“How’s it going out there tonight folks? Thanks for tuning in for The Tinlou Backshift on TYVE fm. Jerry Mac here to keep you up to date and pass the time between tracks, and for anyone that’s already tuned in, welcome back!
We have a good long stretch of music on the way, some blues and soul with Sonny Boy Williamson and Etta James, local talent from our back catalogue, and of course whatever else I feel like putting on. Pretty sure there’s some Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse and Muse in the lineup too; guaranteed to be a great show.
I’m going to get things started here with Fly at Night by Chilliwack, the first of the many great Canadian classics that I’ll be adding to the mix!”
Michael turned the radio up a little bit once the announcer finished his DJ break. He was well acquainted with Jerry and The Backshift. He often wondered if the station paid a little extra to be able to pump their radio waves to these parts of the province.
It depended on the night, of course.
Sometimes the weather would interfere with the frequency, and that would mean having to turn over to CBC, or whatever god awful country station the locals maintained. He didn’t hate country, but the brand on the radio made him thankful that his Plymouth always seemed to pick up TYVE fine and dandy.
It helped that Jerry Mac always had a good show. Never failing to make a few good jokes or keep up some over-air banter. Every now and then some night owl would post on their facebook page and he would give them a shout out.
Great for late night driving chatter.
“And when you close your eyes, sleep comes fa-ast, when you fly the universe, well, you need some reh-est, yeah, you need some reh-sst..”
He throttled his ‘78 Fury to a comfortable 85kmph. Usually it was good background chatter. He thought dryly.
The downside to this particular route, and part of why he was growing to dislike taking his pride and joy on it, was that the road could do with a major overhaul. A project that Michael doubted Tinlou, or the province would want to negotiate any time soon.
It was becoming less travelled sure, but that was because it was a rally circuit with potholes that grew like clockwork on every spring thaw, some were caverns where rain had found a quicker path to the culvert below.
Boulders heaved out of the black top, resting at shin height, eroding any surrounding pavement. Tinlou was full of trees, a smattering of farms, ocean frontage, but a great road infrastructure was not among these commodities.
He knew if he went on one of the main highways, it would be a safer trip, but the back roads of Tinlou had a certain draw, to young and old. If you had business on the other end of the province, well that just meant you got to enjoy serenity and your own thoughts.
Next week, he would pack up his car, and repeat the trek.
Prep bread and pastries at Nelson’s bakery for six days, rotate off for a week. Then followed by five days at the Good Cup beanery, where he tended to the stockroom and inventory. Stay at a relative's cottage while working at the bakery, and his apartment in Tinlou while over seeing Good Cup.
Michael knew he spent hundreds of hours on the road in the run of a year, but his trusty Fury never seemed to cause too many issues. It coasted smoothly around the potholes, and was quick to pick up the pace if there was a clear stretch of road.
Looking ahead, he spotted a flash of red light glinting through the tree line marking the border of a tended field. Street lamps and homes were scarce on this stretch of road.
The RCMP also didn’t seem to patrol out here, which was a bonus if one wanted to be liberal in setting their speed limit. That didn’t necessarily mean cruisers weren’t apt to set a spot check up from time to time.
Sometimes the odd farmer would be leaving a buddies camp, and odds were their blood alcohol content would be high enough to boil water, and if a cop stopped you, it was an easy suspension; bonus for the officer, demoralizing to the old man.
With this in mind, he let the 315 engine idle down to the actual speed limit.
“And when we look out, and see you there, you seem much closer, and you feel so near, yeah, you feel so near...”
Approaching the tree line, Michael wonders why they picked this particular spot. It seemed strange to have a cop stop this far out in the sticks.
His last fill up, and only gas station until the next town, had been at the Irving in Alton -at least 40 kilometers back.
A tail pipe and an upside down license plate were the first images he glimpsed of the Hyundai. A trail of skid marks lead to the wreckage until it seemed the car had swerved at high speed, and the wheels had left the ground bringing it onto its roof in the ditch.
“Oh shit!” Michael yelled out to his empty car.
Immediately he geared down as he saw where the source of light had come from. He didn’t bother reaching for his phone, resting snugly in his coat pocket. This was one of the few stretches of road that cell towers failed to reach.
It was kind of silly if you thought about it.
The car appeared to be an Accent, he guessed possibly a 2007. It was much newer than his vehicle and likely worth four thousand dollars less. Rust could be seen on the undercarriage of the upturned import.
Michael brought his car to a stop, letting the engine die out. He switched his four-ways on and reached for a flashlight in his glove box. Stepping out of his car with the light trained on the driver door of the Hyundai. He called out to whatever poor soul might be alive in the vehicle:
“Hello?” He crouched down to try and look into the front seat.
His Boy Scout habits also coming back to him- “My name is Michael Kabuse. I’m approaching the car; is anybody in there?”
The nose of the car was wedged firmly into the soil that ran along the field side of the ditch. Where Michael stood, it was impossible to see inside the car. The engine must have died it in the crash, but somehow a tail light managed to remain connected to the battery. It was flashing a very dull set of signals against the blackness of night.
He approached the car cautiously, keeping his eyes and nose out for any signs of a fuel leak.
Closer, he could see through the broken back window of the hatchback. Inside was a mess of broken glass, plastic, and blood. The plastic appeared to be pieces of a storage basket that may have once been in the trunk, however after its quick and sudden tumble it had managed to disintegrate.
The blood however, was present in what remained of the front seat. Where Michael had expected to find a deceased driver, he instead saw a bloody, but very empty car wreck.
He stood up and scanned the road with his flashlight, trying to envision the crash, and deduce where the bodies could have been thrown.
Only idiots don’t buckle their seats his brother would have said.
Nothing on the road seemed bloody, so he turned his light on the potato field to see if there were any new mounds that had been flung from a high speed accident.
The field looked relatively untouched. There were a few spots where a rodent had dined on its evening meal, but otherwise the car seemed to have only left debris in the ditch, or on the road.
“Hello?” He yelled a little louder this time. Not wanting to wander too far in case someone nearby was unconscious.
Silence emanated over the lonely stretch of broken flat top.
Alright, look around, and then hightail it to the nearest house. Michael thought.
He was starting to get an unsettling feeling from the car. The air felt thick, as if static hung low to the ground, and, there was an off putting quiet surrounding what would have been quite the show not too long ago.
There was also the smell of the nearby farms to contend with, tonight seemed especially rank with manure and composting waste.
An idea came to him as he thought of how to search the area before leaving.
Walking back to his Plymouth he opened the door, honked three times, paused, honked twice, and then honked three more times.
“Hello-oh?” Silence followed his voice.
A grasshopper or peeper, making its song every now and then, but no other noises made their presence felt in the area.
I should just get out of here. If anyone is out here I’m not much help to them.
He pictured getting in his car, maybe leaving a blanket and a water bottle next to the crash, just in case, and then driving up the road until he found a sleeping locals abode. In this area it would likely be an elderly couples house, modern when it was built in the peak oil era of home design, now paint significantly faded and a roof that wasn’t insulated as tight as one wants. There would probably be a tractor or some sort of 4x4 sitting in the yard; ancient like the house, but equally reliable in its task.
The old lady -Michael imagines her name to be Irma- would be fretting that a stranger would call on them at this time of night. The old hoss would come out. He would look grim, but not surprised when Michael delivered the news about the unfortunate accident up the road.
“Ayuh, people don’t drive smart anymore. Not the first time we’ve-”
Looking at the dirt next to the snapped off radio antenna, an odd shape, in fact multiple, tracks, caught Michaels eye.
Unnoticed before, nestled under his own footprints, it was quite clear that someone on horseback had approached the car.
What the fuck?
The tracks, obvious to the eye now- scattered the dirt around the upturned Hyundai. There had to be three or four separate mounts given the chaos that was on the ground. Horseshoe shaped grooves rutted into the earth, approaching and circling the wreck.
Closing his car door, Michael decided to investigate the tracks he had failed to notice before. He supposed, that it’s possible someone nearby, perhaps the potato farmer, may have heard the crash, and decided to come to aid. There could have been survivors that were in good enough shape to travel.
If that’s the case, why didn’t anybody stay behind?
Dismissing the skeptical thought, he continued to follow the tracks with his flashlight.
They seemed to have entered from the same direction as Michael. He tried to shine his light at the tree line but the darkness of a moonless night held it just outside of his vision. No way to tell if there was an access trail intersecting the road.
His car’s four-way lights pulsed. Click. Click. Click. Click
The horseshoe tracks approached the car, but it was hard to tell where they left the accident site.
Okay, well it’s too dark to see anything anyways so best to find someone, or a phone and get this handled by someone more equipped in removing a two thousand pound vehicle from a ditch.
He wanted to keep looking around, but there didn’t seem like much he could do in the moment. Whoever had passed through here seemed to be long gone.
Walking to the trunk of his car, Michael opened it and proceeded to grab a blanket and a small sealed Compliments water bottle from the super pack he kept well stocked.
“Hydration can save a nation!” A goofy mascot would say in one of those CBC public service announcements. Cheap production, but usually it grabbed a child’s attention.
The scent of manure seemed to be growing especially ripe, generally speaking, Michael could ignore the aroma. Yet, it seemed to be growing stronger and, somehow, more repugnant. There was no wind to circulate the cooler air from above, which allowed for the stench to magnify.
Placing the bottle and blanket next to what was indeed a bloody driver side door –if there were survivors they’ll need a couple of transfusions that’s for sure-Michael almost gagged at the sight and surrounding smells. He covered his mouth with his free hand and pointed the flashlight back to his car, carefully minding his footing so not to step on the broken glass that sparkled on the flat top.
A sickening tearing sound came from the passenger side of the upturned car behind him. It sounded as if someone were devouring a perfectly broiled rack of ribs.
The break in his own, and the fields, silence made his stomach tighten. He stumbled for a second then snapped his whole body to the left, almost dropping the flashlight in haste.
-was a brief thought, until he gained sight of the source of noise. What looked to be a mannequin missing its right leg, and entire torso, were sitting outside of the upturned car. The remaining section of the body seemed to at one point have been a man given the khakis and loafers that, blackened almost purple from the blood, were still partially dressing the corpse.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In Michael’s case he bent over and threw up the Big Mac he had consumed just over an hour ago.
He knelt down, bracing the flashlight on his knee. Morbid fascination bringing his eyes back to the passengers mangled lower half. More like lower quarter. Shaking his beam of light, he saw that the right hip and the corpse’s upper thigh were still intact. A shard of cracked bone poked through the tattered remnants of a clothed leg. Pink muscle exposed under most of what remained of the skin, which was peeled back to the flabby part of the poor bastard’s buttocks.
It was that wet ripping sound again. Michael jerked the light to the left foot of the corpse.
Pieces of skin, and some tendons, were removing themselves from the calf and ankle. They tore off, along with a few tendrils of bloody cloth, and levitated above the leg for a brief moment. Then slowly, as if his eyes were working overtime to play tricks on him, the pieces of flesh and meat were disappearing into the night.
Another tearing sound and another glob of meat was torn off, and then disappeared into the air.
The sound of an animal breathing and devouring plentifully began to come to his senses. After each portion was removed, the sound would grow in clarity, every now and then the steady pace of consumption would be halted by the sound of a snort and more excited hunger.
“Yeah fuck this.” He muttered under his breath.
Getting to his feet, but not ready to take his eyes off of what could now be considered less than a quarter corpse, Michael backed away from his pile of vomit. And more importantly the twilight zone shit that was happening before his eyes.
Glass crunched under his feet as he stepped back onto the pavement. Finally with enough nerve to turn around, he heard another sound that almost made him relieve his bladder on the spot.
Instead of turning, he froze body still, his mag-light trembling on the disappearing corpse.
The noise he heard scared him for three reasons. One was that it was the sound of a horse, which he was certain he had not heard approach. The second was that it seemed to be coming from behind him. And the third was that not only did he hear the high pitch neigh of the horse, but he was starting to feel the warm moisture of its breath on his neck.
He knew something was there, feeling the collar of his jacket move as it sniffed at the base of his hairline and licked his neck.
Turning around suddenly, Michael’s knee made contact with the car’s bumper. A flash of reflexive pain signaled his body to double over.
The flashlight spiraled on the ground but not out of his reach. Ignoring the throbbing ache that screamed at him to stop moving, Michael grabbed his safety blanket that was a battery powered hardware store special and limped to the passenger side of his car.
Using the hood as support, he hobbled to the passenger door, the sound of hooves clacking on the pavement.
Now that he thought about it, it was something he hadn’t heard upon the horses approach. He turned his attention back to the sounds source, it may have been a smart plan, but in reality, Michael wasn’t sure if he wanted to know what new sights his eyes would yield.
That high pitch whiny neigh pierced the night again. Except this time it was followed by a reply, another one that seemed to be approaching from behind the Plymouth.
He yanked the door open, fumbling on the handle for what felt like an agonizing moment of a full body seizure. The sound of shrieking horses unnerving him.
Michael was fit for twenty-three, but the thought of a heart attack in this particular moment seemed relevant as well.
A sudden impact of force on his back caused him to fall into the car.
Scrambling to a better position he managed to flop around in the car seat and look outside of the passenger door.
It was indeed a horse, except if Michael tried to recall it to anyone it would be something people would think could only exist in nightmares; or cheap European horror flicks.
Its eyes were yellow, with grayish white pupils. Its mouth salivated and exhausted heavy bursts of foul air. Blood and bits of the unfortunate Hyundai occupants flecked the animal’s nostrils and gums.
It was smiling in the way a horse will sometimes do, except when Michael had been to exhibition shows, those horses didn’t hold their lips in that position. It was just a trick, the show runner knew it, the crowd knew it, but it still looked funny to see a horse talk.
This thing was advancing, almost sticking its head into the passenger door of the car, with a sick peeled back grin on its dripping snout.
The horse lunged in at Michael before he could comprehend his own sanity. Teeth bearing down grotesquely as it attempted to lay purchase into his leg. He thrashed his legs at it, more so as a stunned reaction to this creature than self defence.
The black beast reared back and shrieked in surprise. Lips still pulled back revealing the inside of its throat.
Without taking a moment to think, Michael reached for the door, hoping the animal would be distracted long enough for him to swing it shut.
Another hell horse, as he was starting to think of them as, had arrived to play with their new meal. This one was successful in its claim as it bit into the back of his arm.
Michael’s shoulder was pulled back into the frame of the door as the teeth bit into his fleshy arm. The horse tore through his jacket and into the muscles connected to his bicep. With a quick squelch of ripping skin, Michael found himself losing 2lbs in one of the strangest forms of weight reduction in human history.
Luck was almost on his side however, before losing any major mobility he did manage to pull the car door in. If he was a second later recovering from the animals attack, the heavy steel probably would have popped something in his arm out of joint as it slammed into the latch.
“WHAT THE FU-“Gritting his teeth he worked on controlling his breath.
Outside he heard the horses continue their shrieking.
Michael willed himself to turn his attention to his arm.
It was a sight to see, it took him a moment to understand that he couldn’t move parts of his hand, because there was now a hole where those parts had been connected to his body proper. He was starting to feel a little woozy as he looked at his pitted gash. A mixture of searing pain and adrenaline that quickly brought senses to his working digits; grabbing a clean shirt from his back pack, he grimaced as he tried to alleviate the blood now dripping down his wrist. Slipping out of his jacket, he began to dress the wound.
Holding one side of the shirt around his arm, Michael attempted to wrap the bandage around it. Each jostle sent a fresh spike of pain through the right side of his body.
Biting into the blood soaked shirt, he worked through the pain and pulled tight on the knot. The blood continued to seep out, but the flow weakened, and seemed to have restrained itself to the borders of the cloth. Cold sweat clung to his body, but he felt intact.
Perhaps losing his mind, but still alive.
A thud rocked the car, the sound resembling a battering ram made of soft cloth connecting with metal. It seemed like the quadruped he had kicked was back to for its taste of Michael. The beast screeched its whiny shriek while bracing for another charge. Mad white pupils focused on the meal it had missed out on.
By the time the second horse -now digesting a portion of his arm- nuzzled the car with enough force to rock it off of its springs, he was already fumbling into the driver seat.
The Fury landed back onto the pavement with shuddering grace.
Oh come on. He thought as he squirmed behind the relative safety of the steering wheel.
Twisting his key to engage the engine, he received two more heart stopping experiences that could be added to the list for the night.
The first was seeing the two new horses illuminated by his head lights, approaching the front of his car. One reared its head in a high pitch shriek, the other merely approached with its ugly grin, licking the remains of the Hyundai passenger from its pink gums.
The other came from the radio blasting the wail of a harmonica followed by the vocals of an old black Blues singer.
“I'm gonna bring it on ho-ome to you, I think about the good times I once have had, Soul got happy now, my heart got glad.”
“Jesus.” He whispered to the empty car, unable to turn off the radio, eyes set on the driver side of the upturned car.
What looked like a person’s head, lay resting next to the gas tank. Michael didn’t know if it was actually a head, it seemed to have been stomped in by a horses hoof.
The driver of the Hyundai had been the first course, the passenger the second.
“I think about the way you love me too, you can bet your life, I'm comin’ home to you.”
And if he didn’t get his shit together, he would be the third course.
Deciding that he didn’t want to stick around to find out how fast equestrians could dismantle a car, he popped the Plymouth into reverse and peeled away from the wreckage. Smoke billowed out past him as he gave himself a good 20 feet before slamming it back into first gear. The car fish tailed wildly, but Michael held control over the antique as he shifted to let his transmission catch up to the engine.
“All right, that was the great Sonny Boy-“
He jammed the knob on the radio.
“Get stuffed Jerry.” He said bitterly to himself, wincing as his arm shouted out in retaliation for making it work in such a mutilated condition.
His Michelin’s took a violent twist on the road as one of the horses rammed into the side of the Fury. In the mirror Michael saw them giving chase. The flashing lights of the Hyundai growing increasingly faint, however the beasts themselves now seemed to be emanating their own greenish glow.
It was faint, but with each shrieking neigh the glow would pulse brighter, allowing Michael to maintain his vision of their menacing grins.
There was something breaking inside of him as he accelerated faster and faster. His car had reached its limit in gears, but he was well aware that there was ground to be made on the straight a ways.
Several kilometers passed with Michael taking abuse from the horses that pursued him. Every now and then he would see one of the beasts lining up its charge, and would swerve to lessen the blow, each pothole causing him to swerve and dance wildly along the dark road. He eventually managed to maintain a steady one-forty five when he saw the horses begin to lose interest in their chase. Shrieks became faint as the animals slowed and disappeared behind him.
His mind broke shortly after that.
He began laughing, and weeping, unable to fathom what had occurred.
His arm wailed in agony, his knee was swelling where a welt left its mark, and he was pretty sure one of his ribs may have broken when he was pushed into the car.
But Michael Kabuse was still alive. And that caused him to laugh like an unstoppable maniac. He could feel his face twist and cramp as he uncontrollably lost his mind.
He was still alive as a boulder made contact with the axle that connected the driver side wheel to the drive train.
The solid rod that had been rotating at enough revolutions to keep his car above a hundred and forty kilometers an hour, snapped like a tooth pick and tore through the firewall that separated the cockpit of the muscle car from the engine and its moving parts. The car lurched and rolled as the axle pierced through Michael’s leg.
The mass of metal rolled five times before it could only maintain momentum on its roof. Sparks flared across the deserted back road. Miraculously, the fuel lines stayed intact, as did the gas tank. In the midst of this his hand must have brushed against the pavement, because when he woke up some time later he would notice that he wouldn’t be using both hands to count to ten anymore.
As the car spun on its roof and slowly came to a stop, Michael blacked out.
It was 4am when the cool night air brought him back a few senses. He looked around at the world which now seemed upside down.
It made sense, because he had just flipped his car.
“Wha- fuh-“he mumbled.
How he had not been thrown through the windshield was beyond comprehending at this moment. No seat belt, in what essentially amounted to a head on collision. He knew he was incredibly fucking lucky to be alive.
Now just how the hell do I get out of here?
He looked at his leg, it seemed like the axle had acted as a means to pin him in place.
Lucky, and unfortunate, because he was beginning to realize there was little mobility below his pelvis.
Smell was the next sense to return to him after gaining visual consciousness. Melted paint and oil were now mingled in with the overwhelming aroma of manure.
The first sound to reach his ears was the shrieking neigh that had chased him, followed by the clop-clop of horse shoes.