A/N: Yet another Hills Have Eyes story! Poor characters, I simply can't leave them alone. Anyways, I always wondered who the Gas Station Man was when he came to the Hills and how he got roped in to the whole mutant thing (in the original HHE, the gas attendant was named Fred, so I'm calling him that now). I don't like writing long, multi-chaptered stories because I usually lose interest, so this is just a one-shot. It's a bit choppy, but I tried to accomplish everything I set out to do. Criticism is accepted, thank you.
The car trunk closed with a satisfying 'clunk' as Fred Walker hefted the cardboard box with all his belongings in it onto his right hip (it was so sad when one's whole life could be packed into a box). A few months ago, Fred would have considered himself crazy for buying a gas station so far out in the middle of nothing. Then again, a few months ago, his wife hadn't divorced him and taken custody of the kids, the house and the cat, as well as expecting him to pay her every month. Fred grimaced inwardly. Let's see the bitch try to find me now.
The gas station was boarded up and dirty, left like that for a half a decade or so, when the previous owner suddenly up and left, with no word to his friends or family (except for a message on his sister-in-law's phone, something about the hills and somebody watching him). The two white lockers on the porch were no longer white; the screen door was both torn and squeaky; and the porch was rotten and full of holes. Fred may have been a lazy bastard (according to his wife), but once he sunk his teeth into something, it was hard to stop until he was finished. He turned around and whistled sharply through his lips.
Monty poked his head out of the open window and waggled his brows goofily. Fred smirked and opened the car door. "C'mon out, boy."
The Golden Retriever hopped onto the dusty ground and shook himself, pink tongue unrolling from his mouth. Fred patted the dog on the flank. "What d'you think of our new home?"
Monty sniffed a quick perimeter around the car and bounded off towards the gas station, panting with excitement. Laughing and with less excitement, his master followed.
It had been two months. Fred tipped back his hat and heaved his feet up onto the counter. The air was thick and dry, with the high buzz of flies in the background. In the back room he could hear Monty's toenails clicking on the floor as the dog paced back and forth, panting heavily. In these two months, only six cars had stopped at his gas station, full of irritable people needing gas, food and bathrooms, headed for various places for various reasons. Most of the time though, they took this long, isolated road to see the desert. Fred would heft his cigar to the other side of his mouth (it was such a relief to be smoking again, outside the constraints of his wife, that he allowed himself to have one every once in a while) and reply, "Ain't nothin' t'see in the desert."
That was wrong, of course – the desert was an environment all its own, and often Fred would take an afternoon off (who was going to steal from himanyways?) and walk with Monty up and down along thesides of the hills. Monty would bound off, a gleamingpin-point of gold against the rocks – Fred would wait,leash in hand for almost a quarter of an hour. Just ashe would start to get worried, Monty would leap backinto his sight, usually carrying something for hismaster.
Once it had been a gristly piece of a plant; when Fred went into town next (something he didn't do often) he tried to find the name in a plant book in the local library. He never succeeded.
Another time, Monty came back with a bone, pristinely bleached from the desert sun. It was too big, too long to be a coyote's or any other small animal – Fred had felt queasy for reasons he hadn't yet understood and had tossed it back under the shade of the craggy cliffs.
The nightmares started about half a year after he bought the damn gas station. Fred could never remember the dreams clearly, just that they involved the sickening, stomach-dropping feeling of somebody watching him. He would jolt upright in bed, covered in sweat (from a combination of the nightmare and the heat). Alerted, Monty would also jolt upright, pounding his tail against the floor in silent anticipation.
The dreams came slowly at first – once a week, then twice, then three times. After awhile, Fred lost track of how frequently he dreamed. He tried everything in his power, of course; he ate light before going to bed, he replaced his bottle of liquor briefly for a strong cup of tea...
There are things human beings don't really understand, warnings from their subconscious being one of them.
There was a girl at his window. He was sure of it. He was half-asleep and trying to sleep off a drink, but he saw her. She was wearing a paisley blouse and there was something wrong with her face...
By the time Fred stumbled out of the gas station, eyes peering into the darkness, Monty at his side, nobody was there. Fred had been positively sure he had seen a girl pressing her hands against the grimy window, her fingers closely spaced and her face off-kilter in his subconscious. But it could've been the drink, or the heat, or the half-wakefulness. He had forgotten about it and led Monty back into the gas station, cursing himself.
It happened again, the next Thursday. Fred saw someone, or, he thought he saw someone. Out on his walk with Monty, he looked up to see a hulking shape perched on the edge of one of the cliffs. It was in front of the sun, of course, so it was nothing but a black blob that could easily have been a coyote, but coyotes don't reflect the sun like that, now do they?
Monty going missing signalled the start of Fred's end. The dog had bounded off into the hills, as per usual, but when Fred whistled at him to come back, he never returned.
Afternoon turned to dusk, and dusk into late evening – Fred sat on the porch of his gas station and looked out into the hills, but Monty still did not come back. There were coyotes out there that could take down a Golden Retriever, but something in his mind told him that it wasn't a coyote. Restless in the heat, he had paced the porch and dove into his supply of liquor. Over the past months, with the stress of the uneasy feelings of the surrounding hills and his nightmares, Fred had started drinking and smoking more frequently. The gas station, which had been kept as tidy as possible considering its condition, had slowly been forgotten about. There were empty bottles everywhere, the outhouse needed a desperate clean, and paint was peeling off various parts of the building.
Fred wasn't worried about this at the moment, however. As the sun clambered to the top of the hills and no sign of Monty appeared, Fred threw the leash violently behind the counter of the gas station and didn't reappear outside until well after noon, when he went out to wipe a layer of desert dust from his cranky old car
They came out of the desert like mother-fucking Moses – it was the only time they would approach Fred so openly. At first they were only shimmering dots on top of one of the hills – Fred paused from his work and squinted, not trusting his eyes against the New Mexico heat. Slowly, the figures moved, making their way painstakingly down the cliffs. As they got closer,
Fred was able to make out their appearances. The leader of the three was dressed in a long black coat, long hair and beard scruffy and matted with dust. Even from this distance, Fred could see his eyes. To his right loped another man, leaner and closer to the ground, skin burnt red and horribly twisted from exposure to the desert sun. He had a cleft lip that exposed his crooked teeth and Fred mentally recoiled in disgust. To the left was a tall, hulking man with a silly, toothless smile, the side of his head resembling a strange, deflated football. He was carrying something club-like in his right hand - as he drew closer, Fred saw that it was the leg of an animal, a few tufts of fair coloured fur surrounding the fat of the thigh. It was obviously raw and Fred could see a smearing of blood around the man's chin.
The odd trio stopped a few paces in front of Fred and for a few minutes they sized each other up. To Fred, they all looked weather-beaten, tough and strong. They could probably out-run and out-fight Fred's slow, pudgy frame. Since nobody was speaking, Fred decided to act normal. Maybe he could bluff his way out of whatever they were there for.
The bearded man seemed to be the most normal of the three (but he wasn't normal, was he?) and it was he Fred turned his attention to.
"What," he said gruffly. "Ya here for gas?"
"Allow me to introduce myself," The man gave a feral grin, showing off his set of inhumanly sharp teeth. The man Fred would later know as Lizard was fingering a spike strip on his shoulder, while the hulking brute named Pluto tore a strip of flesh off one of Monty's hind leg with a violent jerk of his head and a bit of animalistic snarling. "My name is Jupiter, and me and my sons would like to tell you about a shortcut."
As Fred Walker stood there in the New Mexico sun and stared at what would soon become the clearer object of his nightmares, he swore to whatever God was out there that he would never, never forget their faces until the day he died.
(He was right)