When the pickup sputtered and died, Eli turned to glare at his cousin. “Dang it, Ricky. I knew we should’ve got gas before we left on this wild goose chase of yours.” He steered the truck over to the shoulder of the oil top road, letting it coast to a stop.
The chubby-faced teenager in the passenger seat screwed up his face and scratched behind his ear. “It can’t be on empty. Before we left town I checked, and the gauge showed more than half a tank.”
“Yeah and when I told you it didn’t always work, you said, ‘that’s ok. It ain’t far.’ Remember?” Eli pounded the steering wheel. He should have known. With Ricky, something like this always happened.
Out past curfew, out of gas and stuck on a deserted road. Eli didn’t even want to think about what Grandpa would say. He’d handed Eli the keys to the farm truck less than a week ago. At the time, Eli couldn’t believe his luck. Now, he couldn’t believe he’d let his cousin talk him into something so dumb.
Ricky peered out at dense woods crowding both sides of the narrow road. “I forgot how dark it gets out here after the sun goes down.” Spanish moss hanging from gnarled branches danced in the wind, while inky, black darkness pooled beneath the trees. Thin clouds drifted across the October moon, casting eerie shadows below. “Not to mention creepy.”
“Get used to it. If someone doesn’t drive by, we’re stuck here.”
“Jeez, don’t blame me. I only wanted to see Lost Souls for myself.” A girl in their Senior English class had told Ricky about an abandoned church located in an old pecan grove. Inside, inverted crosses covered the walls, animal bones littered the floor, and dried blood stained the sides of the pulpit. Or, so she claimed. Ricky had talked about nothing else, until Eli finally agreed to go looking for it.
“Are you sure she wasn’t pulling your leg?” Eli asked for the third time.
“She swore it was true.”
“Sure she did.”
Ricky knew Eli meant he was being gullible again. But, instead of arguing, he changed the subject. “We passed a house less than a mile back. We can use their telephone to call for help.”
“If they even have one.”
“Well, maybe they can spare some gas.” Ricky climbed out of the truck.
Eli frowned. “Wait a minute. I don’t remember seeing any house.”
“I saw a light. There’s got to be a house. C’mon. We can’t just sit here.”
Eli started down the road after Ricky, his hands jammed in the pockets of his jean jacket. It’s dark and cold. The wind sighed, and dry leaves blew across the road like an army of advancing spiders. And everything does look creepy.
Before long, Ricky had to jog to keep up with Eli, his mouth moving as fast as his shorter legs. “I asked Grandma, and she said the church been boarded up as long as she can remember. But she remembered stories about a crazy, old preacher who used rattlesnakes to put the fear of God into the brethren. He was a faith healer, so he thought he couldn’t be hurt. Something happened, and the congregation dwindled away to nothing.” The wind made a low, keening sound. even less appealing than Ricky’s voice.
Ricky pointed. “See, I told you. Look up there.” A bright light shone through the tops of towering old trees.