Below is an excerpt from Doctor Gaines' 2014 short horror story Hitching Post, featured in the collection Spooklights from Muzzleland Press. 

 “Come get hitched!” boasted the newspaper ad in a jovial font, and that is precisely what Mitchell and Stacy intended to do.

They had been living together in an apartment outside of Lexington, Kentucky for a number of months and were looking to be officially married (privately), but a justice of the peace in the county courthouse just sounded so sterile. A “real” wedding with a big budget and all the relatives was out of the question, as was informing their parents before the deed was done, so this “cute little ranch that was far from everywhere but close to perfect!” sounded, well, perfect.

Ceremonies all sizes!” the ad read, “Certified officiant on staff! Cozy bed & breakfast available on the grounds!” Every sentence in the small advertisement ended with an exclamation point, like the person who had typed up the copy was ecstatic about every line.

Stacy found the advertisement on a Wednesday, told Mitchell about it on Thursday, and by Friday morning they had the car loaded and a ceremony booked for that evening, as well as two nights in the B&B—no long waiting list, even! What a deal.

“'The Reverend Angus Root will gladly oversee your ceremony,'” Stacy read from the email confirmation on her phone while Mitchell drove them to The Hitching Post Ranch.

“Angus Root?” Mitchell asked. “Are we getting married at the Good Ol' Country Corral?”

“Oh hush, I'm sure he'll be fine. I think it's a cute name. Kind of... old-timey southernish.”

“Old-timey is right. Maybe after the ceremony we can shovel some pig-shit with ol' Angus,” Mitchell joked. He flipped on the windshield wipers and squirted blue spray to clear the bug-smeared window.

“Now, stop. You're not allowed to be crabby on our wedding trip! This place will be fun, and quiet. I looked up pictures online. It's cozy.”

“Yeah, so cozy it's tucked away off the radar, I guess. My phone just lost signal and the GPS quit loading. Do you have directions?”

“Oh, yeah I printed them off somewhere...” Stacy said, digging through her purse. “Here we go.” She pulled out a sheet that had been folded into a tiny rectangle, unwrapped it, and went down the list of steps with a finger. “Umm...

“Last that my phone said, we were still about thirty minutes out, but there was one or two more turns. I think it was either 'Turn Left at the tree,' or 'Turn Right at the cow,' but I can't remember which.”

“Shut up, asshole,” Stacy giggled, and punched him in the arm. “There!” she said, triumphantly jabbing her finger to a spot on the page. “Take a right on Rural Highway 19, then a few miles down it dead-ends at Hitching Post Road. See? Easy.”

“Take a right at the rock, then straight onto Hillbilly Lane. Got it.”

Stacy shook her head and turned up KLFR Country’s Top 40 Countdown—over an hour of twangy hits with peppy choruses that she knew would drive Mitchell nuts—as they roared down the main highway towards the rural one, already well into the countryside. She wore not a wedding gown, but a sharp high-skirted dress that Mitchell said could pass for formal and sexy at the same time. Mitchell wore black dress slacks, polished shoes, and a crisply-pressed button-up with a tie; these would be their wedding clothes. The plan was to check in to the bed and breakfast, hold the ceremony immediately after, then settle in for a nice long weekend. Since they had invited no guests, someone at the ranch would have to serve as witness. Maybe Reverend Root could help them with that, too.

To find out Stacey & Mitchell's fate: