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Road Trip

Road Trip

A woman sets out on adventure by taking a cross country road trip.

1

Horror


author-small

Deborah J (United States)


Flipping back her natural blonde hair, she sang with a strong contralto.
“Rumor has it I’m the one you’re leaving her for!”
Jamie’s roommate smiled at her bubbly companion who rocked her head back and forth while straddling one of the two kitchen chairs, almost causing her headphones to fly off. She held up two fingers to the young brunette causing her bike helmet to sway. She grabbed a bottle of water and headed out the door of their apartment. The two had just come off of finishing up their final semester at the University of Illinois at Chicago but knew very little of one another after their year of living together. Jamie never liked anyone in her business.
She removed the earphone plug from her iPhone and docked the phone on her speakers to allow Adele to take control of the small living area. Her hips slid purposefully against the quiet of the room. She ran her fingertips up her waist and into the air and let out a burst of laughter.
A black glove silenced her laughter. Flailing her arms wildly, Jamie’s eyes widened as she attempted to scream, but all sound was muffled by the hot leather. She attempted to bend forward to flip her assailant over her, but the contents of a syringe were emptied into her arm, and she swayed to the floor.



“It’s rather impractical, Leilani.”
Grey eyes, clean cut, close shave; she liked the aesthetics. His perspective on her impending cross country road trip, not as well received. Leilani’s hope was to avoid making it into a grandiose occasion by mentioning it.
Color drained from her fingertips as her free palm gripped the brown, leather strap of her satchel, a calming mechanism. She leaned her head back against the driver’s side seat of her old black Camaro until her cheeks were cushioned by her long, bushy, golden tresses. Anticipation surged through her upon seeing the mile marker which signaled their exit and let her know that within minutes, they’d hit the front door to their apartment. She could then create some space between them. He remained useful.
“Terrance, you’re warm.” She granted him the feeling of appreciation. “It’s good to be cared for.”
The shrug which followed would’ve gone unnoticed by another, but Leilani had not become so invulnerable by missing the details. When he was fatigued, Terrence would drop down beside her onto their leather sofa, his tanned hand landing on her slender, brown thigh with a gentle slap. After a beer-filled, lap dance ladled night of debauchery with his white-collared comrades, he’d sit on the edge of the bed in the darkness of those early morning hours and shake his head. If he didn’t like one of Leilani’s jokes, but feared offending her, his feigned amusement would always sound just as forced as it wasn’t intended to sound.
Terrance was a brilliant man who dominated the world of academia. Admittedly, Leilani wrongly assessed she met her match as a result of the first time he dared to challenge her. Did he not fear the fiery woman who set out to school him about the impact of farming regulations on food deserts in the impoverished wards surrounding their well-off Washington, D.C. neighborhood? His intellectual sharpness drew her in, but he later proved himself to be quite messy.


Denice stood at an intimidating six feet tall. The deep chocolate color of her skin and curvy figure inadvertently captured every eye, male and female, wherever she ventured, but her fearless demeanor kept most at bay. Upon its last call for alcohol, Denice exited the tiny Amarillo bar.
Her relaxed strut down the empty sidewalk toward her awaiting Jeep was free of flirtatiousness. She turned the key in the ignition, and the bright green glow of 3 a.m. made her aware that she’d have a tough morning. Pulling out of her parking space, Denice slowly made her way home. She hadn’t drank much, but she began to feel those glasses of Riesling warming her up beyond the 80 degrees of the summer night.
“Oh no!” Denice had made it just a few blocks when the blue and red beamed through her windows.
“License and registration, ma’am,” the officer recited.
“Sir, may I ask why I’m being pulled over?” Denice kept her eyes averted to avoid a flashlight to her face as she searched her purse for her wallet.
“You do know it’s illegal to drink and drive,” he replied. The voice was familiar. She turned to look up and felt lightning strike into her left cheek.



The Texas heat beat down against Leilani’s face; she thought it might have been her skin melting rather than sweat drops traveling from her temple, down her throat, then surreptitiously under her tank top. After several days in Amarillo, she still hadn’t adjusted to the affections of the sun and anticipated her departure with each passing day. She placed her dark shades on her face to protect her eyes from the harsh rays. Though her fortieth birthday was just a month away in July, she was often told she didn’t look a day over twenty-one. Thus she felt it necessary to stay on top of keeping her youthful looks.
Quarter to three; she lowered her dainty wrist. Leilani’s mother once told her Terrance was too good to be true. She felt him manipulative underneath all of his degrees and articulate diatribes on obesity, inequality, and political corruption. Leilani wasn’t foolish enough to believe the fact that he wasn’t black didn’t play a role in her mother’s distaste for her boyfriend, but she never opened that can of worms with her mother. Leilani still had nightmares of the brutal beatings she endured at her mother’s hands. She owed her mother for her avoidance of seeking depth in her relationships.
A hand perched over her eyes, Leilani squinted and peered out of her window, down the highway from the heat of her Camaro. Never on time. She gave a startled leap in her seat upon hearing a horn honk behind her in the busy gas station lot. About time. After a brief look up into her rearview mirror, she pulled out of the lot and headed down Highway 40. One to go.


Three women faced Leilani. None of them had any idea who she was. The tape on their mouths prevented more than mumbles from coming from their lips.
“You ladies, so lovely,” Leilani began. “I like you.” She pointed to Rachel, a short brunette who nearly took Leilani’s eyes out as they brawled in an Arizona hotel room. Leilani touched a finger to the gash Rachel had managed to cause on her face from her fingernails.
“You have a lot in common with me. You see, my fiancé is going to be the next president, and we’ve all had a piece of his action. Unfortunately, you three were the only ones among his sport to have wound up with those little bastards brewing, so I’m going to help you get rid of that problem,” Leilani said nonchalantly.
The women began to pull against the ropes tying them to their chairs to no avail.
“Honey …”
Terrance entered the basement garbed in scrubs with a face mask on. Tugging the mask down, he reached for Leilani and roughly pushed his tongue through her lips.
“Don’t worry ladies, this will be painless, and you will be on your way. So who’s first?”



Leilani sat back stage at one of her husband’s final presidential debates in Ohio and listened to Terrance speak.
“Integrity, honor, knowledge … I don’t know about the others who’ve left the starting line in this race, nor Jim Lambert, who has come this far against me, but my track record speaks volumes on the ways in which I exhibit these things.”
She shook visibly.
“As we head down this home stretch, I want you to know who keeps me grounded and has my back through thick and thin! My lovely wife! You know her as Leilani Brown! Come on out honey.”
Leilani put on her most confident face and walked out onto the stage into Terrance’s embrace. He was still useful.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout, either: a) First person; b) Third-person limited; or c) Third-person omniscient.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice. Impressive.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your great opening was a promise of wonderful things to come. I was hooked!

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice. Impressive.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your great opening was a promise of wonderful things to come. I was hooked!