After we finished unpacking the car, my mother an I loaded up and headed down the rocky, dirt driveway towards the road into town. As we drove down the path, a line of Florida oaks surrounded us on both sides blocking out the sun leaving us in an eerie shadow. Looking out the passenger window, I swear I saw someone…or something..past the treeline. It looked like a man, or perhaps a few men: a small group of two or three. But when I blinked and tried to focus my gaze, they disappeared. I shook my head. Why was i seeing these things? Was it because of the trauma when I found out about my grandfather? I pushed the event that just occurred to the back of my mind and focused on the road ahead.
We drove the fifteen mile trek back into the small town of Shady Grove, Florida. We went downtown to the dollar store across from a gas station. As we pulled in i noticed something rather peculiar. As my mother shifted gears into park, I looked out the window and noticed that some people were staring at us. A small family of three. A mother, father, and little boy. They were all wearing what seemed to be farming clothes from the early 20th century. Their clothes had bits of mud and what appeared to be coal dust on them. I knew there was a mine in this town years ago, but no one has been in it since the 1930’s when it was shut down do to safety hazards. What frightened me the most, though, is that this family would not take their glossy eyes away from me and my mother. I could feel their eyes piercing my very being. my very soul. We quickly walked past them, giving occasional glances behind our backs. After we entered the sore, we watched them get in a dusty pickup truck and drive away. Still a little shook up from the event, my mother told me not to worry about it. She said that some of the people here were a little backwards and didn’t take too kindly to “city folk”.
We walked around the store for a few minutes, gathering some unneeded supplies. I decided I needed to use the restroom so i asked the clerk where it was. she pointed to the back without even looking up from her magazine which appeared to be from the 70’s. The town was a lot more strange than i remembered. I walked to the back to the bathroom. I grabbed they key hanging on the wall and went in. It reeked of human waste and copper. I held my breath and went. Afterward I washed my hands and held my nose, doing my best to avoid the smell. I walked out and started to hang the key back. I was then greeted by an old man. He startled me as i turned around. He was about my height with wrinkles covering his face. His eyelids drooped down almost blocking his eyes from my sight.
“Hello there, child,” he said with a raspy twang.
“Uh…hi,” I replied awkwardly. Do you need this key,” I asked holding it out to him.
Then suddenly he grabbed my wrist. His hand tightened around it with an iron grip forcing me to drop the key.
“AH, what’s wrong with you, old man,” I exclaimed.
He jerked me forward and whispered in my ear. I could feel his hot putrid, rotten breath against my face. It was like he had ate raw roadkill.
“The father will bury us all,” he said “he will wash us with his cleansing river and drown every last one of us.”
I snatched my arm away and shoved him. I then ran and found my mother who was checking out.
“We need to go NOW,” I shouted.
She finished checking out and followed me to the car as quickly as she could. I grabbed the bags and threw them into the back then jumped into the passenger seat. She quickly backed up and drove across the parking lot. Just as we were about to turn out, the same old man slammed his body into out car. I told her not to worry and just drive, but my mother sat there paralyzed. He then got up and came over to the passenger side where he pressed his wrinkled face against the glass.
“The father will drown us all, The Father will drown us all,” He kept repeating.
It was then that i realized what was about to happen. He pulled a small black object out of his pants and put it against his sweaty temple.
Just like that, he was gone. There was blood splattered all over the passenger window along with chunks of hair and skull.
My mother and I sat motionless for what seemed like an eternity until she let out a blood curdling scream.
The police arrived shortly after that. They talked to my mother first. I listened to her explain the events that just took place through sobs. She explained that she didn’t know the man. That she had never seen him. That they were driving out of the parking lot and he jumped on to her car, started yelling, then shot himself. It all seemed to happen so quick. I couldn’t even think. No sooner than she broke out into more violent sobs, the police approached me.
“What happened here, buddy,” one of them questioned.
So, I explained it all.
“Well, i went to the bathroom and after I came out, the man approached me. He grabbed my wrist and wouldn’t let go. He said something about the father..and a river…and drowning..It was confusing so I pushed him and ran to my mother.”
“So he actually physically assaulted you,” the other asked.
I nodded. “Then when we were pulling out..everything my mother said was true…him ramming into the car…the yelling…the gun…” I looked past the flashing police lights into the night sky. There were no stars out tonight. Which was unusual for this small town. The pat on my shoulder and a few not-so-comforting words from the police officer brought me back to reality.
“Well, bud, I’m really sorry you and your mother had to see that,” he said as he turned to leave.
The two officers got back in their cars and left. That was it. Besides the ambulance loading up the dead body, there was no one there. It was strange. The cops acted as if that was normal for people to kill themselves in public. Something was not right. There had to be something going on that I didn’t know about.
I comforted my mother, helped her into the car, and drove us back to my grandparents house.
When we arrived, my grandmother was waiting for us outside the house door. We exited the car and she greeted us with worried looks.
“I was worried sick about you two! Ya’ll don’t need to be out in the town after dark,” she exclaimed.
“What,” I questioned. “After dark?”
“Uh, nothing. I just want ya’ll safe is all,” she nervously replied.
I gave her a suspicious look, but didn’t question any farther. We entered inside where she gave us coffee and more cookies. Mother told her about what happened and the whole time she looked around like someone was again listening to our conversation. All of it was so strange. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but i had a feeling it had to do with the death of my grandfather.
After that, i was sent to bed where i pondered the recent events. I went over the encounter with the man over and over again in my head, trying to figure out why he would do such a thing as that. Still, I couldn’t come up with a rational conclusion. Finally, after about an hour of my brain hurting, I finally drifted off to sleep.