Rain, darkness, and the steady sweep-swap of windshield wipers. It's the perfect narcotic, ready to put you to sleep the moment you let your guard down.
Several times, I find my eyes moving to the dashboard lights. The check engine light. The digital clock crawling toward midnight.
I flick the radio on. The Doors. There's a rider on the storm, and similarly, there's a killer on the road. I've heard it before, and I'm kind of in the mood for that creepy "meta" feeling like something unexpected is about to happen.
Nothing unexpected happens.
Not while the tires keep kicking up puddles and the digital clock ignores my mental commands. Stop, clock. Stop, time. You keep getting away from me, and I now will you to stand still.
So that's how you want to play it? Fine.
My headlights catch something that makes me laugh, and for a moment I consider the fact I might be on that foggy hill between reality and dream. As the night has dragged on, I've been finding it more difficult to shake off that blurry feeling.
It's a large green sign with white letters that kick back a good amount of the light.
YOU ARE NOW PASSING
WHY NOT STOP A WHILE?
Funny name for a town. Village. Whatever this is. "Through". Clever. I bet they get a lot of tourism off of that, like "Intercourse, Pennsylvania" or... Well, that's the only one I know. Ha. "Intercourse".
My eyes are back on the check engine light and I don't even realize I'm doing it. Why are you on? What do you mean? Is there someone, somewhere, who actually pulls over and checks his engine at your urging?
I almost miss the figure crossing the road. In the rain. At night. Like a lunatic.
Hey, it's just a "thunk". Not a "crash" or a "splat". I think I side-swiped the crazy bastard. I hit a dog like that once, the thing actually ran head-first into my door. Didn't even see me passing when I was right in front of it.
I pull off to the side of the road, and the next thing I know I'm in a ditch. Not a going-to-die-here ditch, just a god-damn-it-fuck's-sake ditch. The kind that makes you feel like a bowling ball someone just rolled into the gutter.
The newspaper makes a crappy umbrella, and doesn't cover much of me at all. A few moments after stepping out of the car, I toss its useless black and white ass to the ground.
"Yo!" I bark out into the night, "Yo! Anyone there?"
For a second I'm content to tell myself it was a deer and chalk it up to the circle of life. Grass grows from the soil, deer eats the grass, car hits the deer, car payments make human depressed, human kills self and his corpse feeds the grass.
Circle of life.
But I've seen the news stories and some of the made-for-TV movies. You hit someone, you go about your business, and right before the credits roll Meredith Baxter Bernie finds you and you go to prison... to the delight of housewives everywhere.
I keep walking. It's not far, now. I can see my own skid marks on the road.
"How about this weather, huh?"
Nothing, then a groan.
Not a groan.
Ever see a documentary on primates? Gorillas, orangutans, maybe baboons. It's like that, an inhuman growl that's unsettling because it's actually almost human.
I make a move for the car. It's already by the car. How did it do that, and more importantly what is it? All I can make out is a rain-slicked silhouette back-lit by the blood red strobe light of the blinkers.
BLINK - Gorilla?
BLINK - Hunchback?
BLINK - Damn, I blinked, too.
BLINK -Are those ropes, or tentacles?
The next blink, it's closer to me. I can tell it's making its way toward me, moving fast enough to be unsettling, but slow enough for me to get away. Theoretically.
I'm sprinting down the road before my mind even agrees with my feet. "You assholes," my brain scolds, "I was GOING to say 'Run'! But I guess the important thing is that we're moving."
Darkness ahead. Nothing. It actually feels like I'm running out of reality, into a black abyss of anti-everything. The only thing that tells me I'm still in the real world is the fucking rain running down my head, my shoulders, flooding my wild eyes and invading my flaired nostrils.
I'm drowning and running at once.
I can hear it behind me. It's like the steady trot of a horse, but the gait is off. The number of legs is off. Is it? SOMEthing is off. Too many feet, I can hear too many feet running.
Now it's chittering at me excitedly and that's not any more comforting... like it's a squirrel and I'm the nut.
At some point I should look over my shoulder.
I think the road is turning.
Am I on grass?
I'm on grass.
These are definitely trees all around me. Those are thorns ripping into my skin. I'm so cold and wet that I can hear the tearing more than I can feel it.
Sound of moving grass and brush behind me. It's not slowing down, but neither am I. Now it's just a matter of which one can keep this up the longest, and it's starting to dawn on me that the answer isn't going to be the one I'd prefer.
Look over your shoulder. This is your brain speaking. Look over your shoulder, I need some information.
A quick look and I'm no better off than I was. Okay, mind. It's a black-skinned amalgamation of creatures, none of which it actually LOOKS like.
Its eyes are a sickly, bioluminescent yellow, and something in its mouth is wagging back and forth like a hummingbird's tongue looking for sugar.
Does that help, brain? Have you formulated your master plan, now?
I didn't think so, you piece of shit.
Lights ahead. Lights! Okay, now we're getting somewhere. I guess it's true, what they say. That old addage. "Aimlessly bolt through the woods and your problems will work themselves out."
People moving around!
A chain link fence. Shit.
"YO!" Learn a new greeting, idiot. "Yo! Let me in!"
Where's the thing that was chasing me? Is it scared of the lights? The other people? The smell of pee I can feel down one of my legs? At least it's warm.
They turn their guns on me. They shout commands. Before I know it, I'm lying on the ground to avoid being shot in the face.
"What the Hell? I'm just trying to get away from that... thing! You saw it, didn't you??"
No response, just incomprehensible soldier-gibberish spoken into their walkie-talkies.
"Hey! You guys speak my language, or what?"
I understand the words they're saying, but I don't know what they're talking about!
"No, sir. We haven't found the car, but I think it was driving in circles. It's trying to communicate like a person, so it's probably still digesting Harrison. Still has his thoughts."
They haul me to my feet and beyond the fence, toward this weird warehouse that feels more than a little familiar.
I can barely hear the guy in the distance as he keeps rattling on with his nonsense.
"Yes, sir. We think another one came by to pick it up. We're already sweeping the woods."
One of the bastards "escorting" me suddenly bashes the butt of his rifle into my head, and I don't understand why...
"Christ," he says, "don't wave that fucking tongue at me."