The service station appeared at the top of the rise like a dilapidated child’s toy. Old gas pumps and a ramshackle building looked as if they had been set down on the grass by a giant child and then abandoned at naptime.
Lisa relaxed at the sight. The yellow “low fuel” light had blinked on about half an hour ago and her car had been acting funny ever since. She could hear her brother now.
“Dumb blonde!” it was her usual rebuke for lighting out in a hurry without checking the gas gauge.
Lisa screeched to a halt before one of the old-fashioned black opaque gas pumps and flew from the driver’s seat like a paper airplane in a windstorm. She waited a mere moment before scouring front and sides of the gas pump looking for the nozzle. What an odd-looking pump. Although it looked old and rough, it felt smooth and glassy – cool to the touch despite the heat of the day.
Just as she was about to give up and search out some assistance, her fingers touched a ribbed hose poking from the side of the pump and she yanked it roughly towards her car, shoving it home as easily as a plug in a socket.
Lisa relaxed slightly as she listened to gurgles of the gasoline and smelled the pungent fumes. As she waited for the tank to fill, she ran her hands absently over the ribbed black hose before her. Like the pump it was attached to, the hose flexed smooth, cold, and slick, like snake or lizard skin. The cold sliminess traveled dreamily up her arm. From somewhere in the depths of her mind, she felt a quick nuzzle, tickle, buzz, sting on her forearm which yanked her back to reality with a jolt.
“Hello . . .” Lisa stepped into the rickety windowless building still rubbing her arm. “I need to pay for some gas.”
The building was empty. Not a desk, no chairs, no tools, and no people; just an empty husk of a building which echoed her footfalls and calling voice. Lisa reached out a hand to touch the weathered boards. To her surprise the walls felt smooth, glassy and cold, not rough and splintery like wood should feel.
A queasy feeling rumbled in Lisa’s stomach and she felt a brief sensation of falling rapidly – like a fast elevator trip. She backed quickly out of the empty cubicle, her heels grinding thankfully against clumps of stunted grass bristling out of dusty clay.
The sky above surged with sickly purple and yellow clouds. The horizon wavered in the distance reminding Lisa of heat spikes seen in desert backgrounds.
“Now what do I do?” her mind asked her absently. The warm desert wind pushed her light hair back from her sweaty brow and deposited sand shards in her wide blue eyes. Lisa, eyes scrunched shut, pressed her back against one of the old gas pumps and inched her butt downward until her car blocked the gritty wind and she was sitting on the curb in front of the old-fashioned gas pump. As she carefully worked to blink the sand from her eyes, Lisa felt another quick nuzzle, tickle, buzz, sting – this time on the small of her back. She rubbed the spot as she stood and backed away from the old pump.
“Hey, you,” a garbled voice called out.
Lisa turned and watched the creature approach from the small building. The being towering over her had coal black eyes, and even blacker tentacles. The tentacles protruded from different parts of its body moving with grace and speed. One hovered over his eyes to block the searing sunlight, one smoothed his black hair in place as the wind ruffled it, one held a clipboard and pen and seemed to be taking notes, and another pointed at Lisa.
“Miss, that’ll be $15.50 for the gas, please.”
Lisa watched mesmerized as a yellow tentacle sprouted from her forearm, reached into her jeans pocket, pulled out a ten and a five and shoved them into the grasp of the waving black tentacle before her. More tiny yellow tentacles sprouted from different parts of her body. One large tentacle emerged from the small of her back, opened the car door and yanked Lisa inside. As she grasped the steering wheel with her hands, the small tentacle whipping to and fro from her forearm turned the key and the car sped away.
The black tentacled creature squinted at the car driving off and then at the bills waving before his eyes. He shook his head, bouncing long and short tentacles about like dreadlocks.
“Dumb Blonde,” he muttered ambling back into his station while a tentacle busily noted the fifty-cent mistake on his clipboard and another shoved the bills into his back pocket.
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