Are We There Yet? Appearing In Horror On Holiday from Golden Goblin Press

Oscar Rios and editor Brian Sammons are bringing out a new Lovecraftian anthology from Golden Goblin Press called Horror On Holiday via Kickstarter, so head on over there and kick a buck –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/horror-on-holiday-tales-of-vacations-taking-very-dark-turns?ref=ksr_email_user_watched_project_launched

Peep the lineup –

A Gilded Butterfly by Glynn Owen Barrass
You Take It With You by Helen Gould
In Light Accessible by John Linwood Grant
Geneaology by William Meikle
A Palette of Honey and Amber by Andi Newton
Castles In The Sand by Peter Rawlik and Sal Ciano
Thin Ice by Oscar Rios
A Kingdom of Magic by Brian S. Sammons
The Isle of Ma’an Du by Sam Stone
The Fun Fair by Tim Waggoner
The Family In The Wood by Helen Yau
Summoning My Soul To Endless Sleep by Lee Clarke Zumpe

My own offering Are We There Yet? concerns a beleaguered father on an extended road trip with his family. They pull into a lonely gas station where the elderly attendant passes a brochure for a chintzy roadside attraction to his excitable son. As the boy becomes more and more obsessed with seeing the dubious wonders promised in the brochure, the father notices the compulsion spreading to the other members of the family, and finally to himself, as a series of increasingly insistent advertisements guide them further and further off their intended route.

Here’s the opening lines –

——————————-

Greg Trezvant signaled his exit.

Between Lisa’s shrill screaming over the kids’ cacophony in the backseat and a growing, paranoid suspicion that the GPS was somehow lying to him, the green turnoff sign that promised Gas-Food (probably in the wrong order, Greg reflected) looked like the emerald leaves of a shimmering oasis in an endless desert dotted with No Facilities cacti.

His seven year old, Robert, was pinching himself through his sweatpants and wailing for a toilet in a tone so high and resonating Greg was this close to bleeding out of his ears. A year ago they had had trouble keeping the kid from taking a leak in the bushes in front of the house, but Lisa had discouraged his habit of pissing in the open so effectively Robert was now unable to even fathom jumping out of the car and going in a ditch. Greg had pulled over and physically removed him from the vehicle at one point and yanked down his trousers only to watch his son dance in place screaming until Lisa had loudly demanded they both get back in and stop wasting time.

Jainey was exacerbating things, hollering for her little brother to shut up, presumably so she could hear every minute intonation of whatever was thumping in her earbuds. She was eleven and had apparently outgrown empathy somewhere around her last birthday.

Lindsey’s Filling Station was exactly that. Not a proper gas station, but a throwback to the days of yesteryear when mechanics would answer the ringing of the Milton bell and come swarming over your car to check the fluids and tires. The rusted old Pepsi Cola gas pump had no POS pad in sight, just a handwritten sign that said “Please Pay Inside Before You Pump!”

Inside looked a bit dubious. The building was as old as the gas pump, with thick, dusty glass. There was no chain fast food joint or ice cream place adjoining, but another exclamatory handwritten sign promised “Best Homemade Jerky On The Interstate!”

It was the restroom Robert was interested in, and he and Lisa hit the ground running like a couple of Green Berets disembarking from a Huey. They rushed in, jangling the sleigh bells over the door as it banged open, Lisa yelling, “Bathrooooom?”

Greg saw a gnarled finger on a liver spotted hand reach out and point through the doorway, and his wife and son wheeled and charged down that direction.

He cut the engine with deliberate slowness and turned in his seat, tapping Jainey on the knee to alert her that he was exiting the vehicle.

“Why’re we stopping here?” she shouted.

“Come on. You know why.”

“What?”

He tapped his earlobe and she rolled her eyes and turned down her music.

“I said you know why. Come on. Get out and stretch your legs, hit the toilet. I don’t know when we’ll see another one.”

“Why don’t we ever stop anywhere interesting?” Jainey whined.

Inside, the shelves of the little gas station were packed with crap; dusty quarts of oil, chintzy souvenir keychains and postcards, heaps of salty, sugary snacks. Crap, crap, and made-to-be crap. Jainey drifted in, sweeping the shelves with her bored eyes like a shark bloated from killing but still ostensibly in the market for a stray mackerel.

Behind the register, a long faced old man with a head of wavy, buttercream white hair grinned toothily. He was dressed in bib overalls and a red flannel shirt and a fisherman’s vest covered with a myriad of eccentric pins with pithy, folksy sayings like “Bless Your Heart,” “Southern Pride,” and “Fine ‘N Dandy.” A slat-eyed cartoon goat grinned at him from one of the pins.

“You the fella owns that thunderstorm that swept through here a minute ago?” the old man asked.

Greg held up his hands sheepishly.

“I just hope he didn’t drop any rain between here and your restroom.”

There was a loud industrial flush from a back hall.

“No, no, I think he made it alright,” the old man said with a laugh.

A door rattled open and Robert came skipping out as if nothing had ever been the matter. Lisa was in tow, looking haggard.

“Where you all headed?”

“Buckingham,” Greg said, fumbling for his wallet, figuring he’d fill up while everybody else drained.

“Vacation?”

“Yeah mainly, trying to get these guys out to see the sights. Get a little bit of nature. But you know kids. Everything’s boring. They hardly look out the car window.” He slid a twenty across the counter.

“Buckingham don’t hardly seem much of a vacation spot,” said the old man.

“Well, I’m headed over to the historical society there. Got an appointment with the curator.”

“You interested in history, huh?”

“Guilty,” said Greg. “This is actually family history. I had a great great grandfather, fought in the Civil War, went missing in action somewhere around here. At least, to me. See, I know what outfit he was in, that he was around here, but don’t know what happened to him. Thought it’d be fun to do some digging.”

“Fun,” said the old man, a little dubiously, doling out angel wings on the cash register. “For you. But how about them? Ya want my advice, don’t forget the ‘family’ in family vacation. Kids need to have their interests courted. Wife too,” he added, nodding to Lisa, who was perusing the magazine rack with the same dull expression as Jainey. “Got to appeal to the whole family unit or it ain’t really a family vacation….”

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