The Long Ride Not Home

📅 Published on December 8, 2023

“The Long Ride Not Home”

Written by Dan A. Cardoza
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Too often, throughout history, what we can’t explain we label a religion. Religion is the bait and switch that gets us on our knees. But when it comes to evil, it’s a more subtle religion, one we pray against.

On the big screen, Peggy Carter tells the lowly Army grunts doing pushups, “Faster ladies, come on, my grandmother had more life in her. God rest her soul.” Skinny Roger struggles to do pushups on the theatre screen.

The elegant vintage theatre in Berkeley is 1920’s dark. Smell and sound take over your senses. Behind where the three friends are seated, grunts and shuffling can be heard. The noises are subhuman as if the entity was whelped from a stingy bitch, the runt in a litter of hungry canines.

Pleasurable moans come from who they will discover is a distinguished college professor, “Mmm! Ooooh! Uh, ungh, ungh, augh, Ahhhh!”

The boys attempt to ignore the disguising sounds, but it’s difficult to keep your ears from creepy. You have to stay vigilant in case it chooses to prey on you.

Carson is invested. He even calls his loving father Chris Evans. It’s the two of them against the world since his mother went missing. Does he have it in him?

Carson and his eleven-year-old classmates watched the Marvel movie starring Chris Evans. Captain America is what Carson calls his loving father.

As the three leave the Shattuck Cinema, they can’t contain their excitement, their tongues and elbow nudging as sharp as knives. But, when you’re eleven, you get oblivious to pain, especially when it comes to arguing about superheroes.

“Jacob, do you need a ride home, son?” says this booming, authoritarian voice some twenty steps behind the trio.

Carson glances over his shoulder and asks J-Cob, his one-sided best friend, “Who’s that, dude? And why is he hanging out in a theatre of mostly kids?”

Timmy whispers through J-Cob’s ears to Carson, “That’s Professor Kemp. He lives right up the street from all of us. He’s a dead ringer for John Wayne Gacy, you know, the killer clown. He teaches physics at Cal.”

The Landmark Shattuck Cinema, located at 2230 Shattuck Avenue, is the boy’s favorite movie haunt. It’s close to the bus lines.

“Hi, Professor Kemp,” says J-Cob, now walking backward out of respect. Walking backward means he won’t have to struggle to keep up with his friends.

Carson works hard to keep up. He’s been told his left femur bone is crooked. Carson walks with a slight limp. This will resolve as he grows.

“How’d you like the movies, boys?”

“Good,” the boys answer in unison.

“Fella’s, I’m going your way. Need a ride?”

J-Cob spins around and asks Timmy and Carson, “What do you say, guys? Carson that means we can save the AC Transit fare. Dudes, it means less time sitting on our asses? We’ll have plenty of time to skateboard when we get home.”

Carson looks at the ground. He’s not supposed to ride with strangers or monsters that moan. He catches Timmy’s elbow in the ribs. Timmy is one of the more popular kids in school. “I guess, sure,” says Carson. He feels bad for disobeying his dad, but he’s too embarrassed to say no.

“Great then, boys, let’s walk on over to my car. It’s across from the traffic light in the high-rise parking.” The creepy-faced clown points using a long, crooked finger and yellow fungus nail.

“Thanks,” says Timmy.” Timmy’s father works at Cal with Professor Kemp in the lab. He’s heard odd stories about the middle-aged man that could fill a large Pyrex flask. But it will be the three of them against the creepy man if he attempts to pull any freaky bullshit.

On their way home, Professor Kemp stops at Arlington, Wine, and Spirits. It’s the rare quick stop before you hit the hills in Kensington. “Sorry, it won’t be long, boys, a little shopping. I know what I need.”

The Professor is an awkward six-foot-two inches tall. He’s dressed in a white shirt with a crappy red tie. It’s held in place by a Go-Bears tie clasp. He wears a worn sport coat over wrinkled jeans. The man is sticky and pale. His shoes are unevenly worn, heal-thinned from dragging his hulk in and out of strange places.

Before he enters the store, he nearly jerks an older gentleman out of his sandals. The confused man had been pushing on the door. The creepy clown had been pulling.

“Sorry,” says the slender hippy, not needing to apologize. He’s the one that got whiplash, after all. The kind-looking grandfather nearly loses his dentures during the aggressive encounter. The Professor bumps past him, knocking him sideways. He’s on a mission. The fever has infected him again.

Professor Kemp doesn’t exchange a single word while inside the market. He’s oblivious to random acts of kindness and common conversation. After all, his mind is a sticky chalkboard with lots of disgusting numbers and letters. Professor Kemp has entered his primordial forest. He’s intent on stalking tender deer. He’s singularly focused.

The disheveled man frowns as he exits the store. He slowly shuffles to his older sedan.

Kemp flops back in the driver’s seat. It fits him like a catcher’s mitt. His is forced and sinister. After he slams the car door, he hands the oversized paper bag to Timmy, who’s sitting next to him, hugging the front passenger seat door for his dear life. Timmy folds the bag’s top edges and places it between his feet. Next, he cranes his neck over the back of the seat. He wants Carson and J-Cob to know that he’s the guardian of all things beer and how important he is, riding shotgun.

“Kensington bastards, those old hippies charged me 25 cents for the damned bag.” Kemp is more than displeased; he’s hot and angry.

On the short ride home, Timmy and Jacob whisper through the crack in the front seat. Creepy Kemp likes it. It reminds him of kids in a confessional booth at church, telling the priest all their nasty secrets.

Eventually, J-Cob asks Carson if he would mind if he and Timmy jump out early. The local Walgreens has some new videos they want to check out. It takes a while, but Carson gives his friend J-Cob the thumbs up.

Of course, it’s awkward. Now Carson has to ride home alone with the weirdo, the pasty-faced college professor.

“I can hear you, boys,” says Professor Kemp, sounding like a Satan puppet. “No worries, it’s coming up. Up there, the two of you can get out.” He points his shaky index finger up the curvy street. “Don’t worry, Carson. I’ll drop you off at your house.”

“Oh, okay,” says Carson. Skepticism is quieting and has quieted his voice. Carson has chores to do before his father gets home. Carson wonders how the older mouth-breather knows where he lives. His dad and Professor Kempt orbit in different universes, and Carson’s father is employed as a long-haul truck driver.

It’s no secret at school or anywhere in town, as a matter of fact. Carson’s mother has been missing for over a year. There was this one time Timmy gave Carson some shit about her being gone. Hurtful words were said to Carson, the boy who loved his mother dearly.

Timmy had said, “Carson, the word is you were hard to manage. She cheated on your father because he’s out of town so often. That’s enough to make any mother want to run away.” It was a cruel comment at the time. It still stings. But Carson is desperate for friends. To keep J-Cob as a friend, he needs to please Timmy.

“See you two later,” Kemp shouts to the boys as they hop out of the car. “Come on up here, boy,” says Professor Kemp. Professor Kemp seems short of breath. His eyes are mostly black pupils.

As Kemp pulls away, Carson watches intently, now in the front passenger seat, over his shoulder. His two friends are pointing at him. He watches as they get smaller and smaller in the back window. They wink out of sight as the Professor speeds across Telegraph Avenue. Carson faces forward. Kemp has morphed into a chauffeur from hell. Carson fizzles. He’s a bundle of yet-to-be-discovered nervous energy.

Kemp speaks. It’s difficult to imagine, but somehow, he sounds gruff. “I intend to get you home in one piece, kid, not to worry.” Kemp chuckles under his breath.

A few blocks up the hill, Professor Kemp pulls the car over after clearing the last round-a-bout. He places the car in park, the car halfway on someone’s driveway, engine running, getting hot. He stretches over the console, reaches into the grocery bag of beer, and pops a cap with one hand. He can’t wait. He eyes Carson, spilling some of the foam on his lap as he sits erect in the driver’s seat again.

Kemp raises the can of Coors to his open mouth. He gulps down the entire can. Foam drips, lathering up the front of his yellowing shirt before it leaves a wet patch. It’s as if he’s building up his courage. Afterward, the Professor yanks another beer can for free. He sits up, holding it. He takes his foot off the break and proceeds up the curvy road into the hills. Kemp guzzles beer.

“Devil poison, Carson, devil poison, but it’s calming,” says the Professor, no longer trembling.

“Sir, what, Sir?” asks Carson.

“This beer, Carson, the evil tincture, sometimes, it makes you do unnatural things, bad things you might be ashamed of doing, son.” The Professor crushes the empty can, tossing it out of the windy window. In Berkeley, you can get hung for less.

There is this torturous silence. It’s pervasive. Carson’s journey is a thousand miles in mental distance. He watches as the once familiar landscape swipes across his window, the scenery now distorted and frightening. It flashes by in something like time-lapse photography.

Carson swears the sun is a fist-sized fireball around each curve; it shows up in his side mirror. The sun is now dipping over the Golden Gate Bridge as they pass Carson’s street. Carson knows the Professor is going to cut his heart out once he hears it pounding like the drum of a chicken-shit. Wayne Gacy gets high on fear sweat.

“Your dad, Carson, what time does he get home? Still truck driving?”

“Late tonight, yes,” says Carson. Carson realizes his mistake. He nearly pisses himself. Carson rubs both wrists until they burn. It’s a distraction. He should have lied and said his father is expecting him, that he’s waiting at their kitchen table while loading a twelve gauge shotgun or loading a razor-tipped arrow on his crossbow so he can kill any pervert that thinks twice about messing with his only child.

“Ah,” says Professor Kemp, “late, he’s working late again, flipping grand.”

Park Hills Road, Woodside, Hill View Road, each street sign signals a last chance. The growing darkness outside is the mouth of an open coal mine, filled with toxins and poisonous fumes. Nothing good is going to come from it.

“Professor Kemp, you passed my street a while ago.” Carson’s knees quake.

Silence, silence is all they exchange. The Professor begins to whistle softly, sweetly. It’s an Irish tune, “The pipes, the pipes are calling, Danny boy,” sings the horrid Professor.

They continue to climb into the hills.

Finally, Kemp turns onto Central Park Drive. Central Park Drive leads in the direction of the large reservoir, Lake Anza, the last place the authorities looked for his mother. Anza Lake isn’t far from Carson’s home, except now, it might as well be an empty lake on the back side of the moon.

“Ah, we did pass your street, Summit Road, right, boy. We’ve gone so far, maybe too far by now, so sorry!” The Professor’s voice is not his own. He wheezes when he laughs.

He pulls over at this small turn-out and reaches into the bag for another beer. This time, he wrestles it out of its plastic straight jacket. He pops the last pull-tab and gulps the beer. Instead of making a U-turn and taking the frightened kid Carson home, he punches the gas pedal and drives on until he enters the nearly camouflaged Lake Anza Road.

Carson’s mind is a papery beehive. This hive has a missing queen, and all these crazed soldiers and worker bees are flying into each other at the speed of light, tearing their hyaline wings off as they ricochet here and there, looking for her. Death is nothing if not the buzzing sound in Carson’s pulpy skull. His throat and tongue have been stung numb and silence. He tries to scream, but he can only exhale bees.

The God-damned queen is dead; soon, it will be my turn, Carson thinks.

Carson unbuckles his seatbelt. He leaps into the backseat. The leather is sticky and hot. All the doors are locked.

“No, no, no, please?” He attempts to scream. But nothing but angry bees fly out.

I’m too young to die.

“Stop that crazy shit, Carson,” says the red-faced, sweaty Professor Kemp. “I’ll break both of your God-damned arms, Carson, if you don’t quit, just like I did to your mother.”

Hearing this, Carson’s world implodes. Outside, black vampire bats seize the sky. Carson’s mind foments anarchy, obliterating any semblance of a conscience. He needs to prepare this thought and plan.

The Professor gulps down the last of the can of beer. He powers the window down, throwing the bag of empty cans on the graveled road. He grabs the steering wheel with both hands and thrusts his large frame into it.

Once at San Pablo Lake, the Professor swerves to the right and heads down another dirt service road. He takes the seldom-used trail all the way down to the Pines Inlet. The Pines Inlet is a hard-to-find fishing spot. Carson and his father know the area well. They fish a lot.

After he stops, the human boil steps on the breaks and skids to a stop. Next, he slams the car into the park. The old car is no more than twenty feet uphill from the water’s edge.

Kemp points into the blackness, across the inky body of water in the low beams, “I told your mother that Graveyard Cove is straight across the lake from here, boy. Ironic, isn’t it, you sinful little shit.”

If only Carson had said, “No, thank you, I’ll walk home,” things would have been different. But Carson is way past blaming himself for anything, including his mother’s death.

Professor Kemp lets the car run and turns on the heater. Using the heater stops a car from overheating. The heater core acts like a second radiator in an emergency.

He clicks the headlights to high beams. The lights skip a few hundred feet across the watery blackness. The surface of San Pablo Reservoir is mirrored glass and is windless. Bats chase insects as they skim the water, devouring them. Carson is going to be devoured, too.

“I want to go home, Professor Kemp. Please, I’m begging you.”

“In due time, boy, in due time, but first, I intend to tell you a story.”

“I don’t want any story,” says the trembling Carson.

“Of course you do. All curious boys want bedtime stories. In fact, Carson, you need this story. Scary stories help you grow up.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about, Professor Kemp.” Carson’s mind is now buzzing with the electricity that only fear can bring. He can taste the rusty beginnings of death, its freefall momentum.

“A while back, Carson, your mother and I sat at this very spot in this car. I can still smell her scent, Black Opium Eau Spray Yves Saint Laurent. She smelled so delicious that night. Come to think of it, boy, your sweat is the same.” The Professor inhales deeply until his nostrils almost sing.

“I don’t understand,” says Carson, “why me?”

Carson bangs the door with his shoulder. Now, in the back seat, he lies face up. He begins to kick at the window to his left, nothing. He pops up and kneels on the seat, looking out of the rear window. The forest is an amber version of hell from the red glow of the car’s taillights. He can hear an engine belt chatter under the hood.

Professor Kemp reaches over the seat and grabs Carson by the roots of his hair. He forces Carson back into a seated position. He twists Carson’s Captain America tee into a knot. The knot is mixed with skin.

“Boy, now you’re getting my temper stoked. Don’t mess with my car. After what I did to your mother, I paid a lot to have it detailed. I’m not going to do all that expensive, filthy shit again. Stop this hysterical sit, or I will punch in your lovely face.”

Carson sits up straight. He positions himself in the middle of the back seat. He pushes his knees up under his chin. He begins to rock back and forth. He mumbles as if practicing some kind of ritual that’s going to prevent him from losing his mind completely.

“You see, boy, we fell in love. She wouldn’t leave your father. And so, after giving it a lot of thought, I brought her here to ask her one last time. It’s so romantic here. She refused me again, Carson; that’s when I dragged her out of the back seat and stomped her to death.”

“No, no, you didn’t, you bastard. You are a lying son of a bitch. She wouldn’t do that. The truth is, you must have stalked her and forced her in your car.” Carson screams loudly in an attempt to erase what he’d heard. His gentle mother would never fall in love with such a cruel beast. Carson imagines this all some kind of evil prank. Chances are the crazy pervert is making everything up to romanticize something evil.

“She was so fine, Carson. She was much too smart for your blue-collared father.”

Carson spits in Kemp’s face. Afterward, Kempt lurches over the seat, slapping Carson until his face turns purple. Blood trickles out of his nose and down the front of his cherished tee shirt. Carson sees Professor Kemp as some kind of evil, breathing leviathan. He intends to kill the orge.

“Okay, don’t slap me again. I’ll be quiet and listen to your story. I want to live, Professor Kemp.”

“Fine, boy, wait here and be quiet. It might just be too late for a bedtime story.”

Professor Kemp quickly pushes the driver’s side door open. He gets out of the car. Next, he retrieves a length of rope from the trunk. He reenters the idling car through the back door across from Carson. After a brief struggle, Kemp hogies the young boy, tying knots around his wrists and ankles. After testing his knot, Kemp drags the young boy out of the car, heaving him up onto the roof with a thud.

“I have to put some water in the radiator, Carson. If you as much as move, I’ll stomp your brains out like I did your mother. Understand? After I top off the radiator, I’ll decide what to do with you.”

Carson remains calm. He nods yes in the misty redness of the taillights, his mouth shut.

In the building silence, Professor Kemp grabs the one-gallon jug he retrieved while getting the rope. He walks around to the driver’s seat, where he reaches in and pops the hood. The heavy hood springs open.

On the roof of the car, now behind the paint-chipped hood, Carson hears the evil man as he hulks downhill toward the water. He can hear the jug being filled. All the while, Carson quietly unties himself. He could run, but he doesn’t want to. He has a plan. After all, the invention is the mother of necessity.

Kemp uses a rag to unscrew the hot radiator cap. He bends over to fill it once the steam finishes.

“Stay up there, boy. I’ll get to you soon.”

Carson remains silent. He can hear Kemp and the gulp, gulp, of the water jug. The radiator steams and puffs as it is being filled to the brim. Inside the car, the heater is turning the vinyl hot.

With everything he’s got, Carson leaps down onto the slanted hood, effectively creating a dull guillotine blade. After Carson hears the initial thwack, he starts to jump up and down on the hood in an attempt to crush the demon. Limp and passed out, Kemp falls on his back facing the lake.

In the headlights, Carson can tell that a large swath of Kemper’s face has burned off, mostly on the left side.

He lays unconscious, head downhill. In a fit of anger, Carson immediately pulls off his treasured Captain America tee. He quickly ties the neck shut. Then, he fills the treasured sack with fist-sized jagged stones. He takes a deep breath. With all the furry revenge can offer, Carson proceeds to bash the monster’s skull in. After the monster is still, Carson retrieves the rope, tee and heads for home, careful not to leave any unnecessary evidence.

Turning himself into a despicable monster is the price he’s willing to pay.

He’s careful to hide from cars on the way home. He ditches the rope. He doesn’t get home until early morning. Carson’s father is waiting at the kitchen table without a shotgun.

Carson catches hell for walking all the way home, but after hearing the entire story, he and Captain America develop another plan.

Kemp, the well-known physics professor, hasn’t taught in nearly a week. He’s badly needed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He’s an integral team member in terms of cooking up more hydrogen destruction to gift to the world.

He’s not answering his phone or responding to text messages. The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department contacted Cal’s Dean of Physics and provided him with an update. Nothing would surprise the dean about Professor Kemp, the department oddball.

It’s been a week and a half. A retired fisherman from San Leandro is trolling out of his boat directly across from Graveyard Cove near the shoreline. His propeller nicks the top of the monster’s car roof. It’s in twelve feet of water pointing up. In the shallow water, he can barely make out the bloated manikin. The manikin’s eyes appear to float like bloody ping-pong balls, side to side against the greasy inside of the murky windshield. A soupy funk bubbles out of the driver’s side window crack. It reminds the retired Army veteran of days-old piles of bodies he’d seen in the desert during the first war in Iraq.

The retired Roger Chapman dives out of his small craft and swims ashore as if what he’s seen might be contagious. Fortunately, he had his smartphone in his pants pocket. He can barely breathe while dialing 911.

“Good morning, this is the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department. How can I help you?”

“I, I, I found what looks like a butchered pig floating in a car underwater at Lake Anza; come quickly.”

“Slow down, sir; I can’t type that fast. You say you saw a butchered Pig?”

Early the next morning, the Professor’s older modeled car is towed and impounded in a designated evidence garage. The swollen corpse had already been sent to the medical examiner’s lab for analysis. The side of beef won’t remain a John-Doe for long.

It took six months, but the needed forensics finally arrived from the F.B.I. in Quantico, Virginia. Inside the car, little D.N.A. was found. However, a single oily footprint had survived the lake’s cleansing water. The copied footprint was taken from the inside of the passenger windshield and the dashboard of the Professor’s Oldsmobile.

The authorities interview Connor and his father, Kevin Clark.

The detectives inform the two how they’d tracked Professor Kemp’s cell phone pings from the movie theatre to the liquor store, going past Carson’s house and then out to the lake.

“You say that’s where he let you out of the car, right, Carson, at your house?”

“Correct,” says Carson. Carson and Detective Martin lock eyes. Detective Martin is no superhero, but something deep tells him there is a lot more to the entire story than what the young boy had told him during the extensive interview that had been conducted. But Martin has kids, too, and a wife who loves him. Neither Carson nor his father will ever have to take a lie detector test.

“Sorry to tell you two, but a while back, the Contra Costa Search and Rescue team, after searching for nearly a week using sonar and chain dragging, discovered a body at the bottom of Lake Anza. Ah, and it’s not Professor Kemp’s body. There is no easy way to tell you, really, we’ve found your mother and wife, Melissa Carter.”

Father and son sob in each other arms for the longest time. The detectives are very patient. They leave the two alone for a while.

One day, Carson and his father will have a good laugh about how they’d returned to Lake Anza the next day after Carson killed the monster and placed the monster’s body behind the steering wheel of his death sled, how they’d worked very hard to confuse the detectives. How the two had let off the break of the heavy Oldsmobile, so it go into the lake, sinking itself. Thus erasing most of the evidence.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dan A. Cardoza
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dan A. Cardoza

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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