A Grim Encounter
The dog yawned, and so did I. We sat on the sidewalk and
watched as James--and Jessica, by the looks of it--worked on a
The sun was warm upon my face, but the rest of me was cold.
The sidewalk felt like ice, and the coolness of it made my bottom
feel numb. So, I tried to wiggle a bit to get warm. Just as I
began to feel progress, James got the car to crank. I jumped up
and beamed brightly. Finally, a car!
It was fairly new, and it was bright green with lots of room
in the back for me and Nero--that was the dog's name. What a
stately name for a dog… Come to think of it, he and his owner did
sorta act like royalty from time to time.
I continued to express my contentedness at the thought of a
car, but my attitude quickly took a downward turn when I noticed
a ghastly scar, grim and grey and stained with rust-colored
blood, etched across the door. Once again, life had become
After wrapping my head around the concept of death and
destruction, and after stomaching the consequences we may have to
face as survivors, I decided that I still wanted to live. And, I
also decided that I wanted to drive. But, of course, they
wouldn't let me.
My uncle let me drive the tractor quite a few times in the
past, but that was about it. I had no further driving experience
than that. Uncle Benny promised that he would let me drive his
burgundy pick-up truck someday, but who knew that day would never
After protesting to the two that I had enough skill to test
drive the car, they laughed and graciously advised me to stay
away from the wheel.
I mumbled something unsavory, and cuddled up next to Nero in
the backseat. His forehead was rather large and ears were sharply
alert. He didn't seem to mind me much. And for once, I didn't
mind him, though I was slightly put off when he began to sniff
James got behind the wheel and drove us out of the city. And
even though I was content with Nero, I still wanted to protest
because Jessica got to sit up front; not me.
At first, I tried to sit in the middle of the two. But then,
Jessica complained about how hot it was with all of us sitting
there together; so, I had to sit in the back... What was she
talking about? It was nearly thirty-five damn degrees outside.
Soon, though, I understood what she was doing. James asked
whether she would like for him to crack a window; she politely
declined and unzipped the top half of her jacket.
I felt a faint twinge of pain, and for a moment, my face
reflected that discomfort. I looked down at my chest and realized
that there was nothing to compete with there. Her breasts were
far bigger than mine.
Okay, maybe her breasts were a cup-size bigger, but the way
she pushed them together made them look huge! C-cups are so damn
overrated. My B's are just fine. I think…
* * *
James' face was unreadable, but by the time we reached the
city outskirts, I had had a good idea of what he might have been
He actually wanted to take a motorcycle at first. For the
first time, Jessica and I had actually agreed, and we had not
ruled in James' favor. He promised that if he had gotten the
motorcycle, he would have ridden alongside us, but I didn't want
to spend anymore time alone with Jessica than I had to. We'd
probably end up killing each other.
I begged him to get a car and to forget about the
motorcycle. And, Jessica scolded him for even thinking he could
break away from our tiny group. Reluctantly, James agreed.
Somewhere inside, though, I wished that he could've gotten his
Since Jessica had proclaimed herself to be "hot," James
eventually talked her into allowing him let down the windows. Her
short hair whipped back and forth furiously while my long, black
locks churned slowly in the wind. Outside of the window, the
world didn't seem to notice that life as we knew it had come to
Mist rose from the dewy grass; sparse amounts of bright
light struck the miniscule water droplets, illuminating them,
making them appear to be thousands of crystal feathers billowing
in the slight, icy wind.
Minutely, I recognized where we were. There was a bridge up
ahead that would lead us out of the town completely. Low fog
slinked overhead, thick in its depths and full enough in height
to make the morning sun and the leaves that loomed directly above
"In a few seconds," I began, "this'll be the first time I've
gone out of town since-" I hesitated and choked on a memory.
"Since when, Cay?" James asked.
"My uncle… He was the last person I had gone out of town
with-months ago. Days before all of these things began to
I looked down at my hands. I hadn't noticed that I was
wringing them. And by the looks of it, they had turned red.
"I'm sorry, Cay," James said.
Jessica shot me a sympathetic glance, and I accepted it.
That would probably be the most sincerity that I'd ever get from
To stop my nervous fidgeting, I slid my hands underneath my
leg. The cool fabric of the seat soothed my tingling skin.
"Ready to crossover, ladies?"
"Hell yes," Jessica said, almost too enthusiastically. "I've
been waiting to get out of this town my whole life."
"What about you, Cay?"
I looked up at James' eyes in the rearview mirror, and
mustered up enough nerve to nod.
"Well then," he said, "let's do it."
He instructed us to sit tight as he rolled up the window.
Then, as if he had gotten his wish and was driving a sleek, cool
motorcycle, James leaned forward in his seat and floored it. We
headed-impossibly fast-straight toward the fogged over bridge in
"Maybe you shouldn't speed," I yelped.
"Why not?" he responded zealously.
"Because, you probably shouldn't be speeding toward
something you can't see too well," I croaked.
"I'd be speeding if it were a bike!"
"Yea, but it's not a bike," Jessica said; I noticed a slight
trace of the same nervous tremble in her voice as I had.
"Calm down," James said brashly. "I can see where the bridge
begins. Stop being so uptight and live a little!"
I sat back and dug into the seat with one hand and clawed at
the walls with the other. Jessica pretended to be badass, but she
was just as horrified as I was. Nero, however, could care less.
He had been asleep for the past half-hour.
Within seconds, we were zipping across the sturdy, old
bridge. Because of the fog, I could hardly see outside of the
car. But the closer I looked, I could see splints of light
highlighting the bridge's concrete structure. We were only a few
inches away from the railing.
"James, we're too close… Maybe you should slow down," I said
again, now nervously clawing at the armrest.
"I've got it; don't worry-"
"If he says he's got it, the man's got it! Calm down!"
Jessica yelled over her shoulder, and whipped back around.
"We're almost over the bridge-!"
"James, watch out!"
"Shhhhhh----!!!!!!!!!! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!!"
* * *
James had hit something, and he swerved sharply, managing to
hit something else in the process. He didn't dare to stop right
away. The experience had shaken us all, even though we managed to
cross the bridge in one piece. Once we cleared the bridge
completely, the fog began to disperse.
"I should probably stop…and see what that was."
"Don't be stupid," Jessica said quickly.
Silence danced around us for at least another half-mile.
"No… I should really stop--to at least see if the car's
"Are you sure that's smart, though?" Jessica said, eyes as
big and round as saucers.
"Smart? Oh… smart like when you encouraged him to speed
across a got damn foggy bridge?"
Jessica pressed her lips together tightly and faced James.
"Fine, just do whatever the hell you want," She said
sternly. Then she whipped her head around and looked out of the
I smiled a little inside. I had won this round.
As soon as the fog disappeared completely, James stopped in
the middle of the road. He looked carefully at his side of the
car. Then, he walked around to the front. His face gradually
changed as he traveled further around and viewed the opposite
He squatted down to look underneath the car. He groaned
something awful, and then I knew… It was a person--or maybe two
people--that had encountered the murderous grill of our vehicle.
James stood silently, still looking with an intent gaze
underneath the side of the car. His reactive expression terrified
us. It disturbed Jessica so badly that she rolled down the window
and tried talking to him, but James wouldn't answer.
"James?" I called. But, there was still no answer.
"If he didn't answer me, what makes you think he'll answer
when you call him?" Jessica spat out derisively.
"That's it," she proclaimed, "I'm getting out to see what
this is all about."
Jessica tugged on the door handle and James stepped back to
let her out.
"Oh shit…" she said in a gasp.
"What? What is it--?" I asked.
"That's not all," James said. "Step back and look
Jessica's face went white. She was so horrified that even
the green veins trickling through her body were now visible in
her chest and arms.
"What is it?"
No one would answer me. No one would tell me anything.
"Fine. I'll just have a look for myself."
"Cayleigh, you should probably stay inside," James quickly
"Then tell me… What is it?"
"You'd be better off not knowing," he said, pushing the door
"Stop treating me like a child, and let me see for myself!"
James let go of the door and stepped back. Jessica stood,
still staring in the direction underneath the car. I stepped out,
and as soon as the car door closed, I peered around to see what
everyone was gawking at.
Thick, dark blood streaked across the bright-green car door.
There was a gaping dent splattered with blood and what appeared
"Let's go," James said quickly.
"Wait," I said, "What's underneath the car? What--what were
you and Jessica staring at?"
"Nothing," he said, grabbing Jessica's wan arm and pushing
me toward the car.
"Stop it! If she can look, why can't I?"
James sighed. "Fine," he said, withdrawing his hand, still
holding on to Jessica. "Be hardheaded."
I hesitated a bit, but soon found that my legs had a will of
their own. I took three, wide steps back, and I immediately saw
what James and Jessica had been staring at so intently.
He was still alive--or she--I couldn't tell… It was split in
half but was somehow clinging onto the bottom of the car. Parts
of its face were worn away; its lips were withered; its arms were
torn open but still in tact.
At the waist, the rest of him was gone, but not completely.
A ragged, badly cracked spinal cord jutted from his body and
coagulated blood fell in clumps, staining the asphalt beneath
I shuddered. Waves of horror and sickness shot through me. I
opened my mouth in an attempt to speak, but nothing came out. My
bottom lip quivered, and my skin prickled.
"Are you alright?" James asked, placing a hand on my
I trembled at his touch. It was surprisingly warm, despite
the cold weather.
"I'm…mhm," I said, nodding robotically.
"Let's get back inside."
I obeyed James this time… I slinked down in the seat and
leaned my head against the window. Nero crawled over and decided
to rest his massive head in my lap. I didn't protest. He was
warm, and I was shivering.
Jessica got into the car right after me. She didn't speak.
She just stared ahead into the distance.
James disappeared for a second and emerged at the side of
the car with a fairly large tree branch. After a moment of
jabbing and grunting and sighing, he dropped the stick, wiped his
pallid brow with his arm, and kicked the branch out of the road.
With grim realization, I knew what he had done. He got back
in the car and said not a word.
As we drove off, I could see his worried eyes glancing back
and forth in the rearview mirror. He left it there, the half
dead--half alive thing, lying in the street and clawing at the