Walking out of the office, June let out a sigh of relief as the night air washed the stress of the day away. The wind held a chill that wasn’t uncommon for a northwest Louisiana night in October. It was as if shards of ice sliced through her body. The cold cut its way through to the bone with every gust as it whipped her hair around her head. She was reminded of her grandmother’s saying that the weather in the South was bi-polar. There was no way of knowing from one minute to the next if there would be a heatwave or sleet.
Luckily, she always carried a heavy sweater at this time of the year.
As she focused on reaching her beat-up old pickup truck, a movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. The key was already sliding into the lock when she felt a presence making the hair on the back of her neck stand on end as she rushed to open the door. At that moment she felt more vulnerable than ever. Fumbling and afraid, she failed to accomplish her task before a hand reached out and scared the life out of her when it grabbed her shoulder.
“Leave me alone!” The scream ripped itself from her lungs. Both hands were thrown up in a defensive posture ready to fight if it came down to it. Her keys were poised as if she was prepared to cut anyone or anything. Spinning around to meet her perceived attacker, she realized it was just her co-worker... Zander.
“June are you okay?” An awkward yet soft voice quieted the fear swelling in her chest.
“Zander... what the hell? You nearly lost an eye. I thought you were a freaking murder.” Air rushed from her lungs as she yelled at him still frustrated by the shock of his presence.
“I saw you walk across the parking lot and tried to catch you before you left. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He explained apologetically.
“My god, Zander. You nearly scared me to death. Why were you trying to catch me anyway?” The question was still laced with a bit of annoyance even though her mind acknowledged she was safe. Zander was as harmless as a fly. He was an absolute weirdo but he was totally harmless.
“Well, I was just wondering if you could give me a ride home. My mom said she would pick me up, but she was called into work at the last minute.” He replied.
“You almost gave me a heart attack just for a ride home. Good lord. Come on let’s get the heck out of here. Something about this night is creeping me out.” June opened her door and slid over to the other side to open the passenger door for her co-worker. The key turned over with ease in the ignition, and the radio serenaded the occupants inside the cab.
“...I don’t mind not going to heaven. As long as they’ve got cigarettes. As long as they’ve got cigarettes in hell.”
“I know this song. It’s by a group called Oasis. I don’t smoke, but I’ve always liked the lyrics.” Zander shared the information as if she asked for his opinion. June turned with a sarcastic grin on her face to glance at him. He was an odd character. Everyone at work always joked about the fact that he lived with his mother and speculated he had never been laid. Since she’d known him for a long time, she could confirm that he lived with his mother, and based on the corny way he behaved, it was most likely true that he was a virgin.
Even though he was rather tall and kind of cute, his weirdness outweighed any of his better qualities. Zander was pale as whole milk and kind of creepy at times. She couldn’t help but snicker a little at the thought of him awkwardly trying to approach a woman for sex.
“I always thought you were a nice person. It never occurred to me that you were like everyone else.” The words flowed from his tongue in an eerily calm fashion.
“I’m sorry. What was that?” The thick southern drawl in her voice confirmed she was a country girl. She wasn’t quite sure of what he said, so she continued driving as if it didn’t matter since she wasn’t really interested anyway.
“Never mind.” He replied with a little underlying note of resentment.
They rode the few miles across town in silence with the exception of the gentle hum from the radio. June was concerned about the heavy workload which she had inherited as part of her new promotion. Her mind was so wrapped up in paperwork and procedures that she didn’t really pay much attention to her passenger as she drove. Mentally she planned the next day’s schedule to makes sure she stayed one step ahead of what her job required.
“June?” Her name, though spoken softly by her co-worker, drew her from her thoughts.
“Yeah Z. What’s up?” She replied in the bubbly manner she was known for.
“Are you a superstitious person?” Zander asked the question in a harmless manner.
“No, not particularly. Why do you ask?” She responded pretending to care about what he was saying, even though she could care less.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Whispering his reply made it difficult to hear what he said.
June continued to drive. She knew exactly where Zander lived. They had been neighbors since their first day in middle school. He lived about two miles down the road from her parent’s house. Even though he wasn’t someone she would call a friend, she often felt bad for him because he had no friends or siblings and his weirdness only served to drive others far away from him.
As thoughts of the past flashed through her mind, she remembered that he had always been quiet and reserved. From time to time, she would sit with him during their lunch break at school because most people treated him like a pariah. She didn’t care that he was weird. June didn’t fault him for being different at all.
“Well, thank God we made it here safely.” June burst out all of a sudden as she pulled in front of Zander’s house. He sat there as if he was reluctant to leave.
“Can I ask you a question?” His demeanor changed to something stranger than usual.
“Sure. What’s up?” She asked with ease.
“Do you really believe there is a God?” June turned as her green-blue eyes took in the person sitting next to her. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand why he asked the question or what was up with the creepy vibes he was giving off. As hard as she tried to be nice to him, her weirdo-meter was going off. Since she wasn’t in the mood for his creepy bullshit tonight or any night for that matter, she glared at him rudely as she made up her mind to get him out of her truck.
“Zander, I think it’s time for you to go. My schedule is pretty rough tomorrow, so I really need to get going.” The sternness in her voice left nothing to the imagination. As if he realized she was done with the conversation, he opened the door.
“Ok, see you tomorrow.” He replied in a nonchalant manner. As he exited the truck, June shook her head at just how unpredictable he was becoming. The moment he closed the door, she drove off with her tires squalling.
Her porch light came into view within a matter of seconds. June pulled into her drive and hopped out of the truck. Something urged her to briskly walk the ten feet from her driveway to her front door. As she slid the key into the lock, a broken twig announced to her that she was not alone. For a few seconds, she battled with the door to get it opened. June was moments away from the safety of her home until she made the fatal mistake of not resisting the urge to turn around to see what made the sound.
“Oh God no... Please!!!” She let out a scream that would wake the dead and scare them back into death’s slumber. Something slammed her body against the front door of her home with a force so strong it knocked the breath out of her lungs. The light mumbling bubbling its way to the surface was her last effort in an attempt to cry for help.
As the liquid gurgling in her mouth produced the agonizing sensation of being choked, June understood that her own blood was assisting the thing that was destroying her body. There was no one to save her from the blinding pain as it ripped, tore, slashed, and gnawed through her bones.
The crunching snarling sounds could be heard by June for just a few minutes before her lifeless body was shredded and dragged away.
Detective Morton walked onto the crime scene and what he saw made him instantly sick to his stomach.
“What happened Tony?” He asked the crime scene investigator.
“It seems like a wild animal ripped out her trachea and internal organ,” Tony replied as he collected his equipment.
They stood hovering over the body as they discussed what appeared to have happened to the deceased. Detective Morton spotted something a few feet from the victim. He walked over and with a gloved hand he picked up a handful of jet-black fur. The detective made sure no one saw him as he placed the contents of his hand in his inside coat pocket.
“What did you find detective?” Tony asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing. I was just reaching for a cigarette.” The detective lied as he pulled a smoke out and lit it to cover what he’d found.