Praise Thee and fell unto our poisoned town.
Warm golden rays melt the sleep from Sarah’s eyes, her lids fluttering open like the fragile wings of a butterfly just crawling out of its cocoon. She finds herself in the passenger seat of the smart car, the wheels still rolling along, the one who calls himself Al Sharpton still behind the wheel. All seems well, but…
But they’re still in the car.
It was night when they left the Atacama Lake public dock parking lot, and Al Sharpton said he was taking Sarah home. The drive with the Fellers felt like it took days, but it was still nighttime when they finally arrived. They were only on the water for about twenty minutes, it might not have even been midnight when she left with Sharpton. Sarah doesn’t live as far from the center of town as Chief Maxwell does… well, as Chief Maxwell did. So why are they still in the car?
‘Why am I still in this man’s car?’
“Relax, little one,” says the man who calls himself Al Sharpton. “So much anxiety I can feel it from here. We’re almost to Poland Boulevard, the drive’s just taking a bit longer than expected.”
Sarah breathes a little easier, but still she’s worried. She never told the man where she lives.
‘I can read your mind, Sarah Hammond,’ Sarah thinks in the man’s voi–… oh. Welp. “I can tap into your brain and make you do whatever I want, too.”
“I’m not doing that now, though,” the man says with a smile, looking happily out at Cannonball Road rolling on before him.
Sarah takes a minute to think about this – suddenly she’s feeling very self-conscious about what she says to this Al Sharpton character – and finally decides on, “How do I know for sure you’re not doing that now?”
Sharpton shrugs. “You don’t, but I’m not. I promise. I did it last night, forced you to dive underwater so you wouldn’t get domed by a piece of the police boat, but that takes a lot of effort and concentration. Had a hell of a time workin’ the jet ski when I was swimmin’ you, I’ll tell you that much right now.”
“Oh,” softly. She looks down at the spotless floormat. The floormats in her parents’ van were never this clean, not even when they first bought ‘em. Whoever owns this smart car must be some kind of a freak. Then, “Wait, did you steal this from the reverend at the church?”
“Couldn’t have,” Sharpton says. “Wasn’t his to begin with.”
“Oh,” Sarah says again.
“The car’s rightful owner won’t be needing it anytime soon, though. ‘Fraid he won’t be seeing the light of day for quite a while.”
“Why not? Is he in jail or something?”
“Yeah, something like that,” the one precisely like Al Sharpton says cryptically. “I’m’a bust him out, though.”
“You are??” Sarah sounds a bit concerned. Who on Earth is this man who calls himself Al Sharpton?
“Sure, eventually. When the time’s right. Won’t be for a while, though. You might have some kids as old as you are now by then… or maybe you won’t.” He shrugs. “Not really my business. We won’t be seein’ each other much after today – hey, this is your turn up ahead, right?”
Sarah looks through the spotless windshield at the green street sign standing sentry on the right side of the road. Poland Boulevard.
“Yeah, that’s it,” she confirms. “But… why did it take us so long to get here?”
Sharpton throws the blinker on. “This town is sort’a just funny like that, ‘specially when you’re driving down Cannonball. They say it’s a straight shot to the center of town, but…” He yawns as they take the turn. “Let me ask you somethin’, Sarah – have you ever been to the center of Wuester?”
“Um…” she um s, watching the familiar houses of her neighbors pass by. “The whY’doubleyeW’Cee’Ay I take my swimming lessons at is sort’a close to the center of town, I think. Closer than my street is. And I think the Fellers drove through it on the way to the lake. Didn’t we pass it coming back?”
Al Sharpton slowly shakes his head no. “This whole drive I’ve had my eyes peeled for the ol’ Wuester Central, but it’s just been road. Just been Cannonball all the way through. And now we’re at your road, just like that.”
“Oh… then no, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the actual center of town.” She broods for a moment. “My parents told me they heard that bad stuff happens down there.”
“It might,” Al Sharpton says, nodding slowly. “It just might.”
They pull into the driveway where there should be a van parked, a minivan, one with windows and a silver paint job and a couple dings and dents here and there from acorns falling out of the trees, and Sharpton parks the car. Sarah tries to open the door but finds it locked, despite the fact that the little bolt is sticking up out of the door. That anxiety creeps back into her stomach, which suddenly feels full of water again.
“Sarah,” Al Sharpton asks, and Sarah feels herself turning towards him, meeting his gaze against her will. “I have a favor to ask you. Will you do me a favor, Sarah Hammond?”
“Y-yes,” Sarah’s mouth says for her, despite her urge to scream out loud. “Anything f-for you, M-M-Mister Ah-Al Sh-Sh-Sharpton-nnn.”
“Good girl,” Al Sharpton says, putting a hand on her shoulder. His eyes dive deeply into hers, as though he was invading her mind and planting some sort of bomb between her neurons. “As your life spirals on you might forget some, maybe even all of what you’ve experienced over the past few days. And that’s fine, that’s just dandy, in fact. But I want you to remember one thing.”
“Whuh… what is it, Al Sharpton?”
“If anybody, and I do mean anybody, ever tells you they’ve been to Wuester Central, you turn your back and you run. They’re liars, Sarah, and worse, they might even be thieves.” Sharpton releases her shoulder and also the hex he cast upon her. “That’s all. Think you can manage that, Sarah Hammond?”
Never in her life has Sarah Hammond been so unsure of what to say.
“Good! Now get inside, they’re waitin’ for ya.”
“Who are?” Sarah asks as she’s opening the door. She climbs out of the smart car and the door pulls closed all on its own, denying Sarah the answer to her question, but that’s all right. She’s pretty sure the man wouldn’t have answered her question anyway.
The man who is precisely like Al Sharpton pulls the smart car out of Sarah Hammond’s driveway and heads down Poland Boulevard towards Cannonball Road. Sarah watches him go until the car is swallowed by the trees, then turns and makes the slow trek along the walk and up the steps to her front door. When she gets there she looks through the window and sees the cold darkness of an empty house, then has a heart attack, remembering how her parents locked all the doors before they left for Sarah’s swimming classes, but then she tries the handle anyway. The door opens, and Sarah takes one last look at her empty driveway before going inside.
The driveway is empty and black as fresh tar, totally devoid of any and all silver minivans.
Shoulders drooping and her head hanging low, Sarah Hammond walks inside her house and shuts the door. She notices the lights are on in the kitchen, the baseboard is ticking away, and the air is swimming with a salty, savory smell like her Mommy was cooking, but… but her Mommy and Daddy are dead.
Is someone in her house? Did someone break in?!
“Hello?” calls a woman’s voice, one eerily similar to that of her Mommy’s. “Sarah, is that you??”
“Sarah?!” A man’s voice. Her Daddy’s. She remembers it now. “Sarah, you’re home! You came back!”
Footsteps now, loud and hurrying through the house towards her. Sarah’s heart races, it’s not possible. They’re dead, she saw them get shot, the driveway was empty, it’s just not
Sarah Hammond spins and peers out the window in the front door. Parked in the driveway where the smart car dropped her off is the minivan, gold paint glimmering boldly in the morning sun. She’s swept up in her parents’ arms before she even has the chance to turn around.
Hello Commons, this has been the last subchapter of the last chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~