“Oh my God! Pull over!” Sherry shouted.
Bryan whipped his BMW over to the side of the old country road as dust and gravel flew in all directions.
“Jesus! What the hell, Sherry?”
“Check that out!” she cackled in wicked delight, pointing to a sign a few feet in front of them.
“The Scary, Hairy Monster Vineyard,” Kiera read out loud from the back seat. The weathered sign featured the picture of a monster that bore some resemblance to ‘Bigfoot’, though the teeth were much sharper and the eyes much scarier than the standard depictions of the mythical beast. Zach leaned over Kiera’s lap in order to get a better look for himself.
“We’ve got to stop here!” Sherry told Bryan, placing her hand on his thigh. “This is the perfect place to finish our little wine tour before the party.”
“Are you fucking nuts?” Bryan said, his voice still raised. “Next time you want me to pull over just ask like a normal person for crying out loud!”
“Oh, you would have totally missed it if I hadn’t been so dramatic.” Sherry laughed off Bryan’s attempt to scold her. They had been dating for almost a year now, and Bryan never stayed angry at her for more than a couple of minutes.
“Fine.” Bryan took a deep breath and turned the car toward the gravel driveway that lead up to the vineyard. He ran his hand through his dark blonde hair and glanced over at Sherry, wanting to make sure she knew that she owed him one. “I’ll be collecting after the party,” he added.
“Maybe sooner,” Sherry responded impishly, her green eyes staring back at Bryan with lustful intent. “Depending on how good the wine is, of course.”
Kiera rolled her eyes. Sherry was her best friend and had convinced her that a double date of wine tasting with Bryan and Zach would be fun the afternoon before their annual Halloween party. However, Kiera had found Zach to be obnoxious and conceded, and wasn’t excited about the prospect of wasting further time in his company; especially if she was to be left alone with him while Sherry and Bryan escaped into the nearby woods for some ‘play’ time.
“Are you sure this little detour won’t make us late?” Kiera asked.
“Ah, we have lots of time,” Zach said, leaning toward her. He placed his hand on the back of Sherry’s seat so that he could flex his arm just enough to try and impress her with his physique. Kiera displayed a look of disgust as she pushed him back.
“Let’s take it one base at a time there, Romeo.” Kiera kept her eyes locked on the vineyard sign as they drove past it. As if Zach wasn’t already making the situation unpleasant enough, a feeling of anxiety crept up Kiera’s spine. Part of her wasn’t convinced that the name of the vineyard was meant to be a joke.
The driveway ran about a half-mile up the Napa Valley hillside and ended in front of a small, one-story house. The red paint on the house looked fairly worn, as did the white picket fence surrounding it. The parking area was more dirt than gravel, and there were no other cars to be seen. As the four of them got out of the car, Zach pointed out that there were steel bars in all of the windows.
“That’s not creepy or anything,” Kiera said.
“Oh, come on,” Sherry pleaded to her friend as they walked toward the house. “It’s all for effect. This is so cool!”
A narrow walkway led them around to the side of the house where the garage had been converted into a small tasting room. There was a rusted “Wine Tasting” sign hanging a couple of feet from the open, barn-style sliding door. Inside, an older woman in her 70’s stood behind a faded oak counter. She looked up as they approached.
“Good afternoon,” the woman addressed them. “I’m afraid we’re only open for another twenty minutes. It’s already 3:40 in the afternoon and I close the tasting room promptly at 4 PM every day.”
“We’ll just have to drink fast then,” Bryan winked as he pulled a $50 bill from his wallet and laid it on the wood counter. The old woman looked at the bill longingly. Bryan imagined she didn’t have many customers and that there was an opportunity to buy a little favoritism.
She turned toward the shelf behind her and grabbed four glasses along with two bottles of already opened wine. “We currently have two wines that we’re pouring today; a red table wine and a slightly pricier Pinot Noir.”
Bryan, Sherry and Zach all sat down at the counter while Kiera began walking around, looking at the pictures on the wall. Most of them were faded photos of what she guessed was their host in her younger years. There were a fair amount of pics of the woman with two different gentlemen, along with what appeared to be a black and white family photo celebrating the opening of the tasting room.
“When did your family open the winery?” Kiera asked from across the room.
“1941,” the old woman responded. “I was only eight years old when my father moved my mother and me to Napa from Pittsburgh. My father’s family had worked in the steel industry all their lives, and he wanted something better for us.”
Kiera was about to ask a follow-up question when Sherry jumped in.
“And what of the Scary, Hairy Monster?” Sherry asked, accentuating each of the first letters of the vineyard’s name. “Did he move here with you?” she laughed.
“No,” the woman responded, appearing to take no notice of Sherry’s mocking tone. “I imagine he’s been living here since before our founding fathers even settled this great country.”
“I see,” Sherry said as she took it upon herself to pour a second glass. “And, how did you learn about him, then? Invite him to dinner one night, did you?” Brian and Zach both laughed like hyenas as they grew more inebriated.
“Sherry!” Kiera snapped, embarrassed by her best friend’s behavior.
“Oh, it’s all right,” the woman said. “I’m rather accustomed to outsiders not believing. The winery was originally named after my mother, Isabella. One night, after we had only lived here a short while, my father heard a great commotion in the hen house. When he went to investigate, he discovered that all of the hens had been eaten, their bloody remains scattered about. Over the next few weeks, the rest of our livestock disappeared in a similar fashion.”
“So, it was the scary, hairy monster that ate your pets?” Bryan jeered.
“Indeed,” the old woman affirmed. “We don’t have time for me to indulge you with the entire tale, but after my father died at the monster’s hands, my mother re-named the winery in hopes that it would somehow appease the monster. I also lost two husbands to the beast before I finally gave up and decided that living alone was for the best.”
Kiera suddenly felt very sorry for the old woman. It was clear to her that the woman believed what she was telling them to be true.
“Have you ever seen him?” Sherry asked.
“Only once,” the woman responded, her voice fading as she reflected upon the memory.
“And was he as scary as you’ve made him out to be on your bottle?” Sherry pointed drunkenly at the label.
“It was very dark the night my father was killed,” the old woman turned her attention directly toward Sherry, “but even in the darkness I could still make out how truly terrible the monster’s appearance was.”
Sherry grew quiet, as did Bryan and Zach. The woman had spoken with such conviction and authenticity that it had killed their ‘buzz’.
“Why didn’t you just move away?” Kiera inquired, softly.
“I thought about it, many times. However, something has compelled me to stay here all these years. Maybe because I know the monster’s secret and I can help keep people safe from him.” The old woman suddenly appeared startled and looked down at the watch on her wrist.
“Oh, dear, it’s after 4,” she said as she began to tremble. She moved as quickly as she could over to the door and began sliding it closed. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to let you stay so long. I’m afraid you’ll all have to stay here tonight. It’s no longer safe for you to return to your car.”
“What are you talking about?” Bryan rose up from the counter and placed his hand on the edge of the door, stopping the woman’s progress. “We’re not staying here, lady.”
“But you must!” she pleaded. “You could all die if you go out there!” She continued to try closing the door, but to no avail as Bryan straightened out his arm to impede its further movement.
“Listen,” Bryan said, trying to calm the woman down. “We’re just going to take the bottle of wine we paid for and then we’ll all be on our way.” Bryan nodded to Zach to grab the half-drunk bottle of Pinot and then signaled for Sherry to join them. Kiera was scared that the woman might be telling the truth, but convinced herself that it made more sense to head to the car and get out of there.
“It’ll be all right,” Kiera said as she touched the old woman on her shoulder. “Thank you so much for your hospitality.”
The woman didn’t say anything back to Kiera; instead she just shook her head, and began closing the door again now that Bryan had removed his arm.
“Wow!” Bryan said to Sherry as they walked back to the front of the house. “Nice choice on the winery.”
“Don’t pretend like you weren’t entertained,” Sherry retorted. In truth, Bryan was annoyed more than anything else. All he’d gotten for his $50 was a couple of already opened bottles of mediocre wine and a lost opportunity to have sex with Sherry before the party.
The group made their way back to where the car was parked, only to discover that all four tires on Bryan’s BMW had been slashed.
“Holy shit, dude!” Zach walked around the car to observe the damage. “You think it was the old lady?”
“Fucking Hell!” Bryan stormed over to the woman’s house and began pounding on the front door. “Unlock this God damned door!”
“That’s impossible, you guys.” Kiera tried to reason with Sherry and Zach. “She was with us the entire time we’ve been here.”
“Yeah, but I bet she had something to do with it,” Zach said, now drinking directly from the bottle of Pinot. “Lure’s people into her tasting room on Halloween; has someone slash the tires on their visitor’s cars so they can sucker them into staying and spending all their money on her crappy wine.”
“It’s a nice trick, bitch, but I can play that game too!” Bryan grabbed a large rock on the ground and flung it through the window. “You might think those bars can protect you, but I can cause a whole lot of damage if you don’t make this right!”
“What the hell are you doing!” Kiera yelled. She tried to restrain Bryan from hurling another rock but he just shoved her down on the ground.
“Stay out of my way, Kiera!”
“Hey, Bryan, calm down.” Sherry moved toward him tentatively. “Let’s just call a tow truck.”
“From where?” Bryan responded angrily. “We’re in the middle of nowhere!”
“Uh, guys,” Zach stammered. “I’m not getting a signal on my phone.”
“See!” Bryan exclaimed as he threw another rock into one of the house’s windows. “So you’d better make this right you old hag!”
As soon as the words had left Bryan’s mouth, something growled from behind the large group of oak trees on the left side of the house.
“Real funny, Za….” Bryan’s voice cut off as he turned around to see the outline of an enormous animal charging straight toward them. Without hesitation, Bryan bolted down the driveway on foot, leaving his three friends to fend for themselves.
Kiera grabbed Sherry and started backing up toward the front door of the house. “Please,” she cried out, hoping the old woman might help them. “Please, let us in.”
Zach was slow to respond to the events transpiring before him, the wine having taken full effect. Before he had even fully turned around to see what the others had been looking at, the monster had him in his clutches and ripped him in half.
Sherry let out a blood-curdling scream as Zach’s insides spilled upon the ground. The monster continued holding one half of Zach’s body in each of his arms as he stared intensely at Kiera and Sherry. He then lifted his right hand to take a bite out of of Zach’s entrails.
Kiera squeezed her best friend’s arm, anticipating they would be next if they continued to stand there. She was just about to pull Sherry away to make a run for it when the front door opened and a pair of arms pulled her and Sherry safely inside.
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