This received an Honorable Mention in Allegory e-zine (vol. 24/51)
It’s more of a straight horror story about a young couple driving through the country who happen upon something not quite human.
Rain pounded the front windshield like they were driving through a carwash. The wipers darted back and forth with their constant rhythmic hum, but did little to aid the view. It was just good fortune the road was empty—almost nothing could be seen ahead, even with the headlights at their brightest. An oncoming car would likely create blinding white glare.
Laurie Brooks had been staring out the passenger window, seeing little more than the rain slide down and across the glass at an angle. Near the ground, water sprayed outward as though they were on a speeding boat. Beyond was near total darkness. She was able to make out some open fields of wheat or weeds, but as far as she could see, they might as well have been driving through a tunnel.
She looked at her husband, Tom, and noted his normally boyish, carefree face set with stern concentration. He looked stiff and uncomfortable, like someone watching a movie and anticipating a loud jump-scare. She’d seen that look when he was studying for law school. She sympathized, but also found his seriousness endearing at the same time.
“I say if the next town doesn’t have a motel,” she said, “we just pull over and sleep in the car.”
“I’m pretty sure you can’t do that,” he said, eyes still locked ahead of him.
“I’ll pay the ticket. We can’t keep this up all night.”
“I told you I got it.”
“I’m not saying you don’t. But why put yourself through the stress? It’s not like we’re in a hurry.”
He gave only a slight nod. “Look, according to the GPS, the next town’s a few miles up. There’s got to be a motel or something.”
“I’ll take a parking lot at this point,” she murmured, returning her attention to the window.
Living in the city, it’s easy to forget how dark the night can be. Back home, between the streetlights, lit buildings, billboards and other cars, the night always has a perpetual glow. Driving out in the open country—where streetlights were few and far in between—was a stark reminder of how black the world can get once the sun sinks below the horizon.
Looking upward, she considered it a shame—guessing that on a clear night, the sky would be packed with stars. Luckily, she reminded herself, the weather was supposed to be clear for the weekend. With her editor granting her time off, and Tom finishing up school, they could finally take time for a honeymoon in the country. She thought ahead to how it would be in the cabin and felt better.
A crummy drive through the rain would be well worth it.
“There, see,” said Tom, pointing to a sign ahead that could barely be seen. “Faicville, just ahead.”
They turned off at the next exit. The road was narrower, but remained level and straight. To the right was a small hill of weeds, and just over it, the dim glow of streetlights could be seen. The left appeared to be a large, paved lot with woods beyond. Up ahead, in the lot, Laurie could just make out the shape of a large, unlit building. It stood in the darkness like a waiting sentinel, and she felt a slight chill as they passed it.
There was a flicker of lightning and, in the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something moving.
“Tom! Look out!”
Not a moment after she yelled, the shape appeared from out of the darkness. Tom swerved the wheel, but the side of the car clipped whatever it was. She heard the left headlight shatter, and the shape slammed onto the hood with a sickening thud before rolling across the windshield. Tom stomped the breaks, and the car spun in a semi-circle. With the screeching of tires, the car finally came to a stop at an angle taking up both sides of the road.
The rain continued drumming away on the roof. The gentle hum of the wipers developed an awkward stutter from whatever they hit rolling across the windshield. Laurie’s hands were propped against the dashboard, and she saw Tom’s still gripping the wheel. The initial shock passed and in its place was the sickening realization of what just happened.
“Tell me that wasn’t what I think it was,” he said, his voice straining for volume.
She looked at her husband, and even in the dim light, she could see him growing pallid. “That looked like a person,” she choked out.
His hands began shaking as he pried them from the wheel. “I should,” he mumbled. “I should—uh—check it out.” He clumsily unbuckled his seatbelt and unlocked the door. “Stay here, okay?”
The static sound of rainfall heightened when he opened the door and somehow seemed to amplify the tense, uncomfortable stillness of the scene. Laurie could see, a little more than fifteen feet from the car, something (someone) lying in the middle of the road. In the dull glare of their remaining headlight, it only looked like a large black lump. There was a brief flash of lightning that revealed it resembled an overweight person wearing an overcoat. She shivered upon thinking that formless shape might be the broken remains of a human being.
Tom inched away from the car, and she heard him call out to whoever it was over the rain. Her mind raced with some kind of rationalization, but nothing would stick. All she could feel was a terrible certainty they just killed someone. She couldn’t even allow herself hope the person was simply injured and could be taken to a hospital.
She was so focused on the person in the street she almost missed a second shadow dart out from behind the car. More lightning flashed, and she suddenly saw someone approach Tom. He jumped, and his hand was cocked, ready to punch the man that came up behind him.
He was thin, bald, and wearing a rumpled and soaked suit. Through the rain, she heard the man shout, “You’ve got to help me! You’ve got to get me out of here!”
Tom was backing away and looked like he was trying to catch up as best he could. “Did you see what happened? Were you—were you with this person?”
The bald man was frantic. He started clawing at Tom’s shirt and shaking him desperately. “You don’t understand!” he screamed. “We have to get out of here! That thing was after me!”
Lightning flickered again, and Laurie got a better look of the bald man. His suit wasn’t just rumpled—it was torn and ragged. There was also a dark stain on his shirt. She didn’t consider what it could be until she realized the man’s face was slashed and bleeding from the cheek and forehead.
Tom looked overwhelmed and confused. He was about to speak, when the bald man grabbed him by his shirt and bellowed, “WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE OR WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”
As if on cue, there was another flash of lightning, and in it, she noticed the person they hit with the car was gone. She didn’t know why, but she felt a shiver of dread. “Tom, I think we should go …”
Tom pushed away from the shouting bald man, his hands up as if calling for a time-out. “Wait a second,” he said, shaking his head. “Back it up a minute! We can’t just …” He trailed off, staring into the distance, and then finished in a whisper, “… where’d he go?”
The bald man backed away, frantically mumbling, “Oh my God … oh my God … don’t you understand! We have to get out of here! It’s going to kill me!”
Looking back, Laurie couldn’t say she understood what was happening. But seeing the empty road and the bald man’s growing terror, deep, foreboding fear started to grip her. “Tom,” she said “Seriously, I think we should leave right now.”
Tom drifted toward the car, though he still appeared lost. The bald man bumped into the back seat’s door. Before Tom could climb back into the driver’s seat, the bald man grabbed him again, screaming, “Take me with you! Please! You have to get me out of—”
Before he could finish, a massive shape swooped out of the darkness, engulfing the bald man and tackling him away. Tom stumbled and fell to the street. Laurie jumped on reflex, almost choking herself on her seatbelt. She slammed back into her seat, struck less by the high-pitched squeal of the bald man than the guttural growl of the thing that took him.
“Laurie!” Tom said, climbing into the car. “What the hell was that?”
He turned and looked into the night. He was about to follow, when she grabbed his arm and said, “Tom, let’s just go! Let’s get out of here!”
“But what about—”
A piercing shriek exploded from the darkness, louder than any rain or thunder. Somewhere just beyond the headlight’s glow, she could make out the vague shape of something large on top of someone scrambling on the ground.
Tom stood frozen, while she desperately pulled on his arm. “For Christ’s sake Tom!” she said. “Let’s go! Please!”
“OH GOD!” the voice of the bald man howled. “SOMEBODY HELP ME! HELP MEEE!”
His screams devolved into unintelligible shouting and screeching before he was abruptly cut off by a horrific sound like metal grinding into stone. An inhuman sound filled with hate that cut into the night like a blade.
There was a pause and only the pouring rain. Then another noise started to emerge from the dark. A kind of sickening, crunching sound that was followed by a low chattering—like something imitating laughter.
“Tom, can we please just …”
There was a burst of lightning that lit the entire sky and allowed a glimpse of what was on the side of the road. The bald man lay on his back, staring blankly toward the car, his face frozen in pain and horror. His body below the neck had been torn open, and what could only be described as black tendrils jutted from the ragged wound.
It was Laurie who got the better look at the thing standing over the body. It was hunched over, but still looked massive. It looked like it was wearing a black coat or cloak, but it was moving and pulsing like it was made of living ink. The face of the thing was white, and its black eyes protruded like a bat. They glowed in the flash of light, like the red eye one gets when their picture is taken.
But what she remembered most of all was the teeth. Its mouth was lined with massive, razor teeth that were dark, putrid gray, and glistening with some kind of puss. In the flash of lightning, it looked at them and its face contorted into a foul grimace, showing off all its teeth. Its eyes burned with animal hate, and it let out another of its wretched metal-grinding roars.
Wasting no time, Tom jumped into his seat, put the car in reverse, and slammed the gas—wrenching the wheel as far as it could go to keep the car from ditching into the side of the road. The tires screeched to a halt as he put the car back into drive.
Laurie’s back was pressed against her seat, clinging to the door. She was too panicked to scream—not even when she caught a glimpse of the massive black shape outside her window. Before they sped off, she made out its terrible face, still showing all its teeth. A pale, white hand with long, thin fingers and black claws slapped the window and started clenching. The nails scratched against the glass and made a haunted scraping noise.
Tom slammed the gas pedal, and the car sped away down the road. They heard something slam into the back of the car as they drove off before hearing one final roar echo into the night.
He didn’t stop until they were well into Faicville and parked beneath a streetlight. They sat in the car for several minutes, both their hearts pounding. Rain hit the motionless car like they were parked beneath a waterfall. Tom reached over and took Laurie’s hand, causing her to jump and almost scream. They hugged, and she began to sob.
“Oh Jesus,” she said. “Oh God, what was that thing?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you saw it too, didn’t you? It—it wasn’t human! It was some kind of … of …”
“I know,” said Tom, hugging her tighter. “I know.”
They remained silent for another several moments, holding each other and shivering. Finally, after regaining her senses, she asked, “What do we do?”
Tom slumped in the driver’s seat, looking exhausted and ten years older. “I guess,” he said, dragging his hand through his soaked hair. “I guess we should find the police or something.”
She stared out the passenger window. The street they were on was still and lifeless—barely lit by a handful of streetlights. She took some comfort in being in a somewhat familiar setting with streets, lights, and buildings. But in her mind, she saw that thing’s face looking at her through the window and heard that terrible noise it made.
“Let’s just go,” she said.
“Just keep going. Drive through town, get back on the highway, and keep going.”
“And what?” he asked. “Pretend like nothing happened?”
“Yes!” she blurted, surprising herself with the certainty she felt. Her husband stared at her, as if she was asking him to help cover up a crime. “Tom,” she continued. “That thing wasn’t human! What are we going to tell the police? What are we expected to do?”
“Laurie, we can’t just act like we didn’t see anything. We should tell someone.”
“Tell them what? That we saw a monster? You saw the same thing I saw, Tom! We should leave this alone and get as far away as possible!”
He shook his head and placed his hands over his face. He was drenched from the rain and dripping everywhere. Laurie looked at her husband, and a memory of that thing’s face flashed in her mind again like the lightning that first revealed it. It looked at them and contorted its face, showing its teeth, almost like it was …
“That thing grinned at us, Tom!” she said. “It looked at us and it grinned! Baby, please …” She took his hands and gently squeezed them. She understood his hesitation. It was wrong to see a murder and pretend nothing happened. But she felt in her gut dread that clutched her like a vice. “Please,” she repeated. “Let’s just go.”
He stared out the front window for a long time. His face was stern and deep in thought. He looked at her, and there was sadness in his eyes she recognized. It was the look he always gave when he knew he was about to upset her.
“Laurie, I’m sorry,” he said. “I can’t just un-see what happened. We have to tell someone.” She cringed and slumped in her seat, her face rested in her palm. “We’ll find a police station,” he continued. “We’ll tell them what we saw. They’ll probably let us stay overnight, and tomorrow morning we’ll leave.” She didn’t respond, only shaking her head. “We’ll be safe there.”
“What are you going to tell them?” she asked. “They’ll think we’re insane.”
“I’ll tell them exactly what happened,” he said, starting up the car. “We were driving down the road, thought we hit someone, and saw a guy getting attacked by someone else.” He pulled the car out and started driving down the shadowy street. “We don’t have to mention any vampire Stephen King Lovecraft things.”
They navigated the deserted streets of Faicville for some time, looking for the local police station. The town was small and almost quaint—the kind you’d read about in some old story from the fifties or forties. In fact, the place looked like it was still in the forties. Most of the buildings were old and worn, and with the dull yellow streetlights, everything had the look of a sepia-toned flashback. If not for the lights, the town could easily have been mistaken for abandoned.
Laurie said nothing and only stared out the window. Back home, her editor always praised her for her imagination. At the moment, though, it was going to dark places, certain there was doom around every corner. Driving through the eerie town that time apparently forgot did little to help, but she tried to brush those thoughts away. Part of her couldn’t deny finding the police was the responsible thing to do—perhaps even the realistic thing. But she also felt reality went out the window once a grinning monster entered the picture.
There was something else that troubled her. When it looked at her before they drove off, it clawed at the window. It grinned and started doing something with its hand that seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place it.
“I think this is it,” said Tom, pulling up to a simple, two-story building that had what appeared to be a large, fake police badge hanging from a balcony. Upon closer inspection, they saw a sign reading Faicville Police Department over the front doors. The place was quiet and still—like the rest of town—but a few lights could be seen through the windows.
He parked the car outside the station and shut off the engine. He looked at her, took her hand, and said, “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
They left the car and darted up the stone steps to avoid the rain. The station was a simple and humble building, befitting of a small town. Inside was dim and quiet with a handful of desks and wooden cubicles past a receptionist station in the center. The smell of old coffee and dust filled the air. It had the look and feel of an old library more than a police station.
A middle-aged woman with gray hair tied into a bun sat at the front desk, reading a magazine. Tom went to her and started talking, while Laurie remained standing near the door. She felt too edgy to sit, and part of her worried if she relaxed in any way, it would only delay their departure.
Tom told the receptionist they’d witnessed a murder, and she called a deputy over. The deputy’s nametag read Nash, and he was a younger man, looking about Tom’s age, and wore a brown and khaki police uniform. He emerged from the desks beyond the receptionist, and walked over with the urgency of someone who rarely had the opportunity to do their job.
“I’m Deputy Nash,” he said, shaking Tom’s hand. “How may I help you?”
“These folks say they witnessed a murder,” the receptionist said.
“That so?” said Nash, his eyebrows arching. “Okay, why don’t you folks follow me and tell me what you saw.”
“Should I get in touch with the Chief?” asked the receptionist.
“Yeah, I think you better do that. He’ll want to hear about this.”
He led them into the sleepy police station. Listening to his tone and suggestion they call the Chief brought some comfort to Laurie. He sounded surprised by the mention of there being a murder. That it was apparently considered a big enough deal to bring in the Chief of police suggested it was a rare occurrence in Faicville—monster or not.
As they sat down, she found herself hoping the monster or whatever it was simply crawled back into whatever hole in came from, and that would be the end of it. But upon that thought, she recalled the strange gesture it made with its hand before they drove off, and for some reason she still wasn’t sure of, she felt a shiver of dread.
Tom did most of the talking, and Nash listened to their story, taking occasional notes. He never suggested anything out of the ordinary about the killer, only describing it as tall and maybe wearing black—otherwise insisting it was too dark to get a good look.
The Chief arrived shortly after. He introduced himself as Chief Corman, and he looked like he was in his late fifties and awaiting retirement. He had a thick, white mustache and was barrel-chested. He possessed a weary look in his narrow eyes that carried over into a leisurely stroll when he walked. He spoke gently, looked over Nash’s notes, and listened as Tom finished the story.
“Now, you say you never got a good look at the fella that did this, eh?” asked Corman.
“No,” said Tom. “Like I said, it was too dark to really see.”
“How ‘bout you, ma’am? You get a good look at all?”
“No,” she replied.
Corman nodded and looked over Nash’s notes again, rubbing at his chest just below the collarbone. “Where’d you say this all went down?”
“I’m not really sure,” said Tom. “It was a road just outside town. I’m sorry, I wasn’t really paying attention to any signs.”
Corman nodded again. “Sounds like it was Route 4, off Gordon Street. By the old plant. Would you say so, Nash?”
“Yeah, seems right.”
“There was some kind of old building nearby,” Tom said. “A big lot and some abandoned building.”
“Yep,” said Corman. “The ol’ Clearwater Sewage Plant. Been abandoned for years.” He paused, looking over the notes some more, and asked, “You folks have any place to stay for the night?”
“No. We were just passing through.”
“Well,” said Corman, scratching his chin, “there’s an old bed-n-breakfast off Fulton Street. It’s late, but I can make a call—”
“If it’s not a problem officer,” said Laurie. “I’d feel safer if we stayed here. At least until morning.”
Corman glanced at Nash. She tried to read the look they exchanged, suspecting they might know more than they let on. But Nash looked sympathetic and shrugged, and Corman sighed. “Yeah, I guess we can set you folks up in one of the offices upstairs. Not the most comfortable of places, but if you’d feel better being among cops, I’ll allow it.”
“Thank you, officer,” she said, feeling somewhat relieved.
“Nash, why don’t you take care of that? We’ll pick up where we left off tomorrow.”
“Sure thing, Chief,” he said, standing from his desk. “Follow me.”
He led them upstairs to the cops’ lounge. It was a wide and dimly lit room containing a pair of couches, a circular table, refrigerator, and small kitchen. Aside from the lingering scent of coffee, it smelled musty like a basement. It looked like it got little use, and Laurie wondered how many police officers were employed in Faicville. Part of her took comfort in the implication the town must be fairly quiet and safe if it didn’t require a large police force. Another part of her worried whether they’d be able to hold off some kind of murderous creature out for blood.
“I guess you folks can sleep on the couches overnight,” said Nash. “Not much, but I think you’ll get by. There’s some food and a few drinks in the fridge if you need.”
“Thank you, Deputy,” said Tom. “But I think after tonight, my wife and I would just like some rest.”
“I hear that,” he said with a light smile.
“How long do you think we’ll be needed to stay here?” Laurie asked.
“That, I couldn’t say. I’m sure you folks must be eager to get this over with and be on your way, but we’ll have to play it by year for now.”
She nodded and sat down on one of the couches. Tom shook hands with Nash and said, “Thank you for your help.”
He gave a reassuring and sympathetic, though almost sad, nod and left the lounge. Outside the rain started to lighten up. Tom paced around the empty room for some time, looking restless. Laurie reclined on the couch, but still felt much too tense.
“Why don’t you try to get some sleep?” he said, sitting beside her.
“What about you?”
“I think I’m going to be awake for a while.” He chuckled and added, “Probably next few months.”
She smiled and laid her head down on his lap. “Some honeymoon, huh?”
Sleep didn’t come easy, but she dozed off. Unfortunately, her dreams were not restful. She kept seeing the thing’s face. The bald man’s torn open body. Worst was the sight of the creature outside her window just before they drove off. It was grinning at them, she was sure of it. It wasn’t like a mindless animal that snarls at someone passing by. It grinned—as if it was eager or acknowledging them.
The image of it clawing at their window kept repeating in her mind. It was doing something with its hand. Clenching it … moving it. It was like someone …
Laurie shot up, suddenly wide awake with the realization. It was waving. It waved at them like someone planning on seeing them again.
“Tom?” She looked at her husband, and he’d fallen asleep sitting up. She shook her head and tried to push away the cold fear that came with her dream. Her skin was crawling, and the empty police lounge seemed darker and more foreboding than earlier. All color except a dull shade of yellow from an outside streetlight was gone.
She looked out the window and saw the rain had stopped. Ironically, with everything now completely dead silent, she found she missed it. The quiet and stillness of the empty lounge and deserted street made her feel uneasy. She saw on a clock it was close to four in the morning, and she found herself wishing time would speed up so the sun would appear.
She left the lounge to find a bathroom. The second-floor hallway was silent and dark, which she found odd. Was it common for the police to shut off all the lights—even the hallway ones—overnight? Standing in the long hall, she was also struck by how quiet it was. Granted, she thought, the Faicville police station wasn’t the busiest of precincts, but she expected to hear at least something coming from the offices downstairs.
“Hello?” she called. “Anyone there?”
She waited, expecting—hoping—for an officer or deputy to emerge from the stairs at the end of the hall. Let him ask why she asked such a silly question. Let him be annoyed she was wandering around the hall. Anything … just as long as she knew someone else was there.
She descended the stairs with awkward steps, tension clutching her spine tighter with each one. There was no sound except the creaking of her footsteps. Nothing coming from the first floor. No light either. Almost as if the police were closed for the night. But that’s ridiculous, she told herself. The police don’t close. There had to be someone still there …
Her fears were confirmed when she reached the bottom of the stairs and found the office deserted. The desks were empty, the receptionist gone, and all the lights off. It was like a department store after closing time. Nobody was home … Laurie and Tom were alone. And with that, came a sickening realization that hit her like a punch to the stomach.
“They left us,” she whimpered. “They left us …”
She bolted back up the stairs three at a time and rushed to the lounge. Grabbing her husband by the shoulders, she started shaking him awake.
“Wha…?” he mumbled. “What’s going on?”
“Jesus Christ, Tom! Wake up!” she screamed. “They left us! THEY LEFT US!” She didn’t bother waiting for him to fully wake up and dragged him off the couch. “We have to get out of here! We have to go now!”
He stumbled toward the door, tugged along by his shirt. “Laurie, what are you talking about? They wouldn’t …”
“They’re all gone! This place is empty! They left us here for that thing!”
They reached the hall, and Tom regained his bearings and pulled himself free of her grip. “Laurie, for Christ’s sake!” he shouted. “Will you calm down! They’re cops! They wouldn’t—”
There was a loud slam that sounded like the front doors. It was followed by heavy, thumping footsteps that climbed the stairs. Against the wall, they saw the shadow of a tall, thin figure approaching.
“See,” said Tom. “There’s still someone here. It’s just …”
He trailed off upon seeing the figure emerge from the stairwell. In the dark, unlit hall, they couldn’t see its face, but it was a massive and lean black shape. It looked like it was wearing a large overcoat, and it stood at the stairwell, staring at them for some time. In the darkness, Laurie was able to make out the eyes glaring at them—reflecting a slight red, like someone in a picture.
It stared at them from its end of the hall, and they could hear its breathing. It was hoarse and guttural. Something that could only come from a large predator stalking its prey. Before either could speak, they were greeted with the familiar roar that sounded like grinding metal.
Laurie reacted before her husband. She grabbed his hand and pulled, screaming, “Oh my God, Tom! We have to get out of here!”
He snapped out of his daze and ran with her. At the end of the hall, they found a metal door marked Roof. Seeing no other exit, they rushed inside and ran up the narrow stairway leading to the roof of the station. As they reached the top, they heard the creature howling and stomping after them.
All was quiet and still on the roof that shined in the night with shallow puddles. The air was cool and had that smell of concrete that had just been drenched. The sky was still overcast and gave the night an unsettling red tint.
Tom looked around, muttering to himself, “A ladder … there has to be a ladder …”
They heard the creature coming up the stairwell. Its steps were slow and heavy, and Laurie realized it was taking its time. “Tom!” she screamed. “What do we do? Where can we go?”
He led her to the edge of the roof overlooking the front of the station. About fifteen feet below was a narrow ledge of about five inches that ran around the building, marking the second floor. About ten feet below that was the stone stairway leading to the front doors.
“Okay,” he said, holding her hand. “I’m going to lower you to that ledge. You can jump down from there to the steps.”
“No—no … Tom, I can’t!”
“I’ll be right behind you! You can do this!”
He held her hand tight and started moving her into position before she could argue any further. In panic, she kissed him. “I love you!”
“I love you, too. Now hang on!”
He lowered her down, and she tried to keep her feet as close to the building as possible, waiting to feel the ledge beneath her. Her breathing was rushed, and her heart pounded in her chest. She tried not to hear the terrible slamming of what she guessed was the creature banging the door down—the harsh snarling that followed.
“Tom!” she screamed. “Tom, please! I can’t!”
“You’re almost there!” he shouted. “Just a little lower! You’re going to make it!”
She felt the narrow ledge. She placed both feet down and looked up at her husband. “Okay! I’m on the—”
It only took a second, but the image burned itself into her memory. She saw Tom’s face, stern and determined, looking as handsome as she’d ever seen him. Then his eyes abruptly widened, and his skin turned deathly pale. His grip on her hands went painfully tight, and in a flash, a black shape swooped over from behind him. It gripped his face and snatched him away—and that was the last Laurie saw of her husband.
His hands were torn from hers. She tried to keep her balance on the ledge, but quickly realized she was going to fall. She dropped down and landed on her feet, twisting her ankle and tumbling down the stone steps outside the police station.
She lay on the ground, staring up the night sky, dazed and her leg throbbing. All was quiet and still again, and for a moment, she felt she could fall asleep. But the silence was shattered by a piercing shriek she realized—with horror that made her sick to her stomach—was her husband screaming.
Despair, panic, and survival instinct clashing in her mind, she turned over and pulled herself to her feet. She stumbled into the street, dazed and nauseated. The surrounding buildings were silent and passive and everything was still. For a moment, she had a dizzying notion this wasn’t reality, but some kind of sound-stage.
“Help me!” she screamed. “Somebody! Please, help me!”
Her injured leg gave out, and she collapsed to the ground. She started pulling herself along and had a flash of those bad dreams where you suddenly can’t move your legs. Somewhere behind her, but close, she heard the thud of something landing on the concrete, followed by the heavy footsteps.
Laurie dared not look behind her. She heard the creature’s breathing grow louder as it approached. She felt its presence draw closer. It was standing over her. It sounded eager.
“… somebody help me please …” she whimpered one final time before a terrible grip wrapped around her sides and dragged her off into the night.
* * *
Deputy Brandon Nash approached the station the following morning, feeling spent and morose. The sun was shining brightly in early morning, and it looked to be a beautiful day. But he paid no mind the glorious weather, his mood turning even grimmer when he saw the car of those Brooks people being towed away.
He was greeted upon entry by the receptionist but he barely gave her a wave in return. He could already tell she was feigning good cheer and trying to pretend last night hadn’t happened.
He sat at his desk and found his notes from the interview with Tom Brooks where he left them. Upon seeing them, he felt sick to his stomach. He sat in silence for some time until Chief Corman appeared, looking as weary and old as ever.
“How you feeling son?” he asked.
Nash only grumbled in response.
Corman pulled up a chair and sat beside the sulking deputy. His tone turning grave and solemn, he said, “Let me tell you something that happened back when I was a rookie.
“See, one day there was this kid—about eleven years old—he went snooping around the ol’ Clearwater plant. Y’know, going around where he wasn’t supposed to—like kids do. Anyway, he runs back here to the station, saying he saw something in the old plant. Something bad. Chief at the time, he knew all about what’s in Clearwater. He knew what was coming. But he figures maybe we can make a stand. Keep the kid safe.”
Corman paused, dragging his worn hand through his balding scalp.
“We lost seventeen officers that night. Including the Chief. Me, I got this little beauty mark.” He pulled his collar down, revealing a thick scar just below his collarbone. “The kid got out of the station and ran into town. Six more people died before that thing caught up to him. And it did wind up getting him anyway.”
Corman placed his hand on Nash’s shoulder and said, “I ain’t happy ‘bout leaving those folks for that thing anymore than you are. But if we tried to make a stand, all we woulda done is make it mad. And a lot more people woulda died before it finally caught up to them. I don’t know what lives in that damned place. I don’t know why it does what it does. But I know that sometimes you just gotta let it be and let it do its business.
“Sometimes, you gotta just look the other way.”
Corman gave a small pat on the back and walked off. Nash stared at the notes from the night before. He still felt sick to his stomach. He felt helpless and angry and desperately wanted to do something.
Thinking it over, he crumpled up the notes and threw them into the trash.
©2015 by M. Walsh