Alice slammed the truck’s door shut and took a look down the boardwalk ahead. She grabbed her bag from the back of the truck before waving at the truck driver a thank you. Alice swung her bag over her shoulder and took off down the boardwalk eyeing everything. There were so many little shops she passed: comic book shops, clothing stores, and ice cream parlors. It had been the biggest town area she had ever been in. She stopped in front of a video store that had a HELP WANTED sign. She pushed past a group of young teens through the video store door and pulled herself up to the desk. A middle aged woman appeared a moment later eyeing Alice with curiosity.
“You new around here?” The woman asked. “I haven’t seen you before.”
“Yes, actually.” Alice said holding a smile to the woman. “I’m from Indiana.”
“You’ve traveled far for a girl your age.” The woman replied. “You in here for a job?”
“Yes, it seemed obvious?” Alice questioned looking at the racks on the counter that held funny little knickknacks.
“Can you stack videos and use a cash register?” The woman asked stepping around the counter.
Alice fiddled with a pair of sunglasses on a rack watching the woman all the while.
“Yeah, I worked at a grocery store back home. I think this won’t be much different.” Alice said taking the sunglasses off.
“I guess you have a job then.” The woman said taking the glasses from Alice’s hand and putting them back on the rack. “First off, my name is Janessa. Second, don’t touch anything other than the videos or the cash register. Understand?”
Alice nodded her head yes in response. Janessa turned from Alice and walked back behind the counter.
“I don’t understand why so many young people keep coming here. Santa Carla used to be a real nice place for young people, nowadays I’d bark at those people that dare come here.” Janessa said shaking her head while looking out the windows of the boardwalk. The sun was almost completely down now. “Why are you here, especially from so far away?”
“My uncle died recently.” Alice said lowering her head a moment as if to show respect. “He left me a beach house he used to go to every summer. It was a rough spring and my mom thought it’d be best to take time off during the summer to enjoy myself where it’s warm and breezy. So, I took off about six days ago and got here. Now, I just gotta find the place.”
Alice pulled out a piece of paper that had the address printed on it. She pushed it towards Janessa and let her look at the address. Janessa thought a moment before replying.
“That’s in an older part of Santa Carla estates but it’s a good spot, right on the coast.” Janessa said wiping down the counter. “I’ll be closing early tonight since it’s Sunday. I can drive you there.”
“Sure, I’d appreciate it.” Alice tucked her paper back into her pocket.
“This is it.” Alice said to Janessa before getting her bag and stepping out of the car. Janessa grabbed Alice’s arm and looked her dead in the eye.
“Be careful, Alice. I told you Santa Carla isn’t the friendliest town to be in. The night is very dangerous.” Janessa warned Alice, she noticed her crazy state and lightened her tone. “Be in to work at 5:30 right before the sun sets, that’s when the crowds rush in.”
Alice nodded at Janessa before she pulled away into the night. Alice couldn’t help but wonder what she was getting herself into. The town seemed fine from what she had seen. It reminded her faintly of the hometown she was from. Although, there was this thick mist of spookiness that made her shiver. She looked around noticing that there wasn’t another house for miles. I guess Uncle Nicolas liked his privacy, Alice thought to herself.
The beach house was a good size and seemed fitted for a whole family. It had a huge wraparound porch and swing. She walked up the steps onto the porch and pulled out a pair of house keys to open the door. The house was painted white with blue shutters on the windows. The windows were very long and wide. They seemed so sad and lonely. Alice pushed the door open to see a rather vacant inside. She expected to see lavished furnishings but instead a pair of stairs to the second floor and a small round table right outside the threshold. Alice closed the door behind her and locked it taking Janessa’s caution into effect. She dumped her bag on the table along with the keys and started through the main hallway. It led to a large kitchen with a dining table and pantry.
Alice pushed open the refrigerator to see it was empty. Nothing to eat before she got paid. She was hungry from all those days hitchhiking. She remembered that she needed to call her mother to let her know she made it. She found a phone on a side table in a room that she believed to be the living room. It only had a white leather sofa and a chair. There was no television set or any decorations at all in the room. It was completely gauche. Alice picked up the receiver to get nothing but static. She sighed and plopped down on the sofa. When was the last time her uncle visited this house? It didn’t seem like last summer if the phone was disconnected.
Now that it was dark, she needed some light to see. Alice reached for the light switch but nothing happened. Alice sighed again in frustration. She might as well go to bed now that there was no apparent reason to stay awake. She went back to the threshold and grabbed her bags and headed up the stairs. She took the first door to her left and found it to be a bedroom. It had a king sized bed which was a least a comfort to knowing she wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. She noticed the room led to a bathroom and had a small balcony as well.
“Salvation.” Alice simply sighed landing on the bed. She kicked off her boots and pulled herself under the comforter. All she needed was a good night’s rest.
Alice woke to seagulls cawing down on the beach. Rubbing her head, she pulled herself from her tangled sheets. The sun blared into the windows bright and strong. She washed her face in the sink and wiped it with a towel she found in a linen closet. She pulled off her jean jacket and slung it on the bed post. She pulled open the French doors to the balcony and stepped out. The wind whipped her strawberry blond hair around her head. Trying to pull the hair from her face she looked around.
Janessa had been right. The house was on a really good spot of the coast. The beach was only a five minute walk from the house it looked like. She saw kids playing below at the beach, throwing water and sand at one another. Alice just smiled at them. She remembered when she used to be so carefree and young. She missed it so many times especially since everything just kept getting harder in her life. Being her in Santa Carla was what she needed. She needed to break free from all the chains that kept holding her down. Alice smiled to herself and breathed in the warm ocean waves.
“This place is great.” Alice said turning back into the bedroom. “I’m sure mom would want to be here. She’d enjoy it.”
She changed her shirt and put on Van Halen t-shirt that had the neck cut out of it. She grabbed her jean jacket off the post. She slipped her boots back on and headed down the stairs. She slid down the banister and hit the ground with a thud. She laughed and stood up. She took the keys off the front table and headed back into the kitchen. She checked the clock to see it was a quarter to two o’clock.
She remembered there was nothing in the fridge but checked the cabinets this time. There was silverware and dishes in some of the cabinets. She found a box of Froot Loops that was not too old and munched on what was in the box. After she was done, she headed back up the stairs and unpacked the rest of her clothes which wasn’t too much since she couldn’t carry much on her back and there was no way her mom could afford a plane ticket for her. She pulled the bedroom’s closet open and saw some clothing that was left by her uncle. She simply pushed it back and hung up her few t-shirts and pairs of jeans.
After she was done, she shut the closet door. She emptied the rest of her bag on her bed. She picked up a picture of her mom and dad hugging each other while smiling for the camera. She set it on dresser in the room along with a picture with her younger sister, Kelly. She set her brush and a small kit of make-up she carried with her but never worn on the dresser too. She put her toothbrush and robe in the bathroom along with some shampoo she managed to stuff in her bag. The bathtub had a piece of soap on its dish holder already and some fresh towels. Alice quickly brushed her teeth before taking the last item from her bag which was her cassette player. The clock now read it was 4:37. She put her headphones on and headed out the house.
Alice reached the boardwalk at 5:30. She pushed through the sea of people rushing to diners for a meal. It was mostly vacationing families she saw at the moment. Lots of kids were crying and yelling at their parents. Mothers were trying to comfort their children and dads were trying to get dinner seats for the families. Alice finally made it to the video store. She pulled the door open and Janessa looked up at her from the counter.
“Sorry, I know, I’m late.” Alice said raising her hands.
“It’s your first day, can’t expect any less.” Janessa said eating a piece of beef jerky while reading a magazine. “Leave the door open. I keep it open at night for customers from 5:30 to 11:00. It only starts getting really crowded at 5:00. It starts getting wild at 7:00. All the young kids come in and fool around. You want to be watchful of them, they just playing with you.”
Alice nodded and joined Janessa behind the counter. Alice waited for Janessa to give her a job to do but Janessa sat reading her magazine.
“Um, shouldn’t I have something to do?” Alice asked Janessa.
“I consider this dinner time for myself since it gets slow around six. We mostly get returns right now. Here eat some.” Janessa replied handing the bag of beef jerky to Alice.
“Thanks, I’m really hungry. I found out that house it vacant. No food, nothing. Well, I did find some cereal...”
“I didn’t give you food to talk. I gave you something to eat. It figures your uncle’s house it vacant. Nobody stays up there for vacation, in any of those houses.”
Alice started chewing on a piece of beef jerky.
“People going missing after some time. Santa Carla used to be real nice like I said but something happened and none of the regulars returned after a while. I assume your uncle used to come here often but the last ten years or so no one has. Except…”
“The young kids. They still come here. I don’t know why. Most of them go missing, never found. It’s sad really. It only gets tougher for owners here on the boardwalk. They bring all types of trouble for us.”
“Have you had much trouble with the video store?”
“Well, I’ve only had this video store for a good year or so. The former owner disappeared and no one found them. I used to own a surfing store at the edge of the boardwalk but people stopped surfing around here and I went out of business. I happened to have money to buy the store so I bought it. At least, it still gets some income. I’m sure you are just happy to be here for the summer now?”
“I am. The last few years at home have been hectic. My mom has been having problems and such. She sent me up her so I could get out of the way. She said it’d be fun. I’ve never been to the west coast. It’s really lovely during the day.”
“Then, I’m sure you’ll love the nightlife here.” Janessa said sarcastically. “Here, you can start shelving things. “
Janessa handed Alice a huge bin filled with videos. Half way through stocking the sun had set and the crowds had thickened. Alice spotted lots of young teenagers and not many very older people. All the rides lit up for the night and lots of screams of excitement filled the air.
“Janessa, I finished stocking.” Alice said setting the bin up on the counter. Janessa was staring out the window with heavy eyes. “What is it?”
“Nothing, I hope.” Janessa said. “Just watch the store.”
Janessa moved pass to two young punks looking suspicious. Alice watched as Janessa was dealing with them. It seemed that they were ripping off the quarter machines. Alice sighed. It had been a long day so far and she had to deal with it all summer now. She still hadn’t noticed anything completely strange about the place. The bell rang to the store and Alice pulled herself up and over the counter. She took the empty bin and set it under the drop box and picked up a filled one. She set the bin up on the counter. The second bin seemed much heavier than the first.
Alice looked over to Janessa who now was hitting the young kids over the head with her rolled up magazine. Janessa seemed to know exactly how to deal with everything in the strictest manner. Alice smiled and peered through the store. There was a man and woman looking in the romance sections. A few kids trying to get into the XXX section, Alice threw a watchful eye at the boys and they both took off out the door.
Alice pulled the bin off the counter and noticed four sets of intense eyes on her.
“Need something?” Alice said smiling at them friendly. They looked to be the around the same age as herself.
“I don’t know, can you give me something?” One with a crazy blonde mane howled at her. The guys laughed quietly but still left their eyes on her.
“Well, you’ll have to be specific to get my help.” Alice said rummaging through videos. “A certain video maybe?”
“Maybe…” A guy with a bleached blonde mullet said quietly smirking at her.
“Alice! Everything ok?” Janessa said standing with her hands on her hips peering behind Alice at the quartet of boys.
“Fine.” Alice replied. “They are just looking and had a question.”
“Mmhmm…” Janessa replied. “I’ll be right back.” She headed off into the back room.
“We are looking and we see…Alice!” The one with the crazy blonde hair hissed.
“You new?” the smallest of them asked.
The small one had a crazy blonde mane with a long ponytail with tons of braids and crazy colors. He wore a jacket made of all types of cloth, it was a pretty unique piece of clothing to Alice. They all sort of dressed like degenerates. The clothing was ratty and dirty but that’s all Alice really saw here. There were so many people just sleeping everywhere and so many stoners. Fashion style wasn’t very vital to Santa Carla.
“Yeah, I just moved here.” Alice said smiling and looking each guy into the eye. “I assume you are all natives?”
“Something like that.” The mullet boy said.
“Hmm…I thought you guys stopped coming in here?” Janessa said looking sternly at the boys. “Had enough fun harassing my customers and now my employees?”
“Hey, Ja-nessa, we were just greeting your new employee to Santa Carla, Murder Capi-tal of the World!” The crazy blonde teased.
“That enough.” Janessa said. “I think you have had your fun.”
The boys started off towards the door. The small one tapped his fingers against the glass and looked at Alice. He smiled shyly.
“Bye, Alice.” He said quietly.
The crazy blonde haired guy popped next to Alice and grabbed her hand and gave her peck on it. “Bye Bye, Alice!” He said shoving the small one through the door with the rest of them. They took off on motorcycles a few seconds later leaving nothing but dust for Alice to remember of them.
Those boys were so mysterious and could definitely make a girl feel uncomfortable in a pleasant way. Alice smirked at the dust tracks outside the doors before getting back to work.
“I would not set your mind on them boys.” Janessa cooed to Alice.
“Why?” Alice asked. “They seemed nice, a little creepy but nice.”
“They come in here all the time. Messing with the place. I think they have something to do with the former owner and why he went missing.”
“Geez, Janessa they seem like just a few crazy guys.” Alice said. “I doubt that anything will happen to you because of four boys looking for fun.”
“You say that now, but try having to live here all the time, watching out for yourself constantly. You should watch out. I’ve warned you enough. You’ve yet to see how bad this town is.” Janessa said checking her watch. “You’re off. It’s ten o’clock. Not bad for your first day.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you tomorrow. Same time?” Alice said hopping over the counter again.
“Yeah. Don’t be late though?”
Alice smiled at Janessa one last time and pulled herself out into the huge sea of people. She wrapped her jean jacket over her small frame and pulled herself into a small Chinese restaurant and ordered herself a pint of noodles and shrimp. She figured the food would make a good late meal for her. The crowds were starting to die now. Some small shops on the boardwalk were closed. It became windier than earlier and a slight fog hung in the air. People were still pumping onto the rides and fires were getting lit on the beaches. A group of guys and girls her age were dancing and singing to songs on the radio along the beach. Some were making out and laughing hard with whiskey upon their breath.
Hooting and hollering stormed up as Alice heard motorcycle engines revving. A troop of cycles flew pass her and a loud voice emerged from it.
“Hey! It’s Alice!” The crazy blonde hair guy yelled. He slowed himself down quickly and peered at Alice. “What are you doing?”
“Just looking.” Alice said pulling her hair back. “You know, you never told me your name.”
“My name’s Paul.” He said.
“Paul, isn’t that so unoriginal?” Alice said smiling.
“I don’t know, is it?” Paul said smiling. “Wanna hang out with me and the boys?”
“I can’t.” Alice said losing her smile. “I have somewhere to be.”
“Like down at one of those bonfires?” Alice laughed.
“That’s not really my taste. I guess to some that’s the only way to have fun.”
“I can think of other ways to having fun.” Paul said smirking at Alice. Alice snickered and looked at him with disbelief.
“Yeah, well like I said that’s not in my taste.” Alice said “Though, it’s probably better to be down there than be here and alone.”
“Paul! What are you doing?” The bleached blonde said from down the dock. The other guys seemed to be talking to a group of girls ahead.
“I’m talking to video store girl!” Paul yelled back. “You know, our friend Max used to own that store before Janessa took it over.”
“Really? I heard the original owner disappeared.” Alice said looking at Paul.
“He did. Actually, he was killed.” Paul said smirking and leaning forward to Alice. Alice’s eyes widened and she let a small gasp go.
“What’s with the small talk?” The bleached hair guy said pulling up with the rest of the boys.
“I’m getting to know all about Alice.” Paul said smirking. “Interesting read…”
“I think we’d all like to know more about Alice.” The small one said smirking.
“I’m sure you would, Marko.” Paul said laughing.
“I’m sure you’d all like to know more about me but I have got to go.” Alice said trying to get out of the circle of motorcycles.
“You need a ride, I can give you one.” Paul said smiling sweetly at Alice.
“I guess, my house is a ways from the boardwalk, I could get a ride.” Alice said unsure of herself. She didn’t think it could hurt to get a ride but she didn’t know Paul very well or any of his friends. Janessa had told her to be careful because of the dangerous nighttime in Santa Carla.
“Hop on.” Paul said giving his hand to help her on. Alice took his hand but shuddered when she felt his icy palm. “You okay?” She simply nodded and got on the back. It was odd how four attractive guys were being so nice to her. She didn’t even feel like she was attractive enough to be seen with one of them. They all revered their engines and pulled the throttle.
“You guys all travel together, all the time?” Alice asked holding on lightly to Paul.
“Most of the time.” Marko said looking at Alice.
“You might want to grab tighter or you might fall off!” Paul said chuckling.
The boys took off and Alice grip tightened immensely around Paul. Alice closed her eyes, she couldn’t even look at the speed they were going.
“Open your eyes or you’ll miss the fun part!” Paul yelled as if he knew instinctively what she’d do.
Alice opened her eyes again and looked back. Marko sat on the left side of Paul looking at the road. Alice couldn’t help but stare. They all look like they are in the moment of having fun and she was just hanging on for dear life.
“Kick it up, Dwayne!” Paul yelled to the dark haired guy. “You are slowing me down!”
“Cool it, Speedy Gonzalez !” Dwayne replied looking back.
“Where you live?” Paul asked Alice.
“I live in the big grey beach house on Docker Bay.”
“Oh, groovy!” Paul yelled as they sped up.
Before she knew it, Alice was parked outside the giant beach house. She let go of Paul and slipped off the motorcycle. The house looked so dark and empty and big. A complete difference compared to it during the day. The boys sat watching her as she just stared at the house.
“Looks empty, you live alone.” The bleached mullet boy stated.
“Yeah, I’ll get use to it, it’ll be that way all summer.” Alice replied pulling out her keys. Her hair whipped around in the strong winds.
“Ever want company?” Marko asked looking up at the balcony. “I mean you got friends to stay with you?…”
“Not friends really, unless I consider you guys friends but I still don’t know you really.” Alice replied looking at the four.
“Well, if you need a ride again, you know who to find.” The bleached mullet one said.
“Yes, I will…” Alice said smiling again.
“David.” He said giving a smirk and revving up the engine. The other guys followed shortly.
“Good night, Alice.” Marko said smiling at her.
“Bud, have you gotten the hint Alice digs me not you?” Paul said tapping Marko’s shoulder.
“Come on, lover boys.” Dwayne said flicking a lit cigarette at them.
Then they took off into the distance, Marko giving Alice one last look. She waved a goodbye to him and smiled as she watched them until all she saw was there dust trails.