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Creepy Tales From Route 66: Harvey Goes Home

Author: Eric Neher
Category: Stories
Date Published: March 11, 2020
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In 1935 the mid­west teetered on the edge of extinc­tion. Eco­nom­ic ruin had spread like an unchecked plague, infect­ing its way across the nation, shut­ting for-ever once prof­itable doors and ruin­ing the lives of mil­lions. But in Okla­homa that was only the begin­ning. Anoth­er sin­is­ter force was wait­ing, count­ing off the moments of drought and sor­row until final­ly decid­ing to strike; mon­ster dust storms wrecked their way from the west to the east, oblit­er­at­ing what lit­tle hope remained, caus­ing an exo­dus of close to half of a mil­lion peo­ple.


Har­vey Green was the sixth year own­er of the fail­ing HG fill­ing sta­tion and hus­band to a wife who was no longer able to move. He had no choice but to stay. His stone veneered store sat on the north side of Route 66 in the dwin­dling town of Arca­dia. The sta­tion wasn’t an investor’s dream but it did have the small-town charm that so often went with hon­esty, which was why Har­vey (against his wife’s wish­es) went ahead and sunk all of their sav­ings into the pur­chase. This had been in the spring of 1929 and six months before Octo­ber 24th; the day that all dreams died. How could he have known? For his wife Anna Belle, the rea­son for their mis­ery mat­tered lit­tle, her abil­i­ty to accept dire times had been washed away three years before by the death of their only son. The impact of his loss had led to a spi­ral­ing path of depres­sion that even the med­i­cine from Dr. Wright over on Main Street couldn’t stop for long. Soon her trips to town became few­er and few­er until final­ly, even her own friends had giv­en up ask­ing about her.


Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion / Pub­lic domain

The demon from the west struck on the after­noon of May 2nd, 1932. Har­vey stood out front of his shop watch­ing it along with Arnold Switzer, the town bar­ber.

What do you think that is?” said Arnold.

It’s got­ta be a storm,” said Har­vey, but it didn’t look right. The col­or was all wrong for one thing, and it seemed to be rolling like some kind of titan sized pin. Har­vey squint­ed his eyes against a grow­ing wind and saw that the cloud was sit­ting on the ground.

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That ain’t no thun­der­storm,” he said. “That’s dirt.”

You think that’s dirt?” said Arnold, doubt­ful­ly. “That can’t be. Look at how big it is.”

You bet­ter get home,” said Har­vey turn­ing and mak­ing his way back to his shop.

Yes sir,” said Arnold, high tail­ing it for his Mod­el A. “I believe you’re right.”

Har­vey shut the door behind him and checked the win­dows. For a moment he con­sid­ered get­ting into his truck and risk­ing the ten-mile jour­ney back to the small farm­house that he shared with Anna Belle. A sud­den blast struck his shop caus­ing the small hang­ing light in the cen­ter of the room to flick­er and then go out. Anoth­er gust slammed against the west­ern wall bring­ing with it a claw-like scrap­ing. Har­vey wait­ed for it to die down, only it didn’t. It became stronger and soon the scrap­ing turned into a shriek like some kind of ban­shee demand­ing to be let in.

Har­vey walked over to the win­dow and gasped. It was as if a dirt-filled ocean had sud­den­ly been released over the town. High-speed grains of Okla­homa soil whisked by, some find­ing their way to Harvey’s store­front win­dow, scrap­ing the glass. On it went with the col­or of the storm fad­ing from an acrid brown­ish orange to a hum­bling shade of gray. The claws of a thou­sand rats played out with­in the small shop as par­ti­cles of dirt crept their way through the crevices and cracks, lay­ing siege to Harvey’s store until piles of dust began to build-up on the floor.

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Unknown author / Pho­to cour­tesy of USDA Nat­ur­al Resources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice.

A moment of pan­ic seized Har­vey as he sud­den­ly remem­bered that Anna Belle was alone.

He would have to risk it. Har­vey walked over to where a buck­et sat next to the cash reg­is­ter and pulled out a hand­ful of rags. He then pro­ceed­ed to tie three togeth­er and wrapped them around his head, cov­er­ing his mouth and nose. He pulled out his keys to the Stake Bed truck and made his way back to the front door. The wind was rip­ping, cre­at­ing an illu­sion of a sol­id wall as the par­ti­cles rushed by with blur­ring speed. His truck sat only fif­teen feet away but Har­vey couldn’t see it. He reached for the door and pulled but was only able to move it a cou­ple of inch­es. The invad­ing dirt had man­aged to build itself up over the thresh­old like a grow­ing dis­ease. A vio­lent surge of wind whis­tled through the small open­ing that he had man­aged to make, caus­ing the dead hang­ing light to swing dan­ger­ous­ly on its chain. It took three kicks with his foot to final­ly clear enough dirt away so he could open the door. Har­vey rushed out, strug­gling to close the pan­el behind him. The sand felt like a mil­lion sting­ing bees slap­ping against the exposed areas of his face. He was forced to cov­er his eyes with his hands and did his best to guess the loca­tion of his truck as he stepped off the land­ing.

He sud­den­ly remem­bered Arnold and hoped that he had made it home. Had he left in time? Har­vey didn’t think so. A pain shot up his leg from the impact of his knee slam­ming into some­thing hard. He had found his truck. Har­vey leaned for­ward squint­ing through the dirt and saw that he was at the driver’s side door. Loose sand had built its way up the side of Ford and he was again forced to kick away a pile of dirt.

The han­dle at first refused to move. Har­vey reached out with his oth­er hand and pushed. He could feel the grind of the cling­ing dirt fight­ing him but was final­ly able to turn the lever and jerk the pan­el open. He stepped up on the foot-rail and fell into the cab, the wind slam­ming the door behind him. The truck rocked back and forth while the siz­zling sound of sand scraped against the met­al. His entire body tin­gled, his scalp felt as if it was infest­ed by insects. He shak­i­ly placed the key into the igni­tion and cringed from the bolt of elec­tric­i­ty that sud­den­ly surged up his arm. The storm wasn’t just cov­er­ing the world with its waste but elec­tri­fy­ing it, as well.

A moment of utter sur­ren­der flood­ed over the man as he sat trem­bling with­in his shak­ing truck. This could be noth­ing less than the end of times; a sud­den moment of truth straight out of the Scrip­tures.  An image of Anna Belle lay­ing there alone brushed away the fear that had him throt­tling the steer­ing wheel. There would be time enough to ques­tion the pur­pose of this dis­as­ter lat­er, but for now, he had to get back to her.

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At first, the engine refused to start. Har­vey again turned the key and the motor caught. The trip was a straight shot west on Route 66 and with any luck, he would dri­ve out of the tail end of the storm. A sound like crunch­ing glass blend­ed in with the gale as he slow­ly pulled the truck onto the road. The high­way was like an unfin­ished paint­ing with small patch­es of pave­ment show­ing through and then van­ish­ing, only to reap­pear a few feet away. Har­vey risked a look down at the speedome­ter and saw that he was only doing ten miles an hour. At this speed, it would take over an hour to reach his dri­ve­way and that’s if he didn’t just dri­ve right by it. By now, the sun should be near­ing the hori­zon, shin­ing direct­ly onto his eyes, but instead, the storm was becom­ing dark­er as if all light had been swal­lowed. He reached for the head­lights, switch­ing them on and was imme­di­ate­ly tossed into swirling ver­ti­go. The dirt on the high­way was becom­ing thick­er the fur­ther he went and he felt the rear end of the truck sud­den­ly slip to the right. Har­vey let out a low moan and eased off of the gas. He leaned clos­er to the wind­shield, try­ing to focus on the small shift­ing patch­es of pave­ment. To each side of this stretch of the high­way was a ravine and if he was to wan­der off of the road there would be no get­ting out. What would he do then? What would Anna Belle do? Sud­den­ly a flash of red appeared to his right. He risked a quick gaze out the pas­sen­ger win­dow just as the tail light to a Mod­el A crept by. Arnold hadn’t made it after all. For a moment Har­vey con­sid­ered stop­ping to check on his friend. It was what Arnold would have done. But Arnold didn’t have a wife unable to move and he was sure that his friend would under­stand.

It wasn’t long after pass­ing his friend’s car that the screams began. At first, it seemed as if they were com­ing from behind, fight­ing against the waves of the tem­pest. Har­vey felt his blood go cold as an image of Arnold strug­gling against the end­less slic­ing of the sand played out in his mind. Could that have been him cry­ing out for help? Of course, that was impos­si­ble; Har­vey could bare­ly hear the rum­bling of his own motor sit­ting just a cou­ple of feet away. Anoth­er scream caused Har­vey to jump. This one seemed to come not from behind but direct­ly in front of him. A sud­den orange flash zipped across the shad­owy wall flow­ing past the front of the truck and with­in the illu­mi­nat­ed void were shapes, like frozen images of ter­ror done in tapes­try. They appeared for only a moment and were then swal­lowed back into dark­ness. Anoth­er cry split through the storm but weak­er, as if what­ev­er it had been had final­ly accept­ed its fate.


Fifty-eight min­utes had gone by since Har­vey had pulled out of his sta­tion. The dri­ve­way would be close. Dri­ven dirt con­tin­ued to slam against the wind­shield, hun­gri­ly assault­ing in an effort to get at the man inside. Har­vey did his best to ignore it as he leaned clos­er to the glass, focus­ing his atten­tion on where he was sure the side of the road should be. Sud­den­ly he saw it: The com­part­ment door had been blown open and its squared body con­vulsed from the relent­less wind tear­ing at its side, but Har­vey Green’s mail­box still stood. A sud­den well opened up in his eyes as he brought the Stake Bed down to a crawl. Just beyond the mail­box, he could see the mouth of his dri­ve­way. Incred­i­bly it was most­ly dirt-free. The motor stut­tered for a moment as Har­vey turned the Stake Bed. Anoth­er fifty yards and he would be home.

USDA / Pub­lic domain

The wel­com­ing glow of the kitchen win­dow would not be seen tonight, but that was okay, it hadn’t burned in a while. Anna Belle had turned off that light five months ago before the ill­ness had final­ly tak­en hold and Har­vey had refused to touch it since. Yet, he had often hoped that one night he might arrive to see its warm radi­ance but he knew bet­ter; her inflic­tion ran far too deep for such revival. Per­haps that was why this demon from the west had come. Maybe it wasn’t a demon at all but a mis­un­der­stood angel want­i­ng noth­ing more than to reunite.

Har­vey Green limped the Ford to with­in a cou­ple of feet of his sag­ging front porch. The wind knocked at the dilap­i­dat­ed sid­ing of his house, chip­ping off rot­ted pieces of the lap. Har­vey didn’t notice. Anna Belle was wait­ing.

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The west­ern demon tossed open the truck’s door as soon as he had turned the han­dle. Har­vey stepped out into the rag­ing night, obliv­i­ous of the tiny dag­gers stab­bing into his face and made his way toward a wrought-iron open­ing. The nor­mal­ly stub­born latch lead­ing into the rest­ing yard opened as if on its own. Har­vey walked in, not both­er­ing to shut the gate behind him. An etched stone stood silent­ly accept­ing the blis­ter­ing wind. A wave of sad­ness flood­ed over Har­vey, as fresh as the day that he had laid her to rest. A sud­den gust burst through the already steady flow, push­ing him for­ward, bring­ing him to a stop at the foot of a weath­er-beat­en mound.

Lay with me, a voice whis­pered and with­in the spin­ning dark­ness a shape appeared.

Anna Belle stood with her arms extend­ed, her face untouched by the dis­ease that had tak­en her from him. Har­vey let his knees sur­ren­der and dropped to the ground. The wind had gone from a scream­ing threat to a wel­com­ing bea­con, pro­vid­ing an ever-grow­ing blan­ket that con­tin­ued to cov­er the man, its weight bear­ing down until his strug­gling breath retired.

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Eric Neher lives in Blanchard Oklahoma with his wife Tammy (The Traveling Nurse) and son Garrett. His other two children, Wyatt and Kelsey, graduated from Newcastle High school and left the nest. He is a continuing contributor to Ozark Farm and Neighbors as well as having numerous short and flash fiction stories published. When not typing out the words Eric works in the construction field as a product consultant and installation specialist, traveling all over the great state of Oklahoma. A graduate of MNTC’s diverse and various creative writing programs he is constantly on the lookout for better ways to hone his craft.
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