The Shortcut

by Louder

"I know a shortcut!' Samantha mockingly said to her husband. 'So now we're broken down AND lost!'

'Sam, you're always making a big deal about these things. I'm sure there will be a car by here any minute and they'll take us to a phone and we'll be on our way' Rob answered.

'Did you not you not see those storm clouds rolling in? How many cars have we passed on this ~shortcut~? It's going to storm and we're stranded here. I haven't seen any houses since we turned on this road, either!' 'Come on! The other way would've taken us an extra hour.....' A clap of approaching thunder cut Rob's sentence short. 'Uhhh Maybe we should walk a ways before it starts raining? There has to be a house around here somewhere.'

'Oh great! Out here in the middle of nowhere.... on Halloween! Oh well, I guess it's better than sitting here waiting for the ~wolfman~' Samantha replied.

'Quit being so melodramatic. There is NO wolfman. Besides, we're in the country. Everyone is friendly in the country.'

'Yeah...sure... Haven't you watched 'Deliverance'?' Samanatha countered.

Rob just sighed and they both got out of the car. A bolt of lightning lit the sky followed by another loud clap of thunder. Rob had to admit that this road looked pretty much forgotten. It was mostly just gravel with ruts everywhere.

Rob and Samantha had been married for 15 years. They were both 40 years old. Although their life hadn't been has exciting as it once was, they got along reasonanbly well despite their constant 'verbal jabs'. On this night, Rob was to get an award for a story he had written in the local paper. It was a story about real Witches. He had mainly made up the material but felt it was 'close enough' and 'made a better story' than some of the things he had been told. The award ceremony was being held in the largest city in the state and was to be covered by all the state media. Rob hoped this might catapult him into a career in television new and was looking forward to 'networking' the crowd.

Samantha felt a raindrop as they walked 'It's starting to rain...and it's cold! What a night this has turned out to be!'

'You're not ~out~ as much as I am! This is my big chance to make an impression and get some TV bigwigs to notice me. Airtime! Do you know how much getting my face on TV could be worth? All those camera crews there.... filming!' Rob's frustration was growing as was the size of the raindrops!

'Face it, Rob! You're a small town reporter at a local newspaper. You do a good job but if the ~bigwigs~ were interested we would've heard before now. You should be thankful that the paper gives you space for your column every week. It's not very good... In my opinion!'

The wind picked up and the rain fell harder. Soon the couple was soaked.

'You're just lucky that I have the column! It's put food in your mouth.... and by the looks of you, you get plenty of food!'

'Are you saying I'm fat? Is that it?'

'In my ~opinion~' Rob answered mockingly.

'WELL... I think I look pretty good for a 40 year old!'

'~Obviously~' Rob said sarcastically.

'What does THAT mean?'

'Shhhhh Look... A house!' Rob pointed out. 'And the lights are on! Maybe we can still make the ceremony before the camera crews leave!'

Samantha looked ahead and saw and old two story house surrounded by dead trees. The house looked almost frightening in the backlight of the lightning. 'It looks kind of spooky'

'Let's pick it up! We're getting soaked. We'll call a tow-truck and a cab and still make the end of the ceremony dinner!'

They fought the increasing wind and rain and made their way to the door of the house. Rob knocked anxiously on the door and then stepped back. They could hear footsteps inside. Slowly the door creaked open.

'Yes?' An elderly lady asked.

'Oh thank you for being home! Our car broke down and we were hoping to use the phone. Do you mind?' Rob asked.

The old woman smiled and replied 'Of course not. Come in and be my guest. You're getting soaked out there. I don't get much company way out here! Follow me....'

The now-soaked couple entered the house and followed her to what looked like the parlor room. 'So where is it?' Rob asked.

'It?' replied the old woman.

'The phone. You said we could use the phone.'

'Oh, you must have misunderstood. I said I didn't mind you using the phone....'

'Yes? So?'

'It is out of order. Must be this storm! But if it worked I certainly wouldn't mind your using it!'

Samantha and Rob each exchanged a knowing glance. The type of glance you get when a senile relative makes a non-sensical statement.

'Are you sure?' Samantha asked.

'Very sure. I was just talking on it and it quit with that big lightning strike a moment ago.'

'Is there somewhere else we can go... to call?'

'Not for a few miles. Why don't you sit down and take off your jackets...they're soaked you know!'

They sat down and handed the old woman their jackets.

'So how many miles to the nearest phone?' Rob asked.

'Atleast 20 one way and a few more than that the other. I'm the only house on this road.' The old woman answered. 'It's probably best if you spend the night here and wait until morning. I'll enjoy the company! The phone should be fixed by morning or else we can catch one of the truckers who drive by during the daytime.'

'You don't mind?' Samantha asked taken aback by the old woman's generosity and kindness.

'Oh no.... It get's lonely out here.'

'But...What about the ceremony?' Rob asked his wife.

'I think your shortcut has taken care of any chance of making that tonight! Besides... You might get caught on camera with your ~fat~ wife!'

Rob just hung his head. He didn't want to argue in front of the ederly woman.

The old woman excused herself to get drinks. She returned with steaming cups of coffee. 'I thought maybe you could use something to warm your bones'

Rob and Samantha each gratefully took a cup of the warm beverage.

Samantha took a look around the room and all its antiques as she sipped her drink. 'Oh that Grandfather clock is wonderful. Too bad it doesn't still work'

'Oh it still works....'

Once again Samantha and Rob glanced at each other. They could see the hands of the clock frozen in place, its weights not moving. Another bit of senility showing through they figured.

'It works just beautifully and brings me so much joy. And it really is a lovely piece. But enough about my old trinkets...let's hear about you two.'

As they told about themselves, Rob's occupation eventually was mentioned.

'A writer? I knew your name was familiar! I believe you penned a story about witches?'

'Yes, that was me!' Rob answered impressed that he had been 'recognized'.

'Your story wasn't very flattering to those poor souls.' The old woman surprisingly said.

'Well, I took a few liberties here and there... I wanted to entertain a bit and some of that nature stuff really wasn't what I thought readers wanted to read.'

'Oh, I ~see~ Do you always take these ~liberties~ with your stories....or just witches?'

'Ummmmm no.... Well I guess I always have a point of view...but I try to hide it... sometimes... depends... but I wouldn't call it ~liberties~ Not always, anyways. We have to sell papers'

'For a man who writes for a living you seem to be having a hard time coming up with words right now, Rob.'

'Maybe we should change the subject?' Rob said sensing he was touching a nerve.

Samantha felt even more uneasy. 'Actually, maybe we should get to bed. It could be a long day tomorrow.'

'Certainly, I have a room for you just down the hall' The old woman said and got up to lead the couple to their room.

Samantha immediately tugged on her skirt as she stood up. It was surprising loose. She shrugged it off to the dampness. Her long coat hadn't been able to keep all the rain off her clothing.

Meanwhile, Rob also readjusted his clothing. It was surprisingly easy for him to tuck his shirt in his normally tight waistband.

'Here we are' The old woman said as she opened the door to a large bedroom. Strangely, the room was ready to be occupied. The bed was turned down and the light already on. 'I trust this will be satisfactory?'

'Oh yes, This is fine' Samantha answered.

'Samantha, there are some nightclothes in the closet that you might find comfortable but I'm sorry I don't have anything for you, Rob. Anyway, I'll leave you two to yourselves and turn in for the night myself. 'Night' The old woman said and then walked away.

Samantha closed the door and then quietly locked it.

'What did you do that for?' Rob asked.

'I don't know... That old woman kind of gave me the creeps when she started talking to you about witches'

'Aww she's just not rowing with both oars' Rob told her.

Just then another bolt of lightning hit nearby. The lights immediately went out.

Samantha could hardly see anything at all much less the clothing in the closet. She noticed that the piece she grabbed was very short. Not at all what you would expect to find in the closet of an elderly woman. It was actually a bit shorter than anything that Samantha would choose normally.... but tonight she enjoyed feeling a bit sexy.

Rob was surprised to see the silhouette of his wife in the darkened room. She looked more slender than he remembered. He felt bad for insinuating that she was 'fat' ..... In fact he was sure she must've been working out!

Samantha felt around the dresser and found a brush and began to brush her hair. Rob stripped down to his boxers and sat up in the bed watching the figure of his wife slowly brushing her hair. With only the occassional flashes of lighning to light the room, Rob could swear his wife looked 10 years younger. He could feel a 'rise' noting his 'approval'.

Meanwhile, Samantha was thinking about the grandfather clock in the parlor. It was certainly a beautiful piece she thought. She wished that she had looked at it more closely as she tried to remember the intricate details of its carvings. She could picture the clock in her mind but not all the fine detailing. Her thoughts were broken as Rob put his hands on her shoulders..... Then a light kiss on the back of her neck. He hadn't done that in years that she remembered! Rather than his normal routine of late, Rob was engaging in foreplay....and Samantha was loving it!

Rob and Samantha engaged in some of their most passionate love-making in years. When they were finished Samantha couldn't help but wonder where that type of passion had been hiding!

Rob fell asleep with a large smile on his face!

Samantha's thoughts slowly turned from their lovemaking back to the clock. It soon consumed her....she had to get another look at it!

She quietly got out of bed and unlocked the door. Rob was now fast asleep and unbeknownst to her, was dreaming about the Grandfather clock.

Samantha sat down on the sofa and stared at the outline of the clock. It was absolutely perfect! She began to see why the old woman liked it so much even though the hands didn't move..... It almost felt like a living being rather than an inanimate piece of wood! With each flash of lightning Samantha could see something new in the grain of the wood. She decided she could stare at it all night! And maybe she would have, had her thoughts not been broken by the sound of the old woman's voice.

'I see you had to see the clock again. I told you it's a lovely piece. But you really shouldn't be here alone. You should share it with your husband.... shouldn't you?'

Samantha thought about it and what the old woman was saying was true.... for some reason it seemed perfect....of course she thought she must share it with Rob!

'I'm sorry, mam. It's just, like, so cool!' The 19 year old Samantha replied

'He doesn't seem to be as drawn to it as you are.... but it grows on everyone' The old woman said and then laughed saying under her breath 'Perhaps ~grows~ is a bad choice of words'

Samantha padded off to the bedroom only to find Rob getting up. He saw Samantha's outline enter the room...atleast it sort of resembled Samantha's outline. 'Where have you been?' he asked.

'The Parlor. I, like, wanted to get another look at that old clock'

Rob was surprised by the sound of Samantha's voice. It sounded more girlish. Almost like a teenager....actually, EXACTLY like a teenager! And she looked even trimmer as best he could tell through the darkness. Still groggy from his sleep he wondered if he was still dreaming. After all, he HAD been dreaming about the Grandfather clock in the Parlor. Before he could really say anything else, Samantha grabbed his hand and began urging him to come to the parlor with her. He started to protest and question what was happening when Samantha kissed him.

'C'mon, Silly!' she said.

His curiosity level dropped while something else began to rise! 'Samantha? That IS you....right?'

Samantha giggled 'You big silly....Sure it's me!'

'Well, if I'm dreaming... this is the kind of dream EVERY middleaged man needs!'

Convinced he was dreaming, he happily followed the lithe form of his 19 year-old wife into the parlor.

As the soon as they sat down Samantha wrapped herself around him and said 'This is, like, soooooo cool..... and with the clock, like, kinda looking over us and everything!'

Rob thought to himself that for some strange reason he also ~liked~ being in the room with the clock. As a matter of fact he caught himself stealing glances at the clock. So was Samantha. Rob began to think more and more about the clock and how perfect it was...even majestic!

Meanwhile, Samantha began to pull away a bit. She no longer was so anxious to have sex.

'What is it?' a younger Rob asked.

'I don't, like, ya know....have a lot of, like, experience...Okay?' replied an even more girlish sounding voice.

'You almost sound like a kid! This is some strange dream!' Rob said as he noticed his wife's smaller form in his arms.

'Maybe we better not. Okay?' A frightened 16 year old Samantha answered as she pushed Rob's hand off of her thigh.

'What a dream! I just need to concentrate so that you're 19 again! You can shape your dreams if yiou concentrate!' A confused 27 year old Rob told her....trying to convince himself.

'I don't think this is a, like, dream or anything!' A 15 year old Samantha said as she scooted away from the man beside her and then turned her attention back to the clock.

She immediately felt more confident. The clock was like an old friend. Security!

Rob saw her staring and he himself looked at the clock. He too, felt more calm looking at the clock. The longer he stared the more secure he became.

Suddenly, something in the back of his mind clicked. It was the clock that was doing this! It wasn't a dream! He also realized it wasn't just his wife... it was affecting him too! He knew the shaggy hair hanging in front of his eyes shouldn't be there... it had retreated years ago!

'Samantha....we have to get outta here while we're still adults!' he said turning to face his wife of 15 years 'OH SHIT!' he yelled in shock upon seeing that it would be a few years before anyone would think of this 14 year girl as an adult! And she didn't seem able to really understand him.

'Adult?' she said meekly.

'SHIT!' He reached out to grab the young teen just as she hopped off the sofa to sit down in the floor in front of the clock. The closer she got to the clock the more transfixed she became.

He also noticed himself slipping mentally. The clock's power over them seemed to be getting even stronger. His body didn't want to move! He knew he had to do something quickly or else Samantha wouldn't even be a teenager. He was fast losing the battle of wills between himself and the clock. He saw Samantha's hands and feet noticably pull closer as she lost another year. It was 'now or never' he thought.

Using every ounce of energy he could muster, he jumped off the couch and lunged toward the 13 year old Samantha trying to pull her away from the clock. He grabbed her hand but couldn't hold on as it shrank in his grasp. She had lost another year! ....And he had no strenghth left to fight. Rob was now only 23 years old. He could realize what was happening but couldn't do anything about it! He was trapped and could only watch as his wife and himself slipped further and further back in time.

He wondered how young they would get and how long he would still have his mind. As the clock continued to youthen them he could watch as the 10 year old Samantha giggled.... almost as if the clock was talking to her! Rob wondered what was going on in his wife's 10 year old mind.... were her adult memories ~all~ gone? He also felt his own memory clouding. Seemingly faster as each year washed away. He was 20, Samantha was now 9. Then he was a teenager again....Samantha just an 8 year old. His memories clouded even more....and more....Then he seemed to blackout for a moment.

When he awoke he saw a cute little 1 year old girl playing with her toes. He didn't recognize her. He felt strange himself. And everything around him seemed odd. And the clocked seemed to be getting bigger....and bigger....and bigger... and then the hands started moving........


'That's right, sheriff. I live out here all by myself. No family. I don't know who would leave two little babies on the porch of a stranger. Lord knows, I don't have time for any children!'

The sheriff watched as a couple of area TV stations filmed the two babies for their report on the finding of two abandoned children.

'Yeah, it was a pretty strange night last night. That writer fellow, from the paper, he was supposed to get an award or something. Never showed. We found his car abandoned down the road here. No sign of his wife or him. Guess he thought he was takin' a shortcut to the city. Damn kids had moved the road signs around! Funny thing is.... There wasn't a damn thing wrong with his car! Fired right up. ....Well, we best get these young'uns to Social Services. Now, Miss... You might wanna be a little careful, what with all these strange things goin' on. A pretty young thing like yourself can't be too careful! ' The sheriff told her as he lowered his sunglasses to get a better look at the young beauty wearing only short shorts and a little revealing crop top. 'Bye now, hon' he said as he turned to leave.

She gave him a little wave and padded back into the house saying to no one particular 'Ahhhh... Anybody else wanna write a story misrepresenting witches?'

---THE END--