A serial fiction story for your enjoyment about the odd effects of grief.
written by James Rada, Jr.
Betty Douglas’s plan to kill Old Kiln Road was working. The tree she cut down to block the road kept cars from killing animals that the road tempted onto it. The road turned gray, and things seemed peaceful. Then a Frederick County road crew removed the tree. No accusations were made against Betty, but she was sure they thought she was responsible for blocking the road.
She had to do it because no one believed Old Kiln Road had killed her son, and Betty refused to have her revenge taken from her.
She replaced the “Slow” signs with “Detour” signs to steer people around the bad stretch of Old Kiln Road. Detour signs wouldn’t annoy drivers like the tree had, and the county road crew wouldn’t respond as quickly as it had for the tree. Still the cars came, but no animals were killed since Betty kept scaring them away from the road. She couldn’t keep her constant patrols up forever, though. She had to stop the cars.
Betty smashed dozens of her empty mason jars at either end of the road. The first few cars that ignored the detour signs were rewarded with flat tires. Traffic stopped and followed the detour.
The next morning, the road was once again a pale gray, starving for food. Betty set more food out in the fields to feed the animals. She checked on her glass traps, but they were gone, as if they had never been. Had the road swallowed them, hoping to lure traffic back onto it?
Betty went into the house and took Jack’s hunting rifle down from above the mantle. She knew how to use it because Jack had taken her deer hunting with him a few times during hunting season when he couldn’t find any friends to go with him. Betty loaded the Remington and went out to the road for her patrols.
About twenty-five yards from the road, she saw a pickup truck ignore the detour sign and head up Old Kiln Road. She raised the rifle to her shoulder, took aim, and fired just the way Jack had taught her. She shot the truck tires out, then ran off before the driver got out of the car. She walked to the other end of the road and waited. Soon enough, someone else ignored the detour sign. Betty put two holes in his radiator, stopping him from going any further.
The road went hungry another day.
The next day another pickup truck tried to ignore the detour sign and lost two tires. Old Kiln Road went hungry for a fourth day.
On the morning of the fifth day, Betty went out to the porch and wasn’t surprised to see the asphalt had dried out. It looked rough, like a patch of dried skin. Cracks ran through, making it look like a sun-baked river bed.
She patrolled the road with the rifle and was satisfied to see all the cars obeying the detour sign. However, police had barricaded the road, and officers patrolled the roads and surrounding woods. One officer questioned her, and Betty played innocent about what was going on.
How long would it be before the police opened the road? Would it be long enough for the road to be destroyed?
As the sun set that night, Betty watched the asphalt finally crumble into dust, exposing the gravel road bed. But there was something else among the gravel. Bones. Lots of them. Probably the bones of every animal that had ever been killed on that stretch of road. The small skeletons gleamed brightly in the fading light. Betty had starved the road to death and won.
How many animals had died to feed the road? How many people like her Peter had been killed?
She walked to the edge of the road and kicked at the gravel to loosen it like a hunter kicks at his fallen prey to make sure it’s dead.
“I don’t know what made you so bloodthirsty, but I hope whatever it was rots with you in hell,” Betty said.
She moved to kick it again, but as she did, Old Kiln Road decayed just a bit more. The edge of the roadway collapsed under her foot. Betty yelled as she lost her balance and fell onto the gravel. She put out her hands to break her fall, but the rifle got caught in between her and the road. It went off, and Betty shot herself in the stomach.
She fell onto the road, not dead but dying. She screamed for help, but no one was nearby to come to her aid. All the drivers were too afraid to travel this stretch of Old Kiln Road, and Jack was in Los Angeles. She was alone.
Her blood pumped through the hole in her stomach, down her side, and onto the road. As it touched the roadway, it immediately turned black restoring the asphalt. The changes spread like a ripple on water, restoring the road even as Betty lay on top of it dying.
Would the police find her body and think she was a victim of the sniper they were searching for?
Betty wasn’t going to let the road take her body. She would not be like the collie that she had seen commit suicide.
Holding one hand against the bloody hole in her stomach, Betty tried to rise up on her knees so she could crawl away. She moved one leg forward, but it was a struggle. Her leg had sunk into the asphalt, and it only pulled free with a loud sucking sound.
She grabbed with her free hand for the fence she had built alongside the road to keep the animals away. Her hand closed around one of the wooden posts, but the wooden post snapped off in her hand. She fell forward on her face and the road sucked her back a few inches.
Betty rolled onto her back and fired the rifle into the road. Again and again she fired until the rifle clicked empty. The bullets didn’t even leave a mark on the road. They simply disappeared into the soft asphalt. She beat on the road with the rifle until she was too weak to pull the rifle free from the road.
The road pulled her a few inches closer. She was now sitting in the roadway.
How do you kill something that is not alive?
Betty realized she couldn’t win, but it made her feel good to resist the evil of the road. With her remaining strength, she lunged out of the roadway so that her upper body fell onto the grass.
Let her blood nourish the ground, not the road. She wouldn’t help the road live.
Once Old Kiln Road restored itself to its original condition, Betty knew she had lost. After all her efforts, the road had finally found its meal. She felt herself pulled onto the road and sinking into the surface as if she wasn’t laying on hard asphalt but thick, black tar. She sunk a few inches into the asphalt, thinking she would stop when she touched the hard ground. But she kept sinking deeper and deeper. As the soft asphalt filled her ears, Betty tried to raise her head to keep it above the surface. She had to stop soon. This is what happened to the road kills that laid on the road for days at a time. Almost like the La Brea Tar Pits.
The road covered Betty’s face.
Jack turned onto Old Kiln Road. It had been a quiet ride home. Not unusual, but the newspaper he picked up at the airport had said there had been a sniper shooting at cars along the road. From the description given, it sounded like it had been close to his house.
As he came over the last rise before his driveway, a chipmunk ran out into the road so fast that Jack couldn’t swerve to avoid it. He hit it with his right front tire and killed it.
Stupid animal. Didn’t they know better to stay away from the road?