Hell’s Belle by Jim Wilsky

Luke comes roaring down the dark lane like Dale Earnrhardt Jr. after a quick pit at Daytona. He bangs through and over an old cow gate without even thinking about the brakes. Sneaking a look in the rear view mirror he sees nothing but swirling dust.

The high weeds are lit up by the bouncing headlights and they blur by. A tilted mailbox up ahead signals a black top country road coming up fast. Downshifting now, cranking hard to the right, he fishtails onto the main road. Loses it to the left, gets it back and then flirts with the ditch on the right.

Winding out second gear, he grinds it into third and stands on the gas pedal. The dark road ahead is arrow straight. The land is flat as grandma‘s pancakes, lit only by a crescent moon in a cloudless sky. Spider’s truck is shivering and shaking, but he coaxes it up around sixty.

He’s beat all to shit. Bruised bad from being clubbed. Bleeding from all the cuts she did and the deep gash at the hairline is the worst. Flowing blood keeps getting in his eyes. Swiping at it with his forearm, he shouts out in pain. He’s got to have some busted ribs. His breathing is ragged, wet. The only thing he’s wearing is jeans and those are soaked in blood.

His Katy is gone. They’d messed with him plenty but made sure he stayed conscious to see what they were doing to her. He wasn’t sure how long this shit had been going on, his head wasn’t right, time was screwed up. Could have been two days down in that dank ass storm cellar. Maybe three. They tried to make it last. Make her last.

Spider had been bad enough but Alex, his crazy bitch girlfriend, was the one he feared most. She looked like a homecoming queen and had a smile that would melt you, but the girl was the devil’s own. The things she’d done. The chants and language he couldn’t understand. Her dancing eyes. He could still hear the echo of her deep husky laugh.

He looks in the rearview again. Nothing but darkness and the single pole light at the old farmhouse. Spider has to be dead, he’d caved his head in with a spade, took his keys and split. Alex though, he didn’t know where she was.

The engine coughs, pauses, coughs again and finally roars on. He’s still doing 50, but his eyes click over to temp gauge. He’s blown a hose or some fucking thing. Ten seconds later and the old Silverado sputters out for good. It rolls to a smoking stop only about a mile and a half away from hell.

Luke falls out of the truck as much as he steps out and doubles over after a lightning bolt in his ribs. He stands bent over, weaving in the middle of the road.

It’s around ten miles to town. He’ll never make it, but hey. He starts down the road with a painful shuffle, as fast he can go without falling down or passing out. Clearing the fading arc of headlights, he just keeps gimping along in the dark.

Then he hears it. Way off. Not a scream, more like a whoop.

There it is again.

Like a goddamn war cry.

He veers like a drunk over to the shallow ditch and goes down to a knee, looking back towards the truck. He’ll go into the corn rows if he has to.

Time stops.

Then the truck taillights light her up in red. An Olympic track star. At least that’s what Alex looks like as she comes busting ass down that blacktop. Really pickin’ em up and puttin’ em down.

Slowing to a trot at the truck, she stops dead just past it. Short-short cutoffs, tennis shoes and an old ZZTop t-shirt. She has that large butcher knife and it reflects a quick sliver of light. She doesn’t move.

The crickets and night bugs drone on.

Finally in the dying headlights, her head swivels slowly up the road. She looks right at where he’s hunkered down. He swears he sees that gleaming homecoming smile.

He struggles toward the corn with clenched teeth.

20 thoughts on “Hell’s Belle by Jim Wilsky”

  1. Julia, Thomas and Chris – Thanks for reading. Thomas, all I can tell you is that the Polk County Sheriff, Trev Moreland, is driving home late, after a long boring ass day. Up ahead, there are the lopsided dim headlights of a car in the ditch. The lights are fading fast and they blink out just as he pulls up alongside. Shit. He recognizes Spider Cummings Silverado right away. Truck is smoking under the hood. Crazy bastard, he smiles to himself. His girlfriend though? Hey now. That’s a whole different crazy there. A great kinda crazy he bets. Trev sighs and opens the door of his cruiser. He’s sure Spider is snoring on the front seat. He stands and arches his aching back, reaches back in to get his hat and

  2. Jim Wilsky writes music and puts it down in words. Beautiful as an Appalachian ballad. Dark as a deep woods ghost story. Real as a brick to the head. Flat out gorgeous, Jim . . . as always.

  3. In my head, I’m saying ‘run, run, run…’ You take us right inside the story. You can feel his fear and even her determination. Superb story!

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