Enjoy an excerpt from Benjamin Blake’s “Something in the Way” featured in our new anthology ON TIME.
Henry Beaufort navigated the fir-bordered back road. A stormy autumn night somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the rain came down hard.
On the left-hand side of the road, a greeting sign came into view:
WELCOME TO TWIN HILLS
From behind the wheel, Henry looked at his girlfriend, Nicole Fionchetti, and smiled. She was absolutely stunning. A dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty. They had been drinking at a bar in the next town over after a stressful week at college. Neely’s was a good place to blow off a little steam. And tonight, they had extra reason to celebrate.
Nicole smiled back, utter adoration obvious in her eyes. Henry placed a hand on her thigh, gave a little affectionate rub. She was one hell of a woman, that was for damn sure.
Henry switched on the car radio. Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” played over the speakers, such a sparse and haunting number. It got him every time.
Steering with one hand, Henry took a swig from a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. He swallowed, relishing the familiar taste.
“Hey, Nicole, do you have any cigarettes left?”
“Yeah, I think so. Let me check.” She reached to where her handbag rested at her feet, rummaged around, and pulled out a pack of Chesterfields. She took two from the pack and stuck one in her mouth before handing another to Henry. “Where’s your lighter, babe?”
“Hang on a second, sweetheart. I think it’s in the door.”
Henry placed his beer back in the cup holder and pulled the lighter from into the pocket of the driver’s door. He fumbled, and the red plastic dropped at his feet. “Goddamn it.”
“You’re such a klutz.” Nicole laughed and shook her head as Henry groped around.
“Goddamn lighter. I just about had it.”
“Here, let me help.” Nicole giggled and unbuckled her seatbelt before leaning over Henry’s lap, her ample breasts pressing tight against his crotch, her ass up in the air.
Henry laughed, smiling like a lunatic. “That’s not exactly helping.”
“You want me to stop?” Nicole said, playful and coquettish.
“No.” Henry sighed, tilting his head back into the seat in anticipation. Nicole undid his pants. This was turning out to be one hell of a night.
Through the rain-spattered windshield, a bend rapidly approached. Henry steered with one hand, running his fingers through Nicole’s hair with the other.
The more-than-pleasant surprise was half-ruined by the glow of approaching headlights. A pair of muscle cars appeared, racing abreast, and leaving no space for Henry and Nicole.
“Fuck.” Henry wrenched the wheel hard to the right.
Time itself seemed to break. Everything stuttered, slowed down. Tires squealed and screamed, as Henry steered the car off the road, toward the edge of a steep embankment.
The car burst through the guardrail, wood splintering. Induvial shards of lumber spun in the headlights’ beams. Henry gripped the wheel as the car nosedived down the bank, crashing into the trunk of a large oak tree in a sudden scream of twisting metal.
Steam poured from the smashed-in radiator, obscuring all vision as Henry briefly lost consciousness.
Henry moaned. His head throbbed like an ax had been taken to it. He opened his eyes, and vision flickering, found that he was slouched against the wheel. The clock on the dashboard read 3:02 AM. He winced as he tried to straighten himself, a sharp, stabbing pain shooting through his ribcage.
Fuck. Nicole. Henry looked to the passenger seat. His head swam, his chest grew ice cold. Every nerve in his body seemed to scream in unison.
Nicole sat slumped against the window. Her brown eyes wide. Her mouth hung slightly open. Blood trickled from the corners of her lips in little rivulets of crimson.
The Nirvana song still played on the car stereo.
TWELVE YEARS LATER
It was a stormy autumn night. Rain came down in horizontal sheets against the circular attic window. The wind whistled through the tall fir trees that grew in the front yard.
Henry sat at a large wooden desk; the cluttered surface served as his workbench. To make a little cash on the side of his fulltime gig at the local electronics store, he restored and fixed old guitar amps. And even though he didn’t charge terribly much, he enjoyed the work. He got some time to lose himself a little late at night, to listen to the antique wooden radio he’d had since he was a kid—plus, it was the one room in the house where he allowed himself to smoke. Tonight, he was working on a 80W Marshall, which needed a cold solder joint repaired.
Henry set the soldering iron down, took a puff on the cigarette that sat smoldering in the ceramic ashtray to his left, and pushed his black horn-rimmed glasses back into place on the bridge of his nose. Tired and almost half-asleep, it was getting a little too late to still be up.
On the radio, the song ended, and the D.J. came on air, a sultry sounding woman and extremely pleasant on the ears. Aside from the station’s choice of tunes, Lois Lexington was one of the reasons he tuned in at nights.
“That was Pavement with ‘Zürich is Stained,’ from their seminal album, Slanted & Enchanted. You’re listening to The Caffeinated Owl Radio Show with the one and only, Lois Lexington, broadcasting live from The Lighthouse. This next song is a request—yes, we do take ‘em, so pick up that phone and dial!, by a lovely sounding young lady, who wanted me to dedicate the tune, and I quote here: ‘To Henry, with love, Nicole. Meet me in Twin Hills. 506 Cherry Street.’”
Interest piqued, he stared at the radio, not exactly sure what to make of the strange transmission. That was one hell of a coincidence.
All too familiar acoustic guitar chords droned out across the wire: “Something In The Way” by Nirvana.
Benjamin Blake is the author of the novel, The Devil’s Children, and the poetry/prose collections, Southpaw Nights, Standing on the Threshold of Madness, All the Feral Dogs of Los Angeles (with Cole Bauer), Dime Store Poetry, and the forthcoming Tenebrae in Aeternum—to be published by Hippocampus Press in 2020. He lives in London, England. Find more of his work at http://www.benjaminblake.com.