Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
This is a true story, a quite disturbing occurrence I had the misfortune to experience when I was at the impressionable – and, mind you, easily frightened – age of 7. The entire spectacle is centered around a road trip. This I must explain to you immediately, so that I can tell you the background of the story.
A month prior, my father had entered a contest. The contest was launched by a chain of failing gas stations in my area as a means of advertising. The concept was to distribute bumper stickers that bore the name of the gas station, (which I recall as “Iron-Pump” or something similarly cheesy), and at the end of the promotion, the first person they saw on the road sporting one of these poorly craft automobile accessories would be given free gas for a year. I suppose their intention was to make back their money with the free advertising, as they didn’t expect anyone could use very much gas in one year. They obviously had no idea the kind of person my father was. As you can probably assume, he won the contest, and was given a contract to sign giving him permission to use all Iron-Pump gas pumps free of charge for exactly twelve months.
The very next day, my father rented a tanker truck that is usually used to transport oil. Then my dear old dad set about emptying every single pump at our local Iron Pump into he truck. The attendants tried to stop him, and of course threatened lawsuit, but my father was a smart man, albeit a filthy crook, and had found multiple loopholes in the contract that essentially allowed him to take as much gas as he wanted. The idiots hadn’t specified a maximum.
Now, our family wasn’t very rich. My father was a genius, but he was lazy, and his law degree served the sole purpose of dust collection in his bedroom closet. Because we weren’t the most frugal family in the neighborhood, we rarely went on vacations, or family outings. So we were quite excited when our father announced we’d be embarking on a nationwide road trip beginning next week. I could hardly contain my glee. Ah, the irony.
So we set off in my mother’s disheveled Range Rover, an old piece of junk that worked once in a blue moon, and filled a trailer full of gas tanks my dad had filled up in the week proceeding that we hitched behind us. No more running on empty for this family! I remember packing not enough clothes, and too many crosswords. I was obsessed with word games at that point. I had quite the vocabulary for someone who couldn’t ride the tea cups when the circus came around.
It was about four days in that the car troubles started. And it was four hours in that the boredom began, so our irritation at my mother’s poor excuse for a vehicle was only inflated by our restlessness. It got to the point that we’d stall out three or four times in one hour. It only took about two hours of this for my dad to lose what little patience he could fit into his mind. He concocted a plan that involved selling some of the extra gas we had brought along to passerby’s, and renting another car to continue the O’Reilly family outing extravaganza.
“What about mum’s car?” I remember my little sister asking. My father chuckled and told of the glee it would fill him with to never have to see that piece of garbage again. My mother passively agreed. They, of course, implied by this that they would be abandoning the MomMobile.
We eventually sold enough gas to rent a car. My scoundrel dad filled up half the tank with rocks to make more profit, so it wasn’t difficult. A suspicious state trooper came by, asking what we were doing. He got a tremendously good deal; two tanks free. What a good person my dad was.
We walked up to the car Rental place, which was literally in the middle of no where. A dirt road on a flat plane that expanded to all visible horizons was the only other thing of interest. Completely devoid of life. The first thing I remember about the rental place was that it reeked of something dead. We could smell this even before entering the property. I had to hold my shirt to my nose, and clenched my mother’s hand extra tight. I felt a sense of uneasiness immediately. How was this rental place still open? All the cars were completely cloaked in dust. They looked as though they’d been there so long, i was surprised they hadn’t eroded. The building itself was completely devoid of windows, and looked to be a part of some prison complex. “Watch out!” my mother said, as I almost tripped and fell on some rusty razor wire that was sticking out of the sand on the ground.
“Hello?” My dad called out. No answer, save for a rustling in the tall grass on the side of the road opposite the car dealership.
“We need a car! Are you open?”
“Why yes, I am!” My entire family jumped in unison, and even my headstrong father flinched instinctively. We all spun around to face a grinning salesman in an indigo blue pressed suit who was emerging from the grass on the opposite side of the road.
There was a moment of tense silence. We were awestruck. Why was the sole employee of this run down car dealership across the street? And there was something about his voice, something… artificial… that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“Um… we’re looking to rent a car. Could you help us out?”
The man didn’t budge from his spot across the road, his legs still concealed by the tall grass. Come to think of it, he didn’t budge from his expression either. He had sustained the same grin and widened eyes as before. Now that I had a moment to really inspect his face, he was downright unsettling. His hair was in such a perfect wave it looked like he had dunked it in craft glue and let it harden. His smile was stretched to a physically painful extent, and his eyes were watery from being open so… so wide. So impossibly wide. I remember thinking how it was possible to tense the muscles of one’s face so much and not physically shake. Then I noticed that his face WAS shaking. It wasn’t noticeable at first, but his whole head seemed to be vibrating, in the way someone’s arm would who was clenching their fist as hard as they could.
“Well of couuuuuuurse!” The man replied. The way he said “course”, he modulated his voice throughout the final syllable, adding extra inflections, so that it sounded more like “CouUUuUUuuuUuUUurSSE!”
It’s true what they say about a mother’s instinct, for as soon as the man said this, my mother stood in front of my sister and I instinctively. I later asked her about his sudden protective stance, and she told me she hadn’t thought about it at all. Something inside her had known this man had the most despicable of intentions.
“Okay, well… It’s getting kind of troublesome to have to shout across this road, so could you come over here and we can discuss it face to face?”
I’ve never seen someone’s expression change so quickly. In the blink of an eye, his happy go lucky smile had whipped around into a menacing frown. This frown was stretched just as painfully wide as the grin, and his head shook with an intensity about equal to when he had been Mr. Happy Salesman.
“Nnnnoo.” He said very calmly. It sounded like “uhNoooeee’w.”
“Please? This deosn’t seem very professiona-”
All of a sudden the Salesman punched himself in the face with full force. “Jesus!” my dad exclaimed. At this point, my mom covered my sister and I’s eyes and walked us away from the man, so my memory of the dialogue from this point on is vague. But I’ll try to remember some of what I heard.
“Listen, we can just … it’s not necessary to …”
Thwack! (presumably the man injuring himself again)
“Fuck, stop! Stop …”
“… Two Nights, three fiftyyyyyy”
“That’s fine … keys… family”
“enjoy … rides well, but ….”
“Yeah, you too…”
I heard my dad’s feet crunching on the dirt towards us. “Fucking lunatic…” he said under his breath. I also heard the jingling of keys, signifying my dad’s success in renting a car from someone who was obviously mentally deranged.
My mother’s hand had been removed from my eyes at this point, but it made no difference, as my eyes had been shut as tight as possible throughout the entirety of the debate, and I was going to keep them that way until we were out of sight of the dealership. I heard a car door open, and I stepped in and buckled up. My dad hooked on our trailer, started the car, and backed out. I thought I felt eyes on me, so I decided to open my lids instantaneously to make sure I wasn’t being watched. It was one of the worst decisions of my life, for at that moment my window was approximately two feet away from the salesman. I screamed in terror, because his head was now undergoing tremors of impossible magnitude, his neck bending in ways I didn’t think possible, sometimes whipping his head so far forward that it whacked upon my window. My dad gunned it out of there so fast that the State Trooper couldn’t have morally accepted a bribe if he saw us this time.
Being a child, I lived in the moment, and before long, my tears of fright had dried and I had effectively forgotten most of the experience. I was now happily singing along to the wheels on the bus with my mother and sister, although we weren’t joined by my father, who was having difficulty navigating our expedition.
“Shut the hell up a minute, will you?” he cried in a frustrated rage. The car was immediately silent. “Martha, see if there’s a map in the glove box. Middluh’ frickin nowhere…” my mother complied silently, but didn’t get far in her quest, as the glovebox turned out to be locked. It was locked not by a mechanism of the car itself, but with a physical rusted padlock that looked more ancient than my grandfather.
My mom opened her mouth to relay her findings, but my dad saw it before she could open her mouth.
“Oh, for the love of…! Everyone look around your seats, the key’s bound to be somewhere!”
And so we initiated our rental car Easter egg hunt, in which there was only one egg, and we were harnessed in place by seatbelts that were too tight and chaffed our necks. My sister was the one to find it, tucked into a slit in her seat’s leather. It bore no markings.
My mother hurriedly inserted it into the padlock, which opened with more ease than we imagined. She yanked it off, not realizing that her efforts to open the glovebox earlier had technically “opened” it, and that the only thing really keeping it closed was the padlock. And so, onto my mother’s fine linens, their fell jars upon jars of human appendages. Now, I remember identifying the body parts progressively during the duration of my mother’s blood curdling scream, so that is how I’ll present my findings to you below. Both lines of dialogue happened at once.
My mother:OH GOOD CHRIST! GOOD LORD! FUCK! FUCK! AHHHH! AAAAH FUCKING GOD FUCK!
Me (inwardly): Fingers, Toes, Oh that’s an eye, More eyes, that just looks like red paste.
Of course, I was screaming too, so it was mainly my subconscious mind that calmly separated the contents of the morbid jars into neat mental categories. So by the time my mother was done assaulting our eardrums, I had a pretty good understanding of just exactly was in those jars.
And it’s a good thing, too, because before my sister (who didn’t see the jars because she was only 5 and was sitting behind my mother) could tell what the fuss was about, all 6 jars of human body parts were flung out the window with such speed that they could’ve been mistaken for a Yankee candle. My father had kept his eyes on the road, so the only two people in the car who had any recollection of the contents of the jars were me and my mother. Me because I had made a subconscious effort to remember, and my mom because it was burned into her mind for eternity. This was helpful later, when we had to explain to the police what was in there. One person could easily be mistaken, but two who saw the same thing were more likely to be taken seriously by the authorities.
This rapid propulsion of the contents of the glovebox out the window was succeeded by several minutes of terrified silence. Well, from my mother and I. My father was yelling with a ferocious anger, demanding to know what the hell that was all about, and my sister was doing the same, but with the cute, still developing language skills of a toddler who just wanted to know “What happen, mommy? Why’d throwum the windoe?”
Eventually, we were able to communicate what we’d seen, and my dad calmed down enough to calm US down. He told us it was probably fake, meant to scare people, that the Salesman was probably a practical joker of sorts. But to ease our simple, simple minds, he would go to the police and get the car inspected to make sure there were no more spooky surprises lurking in our newly rented vehicle.
Here is the exact list of items found by the police in our car, which they photocopied and gave to my dad, who gave it to me when I turned 18 as a keepsake:
2 legs, human, severed at thigh, vacuum sealed -Trunk
4 Containers of Industrial Strength Razor Blades -Trunk
Three vacuum sealed plastic cubes of unknown meat(later found to be human fat) – Underneath Driver’s Seat
1 copy of unmarked book, poor condition, written in unknown language (they never figured out what it was, though some speculated Latin)
2 pints of human blood- taped under vehicle (This was the most disturbing part, as this blood lab tested positive for countless diseases; HIV, measles, mumps, and others that I don’t remember how to spell nor pronounce)
The vehicle was unregistered. When the cops got to the dealership, there was no sign of the man. Records showed that the dealership had been abandoned for 23 years prior, which explain the dust coated cars, broken glass, razor wire, and why the car we rented was the only one not covered in dirt and grime. My dad now admits it was a stupid decision to to rent from there.
The K-9 unit had dogs try and track the man’s footprints, which looked promising at first. But they started getting farther and farther apart, mysteriously, and then disappeared into a lake. They closed our case when it became evident that no more was going to come of it. The police triple checked with us to make sure the man had no way of knowing any of our personal information, and we confirmed that we never even told him our first names.
To this day, that man’s expression still haunts me, and I only buy from car dealerships where you can see your reflection in the hoods.
Credit To – Dylan, TCW