by Betty J Burton
Charles Danby yawned as he drove his blue Cadillac farther up the road. He scratched his head, as he pondered on where his exit could be.
“Honey, just face it you are lost.” Mimi Danby said with annoyance.
“No, this tracking system does not know her directions,” her husband snapped back. A disturbance in the back seat drew his attention. “What is going on back there?
His son, Andy answered. “Autumn will not let me play my video.”
“Just shut up. I need to get back on track.” He yelled. Both children went quiet. Their father never got angry. “We need a gas station. We are running low. Autumn let your brother play,”
After a quarter-mile, they saw a sign GAS. Charles turned off on the rugged road. As they pulled up in front of the gas station, Autumn exclaimed: “That is weird?”
They all looked at Autumn she pointed to the road they had just pulled off of. “Some guy took the sign up.”
“Maybe he’s going to clean it,” Charles remarked as he exited the car.
Autumn took a feeling of foreboding, she shivered. “Are we getting back on the highway?”
“I don’t know. It’s getting late. We may be spending the night.” Mimi answered.
“But I’m getting a feeling. It makes me uneasy. Something is not right.”
Her father returned holding a wrinkled map. “The attendant was helpful. He showed me where we went wrong and marked it on this map. He suggested we spend the night and try again in the morning.”
“Why can’t we go now?” Autumn whined.
“It will be dark soon. Grab your stuff and let’s see what we can find.”
Both kids moaned as they got out of the car. “Think of it as an adventure.” Mimi tried to reassure them.
“I feel as if something fishy is going on.” Autumn started biting her nails. She held her father’s hand, Andy’s mom took his hand.
A well put together gentleman was walking toward them. He reached out. Charles took his hand and firmly shook it. “Let me be the first one to welcome you to Sanctuary Road. I am Mr Winters.”
He motioned for the Danby’s to follow him. “To your right is a Quonset hut from World War 2 We use it for our church and dining hall. Residents make one dish a piece.”
“Like a potluck.” Autumn interrupted.
Mr. Winter shot her a stern look then resumed with his tour, “The large building over there is our resident hall. We live together like a family. The children have a park behind the gas station.
We feel that play is important to our children. The fresh air helps them grow.”
“Can we take a walk in the woods?” Andy asked pointing to the wooded area behind the Quonset hut.
Mr Winters face went suddenly pale. “This is the only time I will warn you. It is filled with monsters, ghosts, and all sorts of evil. Stay here and nothing will bother you. After dark doesn’t go traipsing from your room. Understand the kids.” He looked at Autumn and Andy. They both nodded in unison. Mr Winters turned on his heel and walked away.
Charles shrugged, “I guess we check-in at the residence hall. Stay close no wandering off.” The family did as told.
As they reached the residence hall, a doorman named Godsby let them in. “Welcome folks hope you enjoy your stay. This pamphlet makes you aware of the rules. Follow them precisely. You can check in at the desk. We accept credit cards.” Once they were out of earshot, Mimi whispered, “Rules. What kind of rules.”
“Autumn, I am beginning to think you are right. Something is unnerving.” Charles concurred. They found their room sparse. It contained one double bed, two army cots, and a night table. A couple of towels and washcloths was lying on the bed. “Something tells me we are prisoners.” Mimi was fighting back tears as she picked up the pamphlet that Godsby handed them. “Cursing is forbidden and punishable. We will not accept cohabitation between residents except married couples. This also is punishable. Children are expected to show respect to adults. If disrespect is not shown, it is not tolerated, punishment follows.” Mimi slung the pamphlet across the room. “Strangers will not punish our kids. “
“Can we go now…?” Andy begged.
“Let me go make sure it is okay. I am sorry we ended up here.” Charles was contrite as he left the room.
Darkness had fallen since the Danby’s had arrived. Suddenly Mr Danby realized they had not eaten anything substantial all day. He stopped to check the car. He was angry to find that it would not start. He slammed the door, looking to make sure no one was watching. He decided to check the gas station for some decent snacks. He had better luck than expected. He bought a pack of ham, a loaf of bread, a pound of peaches, a family size bag of potato chips, mayonnaise, paper plates, and napkins.
As he neared the door, a young boy, Skippy was waiting in the doorman’s place. “Hello, folks.” Skippy guided them through the door. “May I carry your package?” Skippy asked. “No, son, I’m okay.” Mr Charles answered.
“But please, Mister. It’s what Mister Winters wants and expects. We are told to be kind or else he takes the whip to me.”
Charles scrutinized the boy. “Are you saying he beats you?”
Skippy nodded. There were tears in his eyes. “You want me to show you?” he raised his t-shirt.
Charles winched as he studied the streaks across the boy’s back He handed Skippy the parcel. “This way, son.”
Charles unlocked the door and led the Skippy inside. “Could you take your t-shirt off so we can check it out.” Skippy did as told. Mimi gasped as she looked at Skippy’s back. “What happened to you, young man.”
“He has been abused. “Charles answered in a loud whisper. “I have never been so upset.”
“How old are you?” Autumn asked,
“I’m seven.” The Skippy answered. “I have got to go before I get in trouble again. Be careful this is not a safe place.” Skippy turned and quickly exited the room.”
The Danby’s remained silent as they stared at one another. After tossing and turning all night, Charles woke up at 3:00 a.m. He dressed and tiptoed outside. He started to jog. He jogged to the end of the parking lot. He was thrilled to find several vehicles parked there. Several had keys in their ignitions. Charles turned and jogged back to the front of the resident hall. Suddenly, Mr Winters appeared.
“Why are you out here? Most people are still asleep.” Mr. Winters responded
“I can’t sleep. The wife snores. I thought I’d take a jog.” Charles said. He hoped he was convincing. Waving, he went back inside to his family.
As the family woke up one at a time, Mr Danby spent his time thinking up a plan. He sat the family down and began explaining it to his family. “I have a plan. This will take all of us.” The family hung onto every word.
Mimi and Autumn went to breakfast. They did their part to act normal. One of the servers asked Mimi about Mr Danby and Andy. Mimi explained that they woke up ill. The server accepted her explanation.
Meanwhile, Charles and Andy gathered their belongings and headed outside. Charles glanced around. There was no one in sight. He led Andy toward the parking lot.
In the breakfast area, Autumn stood up. “Mom, I’m not feeling well. I need air.” She quickly headed outside.
Once outside, she took a deep breath. The sun was warm on her face. A strange noise came from behind the Quonset hut. Autumn quietly walked towards the woods. Finding a large tree she peered around it into the woods. She saw the Skippy who had helped her father. He was bawling and tied to a tree. There were two older people tied to trees on either side of the Skippy. Probably Skippy’s parents. Both were pale and looked horrified. The father had a black eye.
“I warned you about punishment but you did not pay any mind of it. You could not keep your mouths shut. I know you were trying to talk them into defecting but my followers are faithful.”
She saw Mr. Winters lift his Ar15 and shot the little boy. The blood made Autumn ill. She wished she could run to Skippy As she ran back to the front of the Quonset hut she heard two more shots and fell to her knees. Her mother had “come to check on her.” Just as her father and Andy came around in a car. Charles motioned to them to hurry. Mimi guided Autumn to the car. Charles spun out of the driveway and down Sanctuary Road. He pulled in a bank parking lot and called the police.
“We need an officer or officers. We just came off Sanctuary Road. It is almost a cult.”
“Daddy, they kill people. I saw them. The man said it was punishment. He had a gun.” Autumn cried.
“We are on our way!” The officer hung up. He called SWAT and FBI.
A little while later, police swarmed the parking lot. One officer walked up to the Danby’s vehicle. “You the one’s that called?”
“Yes, it was tricky getting away. They messed up my car. It will not run. So I took this car.” Charles was sweating.
Autumn spoke up. I saw a complete family murdered. Here is the rule book they gave us.”
The officer thumbed through the pamphlet. “Where did these murders happen?” The officer was taking notes. “Fred bring me am evidence bag.”
“Behind a Quonset hut.” Autumn answered.
“Park behind the Bank where you won’t be seen. I will get back to you.” The officer went back to his car the motioning the others to follow.
The Danby’s could hear an officer using a bull horn. A shot rang out, follow by another The entire family looked at one another. Autumn took Andy’s hand. He looked like he needed comforted and she did too. Mimi bowed her head in prayers.
Finally, they saw the officer pulling back into the lot. He walked over to them. His face looked grim. “Well it is over. The entire woods is full of bodies. We have the leader and other residents. We must sort those out. One of my men will take you to the car rental. Thanks for letting us know. Hope you have a safe trip home.
After they picked up the rental, Mr. Danby took a deep cleansing breath. He was happy to be headed home.
It was late when Charles pulled into the driveway. He watched his wife and children sleep.
He was relieved that everyone was okay. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Slowly every one woke like blooming flowers. “So did everyone enjoy their adventurous vacation?” Charles asked followed by groans.
Betty J Burton Hails from VA where her Dad would regale the family stories. Her love for storytelling grew. Betty had to go on hiatus because of a stroke that paralyzed her left (dominate) side. She has started doing better and resumed writing.