. They always pick strangers,” Alice said.
“I thought Satanists worship the devil,” Stacey spoke for the first time, her voice tinged with fear.
“Not them. They’ve always worshipped Thanatos,” Alice said.
“Why are you warning us?” Stacey asked.
Alice struggled to speak, then, tears filling her eyes, she said, “I was here last year with Mum. There was a lady and her little boy, they checked in. I saw people take them out of their room because I had woken up to go to the toilet, in the middle of the night and I heard the noise and looked out the window. I was half asleep and went back to bed. The next morning, they were gone. Their room was cleaned out, and when I asked Mum, she said they’d left early in the morning.”
“That’s possible, isn’t it?” Aaron asked.
“I found their cases in the storeroom,” Alice said.
“Did they have a car?” Stacey asked.
“Yes. It was gone,” Alice said.
“Alright Alice,” Aaron said gently.
“Thank you for telling us. I’m not some helpless young woman with a child. I was in the army. I know how to look after myself, both of us actually. So you go back to your Mum before she misses you. And thanks again for warning us.”
“Alright,” Alice said, getting up, peering around the dumpster before scurrying off.
“Well?” Stacey asked.
“What do you think? Overactive, vivid imagination or have we stumbled into a Satanists lair?”
Aaron straightened up and pulled Stacey to her feet.
“She didn’t explain how she knew about the human sacrifice, or where this sacrifice is supposed to take place. Let’s go and have a drink. If there’s anything going on, maybe we can pick it up by listening to some of the locals.”
Hand in hand, they walked out of the lane, down the street and entered the bar of the hotel. A few moments later, they were seated at a table, Aaron with a beer, Stacey with a rum and coke.
“I think I need something strong,” she declared.
Aaron nodded in agreement and looked around. There were plenty of people around considering it was midweek, and he idly wondered why. It was a small town. A gathering of Satanists, perhaps? They all looked pretty normal to him, but then, he didn’t know what Satanists were supposed to look like.
“Want something to eat?” he asked.
“Yes please! I just realised I’m starving,” Stacey responded.
Aaron got up and headed for the bar. He came back after a few moments bearing a menu. He sat down and said, “I asked the girl behind the counter about all the people. She said there’s a white witch convention in town.”
“They’re the good ones aren’t they?” Stacey queried.
“Supposedly,” Aaron replied.
They perused the menu, decided what they wanted and Aaron went back to the bar to order. He came back bearing a buzzer, and another beer sat down and pulled out his phone.
“Let’s see what white witches get up to,” he said.
Stacey sipped her drink and waited expectantly.
“Well, it’s all about goodness and ethics, according to Wikipedia,” he reported.
“So white witches are the good ones,” Stacey said, “But aren’t they all women?”
“Alice said ‘people,’ she didn’t say what sex they were, but she may have dreamt the whole thing. I’d say she’s just got an overactive imagination,” Aaron commented.
“What about their bags she said were in the storeroom?” Stacey asked.
“Could have been anybody’s. How did she know it was theirs?” he responded
The buzzer went. They ate their meals in silence. Afterwards, they strolled back to the motel. Their car was the only one in the carpark.
“They must all have gone to their convention,” Stacey remarked.
Aaron nodded. They entered their room.
“I still feel uneasy,” Stacey said.
“Understandable,” Aaron responded.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“I’ll wedge the chair under the door handle,” Aaron suggested.
“That way, no one can get in, just on the off chance.”
“Sounds good to me.”
The rest of the night passed without incident, although neither slept very well. They were up early the next morning. The carpark was full.
“Wonder how their convention went,” Stacey commented as they drove out of the carpark.
“And whether they found someone else to sacrifice,” said Aaron with a wry smile.
“I hope we never find out,” Stacey said with a shudder.
“Let’s hope it was just Alice’s over active imagination.”
As the car disappeared down the street, they were unaware that Alice had come outside. She stood clutching a teddy bear and watched them go, an expression of relief on her face.