Something's out there
Dark roads lead to dark places. These were the words which went through Jake Harris’ mind as he was driving on the lonely country road. He was coming from a dark place, a place which was not physical. It was in his past and no matter how fast he was driving, he couldn’t get out of it. Guilt is a dangerous feeling.
It was eating him for a few years, so he was driving away from the big city. He needed some time on his own. The state of Wisconsin proved to be an excellent choice for him. Jake’s late parents had a cabin somewhere north, in the woods. He was heading in that direction in order to escape for a few days.
Sleepiness crawled over him, and he had a hard time concentrating on the road. He was driving for many hours now. Driving was also a thing which he loved. Long roads were his favorite. Since his wife and son had died, he was often on the road. Sometimes, Jake just got into the car and drove off into nowhere.
The road wasn’t lit very well. It was a country road after all, which hadn’t been rehabilitated since 1980. Now, in 2005, its condition was already decayed by weather and because of the high frequency of truck traffic. Now the trucks tried to avoid this road as much as possible because of its poor condition. Many of the lights weren’t working, and nobody bothered repairing them. Jake had to pay extra attention to the road and anything on the side. He didn’t want to risk hitting a deer or a wild boar.
He reached a wooded area. I must be close, he thought, and pressed the gas pedal a little harder. After passing a dangerous curve, Jake spotted one of the light poles. Right behind the light pole, there was a sign which stated that there is a gas station at about one mile down the road. He glanced at the instrument panel. It showed that there is still some gas in the tank.
Glancing back at the sign, he saw that the light wasn’t working properly. It kept fading and then brightening again. It was a strange occurrence, Jake couldn’t remember seeing anything like that before. His eyes caught something near it in the shadows. It looked like there was a person standing there. For a moment, he thought that he saw a pair of circular red eyes, or were they red lights? He slowed down a bit, but couldn’t see more, so he kept on driving.
The front lights of his car flickered erratically when he was in line with the sign. They were even out for a few seconds. His radio went crazy, switching channels in a chaotic manner until he got past the sign. After about thirty yards or so, everything went back to normal.
This strange event woke him up from his lethargic state. Jake thought that his battery might not be working properly. A faulty wiring combined with some interference might explain both of the phenomena. It was weird, however, that they happened at the same time. A coincidence like this had a tiny chance of happening.
God, I’m tired, he thought, and sped up some more in order to reach the gas station as soon as possible. A few minutes of rest, and he’ll be on his way. Maybe a cup of coffee would be a good idea. Jake hoped to find a vending machine there. If the strange events won’t repeat themselves, then it will be all right to continue.
The tired man kept looking around to see if he can spot anything unusual between the trees. He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There were only oak and maple trees everywhere he looked. Lush vegetation surrounded the road from both sides. The dark parts made him feel uneasy. He had to slow down and drive with extra care when going through those parts where the lights were out.
The gas station appeared in front of him. It was a well-lit place, but not big. The front of the station, where the pumps had been placed, was covered by a metallic roof supported by an old steel structure. He stopped his red 1993 BMW at one of the pumps and filled up the tank. Another car was parked at another pump. There were only four of them. Jake looked inside and saw a woman and a little girl through the windows. They were looking around as if they didn’t know what to buy.
He looked around again but couldn’t see anything. The lights were bright all around the place, so he wasn’t able to discern anything much farther away, in the dark. What he had seen earlier, left an uneasy feeling inside him. A shadow with a strange shape, or was it just his imagination?
He got out of the car and pulled up the zipper of his leather jacket. It was a little windy around here. Autumn had already arrived, so the weather kept getting colder each day. His legs had a hard time walking. He had spent a considerable time in a seated position, so his joints felt heavy and rusty. Jake wasn’t too old, in fact he was only forty-four, and still as healthy as a man can be at that age. The stubble on his face already turned into a beard. He hadn’t shaved for a few days. His sunken cheeks and droopy eyes betrayed tiredness, and past heavy encounters with the bottle.
He filled up the tank, then went inside the station, and bought himself a coffee from the vending machine. He waited for the clerk while listening to the pleasant music which was playing in the background. It must have been a radio, but he couldn’t see where it was. The gas station clerk came to the counter a few seconds later. He was a tall black guy, also a little skinny. The man didn’t look tired at all, maybe a little bored. He had thick lips and dark brown eyes, a characteristic to African American people.
Jake paid for the gas, but before he could leave, an agitated man rushed inside. He was in his fifties and sported an enormous beer belly. The blue baseball cap on his head was dirty and soaked in sweat. The man’s hairy chest was heaving. Jake could see that because of the partially unbuttoned striped shirt the man was wearing.
‘Hey! Something’s out there,’ he said, barely catching his breath.
‘What?’ asked the clerk with a surprised look.
’There’s...′ the big man began while he was huffing and puffing, ‘there’s something out there. I saw a...’
‘What’s out there?’ asked Jake with furrowed brows.
‘I don’t... I don’t know, but it looked like a man.’
‘So what?’ asked the clerk, ‘Maybe it was a man.’
‘Yeah, but he was black.’
‘Haha, no shit! I’m black too, man.’
‘No, not like that. He was completely black.’
‘I’m completely black too...’
‘No, not like that...’
‘Maybe you just saw a hobo. Or maybe your ass is just high on some grass.’
Jake and the clerk both laughed. Funny guy, thought Jake, but the genuine distress on the fat man’s face was still unsettling him.
‘You don’t understand,’ shouted the fat guy again, ‘it was black as tar. I couldn’t see anything else. No details, no nothing! Except the eyes, they were red... I think.’
‘Where have you seen it?’
‘About one mile from here, that way,’ he said and pointed with a puffy finger, ‘near the road.’
‘I saw it too…’
‘I don’t know what the two of you saw, but I ain’t seen shit all night. So with all due respect, please stop talking crazy stuff. You’re scarin’ the lady and her little daughter.′
He pointed towards the woman and child. They were close by. The woman was a nice-looking brunette with long curly hair and a decent physique. She was talking to her daughter, who also had brown hair and an angelic face. The little girl looked about ten years old.
‘Look, man. I think that what we’ve seen was just a trick...’
‘No, it wasn’t! I saw it moving and the lights of my car went out. I barely got here, man! Couldn’t see a damn thing.’
’Come on, man. Cut the bullshit. We all are tryna get through the night, so please calm your ass down!
Just after the clerk finished the sentence, the lights on the road went out. They all threw concerned looks toward the road.
‘See what I mean!? Are you people satisfied now?’ the fat man said, hoping for an acknowledgment.
‘Oh, come on,’ said the clerk, ‘damn lights weren’t repaired in a hundred years...’
‘Damn it! Then I’m outta here! Whatever that thing was, it’s coming,’ the big man said, turned, and headed for the front door after seeing the lights go out.
‘Hey,’ said Jake, ‘was it beside the big road sign?’
‘Sort of. It was farther down the road by a light post, but not far away from the sign. The light wasn’t on, it was pro’bly not working. Anyway, I’m not stickin’ around much. It crept the fuck out of me!′ said the fat guy and rushed out.
‘The guy’s crazy,’ said Jake, but deep inside he knew that the other man was right.
‘Yeah, man. But haven’t you said that you’ve seen it too?’
‘I don’t know what I’ve seen,’ said Jake and turned to go.
Jake didn’t like this. If there’s one more person who had seen the strange apparition, then there might have been something there after all. He didn’t see it well and didn’t want to draw conclusions. It might be just a prank by local kids. He remembered a story from his teens. What he saw earlier was eerily similar to that.
A long time ago, he and a few friends cut a piece of cardboard in order to resemble an evil face. Then they folded it up to look like a cylinder. After that, they glued a piece of cardboard to the top and one to the bottom. It resembled a jack-o’-lantern in the end. They cut a hole in its back and put a candle inside, then they stuck the thing on a tree in the park of their hometown. After nightfall, a young boy and a girl came to have some fun where nobody could see them. When they noticed it, they got scared and ran away screaming. Jake smiled at the thought, he still saw their scared faces. It sure looked like one of those pranks.
The woman and the girl just arrived at the counter, and the woman wanted to pay. Jake looked at the woman and her child, they both looked back at him and smiled. He did the same, then headed to the door. Don’t even think about it, he thought, you don’t deserve it!
The little girl’s face struck him. She resembled his late son, Clark. The girl had the same cheeks, a very similar nose, and the look in her eyes was just like Clark’s. She was smiling with her eyes too; she was beautiful. Her smile brought back some painful memories.
These memories dated back four years, and Jake hated them as he hated himself. His wife and son were no more because of him. Only death could save him from the guilt he was feeling. He didn’t start a new life since their death, he couldn’t. The road was his salvation when he wasn’t working. Jake was driving because this way he could avoid the damned bottle. He couldn’t drink himself to death when being at the wheel. His life mattered little to him, but he didn’t want to kill anybody else. Sometimes he was fantasizing about saving somebody else at the expense of his own life in order to die at least half at peace.
Jake walked out the front door and saw the big guy driving out of the station. He was driving an old pickup truck. Jake was wondering how it was still in one piece and didn’t fall apart a hundred years ago. The man wasn’t hesitating much. He must have stepped on the gas really hard because he was out on the road in no time. The fat man was speeding away in his decrepit excuse of a car with no working lights, and he disappeared behind the trees.
He didn’t get far, however. Jake heard tires screeching and then a loud crashing noise. The crashing noise was quickly followed by a harsh metallic one, then an elongated scream. Jake couldn’t see anything because of the lush vegetation surrounding the station, but he knew it was bad. He rushed back inside right away.
‘Hey,’ he shouted to the clerk, ‘I think the big guy just had an accident.’
‘I’m coming right away,’ said the clerk and grabbed a flashlight.
He then ran outside, right behind Jake. The woman and the child remained inside. The woman didn’t want her daughter to see anything related to an accident. Jake reached the fat man’s car. It looked like the man tried to avoid something on the road, something he saw too late. The car hit an enormous tree and now lay on the side of the road, smoking.
The two men looked inside the car, but they couldn’t see the driver. They saw right away that the steering wheel was bloody. It was an old car, so it most likely didn’t even have an airbag. Even if it had one, it was obviously not working. They noticed that the right-hand door wasn’t where it should have been. It was ripped out of its hinges and was lying about five yards away between the trees.
The impact didn’t look so forceful for the door to be that far away. Even for a wreck of a car like that pickup truck, it appeared impossible.
‘What the hell happened here?’ asked Jake and threw his hands in the air.
‘I dunno, man. Ain’t no sign of the fat dude...’
They looked around the car and under it. The men even searched the surroundings, but they found nothing. Jake’s guts were twisting and turning. The sight of the red-eyed shape came back to him. If it were only for him to see it, it would have been fine. The really unnerving fact was that the fat guy had also seen something and even closer to the station. What if that thing reached the station? Maybe the road lights turning off were a sign that it was here.
‘It’s a mess, man,’ said the clerk, looking confused.
‘Yeah, but where the hell did he go?’
‘Yo, I don’t know, but let’s not just stand here. I’m gonna call emergency.’
‘That’s a good idea because I heard a scream and that door... something took him.’
Yeah, man. Somethin’ big,′ said the clerk, and his eyes were open wide in amazement, ‘but I ain’t gonna wait here to see it.’
‘All right, let’s get back inside.’
The men were heading back towards the station, but right before turning from the main road onto the driveway, they met the woman and her daughter.
‘Hey, what are you doing? It’s not safe here,’ said Jake, but saw that both of them were trembling.
‘Mister, the lights went out,’ said the girl and pointed towards the building.
Yeah,′ continued the woman, ‘we thought it was strange, so we came outside. We didn’t feel safe inside.’
‘We heard something...’ said Clara.
‘Yeah,’ continued her mother,′ there were sounds coming from the back.′
‘All right,’ said Jake, ‘let’s get back first, then we’ll see.’
They all went back to the station. The clerk was in front with the flashlight; the girls were behind him and Jake in the back. For a short time, he turned and walked backwards. He kept his eyes on the road but couldn’t see a thing. The night was still, and nothing moved on the moonlit road. Not a car passed since he arrived. It really seemed an abandoned road. He was wondering why the owner of the gas station hadn’t gone out of business. It seemed sure that the owner made little money out here.
Jake turned and found himself staring at the woman’s hips. He liked how they swayed. She wore tight jeans, which accentuated her curves. A thin jacket made of some material which resembled leather covered her upper body. A beautiful woman, thought Jake again, then looked away in distaste. The distaste was for him because he began fantasizing about some woman while people were dying. In the end, he thought, primal urges always win.
‘My name is Curtis, by the way,’ said the clerk without turning.
‘I’m Jenna,’ said the woman, ‘and this is my daughter, Clara. Not the best circumstances to make friends, huh?’
‘Definitely not. I’m Jake, nice to meet you.’
‘I’m gonna check the breaker panel out back,’ said Curtis.
‘All right, Curtis. I’m staying here with the ladies.’
Curtis went around the building, and Jake remained with Jenna and Clara. The little girl was hugging her mother. Jenna was keeping her hand protectively over Clara’s shoulder. Jake crouched in front of the girl and smiled comfortingly at her. She smiled back.
‘How old are you, Clara?’
‘I’m ten,’ she replied in an uncertain voice.
‘Well, Clara, me and Curtis are going to find out what is happening and then...’
He couldn’t finish because there was a loud curse coming from behind the building.
‘Motherfucker!’ it was Curtis.
‘Stay here,’ said Jake,′ don’t drive away because we don’t know what’s out there.′
Jake ran after Curtis and found him frozen with a blank stare on his face. When he turned toward the breaker panel, he saw what frightened the clerk. Blood and brains covered the panel and surrounding wall. The fat guy’s body was on the ground near the panel. His face was gone, along with about half of his head. Now they understood why there was no light at the station. The thing that took the man from his pickup truck brought him here and bashed his head into a bloody pulp on the breaker panel, which got damaged.
‘What the hell?’ asked Jake. He couldn’t say anything else.
'This is why we got no ‘lectricity. Panel’s broken. I’m callin’ 911.’
Jake and Curtis ran back to the girls. They could see right away that something was wrong.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Clara, and she drew closer to Jenna.
‘Nothing,’ said Curtis, but neither Jenna nor Clara believed him.
‘Come inside,’ said Jake as calmly as possible.
‘Wait,’ said Jenna, ‘what happened back there?’
‘Just let’s go inside, please!’ said Jake with an increasing frustration.
The girls obeyed, and after they entered, they saw Curtis frantically buttoning his phone.
‘Could somebody please tell me what is wrong?’
Jake took her by the hand and pulled her away from Clara, then quickly told her about the body. She gasped in fright but tried to muffle it with her hand. Jake told her they will try to call the authorities and solve the problem without Clara knowing much of it. Protecting the little girl was imperative, he didn’t want her to be traumatized at such an early age.
‘Damm,’ said Curtis, ‘my signal is bad. Lemme try the landline.’
He picked up the phone and dialed 911, then waited. Somebody picked it up, then the line went dead. After a few more times, it worked again; the line didn’t go dead right away, so he could speak to some extent, then it went dead again.
‘Did it work?’ asked Jenna.
‘I dunno. I talked to an operator, but I’m not sure she could hear me right. Let’s hope they received at least where we are.’
‘So,’ said Jenna, ‘now what?’
‘We wait,’ said Jake.
‘For what? We can’t even be sure if help is on its way or not.’
‘Because the thing that did...’ Jake began, then realized it is a mistake and stopped mid-sentence.
‘What thing?’ asked Clara with a growing distress.
‘Nothing, honey. Could you please help Curtis find what he is looking for?’
‘Yeah, sure,’ said Clara and went behind the counter where the clerk was searching for flashlights and other useful stuff.
‘Sorry for scaring your daughter, but going away is risky. We don’t know what’s out there.’
‘Then why is waiting here a better option? That thing could be anywhere, even inside.’
‘Yeah, I know, but I saw the fat guy drive away and now he is dead, all right?’
‘Looks like we don’t have a right option, isn’t it?’
‘No, not really. The only sure thing is that being outside is deadly. Also, there has to be something with the lights...’
‘Yo, what do you mean?’ asked Curtis who overheard some of the discussion.
‘The road outside is not well-lit...’ Jake began.
‘Yeah,’ Curtis cut in, ‘damn politicians ain’t wanna fix shit here...’
‘Yes, I know. The thing is, when the fat guy left, his lights weren’t working.’
‘Yeah, he told us, man. I remember now, but what’s your point?’
‘What’s with the lights?’ asked Jenna, throwing suspicious looks at the men.
‘He also said that his lights went out when he saw something on the roadside. I saw it too and when I got close to it, my lights went downright crazy.’
‘Like in horror movies?’ asked Curtis.
‘I don’t like horror movies,’ said Clara, trying to interfere with the adults, but she wasn’t successful.
‘Something like that, yeah... And that thing...it was not human.’
‘Are you listening to yourselves!?’ Jenna shouted in irritation. ‘Really, horror movies, monsters? You too must have smoked something...’
‘Come with me,’ said Jake and extended his hand toward her.
‘Excuse me?’ she asked, not understanding what the man wanted.
‘Just come with me,’ he repeated and tried to sound as reassuring as possible, ‘I’ll show you something. I won’t hurt you, don’t worry.’
‘All right,’ she said to Jake but ignored his hand. ‘Watch my daughter,’ she said to Curtis and pointed to Clara.
‘Yes, ma’am, no problem,’ he said continued his rummaging, Clara helped him.
Jake took a flashlight from Curtis and led the way outside. He knew it wasn’t a good idea at all, but he also wanted to make sure that Jenna understanded the situation they were in. They went back to where the breaker panel was, along with the dead man.
‘What the fuck?’ said Jake and stopped in his tracks.
‘What? What’s wrong?’
‘There should have been a dead body here,’ he said and pointed his light towards the floor and then the destroyed panel.
‘Oh, my God!’ said Jenna and her hands jumped to her mouth.
The bloodstains were still there. Bits of brain were still plastered to the panel. It looked like something bashed the poor man’s head against the panel with substantial force.
‘Oh, my God! What is that?’ shouted Jenna in fright.
‘Looks like a tongue...’ said Jake and stared for a second at the fat man’s tongue, which lay in a small puddle of blood a few yards from the panel.
Jake noticed that the bloodstains on the ground continued all the way towards the forest. He shone his light on the ground where the body used to be, then traced the blood-red streak until it disappeared into the darkness of the trees.
‘That thing dragged the body into the woods,’ said Jenna, and shivered.
‘Yeah, but why?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe to eat it?’
‘Maybe... I don’t know, but why leave it here first, and take it away later?’
Jake froze after his light beam fell on something he didn’t see before. He gasped and Jenna threw a half frightened, half worried look at him.
‘What’s that?’ she asked and went closer to him in order to see what made the man stare so dumbfounded at the ground.
There on the decades old asphalt, near the bloody drag marks, a name was painted on the ground. Jake couldn’t believe his eyes. The moment he saw the bloody name on the ground, he knew that tonight’s events are not random. They have something to do with him. When he was pondering the implications, Jenna interrupted him.
‘Clark, who the hell is Clark?’
‘He’s... he was my son...’
‘He died...’ said Jake and his voice was almost stuck in his throat.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Jenna, and put a hand on Jake’s shoulder.
‘Yeah, thanks. Let’s get back to...’
A loud scream interrupted him. It was Clara, it couldn’t have been anybody else.
‘Oh no, Claraaa!’ shouted Jenna and ran back towards the front of the station, Jake followed.
A stream of light was illuminating the driveway from inside. It looked like somebody was searching for something.
‘Mommy!’ screamed Clara and ran out through the front door, then hugged her mother.
‘It’s all right, honey. I’m here. What happened?’
‘A monster wanted to take me! Curtis chased it away...’ she said, but couldn’t control herself anymore and cried.
‘Hey, ya’ll need to get inside!’ said Curtis, who was standing in front of the entrance.
They followed the clerk’s instructions and hurried in. He was trembling from head to toe. His chest was heaving and the flashlight in his right hand was shaking.
‘What happened?’ asked Jenna while still hugging her daughter.
‘She said,’ began Curtis, ‘she said she wanted some candy, you know? So I let her search for candy. She wandered away... then I heard the scream. I ran to her, she was by the big glass wall in the front. I pointed my light to her, but then I saw the thing you were talkin’ about behind her.′
Jenna held her hands to her chest like she was having a heart attack. She felt relieved because Clara was still alive, but she also knew that her daughter’s life had almost been ended.
‘And what happened next?’ asked Jake who could speak, Jenna was still shaking.
‘It... disappeared. It dissolved into thin air. I can’t explain it, and I couldn’t see much. It was big, man.’
‘The light,’ said Jenna after waking up from her stupor, ‘the light made it go away. Like you’ve... like you’ve said before.’
‘Will the monster come back, mommy?’ asked Clara, still with tears in her eyes.
‘I don’t know, honey. All I know is that we will not let it hurt you, all right?’
The girl just nodded, then buried her head into her mother’s shirt. She didn’t want to let her go. Jenna really wanted to protect her daughter, what kind of mother wouldn’t? The problem was that she didn’t know how. She had to rely on the two men who were as lost as she was.
‘Yeah,’ concluded Jake, ‘it doesn’t like the light. That’s why it took out the breaker panel and that’s why it could scare the fat guy, he’s lights were not working.’
‘Yo, the fat dude said he’s lights went out when he passed the thing on the road. You passed it too, but your lights are working, right?’
‘Yeah, I think so. When I passed the thing the first time, my lights flickered and my radio went nuts. It all returned to normal after I got farther down the road.’
‘How come that your lights were still working?’ Jenna asked.
‘I don’t have the vaguest idea. Your lights were ok when you were on the road?’
‘Yes, but I came from the opposite direction.’
‘Ok,’ replied Jake, ‘we don’t know what the hell this thing is, so we better make sure that we are surrounded by light all the time. How many flashlights do we have?’
‘We have four,’ said Curtis and pointed to the counter, ‘one is mine, the other is yours, and we still have two extra.’
Jake took one of the lights and gave it to Jenna. She took it and looked in his eyes with compassion. But also some hope. Jake seemed to her like a man who could save her and Clara. Not that Curtis seemed less capable to her, but she saw something in Jake. She didn’t know for sure what it was. Maybe she saw in his eyes that he wouldn’t hesitate a second in order to save them.
‘Hey, Curtis,’ said Jake, ‘have you seen anything unusual here lately? Anything which might explain all this...’
‘Yo, I’m workin’ here for a month or so and I’m sure as hell ain’t seen any crazy shit goin’ on ‘round here until you’re weird ass showed up tonight.’
Jake lowered his head. He was thinking. Maybe these events are truly tied to him somehow, but he couldn’t understand how.
‘I don’t know, Curtis. Let’s just get through the night, ok?’
‘Let’s do it, man! Hopefully, our batteries are gonna last.’
‘Aren’t you selling flashlights here?’ asked Jenna, perplexed.
‘No ma’am, this was the same question I asked the boss when comin’ here to work. He said that he plans to sell ‘em in the future, but not yet. Business strategies, you know...’
‘Or the lack of them...’ Jenna cut in.
‘Shit!’ Jake exclaimed after their flashlights went out.
Darkness enveloped them, and they felt icy fingers crawl up their backs. Clara hugged her mother more tightly. The two men tried with desperate moves to restart the lights, but it was futile. Just when they thought that it will be over, they heard sirens.
Soon, a police cruiser turned onto the driveway with its blue and red lights whirling around. The people inside the station sighed in relief. Finally, they have been rescued, and the ordeal was over. At least this is what they thought. Better stated, this is what they all wanted to be true.
The car didn’t get too close because its siren and lights went dead in an instant. The driver tried to restart the engine a few more times but wasn’t successful. He also tried the radio, but it was dead.
Jake opened the front door and was heading out to meet the police officers, but then halted in his tracks. To his right, between the tall bushes, he saw something moving. At first, he thought that it was the wind, but no; it had an abnormal form. A tall, dark shape emerged onto the driveway. It had no visible features, only an outline, otherwise it was complete blackness. Outside was dark, but the visibility was still acceptable because the sky wasn’t clouded. The faint moonlight somewhat illuminated the surroundings. Other than that, there was nothing else. No lights were working, but the sheer blackness of the creature was still obvious.
It looked tall, about eight or nine feet, and had wings. They resembled the wings of a bat only much larger, and they were retracted. The creature also had two horns jutting forward from its forehead, which then curled upwards. Jake couldn’t see any facial features. Its hands were long and ended in thin fingers with pointy claws. The creature’s legs were like that of a bird or a bat, digitigrade but with long fingers and claws. The only feature which stood out of the blackness were the eyes. Round and red positioned in front of the face like those of humans. They were looking straight at the cruiser.
Jake told the others to stay inside, and he began signaling the officers to watch out. He was waving both his hands frantically and shouting. He knew that this was the most idiotic thing he could do, but didn’t want to have more people on his conscience. His wife and son were enough for him.
‘Watch out! To your left!’ he bellowed and pointed to his right.
The creature was already marching towards the car. Those inside surely noticed Jake’s signaling and the approaching menace because both front doors were opened with force. The driver couldn’t get out because as soon as the door opened, the black thing made a tremendous leap and landed beside the car. This was when Jenna took her daughter and rushed to the back of the station. She didn’t want her to witness anything of what was going to happen.
‘What the fuuuck?!’ came the panicked shout from the police officer as the creature grabbed the door and ripped it off like it was nothing.
From the passenger side, a female officer jumped out and fell on her butt while screaming in terror. Her colleague, the driver, managed to somehow pull out his sidearm and began firing. It didn’t matter; the thing was not even flinching as the bullets went through it. Jake assumed that the shots couldn’t have been off-target because of the distance between the shooter and the monster was only about six feet.
Jake was standing there transfixed as the black thing with raging red eyes got hold of the police officer, yanked him out of the car, and then with a terrifying roar spread its wings. It was one hell of a sight. The creature’s wingspan was at least of ten yards, maybe even more. The police officer was alive and screaming, but he couldn’t do much against the winged darkness. It jumped up in the air, then with a mighty flap of its wings it got even higher. Then, with each consecutive flap, it got further and further away until it disappeared into the night sky with its prey.
‘Come here! Hey, officer!’ Jake was trying to get the attention of the policewoman who was still lying on the ground.
She looked at him, and Jake saw fear in her eyes. Maybe she’s in shock, thought Jake, and went to her. He was right. The officer’s look was lost and confused. Her eyes showed panic. Jake extended his arm and only after calling to her a few more times, did she wake up from her stupor?
‘Come with me,’ he said, ‘it’s not safe here.’
‘A-all r-right,’ she replied, but could barely speak.
He helped her get inside the station. When Jake opened the front door, a beam of light hit his face, and he had to wince.
‘What’s that?’ he said and put his hand in front of his face. The other one was around the waist of the shocked woman.
‘Sorry,’ said Curtis while fiddling with a flashlight, ‘looks like the flashlights are working again. What the hell was that thing, man? I can’t believe this shit?’
‘Me neither, but I don’t know what it was. It looked like a bat straight out of hell.’
‘Are we going to survive this night?’ asked Jenna and glanced questioningly at Jake, after emerging with Clara by the hand.
He only sighed, he didn’t have an answer for that. After witnessing the formidable abilities of whatever the winged thing was, he wasn’t sure at all if they survive. Deep in his guts, he felt that they can’t fight this thing, and neither can they run away. Jake put these thoughts aside and wanted to do something. The sight of the crying little girl and the look on her mother’s face broke his heart.
‘We have to do something, man,’ said Curtis in a desperate voice.
‘Yeah, I know. I’m thinking,’ replied Jake.
‘All we know so far is that its weakness is light, and it can interfere with electronics,’ said Jenna, trying to begin a train of thought.
‘Yo, that’s right. Problem is that we need electronics to have lights,’ continued Curtis, ‘I sure ain’t starting no campfire here.’
‘Ok,’ Jenna replied, ‘but what about a generator? Don’t you have some kind of backup generator for emergencies?’
‘I don’t know, as I said, I’m workin’ here for a month, and they didn’t show me much when I started.′
‘There... there is a generator,’ said the policewoman in a shaking voice.
The others just looked at her without saying a word, like she was some kind of alien. They almost forgot that she even existed. She was young, close to thirty, but not yet there. Her long blonde hair was tied up into a ponytail, and her otherwise harmonious face lines were now contorted under the pressure of fear and shock. She was sitting on the floor with her back to the counter, hands on her knees and head down.
‘Sorry, ma’am,’ said Jake cautiously, ‘are you sure?’
‘Yes, my name is Sarah and my brother used to work here. He had told me he had to use the generator once because of a power outage.’
’And do you know where it might be? Cause I’m damn sure I ain’t seen it ‘round here?’
‘Somewhere in the back. I don’t know. It might be in the equipment room, go check!’
’All right, I’m gonna check it out.’
‘I’ll come with you,’ said Jake, and gestured toward the back with his hand.
‘Can you take care of the girls...?’ Jake began, but Sarah interrupted him.
‘Yes, of course. I think I’m ok now. Just go!’
The two men rushed out, lighting their way with flashlights. Curtis was leading Jake to the back where they had found the body of the fat guy. The toilets were here, and also a small room for different tools and equipment.
Curtis fumbled a little with the key, but soon the door opened, and they were greeted by a dirty and cluttered, rectangular room. The smell of dust and gasoline hit their nose right away.
‘Let’s see what we have here,’ said Curtis and began searching, Jake joined him.
After a few minutes, they found it. It was a small, portable generator. It worked on gasoline and it wasn’t the thing they were hoping to find, but it was better than nothing.
‘I have to find some gas to fill this baby up then we’ll see if it’s working or not,’ said Curtis and began searching for a canister of gas.
‘I really hope it’s gonna work,’ said Jake and sighed.
‘Yeah, we’ll see about that,’ said Curtis and continued his search, ‘look at this, man! A searchlight, we could use this baby.’
‘Yeah, damn right,’ said Jake and inspected the object which was larger than a flashlight, and had a long cable attached to it.
Their flashlights flickered wildly, then switched off. Three screams erupted from the front, then the lights switched back on. They both got startled by the sounds, and Curtis started for the door with a panther’s agility.
‘No,’ said Jake, ‘stay here and get this thing going. We’ll need light as soon as possible.’
‘All right, man. Go!’ Curtis replied, and his hands were already shaking.
Jake ran to the front to see what had happened. When he reached the entrance and looked to the glass wall, he almost screamed himself. The upper torso of a man was crawling towards him with his eyes fixed on Jake. Sarah was standing in the doorway without a clue about what she should do. Jenna was inside, and she was cradling her daughter, so she doesn’t see these horrible events.
The mangled body was inching its way towards Jake, and he didn’t have a clue what to do. He recognized him by the uniform; he was the taken police officer, more correctly the remaining half of him. His first thought was that he should help the man, but something told him that this shouldn’t be happening. It’s not normal for a man to crawl who knows how much after he was ripped in two. The shock and blood loss must be extreme in these cases.
He remembered an event which he witnessed when he was younger. It taught him for life that he should not play with speed limits. Years ago, a young man was racing like crazy with his new motorbike. His parents just bought him the bike because it was his birthday. The guy lost control of the bike, hit the side of a car and flew sideways straight into a pole. His body was cut in two pieces. Poor bastard was still alive for a few seconds because of the adrenaline. He tried to crawl to his lower body and somehow put it back. When the paramedics lifted him up, all his insides had fallen out onto the ground. Jake saw his eyes when he was crawling to gather up his guts, and they didn’t look like the eyes of this man. These were evil and resolute. His suspicions became reality when the crawling torso spoke in an almost feminine voice.
‘Why did you let us die!?’ he spoke, and the others cringed at the sound of the strange voice.
Jake backed up a few steps with his mouth hanging open. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
‘It’s your fault, Jake! It’s all your fault,’ the torso on the ground said, and then his head fell onto the ground. Then he didn’t move anymore.
Jake kept looking at the corpse, then to Sarah who was still standing in the doorway. Her face showed bewilderment and fright. She looked at Jake for answers because she knew that he had some. At least this is what she concluded when looking at his face, which betrayed many feelings.
‘Hey,’ she said and extended her hand, ‘come inside!’
Jake couldn’t say a word. Old feelings rushed back to him like a torrent. The floodgates had been opened. That which was just slowly flowing through recently healed cracks, came down on him again, bathing him in a shower of sorrow. He crashed to the ground and hid his face in his hands. Sarah hurried to him, bent down to the grieving man and put her hand over his shoulder.
‘Come on! Don’t do this! We need you.’
’I-I killed them, ’muttered Jake with the blank stare still on his face.
‘You didn’t kill anybody,’ shouted Sarah, and shook him hard, ‘now come inside, will ya’?′
The man woke a up from his stupor and got up. Sarah led him back inside the station. His legs were barely obeying him. His mind was in some other place, a dark place. After Sarah brought Jake back inside, Sarah and Jenna looked at him questioningly.
‘What was that?’ asked Jenna. ‘How could that man still be alive?’
‘I don’t know...’
‘He wasn’t!’ said Jake, and his voice was strong-minded now.
‘What do you mean?’ asked Sarah.
‘He couldn’t have been alive. It was just some sick game played on us by that winged thing.’
‘And what about the voice?’
‘That voice was not him, I tell you.’
‘But whose voice was it? Don’t tell me that this voice has something to do...’
‘Yes, it has! It was my wife’s voice... almost.’
‘Your wife?’ asked Sarah, and her expression betrayed utter bewilderment.
‘Yes, she died four years ago along with my son, Clark.’
‘Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that,’ said Sarah, ‘but I don’t understand what is that got to do with what’s happening tonight.’
I don’t either, believe me,′ said Jake and headed towards the liquor section.
‘So what’s the story?’ asked Jenna.
Well, the fucked up story is,′ began Jake and opened a bottle of Jack then took a hearty swig out of it, ‘that I was married and had a son, he was ten years old. He looked very much like your daughter, Clara.’
‘What happened to him?’ asked Clara, who was silent until now but was beside her mother all the time.
‘Our relationship wasn’t that good, you know. So I sought some fun elsewhere, if you know what I mean...’
‘Yeah, you cheated on her.’
‘Yes, that right,’ he replied and took another sip from the bottle, ‘and there is not a single fucking day on this earth when I don’t regret doing that. She found out eventually, we had the unavoidable arguments, and then she filed for divorce. We got divorced, she got custody, but I got to see my son, at least.’
‘And what happened then?’
‘One night they went to their grandmother’s. It was a night like this. They were driving on an abandoned country road. She was tired and found herself face to face with a truck. She couldn’t avoid it.’
‘Oh, my God! I’m sorry,’ said Sarah.
‘Yeah, me too. Every damn day! The weird thing is that Clark was found with almost all of his head missing several yards away in the forest. Some wild animal dragged him from the wreck...’ his voice faltered, he felt a knot in his throat.
‘Just like the body of the first victim,’ said Jenna.
’Was there a ‘first victim’?′ asked Sarah.
‘Yes,’ replied Jenna, ‘in the back.’
‘And what about the next one?’
‘When emergency services found my wife, only her upper half was left in one piece. The engine was pushed forward, and it crushed everything from her waist down.’
‘I see now,’ said Sarah, ‘and you think that these events have something to do with that?’
‘Definitely. I don’t know how, but they are related. If I hadn’t cheated on her, they could still be alive.’
‘It wasn’t your fault,’ said Sarah, ‘cheating on her wasn’t an agreeable thing, but their death wasn’t your fault.’
‘Yeah, my mind keeps telling me that, but what is burning in here,’ and he put one hand to his chest, ‘is telling me otherwise.’
‘Hey,’ said Jenna, ‘where is Curtis?’
‘Damn it, I left him in the back,’ said Jake and began running to the back, ‘stay here!’
When he reached the equipment room, he saw that the door is ajar, but there was no sign of Curtis. The generator and the reflector had been pulled into the doorway. It looked like he was trying to get it to the front, but then something happened.
‘Damn it!’ he shouted and began searching the surroundings for Curtis.
His heart was racing, he didn’t want to lose Curtis. In fact, he didn’t want to lose anybody. He wanted to make sure that they all survive, but it seemed that it is not a plausible task. Jake kept calling for Curtis, but no answer came. Only the eerie sounds of the night greeted him. Crickets were chirping endlessly in the forest. From deep within the woods, an owl hooted. The harbinger of death, he thought briefly. Is this his destiny? One minor mistake and then only pain and suffering? He didn’t deserve this; he thought. Not this much, at least. Others shouldn’t pay with their lives just because he was stupid once.
Having had no success in finding Curtis, he took the generator and the searchlight, and took them to the front. When he reached the front door, the women already knew that Curtis was gone.
‘Did you find him?’ asked Sarah.
‘No, there’s not a single sign of him.’
‘Oh, no,’ whimpered Jenna, ‘are we going to die one by one?’
‘Mommy, I don’t want to die,’ cried Clara.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it,’ Jenna said, ‘mommy is just scared, that’s all. We will figure something out soon, and we’ll go home. All right?’
‘We really have to do something,’ said Sarah, ‘because this thing is going to kill us all. I don’t want to scare anybody, but we have to get out of here.’
‘Yeah, I agree,’ said Jake, ‘but what the hell can we do? We don’t know where that thing is, and we don’t know how we can stop it.’
‘Let’s start the generator, so we have some light,’ said Sarah, ‘and then we wait until morning. I have no better idea.’
‘All right,’ replied Jake, ‘I’ll try to start it.’
He took the generator farther inside and switched it on. It was working fine. He then connected the searchlight to the generator. After switching it on, a bright light filled the place. It was much more powerful than their flashlights. The steady roaring of the generator’s engine was a welcome sound.
‘Great, it’s working,’ exclaimed Jenna with some newfound hope in her voice.
‘Yeah, let’s hope the gas is going to last,’ said Sarah.
‘Ok, now what?’ asked Jenna.
‘Now we wait,’ said Jake and took another gulp of whiskey, ’we still have a few hours until sunrise.
They all gathered close to one another and waited. The light was comforting. Jake checked from time to time the generator to see the level of gasoline. The machine was eating up the gas at a steady state, but it seemed that it will last until sunrise. For an hour or so, nothing happened.
Clara was sleeping in her mother’s arms, Jenna was sleeping too. Sarah and Jake were awake. They sipped from the bottle from time to time. Not too much, so they won’t get drunk. The two of them were talking in a low voice about many things. After some uneasy shuffling, Clara woke up and began waking up her mother.
‘Mommy, I need to pee,’ she said, and Jenna woke up from her uneasy sleep.
‘Yeah, all right. I need to pee too.’
‘You too shouldn’t go alone,’ said Sarah.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Jake, ‘I’ll go with them.’
‘I’m coming too, I also have to use the bathroom and it’s better if we all go together. Damn whiskey, I shouldn’t drink on the job.’
‘All right. Let’s try to make it quick. We take the flashlights with us. At least we’ll know when it comes.’
They took the flashlights and switched them on. They were working fine. The trip to the back of the station was uneventful. After all of them finished what they had to do, Jake started leading them back inside.
Then the light from the inside went out, and they heard a few clattering sounds. The flashlights flickered again, the sign of something bad happening, something not natural. Sarah unholstered her sidearm, and Jake could hear her sighing deeply. They were standing at the corner of the building.
‘What do we do now?’ asked Sarah while gripping the gun with trembling hands.
‘I don’t want to die,’ cried Clara.
‘Don’t worry, mommy is here.’
‘Let’s check,’ said Jake, ’the winged creature couldn’t have done it, it hates the light.
They all inched their way around the corner, the entrance was a few feet away. Sarah was now leading them because she had the weapon. After a brief glance inside, they saw that there is nothing moving. The only suspicious thing was that the light was not working.
Sarah opened the door, then she went inside. Jake followed, and after him, Jenna and Clara. They waited here for some seconds and listened. Nothing moved, everything was still. Jake inched towards the generator, which lay broken on the floor. It looked like something took a sledgehammer to it and broke it into pieces. Gasoline was lying in a great pool on the ground.
‘Who’s there!?’ shouted Sarah and held her weapon in front of her.
‘What?’ asked Jake in a startled voice.
‘Something moved there,’ she said and pointed to the back of the place, between the shelves.
‘Wait,’ said Jake and walked toward her.
A faint rustling came from the back, but they couldn’t see anything because of the overwhelming darkness. The smell of spilled gasoline was heavy in the air. They had to be careful not to do something stupid and ignite it accidentally.
Sarah and Jake took careful steps towards the back. This was when they heard the flapping of heavy wings from outside. Both of them turned towards the glass wall, but couldn’t see a thing. They were between the shelves anyway, and it was dark too. The flapping came once again from the outside. Sarah was shaking, the gun in her hands was rattling as her hands trembled. Jenna and Clara moved back from the front wall.
The next moment, Jake heard Sarah scream. He turned and saw her being grabbed by something. She screamed again as a black figure bit into her neck. Jake jumped to help her, and that was when he saw that the black figure was Curtis. Or was he? It looked up and growled. Blood was gushing from Sarah’s neck. It bit through the jugular. Jake knew in an instant what that had meant. She had only maybe half a minute to live.
Jake grabbed the hand which was around Sarah’s neck and then punched Curtis in the face. Curtis drew back and loosened his grip. Sarah slid out, and with her remaining strength turned, and fired two times. The bullets hit their target in the chest, and Curtis stumbled back. He fell, hitting a shelf with his back, then he fell on his butt. There was no blood coming from the wounds.
‘You’re all gonna die!’ Curtis growled.
‘Curtis! What’s wrong with you?’ asked Jake, but knew that he isn’t talking to Curtis.
‘You let me die! Just like you let the police officer die. Just like you let the fat man die! Just like you let...’
‘Shut up!’ shouted Jake, but Curtis just laughed.
‘This is what you are telling your demons when they won’t be silent? Your demons have come alive, Jake, and they will not stop until you are dead. Don’t you see? Everything is your fault. Do everybody a favor, and just fucking die, you pathetic shit!’
Curtis’s head lolled, and he didn’t move anymore. Jake was looking at him, stunned. The bad part was that he believed Curtis. Jake now saw clearly what these events meant. He looked at Sarah who was on the ground clutching at the wound on her neck. He quickly tore a piece of his shirt, folded it up, and pressed it to the wound.
He was determined not to let Sarah die. She didn’t deserve it. The only one who deserved to die was him. Jenna came to his side, Clara stood a few feet behind them.
‘Oh, my God! Is she going to make it?’ Jenna asked.
‘I don’t know,’ said Jake, and held pressure on the wound.
‘What happened to Curtis? Why did he attack Sarah?’
‘I don’t know. Somehow that creature can control people after they die.’
‘I can’t believe this...’
‘Me neither, but I have to end it.’
Sarah gasped, and she grabbed Jake by the sleeve of his jacket.
‘Save them,’ she said, but barely had the strength for it, ‘I won’t make it. Save them, please!’
‘No! You won’t die. You can’t die!’
It didn’t matter, Sarah was already drifting away. Some seconds later, she didn’t breathe anymore. The wound on her neck was too big, and the blood seeped out, anyway. Jake was furious and grief-stricken. Is all this really his fault? How can that be? All this because of a past mistake?
He took Sarah’s sidearm from her lifeless hand and checked it. It was a revolver, and it still had four bullets in it. After checking her pockets, he found some more bullets, and replaced the two missing. He looked at Jenna and then to her daughter. These two will make it out alive, he thought. He will do everything in his power to save them.
‘What are you going to do?’ asked Jenna.
‘I’m going to end it!’ said Jake without hesitation. The gasoline which had flown out of the generator gave him an idea.
He went to one of the shelves and grabbed some duct tape. Jake also searched for some matches and soon found them. They were cheap, and the stock was plentiful. He then went out to one of the pumps. After a quick glance around, he took one of the hoses, and began sprinkling gasoline all over the place, except the entrance. Then he taped the lever to the handle, so the gas could flow without him holding the hose. He threw the thing on the ground, then went to Jenna.
‘That thing will come, eventually. I think that it wants to finish what it started.’
‘And what are you going to do?’ asked Jenna with tears in her eyes.
‘I prepared a surprise for it,’ said Jake and pointed towards the flowing gas, ‘when it comes, you two run as fast as you can.’
‘And what about you?’
‘That thing won’t stop until I’m dead. I have to face it before it hurts you or your daughter. Even if I kill myself, I can’t be sure that it won’t transform me into a monster, like Curtis did. I have to make sure that everything is gone.’
‘All right...’ she said, but she was crying now.
‘I wish I had a choice, but this seems like the only one. Get your daughter and be ready!’
‘But where should we run?’
‘Away from the monster. If you have to run through the woods, do it. Don’t hesitate.’
The flapping of wings came again. Jake braced himself near the pumps and readied the gun along with the matches. The creature came down on top of the building. It let out a terrifying shriek, then they could hear its steps along the roof.
‘Be ready,’ whispered Jake to the girls.
They just nodded and waited beside the front door. The creature was taking its time. The steps sounded carefully, calculated. Jake’s heart was beating like it wanted to jump out of his chest. The girls were terrified, but eager to get the hell out of there.
The creature jumped down from the building beside the girls. They both screamed and ran. When the creature wanted to dart after them, Jake pointed the pistol at it, and began firing.
‘Hey! Here I am. Come and take me, you ugly bastard!’
The monster turned and stared at Jake with its red eyes. This was when Jake really understood what had happened. It not only had something to do with him, it was him. All the grief and pain he had felt since the death of his wife and son came to life somehow. The monster had wanted him here. This is why his lights were still working when he had arrived. It was playing with Jake; it was feeding on his guilt. Jake didn’t understand how this was possible, but it had happened, and it killed more people.
He fired a few more shots, but they didn’t hurt the monster. It got closer and closer. Jake saved the last bullet for himself, then glanced behind him. Jenna and Clara had already run away. The monster closed in, Jake took out the matches and lit one.
‘You’re coming to hell with me!’ he shouted, and when it got closer, he threw the match at its feet.
The gas lit up with an infernal roar. The creature cried in pain as the light and fire hurt it. When the fire reached Jake’s legs and began engulfing him, he put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.
A few seconds later Jenna and Clara saw from the road as the underground gasoline containers exploded in a fiery blaze of light and heat. The cries of the creature reached their ears too. They saw the creature’s blazing body rise from the flames and dissolve in a few seconds into thin air.
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