End of the Line
© By Gary Morton (1000 words)

   Jack had been driving so long the haze seemed like cataracts on his eyes. Clouds of neon and he was driving in the sky, feeling all right as long as he didn't stop. At the wheel he had power and freedom. When he pulled over he had only the commands - Janet's commands. He glanced at her, finding her eyes aglow with garish light. She was like a female satyr - coarse, sexually demanding and unbelievably cruel.

   It was fatal attraction; she was a femme fatale. When he’d fallen for her he’d fallen in deep, and he didn't have to think to know he'd never get out. The things he'd done for her were so terrible his eyes welled with tears at the thought.

   STOUVILLE NEXT EXIT was on the sign, and Jack caught the gleam in Janet's eyes. It reflected everywhere, making the endless lights stars, broken glass and razor blades. She'd want to stop and do it in Stouville. He knew without asking. He didn't want to think about it but he had to - the thoughts twisted in his mind like an energized snake. Only now while he was driving could he make a decision. Only now could he defy the power. It was amazing he hadn't done it before. The way it was she‘d sing to him like a siren and he’d always get back behind the wheel. The spell had kept him drifting from town to town - hell, they'd done the entire Eastern seaboard before heading west in Canada.

   Highways went on forever. When he was a kid the shopping malls went on forever. It was all in haze, but now it could be more - for Janet, Stouville would be the end of the line. A glance at her and she was turning to him. He knew she hadn't read his thoughts. Of course not. She was insensitive; her power was in commanding him. If she could read minds she‘d be different.

   The exit was ahead, a darker funnel of exhaust in the haze. Janet's face went cold and robotic. "Turn off at Stouville," she commanded.

   Coming around the bend they burst out of the haze. Janet crackled with life, looking around, edgy in her seat, waiting for it to happen. A dinner was on the roadside ahead, and it came up so fast it seemed to jump out at them.

   "Pull in," Janet said, even though a police car was in the lot.

   The place was the Little Red Dinner to be exact, and the police cruiser was pulling out. As Jack rolled up to the big front window he remembered his decision -- Stouville, end of the line. He bit into it like it was an electric eel or something he could suck power from, and the confusion made him doubly nervous and excited. He hoped Janet wouldn't notice. He wanted his defiance to be a surprise, something to really hit her with in the end.

   Inside he ate a piece of apple pie, giving the honey-blond waitress occasional smiles. She was a highway whore, no doubt about it, but he liked the place. It had a jukebox with a front like the grill of a big truck. An old Neil Young song floated from it, making for an easy atmosphere; it was almost like being in the haze on the highway, or it would've been if it weren't for Janet glaring nastily from the Jaguar.

   Janet had that bitch look, and he could see the waitress giving her suspicious glances. Then he noticed he was the only patron left in the dinner. "Damn!" he said with a mouthful of apple pie as he realized that Janet would take advantage of the situation.

   "Something wrong with the pie?" the blond said, stepping over.

   "Yeah," he said as he received Janet's command. "I'll show you." From under his nylon jacket he pulled a noose, and with incredible speed he bolted over the counter. He had the rope around her neck quick enough to choke off her second scream. Pulling it tight he began to drag her, kicking and struggling to the parking lot. She shattered the glass door with her heel as they went out, and her dress got torn, but generally Jack found her very easy work.

   It was neon heaven; the lights filled him with animal joy. Now was the time for his surprise, and he wasn't let down. Janet commanded him to bring her to the car, but he refused - yelled back at her defiantly. "I'm going to do it here baby! Get out and watch! It's Stouville, end of the line!"

   A heel hit him in the groin; the waitress was still fighting him. He flattened her with a couple punches, then he went over to Janet. She was devastated, sitting in the car frozen, her eyes as dead as mica. Carefully, proudly, Jack led her from the car, and they were in the haze clouds until he gently put her down beside the waitress.

   Jack put his hand on the noose, and with his free hand he took out a Tanto blade. "Now you're going to watch me do it, Janet. Then there'll be no escape, baby. Not this time. This time we'll sit and wait. It's Stouville, end of the line."

   And that's how it was - Jack did his thing and they sat and waited. It truly was the end of the line because the next car to arrive was a police cruiser. Yet it didn't end right then; the lone cop got out and went weak at the knees. The vision was ghastly; a man sitting in the blood pooling from a corpse, and arguing with an inflatable rubber doll, calling it Janet. In the neon it was just too unreal; it hazed to spots in his eyes and put him down.

   Then Janet watched as Jack put the noose around his neck and threw the rope over a lamp post.  Moths swirled in the yellow light, darkness was beyond, and the last meal was blood and flesh for the rats … at the end of the line.

---The End ----


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