It was the day after the
visit from the aliens and Venus found herself driving down a meandering country
road. The sunshine was bright and warm, the sky was clear and it was just an
all-'round beautiful day. She was lost in the smells and sights of this bucolic
agrarian landscape, daydreaming as she slowly cruised the county back roads.
The odor of sun-baked hay in the fields wafted in her window, along with the
sweet aroma of unidentified wildflowers as she passed the woods and fields.
She noticed the way the shadows of the clouds slid down one side of the valley
and up the other. She also was aware of the sounds of the insects. You don't
notice them until you listen for them. She drove slowly along taking in every
sight, sound and smell but thinking about nothing. She caught herself daydreaming
and realized she didn't remember breaking camp and packing the car. In a panic,
she looked into the back seat to see if she packed up her stuff. It was all
there. Venus felt relieved but now she couldn't remember what she'd been daydreaming
about. Strangely enough she wasn't thinking about the two strange men who visited
her last night. Instead, she watched the peaceful countryside roll past her
as she wound leisurely in and out of the shade on a two-lane ribbon of asphalt.
Over and around the hills, across and through the valleys, the wind blowing
in her hair.
The hair on the back of Venus' neck stood on end and Venus instictually check her rearview mirror. There was a car following close behind. She didn't see it coming; it was just there, and it was just a little too close for comfort. Her immediate reaction was to shrug it off except there was something ugly about this particular car. It was just a cheap nondescript import painted in flat-black primer, stripped of all decorative chrome and logos. It had a bad window tinting job, full of bubbles, and no bumpers or front grill. Venus checked her speed. 45 mph; perfectly reasonable. If he didn't like it he could easily pass her any time he wanted. She kept driving normally, frequently checking her mirrors without being obvious about it. The car that followed stayed close enough for Venus to determine that there were three guys, probably teenagers, in torn black T-shirts and crewcuts in the car thrashing around in their seats. The driver had tattoo's on his arms. They were drinking, and by the way they were behaving, she doubted if it was Pepsi. The blaring heavy metal rumble of her pursuer's car stereo lent an addition air of menace. Now they were getting really close. Then they back off a little and zoom in close again. Venus wasn't intimidated. She thought, they're just punks out for some fun terrorizing some female motorist.
"So, this is where Bevis and Butthead live." She said aloud, peeking into the rearview mirror, "I wonder who the other guy is".
The car behind her got dangerously close now each time they closed in. The driver was leaning forward and leering at her over the steering wheel, showing his missing front teeth and the tattoo's on his knuckles. The guy in the back seat pointed at her and shouted something. Then Venus saw the beer can go out the window. She decided to slow down and let them pass. Maybe if I refuse to play with those guys they'll get bored and seek out some other prey. One thing she wasn't about to do was stop the car. She slowed. They got even closer and weaved back and forth on the road gunning the engine. Venus pretended to ignore them. She was doing about 30 mph. now and it seemed like she was crawling down the road. She heard the car behind her gun it's engine and the driver pulled up beside her, weaving back and forth across the wrong lane. The guy riding shotgun invited her for a good time in the most profane way possible while the guy in the back seat wound down his window and hung himself out of the car as far as he could get himself, arms flailing at Venus. It took more than alcohol to make these guys this crazy. The driver, laughing madly, continued to weave. Venus noticed that the guy hanging out the window had a big swastika on the front of his T-shirt and the one riding shotgun had one on the back of his hand. She rolled her eyes.
"Oh great, Nazi youth."
So far she managed to not look directly at, or make eye contact with any of her tormentors. The boys were laughing loudly and telling her to pull off the road and describing what they were going to do when they got their hands her. Venus didn't know if they were serious or not but she wasn't about to take any chances. The next time they swung close, the guy hanging out of the back seat tried to grab onto Venus' car. She realized her back window was open. If one of those guys got into her car, . . . she shuddered at the thought. The situation had now taken a serious turn. Venus reviewed her options. She could hit the gas and try to out run them or she could hit the breaks and pull in behind them. If she hit the breaks the rude-boys could pull their car across the road and stop her. On the other hand, if she punched it she stood a pretty good chance of out running them. Venus was driving a 1969 Ford Mustang fastback with a hoped up 351 under the hood and a brand new set of fat tires. She was a pretty good driver and knew how to handle her car. Her pursuers were riding in a little four-banger. This was the kind of road to lose them on. Besides they were drunk . . . or something.
The driver of the other car attempted to pass Venus. She knew it was now or never. She dropped the four speed tranny into 3rd gear and punched the gas pedal to the floor. Her tires barked and the Mustang fishtailed slightly leaving the other car in a cloud of smoking rubber. Venus cut a straight line through the next three curves and up over the hill accelerating all the way. As she reach the bottom of the other side of the hill approaching 85 mph., she spotted the bad boys coming over the top of the hill behind her. She kept the pedal almost to the floor as she headed out across the flat valley floor. 90 mph. now, concentrating on her driving. She could see that her pursuers were intent on trying to catch up to her. The down side of the hill gave the other car some help in gaining speed but across the low rolling valley floor Venus was slowly putting distance between them. She had about a half a mile gain on them. Venus hoped when she reached the slopes of the other side of the valley she would really be able to lose them. Venus heard a muffled pop and then what sounded like a big rock hitting her car. A bullet fired from the other car hit the top of her right rear fender ricocheting off the car. She recognized it for what it was and jammed the pedal all the way to the floor. She was doing close to a hundred miles an hour now and trying to watch the road as far ahead as possible. Venus couldn't believe that she hadn't lost them by now. What she didn't know was that little car was turbocharged. There were two cars ahead of her. She was on them in no time, zooming past them as they waved and cussed out their windows. At a crossroads she went through without slowing down or looking. Then on a long right hand curve there was a road crew working. Venus downshifted and slowed to about fifty throwing rocks and dirt as everybody on the crew cussed and waved shovels at her. Once past them she accelerated again. The bad-boys came through the construction site almost at full speed injuring a couple of the workers. About a mile down the road, around a left-hand blind curve a tractor pulling a big wagon load of hay pulled out of a field and onto the road. Venus was there by the time the tractor was on the road. She saw it at the last moment and barely managed to miss the trailer behind the tractor, downshifting, pumping the breaks and skidding a couple hundred feet into the field across the road where her car stalled. The tractor driver pulled off the road, jumped off and started toward Venus' car to see if she was all right. Venus could see the dust sent up by her rapidly approaching pursuers. She attempted to start her car. She tried not to panic. She pleaded with her car. What's the problem?! Not out of gas. Twisting the key again, Venus began scanning the interior of her car for something, anything she could use as a weapon. She'd have to hit them with her tape recorder. That and her camera were the closest things she had as weapons within reach. The knives are packed in the trunk with the kitchen stuff. After a couple more turns of the key the car finally started. She gunned the engine and put it in gear. Careful not to dig her tires into the soft soil, she drove out of the field through the same hole in the fence she made coming in, accelerating right past the farmer. She hit the road just as her chasers were coming into sight. They were less than a hundred yards behind her now. In less than a half a mile the two cars began winding up the side of the mountain. This side of the valley had steeper sides, therefore the road had many switch backs and hairpin turns with steep drop-offs on the outsides of the turns and no guardrails. Venus could only drive so fast without losing traction on the turns. Her pursuers however were not driving safely and were therefore gaining on her. There were cars coming down the hill which made it impossible for Venus to cut on the inside of some of the turns. This didn't stop her pursuers from running a couple of cars into the hillside. They were, little by little gaining on her. Venus' car had all this power but she couldn't use it. The road was too dangerous. She did manage to pass a few cars without slowing down. So did the bad guys. They even passed a couple of them on the right, dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. It wasn't long before they were on her tail again. The driver leer at her again, leaning his head out the window. He was shouting something at her. She couldn't make it out. She saw the other guy in the front seat had a hand gun. Venus tried to keep her concentration on her driving. There was no way to formulate a plan to foil these guys. She'd just have to wing-it and take any opportunities that might come up. She knew though that they'd probably start shooting again soon and now they were close enough not to miss.
Venus backed off a little on the accelerator and downshifted. The boys got a little closer. They tried to pass. Venus cut them off. They tried to pass on the other side. She cut them off again. They tried to pass again on the left. Venus cut them off again, this time she hit the breaks and her pursuers hit the back of her car. The guy riding shotgun hit his face on the dashboard and dropped the gun. It bounced under the seat and he and the guy in the back seat tried to retrieve it. Meanwhile the driver, losing his temper jammed down the throttle and tried to pass Venus on the right again. She tried to cut him off but was a little to late. She bumped into his car as he was in the gravel at the outside of a curve. Venus gasped as she realized she almost knocked the other car off the cliff. She unconsciously reacted and pulled away from them further onto the road. Rocks broke loose and tumbled down the cliff as the crazed driver somehow managed to keep from going over. Venus heard his demonic laughter as he got back on the road and tried again to pass her on the left.
"This has gone way too far." Venus said out loud. "Somebody's going to get killed!"
Venus was really scared now. Her only hope at the moment was that she wouldn't get shot. She wondered who would run out of gas first. The black car once again tried to pass her but at the last moment a truck came around the bend in the other lane preventing them from passing. Venus took opportunities like these to accelerate. The faster the speed she could maintain, the harder it would be for the black car to pass. Still the black car was able to stay right on her tail. Venus heard the whine of the turbo charger and she knew they were attempting another pass. She didn't even have to look. She could hear it coming on her left. She cut them off. They tried a double-fake to the left. They almost fooled her but she caught them at the last second, running their left fender into the dirt of the roadcut. It didn't slow them down.
Now the guy in the back seat of the black car had retrieved the gun from under the seat and was waving it out the window. He pointed it at her. She weaved erratically back and forth across the road so as not to be an easy target
"Leave me alone!" she shrieked.
He took a couple of shots at her tires but missed. Venus floored the gas pedal. With the low inhaling moan of the four-barrel carbs, her car pulled ahead. The black car accelerated to catch up, it's turbo whining like a small jet engine. Tires screaming through the curves. When they were pulling up close on her, Venus hit her breaks hard, her big rear bumper rose to greet the other car. The black car slammed into the back of the Mustang. Headlights shattered. Fenders folded. A hood buckled. The Mustang suffered no body damage. All three of the black car's occupants hit their faces hard on something inside their car. Venus hit the gas hard leaving the other car in a cloud of tire smoke.
Bad move. It didn't stop them, it only slowed them for a moment. What it did do was make three crazy people into three angry crazy people. They were back on Venus in no time. Now there were three bloody faces with burning eyes in her rear view mirror. The black car backed off a little. The road ahead was relatively straight and they were going to make a run at passing Venus. She placed her car in the middle of the road to be ready for them. At the same time she was trying to make as straight a line as possible through the slight curves. Again Venus foiled a pass on the left, then one on the right. Then another double fake to the left. She beat them. Then just when she didn't think there was enough room for an attempt on the right, the black car tried it. Venus could hear the rocks hitting her car thrown up from the car trying to pass her but she knew if she tried to cut them off she'd hit their car and knock them off the cliff. The wild-man driver of the black car took advantage of this and began pulling up next to her. She looked over at him as he laughed maniacally. She tried to coax more speed out of her car but saw a big curve at the top of the hill coming. She looked over at the other car again and saw the guy in the back seat cock his gun and lurch across the seat toward her. Venus started to cut to the left across the inside of the big curve as she looked at the other car again. That guy had the gun out the window pointed right at her.
"This is it!" she thought. "It's me or them."
She gave them a little more room then slammed her car hard to the right into the little black beast then hit the breaks skidding into a turnout. Looking over her shoulder she saw the car as it became airborne in a cloud of dust and gravel. She skidded to a stop and watched as the car carrying the three nazi-youth sailed past her out of sight into the chasm. She heard the screams of the occupants over the blare of their heavy metal music until both stopped on impact with the valley floor 578 feet below. The car smashed head-on into the solid rock of a dry creek bed. No flames, no explosion, it didn't even bounce.
Venus got out of her car and walked unsteadily around it to the edge of the cliff to see if she could see anything. The wreckage was out of sight but she could see the steam and dust rising from behind the trees at the bottom. She turned around and leaned on her car, shaking. It was then that she noticed the bullet hole in her fender. Her knees gave out and she dropped to the ground holding onto the car for support, almost blacking out. She felt a little nauseous.
People who she'd passed on the way up the hill began to pull over to the side to see what was going on. She began to retell the story of chase. It wasn't long before the sheriff pulled up. She had to tell the whole story again. The witnesses verified her story.
It was later discovered that the black car's trunk was full of automatic assault weapons and each of the occupants bloodstream's was a cocktail of dangerous drugs and alcohol. Also while sifting through the wreckage enough evidence was discovered to identify and break up a previously unknown white supremacist organization operating in this area.
Mars sat on a stump on a
ridge-top, between a virgin forest on one side and a vast clear-cut on the other.
He sat a ways off from Karl and John who were huddled in the shade weeping out
loud with grief over the destruction of their favorite camping spot. Mars never
saw how beautiful it was, so it was hard for him to understand why his companions
were taking it's destruction so hard.
Mars turned his back on the devastation and faced the undisturbed land on the other side of the ridge. Woods as far as he could see. He looked over at his fellow travelers. "We'd better start looking for a campsite." He said as he moved toward them. "The more daylight we have, the pickier we can be."
The others agreed. Sitting here blubbering about it wasn't going to change anything. The sooner they got away from this ugliness the better. They all picked up their things and headed off down the wooded side of the ridge to the railroad tracks. When they reached the tracks they followed them further up the river. Eventually the tracks crossed the river and followed it on the other side. A few miles further upstream a tributary entered the river under another bridge. John suggested they explore this large creek upstream, and so they did. After following the creek through a rather steep and narrow valley which narrowed to only twenty feet or so before it opened up into a flat and wide valley. Here the creek flowed slow and deeper, snaking lazily through the densely wooded valley floor. The three men stopped finally at a grassy spot under some trees at a bend in the creek. There was a sandy beach and the water was flat and slow moving. By the time they were finished setting up camp it was nearly three in the afternoon.
Mars gathered enough firewood to keep a fire going. Then he announced that he was going to take a walk. He wanted to explore the area around the camp and he wanted to get away from John and Karl for a change. He'd been with one or the other or both every minute since he met them. Not that he minded their company, he just needed some time to himself. He was going to take a nice long walk and think.
"Don't get lost!" John laughed as Mars made his way into the forest.
There wasn't much undergrowth here. It was a lot like a slightly rolling park. It was easy going. He could walk in any direction pretty much unimpeded. There were big trees here. Old trees. Ferns everywhere. Being a city-raised person, Mars didn't know one tree from another but he was impressed. It reminded him of a vast cathedral. He strolled through the forest on a carpet of pine needles, following whatever caught his eye. There was abundant bird life. Here and there his eye caught wildflowers. He stopped to examine mushrooms and lichen and insects. He never realized there were so many kinds of plants in a forest. He stopped at one point to watch some deer that were warily grazing in a clearing. At least one of them always watched him back.
Mars had just come over a small rise and down the other side when the ground felt different under him and he notice a slightly hollow sound in his footsteps. It was then that he heard the gurgling sound of water. There on either side of him was running water. It went right under him. He walked over to where the water disappeared and looked down. It just disappeared into the vegetation under him. He dug his heel into the debris he was standing on until he hit something hard. As he scraped more debris away, he discovered wood. Yes, it was a wooden bridge. A man-made bridge. "This must be old," Mars thought, "There's no road left anymore." As he began to look at his surroundings again, yes, he could see where the road was, even though in places it had trees growing in the middle of it. Mars followed the road.
It wasn't far, maybe a quarter of a mile, and there it was: a town! It's dilapidated wooden buildings were overgrown with vegetation, trees and vines growing right through what was left of some of the roofs and windows. Trees and weeds had grown up out of the middle of the streets as well, though it was still easy to discern the layout of this once thriving community. It was a ghost-town all right and Mars was walking right down Main Street.
(to be continued.)
Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: Scherer@tesserak.net