Dusty Lane (Short Story)

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A honey locust tree. Photo Source: Quick View 

Olivia Dempster, Junior Contributor.

The year was 1992, the place New York City. Just outside the city sat a white-wooded farmhouse, surrounded by golden honey locust trees. In there, lived a fair-haired woman named Carla. She had the perfect life.

The clock chimed ten o’clock: it was time for her husband to leave for work. Savouring the warmth from her coffee mug, she watched Tom wrap his yellow high-viz jacket around himself. She note his trousers were covered in paint and cement, and his shoes were dusty. He winked at her as he left. When he closed the door hundreds of petals silently fell to the ground.

She watched her husband through the window, dust from their driveway clouding her view of his car. She sighed as she sat on a bar-stool by her kitchen island. Atop the island was a peculiar looking vintage record. She picked it up with her free hand and turned it over. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she decided it was time to pull herself together. She set the record down and stood up, smoothing out her crisp pink shirt before creases could form. She poured the remainder of her coffee down the sink and leaned against the counter.

Carla and Tom had a bright-eyed, intelligent dog named Sam who loved herding animals. This morning, he trotted into the kitchen and sat down in front of her, waiting patiently. Carla glanced at the lead hanging on the hooks by the door and Sam began to wag his tail enthusiastically.

She began walking towards the door and Sam followed. It was time for their daily walk to the fields, just a few kilometres away where Sam enjoys herding sheep.

Twenty minutes later they were within touching distance of a field. Carla let Sam of his lead, and stood in complete solitude and reflected on her magical surroundings. Her surroundings brought her great happiness; the trees were green and blowing in the wind, the sun was golden and the stream that began just meters away was flowing quite fast now. The birds began to chirp. This put her at ease; she considered herself to be the luckiest wife in the world.

The once energetic dog was beginning to tire as lunch quickly approached them. With that in mind, they began their peaceful walk home through the pink, white and green trees and colourful bushes. As they approached their dusty lane, she felt something buzz in her pocket. Tom’s name flashes on her screen. She frowned, for Tom never phoned her while he was working. Regardless, she pressed the green button on her phone and began to speak.

‘Hey, are you ok? What’s wrong?’

There was a brief pause before a high-pitched screech sounded through the phone speakers. She winced and held the phone away from her ear. Abruptly, the phone call ended. Carla broke out in a cold sweat.

Somethings not right.

Carla sped home. By the time she reached her front door her lungs and feet were on fire. She fumbled for her front door keys, dropping them in her panic. Sam sniffed them before retrieving them for her. Carla took the keys from his mouth and ruffled his fur. She opened the door and rushed in, slamming the door so hard the wall shook. She locked it quickly and shoved the keys into her back pocket.

Carla tried to calm her nerves with another cup of steaming coffee but she couldn’t settle. She made her way around the house, double checking that all her doors and windows were locked and secure. There was no way anything could happen to her now. In the living room, she ran her fingers through her hair, taking a deep breath and savouring the calm silence. Suddenly the doorbell rang. She jumped so high the coffee spilled out of her mug, staining her once white throw. Her nerves were now beginning to control her, especially as she wasn’t expecting anyone, not yet…

Despite doubting herself, she walked to the door with her dog by her side. She took the key out of her back pocket and gently pushed it into the door. When Carla opened the door, she could hear the swaying trees ahead of her and the birds chirping in their nests. The man at the door had a messy ginger afro and dirty clothes. She noted his boots had obviously endured a lot of wear and tear as his toe was sticking out of the top of the shoe.

The man asked, ‘Is Tom home?’

‘No. Sorry, my husband is working at the minute. Why?’

The man stared at her, expressionless. When he didn’t speak, Carla started to close the door.

Things happened very quickly. The man stuck his dirty shoe in the way. Carla looked down at it and noticed that his toe was growing some type of fungus. She screwed her face up in disgust, this distraction allowing the man to force his way through the door. Carla tried to run, Sam barking furiously at this strange invader, but the man grabbed her before she had a chance. He wrapped his muscular arms around her and covered her mouth with a calloused hand. She tried to scream but the sound came out muffled. He dragged her further into the house.

A second man appeared, large and bald, dressed in black. He lunged for the dog and bundled him up. Carla screamed for him. She caught a glimpse of him throwing Sam into the back of an enormous black van before her front door slowly shut. Her stomach dropped as she heard an engine rev. The van sped away.

Carla nervously turned her head towards her captor and saw something shiny in the man’s hand. Fear took over her: she lost all feeling in her body and dropped to the ground.

Carla finally came around and as she did, she heard a crash come from the kitchen. Without thinking she stood up slowly and began to creep towards the door. She tried the handle but it wouldn’t budge. Someone had locked it. She

searched frantically for the key but couldn’t find it. She tried windows as well, but she was locked in; it was like a nightmare come true. She screamed, but stopped short when she heard someone unlock the door. The man that had imprisoned her glared at her. She tried to run but he reached her quick, covering her mouth. She kicked out as he dragged her but he seemed oblivious. Carla’s fear intensified as he made his way towards her basement, which she knew was infested with insects. He yanked her down the cold stone steps, slamming the door behind him.

He let her go when they reached the ground: there was no escaping this room, and the man knew that. Carla stubbornly sat on top of a gardening equipment box, folding her arms and staring intently at her captor. She watched him saunter towards the basement’s small window, which he opened ever so slightly.

‘Let’s listen for your hubby, shall we?’

***

Tom pulled his car to the house. His dusty boots were now covered in paint and his hard hat was placed under his armpit; he sighed with relief as he stared at the colourful bunch of flowers he had bought for his wife. Tom looked in his wing-mirror and fixed his greasy hair before looking around him and locking the car. As he approached the creaky porch and took in his surroundings, he wondered why his dog hadn’t barked at him yet. It was one of his favourite parts about returning home again after a hard day at work. He began to slide the key into the door and lightly pushed it open.

He stood on the welcome mat at the door and shouted for his dog but there was nothing, not a peep. Then he walked to the kitchen and shouted, ‘Carla are you home?’. There was a brief silence. He moved to search the other rooms when he heard a voice come from the basement.

‘I’m in the basement!’

Tom shifted towards the door to the basement and listened. He could hear the washing machine, which was normal, but he was sure he could hear another voice. The creaky door to the basement was opened just enough for him to shout for Carla and once again there wasn’t a single noise. Tom was always weary and carried a gun in his back pocket in case of emergencies. He had never used it before as their house was literally in the middle of nowhere, and therefore away from the danger of the city. Still cautious he began to descend the old staircase. Before he reached that platform in the middle of the stairs, he could see a full basket of washing. He frowned: Carla only ever went in the basement in the early hours of the morning to do washing and it was still there. Their dog still hadn’t barked.

He caught sight of Carla by the window. She was deathly pale and covered with new bruises.

‘Carla!’

As he descended the stairs, she screamed. A lout shot rang out.

***

The bang of the intruder’s large gun Tom woke up. He was breathing heavily, drenching in a cold sweat that made his pajamas stick to his skin. He looked to his left where his wife lay sleeping. At the bottom of the bed lay Sam, his head resting on Carla’s foot.

Tom sat up and smiled gleefully to himself, remembering that they didn’t have a basement.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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