The white van parked sideways across two spaces in a side lot of Pine Creek Wildlife Area had a homemade trailer hitched to the back that took up extra room. An unlatched wooden box sat atop it that emanated such a stench passersby stopped to sniff the air in search of the source for the miasma. Had the driver realized how the box’s timber would fail to contain the foul odor within, he would’ve parked elsewhere to keep any suspicion at bay.
He’d driven half the night to escape the scene of his latest crime and now risked being found elsewhere because he couldn’t keep his eyes open for another minute behind the wheel. This park seemed out of the way in the dark. In daylight, not so much.
A noticeable funk leaked out from between the pine slabs of the box, which drew the attention of a young boy who chased his ball across the blacktop. Brendan looked at the van and trailer when the ball bounced off its back bumper. His imagination put eyes within the wood’s natural grain and told him monsters peeked back at him from inside.
No wonder it smells so bad, he thought. Maybe a tiny ogre lives in there with his fish dinner he left out to rot in the sun. The boy grabbed his ball and backed away at a snail’s pace, fear having shifted him into slow motion. His stomach rolled at the thought of eating that stinky lunch instead of the PB&J that actually awaited him.
His grandmother hollered, “Brendan, get back over here.” She could see someone with long, greasy hair slumped against the driver’s window of the vehicle. Those dirty tresses smeared a streak down the film of its cigarette-yellowed surface. The body didn’t move. Brendan’s grandma presumed any manner of drug-addled state in which that person might be, maybe even a dead one, asleep behind the wheel at this time of day.
Their family couldn’t have known this picnic spot would bring them so close to a real-life monster who drove it there.
Brendan stood transfixed to stare at the timber he perceived was ogling at him. His mouth hung agape until his grandma yelled his name again, and he startled so abruptly he shoved the ball away from his body. It hit the driver door with a thud like a hammer pounding a tin can.
When the man shook awake, he whipped his filthy head from side to side as if to gather his bearings before he fixed his gaze on Brendan. A sneer curled from his lips to reveal brown teeth that could’ve recently gnawed away at rancid smelt, and the boy shook at realizing he was the target of that nasty smirk.
Brendan ran back to his grandparents, the front of his shorts dark from an accident not experienced since pre-school. The van’s ignition caught and tires spun to narrowly miss the boy in its path as it sped away to exit the park. It took a lot of soothing by Brendan’s grandmother to get him settled down enough to eat his sandwich and return to play afterward.
The family never heard the news story of the van driver later arrested for speeding and what, or rather who, the authorities uncovered inside the box on its trailer. Had Brendan’s curiosity gotten the better of him to lift the latch and look inside, his discovery would’ve certainly ruined everyone’s lunch. Although the kidnapping occurred several days prior, a garrote still surrounded the neck.
Our Write Side writing prompt – miasma/stench
(photo: Wikipedia Commons)