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No Plan


A husband-and-wife duo of nomadic serial killers are side-winded by a series of unplanned events.

Horror / Mystery
Age Rating:


“Why would you make out of words a cage for your own bird? When it sings so sweet the screaming, heaving, fuckery of the world?”

The Kid’s head tilted back, face turned towards the heavens, fingers curled at the temples in a mock crown of thorns. With a lusty sigh, he faced the congregation and ran his fingers over his trimmed beard. He smiled, thin and welcoming. His voice was dulcet and clean, a soft Texas drawl emanating from his vowels: “How blessed we are today, folks. How blessed we are, to congregate, to consecrate, on such a fine holy day. And that is, in fact, what we are doing. In every moment here, every moment you spend in the house of God, you are consecrating the ground under your feet. You are blessing yourself. Making yourself more and more holy with each passing second.” Another thin smile. He chuckled. “I hope y’all are familiar with the Beatitudes. Matthew five if you haven’t memorized them yet. I’d like to go through those today with y’all.” The echo of his voice fizzled out, replaced with the turning of thin Bible papers. “Now,—

“Hey, hey, pull over.” He tapped her shoulder several times. She pulled the teal pickup truck onto the shoulder, and before it was fully in park, he was scrambling out, doubling over, tossing his coffee, grits, and over-easy eggs up into the grass.

“Aw, honey,” she cooed, looking out through the open car door. “Are you okay?”

He stood upright, wiped his lips with the back of his hand, and opened his mouth to speak—

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He paused, staring out into the intent, listening faces of the chapel. “Now, poverty in spirit. Poverty in financial affairs isn’t somethin’ most of us are too fond of, is it?” He chuckled with the crowd. “No, I suppose not. Spiritual poverty- well, a man who is poor in spirit is happy. They are lowly and humble in their own eyes. They thirst for cleansing and for—

“I suppose this is repentance for my humanly sin.”

“Our god believes in sin?”

“Does It believe in mankind?” He exhaled, stared out over the rolling hills and winding oak trees. The sky was screaming blue, not a cloud in sight.

She checked her watch. “Two hours. We’re still over an hour from Schulenburg. Are we gonna have en-”

“More than enough. More than enough.” He glanced around, saw no signs of people in sight. A clear space amidst a smattering of trees looked promising. “We’ve got a few minutes to waste, mama. Do you want to—”

a redeemer. A man who is poor in spirit is a man who we should all aspire to be.” He prattled on for as long as he could, letting his mouth run on autopilot. Whatever bible-beating bullshit he could come up with to keep the crowd pleased. Semi-important phrases repeated several times for emphasis. Long, dragging pauses to force conscious thought. He almost dropped the accent once, but caught himself before anyone noticed. He couldn’t find it in him to even make himself pretend that he enjoyed it. This wasn’t his religion, much less his type of crowd, but he had to. This was work. He let his thoughts drift back to—

She quickly hiked her panties up, fixed her dress, and brushed the dirt off her hands and knees; he zipped up his fly, tucked his shirt back in, raked his hair with his fingers. The truck sat parked on the shoulder with its doors ajar. The radio was set to a country station, blaring a song neither of them recognized. Her hips swayed in time with the crackling music and she turned to face him, grinning.

“Esther…” He crossed his arms.

“Randall…” She crossed her arms in response. “Come on, papi. We got time.”

He rolled his smiling eyes. “Fine.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pressed her against his chest. She stepped the toes of her cowboy boots onto the steel ones of his work shoes, and rested her chin on his shoulder. In the slow, swaying dance of their bodies, the earth seemed to take pause. He felt her wandering hands run up his back, then down again to squeeze his ass. Something deep in his heart tugged, loosened up as a gentle reminder set in: she was the one. She’d fallen into the cogs of his inner machine and chipped at the rusted-over parts, slicked up the parts she needed to, got him working again. He’d pulled her into his grasp and she flew with open arms. And she would be the only one to do so; It had prophesized to him as such. The rest were mindless, lowly sentinels, pawns to be checked off their board.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” He repeated the verse again, slower for dramatic effect. The crowd—a lily-white, red-necked conglomerate of gingham and bonnets—shifted in their pews, feeling the silence that settled over the chapel, thick enough to cut with a knife and serve on a plate. He had to admit, this was his favorite part.

“Now, folks, I hope y’all are all pure in heart.”

“Aww, baby, why’re you crying?” Esther cooed, wiping his cheek with her thumb.

He hadn’t felt the tears rolling down his cheeks, nor heard himself sniffling. “Oh, I’m sorry, honey. You know how I get now, with—”

The pressure of the mounting, uneasy silence was near-orgasmic to him. He had to fight the urge to shudder as his skin broke out in goosebumps, blood rushing between his legs.

She nodded, rubbed a placating hand up and down his side. “We should get going.”

“I hope y’all said your prayers this morning.”

“Hey.” He cupped her face in his hands and kissed long and slow. “I love you.”

A sigh fell from his parted lips, and his hips twitched. It was coming.

“I love you too.”

His voice was accent-less and gravelly with lust. “And I hope you said something nice to your loved ones before you left.”

With a moan, the shockwave hit full force from the east side of the chapel. The wood paneling buckled in half and burst, sending shrapnel into unsuspecting eyes and ears. Church-goers were tossed about like rag dolls. He watched gleefully as a burly man in a bolo tie and a mint button-up went flying, landing heart-first into a cut-off telephone pole and effectively turning him into a human kabob. There were no screams, no cries of terror. Within six seconds, the church went from standing to flattened. Randall prayed a silent gratitude to his god, thanking him for the blissful protection It provided in every shockwave. The silence was different. Barren, spacey. Something behind him crackled and fell. He stuck his hands in his pockets and sighed at the desolate church around him. Bodies were strewn about, twitching, bloodied, all dead.

Looking out onto the aftermath, he smiled to himself. You’ve outdone yourself this time, kid, he thought. A sense of pride overwhelmed him after every mission, although the routine and the results remained the same: drift into a tiny church town with no significance on the map, preach the word of God, raise hell, rinse and repeat. Despite no town living long enough to spread news of Randall Flagg (The Walkin’ Dude, The Kid, The Fucking Devil, whatever banal, baseless nickname a gaggle of stoned teenagers could throw at him from across the street), he never used the same name twice in any state. The waitress that had served him and his wife breakfast before the sun had come up, the young expectant couple he held the door open for on their way out, and the Sunday morning church-goers he communed with before the service started would know them eternally as Mr. and Mrs. Henry Deaver. On their last mission, he was William Sutton, and on the one before that, he was Thomas Gardner. He did what he could to look different from place to place, as well: he could grow a beard for one town, trim it down for the next, go clean-shaven for a couple more; he wore glasses every other state or so; he could gain and lose weight easily- in some states, he was bone-thin and in others he’d get remarks about being well-fed. Esther had told him once he was like a chameleon, the way his appearance changed and shifted to blend in with the others. He could see the truck from where he stood. She would be curled up the best she could across the seats, sleeping. Poor thing never got enough rest, he thought.

“Hey.” He grinned, tapped on the window.

She jumped awake, stretched out her arms, and opened the driver’s door, scooting close enough to lean her head on his shoulder. He chuckled and let his hand rest on her thigh where he squeezed gently, and she took his hand in hers, absentmindedly playing with his fingertips. As he turned off the shoulder and sped back onto the highway, she witnessed the desolation left by the shockwave. Houses, mailboxes, chicken-wire fences laid flat as if they’d been run over by a bulldozer. She caught a glimpse of the body of a dog smushed against the trunk of a leafless blackened tree, half of a couch in mid-air falling into the decrepit roof of the neighboring residence, uprooted gardens, overturned cars. Lost souls praying to a false god, finally getting to meet their true maker. Part of a day’s work. She yawned, stared out the window. “Well, from what I can see, you did pretty good, baby.”

“Thank you.” He sensed the shift in the car. She was about to ask where they were going for lunch. “I’m sorry, sweet girl. There’s about six hours before the next stop.”

“But, Randy, we always…” Her brow furrowed, and her lips threatened to pout. She stared into the space in front of his chest for a long moment, thinking. She had found routines in the midst of their ever-changing scenery, and clung to them with fervor: a cleansing, then out to eat, then back on the road; her cases of knives were to be kept in a box in the left corner of the bed of the pickup, moved in and unpacked last; she picked out his shirt every morning, always showered before him, always ordered the same pancakes and scrambled eggs and OJ at whatever diner they ate at that day. Routine was a necessity for her, and change threw her off-balance. He knew that she could cope, though. His eyes were focused on the road, but he could feel her fidgeting with his fingers, stroking up and down his skin, smoothing down the hair on the back of his hand, tapping a rhythmless beat on his knuckles, and letting go when he needed to suddenly change lanes. She sighed and flapped the tension out through her hands. “Where are we off to next?”

He patted her thigh. “There’s a town about forty miles south of Fort Stockton that It wants us to stay in until August. It’s got a house waiting for us, and there’s enough space for us to have our own rooms. You’ll get to have your own place to put up your knives this time, honey.”

Esther nodded, smiled, subconsciously wriggled her hips in excitement. Her knives were special to her, sixteen assorted blades sorted and divided between two leather-bound cases, and one gold, hinged penknife she kept in her right boot. Some of them had stories, like the engraved Damascus folding knife her abuela gave her for Christmas when she was a little girl; some of them were for carving, like a steel paring knife she always kept surgically sharp; and some of them she simply found pretty. She could spend hours sharpening their blades and polishing their handles, organizing and re-organizing them, sharing every discovery and fact about them to Randall (who always listened intently), and she was grateful to have a space to display them once more. Their last mission, some two hours outside of Baton Rouge, cramped them into a one-bedroom apartment with no a/c and no room for her to display her knives or go to during a meltdown. She was on a hair trigger then, somewhere halfway between shutting down or bubbling over; everything from a nick on her finger or Randy sounding upset in her direction could pull forth a meltdown. She was exhausted and asleep more often than not, and the rest of her time was spent trying to find an excuse to leave the apartment. It wasn’t all bad, though. The bed was comfortable, quiet when it needed to be.

She certainly missed being able to make love in a bed and have a hot shower afterwards. In fact, she wasn’t certain of the last instance they’d had enough time to really make love, not just a quickie in the car or up against a tree on the side of an empty highway. It had to have been six weeks, maybe longer. If her math was right, and the $3 pregnancy test she took in the dingy bathroom of a dingier truck stop wasn’t lying, it was true: She was pregnant. With child. The phrase carried a weight with it that she felt the urge to slough off of her skin. With child was for petite white women with cutely rounded bellies, living in their picket-fence mortgage traps and sipping on chilled lemonade while their white collar husbands worked their nine-to-fives and only yelled at them once or twice a week. Pregnant was a mistake, a silver, squalling fetus borne from a dark womb onto a bloodied mattress, a coat hanger and a flight of stairs and an empty bottle of pills. Pregnant wasn’t what she wanted to be, nor with child. They spent nine months out of the year on the road, and three in shady, crime-laced suburbs, lurking in bars and sweet-talking future sacrificial victims home. It was out of the picture for her to throw a baby into the mix. But the long-ingrained societal itch to domesticate still lingered under her skin, and she knew Randy felt it, too. He had asked her once, their long limbs tangled up together in their smoky post-orgasm haze, if she wanted a baby.

“I could make some arrangements, we could settle down somewhere nice, sprout a little one or two.” He smiled, ran his large hand over her chubby belly. “Like real people do.”

She giggled between kisses to his neck. “I’d like to start calling you papi for a reason.” She planted her lips firmly on his jaw, suckling until she heard him moan. A moment of thoughtful silence, and she spoke again. “If the two of us can barely fit our legs in that truck, where am I gonna go when my belly gets all big?”

“Your belly’s already big,” he teased, patting just above her navel.

She squirmed, swatting away his hand with a squeal. “Watch it, bug.”

The conversation floated away into more love, then sleep, and had never been returned to since. She knew her husband like the back of her hand, and she was certain he would stay with her and figure something out. He had never raised a voice or a hand at her, and he loved her beyond the ends of the earth, but the intrusive devil in the far corner of her mind wanted to convince her he’d leave her alone in Nowhere, Texas with nothing but a knife in her boot and a baby in her belly. The thought alone sent a warm chill across her back, and she felt the urge to vomit climb up her throat.

“You okay, sweet girl?” Randall’s voice shook her back into reality. He’d taken her hand in his, swiping his thumb back and forth across her skin. The car was still moving, she was still breathing.

Tears welled up her vision. She felt like a pressure cooker, her hands beginning to flap away the tension in her chest. The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them: “I’m pregnant.”

Wordlessly, he found an exit and pulled over onto the shoulder, and once the car was still he turned to face her. Her fingers tapped ceaselessly against her legs for several minutes before he spoke. “You’re sure?”

“I missed my period, and I took a test last night.”

He ran his fingers over his mouth and tried to bite back his grin. “Do you want to keep it?” When she broke up with hiccupping, shuddering sobs, he pulled her in close without hesitation. “Oh, sweet girl, it’s okay,” he cooed softly against her ear, rubbing his hand up and down her spine. “Esther, I promise I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. It’s okay.”

She took what felt like an hour before she spoke softly into his neck, “You won’t leave me, will you? If I get rid of it?”

She felt his breath swallow up in his chest. He gripped her shoulders, brought her gaze to his, slowly shook his head no. His words were whispered and thick, and she watched the tears mist over his vision. “Of course not, dove. I’m with you ’til eternity ends. You know how much I love you.” He kissed the tip of her nose, both of her cheeks, the cleft of her chin. “It’s your call, mama. Regardless of what you decide to do, I’ll stay with you through it. Okay?”

Esther nodded, whispered okay and let her fingers continue to tap against her leg.

“We need to get back on the road, birdie. You gonna be alright?”

She nodded yes once more, he put the car in drive, navigated his way back onto I-10, and she tuned pregnant down to silence in her mind’s radio. The car was different once, but now the same, she felt. A snapshot of a teal Ford pickup truck with several cardboard boxes in the bed covered by a tarp taken three times in its original condition, the first before pregnant, the second in the midst of pregnant, and they sat in the third. The snapshots would linger in the fuzziest part of her brain for the rest of the day, and she’d turn them over occasionally, reading the date on the back or studying the way the truck looked. In a pretentiously poetic way, the storm clouds that had once hovered over the truck as it sped down the interstate away from the flattened church had thinned back into a cheery Sunday blue. The storm was gone; she could sigh, turn her back to the window, prop her legs up in Randy’s lap, and sleep for the next six hours.

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