Torrents of rain lashed down on the car as it rattled along the puddle-ridden and uneven wooded lane. The headlights created a narrow beam on the bald stones of the rocky road snaking through the forest, like skulls sticking out of the ground. Fat drops pelted down through the gnarls of overhanging branches, and the streaming rain caught the feeble shaft of the headlights. The water reflected the light, and Gloria imagined shooting stars streaking down from the sky. The scene would have been romantic, but for the gushing water, and Stu’s fingers wrapped so tight around the steering wheel, his knuckles were bone white. Even Gloria could see them in the gloomy deluge.
“We need shelter for the night,” Stu said.
Gloria chuckled, “That’s what they said in The Old Dark House.”
“Oh, it’s an old Boris Karloff movie. Motorists ask for shelter from a storm at this creepy old house. Then a crazy maniac terrorizes them.”
Stu remained silent and gave Gloria a sideways glance. He would have teased her about her love of old movies, but the road was too dangerous. Besides, at the moment they’d be lucky to come upon the Bates Motel.
Stu slammed on the brakes, and the car skidded to a stop. The road ahead was underwater, and Stu thought his little hatch-back sedan would flood.
“What now?” Gloria asked.
“Turn around, I suppose…” Stu answered and shifted gears.
With much effort, he turned the car, and they retraced the drive.
Gloria gasped, “A light!”
He braked. She pointed at the passenger side window, and Stu leaned over the steering wheel for a better view. Gloria was right. A dim light gleamed through the trees, and as they rolled beside it, Stu discerned a narrow driveway.
“I suppose your movie will come true,” he quipped as the car inched down the path, “did they die?”
“No, but almost…”
“Well, let’s hope for the best,” he said as they approached a cabin almost invisible in the thick woodland.
He turned off the car and, pulling his jacket on his head, ran up the front porch and knocked. Gloria switched on the interior light. He glanced around the property, bemused. He knocked again, and catching Gloria’s eye, shrugged.
Still no one answered; Stu hurried back to the car.
“No one home, I guess,” he said.
“Look!” Gloria pointed at the dim light in a window.
Through the glass, they glimpsed an old lady gazing out.
“I’ll knock,” Gloria said, “maybe she’ll open this time.”
Flinging Stu’s jacket on, she rushed to the door.
She knocked, but no answer. Three times she tried.
“Odd, I guess she’s hard of hearing or…?” Gloria said as she entered the car.
“Or she’s pretending because she doesn’t want to let us in,” Stu grumbled, “anyway let’s go.”
He flicked the ignition; the car sputtered and revved, then died. He tried again, but the car did not start.
He heaved a dejected sigh.
“Well, that’s that,” he said, letting down the backrest and covering himself with his sopping jacket, “nothing to do but sleep.”
He closed his eyes.
Gloria reached into the backseat and found her own jacket. She took Stu’s wet one and replaced it with a blanket she always kept and settled down for the night.
Sunlight shone through the windshield when Gloria awoke to find Stu’s face crumpled in confusion.
“What…?” Gloria’s words faded.
They sat parked in a field, just a few yards from the smooth pavement of the highway. No trees, no house, no old lady in sight.
Stu flicked the ignition, and the car purred to life.
“At least Boris Karloff didn’t kill us,” he said as he pulled onto the paved road.