Last Rites by George Cotronis [horror]

Last Rites by George Cotronis 

We drove around for hours that night. The town was empty, sleeping. Dim lights disappearing in the fog as we passed them by. Like being lost in the expanse of space, there was complete darkness between each island of light created by a streetlight or a store’s flickering neon sign.

The tape deck blared Black Sabbath songs. We found the tape under the passenger seat, the scrawling on the label no longer visible. When I showed it to the man in the back seat, he nodded. I pushed it in and the car filled with the chorus from Paranoid. The man laid back and formed a half smile. He looked out the window, his breath fogging the glass. It started to rain.

“Where else can we take you, Brent?” Michael asked. He flicked his cigarette butt out the window.

The man in the back seat was quiet for a while, and then mumbled, “Terrace View 34.”

He coughed into his fist, and then threw up blood all over the back seat.

Michael looked at me. “Oh fuck,” he whispered.

This car is fucked.

The Cadillac’s spotlights tore the night as we headed up the hills. The man pointed when I needed to take a left or a right somewhere, usually with some hesitation.

“The town’s changed a lot over the years,” the croak came from behind my headrest. I wished he wouldn’t place his head so near to my own, but there was no way to say anything without being rude. He smelled like the dead—desiccated flesh and the smell of wet earth.

He pointed at an empty lot. An old fridge had been abandoned in the mud. “This used to be a coffee shop,” he said.

We navigated the smaller streets until we found what we were looking for. The house was in ruins. Nothing specific, just abandonment and weather. And time. Half of the roof had collapsed, and that part of the house was covered with moss. The rest of the house looked just as bad.

The dead man in the back stuck his head to the window like a child, taking it all in. He sat there staring at the old house.

Michael fiddled with his bag. We didn’t have too long till dawn now.

“Did you live here?” I asked.

The corpse shook his head no.

“Who then?”

He tried to speak, but he only let out a croak. He coughed again and said, “My friend used to live here. When we were kids.”

I nodded. “What happened to him?”

He got out of the car and approached the house. I let him. There was no one around anyway. This neighborhood was dead.

I got out and followed him. He wiped the dirt of the old mailbox that was lying on its side. He looked at the name there and showed it to me, but I couldn’t tell what it said. I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me. I don’t think he had the words to tell me what he was feeling.

He shook his head and let the mailbox slip out of his hands.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said.

We drove back, through the town and into the woods. We took one of the dirt roads deeper into the forest and parked in a little clearing we had picked out earlier.

Me and Michael got out. The grave was already dug. The dead man looked at the hole and fidgeted. I hoped he wouldn’t run or jump us. I hated it when they did that.

“Hey, I’m sorry you didn’t find your friend,” I offered.

He looked at me and smiled, the mouth too wide, the teeth too many. The flesh was drawn back, and his eyes had sunk into his skull.

“That’s okay.”

I nodded, and Michael walked up with the rosary and read him the last rites.

“Do I have to go into the grave?” the corpse asked.

“No.”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

“For what?” I asked. I hated this part. The man was dead, I shouldn’t feel bad. But it was always hard.

“My friend died years ago. When we were kids. I made you drive around for no reason.”

“That’s okay. We liked driving around with you, man.”

“Yeah,” Michael added.

“I guess I forgot for a while. I thought he might still be alive. He never got to grow up, you know, he drowned when we were kids. He was my best friend,” the man said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Are you okay now? Are you ready?”

He nodded. “I just thought I’d say goodbye. I never talked about him when…when I was alive. I wasn’t a good friend.”

He looked around at the trees and grass.

“I guess that’s what I’ve been missing. Saying goodbye.”

He closed his eyes then. I lifted my arm and aimed at his head.

“This is consecrated ground. You will rest here. Go, and be at peace,” I said and pulled the trigger. He fell down into the grave, and I shot him two more times in the head.

Michael picked up the shovel and started filling it in. That’s the deal—one of us pulls the trigger, the other one digs the grave.

I sat in the car and listened to some Black Sabbath.

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