..the girls..

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Very loosely based on a true event

Early January morning in Illinois. It is 1996, and four people meet in a community college parking lot.  Two young women, two young men.  Strangers, they are meeting for the first time.
 
They size each other up, try to stay positive.  They have each a position with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, specifically a program barely out of its pilot year, Illinois River Watch.  The state of Illinois was divided up into regions, a field office in each. These four were the future co-workers of the Bloomington field office.  They were a little fuzzy as to all the details about the job.  They knew there was public speaking and training involved, that they would be identifying organisms.  They were getting ready to embark on a trip that would fill in the blanks, and give them some training.
And so, they all loaded luggage into the back of a tiny two door hatchback, and then these four strangers climbed in for a two-hour trek south to a lakeside resort where they would have their orientation. 
The driver of the car was a man whose legal name was something banal like Michael, but “Hey, my name is Myke” (they would discover the “y” in the name during the orientation when “Myke” wore a name tag).  He was a tall, spare handsome man in his late 20’s with strategically placed blonde streaks in his spiked and tousled hair. He very rapidly smoked three cigarettes in succession after discovering that the “girls” would not like riding in a car while he smoked.  He was letting them know the lay of the land before them.  He had been a volunteer the year before for this field office. He had been friends with the two employees before. They shouldn’t worry, they had him to explain and show how everything was to be done.  He spoke rapidly and with an accent not heard in this part of the country often.  It was soon discovered he was from LA.  “All right, let’s use this trip to get to know one another and bond, we will have a leg up on the other offices.”
So off they set, down Illinois state highway 51, heading for Lake Shelbyville.  Next to Myke in the front passenger seat was a younger man, he was shorter, but certainly not smaller. Tim was soft around the edges, with a soft belly, bright blue eyes, dark hair, darker stubble and a ready smile set in a handsome face.  He had just finished up his bachelors of Biology 6 months before.  He seemed to trust Myke almost instantly, they joked back and forth for a while before the women joined in. 
In the backseat, behind Myke was a young woman who also had her BS in Biology, in addition to a primary school teaching certification.  Monica was serious, although wore a pleasant smile on her pretty face as a semi-permanent mask.  One could see there were other thoughts inside, if one cared to look.  But to the guys up front, she simply seemed sweet.
And behind Tim, was a very young woman, she in fact was 18, soon to turn 19, she had just graduated from High School the spring before, she honestly seemed to have no idea what she was doing here. And they also weren’t sure.  These people were much older than she, more educated certainly. She was tall for a woman, reaching nearly 5’9”, broad and rounded.  She spent much of the first hour of the trip being relatively quiet and listening to the other occupants of the car. 
It was discovered that Monica and Tim knew some of the same people.  She had gone to college in the town he had grown up in.  They both lifeguarded at the same swimming pool in the summer, but simply had not been close friends.  On and on the conversations, went.  Beth looking out the window noticed it had started to snow, light and delicate at first, not sticking.  Then heavier and wetter. 
They passed through the town of Decatur, full of burnt out store fronts and factories filling the air with smoke and the ripe odor of desiccated fish being burnt.   And as the highway stretched to the south beyond, the two separate lanes merged into a two-lane state highway, and the snow grew steadily heavier.  Soon they were driving through a few inches of wet slick snow sticking to the roadway, and the wind was gusting from west to east, straight across the roadway, drifting and piling the snow into deeper sections.  As they approached one of these drifts, Myke stomped the gas and accelerated.  “One thing I have learned in my years in this state, is that you can’t slow down for this snow, you have to punch through it, or you will get stuck.  It’s a good thing you have me with you.”
Monica and Beth in the backseat exchanged worried glances. Native to Illinois, they knew that this wasn’t the case.  But Myke seemed to be so sure of himself, and it was his car.  So, they held their tongues.  “ok, this is our turnoff, right Tim?”
After confirming, Myke turned right from highway 51 onto a barely discernable road, due to being mostly buried under heavy drifting snow.  He accelerated as the car fishtailed down the road.  Suddenly in front of them appeared a drift the height of the hood of the car.  “Woah” from Beth in the backseat.  At 18, she still had a lot of experience driving in the snow on country roads, having grown up on a road that was only just considered paved. Myke, ignoring any protests slammed his foot onto the gas pedal.  The small car hit the drift with a big puff of white, and the back tires seemed to suddenly be sucked toward the ditch.  A few choice words from Myke in the front seat and it was obvious to all that they were indeed in the ditch, no matter how much Myke struggled, placing the car in reverse and then drive over and over.  They piled out of the car to check out the damage.  They were deep in the bottom of a 12-foot ditch, the tires had dug down through the feet of snow in the ditch and had hit frozen dirt and ice.   At this rate, they were going nowhere.  They were standing around the back of the car, Monica and Myke having a discussion that was rapidly devolving into an argument, when Tim said, “Hey, here comes someone.”  Sure enough, a black pickup was driving slowly down the road.  It stopped and a middle-aged man hopped out, “need help?” 
About 15 minutes later they were back on the road, in the car and blessing the good Samaritan for being so prepared as to have a chain in his truck, although he seemed to have a lot of warnings for them continuing on, more than the weather would make necessary.
They continued down the road at a slower pace, Myke, chastened by the experience seemed to be willing to try a slower pace.  After a half hour, the sky seemed to be getting darker and they seemed to be no closer to their destination.  “Are we going the right way” Monica in the backseat was perched on the edge of the seat, peering through the windshield.  “and why on earth is it getting dark?  It isn’t even noon yet”
After some pestering from Monica and a few comments thrown in by Tim, Myke finally pulled into the driveway of a small farmhouse.  “let me go knock on the door, make sure it’s safe for the girls”.  Monica glared at Myke’s continual referral to her and Beth as the ‘girls’.  Beth made no comment, she seemed to be sinking deeper and deeper into the back seat. They watched Myke approach the door, paused about three feet away, and suddenly turn and half stumble, half run back to the car. 
“something isn’t right here!” He climbed into the front seat, shut his door and locked all the doors. 
“what?”, asked Monica.  “what??!” “I heard screaming coming from that house!” Everyone sat still and absorbed this.  “Are you sure?”, asked Monica.  “Yes, I am sure damnit!” there were several people in that house screaming as though they were being skinned or burned.”
A moment longer, and Beth spoke up from the back, “let me out”.  Tim, Myke and Monica all turned to look at the young woman, little more than a girl, she wore no makeup, her long auburn hair in a simple pony tail.  She looked the least likely to play the part of the heroine. 
“let me out…. now” the steel they heard in her voice, made Tim act.  He opened his car door, leaned forward in his seat as she pushed the seat forward, clambering out gracelessly.  She stood a moment next to the car, as Tim closed and relocked the car door. 
“Are you going to let her go alone?” Monica asked incredulously.  “I don’t see you getting out and going with her” said Tim.  Myke was speechless and watched with his mouth hanging open as Beth approached the house.  Long legged strides ate up the ground as she walked up onto the porch, didn’t knock or ring a doorbell, she simply opened the door, stepped inside and closed it behind her. 
 
Several minutes passes as silence reigned in the car.  “Maybe we should go for help”, Tim broke the silence.  Myke jumped at hearing a human voice. He stared at Tim for a very long moment.  “You are right, there isn’t anything we can do to help her, who knows what was going on inside there, you both saw how she gave us no choice, she just forced her way out of the car, and I was going to escort her, protect her, but she didn’t give me a chance”
Monica bit her lip hard, not saying what she wanted to say, that Myke was a blustering cowardly fool. 
He drove the car in a tight circle around the frozen desolate yard, and drove back onto the road.  They had gone about a quarter of a mile when they saw something in the road.  A human something.  They slid to a stop about 5 feet shy of hitting Beth, standing in the middle of the road. 
“what the f….” this time the expletive coming from Monica.  Beth, with her long strides came to Tim’s door, and waited for him to unlock it.  Her stare was hard and cold.  He opened it, over the objections of Myke.  She shoved him and the seat forward and climbed into the back seat.  After Tim had shut the door, all turned to stare at her. A long moment passed.
“We are going the wrong way”
“What?’ 
“The wrong way, we should have turned left off the highway to get to lake Shelbyville.”
“How the fuck do you know that?”
“They had a map”
“Who?”
“The woman, she was in there with 5 children, they couldn’t hear anything over the storm and were all having a huge tickle fight in the middle of the living room. She also advised we avoid the Schwan’s man, he’s on the prowl”
“The who??”
Things were getting weirder and weirder.  Monica had a sneaking suspicion that something wasn’t right about this young woman.  How did she get ahead of them?  What the sticky wet stuff clinging to the bottom on her shoes, and leaving marks all over the floor mats?  Monica peered at the floor, but couldn’t guess what color it was. 
“mud, I stepped in mud”
In this frozen wasteland?  Monica nodded her head and turned away.  This was too weird and creepy. 
Myke and Tim had dug a road map out of the glove box, and were whispering over it. 
“She’s right, we went the wrong way…by a long shot”
Myke sighed and started a three point turn a little too fast, and slip, they were back in the ditch again.
The silence was brittle in the car...
Myke started to get out, “no, don’t you hear that?”
Coming from a long distance away they could hear what sounded like howling.
Beth shoved against Tim’s car seat again, “let me out”.  By now numb from what had occurred he followed her instructions, letting her out again once again locking the door.  The howling grew louder.  Monica looked at the floor and now could see that what was on the floor wasn’t mud, it looked to be blood…and meat.  Her bile rose in her throat. 
She looked out the window and saw what looked like a vague truck shape…being pulled down the road by four large shaggy beasts. Every gust of wind whipped snow making the truck disappear.  The howling grew louder, and Beth seemed to grow larger than she already was. 
“she has to be taller than me” Myke didn’t appear to be completely oblivious after all. And he was correct, Beth was pushing 7 feet tall now.  And now she had a sword.  Where had she been keeping it? What did they call that?  A broadsword?  It was massive, but she seemed to have no trouble wielding it.  The battle the ensued was horrific.  She methodically and skillfully took out the large furry creatures.  They looked like wolves, but bigger than any wolf that Monica or Tim had ever seen.  And they would rear up on two legs and walk briefly like a man, jumping at Beth.  She cut them down as they flew at her, wielding the huge sword one handed.  Soon they were all dead, bleeding in the snow. 
The side of the truck burst open and a wall of blackness burst out, darkening the blinding white of the snow to an inky blackness.  The occupants of the car couldn’t see anything for a long time, but could hear, a horrific roaring, the sound of steel hitting an immovable object, and then they knew no more.
 
Monica came too in the back seat, slumped against Myke’s chest. He was snoring loudly, she could see that they were driving at a reasonable pace down a country road filled with snow.  Beth was driving.  Tim was in the passenger front seat, also asleep. 
“what happened?’ 
Cold green eyes assessed her in the rear view mirror.
“What do you remember?”
Monica was thoughtful for a long moment.  “I remember more than I care to, I feel like I was on a movie set for some Halloween or highlander film. I can’t be remembering it right!” 
“Do you want to forget?” 
“What does that mean?”
Beth slowed and stopped the car outside the entrance to the resort they were supposed to be driving to, she turned around in her seat and faced Monica.  She had some blood spray on her cheeks, stray bits of brown fur, and what looked like a fresh bruise forming.  She smiled broadly at Monica.
“The boys won’t remember what happened, it would hurt their sense of being male, and at such a young age.  They don’t need to remember.  They will simply remember that Myke got tired and asked me to take over the driving.  You seem to have a good deal of sense, I thought I might give you the option of knowing what I am, after all, this trip was supposed to be a bonding experience”
After a moment, Monica said, “I can keep a secret”
They locked eyes for what seemed like minutes.  “alright then’. 
Beth turned in her seat….” Wake up Myke please” She got out of the car and chivvied Myke back into the driver’s seat, so he could be the one to drive them into the gates of their destination.  Myke had driven less than 50 feet, when the ditch once again reached out and grabbed them. 
Two other cars full of a Chicago Field office and the Alton field office pulled up behind them, and through the combined effort and team work, they all pushed the little car out of the ditch.  Beth and Monica exchanged one last look between them as they pulled into snow filled parking lot.  They would not speak of this day again, except in laughter and jokes about how bad a driver Myke was. But the “girls” would always know….

 


Submitted: September 02, 2017

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