Salvaged Souls

By: J.J. Cheesman & Robert Harrier

 

Last night, marked the end of my very first week (and last) at my new job. It was supposed to be an easy job, and easy money. After all, what could be easier than a night shift at a junk yard?

I would be working security, patrolling the countless rows of rusted metal making sure no one was around looking for anything to salvage. Not that thieves were a huge problem. Most of the idiots who did take something would try to sell it back to us, or so I was told. No, the real worry was that teenage kids; spurred on by some dare or misguided need to be accepted by their peers, would break into the junkyard and hurt themselves while fooling around.

The first couple days were simple enough. I would fill out my nightly checklist, do a couple patrols and yes, run off a punk kid or two. But I have to say, it was pretty eerie walking down those long dark rows of rusted out mechanical hulks in the middle of the night. I was alone, but I always felt as if I was being watched. The mounds of metal seemed to be comprised of enormous beasts stacked on top of the other. The headlights of the cars; like huge unblinking eyes, silently evaluating every move that I made. The loud creaks and groans of metal settling on metal only added to my paranoia.

Despite how uneasy the junkyard made me I kept my cool. I’m not one that scares easily, especially when there is nothing to be logically afraid of. Then came my third night.

I was filling out my checklist at the start of my shift, when I heard a sound that I recognized as human speech coming from out in the junkyard. I walked out of the guard shack and began searching up and down the rows of stacked cars and trucks shining my beam up and down the aisles. My search came to an end when I reached the fourth aisle however, when I could see lights shining from the very end of the lot. With some trepidation I made my way toward the source of illumination. I gripped my flashlight; my only means of protection, as tightly as I could with my sweaty palm as I walked. When I was nearly halfway there I realized the source of the light was coming from an old 1959 Coupe Deville. I recognized the car immediately, it was the very same make and model of car that my Grandfather gave to my Father as a gift just before he passed away. I couldn’t believe I had never noticed it before.  My unease for the moment slightly abated by my curiosity, I increased my pace toward the glow of the headlights. Once I was nearly upon the old Coupe, the illuminating beams that cast their glow across the end of the lot went out. My eyes had to adjust to the sudden dark and I found myself a bit dazed as I listened for any trouble makers running about. I assumed; as anyone would, that some prankster had found the car’s battery fully intact and began playing with the dials inside. But as I listened, my ears were met with only silence. After a minute or two of waiting, I decided that maybe the wires in the car were somehow malfunctioning and caused the headlights to come on and then back off. I began patrolling the rows of rust once again. The sound of voices had long since gone, but I hadn’t forgotten about them. I conducted a thorough search of the junkyard but never found anyone, and I figured they had run off.  

The next night before I clocked in I struck a conversation with one of the men who worked there during the day. I told him about the previous night and asked him if he had ever seen the wiring in a vehicle act up.

“Are you messing with me or something? We strip out all the batteries in the cars that come in, it’s one of the first things we do.” I laughed at that, but his expression became stern.

“I knew you were playing with me boy, go bother someone else with your nonsense It’s been a long day!” The guy then turned and stormed off in the other direction. I was confused and thought that there had to be some misunderstanding. So when I went inside the guard shack to clock in I asked my supervisor. He confirmed that indeed, pulling out car batteries to resell was done almost immediately when the cars arrived. I didn’t know what to think, but I decided to check for myself that night after everyone had left. I thought maybe someone had forgotten to yank the battery from the old Coupe.

So that night, a little after five o’ clock, I held off on my check list and decided to get my rounds done before anything else. As the orange sun began to sink into the horizon basking the junkyard in a soft blue light, I made my way over to the 59’ Coupe. The faded pink of its paint almost glowed in the now low-light of the evening. I knew from my previous experience with this type of car that the hood release rested in the grill. I quickly found and pulled the lever, a loud *Thunk* told me that the latch released and I lifted the hood.

Empty. Not one single thing was left in the front end of that vehicle. The gravity of what this revelation meant settled in my stomach like a brick. What the hell was going on? Was I just crazy? I shut the hood of the car and walked away from that old boat quickly. I decided that for the remainder of the night I would stay in my guard shack until my shift was over. I sat down in my chair and cracked open the book I always brought with me and began reading. As far as I was concerned, if anyone broke into the junkyard they could have their run of the place. Job be damned.

It was a quarter passed nine, and I had long abandoned getting any reading done. It started raining sometime around eight, and the light drizzle on the tin roof of my guard shack was putting me to sleep. There was another sound just under the rain though. A sound I thought was familiar. But it was so quiet that I barely could barely make it out. I started to wake up a bit as I strained my ears hard to listen past the water on metal sound above, and then I stood abruptly from my chair with such force that it toppled to the floor behind me. The sound under the rain was indeed a sound I recognized. It was the song ‘Sleep Walk’ by Santo and Johnny. The sound of sliding guitar strings grew louder and penetrated the small space of the guard shack. I grabbed my flashlight, and headed out of the door into the rain. Shutting the door behind me it was clear that the song was coming from the end of the lot, in the same direction of the 95’ Coupe Deville. When I looked in that direction, I could once again make out two beams of light shining out into the darkness. With great disdain I made my way over to the end of the lot where the Coupe sat, the beam of my flashlight giving my trembling hand away as its beam shook in tandem. When I reached the Coupe however, I found that the song wasn’t coming from that old boat. Instead, the sound was coming from and old Bonneville that sat beside it. I shined the beam of my flashlight into the back seat of the Bonneville and there sat an old A.M. radio along with a speaker that I assumed was recently pulled from the car. The sound of that haunting song rang out from that speaker, and on closer inspection I saw that there were no wires plugged into either the speaker or the old radio.

I began to back away slowly, my mind now entering a state of surreal numbness. It was then that the darkness of the entire lot was illuminated as every headlight that was still attached to their respective cars flickered to life. I was blinded, and had to cover my eyes with the arm that wasn’t holding my flashlight. In my temporary blindness with only my sense of sound to aid me I backed farther away in the opposite direction of the sound of sliding guitars coming from the Bonneville. Then all at once, my ears were assaulted by the sound of hundreds of engines that all spurring to life at once. That music by Santo and Johnny drowned out by the deafening roar of autonomous voices. I put down my arm trying to see through the blinding lights and what I saw when I did is still burned into my brain. Behind the wheel of the pink Coupe, behind the Bonneville, behind every car that stood in that lot were the shadows of indistinguishable drivers. I yelled out then.

“What’s going on?!” It was a silly question, more of a statement to myself as I knew I would receive no answer. I stared hard into the coupe and tried to make out the features of the driver. Though the driver was completely shrouded in darkness I could still make out the shape of a fedora, but that was it. The sound of engines grew loud and threatening then, and I turned and ran. I ran passed the faceless gaze of every shadow, looking right and left making sure none of them left their vehicles. None of them did. As my feet slapped against the pavement of the car lot the sound of the revving hulks of steel and aluminum grew even more in intensity and within the roar I could hear another sound formed by the union of all the engines resounding at once, a sound that formed one single metallic voice that soon rose above the din. And the voice screamed ‘Leave us be!’

I soon found my way to the locked gate of the Junkyard, and with reckless abandon I climbed over the chain link fence and jumped to the ground on the other side. When my feet hit the ground I kept on running and didn’t stop until I reached my apartment five blocks away and still, I could hear that awful voice as I opened the entrance to my building.

I will never return to that junkyard, and though my boss has called me many times since last night I have yet to answer. Though my brief time in that place was frightening for sure, there is one thing that bothers me above all else.

You see; after calling my Dad and asking him about his old Coupe, he told me that when it was totaled in an accident a few years back he did indeed give it up to that junkyard. So not only was the pink boat in that junkyard the same TYPE of car from my childhood, it was the same car altogether. And the shadowy figure behind the wheel of the old Coupe last night? Well, I think you can probably guess my grandfather always wore a black fedora. Hell, he was buried in that silly hat.

Now what gets me is I have heard of spirits being attached to things they loved when they were alive. In my grandfather’s case, that’s disturbing enough. But the rest of those people in those vehicles… oh god. Though I could not make out distinct features of their faces but I could see what were clear gashes in their shadowy bodies. I saw broken necks hanging loosely to one side, I saw arms crumpled and disfigured beyond recognition. I even saw what must have been the small figures of children in some of the back seats.

Now I suppose it is bad enough to suffer within a metal coffin and not be able to do anything about it. But to be dragged from wherever you passed away, and end up at a graveyard of metal and rust.

 How sad must they all be? What eternal suffering of immortal afterlife comes with the knowledge of knowing that you are nothing but a salvaged soul?

 

 

Salvaged Souls

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