I am so excited to share with you my short story, "The Road That Takes You There." Here's a quick excerpt, which you can listen to me read via the streaming audio above -- or read for yourself below. I sure hope you enjoy it, and thanks as always for your support. - JS
My God, her face…
What happened to her face?
The road stretched out before him in miles of endlessness. It was an old country road, one he had driven countless times before and surely would drive countless times again. He had driven it in his youth as he drove it now as an old man, the road that took him into the city for work each day and the very one that would bring him home again each night. Stalks of corn, also seemingly without end, flanked both sides of the road, mile after mile. He smiled to look upon them, remembering a simpler time when he was knee-high to a grasshopper, when the stalks had seemed to tower over him. Days when he would run through the rows, hide in them, breathing in the sweetness while taking momentary shelter from the sun.
It came as a great shock to George Tinker, the day he saw a break in those vast stretches of yellow and green. A brief reprieve that he was certain had not been there before. The fields seemed to part, as the Red Sea had parted for Moses, that great magician of ancient days, and in its place rested what would come to be the sum of all George Tinker’s fears – a tiny church with a graveyard tucked neatly behind it.
“That wasn’t there yesterday, Martha,” George said, slowing his car at the sight. The passenger seat next to him was empty. “Must be new,” he concluded. George often spoke, out loud, to his late wife Martha. He preferred to pretend she was still with him.
Merrily George rolled along, passing it by, without thinking much of it at first. It was only later, passing it again on his way home, that the first of many questions would arrive.
Who built it? he wondered.
In all his years, the road had not changed, and for that, George was grateful. Now, there was something new. Something unfamiliar.
“That thing doesn’t belong there!” George Tinker shouted out his car window at the church the next morning. Had anyone seen him, bald but for the brush of gray around his ears, they might have laughed at what looked in that moment like the very definition of a grumpy old man. But no one had seen him. No one was there. No one ever was.
“Doesn’t belong,” he hmphed to himself, as if to underline the point. He continued his muttering rant as he tooled on down the road. “Now Martha, you were right when you said there’s a place for everything, and everything in it's place. And that thing… is out. of. place. Meh! The whole world is upside down today.”
He wiped the droplets from his forehead. He was on a roll now. “Cornfield’s ‘posed to be there. Cornfield’s always been there. Now where did that damned place come from? And why is it so small?”
Indeed, the church itself was not quite a building, but more like a single room with a roof overhead. It reminded him of a miniature; some kind of model from an Aroura kit he would have happily put together in his wonder years. Had he built such a model, however, he would surely have painted it more lifelike than it stood, using his brush to blot a little black for dirt upon the church’s window pane, or a deep green moss creeping along the gravestones. Had the site looked more like that, it might not have bothered him so. Instead, the church and the cemetery both stood immaculate. Too clean, he thought. It was like no human hand had ever touched it, much less a body have visited it. And yet, it also seemed to George that the place must have been as old as the road itself, having existed since the dawn of time.
“Now how can that be, Martha?” he asked, to the empty car. “Makes no damned sense.”
By the time George drove by again, later that night, he was fixated. That strange little church with its many headstones was all he could think of. That and the many questions it posed.
“How in the name of God – “ the old man asked himself, taking a closer look at the cemetery from the safety of his car window, “did all these damned graves just pop up over night?”
The graveyard was enclosed by a black wrought iron fence, extending itself to a double-gated entrance where overhead, the word SALEM was sprawled out in black wrought iron letters. Though the house of worship was indeed small in stature, George now realized that the graveyard was not quite as small as he had thought. It was only a trick of the eyes that made it seem so. At close range, he could see dozens, perhaps even a hundred gravestones all lined up in neat little rows.
George drove but just barely, hypnotized by the sight of the place. A full moon had risen directly over those gates, perfectly centered above that lone word welcoming both the undead and the long departed. Staring up at it, George felt a lump rise in his throat, his curiosity waning in the face of blatant fear. He locked his car doors.
Both behind and ahead of him, stalks swayed in the night wind, and yet the churchyard plot lay utterly still. Unmoving. No person would be seen walking by. No cat to be caught crossing its path. Nothing – nothing alive, at least – set foot on the grounds. Nothing dared to tread.
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