Jared sighed as he watched the mundane Midwestern scenery stroll by. Bare oak trees and a thin coating of snow covered the usually lush green area. Farms were packed away, and deep down Jared was thankful he didn’t have to smell the manure. Mentally, he reminded himself to make sure that he and Shannon only visited this area during the winter. Last year, in the beginning of spring, Jared had to cover his face with a bandana just to walk around the hotel.
“In the risk of sounding redundant,” Jared grumbled, “Are we fucking there yet?”
Shannon rolled his eyes and glanced at his brother, “No, and if you didn’t drink all that damn water in the first place, we wouldn’t have to make five million pit stops.”
Jared raised an eyebrow, “Half of those pit stops were for you, so don’t pin this all on me, and second, Whitewater is expecting us in two hours.”
“We’ll be there in one.” Shannon replied, “And why don’t we just shoot up to Madison? Why stop in this small ass town?”
“High reading rates,” Jared said with a small shrug, “Give the fans what they want Shan.”
“You’re the publicist,”
“Good, and right now, you’re the driver, so pay the fuck attention so we don’t die.” Jared ordered as he pulled out his worn Blackberry, flicking through the small amount of messages that have accumulated in the few hours.
Shannon stuck his tongue out at Jared before doing as he was told, his deep hazel eyes focusing on the road in front of them. Although called a highway, 12 was nearly completely barren of cars. Shannon whistled along with the song on the radio even though he wasn’t sure what was playing.
An hour later, Shannon let out a breath of relief when the ‘Welcome to Whitewater : Home to University of Wisconsin – Whitewater” sign appeared. The town was much and it was obvious that it was centered on the campus that was nestled within. Small mom-and-pop shops lined the main street, a secondary one to the left of it. Halfway up the main street, Shannon found the sidewalk entrance to the collage, a few students walking on the side of the streets.
He turned onto a small street and smiled when he found the parking lot he was assigned to : Lot 7. He quickly parked and he and his brother made it to the University Center, and after the assistance of a student, were able to find the large building. Jared scrunched his nose at the mixture of coffee, soup, sandwiches and various baked goods invaded his nose, as well as the cacophony of hundreds of college students speaking and yelling battered against his head. “Hamilton Room,” Jared read off of the e-mail, “Says it should be after the bathroom after the soup place, which I think is over there.”
Shannon nodded and followed his brother, and after circling the building, found the room. Jared sighed in relief as he pushed open the doors and entered the small room. Hundreds of cheap, padded folding chairs already lined the floor in anticipation for Shannon’s book readings tomorrow. A young woman stood on stage, setting up a microphone while a man pushed a pedestal onto the small platform.
“Excuse me?” Jared called out.
The girl yelped and look up, “Oh, Mister Leto, and uh, Mister Leto.”
“You can just call us Jared and Shannon,” said Shannon, chuckling, “Are you Melinda?”
“Yes, I am,” she replied, shaking the offered hands, “I’m so glad you were able to squeeze us in, I know Whitewater isn’t exactly one of the big colleges, but you do have a lot of fans thanks to that book store in town.”
“Thanks go to my brother,” Shannon replied, “He’s the one that deals with all of that stuff, all I do is go where he points.”
Jared rolled his eyes and looked at the girl, “So, tomorrow at nine in the morning, noon and then that evening?”
“Yes, that’s the plan. Hopefully, by spreading the readings out, more students and professors can come,”
“And you are?” inquired Jared as the blond man approached them.
“Marcus. I’m Melinda’s mule.”
Melinda glared at the chuckling blond before turning back to the brothers, “Now, I’m sure you’ll want to get some sleep. Just be here by seven tomorrow so we can do sound check and last minute stuff, if you don’t mind,” she said hurriedly, smiling when Jared nodded, “Okay, um, I’m guessing you’re staying at the Baymont. If you came on 12, I’m sure you saw it.”
“We did,” Shannon said, “Or at least I did.”
“I was busy looking out of the college,” mumbled Jared.
Melinda chuckled, “Okay, we’ll have a nice night. Hope you enjoy Whitewater.” She quipped before pulling Marcus back to his duties.
Jared sighed and ran a hand through his hair before turning and headed out, Shannon following.
“You okay Jay?”
“Let’s…just get to the hotel, okay?”
Jared threw his bag at the foot of the closest bed before promptly falling face first into the soft material. He let out of a soft moan of relief when Shannon eased his shoes off of his feet before plopping down on the bed beside him. “Wanna tell me what’s a matter?”
“I feel…weird,” Jared grumbled, “I don’t know. Hard to explain. I just want to get out of this town.”
Shannon frowned and rubbed his brother’s head, sending the dark brown strands all over the place, “We’ll be gone in two days.”
“W-who are you?”
Jared took a step back, his blue eyes wide as he looked at the tiny girl, her hair in knots and her gray dress ratty and worn. Her skin was the color of ash and her lips were dry and cracked. “I’m Alice, what’s yours Speaker?”
“Jared. Speaker? What are you-“
“Why are you in my town?” Gone was the innocent town and was replaced by a harsh, threatening one.
“This is my town Speaker. Get out!”
“This is just one fucked up dream.”
“Leave Speaker, or harm will come to your kin,” Alice hissed before fading away.
Jared blinked, his chest heaving before he felt himself disappear as well.
Jared held back a yell when he popped up, his eyes wide and his breathing erratic. He couldn’t help but glance at the other bed, his brother sleeping peacefully. Jared gnawed on his bottom lip, torn from waking Shannon up and leaving his brother be. He glanced at his laptop that was sitting on the floor beside his bed and let out a deep breath. He knew wasn’t going to be sleeping anytime soon. Leaning over the bed, he grabbed his laptop and started a Google search on Alice and the seemingly innocent town of Whitewater, Wisconsin.
“Stop! Shannon! Stop!”
Shannon watched in inner horror as his hand grabbed a knife, a battered Jared on the ground. “Shannon!” Jared shouted as he tried to get away, his right leg obviously broken.
Shannon tried to stop his hand, but it rose nonetheless and within its grasp was a large butcher knife. Jared’s eyes widened and he tried to get away faster, “Shannon! What the fuck has gotten in you?!?”
“Good. Bye.” Shannon said before he drove the knife into his brother’s heart and watched with glee as his brother’s life dulled from the blue eyes.