“Ashley, don’t you love the rolling hills. Come on, they’re baby mountains. Green trees and fields. This is so much better than couped up in a city.” Eric is trying to see if Ashley is still there. She’s been quiet and staring for an hour.
“It’s the same hills an hour ago, and an hour before that. Little patches of farms. I like to see something. You know with people. I should have known a weekend in woods wasn’t my thing. You remember first bear and I’m out of there. Jenny talked me into this. She didn’t want to be alone with you two idiots.”
The highway twists and turns. The hills are getting big with longer climbs and bigger curves. Large barns and farm houses crown the hills in groups. Cattle and deer fill up fields between them.
Climbing up hill, the engine light comes on. Eric sees it. He’s not sure about problem but knows not to say anything. “Just a sensor” thought slides past his lips. On the back side, the car starts to sputter. The next exit is seven miles distant. The car makes the first half mile.
“What’s wrong with the car? Oh my god, we’re nowhere. You can fix it, right? !” Ashley is a little more than nervous.
“I got to check. It just died. Ashley, it’ll be fine. We have our phones. We’re on a major freeway. If I can’t figure it out.” Eric has no idea about anything under the hood. He just wants to check for phone service out of her sight. It fails.
“Eric..the phone has no signal. NONE! We are stranded. Where are they? Did they leave first out after us. Maybe they can get us.” Ashley panics easily and completely.
To their left is a freeway to the right a field. Across the field of green wheat, a black barn, then a tobacco field with short plants, then a white farm house. Can’t be more than a fifteen minute walk. Hope traffic provides assistance or hope for a landline at the farm.
“Ashley, we can wait. But if I go to that house, they’ll have a phone. I’ll get someone to tie us and fix the car. We’ll be on the way in no time.”
“Do you think I’m starting here? ! No way. I’m going. You better be right. I don’t know why you think people still have phones like that. Maybe in that field, ours will work.”
Hopping the guardrail, the side of the road drops a couple hundred feet, steeply before leaving to a field. Ten minutes later, they have reached the green wheat. They are surprised to find the field is soft and swampy. Their nice new crosstrainers are not looking so good. Jeans are taking on mud on the bottom. And one woman is getting a touch angry. The field looked smaller from above. The soft footing is draining.
“Eric, you said fifteen minutes. It been at least half hour. It’s. .. great the fucking phone has died. We’re as good as dead. I know we should have stayed with the car. My shoes are ruined. These jeans are getting destroyed. We better get help quick or I’m going home! ”
“The barn is right there, another couple minutes. Maybe there’s a phone there. We’ll be alright. Calm down.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down!! You got is into this. Your junk car and you. Get it fixed and get us out of here!”
The rest of the hike to barn is nervously quiet. The barn is huge. Loose panels and lofts. Some of last year’s tobacco hangs like tan ghosts from the beams high above. The inside is split in three long aisles. Collections of straw, stalks, and farm equipment look tossed into an obstacle course.
A soft voice drifts toward them. A loud voice screams back “I’ll kill you. String your innards all over that field. Yonder to them hills. Who the hell will know you was here? Just who the hell would even look! ” The voice is from an unseen man.
Eric and Ashley find a wall to hide up against. They’re in the wrong place. But until the phone chimes a “low battery” warning, no-one knew they were there.