Part 1: Chapter 1 - OUCH!
Levi - Without trying I remembered. There were two of them...
Two bright circles. They reflected back from the beam of my 1993 Bronco headlights. But it was only one heart beat before the dark furry creature came into focus. I barely had time to react. My foot slammed on warped brakes. I pulled the thin steering wheel to maneuver around the animal, but luck was not on my side.
A loud pop filled the cab as the right edge of the Bronco’s rusted bumper connected with it. Her tires skid across several feet of asphalt and loose rock. But as Newtons Law would have it, the whole vehicle was forced to a stop by a large boulder wedged in the burrow pit. The force threw me to the side, my shoulder shoved into the window.
The pain that shot through my arm also blurred my vision. But I had been conscious.
My hand absently felt across my lap, and I groaned. My fingers eventually found the cool metal of the seatbelt and a loud click followed as I pressed the latch free. The door frame wouldn’t come into focus but I felt along the smooth surface for its handle. With one pull it popped open. Cool night air filled the cab and tingling across my flushed face. I stumbled out of the rusted Bronco onto shaky legs and I shivered.
My palm pressed along the Bronco’s faded red paint to keep me steady, as I stumbled around the back of the vehicle. As my eyes became focused yet everything appeared grey. With no moon in the sky only the starlight touched pieces of the road.
It was empty.
Where is it? I wondered. My voice or at least the voice I recognized in my head as my voice, was strained and weary. The scene was empty but it shouldn’t be. I’d forgotten something important.
… The throbbing moves swiftly between my eyes allowing the name to return.
The thought of my friends name, brought him into view. Instead of an empty road, there he was, ten feet away. Face smudged with sweat and possibly blood from what appeared to be a gash beside his ear.
The memories color was still dark and gray, so I couldn’t be sure. Yet his big brown eyes were round with alarm.
I stumbled. My shoes, though unable to find level ground, they brought me farther off the road and into the burrow pit. That was when it came. The hot breath was first, it pressed my shirt firmly against my skin moments before several sharp knives, NO, teeth broke through my skin. Top and bottom rows of teeth sunk deep into my back right hip. My eyes were locked on Sterlings expression. He had clearly seen what I’d only felt.
Sterling rushed towards me. The world around me seemed to shutter, which caused the leaves to rustle with a sudden wind. I collapsed, first to my knees digging deep into the gravel on the road side. I rolled, catching only a glimpse of brown fur before it disappeared into the thick brush below the forest trees.
My hand rushed to my back, touching something wet across the fabric of my white Adidas T-shirt.
So much blood.
Hot and sticky down my back, my shirt clinging to it. Each separate hole in my skin sent small daggers of pain up my spine and if I could maintain a moment of thought I’d be able to count each one.
The thought of counting holes in my body sends another shutter through my bones. I groan and darkness swirls behind my clinching eyelids.
Not only is this memory is real but it’s very recent. Fear pushes adrenaline through my body. The blood vessels in my temples pulse so hard I can’t hear anything but them. I can feel the crisp night air entering my lungs and I cough. More pain follows. Spreading through my chest and down my side. Even more, the pain, the smells and the weight of Sterling’s arms around me, dragging me through the forest and hinting to me that I am no longer on that roadside.
Spots assault my vision but I fight against the muscles keeping my eyes closed, confirming we are completely surrounded by forest.
The crunching of shoes, the rustle of leaves and branches which slap at us indiscriminately as we push through the previously untouched brush. Stray streams of light flicker through the dark branches above as Sterling drags me across uneven terrain.
I allow myself to be dragged along by my struggling friend. Though I feel guilty there isn’t much I can do except put as much pressure on my own feet as my legs would allow. I fail and my knees buckle. Sterling groans under the sudden gravitational pull.
My eyelids grow heavy again, and I fear my mind will again attempt to retreat from reality.
We break through the thick brush and sharp twigs. The sound changes beneath our shoes when our feet connect with solid pavement. A slick black top driveway that made me want to shout with joy. Instead I turn my head.
The light that reaches us is coming from the front porch of a home. Accompanied by a few illuminated picture windows on the first and second floor.
Someone is home.
I feel Sterling’s chest push out the breath he had been holding in, before he pulled in another to gather his strength. With that strength he hoists me higher onto his shoulder, if I weren’t three inches taller than him, Sterling would have succeeded in pulling my feet off the ground. But as I have always been taller than my friend, my toes bump across the blacktop as he rushes toward the house under the added weight.
“Almost their man, hold on.” Sterling said, his voice resembling that of a worried puppy, however at this moment I hate dogs. No dogs go to heaven! So calling my friend a puppy is not the right description.
The old home we are approaching is a lot like all the others in Sheridan. Old farm and ranch homes built nearly a century ago. Historical, which basically means they make old fart noises and they smell funny. This one is nestled deep inside the thick forest. Though the newly polished garage added to the side, gives it a modern ambiance.
The dead leaves have been pushed to the sides of the walkway, suggesting the path has been recently swept. This leaves nothing to obscure the drops of my blood that I’m leaving in my wake. I feel the sudden pull to clean up the blood, but have no ability to follow through.
After several minutes of trying, I do manage to put pressure on one of my booted feet. Sterling’s sneakers, caked in debris, stumble at the change of weight but he continues his forward motion. We stumble up the rickety brown stoop onto the vinyl railed porch beneath the light. That’s the moment I finally find the strength to speak.
With every word my insides threaten to explode, “Where’s Wendy?”
“She didn’t make it?” Sterling answered. A squeak of protest caught in my throat, though it isn’t needed, as Sterling continues to explain. “I tried everything but she failed to turn over. She’s dead man.”
“No … Wendy!” I cry, tears failing to form in the corners of my eyes. Though, it made sense. With the sweat and blood that has been pouring from my body for who knows how long, the unhealthy level of liquid that remained inside me, can’t be waisted on tears.
Sterling removes his hand from my back, and raps on the red front door before he discovers the doorbell along side. The porch itself is decorated carefully for spring. An easter wreath hangs on the vibrant wood door. A basket of flowers sits to one side and a thick mat at our feet which reads “WE OM”. The thick mud from our shoes and boots blocked out the remaining letters.
“Where are we?” I ask, my voice cracking. I know this door. I know these steps, yet like the memories I was hoping I was wrong.
“It’s the Allen’s house.” Sterling says, his voice soft probably hoping to provide some form of comfort.
My heart sank, “Not here.” I say, “You brought me here?”
“Either that or leave you out there for it to finish you off.”
“Yes.” I swallow the sandpaper lump in my throat. “Let it finish me off. She can’t see me like this. I destroyed her welcome mat.” Said mat crunched beneath my one boot stance.
Sterling eyes rolls, “We need help. She’s probably not even home.” Just then the door pulls open revealing a girl around 16 years of age, with slick brown hair long past her shoulders. She’s wearing washed bootcut jeans, gray socks, and a thick red hoodie, its long sleeves resting near her pale fingers. One of her hands is set securely over her mouth and nose, leaving her striking green eyes in clear view. Her eyebrows pull down in an expression that resembles disgust.
“Or maybe she’ll open the door.” Sterling amends his previous comment.
“Oh, S -”