The Man that Lived in the Middle of Nowhere

February 25, 2011
The story of Darius Franklyn began on a long, winding roadway, unused and forgotten. It traveled through a place many would consider, literally, nowhere—not a building, it seemed, existed for dozens of miles around. The occasional wilting mesquite tree or bony saguaro cactus dotted the arid desert.

On that particular day, a torrential downpour drenched the thirsty land; the air was heavy with humidity and unforgiving thunderstorm clouds obscured the sky above. Lightning struck the air, tasting, feeling, retreating. Thunder roared its mighty roar. Blinding water droplets formed themselves into soaking spears and hurtled themselves towards the earth, splitting the air around them with intense ferocity. The deafening wind howled at it all.

Fading headlights attempted to pierce through the wet haze, and a puttering old Chevy truck fought its way through the heavy rainfall. Water streamed down the sides and the windshield of the truck while the wipers fought uselessly against the rain.

Inside, a young man sat forwards on his seat, concentrating on trying to see the road ahead. In his lap sat a blank GPS, long ago forgotten. The screen flashed a “no signal” banner.

Darius Franklyn couldn’t believe his awful luck. A third-year college student, he was planning to spend the summer with his family, and that meant a six-and-a-half hour drive through the desert southwest back from his college.

‘Well, ain’t a desert right now, for sure,’ Darius bleakly thought to himself. He was driving only through inertia—the downpour had soaked his tired Chevy for the past forty-five minutes. The harsh conditions had slowed him down until all he could do was muster a crawl through the torrent.

Besides trying to ensure that his truck stayed on the skinny road, Darius forced himself to look for buildings that looked like possible shelter. He was hungry, tired, had a headache, and full of quit. The next building he saw, he was going to stop and get the h*** out of this cr*p. Surely the storm would falter by morning? What time was it now, anyways? Morning, afternoon, midnight? Darius couldn’t care less. He didn’t even know which state he was even in—all he knew was that his stupid GPS couldn’t pick up a signal and he was pretty d*** lost.

‘Even a frigging satellite can’t find where I am right now,’ Darius said to himself. ‘Piece of junk.’

Frustrated, Darius let his head fall and bang against the faded vinyl steering wheel. He forced his head back up. A shadow among the rain loomed ahead, next to the road.

“No way,” Darius breathed. It was a building. He floored the accelerator, churning up wet gravel behind as the truck lurched erratically forward. Not noticing a chink in the road, Darius drove straight off the asphalt as the Chevy suddenly slammed nose-first into a muddy ditch.

Darius swore loudly. He wiggled his arms, his legs, and slowly rolled his head around his neck. He didn’t break a bone—good. Looking up, he could still see the building just a little ways up the road. The lower half of the windshield was cracked and caked in wet mud. The driver’s side door was jammed inwards.

Slowly, Darius climbed over the console and opened the passenger’s side door, crouching as his head scraped the roof of the truck. Rain immediately let itself in, greeting him with an angry roar. Darius was instantly soaked to the bone. He forced himself to climb out, and rain and wind stung him like he’d never felt before. Darius stumbled, not yet used to solid ground after hours of driving, and fell face-first into the mud. Shivering from the cold, he pushed himself up, wiped away what he could, and ran like a drunken pig towards the building ahead.

When he got there, he realized that he was actually standing in front of a shoddy old shack. No matter, he banged his fist on the wooden door about seventeen times, each more urgent than the one before. His muddy fist was on its way to deliver an eighteenth blow when the door slowly creaked open.

A strange sensation washed over Darius. He did not feel the rain soaking him; he did not feel the wind shoving at him; he did not hear the thunder bellowing into his ear. A bolt of lightning lit the sky on white-hot fire behind him. For a brief half-second, Darius could see into the ever-widening doorway in front of him.

A black shadow stood in the doorway, a silhouette against a bare lamp in the background. Darius jumped back at a pair of cold, hollow eyes staring at him.

“Holy sh—,” he began, startled and frightened.

Lightning gone, rain and wind tearing back at his senses, Darius stared at the dark doorway. He could see nothing. Suddenly, a kerosene lamp was brought up in front of the stranger’s face, illuminating an old man looking at him with concern etched into his face. Wrinkles masked his face and white wisps floated on his head.

“Oh my goodness…” Darius began. It must have been his imagination, those hollow eyes.

The man started, talking loudly over the howl of the wind. “Come in, come in.” He widened the doorway and stepped aside. Darius hesitated.

“Something wrong?”

Darius, shivering, tired, hungry, and miserable, stepped inside, furiously wiping at the water streaming down his face. Droplets scattered themselves on the hard, tiled floor.


Darius: “Um. Hi.”

“Wait here.” The man closed the door behind him, putting the kerosene lamp down and moving away into another room. The rain continued to beat mercilessly on the low roof of the shack. Darius looked around him. He was in a tiny bland room, with a single couch and lamp on a table in the room. Two chairs were placed next to the table. Did that mean that two people lived here?

The man returned with a cup of hot tea. “Sit down.” A chair scraped against the tiles, water flew. The man handed the steaming cup to Darius’ welcoming hands.


The man took a seat in the opposite chair.

Darius took a sip from the white porcelain cup. It stung his lips, burning his tongue, but it felt good.

Darius found his voice again. “So, what’s your name?”

The man answered quickly. “No need for names.”

Darius sat in the chair, taken aback. Well, he decided, no need to be rude and ask any further. Instead, he asked, “Do you live alone?”

The man did not answer, preferring to grunt and ask a question of his own.

“What are you doing out there?”

“On my way to Texas. Road trip. Got lost.”

The man nodded. There was another silence as Darius took another taste of the tea.

The man, again, took the initiative. “Hungry?”

Darius was thankful. The man went into the same other room, through a doorway. It was a few minutes before the man returned.

Darius nearly dropped his cup. The man held, in his arms, two full-sized tires, two smashed car headlights, two dripping windshield wipers, side mirrors, and a muddy grille, detached from a car.

Darius stared.

“Are you kidding? What’s that?”

The man responded with no emotion. “Food. Want some?” Without waiting for a reply, the man set the pile down on the floor and frisbeed one of the tires at Darius.

“What the—” Darius dropped the cup, attempting to catch the tire in both hands. Hot tea spilled all over his jeans, burning him through the denim. The cup smashed onto the tiles below. The tire, heavier than Darius would have liked, knocked him off the chair and onto his back.

He rolled onto his side and got up, holding the tire in one hand.

“What the h*** you think—” Darius stopped. The man was taking bites out of the rubber of the other tire, as if it were beef jerky. When he saw Darius staring, the man shrugged.

“Who are you?” Darius whispered, unsure, hesitant.

The man shrugged again, chewing.

Darius narrowed his eyes. Ignoring the shards of porcelain on the floor and the stinging in his legs from the hot tea, he dropped his tire on the floor and walked through the doorway into the other room.

He found himself in a kitchen. No pots, no stove, no nothing. Just a bunch of closed cupboards and a collection of china sitting on a counter. Moving quickly, Darius opened ever cabinet, drawer, cupboard, anything he could find. Where in the world did that old man get that stuff? What he found in the kitchen, however, horrified him. Darius’ stomach leapt.
Jars and jars of eyeballs, severed fingers, bloody body parts, soaking in green-colored water, sat unmoving in the cupboards. Shocked and sickened, Darius slowly moved away from the cupboards and opened all of the drawers. Heart pounding, he found heaps and piles of randomness: nail clippers, old erasers, rusted scissors, packets of cornbread mix, plastic cups, crumpled paper, bent staples, rolls of tape, snapped pencils, anything random enough to find its way here. Darius breathed in slowly, running a muddy hand through his wet and unruly hair. He could taste the blood pumping through his body. He looked up.
The man was staring at him, unmoving, from the other room. Suddenly, a flash of hollow eyes stabbed another column of fear through Darius’ gut.
No more playing around. It was time to get the h*** out of there.
Darius looked desperately around. There was a backdoor—right there! Darius hit his hip on the outstretched arms of a drawer, shooting a spark of pain through his legs, as he raced across the kitchen. Looking over his shoulder, Darius could see the man dropping the half-eaten tire to give chase.

Reaching the door, Darius tried to open it. It wouldn’t open. He struggled with the handle as the man reached the doorway, smiling. Darius screamed as blood seeped from the corner of the man’s mouth.
Was the door locked from the inside? He had to get out.
Desperate, Darius backed up and rammed his shoulder into the wooden back door, knocking it down and letting the fury of the thunderstorm outside wash its way into the shack. A splinter dug itself into his shoulder.
Rain immediately blinded him, but that wasn’t what was on Darius’ mind. His truck was out front somewhere, and that meant had to circle around the back of the shack. He ran, sloshing wildly through the mud.
Rounding the front, he saw the winding roadway, and further along, he saw the boxy silhouette of his Chevy.
Darius swore again as he ran. How would he get the truck out of the ditch? He looked back. The man was indeed giving chase. The wind whipped at his hair, magnifying his madman appearance.
The next moment, Darius felt a sickening feeling as he lost his balance in the heavy rain and dropped to the mud, engulfing his body in wet muck. Struggling desperately, he pushed himself up once more and attempted to crawl towards his truck. He was sure it was his imagination, but Darius could feel the hot breath of the madman on the back of his neck.
Wiping the streams from his eyes, Darius stared in disbelief. His truck!
A set of tires was missing.
Side mirrors. Gone.
Windshield wipers. Gone.
The missing headlights looked like the hollow eyes he had seen in the doorway.
The missing grille left a gaping hole in the front of the truck, exposing the radiator of the old Chevy. It seemed to be smiling a toothless grin at Darius, mocking, taunting.
“No!” Darius could only scream. “No, no, no…”
He felt a cold, bony hand on his shoulder. He tried to shrug it off.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Franklyn…” a voice whispered from over his shoulder.
“Get off me!”
“You’ll be safe…” the voice continued. “In a jar…”
Laughter. Cruel laughter.
Lightning cracked, thunder bawled. Rain and wind howled, laughing.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback