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 car.
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 sickeningly surreal.
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 come?
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 me.
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 thinking about.
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 way.
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 an end.
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 invisible.
“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 happen…”
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 her.
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 the distance.
“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 okay.”
“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 window.
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 side.
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
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 underneath.”
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 said.
“Then tell me… What is it?”
“You’d be better off not knowing,” he said, pushing the door shut again.
“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 to be…flesh.
“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
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
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 shoulder.
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 ground.
© Copyright 2016 Jennifer Brighton. All rights reserved.