Black Petals Issue #73 Fall, 2015

Cold Surprise
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Journey Starts with a Flower-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Cold Surprise-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Final Run_Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Gift of the Anasazi-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Killer Deal-Fiction by Denny Marshall
Please Remember Me-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
Safe Haven, Part I-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Safe Haven, Part II-Fiction by Denis Bushtalov
The City-Fiction by Wayne Haroutunian
The Witch and the Rock-Fiction by Janet C. Ro
Roadside Accident-2 poems by Denny Marshall
Journey to the Devil's Shore-Poem by Grant Tarbard

Fiction by Paul Strickland


Cold Surprise

By Paul Strickland

Destinations to avoid on spring break



Early on April 4, 1971, Don in his Prussian blue ‘66 Mustang, his friend Phil as passenger, drove out to pick up Leif at his apartment on B Street in Sparks. They’d planned a day of driving back roads in Nevada and northeastern California to Gerlach, Cedarville, and then the Oregon border south of Lakeview before turning back home.

They talked about a number of things on the way, such as an art class held in the Getchell Library that spring at the University of Nevada-Reno campus and the approaching visit of Tim and Anna from Santa Cruz the next weekend.

They began sharing ghost stories about the area. Phil acted like he was too rational to be influenced. And Leif was so bored, he fell asleep in the back seat. But when Don interrupted Phil’s tall tale with a tap on the shoulder to point out the sleeping Leif, Phil jumped. They both laughed, which woke Leif, who asked about lunch.

They stopped for Italian food at Bruno’s in Gerlach. Then they proceeded up a narrow paved road that sometimes turned to gravel for short distances toward Eagleville and Cedarville. Patches of snow still dotted the higher slopes of sagebrush-covered ridges. At one curve they saw an abandoned wooden shack and “JESUS SAVES” painted, probably long ago, on a cliff just behind it.

Recalling the ghost stories, Don said he’d always felt uneasy about the area when going north on a hunting trip to the Sheldon Antelope Range in Washoe County close to the Oregon border. Particularly unsettling was a spot called Hog Ranch Springs. He asked if they wanted to stop and investigate the place. With some misgivings but not wanting to appear faint of heart, the other two agreed.

Don turned left onto a dirt track that, after a half mile, ran out ten feet shy of the spring. The spring was mostly mud with just a trickle of water down the middle. Crows cawed in the aspens about a hundred feet away. In front of the trees sat an abandoned easy chair from the art deco era and a late-1940s model Kelvinator refrigerator.

They seemed out-of-place there. Phil talked about news stories describing how small children had suffocated when a refrigerator door had closed on them, they couldn’t kick their way out, and no one could hear them.

Don dared Leif to open the refrigerator door. Leif took the dare, then wished he hadn’t.

To their horror, out fell the mummified remains of a child probably six years old at time of death.

Terrified, the three fled back to the Mustang. They didn’t even have time to lock their seat belts as Don started driving in panic mode back toward Gerlach to report the grisly find to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

Suddenly Don saw, right in front of him, a child that cast no shadow. He slammed on the brakes.

The car slewed, hit a patch of deep gravel, and, sliding off the road, struck a large boulder. The men screamed as the car rolled over and over downhill. All three must have died of their injuries before the vehicle came to rest in the desert gulch below because, the next thing they knew, all found themselves standing beside the child, mid-road. And they, too, cast no shadow.


The End


Paul Strickland,, of Prince George, BC, wrote BP #73’s “Cold Surprise” (+ BP #71’s “Lust” and “Washed Away,” BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past,” BP #69’s “Ghostly Good-Bye,” BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride,” BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight,” and was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes” and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is a 60ish freelance writer in Prince George, BC, who was a newspaper reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies. Born in Los Angeles, Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before moving permanently to Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic career. He turned to freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09, and has since published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications