One of the things I love to do, as both a witch and an author is travel the back roads of America. A lot of forgotten history can be found if you just know where to look. One summer right after I graduated I packed my clothes and Sheba (my German Shepherd) into my ’66 Mustang and headed west for the summer before starting a new job.
The trip was fun but largely uneventful until I reached San Felipe Pueblo, New Mexico, a place that hadn’t even been on my original itinerary. I spent the evening in a small motel and during the night I had terrible nightmares full of demons and other creatures I don’t care to talk about. Suffice to say there was a lot of fire, brimstone and human sacrifice. I awoke early with a hangover-like headache, a burn scar on my arm I still can’t explain and something screaming in my head to go to Hagan, an abandoned city north of San Felipe Pueblo.
I stopped to at the local diner to grab some breakfast and order a picnic lunch, then headed north, the Mustang’s engine rumbling confidently, Sheba leaning out the window with her tongue hanging out. But as we got closer, we started to feel a chill in the air, even in New Mexico summer. Cool enough that Piper curled up on the seat and I turned on the car’s trusty heater to try and fight away the strange cold. Even at full blast the temperature barely rose and soon we were both shivering in the cold.
I reached the remains of a road leading out into the wilderness at half past eleven. I shifted the Mustang into low gear and pulled onto the road, wincing as the car’s headers scraped on the rocks and debris of the nearly forgotten road. It wasn’t long before I past the remains of a hotel that time had forgotten. Oddly, the hotel’s VACANCY sign was still lit; the place seemed to still be open. Perhaps it would be a good place to spend the night if I was at Hagan long. I didn’t bother to make a note of the hotel’s location. It would be pretty hard ti miss on my way back to the main highway.
The Mustang rumbled and bounced its way down the ancient road and I eventually found myself on what was left of Main Street, Hagan. I slowed and parked in front of a crumbling general store and slipped out of the Mustang, shrugging into my black biker jacket as I surveyed the area. Most of the buildings seemed to have been ruined, either by some catastrophe or time and neglect. In the New Mexico sun the buildings should have looked almost exactly as they had in the 1800’s. My gut told me that this place more than it seemed and that the city being destroyed wasn’t a natural occurrence.
I whistled for Sheba, who leapt from her window and the two of us began our investigation of the abandoned town. At first we came across very little; fallen buildings abandoned in a hurry, the occasional sign of a transient, nothing of any interest that would explain the strange dream I’d had.
Finding little but broken bottles and 4X4 tracks, we stopped a few hours later in the shade of a fallen power station and shared some cold fried chicken and potato salad. Sheba is the only dog I have encountered who is smart enough not to eat chicken bones.
It was while we were enjoying our repast that the first strange thing happened. My Mustang, Bluie’s, doors have a very distinctive squeak I have never been able to get rid of, and I heard both doors open, one after the other. Annoyed someone would dare mess with the Beast I ran towards the car, Sheba right by my side. We reached the car less than a minute later and she sat there with both doors and her hood open. I snarled under my breath and drew the six inch Cold Steel knife from it’s sheath at my hip and approached the car. She was empty, but someone had done a good job with the ignition, both in the car and under the hood. I growled again at the damage to my baby and turned to again survey the area. The ground was too hard for them to have left any tracks and there was no sign of anyone. Just the whistle of the wind and the strange bitter cold when it should be in the nineties or worse.
“Sheba! Guard!” I ordered, waving at my beloved familiar. Sheba immediately took up station about six feet from the rear corner of the car, her ears pricked, her eyes searching the ruins. Confident no one would be stupid enough to approach us with a 120 pound German Shepherd on guard, I popped the trunk and pulled out my tools. That is the great thing about old cars. They have big engines and big trunks, and I keep mine well stocked. As my friend Gary likes to say, I am not a “normal” girl.
It took me almost three hours to Get Bluie back into running condition. Whoever had done the damage had known what they were doing, even taking the distributor cap. I guess they didn’t count on a little girl having a trunk full of spare parts and the know-how to put everything back. I can even time that car by ear. No timing gun needed.
I started the car and revved the engine, letting whoever was out there know she was running and I wasn’t afraid; 365 horsepower tends to make a lot of noise. I then turned her around and backed her into the ruins where she would be harder to get to. I locked the doors and hood pins and stepped back out onto main street to stand next to Sheba. I rubbed her behind the ears and took a knee.
Sheba whined once and sniffed in the direction of a small building, maybe a store or telegraph office that was still intact. I nodded and whispered “Good girl!” before straightening and walking forward. Sheba stood and followed, her ears working like old fashioned radar.
The small building was one story and barely big enough to park my car inside. It was made of brick, with two boarded up windows and a wide-open front door. I pulled my knife again and stepped into the gloom. It took my eyes a few moments to adjust, but what I couldn’t see my nose detected easily; the smell of death and decay. I waited until I could see, and the room swam into focus. Someone had been using it as a campsite. A fire ring had been built on the floor and it was filled with ash and rusted food tins, probably from the general store. Sprawled next to the ring were two corpses, a man and a woman. By the looks of them they had been dead about a week. Sometimes a forensic science degree is a bitch.
I checked them both anyway, knowing they were beyond my help but feeling the need. It was the work of but a moment to find that their throats had been cut with a jagged blade, slowly and not exactly what anyone would call clean. The couple had bled out, holding hands.
I said a blessing over their bodies and checked them for any identification. The man had a wallet that contained nothing but a driver’s license; the woman’s purse was missing, which I found odd. Even I carry a purse.
I was still looking through the debris when a shadow fell across the door, just for a moment. I spun and drew my knife, but Sheba was off like she’d been fired from a gun, snarling and barking in fury. I ran after her, my bootheels ringing in the hard-packed street. I was in time to see Sheba round the corner at the end of the street and I followed, skidding to a halt when I came across my shepherd turning in circles and sniffing the ground in puzzlement.
“Where’d he go, Shebs?” I asked.
Sheba whined and chuffed, her nose searching the ground and then the sky.
I frowned and surveyed the area. The building to our left was nearly destroyed and what was left was a sheer climb to the second floor. To our right was open desert leading towards distant foothills. Whoever it was had simply disappeared into thin air. I hate it when that happens.
I sighed and turned back towards the building that housed the deceased, whispering “Come!” to Sheba as I did. She whined in annoyance at losing her prey but followed obediently.
When I got back to the building I got the shock of my life; both victims were gone, leaving nothing but some blood stains and the fire ring. Even the food tins were gone.
“What the hell?” I muttered.
I searched the area around the building as well as inside. I found booted footprints in the old blood, but the disappeared just outside the door.
By this time it was getting late and I had no desire to spend the night in the creepy ruins. I gathered my things and headed back to the Mustang. She was sitting right where I left her, but when I opened the trunk to drop off my backpack, I got my second shock of the day; both of the bodies had been stored neatly among my belongs, pressed together as if spooning…
To be continued…
As always, I am a purveyor of fiction by trade. Perhaps these are just the ravings of an overactive imagination… or maybe the world is far weirder than most want to believe. I leave that decision up to you.