Red

Note: I had to do some revision to this to make it a bit more scary.

The red dirt and sand was like sand paper against Denis’s face. Each gust of wind was both painful and vile, and he loved every minute of it.

The Australian outback was nothing like the comfort of Melbourne’s endless network of roads and buildings. Here a man could be free to be as alone as he wanted. Here there was safety in seclusion and the boiling sun overhead.

Feeling the need to get directions, Denis pulled over to the side of the road. The dirt bike became quiet and he took off his helmet to allow clean hot air into his lungs.

Denis regretted ever deciding to buy a dirt bike. Unlike the sleek and smooth feel of the Japanese models and the roaring heavy Harley Davidson range, which were typical symbols of rebellion. The dirt bike’s only feature is its off road capabilities. Something Denis was yet not ready to attempt while sane.

Pulling out his smart phone, the rebel in training looked up his position with GPS. When his friends had mocked him about going on his so called self discovery, cross country expedition with a soulless digital machine, Denis could only shrug. He had paid $200 for the thing and planed to use it till it accidentally ended up in the washing machine.

To save his self respect, he treated the phone the same way as the dirt bike. A tool to obtain his goals.

The helpdesk support officer, with two weeks vacation examined the tiny screen. Located ten kilometres down the road was a petrol station that was still in business. His bike’s fuel gage read half empty, and his water flask was bone dry. Out here in the midst of snakes and scorpions, being stranded and alone with no water was an attempt at suicide.

Revving the off road machine that had yet to taste the sweet filthy red sand, Denis continued along his path of freedom and need.

The petrol station seemed empty from the outside. It was understandable, Denis figured the only people that used this strip of highway would be truckers and the unlucky few that went down the wrong road.

It did not take long to fill his bike’s half empty stomach. One of the features that attracted him to the dirt bike was the fuel economy.

The truth was Denis didn’t need speed, he didn’t need power or a deafening racket. He just wanted to get away from his dull life.

There was nothing wrong with working a 9 – 5 shift. He had a roof over his head and he was better off than most of his friends. It’s just that with his 27th birthday coming up, Denis had felt like he never accomplished anything.

To his right a cherry red sports car moved into the other stall. The lone rider paid it no mind, it was just another lost traveller in desperate need of fuel and drink.

The inside of the station was just as Denis suspected. Soft drinks in a glass fridge, expired condiments and instant coffee on the shelves, and an old fashioned register at the side.

Making a quick selection of a large bottle of water and a questionable meat pie, Denis moved to the counter.

Listening to the static ridden transmission of an old radio, two individuals manned the till.

One, an overweight gentleman in a soiled black singlet, the other an thin man reeking of liquor and examining a centrefold of an ancient smutty book. The only other presence in the establishment was the news reporter on the radio.

In today’s news, a black wolf has recently escaped from the Sydney zoo…”

While the news caster explained the efforts of the police investigation, Denis placed the water, pie, and a fifty dollar note on the counter.

No words were passed between the three. The man in the singlet simply handed him the change and slumped back onto his stool. Denis doubted he could find better customer service in the state.

Reports stated that the wolf had intended to part of a breading program to ensure the species survival. Manager of the Sydney’s zoo stated…”

Making his way for the exit, Denis ran into a sight that caused his heart to skip a beat. Nearly bumping into him, a gorgeous blonde woman glared at him from behind a set of black glasses.

The support officer didn’t know what a model would be doing out here in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps there was a photo shoot somewhere in the desert or a movie being made nearby. In either case she was way above his pay grade.

The woman gave him a piercing gaze and Denis had the sudden urge to stand upright. “Excuse me.” The heavy Ukrainian accent on the woman’s tongue and the air of menace that she radiated caused Denis to gulp and step aside.

As she passed a distinct odour of a musky perfume shadowed her. It was something a man would wear, rugged and strong.

Denis shook it off. It didn’t matter what the woman smelled like, she could have made a man howl like a wolf.

At seeing the vision of loveliness, the attendants tucked in their shirts and stood to attention. As he left Denis could not help but frown at the perverted smile on the thin attendant’s face.

Having found a nearby picnic bench and stomping on a giant spider that had taken residence there, Denis dined on his meat pie and regretted it. If given the choice between the spider and the pie he just ate, the spider was a more appetising venture.

He gulped down the spring water to defeat the God awful taste, a loud screeching noise could be heard from the station. Denis did not blame the woman for wanting to drive out of here as fast as possible. Not after tasting the foul pastry.

Admiring the beauty of the Australian outback, Denis daydreamed of what it would be like to live out here in no man’s land.

He pictured himself hurdling into the depressive life of a hermit. Drinking from morning to night, not caring about anything but himself. He could see how that can be pleasing to some.

As a person that had to deal with other people’s problems all day, it have would be nice to worry only on his own problems.

The sound of a woman cursing in another language derailed Denis’s train of thought. Not intentionally wanting to snoop, Denis found the attractive woman standing where the red sports car once stood.

Trying not to appear as much of a dork that he was, Denis moved to the woman. “Can I help you?” He asked as pleasantly as he could for somebody that had been on the highway for hours.

The woman in red turned to him, her face twisted into a surprised snarl. Denis could not help but observe the woman’s lips, curious as to how she could manage to make them seem reder.

Seeing that he was facing what could be a ill tempered beauty queen, Denis stepped back with his hands raised, afraid that she would scream or presume he was just as bad as the two inside the station. “Sorry, sorry.”

Cautious of Denis’s rough and filthy appearance, but seeing him as the only one to complain to, the woman pointed off in the direction of the road. “He stole my car.”

That sucks. Denis thought to himself and could start to see why the woman was upset.

He pulled out his phone only find it instantly in the hands of the woman. She turned away from him for a moment and returned the appliance, a sigh on her breath. “No signal.”

Checking his phone and pocketing it, the wannabe biker moved to the petrol station in search for help. “Come on. I’m sure they have a phone we can use.” Of course out here in the middle of a desert it would be a miracle if it worked but he chose to keep his thoughts to himself.

The Ukrainian woman obstructed his path. “I do not like those swine. That thin one that smells like a bottle. He stole my car. The fat one doesn’t look nice.” It was understandable that the woman did not want to return. If she was correct the fat man in the singlet and the thin man were running a scam.

Well that was just his luck. The only refuelling station and it was run by car thieves.

Denis could just picture the big guy waiting inside with a cricket bat ready to knock his brains in.

But unless the woman wanted to walk to the nearest police station in the blazing heat, with high heels, than that phone would be the best option.

Seeing the bike helmet, leather jacket, backpack and the dirt bike parked nearby. The woman found another solution to her problem. “You. You take me to my grand mama’s house.”

Denis stepped back from the woman that needed a better English tutor, he could tell this was not going to end well.

He admitted that riding with a beauty behind his back and driving off into the sunset was an romantic scenario, but anyone that accepted a ride from someone driving a dirt bike, did not have their head on straight.

He thought about this for a handful of seconds. “Aren’t you worried? I mean, I could be a serial killer for all you know.”

The woman in red gave him and appraising glance. Denis looked more filthy than anything else. The jacket with the feral wolf on the breast pocket seemed the most frightening thing about him. “I think I like my chances.” She leaned in closer and returned a mocking grin. “Big bad wolf.”

A tinge of self pity struck, the woman didn’t even consider Denis threatening. “Okay, but I don’t feel comfortable riding without a helmet.” He knew from experience what the desert winds could do. With her long hair going everywhere, it would be a start and stop relationship.

There was a almost smile on the woman’s perfect face. “I saw a helmet inside.”

Denis raised an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t want to go back in there?”

She turned to the station and marched. “Start the bike. This wont take long.”

The dirt bike came to life. This had to be the craziest thing Denis had ever done and he never felt more alive. Getting to drive across country, saving a damsel in distress. He should have done this years ago.

Back at the station the woman in red burst out from the store, a helmet in hand and a spring in her step.

Denis had considered accompanying her inside but she seemed intent otherwise. She was a tough girl and didn’t desire anything more off him than a ride, which was just about his love life in a nutshell,

She raised the helmet as if it was a flag at the Olympics before slipping on the stolen merchandise. With a hop, she mounted the bike like she had done so a million times before.

Denis was unsure just how many times his partner in crime had performed a snatch and run, but decided it was best not to ask.

Inside Denis’s chest, his heart beat intensified as the woman’s arms wrapped around his waist. “Go.” She commanded behind her visor. Denis was only too happy to obey.

The dirt bike thundered down the road, leaving the station and a large dust trail in its shadow. Behind him the woman in red laughed. Denis never pictured himself ever going for a bad girl but very much wanted to.

The woman was beautiful, exotic, and could shoplift with the best of them, but their was still one thing about her he forgot to ask. “The name’s Denis Huntsman. What’s yours?”

Lesya.” She called back.

He decided a name wasn’t enough and prodded for more. “So where am I dropping you off?”

Lesya thought for a moment, debating on whether to trust her driver or not with her intended destination. “There is a place. I know where it is.” Without his phone it was the best directions he had at the moment. Denis didn’t mind, he didn’t have anywhere else he needed to be.

A few minutes passed till it was Lesya turn to become board and ask questions. “What are you doing here?” Her accent was terrible but still understandable.

There seemed little harm in confessing his life’s story “I’m on vacation. Just decided to do something other than play games… You?”

There was a smiling forming behind the woman’s visor. Denis was one of those types that sort the freedom of the wilderness till he got board and went home. “I was a mail order bride.”

Denis swerved as his focus was lost for a moment, he had not been expecting that for an answer. “A what?”

She smirked at his reaction. “Yes. The men caught me in the city. They wanted me to make babies with a stranger here in Australia. So I ran away.”

It still didn’t sound right to Denis. People trafficking. That was just wrong and Denis felt as if he had received a blow to the stomach. “You should go to the police.”

“No.” She said firmly and there was a distinct hint of fear in her voice.

Denis wanted to help the woman more now, but he knew the type that did people trafficking and was certain that he would have just bungled the whole thing up. Lesya probably had her passport stolen by the people who kidnapped her. Perhaps it was best that he kept his nose out of things.

The woman that was currently giving him a gentle squeeze. “Grand mama will take care of me.” She said more to herself than Denis.

Was taking her to her grandmother the best option? Denis could not imagine what the pretty blond had gone through but he now, more than ever wanted to protect her.

He tried to find the right words to express his emotions and he eventually chose the coward’s way out, “I’m sorry.”

Ten minutes down the highway a familiar car could be seen and Denis slowed his bike down to survey the scene. “Jesus,” He whispered. “isn’t that your car?”

At some point Lesya‘s car had skidded from the road and hit a sign post. There didn’t seem to be any major damage besides a bent bumper, but it was curious as to why it would be out here in the middle of nowhere, perhaps she had merely been the subject of a joyride prank.

He stepped away from Lesya and his bike, “Stay here.” he warned removing his helmet.

Carefully moving to the suspicious vehicle, Denis went to his phone. Once more there was no more signal and he cursed and shook it violently. “Stupid bloody thing.” Taking a deep breath he looked inside and saw a nightmarish sight.

The skinny station attendant that had stolen Lesya’s car was at the wheel but he was in no condition to take off a second time.

His body had been nearly cut in two by something that looked animal like. The man had made the effort to keep his internal organs inside of himself by using his free hand, but over the course of time his afflictions had taken their course and he had expired.

It took Denis everything he had not to contaminate the scene with vomit. “Son of a bitch.” He cried, leaning away from the horrid sight. He had never seen a real corpse outside of a movie before and he did not care for the new experience.

Lesya moved to examine the contents of her car and her face twisted into dissatisfaction. She spoke in her native language, to Denis the woman seemed to be cursing the man for ruining her interior.

Unable to think clearly, Denis pointed to the corpse. “H.how’d he get like that?”

“Thief.” Lesya pretended to spit on the attendant, but knew her DNA was on enough of the car to carry the insult through.

“But what happened in there?” It had looked to Denis that somebody had taken a can opener to the car thief.

Lesya didn’t show any emotion other than annoyance as she bent inside and took the keys from the dead body. “Don’t care. Thieves don’t deserve mercy.” Denis thought about arguing that she had stolen the helmet, but wisely decided against it, women don’t typically enjoy being corrected.

He watched as his travelling companion strolled to the boot, unaffected by the amount of blood and the dead person that was currently sitting in her car. “What are you doing?” Denis asked, concerned that she lacked a soul.

The boot opened without hesitation as Lesya pushed the button on her keyring. “I brought gifts for grandmother.” She removed a small cooler, large enough to store a six pack of beer or any number of sandwiches. She noticed Denis’s shocked expression as she pulled out a duffel bag. “Unless you prefer I drive in this man’s blood. Or lead murderer to learn where grand mama lives.”

It made a type of sense. There was no signal on his phone and the road was nowhere near the main highway, so aid was out of the question. And spending the night out in the desert did not sound pleasing with a mad man on the loose. Carrying on to grandma’s house was the only reasonable thing to do.

Denis was about to move to help Lesya with her things, but she halted him and went to the back seat. “Stop. Unless you want your fingerprints on car.” She had raised another good point, despite wearing gloves, Denis had no intention of being on Australia’s most wanted for a crime he didn’t commit.

Lesya went back to the driver and began to search his corpse.

“Please tell me your not robbing him?” Denis begged not wanting this to become more complicated.

“Need to know who thief is, if police call.”

It was another good point, but not worth putting finger prints on a dead man’s wallet. He didn’t know much about police procedure outside the occasional police drama, but tampering with the scene of the crime was an easy way to go to jail.

Both she and Denis returned to the dirt bike. One clearly shaken by the events and the other more concerned as to how she would fair riding through the desert with a duffel bag and a small cooler. Even with his helmet on, Lesya could tell the incident had shaken her escort. “I will call the police when we get to grand mama’s house.” She promised with conviction.

Denis was more concerned as to how she did not seem shaken by the thin man’s corpse, did she come from a terrible part of the world where death was everywhere, or was she simply just a common sociopath?

It didn’t matter, her charm over him had gone and all he could think of was sending her on her way and returning to his full time job.

It was sunset by the time the pair made it to Lesya‘s grandmother’s house, but house was not the term Denis would have used.

The old woman lived in a caravan park. Not one of those aluminium death traps that seemed to attract tornadoes in the states, but a large community where the elderly went to get away from the foul air of the city, and where young children gathered memories that stayed with them for a life time.

At this stage in his life Denis couldn’t see himself living here. He needed a career before he chose the quiet life of an retiree. But one day he told himself, he would find his own place of peace.

Lesya‘s grandmother lived a bit of the way through the bush, the old woman liked her privacy, something Denis could respect. An intelligible noise came from within the small house/caravan. “Go away.” Ordered an aged woman behind a screen door.

The blonde Ukrainian knocked on the door and spoke in her native language. Immediately the door opened and a small wrinkly woman in a robe opened the door. Despite her age and small statute, Denis found her slightly intimidating. She reminded him of an old animal that had no planes to give up on the hunting days.

A feral grin crossed the old woman’s face, “Lesya?” the old woman nearly pounced on her granddaughter and the two hugged. It would have been a beautiful moment had Denis didn’t feel as if he was a third wheel.

He was out of place in this photo and thought about leaving to let the pair reminisce without him. The moment he took a quiet step back he was caught in the old woman’s inch thick glasses, and she twisted her lips into a scowl.

For a second, Denis felt as if he was a rabbit with a great beast staring down on him. A beast with super thick glasses.

Lesya saw the look and introduced her travelling companion in in their native tongue. The old woman continued to talk to her granddaughter in their secret language, it was meant to be a private conversation between the two.

Having felt that he had used up his warm welcome Denis gave a respectful nod and decided that this was his moment to leave. “I guess I’ll leave you two be.” He wrote his number to his past passenger. “If you need a witness if the police came you can call me.” It was not the only reason he had left her his phone number but it was a good an excuse as any.

He turned to his bike but found Lesya hand holding him back. “No.” she said filmy with an ounce of fearful regret. “Grand-mama makes the best nepha heart soup.” She turned to her grandmother. “He helped me.” She forfeited the cooler to her grandmother and held Denis’s arm.

There was an silent battle between the two, but Denis didn’t care. Lesya was not yet ready to let him leave without thanking him, and he hoped in one particular way.

The grandmother sniffed the air and she pointed to the community showers. “You two. Clean up. No dirt on carpet.” The woman seemed to have a sensitive nose.

The insides of the caravan were modest with an ounce of the occult tied in for flavour, apparently Lesya’s grandmother fancied herself as an old world witch of sorts.

Denis wouldn’t have said he liked it or disliked it, but he approved it much more than his own gran’s house which was filled with creepy porcelain dolls.

Dunking some bread into the broth, and Denis felt his stomach growl. He had no idea how hungry he had been and the taste of grand mama’s was not exactly what he needed but filled the void in his gut nicely.

With one last spoon full of soup Denis finished the contents of the bowl and all that was left was to give a loud belch covered with his hand. “That was beautiful, thank you.”

Lesya’s grandmother took the cutlery and dishes, any attempt for Denis help was frowned on, the woman despised the idea of help, as if it meant she was enfeebled.

The image of the carjacker’s face materialised in Denis’s mind. “Did you call the police about the…” He caught the attention of grand mother and felt as if he should downplay the murder. “Car problem?”

It took a moment for Lesya to figure out what it was Denis was talking about. “Oh. I guess I forgot.” She tapped his shoulder and put on the radio to calm him. “I’ll call, you stay.” Now he was talking to her as if he were a dog. Still Denis was only happy that the incident was just behind him.

The music stopped and the news began, as always, something violent was the first thing out of the way. “Tragedy hit this morning at the salt sage petrol station, as an arsonist had set fire to the establishment.” Denis’s ears perked as the announcement was heard.

He never had a good look at the place where he stopped to get petrol but the name rang a bell.

Quickly, he turned the volume up. “Human remains have been found. Including those of a yet unidentified male, who was found in a burnt sports car. The vehicle had hit a sign some twenty kilometres down the highway, but police say this it was not the cause of the explosion.”

Not the cause? Of coarse it wasn’t the cause. Lesya’s car had not been smoking or showed the classic signs of a car ready to explode at the drop of the hat. His thoughts returned to the thin man’s body. Was it possible that his murder returned to destroy the evidence. But if that was true why didn’t he simply bury the body and make off with the car?

A strange sensation crawled up from Denis’s stomach. An unpleasant, twisting, horrid sensation that could be confused with pain, but it was something much more discomforting.

With fearful eyes Denis turned to the doorway to see Lesya and her grandmother standing there with dark expressions on their faces.

Such a curious boy.” Lesya said coming into the room, a large smile on her face and an almost predatory pounce in her step.

Denis backed away and immediately fell to one knee, it was as if the air had been taken from him. What exactly had been in that soup?

Lesya leaned down and caressed his cheek. “I’m really sorry about this. Normally I would have killed you on the spot and had taken your bike, but…” She trailed off, unsure what to say next. “You were just so cute to play with.”

But play time is over.” Grandma said and removed her dentures to reveal a set of long and vicious wolf like teeth. Behind her glasses Denis could see eyes that weren’t quite human.

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