Rhonnie Fordham is a lifelong horror fan with a passion for all things scary. Prolific across many mediums, Rhonnie is a produced screenwriter in addition to being a novelist. His popular Last Serial Killer book series is currently available on Kindle Unlimited.


by Rhonnie Fordham


I had nowhere to go on this grueling Georgia highway. I had no job, no family, no boyfriend. Nothing but my own aimless thoughts and broken dreams for company.

Sure, I got by okay. Once in awhile, I sold a creepy painting or two. But as a struggling artist, my income wasn’t steady. And now here I was at thirty: single, homeless, and still chasing the mirage that was the professional painter career path. Essentially, I was a millennial drifter without a cause.

But on this languid Monday afternoon, I was actually relaxed. Behind my aviator sunglasses, I stared head-on at the steady sunlight. Here it was late February and I didn’t even need the heater much less a hoodie during this lukewarm Georgia winter.

I drove on down this lonely four-lane blacktop where there wasn’t a soul in sight. I’d just come back from completing a sale in Columbus, Georgia, and now with some rare spending money, I was making my way back to my hometown: Cairo (pronounced Kay-Row), Georgia. I had some potential business down there with a reclusive indie author, you know, my kind of guy.

Normally, I took the interstate to Cairo but I figured what was the rush? The writer wasn’t expecting me till tomorrow and my family was long dead. Might as well take the scenic route.

If I’d been on this route before, I damn sure couldn’t remember. But I figured as long as this old Honda’s radio was working, I couldn’t complain. Plus, the surrounding forests and farmland offered me some pretty scenery. Overall, I passed a few highway towns about an hour ago but hadn’t seen shit since.

At first, the radio offered me plenty of solace from the boredom. But as the dull drive continued, the tunes soon gave way to static. I mean every channel was the same. Now there were no familiar rock songs to comfort me. Hell, I couldn’t even find a country station or a mad preacher attacking the airwaves. Everything was scratchy like the snow off a defunct T.V.

I stole a glance down at my old iPhone 8, not shocked to see the no service signal greeting me. Groaning, I then confronted the highway and did my best to suppress the rising anxiety. An anxiety that wasn’t eased by my next sip of Miller Lite (my only beer for this drive). The radio’s scan button didn’t help me. Every station was just a lost signal, that same high-pitched turbulence starting to scramble my mind.

Up ahead, a speed limit sign caught my eye. 45 M.P.H. Such a sudden drop-off, I thought to myself. I glanced down at the speedometer which was next to the gas gague. And then my heart sank.

I had less than a gallon left. How the fuck did I not notice this...after all, I’d just filled up in Columbus. No way my baby was huffing gasoline that quickly. Amidst the panic, I looked out the windshield and saw no city signs on the horizon. Hell, I didn’t even see a house out here.

“Shit…” I muttered. Now this endless montage of trees and peanut fields were unsettling rather than soothing me. I gripped tighter to the wheel and mashed the pedal. All the while, the parade of white noise off the radio assaulted me. Here I was trapped in south Georgia and this close to my hometown.

For the first time this winter, I felt sweat drip down my dark beard. My restless eyes stayed glued to the highway.

And then I saw it: a shabby building up ahead on the left. Its Woodall’s sign was prominent and all I needed to see.

“Yes!” I shouted victoriously. I turned off the radio and relished in the first real silence I’d heard this entire trip. A smile spread across my face—until I got closer. Then I saw the marquee underneath the Woodall’s sign: 29.9 read its unimaginably low gas price.

This much closer, I saw holes and cobwebs covering the sign. I could see the faded posters running along the store’s busted windows like that of the torn posters plastered over the windows of an abandoned movie theater. The parking lot looked to have been empty since 1958. The gas station was a Norman Rockwell graveyard with its useless pumps being nothing more than neglected tombstones.

“Fuck!” I yelled. Acting upon a nervous compulsion, I checked the fuel gauge to see the arrow had drifted ever so closer to E. I needed salvation in the middle of nowhere. And fast.

Returning my gaze to the open road, I continued to drive, on the lookout for a miracle…but the forest surrounding me was only broken up by the occasional peanut field. There were no cars, never mind an actual human being.

“Goddammit, come on…” I felt despair in addition to every pothole this old road had to offer. The gas gauge’s weakening needle taunted me with each passing second.

Then to my relief, a blue wooden sign appeared. And she was a handmade beauty: Welcome to Parrott, Georgia the Town of the Long Riders. Painted Azalea flowers surrounded those letters to form a colorful southern shrine.

“Hell yeah,” I said to myself. A welcome surge of confidence began to wash over me. Initially, I saw more green inferno, just more of this rural hell until the cute wooden convenience store caught my eye. Tillinghast’s Country Store read a sign’s cursive letters.

The gas station was a sprawling log cabin with a row of rocking chairs on its front porch. I saw only two pumps but hey, that was more than enough for me at this point.

I pulled in closer. Of course, I saw nothing nearby. No houses or any competition for Tillinghast’s customers. This store had a monopoly on desolation row.

More advertisements were tacked around the store’s main sign. Apparently, the owners could afford bright paint rather than neon lights to advertise such luxuries as Cold Beer, Potato Chips, and Country Cookbooks. But my favorite part was Tillinghast’s claim to fame: Last Full Service Gas Station in Parrott, Georgia!

Now that was really something to be proud of. My smirk stayed omnipresent as I pulled right in to the pump closest to Tillinghast’s heavy front door. I killed the ignition and tore off my sunglasses. Finally, I could exhale.

“We made it, baby,” I confided to my Honda as I gave her dash a love tap. I saw the gauge needle now hovered mid-way through the letter E. “We sure cut it close, sweetie.”

I grabbed what was currently a useless iPhone and stepped out into the February heat. Tillinghast appeared to be trapped in a time warp somewhere between 1950s small town Americana and post-Recession decay. Chipped paint coated those lifeless rocking chairs. The small speakers outside played scrambled static, the same white noise I heard on the radio that was only broken up by the occasional burst of Roy Orbison’s high notes or Patsy Cline’s confidence. Up above me, a ceiling fan was on the verge of collapse given its ferocious swirling..

I surveyed the scene. Some trepidation halted my brief euphoria. I was the only car here…not to mention the only thing present from this millennium. However, there were some signs of life in the form of a garbage can chock-full of fresh trash and the fresh skid marks running up and down the parking lot’s battered pavement.

One look at the gas pump confirmed my suspicions: no card reader. That technology apparently hadn’t quite caught up with Parrott, Georgia yet. Then again, wasn’t this the city’s last full service gas station?

“Great,” my southern accent remarked. I confronted the store’s red door where its peeling paint and rotten wood made me feel as if I were about to enter a crypt. I sighed. But had no choice. I got ready to enter when suddenly, the door burst open.

A dying ding erupted from its shopkeeper’s bell to commence the sight of Mr. Full Service himself walking on to the porch: a tall middle-aged man with stringy yellow hair. His bulging dark eyes were wide awake for what must’ve been the longest fucking shift on Earth.

The man’s gray coveralls fit well over his beer belly and broad shoulders, a uniform’s cap crammed over his dirty blonde cobwebs. A cursive Tillinghast’s Country Store patch was fitted over his heart and the name tag matched the man’s unassuming grin: John.

Too weak to close back on its own, the store’s front door gave me a sneak peek at what awaited inside. I saw another ceiling fan whirling inside in addition to a wide array of stocked shelves…but I didn’t see another customer in sight.

“How can I help you?” John said in a voice likely decimated by decades of cigarettes. He honestly looked dutiful but distant, a black-and-white caricature brought to life with depressing realism.

“Uh, I guess just fill it up,” I said with an awkward smile.

John gave me a nod before staggering up to my car in slow, clumsy steps.

While watching his struggle, I stood closer to the doorway. Then I heard it: light movement. Not a footstep but a heavy sliding sound…and just like that, the unease returned. I looked over at John. “Hey, man, do you want me to pay first—”

In a sudden outburst, John confronted me with both his arms held out toward me in a pleading position. “No! Just stay right there! I’ll let you pay inside later.”

I stood there awkwardly. I no longer heard the noise but was no less caught off-guard by his response. “Oh. Okay,” I stammered.

With that, John stuck the pump’s handle in the tank. The routine may have been nothing more than a miserable ritual for him but I noticed he was moving quicker. Certainly faster than his age and the grueling graveyard shift should warrant.

“You doing cash or credit?” John asked me.

Beneath his blank stare, I hesitated. “Uh, debit.”

John waved inside the store. “I’ll scan it in there.” He stole a glance back at the pump. Those crawling numbers still had a ways to go. “You not from around here, are you?”

I forced a friendly grin. “No sir. I was heading down to Cairo.”

Not saying a word, John turned his attention back to the task at hand. His eyes stayed on the pump’s slowass ticker.

That harsh static filled out our shared silence. I looked up at the speakers where those distorted sounds still came from and still creeped me out.

“You know,” John began, his tone hitting a weary pathos.

I faced John. He now had a trembling grip on the pump handle.

“The best thing we can do’s get the hell out of here,” John continued. His stare pierced straight into my baby blues. “That’s all we can do.”

“Pardon?” The pump’s chime made me jump. All of the numbers were now completely still.

“You heard me,” John growled. He pulled the handle out. “If we don’t get the hell out of here, I’m gonna have to give you to her!” he said, his voice and mannerisms veering toward madness.

Shivering for the first time this February, I waved a shivering hand toward him. “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking—”

With a frightened flourish, John jammed the handle into the gas pump. “I’m telling you for your own good, boy!” he yelled. “We need to get the hell out of here! Both of us!”

I took a step back. “Naw. You’re not coming with me. I’m sorry but…”

John marched right toward me. His footsteps were loud, his crazed desperation only increasing. “If you won’t, I’ll have to feed you to her!” cried a southern accent full of saliva and pain. “I have no choice!”

Like a cornered child, I stumbled back against the wall. I held my pathetic hands out. “No, man, get the fuck back!”

“Help me!” John wailed. He reached out toward me. “Please, let’s go! Now!”

“Get the fuck back, you crazy dude!”

John’s strong grip latched on to my shoulders. He leaned in, inches away from my face. “We have to go, son!”

Straining, I struggled to break away but John’s stranglehold was too tight. “Get the fuck off me!”

“Please!” Tears formed in John’s eyes. “Please help me!”

Using all my might, I gave him a hard push back.

John staggered away. As he became off-balance, his look of horror met mine, our scared eyes matching until John hit the garbage can and collapsed to the ground. There was a sudden crash and then the sound of a gruesome puncture piercing through the static surrounding us.

“Oh fuck!” I cried. I ran up to John but I was too late…way too late.

John was still there on the ground, all the fast food wrappers and empty bottles surrounding him like funeral flowers. Only there was one longneck John himself had crushed. The bottle’s broken glass was lodged in deep beneath his head, the sharpest shrapnel sticking straight through his scalp to forever pin the cap to John’s blonde hair.

Blood flowed among all the Bud Light backwash. John’s eyes entered a cold standstill. His breath was completely gone. But the static from the speakers continued to form a sadistic chorus for my ears. An uncanny orchestra of scratches and distortion that never let up.

I watched John’s blood flow to my feet, horrified. I saw the blood spread out in all directions to provide fresh red paint for Tillinghast’s much-needed renovation.

I looked back toward the open front door. The clinical lighting inside lacked warmth. The isolation around here was just too much for my nerves. “Fuck that,” I muttered.

Immediately, I hopped inside the Honda and jammed the key in the ignition. But the engine sputtered. “Come on!” I cried. The next few turns did nothing. Hell, I couldn’t even get the radio on. Yet what disturbed me most wasn’t the car’s abrupt flatlining but the fact my gas gauge hadn’t moved at all. The needle was still stuck on E.

In a pathetic panic, I checked the iPhone to see there was still obviously no service. Not to mention my phone battery was now hovering under twenty percent. One look out the windshield showed a sunset that had crept up on me amidst such a terrifying day. I punched the steering wheel. “Goddammit!” Tears of horror slid down my cheeks. I sat there, helpless and alone.

I made myself turn and face the store’s front door. The opening just beckoned me. It provided me faint hope and provided me yet another mirage on this drive.

“You’re fucking crazy,” I told myself, something I was used to doing. I then left the Honda behind and stumbled up to the store, my scared steps kicking up John’s blood along the way. “Hello?” I said to Tillinghast’s. I wasn’t surprised to get no response.

Upon entering, I saw the small store was conquered by shelves and shelves of snacks and fridges of cold beer and soda. Trembling in the cold air, I looked all around me to see a huge cash register on the counter, the store’s famed cookbooks made up of yellow pages. A small radio and its barrage of static further frightened me. Amidst my lingering unease, I realized the front door was my only way in and only way out…except for a door in the very back. A door that was cracked open just ajar.

My teeth began to chatter. The Kings of Leon tee shirt I was wearing gave me no chance against this man-made blizzard. Still I stared on at the back where the door now appeared to be open just a little bit more.

Over the static, I heard that unsettling sound. That same slow sliding along the floor…a slimey slither.

Cautious, I approached that back doorway. “Hello?” I forced out.

A quick slam roared throughout the store. I whirled around to see the front door was now closed shut, entombing me in here. I fought the nerves and rushed up to it. “What the hell!” The brass knob gave me static electricity but I still turned the damn thing. Frustration joined my fear when I discovered the door was locked. “Goddammit!” I looked out a window and lost everything. My voice, my courage. Hell, at this point, I felt my soul shiver.

My Honda was gone. And so was John for that matter. All signs of our strange fight had been wiped clean from Tillinghast’s country canvas.

“No…” I muttered. I placed my hands against the icicle windowpane. “No fucking way.”

Then I saw the rocking chairs swing to life, their paint restored, all of them rocking in unison. This was the most customers Tillinghast’s had likely had in years…even if these customers were unseen.

Beautiful harmonies from both inside and outside the store unsettled me. The Five Satins’s ‘In The Still of the Night’ drifted off the speakers, the music flawless and void of static as if it were celebrating the gas station’s opening in 1956..

I staggered back from fear. “No…no fucking way…” all I could mutter out.

An agonizing creak echoed behind me. I whirled around just in time to see a red tentacle retreat further inside that back room.

The long, slender tentacle slid away, the tentacle an anaconda arm with no eyes or snout. There were no features of a face or sign of life itself anywhere on it, the tentacle blood red and covered in an even redder ooze. And as it dragged itself away, I could hear that same sickening sliding noise…

Full of terror, I watched the limb disappear into darkness. Back to wherever the hell it came from. But lying there by the doorway, I saw where the creature had left me a gift: a pair of gray coveralls. Coveralls that awaited my body and enslavement.

I walked up to my future uniform and stared down at it. Tillinghast’s Country Store read the patch. I then saw the inevitable name tag where my name Lee was spelled out in that flashy cursive font. “We need to get the hell out of here!” John’s paranoid voice blared through my mind. “Both of us!”

I looked on at that back room but didn’t dare get any closer. Through the numbing despair, I could still hear John’s painful pleas. “If you won’t, I’ll have to feed you to her!” His voice was that of a man approaching a nervous breakdown…or on the brink of death. “We have to go, son!”

A weary smile crossed my lips when I contemplated how the uniform would at least keep me warm for these eternal shifts. With a madcap chuckle, I gazed around my new office. My new home. Sure, the snacks and alcohol would alleviate some of the pain. But hey, maybe it’ll be fun fulfilling my duties as the last full service gas station attendant here in Parrott, Georgia, duties that I’ll need to fulfill for both Tillinghast’s and that monster in the back.

So the next time you’re driving home from Columbus or Atlanta, Georgia, stop on by. Let me pump that gas for you. There’s always room for small talk in our friendly little town. And boy, could we use the customers.