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John Logan is a writer living in North Carolina. His stories have been published in Horror Library Vol. 1, Dark Distortions Vol. 1 and the forthcoming Our Shadows Speak Vol. 2. He is also a contributing writer at www.horrorlibrary.net. You can reach him at jlogan@inbox.com.

john logan

Golden Hour

There is nothing like a stretch of unhindered pavement at golden hour. The sun starts to set and the whole world -- the one in front of the grill and the one in the rearview -- is somehow different.

The sun begins to drop slowly behind a green mountain.

Quick status check:

Speedometer: 98 and climbing.

Fuel Gauge: Half-Empty.

Oil Pressure Gauge: Broken for years.

Bodies in Trunk: Starting to smell, even with the windows rolled down.

There are tall trees everywhere, invincible sentries blocking my escape from the road. I feel claustrophobic, and pray my next stop is a field somewhere in Indiana, where I can see in all directions at once.

The sun is almost gone, a broken crescent casting long shadows in my direction.

I gun the engine.

***

When I started this road trip I wanted the opposite of a destination. I bought a yellow Plymouth Roadrunner, the cartoon figures on the door faded.

I taped a picture of Sara on the dash, so I canít avoid her sad smile. I put my wedding band in the ashtray among the previous ownerís cigarette butts and take it out when I leave the car. A bottle of J&B in the glove box and a loaded .357 revolver under the seat is the extent of my packing.

Before leaving, I glared at the house, kicking down the For Sale sign and throwing a rock through a bay window. The glass left behind looked like transparent teeth.

I drove through the cemetery three times, but couldnít bring myself to leave the car. I could see the flowers, still mostly fresh but with a few wilted petals and brown blotches on the white lilies.

When I left, I laid a half inch of rubber on the pavement.

***

I blackout when the needle hits 110 and the sun vanishes behind the unknown mountain. I say blackout because I donít know what else to call it. Black may be the absence of light, but I can see a different darkness moving in my blackouts, like shadows overlapping each other.

A pinpoint of light appears, sending rays of brilliant gold, and the overlapping shadows scatter about like roaches scurrying to their holes. The pinpoint roars toward me with the high-pitched squeal of air sucked through a tube. I want to scream but there isnít enough time.

And then Iím driving again, away from the rising sun and toward yet another vanishing point, the golden light propelling me faster than the shrinking shadows around me.

I stop the car. The rearview reveals the morning sun and acres and acres of yellowed sand and rock.

I get out and check the trunk. Itís empty. Iím sweating and realize with some alarm I have nothing to drink.

I get back in the car, turn it around, and drive back toward the sun.

***

The first time I blacked out at golden hour I woke to find myself in York, Pennsylvania, home of air conditioners and Peppermint Patties. In 1967. The second time I woke up in an alley behind a warehouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of beer and cheese. In 1974. The third and fourth time I woke up in some random wilderness in a time that could have been prehistoric for all I knew.

The fifth time I woke up in High Point, North Carolina, home to furniture and pig farms. In 1988. I met my Aunt Edna again, who died when I was 12. I pretended I was still a life insurance salesmen and bought her lunch and told her all about the many plans I used to peddle. I think she enjoyed it. I certainly felt good afterwards.

The sixth time I woke up in a small town in West Virginia, home to marbles, hillbillies and banjos. And my wife. In 1990. She was thirteen.

***

I race to the sun, weeping. Itís almost all the way up past the horizon, the brilliant colors enveloping me, making it impossible to see. I feel like Iím driving into hell. The engine roaring is the howl of the devil. The wind rushing through the windows are screaming souls. The pavement is brimstone, my tears the only moisture I will ever see again.

Iím terrified.

The sun rises, a giant burning hell in the sky. And I can no longer drive into it.

***

I can describe a great many things. I have always had the gift of gab, so to speak. But I was always rendered powerless against my wifeís melancholy.

It began on a random Valentineís Day. We had made love for the third or fourth time, and I was still a little tipsy with the indulgence.

ďTell me about your first time.Ē I asked, stroking her back, moist with sweat. I know now I may have imagined it, but I still feel the gooseflesh on my fingers and the hot sweat turn cold.

She knew about my first time, was present for it. But I knew very little of her early life.

***

I stayed in that West Virginia town for a week. It took me a day or two to find Saraís house and I parked the car outside of the little white bungalow on a half acre wooded lot.

There was music coming from the backyard, lights and loud voices. The smell of alcohol wafted on the cold breeze. An inch or so of dirty snow blanketed the ground.

I killed the engine and walked around the house, hiding. The music became clearer: loud guitars and screaming vocals. The voices I heard were less clear, more slurred.

A group of three or four gangly teenage boys meandered into the house. I heard someone say something about turning the music down before they get caught.

Sara was laying on the ground next to a red plastic cup dribbling yellow onto the snow. She looked so young, so different than the woman I knew, her fresh face freckled and smooth. I think I cried. I donít remember.

The music cut off in the middle of a guitar solo and I jumped off into the bushes. When I looked back, I noticed the teenage boys had all taken their pants off.

They approached Sara. For a split second, my mind told me that these were only messed up kids from poor rural families in a dead hillbilly town.

I ignored it.

I had left the gun in the car, but I didnít need it. My bare hands sufficed.

***

Golden hour again. I wake up in a ghost town in Arizona. Home to nothing. My body is dehydrated. The last time I tried to pee it came out like a sludge and burned like fire. I had drained the Scotch bottle long ago.

The .357 is still loaded, under the seat. Revolvers arenít as fast as automatics, but twice as reliable. It will be okay if I need to use it.

I gun the engine toward the rising sun, hoping to go back.

END