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Paul continued to struggle with the glove compartment.
"How much longer are you going to take?" Ken said, waiting nervously in the driver's seat.
"Got it!" Paul said, barely revealing the glove compartment's interior.
"Keys! Come on! We've been in this one for over a minute, which is exactly one minute more than I wanted to take! Someone is going to see!" Ken said, thrusting his hand out to receive the keys.
"Here! Let's go!" Paul said, handing the keys of the soon-to-be stolen Ford to Ken. As he handed Ken the keys, he felt a slight pain on his right thumb; as if someone had stabbed it with a small needle. He noticed a drop of blood and quickly licked it.
Ken started up the car and pulled out into the dark street, taking care not to make too much noise. Stealing cars was never a quiet affair however, and the adrenaline-fueled stomping on the gas-pedal stood in defiance to the duo's nefarious activity. It didn't matter. Ken and Paul would make out nicely on this job as the vehicle was only last year's model.
"Caleb ought to be happy with this one. Although he will probably strip it for parts like he always does with the newer models. Shit, he could grind it into powder and snort it for all I care! Either way, we get paid," Ken said with a smile, still fueled by caffeine and adrenaline.
He made his way toward the neighborhood's outskirts, the rush of the theft evaporating. The neighborhood was newer - many of the houses had just been built, or so it seemed. Ken must have driven past the formerly vacant field time and again back and forth to that shitty job he had been laid off from not even a month ago. He couldn't even remember any of the houses being built. As if one day, when no one was looking, someone had uprooted a quiet little neighborhood in Yuppieville, USA and glued it to a few hundred acres of field along the interstate.
"Damn right. Hey, after we drop it at his place, we should go check out that new Mexican place. Supposed to be better than Taco Bell. Open twenty-four hours too. I hear their burritos are good and I need to get the taste of my blood out of my mouth. What the fuck was on that key-chain anyway? Felt like I licked a miniature cactus when I licked my thumb. Feels like a hammer fell on my thumb too," Paul said, still licking the wound.
"I doubt it was a hammer. Maybe one of the keys is actually a razor that looks like a key to deter amateur car-thieves," Ken said with a small laugh, making a left onto the road that would take them to the service road near the interstate. Caleb's shop wasn't far from where they were now, which made both men breathe a bit easier. An hour from now, they would be eating - late-night Mexican style.
"Where are you going?" Paul said after about a few minutes of silent driving. "You're taking us back toward the fucking neighborhood!"
"No," Ken said. "We're on Briar-Valley Road, Paul. The road circles around a bit. Almost to the interstate underpass..."
"Ken, that is where we came out not even a minute ago. I recognize those houses up there. See the "For Sale" signs up and down the road, beyond the entrance there? I thought it was strange on the way out that every house on the road was for sale, but was still caught up in the excitement. Either way, turn this bitch around. With our luck, we'll have the neighborhood watch militia up our asses with George Zimmerman as their general," Paul said proudly, rolling up his window. He still was sucking on his thumb, resembling a bizarre, overgrown child.
Ken pulled to the side and began the process of turning the car around when suddenly he caught a glimpse of what Paul was saying. The neighborhood was dark. It was much darker than he had remembered since their quick exit. Much stranger was the lack of any activity whatsoever, even for an hour this late. No interior lights were on anywhere. No dogs barking. No tell-tale humming of any central air-conditioners cooling midsummer inhabitants. And no cars. Ken seemed sure he passed cars on the way out, but was that just his mind compensating for what it was used to seeing every day?
"This isn't the same place. It can't be. There is no road that loops back to here. Briar-Valley Road runs east to west, slightly curved like I said, under the interstate. I know we were on it. We passed that old white safety shelter. The same one I've seen since I was a kid," Ken said as began to drive the car away from the neighborhood, seemingly going back the way they came moments earlier.
"Jesus! My thumb hurts," Paul said as he struggled to get a good look at the aching digit.
They drove on the lightless road for less than a minute when:
"Paul! Did you hear that? Some weird sound. It sounded like two boulders slamming together or some shit. There! Again!" Ken said, noticing the strange sound, pulling the vehicle to the side of the road and putting his window all the way down.
"I didn't hear anything. You realize you're parking a stolen car near a group of houses we just stole it from, right?" Paul said, noticing that his thumb was almost twice the normal size – a throbbing red thing centralized around the purple of where the razor-key thing had made its mark. "What the fuck?"
"That sound. It's coming from behind us. From those houses! Come on, Paul. Somebody must have spotted us. Screw the car and Caleb's bitching. We can hike it back on foot," Ken said as he began getting out of the car.
As Ken got out, he noticed it was much colder than it should have been for a mid-July night. His breath came in quick gasps – steaming trails left wispy vapors as they made their way upward. He immediately had to start rubbing his hands together, not being accustomed to the sudden chill. He heard Paul beginning to open the passenger side door, followed by a small gasp of surprise.
"Paul!" Ken yelled, looking back into the car. Paul's face was sweaty and in shock as he held his injured thumb in front of him. Small metallic barbs slowly sprang forth from the wound that had seemingly been a pin-prick of infection only moments before, latching themselves onto Paul's face. Ken couldn’t help but compare the barbs to small, black frayed threads.
"Jesus! Help me! Ken! Help..." Paul screamed as his voice was cut short by the small threads of metal jutting through the front of his throat. The strange barbs somehow began to multiply upon themselves, slowly squeezing as though looking for something. The man's head slowly became tiny rivulets of scarlet jelly as the barbs multiplied, squeezing and expanding. Still struggling, Paul inadvertently reached up to his face and ripped what was left of his face off and fell still; what was left of his ruined face now resting on the airbag cover.
Ken ran. He didn't have time to ponder the morality of leaving his best friend there to endure whatever in God's name was happening to him. Assuming he was even alive after that shocking event. He couldn't run away from the neighborhood which was now in front of him. Or was it in back of him? Where the road veered away before was now replaced by a thick, grey mist. He ran toward the houses but as he did, he noticed the houses beginning to change. No, not change. Merge. As if they were being drawn toward each other like a child quickly gathering up a mess they had made. How did they do that, Ken wondered in a panic?
He ran further into the development, quickly looking behind him. The car and Paul were gone, swallowed up by the mist and the darkness that seemed to be chasing Ken.
Picking a house that didn’t appear to be moving, he tried to find a blanket of shadow where he could gather his thoughts. He found an awning to run underneath, but instantly stopped when he noticed the snakes coiling underneath it. Oily coils of shadowy chaos. One of them made its way toward him, taking a bite out of his calf quicker than Ken could register. Glancing at it, he saw that it was not a snake, but a larger version of what had consumed Paul’s face moments before.
Shrieking in pain, he ran from the house; noticing that, as he did, the house was uprooted straight up, traveling entirely too fast for a thing its size. It made grinding sounds as it scraped occasionally against its former neighbors as it made its way upward. In the span of two seconds, it was a spinning, tiny form contrasted against the gigantic, moonlit clouds. It was lost from Ken’s peripheral view as he turned his head, running further down the quickly disappearing road.
The houses began to make thunderous sounds as they merged together, almost as if they were creating a greater structure. A structure around Ken, he realized with a new-found shock as he looked around him and to the sky. He noticed a birdbath protruding from some bricks at an odd angle about ten feet to the right, above him. To his left, he saw the remains of what must had been an in-ground pool; the shiny, metallic ladder rails and a diving board lancing through a huge section of drywall. Above and ahead, he noticed that he would quickly run out of space to run.
But that is not what topped off his terror. The remains of the Ford were interspersed with a large bay-window and some groups of what must have been front doors. The car had seemingly been dissected and reformed; the muffler and steering-wheel looking strangely appropriate in the bizarre tapestry.
The bloodied remains of Paul were being ferried off to crevices within the structure. Half of his injured hand was following a network of barb-threads, while his legs were being carried to an area by the once-pool. His decapitated and faceless head followed another barbed route straight up the interior of the structure. Even as these transports were happening, the body parts were being slowly devoured by the threads as they were in transit.
After another few seconds of running, he stopped, confirming his earlier thoughts that he had no place else to run. He seemed to be standing in the middle of the towering structure now – the circumference being only centimeters larger around Ken. Some houses still seemed to be tumbling end over end, hundreds of feet above him, still adding to the thing and making distant impact sounds. The moonlight accentuated this sight and for a brief second, Ken could see the aluminum siding reflecting patterns of light against the starless backdrop.
The thuds were now accompanied by the unnatural sound of metal and wood groaning against each other; each material protesting that it had to be married to the other. There were the thuds too. As if the original boulder sound he heard before was joined by many of its lifeless siblings.
Ken could feel aluminum-siding against his chest, back, arms and head as he stood frozen in what was the street only moments before.
"Oh my God," he whispered as the sharp, aluminum edges slowly had their way with his body.
The mist swallowed the view of the aluminum and mortar monolith. Ken felt his skin being pierced at various points along his body. As he began to scream, his voice joined Paul's newly silenced one as a group of metal barbs snatched the heart out of his chest. The barbs consumed the heart and wrapped their black and tinier appendages around it before retreating back into the structure.
The blackness on the side of the busy highway was not noticed by anyone. If a commuter would have been able to see the lone silo sitting on the empty field they wouldn't have been taken aback or had given any pause. They wouldn’t see the way it seemed to pulse for a minute, then stand still.
By day, they would have seen less, seeing only the barren field by the intersection of the highway and Briar-Valley Road.
Written by Mystreve