Song Lyric Sunday – Highway 20 Ride by Zac Brown Band

I immediately thought of two different songs when I posted the theme yesterday – the song I heard when  I thought of the theme, and another long-time favorite.  I was having a hard time choosing between the two, so I asked my fiance for help.  It’s pretty amazing to me how a song can have so much meaning for one person, but it’s only passing good to someone else.

Even as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m thinking of just posting both songs (even though it’s not something I’ve ever done and I really don’t want to do it) because one of them has a deeper meaning for me, but the other one really hit home with my fiance.

The other thing I’ll note is that when I first thought of the theme, I was thinking of happy road trip songs, you know?  But when I really dug into the lyrics and songs I was thinking of,  I realized that they were gloomy and sad.  I’m still going to post them, but just know that I’m apologizing for the mood before I even get started.

So, now that I’m here, I’ve decided to feature one song, but mention the other at the end.  (Why is this post feeling so SoCS today?)

My kiddos got really into the Zac Brown Band a few years ago, so I heard a lot of their music.  While I’m not too excited about country these days, I will admit that I do love these guys.  I love their harmonies and their lyrics.

I had no idea what this song was actually about until I read the lyrics yesterday.  I will say that even as a divorced parent with children, I’ve never really experienced this feeling.  I’ve just always known that my kids were home when they were with me, and they were home when they were with their dad.  I can’t say it’s always been easy, and perhaps my kids feel differently, but I hope they always know that we did our best to keep the status quo for them, even after our marriage fell apart.

So, without further talking, here is my pick for this week.  I hope you enjoy!

Highway 20 Ride by Zac Brown Band
Written by Zac Brown
Lyrics found at AZ Lyrics

I ride east every other Friday but if I had it my way
A day would not be wasted on this drive
And I want so bad to hold you
Son, there’s things I haven’t told you
Your mom and me couldn’t get along

So I’ll drive
And I think about my life
And wonder why
That I slowly die inside
Every time I turn that truck around right at the Georgia line
And I count the days and the miles back home to you on that Highway 20 ride

A day might come you’ll realize that if you see through my eyes
There was no other way to work it out
And a part of you might hate me
But, son, please don’t mistake me
For a man that didn’t care at all

And I drive
And I think about my life
And wonder why
That I slowly die inside
Every time I turn that truck around right at the Georgia line
And I count the days and the miles back home to you on that Highway 20 ride

So when you drive
And the years go flying by
I hope you smile
If I ever cross your mind
It was a pleasure of my life
And I cherished every time
And my whole world
It begins and ends with you
On that Highway 20 ride….

20 ride

20 ride

Highway 20 ride
And I ride


The other song I thought of was Rest Stop by Matchbox 20.  Another great song, but completely different in theme.  I don’t think you can ever go wrong with Rob Thomas, though!

The Song Lyric Sunday theme for this week was to post your favorite road trip song, or a song about road trips.  Please feel free to click the link, read the rules and post one of your own.


The Beach House – Finale

A knock on the front door shattered the silence, and this time, Brandon’s blood ran cold.  The chances of a neighbor hearing what was going on and coming to investigate were slim, considering the distance between each house. It could be a coincidence, but that seemed too far-fetched.  Their fears might have been squashed when it was Walter knocking the first time tonight, but this time, everyone was accounted for in Jen and Walter’s room.

The knock sounded again, just as patient and steady as the first time.

Brandon took a deep breath and slowly walked toward the door, even though everything in his body was screaming for him to ignore it.

“Brandon!” Jane’s scream reverberated through the room just as his hand reached for the lock.  He turned back to see what was going on when he heard another sound that turned his blood to ice.  Whoever was at the door had a key, and before he could move or even react, the door was open and slamming into him, knocking him off balance.  He hit the floor hard and looked up to see a figure hovering over him.

“What the… Professor Graham?”  It was just too weird, and his head flooded with thoughts and questions, all seeking for an outlet at the same time.  Why was he here?  Did Walter not turn in his Psyche mid-term?  Why would a professor chase them down during Spring break for a missing assignment?  How the hell did he even know where they were?

“Good evening, Brandon.”  Graham’s voice was smooth and steady as if they were on campus, passing each other on their way to class.

He stood above Brandon wearing black slacks, a grey polo shirt and gloves.  Brandon’s eyes didn’t want to see what those gloves were holding, but they did, and it was pointed directly at him.

The questions roiling around inside Brandon’s head increased, but he couldn’t latch onto one of them long enough to actually speak it.  He just sat on the floor, his eyes moving from Graham’s eyes to the gun pointed at him and back again, his mouth working but nothing coming out.

“You must have questions.  I can see them in your eyes.”  Graham’s voice was still smooth and strangely pleasant.

Still, Brandon couldn’t speak.

“Come, come, Brandon.  We don’t have all night.  I’ve waited quite a while as it is.”  His smile made chills run across Brandon’s neck and down his arms.

When he finally did speak, it came out in a croak and seemed like the lamest question he could have asked.  “H-How did you get here?”

Graham’s smile widened and he let out a small chuckle. “Oh, you didn’t think your cousin really had a beach house, did you?”  Not waiting for a response from Brandon, although he would have been disappointed, Graham twitched the gun in the direction of Walter and Jen’s room.  “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to see everyone.”

Brandon’s eyes widened but he didn’t move.

“Brandon, please lead the way.”  Graham’s voice was still pleasant, but it had an edge to it that wasn’t there before.

It took everything Brandon had to move his leaden body and heft himself off the floor.  Feeling helpless, and not knowing what else to do, he walked toward the bedroom, Graham right behind him, pointing the way with his gun.

As they walked, it seemed that the bubble he’d been enveloped in since Graham slammed the door open suddenly burst and the sounds in the house flooded his senses.  Jane was still screaming and he could hear Walter now, too.

Jane’s frantic voice was yelling, “Brandon, what’s going on?  We need you in here!”

Walter was saying, “Breathe baby, please breathe!”

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.  He saw Jane appear in the bedroom doorway and he watched her eyes register surprise that he was walking toward her and then shock when she took in Graham and the gun.  Her hands flew to her mouth to stifle a scream.

“Jane, Jane,” Graham’s voice soothed.  “There’s no need for all of that.”  Using the gun to, once again, point the way, he said, “We’re all going to have a little chat in the bedroom.”

Jane slowly lowered her hands to her sides and as Brandon came up alongside her, he grabbed the one closest to him and squeezed it.  He was scared shitless, but they were in this together, and he needed her to stay strong with him, if that was even possible.

Walter was performing what looked like CPR on Jen and didn’t even look up as they all filed into the room.  Brandon and Jane moved over by Walter, but Graham took a stance in front of the door, the gun leveled in the center of the room.

“Walter!” Professor Graham cried.  “How are you, my friend?  I see you’ve done your job rather well.”

Walter’s head jerked up.  “Professor Graham?”  He seemed as surprised as both Brandon and Jane had been.  “What the fuck is going on?”  He looked from Brandon to Graham, not comprehending.

“Walter, such language.  There’s no need to lose all sense of propriety.”

The strangeness of Graham chiding Walter for his language hit Brandon like a ton of bricks, and the laugh that burst out of his mouth was a surprise to everyone, including him.

Graham chose to ignore it. “I see you’ve snapped out of your trance… rather rudely, I’d say.  I assume that was your doing, Brandon?”  Graham was pointing at the red mark still swelling on Walter’s chin.

At first, Brandon was lost, but then the images came flooding back to him – Walter running into the water alone; Walter coming back into the house alone; Walter not talking to anyone; Walter strangling the life out of Jen and then not remembering what the hell he’d done.  According to Graham, it was some kind of trance?

“I see you don’t quite believe me.  I probably wouldn’t, either, if I was in your position, but here; let me demonstrate.”  He turned back to Walter and said in a clear, plain voice, “Forty-two.”

Brandon was staring at Graham in disbelief.  What a crock of shit, he thought.  He felt Jane’s hand squeezing his and he looked at her, but she was staring at Walter.

Brandon looked over and watched as Walter’s entire demeanor changed.  A shadow floated across his eyes and he turned back to Jen.  Looking down at her with an empty expression riding his face, he slowly reached his hand out to feel for a pulse.  He must have felt something, but instead of continuing CPR, Brandon watched in growing horror as his best friend’s hands wrapped slowly around her neck and began to squeeze.

“Walter, stop!”  Jane screamed.

Brandon let out a grunt of anger and lurched forward only to be stopped by Graham’s voice.

“The deed is done, son, and you’ve helped quite enough tonight.”

The explosion of the gun reverberated through the room.  Brandon stared at Graham, the realization slowly dawning that the gun was pointing in his direction.  He didn’t feel himself fall, but suddenly he was looking at Graham’s shoes rather than his face.  He heard Jane yelling from far away and then his world faded to black.


Jane was horrified.  She knew she was screaming, but the only thing she could hear was the gun exploding over and over again, even though she knew Graham had only shot once.  She realized she had fallen next to Brandon, but reality was slipping beyond her reach.  She didn’t want to know that her reality had turned deadly.  First Jen and now Brandon…  Why was this happening to them?

In her shock, it took a few minutes to realize that a soothing voice was speaking into her ear and strong arms were wrapped around her.  For one crazy second, she thought it was Brandon.

“Jane, Jane.  I know this is hard, but it will all be over soon.  I didn’t want it to start this way for us, but there was no other way.  Soon, we will be alone; just you and me.”

Jane’s horror was palpable as she realized that it wasn’t Brandon holding her, but it increased to a terrifying degree when she realized what Graham was actually saying.  He was on his knees in front of her, holding her, rocking her like she was a child, for God’s sake!

All the heat left her body but she refused to give him the satisfaction of shivering.  She was surprised at how fast her tears dried up as she took every ounce of strength and hatred she could muster and shoved her hands into him.  “Get your filthy hands off of me, you sick fuck!”

She didn’t push him very far, but she felt better now that she was back in the present, her thoughts clearer than they were a minute ago.

Graham didn’t seem fazed by her outburst. He pulled her back to him, holding her harder this time, both hands wrapped around her upper arms as he continued speaking to her in a smooth, steady voice.

“I know this is hard, but it will be over soon.  I promise.  Just stay with me, honey.”  He pronounced the last few words by giving her a small, sharp shake.

She was working up a plan to escape that involved kicking, biting, scratching… really anything to get away from the maniac who had her in his grip, but before she could begin, her eyes were caught by movement off to her left.   She glanced over in time to watch Walter pick up the discarded gun next to Graham, hold it to the side of his head and pull the trigger.

It took everything Jane had not to scream her fucking head off as blood and other things splashed across her face.  The hands that had been holding her slowly released their grip, and she heard a thud, but she refused to look.  Her ears were ringing, and she yelled, “Oh my God, Walter.  Oh my God!”  She was still staring at Walter, avoiding the mess in front of her like her life depended on it.  She would not look.  She would. Not. Look! The tears that had dried up just a few seconds ago started to well up again.

Walter’s eyes were dazed and she thought she’d lost him to shock, but he said, “We need help, Jane.  Like right now!”

“Walter!”  Jane cried again.  Realizing that they both probably needed simple questions, she started with, “Are you okay?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“How’s Jen?”

“I don’t know.  Slight pulse, maybe.”  He went to run his hands through his hair, realized he was still holding the gun and dropped it quickly on the carpet.  He looked up at her, stunned but still here.  “I don’t know what happened.  One second I was gone and then… it must have been the gun.  Fuck, is Brandon…?”  The question died before it began, but Jane didn’t want to ask it either.  So much for simple questions, she thought.

“I don’t think the phones work.”  She finally managed to pull herself to her feet, keeping her eyes focused on Walter.  They both needed to keep the shock at bay so they could get help.  “I’ll run to the next house.  You stay here and do what you can for them.”  The last words were shaky as the tears that threatened came ever closer to bursting out of her.  She held them at bay, but just barely, by telling herself she could cry later.

She was walking toward the door when Walter’s voice stopped her.

“Be careful,” he said.

It was such a strange thing for him to say after the night they’d just had.  Not knowing how to respond, she just nodded her head once and walked out of the bedroom.

A blast of cool, pre-dawn air hit her as she raced out the front door and for one second, she felt like she’d been bathed in fresh hope.  Everything was going to be okay.  It just had to be.

I have to give credit where credit is due and I’m not sure this would have happened if I hadn’t read Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge for this week – a vacation.  It reminded me of the story I started last year and never finished.  So, I decided to pull it out, dust it off and finally give it an ending.  If you haven’t read the whole thing and want to, I re-posted it this week, starting on Sunday.  I was way over the word count at 2,023 words (even more so if you consider the whole thing).  This is the longest story I’ve written to date and I’m pretty happy with it.  I hope you enjoyed it as well!

The Beach House – Parts 4 and 5 (Re-Post)

Part 4

After slamming the door to her bedroom, Jen started pacing. She was shivering and the walls felt like they were thumping in time to her heartbeat, closing in on her and retreating with each pounding beat. She knew she should change out of her wet clothes but she felt stuck and the more she thought of reaching for her bag and pulling out dry clothes, the faster she paced.

She’d never known Walter to act like he had on the beach. He was always the happy, carefree one; always finding a joke in whatever was happening, but on the beach, he had stared at her so strangely. He hadn’t even flinched when the sand flew into his face and swirled around his head.

The weight of her thoughts kept pushing her from one end of the bedroom to the other, back and forth in a steady pace as if the monotony would help calm her thoughts.

The bang on the door rattled the room and made her catch her breath. Her head flew around, expecting to see the door flying open and Walter standing in the doorway, but it was closed. Thank God she’d had the presence of mind to turn the lock.

“Go away, Walter. I’m still mad at you.”


She kept her eyes on the door, wondering if he would listen to her and go somewhere else or if his strange behavior would continue. After staring at the door a few more minutes without hearing another sound, her eyes started wandering around the tiny room and stopped on a small shelf she hadn’t noticed when she dropped her bags off earlier.

It looked empty and she was about to look away when she realized there was something on it. She had to tell herself more than once to move forward, but she finally stepped toward the shelf and reached up. It was just high enough that she couldn’t quite get a grip on whatever was up there, so she pushed it with her fingertips until it fell off the shelf and landed on the hardwood floor with a soft thud.

It was a book.

Picking it up, she brushed away dust that had settled on the top of it. The outside was leather and there was an elastic strap wrapped around it, holding it closed. There were no markings on it, so she couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but if she had to venture a guess, she would have said it was a journal of some sort. She turned it back and forth in her hands, weighing the decision of whether or not to open it.

She glanced toward the door, but the only things she could hear were the faint sound of the not-too-distant ocean and the creaks of an old house settling in the night. She knew sleep wasn’t happening any time soon, so she started unwrapping the band as she slowly made her way to the bed.

Sitting down, she opened it to the first page and realized her guess was correct.

It was a journal, and the handwritten words were strewn sporadically across the first page. She flipped a few pages and saw that the words were less and less organized the farther she went. Sometimes the writing was neat and precise and at other times it was large with only a few words on each page. Those stood out the most and she couldn’t help but read them as she turned the pages.




The more she read, the more horrified she became. She flipped all the way to the end but the last few pages were empty. Not knowing why, she turned back to the very last thing that had been written.

“I have this strange feeling that it will happen today. The water is calling me. It surrounds me in my dreams and I hear it rushing towards me during the day. I can hear it even now as I sit here writing this. I don’t want to die, but he has other plans. There was never any hope for me. What is hope, after all, but a fleeting dream that evaporates in the cold light of reality. His reality…”

Jen was mesmerized by the final words that somehow seemed to fade off the page. She was turning the pages back to start from the beginning when another bang fell on the door, only this time there was more force behind it and she heard wood splintering.

The book fell out of her hands as she jumped to her feet, her heart skittering in her chest. Another bang and the door split from the lock and slammed back against the wall. Her eyes opened wide as she watched Walter race toward her and grab her throat with both hands, lodging a scream on its way out so the only sound that escaped was a pitiful screech.

She flailed her hands, trying to grab onto his arms, scratching and clawing at his vice-like grip as it continued to squeeze tighter and tighter. Not finding escape, she started reaching her hands behind her, on the bed, anywhere she could feel, but there was nothing there. Her eyesight was going black around the edges and the scream she wanted to release through her mouth echoed through the crevices of her brain after finding no release.

Realizing she wasn’t going to force Walter to let her go, she tried one last thing. Her eyes met Walter’s, hoping her plea for mercy was written in her eyes and that it would translate into his. What she saw was Walter, the man she loved, but Walter was no longer behind the eyes that stared back at her with a vacant expression.

Her eyesight was a small pinhole in a pool of black and Jen watched as he tilted his head to the side and squeezed even harder. She felt a single tear fall out of her right eye and slide down her face before her world finally went completely black.

Part 5

Brandon knew Jane was right. He didn’t want to stay here any longer than necessary at this point, but he knew leaving in the middle of the night wasn’t the best option either. None of them had slept much.

“Babe, I know it’s tough, but let’s try and get a little more sleep and we’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

The look she threw his way spoke volumes. She wanted to leave now.

He let out a deep sigh and settled back against the headboard. Their eyes held, however, not so much a battle of wills, but a resignation of commitment and love, each realizing the other’s argument had validity. Brandon opened his mouth to speak when he heard the crashing door from the next room. Instead of what he was going to say, he exclaimed, “What the hell?”

Without a word, Jane was on her feet running toward their bedroom door, Brandon not far behind.

Walking into the other bedroom was like stepping into an alternate universe, one where his good friend Walter strangled his girlfriend after a tiny squabble. He wasn’t sure if the ringing in his ears was shock and he didn’t take the time to figure it out. His world had narrowed to one thing and one thing only. He had to stop Walter.

He knew Jane was screaming for Walter to let Jen go, but it was all so far away. Seeing that her screams hadn’t even phased him, Brandon knew what had to be done and before he could think or try and talk himself out of it, he ran up to Walter and punched him as hard as he could. His punch landed somewhere on Walter’s cheek and his head snapped to one side, but his hold on Jen didn’t budge. Despite the throbbing that was already starting in his knuckles, Brandon did it again and this one connected squarely with Walter’s chin.

Walter’s eyes rolled in his head and his grip finally loosened on Jen. Brandon threw his weight into Walter and they both went hurling toward the bed.

“Walter, what the hell is wrong with you, man?” Brandon knew he was yelling, but all the sound still seemed to be coming through a filter. He was holding Walter by both shoulders, ready to throw another punch if his friend showed any signs of continued violence.

But Walter looked dazed. He shook his head and grabbed at his face, working his jaw. He finally met Brandon’s eyes and said the one thing Brandon wasn’t expecting.

“What’s going on? Why’d you hit me?”

“Are you fucking serious?” Not knowing what to think of his friend, he decided that was the least of his worries.

He looked over at Jane who was now holding Jen, rocking back and forth and crying. He shoved his friend away and scrambled over to Jen.

“Did you feel for a pulse? Is she breathing?”

“I don’t know. God, Brandon, is she okay?” Jane didn’t seem to be doing any better than he felt. Only knowing what he’d seen in movies and television, he placed his hand on Jen’s already purpling throat and was shocked when he felt the thump-thump of her pulse against his fingers. He leaned down next to her mouth and felt small breaths coming in and out.

“Thank God!”

“She’s breathing?” Jane asked in a small, tight voice.


Finally, he looked back at Walter who was still crumbled on the floor next to the bed. He still looked dazed and confused, which pissed Brandon off.

“Walter, you’d better explain. ‘Cause right now, I’m ready to call the cops and turn you in. I don’t care how long we’ve been friends.”

Walter finally met Brandon’s eyes and then his eyes slid down to Jen. “Brandon…” His voice came out in a strangled croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I… I don’t know, Brandon.”

“That’s not good enough, Walter. God, do you see what you’ve done? Look at her!”

Walter looked from Brandon to Jen, the confusion never leaving his face. If anything, it intensified.

“What do you mean, Brandon? Do you mean…” He paused, his gaze finally landing on Jen and holding. “I did that?”

Brandon stared at his friend, not really sure what to say. He couldn’t even believe he was playing stupid at this point, having been caught in the act. “Walter, come off it, dude. This isn’t something you can make light of.”

Walter finally sat up and stared Brandon full in the face.

“Brandon, I swear to God, I don’t remember anything. The last thing I remember was running into the ocean. Please, you have to believe me! I didn’t do this… or… fuck… I guess I did, but it wasn’t me. I… I don’t know, man.” It’s like he couldn’t keep his hands still. He ran them through his hair, grabbed at his face, but his eyes held a pleading truth that Brandon had a hard time denying.

But he also couldn’t deny that it was Walter who had almost strangled the life out of Jen.

What the hell was going on?

First the shadow on the beach, then Walter’s weird behavior and Jane’s dream. Now this.

He was silent for a few minutes, listening to Jane trying to wake Jen up with her tear-clogged voice.

Finally, he stood up and started to leave the room.

“Brandon, where are you going?” Jane’s panicked voice called out.

“I’m going to get my phone. I don’t know about you, but this is too far outside my depth. And it’s gone too far.”

He left the room with Walter still dazed by the bed and Jane cradling Jen in her arms. He went into the next room and found his phone lying on the bedside table. When he clicked the button on the side to wake it up, the first thing he noticed was the top left corner. “NO SERVICE” didn’t so much stare at him as it hit him in the gut like a freight train.

Not willing to believe it, he tried to dial anyway. He punched in 9-1-1 and hit the green phone button to send the call but when he put the phone to his ear, it was silent.

The call wasn’t going to go through.

The Beach House – Part 3 (Re-Post)

Jane pulled her knees up and settled next to Brandon on the couch. The only sound in the house was the muffled movement of the ocean outside. The light Jane had flipped on when they came back in the house glared across the room, adding an unnatural feeling to an already strange evening. They were both heavy with their own thoughts, finding comfort in their bodies touching and Brandon’s hand sliding up and down Jane’s back.

The knock on the front door made them both jump, a soft scream erupting from Jane’s mouth. They looked at each other, the fear in Jane’s hazel eyes reflected in Brandon’s icy blue ones.

“Who the hell is that?” Jane’s voice quivered.

“I have no idea,” Brandon said as he stood up. “Stay here, Babe. I’ll go check it out.”

Jane watched Brandon walk out of the room, down the hall, and to the right completely out of view. Her palms started sweating and she felt a sick feeling in her stomach. When she heard the door creak open, she stood up quickly, looking around for something to use as a weapon. When she turned back to the hallway, Brandon was slowly walking back into the room, Walter trailing behind him.

“Walter? What the hell?” Jane looked from him to the glass door that led onto the deck. “Where’s Jen?”

Looking back, she watched Walter shrug as he walked into the kitchen and opened up the fridge.

Jane’s eyes met Brandon’s, but he looked as baffled as she felt. She turned back to the sliding glass door and was relieved to see Jen walking up the steps of the deck. She walked over and opened up the door.

Jen strode through the door without looking at anyone, walked straight through the room and into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Brandon met Jane’s eyes and they both sighed, understanding suddenly dawning.

“You guys had a fight?” Brandon asked Walter.

Walter was on his second glass of water and the only answer Brandon got was a grunt.

“Well, we’ll head to bed so you can sleep on the couch if you want. I think we should all get some sleep. It’s been a long day.”

He walked over to Jane and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go to bed, huh?”

“God, yes. This is just getting weird.”

They walked hand in hand to their bedroom and quietly shut the door behind them.

“We so don’t need those two to be at each other the rest of the week.” Jane walked over to the bed and started rummaging through her bag for her pajamas.

“I’ll talk to Walter in the morning. I’m sure everything will be okay.” Brandon leaned back against the door and watched Jane.

“It’s been such a weird day. What do you think was on the beach?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it was a trick of the light or weird beach phenomenon. I honestly didn’t think I smoked that much on the way down here.”

“You didn’t. And I saw something too.” Jane slumped on the bed and started taking off her shoes.

Brandon walked over and sat down next to her, his hand slowly sliding up her arm.

“How about we get naked and relax a little,” he mumbled as he started kissing her neck, slowly making his way to her lips. She turned her head and melted into the kiss, trying desperately to bring some normalcy to the strange start to their vacation.


Jane was walking down the beach, her bare feet sliding into the sand with each footstep. Dusk was just turning from purple to gray, slowly fading into black and the waves slipped up to the shore and slid back into the ocean, a steady back and forth motion. There was no sound, but Jane felt peace in the silence that surrounded her.

She felt the waves calling her and she walked towards the water, unable to stop. The waves covered her feet and slid back. She took a few steps forward and the next time the waves came up to her knees and slid back. The process continued until the waves reached her shoulders. Her eyes looked steadily forward and the peace she felt became a blanket, blocking out the cold wet darkness that finally covered her completely.

She floated in the water, adrift with the waves as they enshrouded her body, a comforting tomb. The first breath that slid water into her lungs was a relief she welcomed. She wanted this. She was finally home.

Just as her eyes were going dark around the edges, she saw a pale form floating toward her, reaching for her through the murky water.


Jane shot up in bed, a ragged scream echoing through the dark room. She leaned over the side of the bed and vomited onto the floor, her body retching violently. She was soaking wet and each breath she took came too quickly one after the other.

“Babe, are you okay?” Brandon was sitting up in bed, still startled from the scream that had dragged him out of sleep.

Jane was hyperventilating and crying at the same time. “I h-h-had the…  w-w-worst nightmare!” She managed to get out in between racking sobs.

He reached for her and his hands slipped on her skin. “Jesus, Babe, you’re soaked.”

“I… I… I was d-d-drowning in the ocean. But… I wasn’t alone…”

Brandon reached for the blanket at the end of the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. In a gentle voice, he said, “Babe, you need to breathe.” He pulled her toward him and started rocking her, not sure what else to do.

She sobbed for a few minutes longer, trying to take deeper breathes and finally, it started to fade. Once the sobbing stopped, her body started to shake.

“Jane, you’re okay. You’re safe. It was just a dream.” Brandon didn’t know what to say, but he kept repeating what he thought were reassuring words, rubbing her arms, kissing her neck.

Finally, in a soft voice that he could barely hear, she said, “Brandon, I don’t want to stay here anymore.”

The Beach House – Part 2 (Re-Post)

Before anyone else had a chance to react, Walter had thrown the glass door open and was charging out the door, head up, chest out ready to take down the intruder. Jen’s hand wrapped around air when she tried to reach out and stop him.

“Walter, stop! What are you doing?” Her voice trembled and she shivered from the salty breeze blowing in the door.

“Fuck this! I’ll take care of this guy. Then we can enjoy our vacation.”

“Wait up, Dude,” Brandon called as he followed Walter’s retreating form out onto the shadow-filled beach.

Jane, not one to cower behind while the guys took care of things, went out after them. She caught up to them a few yards down the beach, but whoever or whatever Brandon had seen was gone. They were alone with the roiling waves lapping at the shore only a few feet from where they stood. Jane looked a question at Brandon, but he only shrugged.

She looked down the beach in both directions, but it was deserted and from what she could see, there hadn’t been enough time for the figure to make it to the trees surrounding the house. Not only that, the nearest house to theirs was at least a hundred yards away on either side. It was as if the figure had just disappeared or had never been there to begin with.

“Dude, you sure you saw something? Maybe you inhaled a few too many times on the way down here.” Walter was grinning now and punched Brandon in the arm.

“I swear to God, there was someone standing right here.” Brandon was still shaken, not in the mood to just let it all go as some kind of funky high.

“Jen! Come jump in the ocean with me,” Walter called as he ran toward the water, pulling off his shoes as he went.”

“You’re insane,” Jen called back. She walked up to Brandon and Jane, her arms folded across her chest. “It’s not funny, you trying to freak us all out like that, Brandon.”

Jane looked at her friend, her eyes opening wide. “You think he was just playing around?”

“Well, yeah.” Jen shrugged her shoulders and walked forward, ignoring the accusing look Jane was leveling at her.

Jane turned to Brandon, “Let’s go inside. Being out here gives me the creeps.”

“I’m sorry babe. I really did see someone standing out here.” He put his arm around her and they started walking back to the house.

“Hey, guys, I don’t think it’s safe to swim in the ocean after dark,” Jane called back to Walter and Jen.

Silence answered her call but she was too freaked out to wait around for them. They were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, she reasoned, and she continued walking back to the house, held tight next to Brandon’s comforting presence.


Jen ignored Jane and kept walking towards Walter. She was pissed at Brandon for freaking them all out, even if it was just a joke. She’d really believed him; had actually thought she saw a shadow before Walter took off out the door, but when she blinked, it was gone. Now, she realized, it was all just bullshit.

She was watching Walter jump in the waves, laughing like a maniac and she couldn’t help but laugh at his antics. She shook off the irritation at Brandon’s deception and decided to join Walter. She reached down to pull off her shoes and when she had successfully removed one, she looked up, but before she reached for the other foot, she noticed the waves in front of her were empty. Walter was gone.

“Walter?” she called. Her eyes frantically scanned the waves as she hopped on one foot trying to get her other shoe off. When it was finally off, she started forward, continuing to scan the water where she had last seen him. “Walter?” She called again, this time with more force. “Walter, this isn’t funny!” The water was lapping at her feet now and the twinkling stars in the night sky did little to brighten the dark night that had settled on the lonely stretch of beach.

“Walter!” she screamed, knowing her futile cries were doing little to help, but not knowing what else to do. She was just about to run back to the house for help when something cold and hard grabbed her ankle and yanked her off her feet.

A terrified screamed settled on deaf waves as she fell hard on her butt, the iron clamp on her foot dragging her into the waves. Her hands scrambled at sand and rocks that cut into her palms. “Walter, help me!” she screamed, trying to kick at the unseen force with her other foot. The waves crashed up to her chin then receded back into the depths and she knew the next time the waves came, they would carry her with them. She could barely feel her heart crashing into her chest and the tears that were streaming down her face blended with the salty ocean spray.

Just as suddenly as it began, the clamp lifted from her foot and she was free. “Oh, God,” she cried, as she scrambled backwards, away from the strength of the oncoming wave. Once she was safely back on the beach, she fell back and cried, shivering in terror and relief. She knew she had to get back to the house and get help for Walter, but any strength she had was expended in her fight to free herself from the deathly grip dragging her into the waves.

She finally opened her eyes and another scream dislodged itself from her throat and crashed into the silence.

Walter was standing above her, silently staring down at her.

“Walter, what the hell? Where were you? Why didn’t you help me?” His face was lost to the deep shadow of the night, but she continued staring at him, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It finally dawned on her that it must have been him! He was the one dragging her into the ocean as some kind of sick joke and all the terror instantly turned to rage.

“You fucking jerk! It was you!” The handfuls of sand she still held in her fists flew into him, but he continued to stare at her, sand billowing around him with a sudden gust of wind. She picked herself up, shoved him once and turned to head back to the house. “Stay away from me!” She yelled behind her as she stormed back to the house, leaving her shoes behind.

Walter stood motionless as a shadow slid across his face and settled into his coal black eyes.

The Beach House – Part 1 (Re-Post)

I had this brilliant idea last year that I was going to write an on-going story for my blog – each Friday I was going to post something until the story was complete.  I ended up doing pretty well for a while, but around the middle of the story, I realized I had no idea how it was supposed to end.  I kept writing things, but I ended up getting more confused.  After five entries, I stopped altogether because I’d finally reached that critical point where it needed an ending.

I can’t believe it’s taken me a year to pick it back up and give the darn thing an ending!

I re-read the whole thing this morning to help me on my way, but I wouldn’t feel right about just posting the ending without refreshing your memory as well (or for those of you who weren’t around a year ago, reading the whole thing for the first time). I figured I would post parts of it every day, starting today, and post the finale on Thursday.  So, I’ll probably be over-posting this week, but I hope you won’t be sorry.

The Beach House – Part 1

It was a long drive from Greensboro to St. Augustine, but Jane was in good company, classic rock was blaring through the speakers and all the windows were rolled down. It was the best start to a spring break she could ever remember.

When she had hinted at plans, she never dreamed Brandon would come up with something as fantastic as a beach house, much less a “beach mansion” as he so gleefully stated when he told her about it. His cousin swore it was huge and could hold as many as they wanted to bring, but they were only able to talk Jen and Walter into the drive. Oh well, more space for the four of them to either spread out and act like it was a relationship get-a-way or mingle in common spaces for a party of four.

They’d been on the road most of the day and Jane was getting restless. She’d offered to drive several times, but Brandon seemed set on getting them there. Jen and Walter had spent most of the drive wrapped around each other either making out or sleeping. It was starting to wear on her nerves. At least, that’s what she blamed it on. She couldn’t think of anything else that would explain why she felt so jittery.

She reached for Brandon’s hand, feeling better with the skin-to-skin contact. “Hey Babe, how much longer do you think?”

He squeezed her hand as he tilted his head her way and a slow, lazy smile spread across his face. “I’d say an hour at the most. You excited?”

She smiled back at him. “I am. I’m just ready to get out of the car and let these two sex addicts have some privacy.” Her head jerked in the direction of the back seat.

“I resent that!” Jen managed to pull her face away from Walter’s for the short burst, but was right back into it only seconds later.

Jane rolled her eyes and smiled. “God, you two are ridiculous!”

“Hey,” Walter managed, “you guys were just as bad when you first started dating. Now you’re as boring as my parents!”

They all laughed but it wasn’t long before Walter and Jen were back at it.

Jane turned back to Brandon. “You feeling okay?”

His eyes were back on the road but he glanced at her again with a concerned look. “Yeah, why?”
“I don’t know. I just have this creepy feeling that started a while ago and I can’t shake it.”

“We’re almost there. I think you’re just tired. It’s been a rough few weeks with mid-terms and work. We’ll relax in the hot tub as soon as we get there. You’ll be feeling good in no time, I promise.” He wiggled his eyebrows and raised her hand to his lips.

Smiling, she leaned her head back onto the seat and tried to relax.


Dusk was just spilling across the sky as they made their way up the gravel driveway that led to their oceanfront getaway. When they pulled up in front of the house, they all took one look at it then looked at Brandon.

“This is the mansion?” Walter flipped his blond hair out of his eyes and turned to Jen with a wry look on his face.

She giggled as Brandon said, “It’s not like he gave me a picture guys. He just said a beach mansion. His words, not mine.”

“Well, if this is a mansion, my dorm room must be paradise.” Walter was laughing now and almost doubled over at his own joke.

The house or cottage or whatever the hell it was didn’t look like it would hold the four of them. It sat huddled against the dense trees that hid the ocean and looked as if it had seen many years of humidity and ocean spray. The once-red paint was chipped and fading and the screen door looked like it was barely hanging on.

Jane was about as impressed as they all were, but it had been a long drive and she was beat. She didn’t care if she slept in a shack at this point. She just wanted to lie down in a comfortable bed after a shot or two of vodka and spend a few hours making love before falling asleep to the sound of the ocean.

“Well, it might not be a mansion, but it’s our home for the next week. Might as well make ourselves comfortable.”

She stepped out of the car into the humid night air, took her bag out of the trunk and started walking to the front door. She walked about halfway before turning back to the party still standing by the car.

“You guys coming, or what?”

They all gathered up what they could carry and headed inside, determined to make the best of their mansion-turned-cottage-but-still-on-the-ocean. None of them noticed the dark sedan that slowly crept up the driveway and stopped a few yards away from their car.

Once inside, they made their way through the house, luckily finding two bedrooms that would accommodate each couple. After depositing their luggage in their respective rooms, they made their way to the back of the house and the deck that led onto the beach. They all stood mesmerized by the ocean as its waves danced along the shore in a spectacular greeting.

Brandon was standing behind Jane with his arms around her. As he leaned his face into her long, brunette curls, she jumped up, bumping his nose with her head.

“What is it, Babe?” Brandon asked.

“I don’t know. I thought I saw something over there.” Her hand shook as she pointed off to the side of the house.

Brandon leaned past her, closer to the window, trying to see what she was pointing at. His body tensed against her and his voice came out strained.

“Guys, I don’t think we’re alone.”

The Equal Amateur

As ever, the amazing Chuck Wendig has put forth a challenge this week,  the Random Title Challenge.  I actually used a random number generator and rolled #2.  I wasn’t sure how to get it to work and even thought about using one of the other titles, but with some amazing input from real life on Saturday – everything from flat tires to people watching at an all day concert – I was able to come up with something. It is 995 words and I hope you enjoy.

The Equal Amateur

Driving in the dead of night on a two lane highway is like the typical death story those who make it back tell – a shining light up ahead with ghostly darkness all around. The only difference is the occasional glare of on-coming head lights highlighting the yellow tick-ticking of the lane marker rushing by.

Thank God she isn’t alone, even if her companion is snoring in the passenger seat, drool seeping out the corner of his mouth to land on his sticky tank top. He almost sleeps more soundly now than he did when he was a baby. She takes in the dark brown waves framing his teenage-blemished face and sighs in wonder at how quickly time has passed.

Not so, the trip. Driving for three days is no joke, but their destination is fast approaching, only about eight hours away. Abby glances in the rear view mirror and fiddles with the radio. She hasn’t been able to get anything but static since the sun went down. She sighs and goes back to other ridiculous techniques that just might keep her eyes open but most likely not.

Her thoughts are on maybe pulling off to the side of the road to take a nap when the car does a strange lurch and a weird grating noise from the front right lets her know the tire has gone flat. It takes some maneuvering, but slowly letting off the gas and turning the car slightly to the right, she eventually comes to a rumbling stop on the side of the deserted highway.

“What’s going on?” Aaden’s voice is thick with sleep and he’s rubbing his eyes, slowly straightening from his hunched position.

“We have a flat tire.”

“Do we call someone? What do we do?”

Abby laughs. “No, buddy. We change it ourselves and hope there’s a gas station not too far away.”

“Seriously? God, Mom! This sucks!”

“Don’t I know it! Come on.”

He sighs as they both get out of the car and head to the back, leaving the doors open to give them some light.

“Have you ever done this before?”

She laughs again. “Well, yes, but damned if I remember.”

Suitcases, blankets, pillows, a heaping pile of junk lands on the dusty roadside in order to accommodate lifting the fake bottom where the spare is stored in the trunk. They spend some time yanking and pulling, trying to lift the tire out. “Maybe if you twist it…” Just as she says it, he starts twisting a screw in the center that holds it in place. She smiles. “We figured that out at the same time.”

He gives her a grunt in response as he pulls the spare out and she grabs for the mechanism she knows will lift the car. She looks at it warily, twisting it this way and that, wondering how the tiny metal contraption is going to manage its purpose. She follows her son to the side where he is already twisting the lug nuts off the flat. For having changed a tire once but Aaden not at all, they seem to be on equally amateurish ground.

He stops what he’s doing long enough to grab the jack out of her hand and before she knows it, he has it under the car and he’s twisting something to make it lift. Maybe he is actually better at this than she is.

“Here, Mom. You do this while I finish getting the lug nuts off.”

Kneeling in the dusty gravel is not an option so she plops down on her butt and starts turning the metal thingy. Is it even working? She can’t tell, but she continues anyway, trying not to think about how creepy night sounds can be on a dark, lonely highway in the middle of the night.

Aaden has the lug nuts off and tries to lift the spare onto the car. “It needs to be higher. Do you want me to take over?”

“No, I’ve got it. It doesn’t seem like I’m even doing anything, but I can hear the car lifting.”


He hefts the flat back to the trunk while she gets up to check the height. She doesn’t realize how heavy a spare tire is and it takes her by surprise. She doesn’t even get it off the ground before Aaden is taking it from her and turning to put it on the car. Feeling useless, she decides to put things back in the trunk and starts to head that way when a shadow moves by the back of the car.

What the hell?

She blinks and freezes in place, her hand gesturing wildly behind her in Aaden’s general direction.

“Aaden!” She whispers anxiously.

She is staring hard at the shadow as it slowly materializes into a form and becomes what she thinks is a man. She feels Aaden behind her and she closes her hand around his arm, using her body to shield him.

“Hello?” Her voice is shaky and she wishes it wasn’t, but she is freaking out. How the hell does a man just appear out of nowhere like that?

The man stands with feet planted level on the ground, his hands folded in front of him. Most of his body is lost in the shadows of his dark clothing blending with the night, but his too pale face looks painted on and he has a halo of black hair surrounding it, falling down past what the darkness allows her to see. What she can see clearly are his eyes – glowing blood-red, shot through with white.

Frantic, she is just about to urge Aaden into the car when the shadow moves. Faster than she can follow with her eyes, he… it… descends on them, lifts them into the air and carries them off. Their screams echo across the inky desolation and blend with the crickets making soft music that floats upward, hovering in the air momentarily before vanishing into the wind.