Birdsong and blue sky framed the horizon, and a pale grey path of asphalt drifted past a gravel bedded single pump gas station with a restaurant attached.

Busmeat cafe was a strange name, everyone agreed on that, just like they agreed the proprietor made the best pulled pork this and potentially every other side of the nearby mountains. There was a consensus among many of the local women, and a few local men, that Herb would be a real good looking fella if he could rid his chiseled features of the perpetual frown he wore, the dark shadows which haunted his intense, intelligent green eyes. No one could recall exactly when he had arrived, a pale wraith working in the kitchen. Alex, the previous owner refused to budge on any curious inquiries as to Herb’s origin story, saying only that he would be staying on, for as long as he liked. When Alex died in his sleep a few years later, Herb took over the running of the cafe altogether, and no one thought much of it. For the most part he was pleasant enough, if a bit gruff with outsiders. The only time he seemed truly troubled was during the summer months.

Every summer was the same. Another in a long line of nightmarish circumstances he felt he might never be free of. Those times he had tried to gather support, to put an end to the misery, it just resulted in more dying, and he had enough on his conscience. Every car that stopped was quizzed about their destination. Most were passing through, on their way to someplace more exciting, somewhere more inviting. Those folks concerned him not at all. It was the young people, the ones who didn’t know enough to know they were not impervious to the evil which lay in wait for them to stray off the path, or worse, for them to march straight toward it like sacrificial lambs who didn’t know any better.
The soft hiss of air being pushed through a line, ringing the bell at the other end brought him out of his musings and he raised his eyes, looking through the kitchen door toward the large window at the front of the cafe. A van had pulled up out front, music and teenagers tumbling from the open doors. He heaved a sigh, turned the burner down to simmer so the sauce wouldn’t burn, and went outside to futilely try and save some lives.

Photo by Fiona Smallwood on Unsplash