Kevin hits the ground next as he falls backward, landing uncomfortably on the backpack, which causes his head to jerk back violently. He is a little dazed, but the image of the girl’s pale, grayish skin and the one black eye are still clear in his head. Kevin feels around in the mud for the flashlight and lifts his head at just the right time to see the girl leap into the air from a crouch and land on top of him. She practically pins him to the ground using the shoulder straps of the backpack. Her face is concealed in shadows, but he can feel her soulless eye staring at him.
“I’m sorry! Look, I didn’t mean to hit you with the flashlight. It was an accident.”
The girl mumbles something that doesn’t sound like human language this time. Things really get strange when she drops her pelvis onto his and starts grinding her hips.”
“Whoa!!” Kevin yells so loud, he startles himself.
Kevin is not sure if he is more disturbed by how wrong this feels or the fact that there is a passing sense of déjà vu.
Kevin struggles violently, “Get… off me… you crazy bitch!”
He grabs her by the waist and tries to throw her off but she quickly slides her hips down and nimbly wraps her legs around his while locking her feet at the ankles. She still manages to keep his shoulders pinned to the ground although her arms are now at a severe angle. Kevin is determined not to let such a petite female dominate him, so he grabs both of her arms and tries to pull them from his shoulder straps. Her fingers dig into the straps and his raincoat, making this impossible. Kevin’s frustration mounts as more rain drops fall into his eyes. He groans loudly as he wildly tries anything he can, even pulling her hair, to get her off of him. Nothing he tries works.
He notices the faint glow from the flashlight, off to the left, near his waist. He reaches for it and firmly grasps the cylindrical salvation in his hand. He lifts the light and shines it on her face again. He is horrified when he sees that her eyes are not really dark in color. They are just holes in her skull with eyelids occasionally closing over them when she blinks. Suddenly, her face twists into an angry scowl as she releases a strap and backhands Kevin across the face. The taste of blood overwhelms his mouth.
She’s going to regret that.
He can’t tell if his vision is doubled because of the slap or the water in his eyes. He grabs her by the neck with his free hand and starts beating the girl in the head with the flashlight. He can barely see her, but it looks like dark blood is running down her face. She grabs his left arm with inhuman speed and pins it and the flashlight to the ground. She shifts her body weight closer to his chest and grabs the back of his head with her other hand. Kevin sees an unusually large mouth open, but instead of hearing a scream, he helplessly watches as it covers his mouth and nose. Tears well up in his eyes as she sucks the air out of his lungs. She is suffocating him.
I’m going to die out here… alone.
Kevin’s face feels like it is going completely numb. The pain in his chest is excruciating. He desperately needs to take a breath but there is no way to inhale. Everything starts to fade to black as stars fill the periphery of his vision. He knows he’s going to pass out soon. Kevin then notices that his right forearm is still between them. He slides it up to her chest and starts to push against her with every bit of strength he has left. When she releases his left hand to grab the back of his head with her other hand, Kevin slides the flashlight under her chin and does a narrow bench press. Everything goes completely black right before her mouth comes off his face. Long gasps fills his lungs with humid air. Breathing is almost as painful as having the air sucked out of him, but it is a good kind of pain.
His sight slowly returns as Kevin manages to roll them over on their sides. The light shines on the ground and the beam bathes her face in a dim light. Kevin notices that what he thought were streams of blood are actually large cracks in her face.
The ones that look human are the most deadly.
Kevin continues pushing against her neck with so much force that his muscles and tendons ache. Then it happens. He hears a sickening pop. He can now hear her breathing, but it is a horrible, wheezing sound that inexplicably fills him with panic and fear. His grip on the flashlight weakens enough for her to go in for another attack. The flashlight falls between them, but Kevin manages to block her with an arm. She bites into his wrist and he cries out in pain. Instead of teeth sinking into his skin, it feels like a fleshy suction cup draining the life from his arm. The pain is like someone pushing jagged needles under his skin in every direction. As the pain moves along his arm, it is replaced by numbness. The light catches his hand as it starts to resemble someone else’s hand.
Is that a woman’s hand?
Kevin decides not to wait to see whether or not this creature is trying to replicate. As the pain creeps up to his shoulder, his right arm becomes completely useless. He grabs the flashlight with the other hand. Before she can block him, he jabs her in the eye with the back of it. She continues to suck on his wrist as she wheezes more rapidly through her nose. He jabs her repeatedly, watching in horror as a large chunk of her face breaks away. The shadowy nothingness underneath appears to writhe eerily. After releasing his arm, the girl rolls onto her back. Kevin wants to get up and run, but he is so exhausted, he can barely sit up. The light flickers a bit as he points it at his assailant. She is in the mud shaking violently as pieces of her skin crack and fall off. Kevin wishes he could sit there and rest, but doing so would guarantee his death.
He uses the flashlight to help himself up. His right arm dangles heavily like a slab of dead flesh. When the rapid splashing stops and the wheezing fades, Kevin aims the flashlight at the girl again. He sees the white dress start to sit up with no human form in it. After that endless struggle in the mud, there are no stains on the dress, which still looks dry as a bone. Then he sees the thing that is now wearing the dress. It is a shadow that blends well with the surrounding darkness. A closer look at the arms reveals that they are now much longer than the rest of the body. One of them is slithering on the ground toward him!
Kevin only makes it a few feet before he feels the cold tentacle wrap around his left ankle. He falls, face first, in the mud. Realizing the imminent danger, he flips over and quickly cleans the mud from his eyes and nose. His vision is hazy, but he sees the dress still on the ground in a sitting position while the other tentacle is slithering his way. Although his ankle is in severe pain, he barely feels it because of the massive amount of adrenaline coursing through him. Fighting these things when they are shadows is like fighting thick smog and any part of his body that touches them will start to become paralyzed. Then he remembers the cigarette lighter.
He recalls seeing Jenn use a small blowtorch on one of them in the past. Why the hell didn’t I bring a blowtorch? Kevin quickly fishes the lighter out of his pocket, flips it open and lights it on the underside of his leg where the tentacle is attached. His pants are wet enough so that they won’t burn, but the flame flares up considerably around the tentacle. It recoils along with the other tentacle as the shadow lets out a deafening scream. It still has the same voice as the shattered girl, but much louder. Even though he is still breathing heavily from exhaustion, he manages to use his left arm and right leg to get to his feet. Kevin hobbles quickly down the road. Although there is no feeling in his foot or ankle, pain shoots through his calf and knee.
The shadow lets out a frightening wail as it follows him. Kevin glances back briefly to see what looks like a floating white dress with the dark tentacles occasionally writhing in front of it. He knows he has to focus on putting as much distance between him and it. Stricken with fear, he thinks about another one stepping out of the woods in front of him to trap him between them. What if this road comes to a dead end? This thought is just as troubling until he recalls the tire tracks. I have to make it back alive so I can confront Jenn.
The flashlight flickers constantly. If it goes out, Kevin won’t be able to get the other one out of the backpack with his arm still recovering. He presses on and hopes for the best. Thankfully the shadow is not moving with the agile quickness it had when it was still a pale girl. Kevin picks up speed as he starts to feel tingling in his foot. After limping along for about 70 yards, he reaches a “T” intersection. This road is much wider than the one he’s on. He pauses for a few seconds to catch his breath. The drumming of the rain, the wind blowing through the trees, and his heaving breath are the sounds of the moment.
This thought feels more like a command than a normal inner voice. Kevin obeys without hesitation. It is at this time that he notices the fresh tire tracks going the same direction. Maybe he unconsciously glanced at the tracks as he walked up, and his mind just knew what to do to survive. He takes another look back down the road before turning the corner. The dress still pursues him at a relentlessly steady pace. The aches and pains from the attack and struggle are also steady as he quickly jogs down the new road. It is rockier with fewer puddles and soft spots than the previous one. The only question is, where does it lead?
This road doesn’t wind as much, so Kevin feels less apprehensive about what he might encounter up ahead. He occasionally glances behind to make sure he is putting more distance between himself and his stalker. There is a mysterious glow about the dress as it continues to pursue him. The weaponized flashlight flickers more, so he decides to take off the muddy backpack to swap it for the one with the lantern feature. He only slows to a brisk walk will doing this. His arm is not 100%, but he, at least, has more mobility in it. When he turns on the lantern, it enables him to see both sides of the road as well as a few yards in front without constantly swinging it around to look.
Kevin’s quick jog eventually turns into a fast pace walk down this long, lonely, unknown road. The thing in the dress is so far behind that he can no longer see it, or it took off the dress and is still following him just out of reach of the light. That’s a scary thought that Kevin dismisses outright. His exhaustion and aching limbs would never allow him to resume his previous jogging speed. The long walk allows his mind to wander, thinking again about how much he seemed to recognize the girl. Kevin wracks his brain trying to remember the people he knew before the invasion of the shadow creatures. Memories of anything from the time period before he met Jenn are spotty, at best. Kevin feels like he should be very concerned about this, but he has been fine with it for a very long time. He remembers general facts like where he is from, what high school he attended and his father’s name, but the visual details that flesh out those facts are missing.
For a very long stretch of road, Kevin’s only companions are the rain and his footsteps. It is no longer very breezy. He eventually encounters a sign on the side, indicating that the county road is only a quarter mile straight ahead. This little bit of encouragement gives him a small boost. He picks up the pace, making good time, until he reaches a steel gate and the main road. The gate is clearly meant to only stop cars from entering. There are only a few feet of barbed wire fencing on either side of it, but stepping into the thick woods to go around would be too risky. He releases the heavy latch and opens gate, which barely makes a sound as it swings freely. Kevin steps through the gate and closes it behind him. He turns around to see a shadow creature on the road few feet away. Startled but not panicked, he quickly runs away from it and heads down the road. At least this one is paved.
He doesn’t know how far away the road leading to the cabin is. Kevin doesn’t recall ever having a reason to come this way on the county road. He also has only been on it three other times since they moved there. The shadow moves slowly like the ones he normally sees. Thankfully, tentacles or long spidery fingers are absent. He walks quickly down the rainy road for at least a mile before reaching his dirt road. It doesn’t have a name as far as he knows, so maybe he’ll start calling it Cabin Road. Maybe I’ll make a sign for it.
For the remainder of the walk, Kevin encounters a few more of the slow shadows. They follow him but fade into the darkness just as quickly as they appear. His heart still pounds because any one of them could be the faster, deadlier kind. He eventually reaches the ‘Keep Out’ sign just before the curve. The intent of that sign couldn’t be any more real.
What if ‘white dress’ backtracked down that trail to head me off?
The thought is frightening, so Kevin runs past the sign and around the curve so he can clearly see the path to the cabin. Although his muscles ache and his breathing is beyond labored, he doesn’t stop running until he’s halfway to the cabin. The light is not on again, but he has more urgent things to worry about. He doesn’t see any more shadows, at least, between him and the cabin. He gets his keys ready before opening the front gate. When he tries to unlock the front door, he finds that it is already unlocked. Did I leave that unlocked? Maybe I left the light off too. Looking around the small, dirty cabin, he doesn’t see anything lurking. Juan’s door is locked, so nothing is getting in there. Jenn is in her room sound asleep. Kevin walks back to the living room and drops the muddy backpack near the door. He pulls off the raincoat, tosses it aside, and collapses on the floor. He grabs his pillow off the couch and falls asleep in a matter of minutes.
Copyright 2019 Darrell Winfrey