Updated: Nov 19, 2019
A SHADOW REARED suddenly on the road in front of us, like some unearthly monster that you only read about in a science fiction novel.
Then, as if without reason, though indeed there be good cause, I screamed, shattering the silent night air, and like a horrible wail out of some dark apocalypse movie, it rang out: shrill and penetrating. And at that very instant, the reason for my sudden outburst of fright was known.
The car spun out into the middle of the road, and Big Rupert let out a short but ear-splitting yelp of surprise. He twisted hard on the wheel to avoid slamming headlong into a passing truck, but the car then skidded across the icy pavement, before flipping in mid-air.
Everything that followed seemed to take place in slow-motion.
I assumed a fetal position, bending my head down between my skyward knees; I didn’t do so because I thought it was the right thing to do––everything had become instinctive. Simultaneously with the car flipping in the air, I heard the audible sound of rubber screeching across the asphalt road.
Then the car landed on its side, and I slammed against the door, just narrowly hitting my head on the glass which shattered just milliseconds later upon impacting with the road.
I let out another scream, this time at the sharp pain issuing from my side and then the car flipped yet again, over and over, turning an already-horrific nightmare into a spasmodic cycle of inky blackness that was surrounding me, encircling me, enshrouding me.
I remember everything so clearly: like the entire scene had been imprinted into my memory with the blackest ink and then positively slammed into place with a sledgehammer.
Anyways, as I was saying, I was driving my newly-acquired pickup, and I was driving just below the proper speed limit to a local retreat.
Have I mentioned what a sweet ride this was yet? I mean, this was sweet I tell you, and to top that all off, I had practically robbed the dealer blind. For some strange reason, my old man didn’t seem to share the same feelings, however. Oh well, you know how fathers can be right? I mean who hasn’t gotten that look––the one they give you when you do something real smart-like and instead of congratulating you on your awe-inspiring success, their jaws drop, and they give you that weird bug-eyed stare?
Anyways, back to the story.
It was probably about nine o’clockish and my seventeen year old stomach was issuing a growl that reeked of a whine-like nature, when the sudden bright glare of flashing headlights caused me to shade my eyes and apply some mild pressure to the brakes, mild I tell you: I ain’t about to let any punk, young or old, cross one on me.
I don’t rightly know what had happened or what was happening at that point, or better put, I didn’t realize what the matter was exactly. You see, as soon as those bright headlights showed themselves, I saw an enormous dark shape looming up suddenly on the far side of the road.
As my eyes shot up in surprise, a thin shriek pierced the cold night air, echoing against my ears through the open window of my pickup, and then the car zigzagged and spun towards me.
Instinctively, I jerked hard on the old wheel, jolting off to the right and just managing to avoid crashing into the veering vehicle. Slamming on the brakes, I whirled my head around just in time to see the small car flip into the air and land with a sideways crash onto the road, before rolling violently on its side.
It hadn’t even slid into the ditch that ran alongside the road, and I had already flipped out my phone and was quickly dialing the numbers that all read, certified drivers know: 911.
As the operator was transferring me to who knows what, I looked back at the overturned car, as all the while I wondered what would happen next and if there were any survivors…
I didn’t know what to expect when I got to the scene of the accident. All I had heard was some teenage kid had called in and had garbled (I only understood about half of what he said over the radio) something over the phone about a car that had “leapt about a hundred-gazillion feet” into the air. And as I was the nearest patrolman within that vicinity, it was only natural that I got the hook to take a look.
All around me had been darkness, that is until I saw the furtive gleam of headlights belonging to a…wait, what on sweet earth was that?
In the shadows of the night, I had at first thought it to be a small pickup, and indeed it almost looked like one…but it was most certainly the strangest looking vehicle––if it could even be called that––I had ever seen; and believe me, I have been witness to some strange things in my long and seasoned career.
As I neared the site, I made out the form of a young kid leaning against the truck. As soon as he caught sight of me, he began jumping up and down and frantically shot out a pale arm in the direction of the conduit situated across the road.
Slowing to a stop, I parked and silencing the engine, briskly stepped out. The night air was frigidly cold, and inside my police jacket, I shivered slightly. Then, adjusting my cap and holster, I strode authoritatively towards the adolescent.
It was then that I realized that the kid was wearing a tank top, shorts, and sandals. For a moment, I found myself staring, before shaking my head in a mixture of incredulity and amazement.
“Stupid kid,” I muttered under my breath. Some kids were just so dense…and so…what was the word? Obtuse? No, doltish. That was it.
And to top that all of, he was wearing––did my eyes deceive me? No, it couldn’t be, yet it was true––a pair of black shades.
“Dim-wit,” I muttered, a little louder this time. I was several feet away from the kid now, and he was peering at me with apparent inquisitiveness.
“What happened?” I asked. “You wreck your vehicle?” I assumed that it had been involved in some capacity with the crash. After all, it did look like a dump.
The kid, however, looked at me as if I was out of my mind, spared a quick glance at his truck, then looked back my way with that all-too-familiar expression I was used to receiving from kids his age: a blank stare.
“No…” he stuttered. “A car just crashed into the ditch over there––” He pointed a shaky finger across the road.
Following his gesticulations, I caught a glimpse of an overturned car by the glint of the exterior made by the pale moon overhead.
I whirled around on my heel in the direction of the gully. “The people in the vehicle, are they okay?” I asked over my shoulder.
I heard what sounded like a cough and a grunt, and then, “Um…I…don’t. I mean, I looked and…” The voice trailed off.
“Good or bad condition?” I barked sharply. “I need answers now, not muffled grunts and half-spoken words! And why on sweet earth are you wearing sunglasses, at a time when we are surrounded by darkness?”
“They’re uh…they work one way. I can see out, but others can’t see in.”
“The victim’s condition?”
“I…uh don’t think they’re okay at all, you see…”
I cut him off as I intoned into my dispatcher, “Jake, I’m at the scene of the last call-in. There’s been a bad crash here and need the meds and an ambulance pronto. Can you send them out now?”
For a small moment, there was silence. Then Jake’s voice cut in: “They’re on their way.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll be here waiting.” I stole a glance at the sleeveless (not to mention brainless) kid. He had stopped several feet back and was looking at me with an almost horrified expression.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “If this type of work scares you, then you can stay back, but don’t leave: we’re going to have to ask you some quick questions in regards to this.”
“It’s not that…” he said falteringly. “It’s just that…about the car, I mean, and um…the people that were in there…they’re uh…”
I gave him a withering look and hurried across the rest of the road there was to be crossed. “What is it then?” I said, without turning around. I didn’t have much, if any time to deal with bum, twitchy kids; I had victims to deal with, and I had wasted enough time already.
“It’s just that…there’s nobody in there.”
I halted at a sudden and spun my head back in his direction. “What did you say?”
“It’s just that: there’s nobody in the car. And the craziest thing was that I heard a scream before it crashed, so I know there was someone in there.
“Nonsense,” I said. Bum teenagers and their abnormal quirks: always trying to pull a fast one on you.
“I’m not kidding!” he said.
I didn’t spare him a second look. Having reached the roadside, I knelt on the gravel and stretched out my hand to pull open the door facing me, while snatching my small flashlight out of my back pocket with my other. Luckily, the car was tilted at its side, making it an easy reach.
My fingers enclosing about the handle, I gave a swift and forceful yank. The door pulled back easy enough, and I pointed my flashlight down into the car’s interior.
What I saw, however, was not a comfortable sight.
The car was devoid of any living thing. Besides a small splattering of blood on what remained of the windshield, there was no sign of life. But someone had been inside when it crashed.
I leapt to my feet and whirled about to face the kid. “The car is empty! Where are its occupants?!”
The kid looked really keyed up now. “I don’t know,” he whispered faintly. “They’re gone.” He looked at me in sudden dismay. “I think…I think that something took them.”
He said it so matter-of-factly that for a moment I just stared at him…and nearly came close to believing him. “What?”
“I think right before it crashed, I––and they––saw something on the road. Something big.”
“Why didn’t you speak of this earlier?!” My patience with the kid was beginning to run out.
“I…uh, I just remembered it right now––everything happened so quickly and so fast.”
“Well, where is it now?” I said in exasperation, waving my hands all about.
“From my vantage point, I saw the kid gulp. “I don’t know.”
That unsettled me. All of a sudden, I felt vulnerable; as if a thousand eyes were out there in the wild that infringed upon the roadside…just watching me, observing me. Get yourself under control, Dan, I told myself.
Then, in the darkness that surrounded us, a twig snapped. I didn’t need to hear anything else before my gun was out of its holster. I didn’t care if it was lunacy; suddenly, some fear gripped me, and I didn’t like it.
Not one bit.
I looked at the kid. The kid looked at me.
We both began to back away from the roadside.
In the darkness of the wood and brush beyond, a limb crashed.
Still moving backwards, I undid the safety, cocked my gun, and held it out in front of me, pointing it towards whoever, or whatever was making that noise.
“Move forward into the light and put your hands up in the name of the law!” I shouted.
All was still and silent; a darkness seemed to have enveloped everything about us. Even the headlights of the kid’s dump of a truck seemed shrouded and dim. It was then that I observed all of the usual night sounds I was accustomed to hearing were gone. It was a cold night, and yet no wind or draft tugged at the bowed branches of the hemlock trees swooping overhead. No birds chirped, or whistled, or sang. The frogs, which had just a little while ago, filled the night with their chirping, were mute.
Some feeling of fear or dread came over me, and I realized that my hands were shaking. Instantly, I felt ridiculous and yet unashamed. Over fifty years old and those stories about the bogey-man still get to you, huh Dan? a voice seemed to whisper in my head. You’re weak. You’re afraid.
No, I’m not! I said back. Forcing my fear down my throat, I lowered my gun and slowly turned my back to the desolate roadside. “Kid, I’m gonna need––”
A wail sounded out of nowhere. Issuing from the darkness abounding, it fell upon us and made the hairs on my neck stand up straight. Fell and woeful, it filled my heart with dread anew.
The kid stared rigidly, pale eyes unblinking, at what lay behind me in horrified shock. A short, thin scream escaped from between his white lips. Slowly, I turned around in silent terror to face whatever it was that had the kid so keyed up.
For a moment, nothing stirred.
Then, out of the shadows that encircled us, out of the inky blackness that encroached upon us, threatening to consume us, something emerged.
Something dark. Something fell. Something…odious.
The old knowing of some long-forgotten, but dreadful terror entered into my heart, and I felt the unspeakable horror speak and knew it then for what it was.