The Monsters Within

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Chapter 23

We drove along a dark road that night. Flanked by cars that slowly but surely fell behind, I watched the vehicles traveling alongside us disappear as we advanced out of the city limits and onto the lost stretches taken only by farmers and their equipment. Beside me, Brad drove with the window down, one arm braced along the frame, his free hand around the wheel. He drove without a care in the world, humming softly to Top 100 on the radio; and I, left only to observe, watched the fields before us extend forever into the distance.

“This is nice,” Brad said, tossing his fringe away from his eyes, “isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “It is.”

His hair—which was lengthier on the top but shorn along the sides of his head—blew haphazardly in the wind, creating the impression that we were two kids doing nothing more than enjoying the world for what it was. He was twenty-one, I eighteen, fresh and new and completely and utterly enamored. I tried my hardest not to watch him out of my peripheral, but found myself doing that regardless.

Remember, remember, the code to remember, I thought. Straight men get a pass because their love doesn’t last.

Of course it didn’t. That was why it was stupid for me to even consider that this was anything more than just a casual outing. Besides—if anyone was going to make the first move, if they even were, it would be him.

Which wasn’t going to happen.

I drew in a long breath of the cool night air and smiled as the scent of grass and wildflowers entered my nose.

“They have much of this up in Utah?” Brad asked.

“I lived at the edge of Salt Lake,” I replied, “so it was mostly lots of flatland, mostly farms.”

“There’s a lot of that here. But this—this is absolutely beautiful.” Brad smiled as he turned his high beams on. “Do you see?”

The world bloomed before me. Wild, untamed, uninhibited—the grass extended on both sides of the road and was marked only by the separation of land with wooden fences and wire. Flowers dotted the area at various intervals, creating the impression that this place, though encroached upon by humanity, was untouched. It was utterly magical, in a sense—and, in a way, haunting.

So far out, there were no lights to be seen; and with no traffic behind us, it was dark as it could.

Normally, I wasn’t afraid of the night. Something, however, gave me cause for concern.

But what was it?

Was it the belief that we would simply pull over alongside the road and stop? Was it the fact that we could get stranded out here and not be found for hours? What, exactly, was it?

I brushed the thought off as I considered it and cleared my throat as Brad continued to drive.

“Something up?” he asked.

“I… just realized that I haven’t asked you about your art.”

“Oh. That.” Brad laughed. “No need to worry. It’s not like we’ve exchanged notes or anything like that.”

“Still,” I said. “I’d like to see some of it sometime.”

“My phone’s in the back seat if you want to reach back and grab it.”

“You have it on your phone?”

“All my stuff’s digital, and the files are in the cloud. Go ahead—grab it.”

I twisted around, quickly located his phone, then loosened the seatbelt around my waist before leaning back and clawing at his phone.

“What’s your PIN?” I asked, lowering my head and tilting the phone at an angle to avoid blindsiding him.

“0434,” he replied.

I started typing the numbers in.

Brad inhaled.

I looked up.

He asked, “What the hell is that?”

And I paled.

Hovering alongside the road was what I at first assumed to be the rear lights of a car. The only problem was: they were too small to be from a car, and lower to the ground. And worst yet, they were moving.

“What in the world…” I started to say.

Brad pressed his foot down on the accelerator.

The headlights shifted.

A brief glimpse of fur could be seen.

Then whatever it was lunged for the car.

Brad jerked the wheel.

We swerved to the left.

He corrected.

We centered along the middle of the lane.

“What the fuck was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Brad replied, “I—”

He paused.

“What?” I asked, turning my head to face him. “Brad, why are you—”

“Look behind us,” he said.

I did.

And saw that the red lights were moving—directly behind us.

“It’s just the light reflecting off its eyes,” I said as Brad slowly began to accelerate the car. “Slow down, Brad. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“It’s chasing us,” he said. “It’s fucking chasing us.”

“Yeah it is. But we’re going to outrun it. We—”

Brad increased his speed.

The car continued to accelerate.

The lights—or, more aptly, eyes—continued to pursue.

But what was even more haunting was that they weren’t slowing down.

No.

They were speeding up.

A low, trembling breath escaped me; and Brad, seemingly aware of this, pressed his foot even harder on the accelerator. Even as the car began to pick up speed, and the wind whipped through the open window, the figure kept pace—and I, so enraptured by its presence, could only watch as it continued to pick up speed.

“It’s following,” I said. “It’s following us, Brad.”

“It’s fucking chasing us!” the man yelled. “The goddamn thing is fucking chasing us!”

“Go faster! Faster!”

“I’m trying!” Brad screamed. “I’m fucking trying, Dean!”

I twisted my head back toward the window.

Saw that it was moving toward my side of the vehicle.

Saw that it was attempting to come up alongside us.

Brad, hysterically laughing—or, I should say, crying—at this point, refused to turn his gaze to the side as the figure continued to pick up speed.

“Faster!” I said. “FASTER!”

He slammed his foot on the accelerator.

We went sailing forward.

The speedometer passed sixty…

Seventy…

Eighty…

Ninety.

When we coasted one-hundred, I thought for sure that he was going to lose control and crash. But somehow, someway, he didn’t. He was able to maintain control of the vehicle.

“We’re coming up on a curve,” I said. “Brad! Brad!”

“I see it!” he cried. “I see the damn thing!”

“Slow down!”

“We can’t!”

“Why?”

“It—”

I refused to turn my head, but apparently, he could still see it, because he continued to accelerate to a speed we shouldn’t have been going regardless of whatever was chasing us.

We came along the curve.

He began to slow.

Then, suddenly, he lost control.

Somehow, we didn’t flip. Instead, we began to spin at an alarming rate: once, twice, a third time, then a fourth. When the fifth and sixth revolutions took place, I opened my eyes, and saw a flash of red before them.

“Brad!” I cried. “Brad!”

Something grabbed me.

I screamed.

He screamed.

The car spun three more times, then came to a stop.

Head spinning, stomach lurching, I opened my eyes to find that there was absolutely nothing to be seen.

Whatever was chasing us was gone.

“Buh… Brad?” I asked, trembling. “Are you all right?”

“I’m okay,” he said. “I’m… I’m fine.”

“What the hell just happened?”

“I don’t know, Dean. I… I don’t know.”

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