An unwitting waitress falls in love with a man who seems to be out of time, but perhaps her time is up as an apparition begins stalking her.
Echoes by Shane Migliavacca
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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I first met him last week. I'd heard about the new guy in town before that. Castle, New York was the smallest of small towns. Word travels fast when somebody new moves to town. People speculate on the stranger in town. Travis looked like he stepped out of one of those '50's biker films. Last Thursday he walked into the diner I work at. I couldn't take my eyes off him. And he knew it. He caught me looking at him and smiled that sly smile of his. My eyes darted away. I tried to make it look like I was just looking around the diner. But it was too late. He strode over to me. "Hello there." He said. "Hey." I tried to sound confident. Like I didn't give a fuck, but my voice cracked. He smiled at me. "Can I get a chocolate milkshake to go?" "Su-Sure. "Heard they're like wow here." I started making the shake as he leaned on the counter. He looked at his reflection in the glass case of donuts. Adjusting his hair. "Yeah, they're really good." I said. I was trying to think of something cool to say. But I was managing to think of one damn thing. "lived here all your life?" He asked. "Unfortunately." "Ain't so bad. I've been to worse." I finished the shake and brought it over to him. He gave me a wink and took a sip. Before I could say anything he slid a ten dollar bill across the counter. A large silver ring gleamed on his hand. He turned and started to leave. "Let me get your change." "The rest is for you dolly." I watched him go. Dolly? I felt a bit offended. But at the same time I was feeling something else. Love? Lust? Whatever it was it made me somewhat forgiving of the dolly remark. "So, that's the new guy? Not bad." I turned it was my coworker and friend Bren. She adjusted her raven hair. "What'd he say to you Ronny?" "Nothing much. Just wanted a milkshake." "Yeah yours." We both laughed. Bren has this obnoxious laugh that usually ends up making me laugh harder. The next day he didn't show up. But the day after he was there again. This time wanting a milkshake and a burger. No matter who waited on him he always ended up talking to me. Usually asking me about some town thing or whatnot. Always coming in at the same time, every other day. It continued like this for a month. We'd small talk a little and then he'd leave. I never saw him outside of the diner. Then one day he changed the routine. I got of work one sunny Monday afternoon and Travis was waiting for me. He was leaning ever so slightly against the side of the diner. He smiled at me. "Hey." I said. "Hey." He answered. He flicked out a metal lighter and lit a really slim cigarette. "So what do you do for a kick around here?" "There's the movie theater or the bowling alley." "No. No. You." He took a puff. "Me? Uh, not much." "Naw? Dang shame. Pretty girl like you." "Uh, thanks." The flattery made me blush. Was he hitting on me? I sucked at this kind of thing. I wasn't sure if he wanted me to say anything. "I haven't found much in town to get excited about." He took a long drag on his cigarette. "So I was wondering if you want to hang?" I thought for a second. He's asking me out. I suck at dating. He's good looking and seems nice, but there's no way a date between us won't end in embarrassment for me and perhaps him too. How to talk him out of it? "It's kind of been a rough day, you know? Mondays. I just want to go back home and chill." "It don't have to be today." "Oh, cool." "So, wanna see a flick?" He said. "Show the new guy the sights?" "Sure." I guess. Am I really going to really do this? Yeah. I guess I was. Why not? I deserved some fun, right? Right. You do. Bren was always trying to get me to go out. This would really shock her. "Tomorrow night good?" I thought about it. Did he know I didn't have work the day after? "Sure." "Aces. It's a date then. I'll let you pick the flick. Cool?" "Yeah." He looked a me. "You should always have you hair like that." I touched my hair. I forgot I tie it back at work. This was probably the first time he saw it lose. "It's so beautiful and red. Like a Rose." "Thanks." My face lit up as I blushed. Great. "Gotta run babe. Be seeing you." He did a little point at me and winked before leaving. What had I got myself into? Our first date went well. As did the next three. Before I realized it we were a "thing" in town. I think Bren was jealous. For our fifth date Travis wanted to take me on a picnic to Harmony Lake. It would be our first date in a less public place. I wasn't to worried. On every date Travis had been quite the gentlemen. I was getting ready in the apartment I share with Bren. I stood doing my hair. Bren was watching me. "You look good. Let it go." She said. I turned from the mirror and presented myself. "You think?" Twirling around in my dress. It's maybe only the third time I've ever worn the thing. "Your hideous." "Hilarious." "Seriously hon, you look amazballs." She hugged me. "Have fun at the lake, try not to get too lucky." "Hey. It's been awhile. But not that long." Travis picked me up in his in his 1957 Plymouth Fury. It was a convertible. The thing looked like a shark that decided to crawl out of the ocean and start looking for meals on land. He tooted the horn as he pulled up. "You look stunning babe." He said. Ever the gentleman he wouldn't let me into the car until he got out and opened the door for me. Some real old song was playing on the car radio. I don't think he listened to anything after the '50's. We headed out of town as The King sang on the radio. "I can't get over your car Travis." I said. "It looks so good for it's age." "I take care of this baby. Means a lot to me, sentimental value. I keep her cherry. I try to get maximum performance." He steps on the gas and we're moving a little too fast through town. I look at him nervous as he speeds up. "Don't sweat it Rose. I got this." Travis had started calling me Rose. Honestly I didn't mind. He took my hand. "I think today is gonna be special." The lake looked beautiful in the summer sun as we walked to a nice secluded spot under a large tree. Travis left the car radio on. An old song started. "Down in the willow garden where me and my love did meet" He set down a large blanket. "My dear." He said. Ushering me to the blanket. We'd brought quite the selection of food. Travis popped open a bottle of wine. Was that weird for a picnic? He caught me making a face. "Don't tell me you don't drink wine?" "No. Just seems a bit much for an afternoon picnic." "Well it's a celebration too babe." "It is? What are we celebrating?" "Five dates." I laugh. "Okay. I'll drink to that." "My love she did not know" The odd song played on as he pours us each a glass of wine. We eat and I take a couple sips of wine. I haven't had much in the way of wine, but this is really good. Wonder where he dug it up around here? As we ate we talk, mostly about me. He's always has so many questions. Every time I ask him something about him, he seems sad. Almost on the verge of tears. I don't want to bring up any bad memories. As we talk my head starts to feel light. The sun seems to get brighter. I get a whole hell of a lot of dizzy. "Which was a dreadful sign" "What's up Ronny?" "Wow, getting a head rush." I try to stand up but my legs feel like rubber. Travis catches me as I come crashing back down. On the radio, the song keeps repeating. "A dreadful sign" He brushes the hair out of my face and gives me a sad smile. "I'm so sorry doll." "Wha-What? Sorry about..." I stammer. My mouth doesn't want to move. "I'm sorry. You have to die. All beauty must die. It's my curse." I summon up all my strength and push away from Travis. He tries to grab me, pull me back and I scratch his face with my nails. Trying to stand again I fall to my knees. The world shaking apart at the seams. My eyelids feel heavy. Every time I blink it's feels like it'll be my last. Maybe if I just sleep it'll be better. I'll wake up from this nightmare. No! Fight it! I start crawling on all fours. Dragging myself. Digging my nails into the ground. My nails....I scratched him. Have to get away. Have to fight. Get to the car. "A dreadful sign" I see someone standing by Travis' car. Can't make them out. Why won't they... "Help! Please!" "Rose. No one can help. I'm sorry." He grabs me by the leg pulling me back. Travis turns me over. Glaring at me. The scratches on his face aren't bleeding. "I like playing with you Rose." He said. "But my dear your breaking my heart." "Fu-Fuck you." I try to hit him, but I have no strength left. Why won't that person do something? He stands up, pulling a large knife from his leather jacket. "I could gut you. But that's no fun. Not any more." He looks at his reflection on the knife blade. He adjusts his hair. I used to find his vanity cute. Bastard. "The poison isn't killing you. Just making it hard for you to do anything." "Why?" "Why not." I tried to move my head to see if that person was still standing there. "A dreadful sign" Why is that song repeating? Is that an effect from the drugs? Travis notices me trying to look at the car. He walks towards the car. I can hear him talking to somebody I think. "Go away." He says. "You're not welcome here." He turns the radio off. The song ending with a loud hiss of static. I hear the car door slam shut. Who was that? Who was he talking to? After what seems like hours but is probably only minutes Travis comes back holding a large cinder block and rope. "Comfortable doll?" "Go to hell." I manage. My mouth is starting to fail me. Travis just laughs. "Be right back." He walks off. Carrying the cinder block and rope. My mind races. Move! Move! But I can't, it's physically impossible. I will myself. Picturing my spirit leaving my body. Flying over the trees. Finding Bren or my folks. Telling them what's happening here. If I want it strong enough, I can make it happen. Just to hear Bren laugh that stupid laugh again. To see my parents one last time. Tell them I'm sorry. I love them. I start to cry. My eyes burning. I'll never see them again. Ever. I'll die here. With only this madman for company. He comes back. Standing over me. He reaches down and grabs my legs. "Going for a little trip my Rose." He drags me across the ground. I can see the grass ending as we go over a rocky area. But I can't feel any of it. I can't feel his hands on my legs. Just a great numbness. We go up a small hill near the beach. He stops dragging me. "We're here. We don't have that much time left together." He kneels down and touches my face. Wiping away my tears. He pulls out two coins and puts one on each of my eyes. I blink my eyes and they slide off. He gets frustrated. "Why did you do that?" He takes the coins. They're for your journey over." He takes them and sticks them in one of my hands, balling it into a fist. I see the cinder block with the rope tied to it near my feet. He crawls over to it and ties the rope to my legs. No! No! No! He's going to drown me. "You've been a blast." He picks up the cinder block and walks to the edge of the hill overlooking the lake. I scream but my throat fails me. I can barely make more then a crackling noise. He hefts the block up. He sighs. "Parting and what not." The throws the block over the side and I can hear the rope quickly chasing after it. Knowing that any second I'll be following it. And then I'm falling, followed by hitting the water. I sink. My lungs quickly filling with water. I welcome it. Please let there be peace. I feel so tired. I just want it to be over. I can see the sunlight trickling down through the water. Darkness starts to creep into my vision, until the light is swallowed by it. I wake unable to move. My heart racing. Where am I? I'm in my room. Laying on my bed. I hear a noise. A crackling hiss. Almost like static. My eyes catch movement in the darkness. Illuminated only by the street lights outside I see a shape. Moving towards my bed. A vaguely human shape. I try to say something but my mouth won't work. I try to move, pull the blankets over my head. But my arms won't obey me. The thing nears the edge of my bed. My heart pounds faster and faster. Am I having a heart attack? A low whispering hiss comes from the shade at the foot of my bed. "Not a dream. Heed the sign." And then the world went back to normal. I could move again. I whipped the sweat from my forehead. My heartbeat started to slow. I curled up in a ball on the bed. Pulling the blankets over me. For the longest time I didn't move. Fearing that thing was waiting for me in the darkness. Eventually I drifted off to sleep again. I woke and my room was lit by the light of early morning. Had it just been a dream? A nightmare? Caused by nerves probably. I get up. Dangling my legs over the side of the bed, there's a moments hesitation. That it's under my bed. That the thing from last night was real and not some dream. A nightmare brought on by being nervous over my big date with Travis. Bren's been kidding me about it. That this picnic is Travis' big move. To get in my pants. Maybe he will. I'm not worried about it. I'm just glad I can move again. That nightmare was the worst I ever remember having. I stand in the shower. Almost in a trance as the water pours over me. This seems...familiar. I've taken plenty of showers before, but this just seems weird. The water feels like it's closing in on me. I hear the jarring sound of static. Through the shower curtain I see a dark shape move. The thing from my nightmare is back for me. I back against the shower wall. The wet tiles cold against my back. I run my hands over them looking for escape. A loud thud followed by angry swearing snaps me back to reality. "Damn hamper!" It's my roommate. "You almost done?" Bren says. Annoyance in her voice. "Water will be freaking cold." "Sorry. Almost done." I hear the door slam shut. Know all dread has faded away and I just feel like a shit for hogging the shower. I get out and dry off quick. Trying not to waste anymore time. I leave the bathroom, a towel wrapped around me. Bren is waiting for me by the door. "You okay?" "Why?" "What were you doing in the shower so long? Daydreaming? Or a little pre-date gratification?" I shot her a look and Bren smiles and does that laugh of hers. "I'm sorry Ronny. I know your all stressed." She gives me a kiss on the cheek and goes into the bathroom. Shutting the door behind her. I hear the lock click. Guess I should have done that. At work it's no easier. My mind drifts all day. Thinking about our date this afternoon. The day moved in slow motion. What seemed like hours were in fact minutes when I looked at the clock. Everything I did at work seemed like the wrong thing. Giving people the wrong order. Spilling drinks. Going to the wrong table. I shouldn't be this stressed over a date. No, it was that dream. That nightmare. I consider calling the picnic off. I but by the time my shift is over I've reconsidered. Maybe I can turn this day around. When we get back to the apartment Bren sprawls on the couch. She has some kind of foot condition I can't begin to fathom. But waitressing does her feet little favor. I hear the volume on the TV crank up as I slip into the bathroom. I stare at the shower, considering taking another quick shower to freshen up. But after this morning I decide against it. I strip out of my waitress uniform and splash some water on my face. I suddenly see water rushing around my head as if I being pulled down into water. I get dizzy and stumble back into the hamper. The same one Bren is always banging into. The sharp corner of it jabs my bare leg and the water fades away. I'm losing my mind. I slept good last night, but after that nightmare I feel like I've been awake for days. I change my mind about wearing a dress to the picnic and instead go with some comfy jeans and a T-shirt. I'm not feeling very romantic today. Oh well. There's next time for the romance. Bren is sitting on the couch when I come out of my bedroom. I do my hair quick in front of the the full length mirror by the bathroom door. "You look good. Let it go." Bren said. I turned from the mirror and presented myself. "You think?" Twirling around. "I was going to wear a dress?" "Your hideous." "Hilarious." "Seriously hon, you look amazballs. You don't need the dress." She hugged me. "Have fun at the lake, try not to get too lucky." "Hey. It's been awhile. But not that long." The lake looked beautiful in the summer sun. We found a nice secluded spot under a large tree. Travis left the car nearby. He had the top down. The radio on. A weird old song started. "Down in the willow garden where me and my love did meet" He set down a large blanket. "My dear." He said. Ushering me to the blanket with a wave of his hand. We'd brought quite the selection of food. Travis popped open a bottle of wine. Was that weird for a picnic? He caught me making a face. "Don't tell me you don't drink wine?" "No. Just seems a bit much for an afternoon picnic." "Well it's a celebration too babe." "My love she did not know" I put my hand up. "I'm sorry. But I don't think I should. I'm feeling a little sick." "Sick? Everything okay?" "Just had a rough night. Bad nightmare." He touches my hand. I don't know why this makes me flinch. He looks at me puzzled. "What kind of nightmare?" "I think I was drowning. And there was this figure there. When I woke up...I swear it was still there." "You know..." He starts pouring wine into the glasses. "...I think you need a little nip of wine my Rose." "No, really it's okay." "Really it'll help your nerves." "Okay. Maybe just a little." Travis hands me one of the glasses. There's the sound of static cutting through the air. Like someone adjusting the radio. "A dreadful sign" I look over at Travis' car and see it there. The thing from my nightmare. That strange figure. The glass of wine falls from my hand. It hits the ground, rolling and spilling the wine all over the blanket. The song skips...or repeats. Over and over. "A dreadful sign" "Not a dream." It said. "Heed the sign." At first I don't realize I'm screaming. Until I see Travis' face. He grimaces. He grabs me, clapping a hand over my mouth. Grabbing my arm with his other hand. He holds me so tight I start to tear up. "Shut the fuck up, would you?" I try to pull away but his hands are like iron clamps. I can see the anger in his eyes. His eyes flicker over to the thing standing next to his car. "A dreadful sign" "That's not going to help you Ronny dear." He says. His voice never wavering. Always calm. "It's just an echo." As if robbed of it's power the thing evaporates into the air. He tightens his grip some more. Tears stream down my cheeks, soaking his hand. I see the wine bottle lying there, just out of reach of my free hand. I could hit him with it. Listen to yourself. Your going to hit him? This is nuts. It has to be a game. Right? No it's not. I just need a weapon. To get away. I think, I do have a weapon. I rake his face with my fingernails. I scratch jagged lines down his face. For all the world it sounded like running your nails over stone. He lets go of me and I lunge for the wine bottle. As I reach for the bottle he grabs me by the belt of my jeans. The bottle slips from my hands as he yanks me towards him. Rolling just out of reach. I dig my feet and hands into ground. Pulling myself towards the wine bottle. The sun reflected off it. Like some magical weapon it beckoned me to it. My arms and legs burned as I strained. I put every last bit of life I had left into it. Almost! My fingers brushed off the smooth neck of the bottle. But this time it didn't move. "Why won't you just let me help you?" Travis says. Help me? "I'm going to free you of all this." I manage a last bit of strength and grab the goddamn bottle. I swing it. It could have been Excalibur in my hands. I hit him square in the side of his head. Unlike in the movies, the bottle doesn't break. Travis lets go of me. I hit him again. And again the bottle doesn't break. He falls to the ground, momentarily stunned. His wounds from my nails and the bottle, there's no blood. I bring the bottle down again on his head for good measure. This time it shatters. I don't wait to see the outcome of that last hit. I turn and run for his car. I run as fast as my tired legs will carry me. I don't think he took the keys out of the car. Please I hope the keys are still there. As I reach the car Travis gets up, pulling a large knife from his leather jacket. "I didn't want to have to make a mess..Rose." I slide into the driver's seat. Yes! The keys are there. I start the car. It roars to life. I hit the gas, aiming right for Travis. This is insane. Am I in a never ending nightmare? I ram into him. His body flying up onto the hood. His body smashes through the windshield. His face is contorted in a wicked smile. In one hand he's still holding the knife. With his free hand he grabs one of my hands on the steering wheel. "Hold hands you love birds." He says. The car plunges into the lake. Water rushing in all around us as we sink. The nightmare. I'm going to drown here...With him. A shard of broken window floats by me as we sink down. I grab it. The jagged edges cut into my hand. I take it, jabbing it into his eye. He lets go of me. He smiles at me as I push away from him. I swim through the open top. For however long I live I don't think I'll ever forget that smile. The jagged shard embedded in his eye. Travis and his car sinking to the bottom. I pull myself onto the beach. I think I pass out for awhile. Lying there in the dirt, soaking wet. I wake with a start and see a shadow fall across me. I look up and see that thing. The thing from my nightmare standing over me. It's face and arms are blue and bloated. It's face vaguely feminine. It's remaining hair, rotten, hangs down in long strands. It wore a dress. My dress.
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