I exhale, trying to open my eyelids. They flicker up and down violently, unable to stay in one place. Eventually, I pry them open with my shaky fingers. Everywhere hurts. It is strangely warm, and the heat sticks to my body like glue. My nose runs with blood and snot. I roll over and flop around gently like a dying fish, trying to pull myself up. I can’t feel my legs. I thump and hit them mercilessly, but it feels like they’re not even there.
I’m on a road somewhere. I don’t know where, and I don’t know why or how. Even through my blurred vision, I can sense danger. The road is narrow, covered in little pieces of gravel that press into the bloodied skin on my arms. The ground beneath me feels somewhat living; it has an unnatural warmth to it that passes through my body, making me squirm. There is no wind or breeze to soothe my slowly roasting body, the air oven-like in its temperature.
If I squint, I can make out steep, rounded hills lurking miles away, blanketed by fog. The landscape is mostly flat and grassy, stretching on for as far as I can see. No animals, no people. Just silence and the taste of copper. My lips are dry and swollen, but my tongue feels like a slug in my mouth and only slides aimlessly around my teeth when I try to move it. I try screaming for help, but all that comes out is a quiet, garbled whimper.
Around an hour passes. My vision fades in and out, and blood slides down my throat only to come gargling back up again. Its taste is putrid and sour, like acid. Rather than my energy slowly returning to me as I hoped it would, instead I feel as if I am burning out. One singular memory suddenly clears up in my mind. It is my 65th anniversary today. I have no idea what for.
My hopes are surged as I hear the wheeze of a car engine coming down the road. A few seconds later, it rolls out of the fog. A navy-blue Packard Clipper, its headlights beaming down at me like the light of God himself. It comes to an abrupt stop around a few feet away, and I can see the driver, a middle-aged man, peering down at me, checking if he’s hallucinating. I beg for help with my eyes, and he steps out of the car, rushing over to my broken body.
The man kneels at my shattered hip, his hands shaking nervously like a patient with Parkinson’s. Panic flashes in his eyes and his face is red and conflicted. His clothes are like mine, albeit a lot less bloody. Suspenders and a buttoned shirt. Like an L.A. detective. He pauses and glances around the landscape, then back at the driver’s seat, and even in my condition, I can tell what he’s thinking. I moan in pain, both of us unable to speak in the moment.
The man mumbles something unintelligible, places his hand under my armpits and lifts my upper body upwards a foot or so, dragging me to the car door. I push out a garbled 'thank you' from my mouth. The car is packed full of miscellaneous junk, piling up to the ceiling in some places, with the seats mostly occupied and no leg room to speak of. The man crams me into an empty space in the back and jumps into the driver’s seat, almost slamming the car door on his foot in haste.
The car’s engine coughs itself into life under the turn of the man’s key in his hand, and the tires scrape down against the gravel. I shrink down aimlessly in my seat, trying to hide from the blinding pain. The man darts his eyes back to me as he U-turns back down the road, fishing out a map and a bottle of alcohol from the glove box. He rapidly unfolds the map and begins to trace a pathway with his finger. The bottle of alcohol is placed in my lap, and although I imagine the man wants me to pour it on my wounds, I crack open the top and take a powerful swig, struggling to stay conscious. It tastes warm and bitter.
I reach over to a pocket from one of the car’s junk piles and pull out a handful of dirty tissues. Now bloody, dirty tissues. They sink a little into my wounds, quickly becoming moist. Neither of us have said anything to each other until the man finally decides to speak up:
“P-put pressure on the wound,” he mumbles. I almost don’t hear him. He speaks with a heavy accent, though I can’t place where from. Germany, or Russia, perhaps.
More minutes pass. I keep a hand firmly planted on my left hip, fingers pushing deep into the opening of my wound. The window roller handle jiggles gently in my grasp. I am unable to find the strength to pull it around. The man seems lost; he worryingly gazes at the map every few seconds, squinting and cursing under his breath. I see the symbol of a hospital at the end of his finger. The road stretches on perfectly straight for what seems like miles. It doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere at all. Fog is still smeared all along the hills far away, in thick clumps.
Half-dried blood is stained on my teeth. My head bobs back and forth. It feels like I have an anvil in place of my skull. I try to spit into my tissues but miss and dribble the saliva down my chin. Trying to stay awake, I periodically pinch my side, making my eyes twitch and flutter.
“What were you doing out here?” I groggily ask the man.
“Hmm?” he replies.
“You seem lost, but this road is just one straight line. Which way did you come from? How did you even get here in the first place?”
The man pauses, a 1000-yard stare caught in his eye. He seems paralysed in confusion and dread, unable to give me an answer. I begin to wish I’d never have asked the question, as the man’s face fills with worry.
Even more time passes, and something undeniably feels very wrong. I catch occasional glimpses of movements in the fog. At first, just small glimmers of light that fade within an instant. But the further we seem to ‘travel’ the worse they seem to get. I can tell the man sees them too, he is just pretending he doesn’t. His face is still bright red. His bloodshot eyes stay bolted to the windshield, and his hands still rest on the steering wheel, holding it tightly in place.
The map slips from the man’s lap. I look at it a little and it confirms my suspicions. It makes no geological sense. There are no roads that straight, that long where we are supposed to be.
“Have you tried the radio?” I blurt out.
“No,” the man replies. “No, I have not.”
With a shaky hand, he presses a large button on the dashboard. There is a small crackle, and for a moment, it seems to flick into life. The spark of joy in our hearts is crushed, however, as a blanketing buzz of static drowns out anything being that could possibly be heard. Frowning, the man turns the radio off, replacing the buzz with depressing silence.
My body feels warm and heavy, yet I cannot sleep. It feels like I should have bled out by now, but still, blood trickles onto the seats from my injury, like a steady river. The pain feels as strong as it was when I woke up, maybe worse. My hair is drooping to my shoulders, dusting my arms with dandruff.
The fog's movements are increasing in frequency. They’re impossible to ignore now. Worse, the fog seems to be closing in on us. It’s approaching from behind as well as from the sides, little by little, making the car feel even more claustrophobic. The man utters a continuous string of profanities in his native language, getting more and more tense as the minutes pass by and the fog gets closer, just a few more feet from where it was five minutes ago.
The man’s fingers begin to twitch. He is clearly unstable. I fear for his sanity. We both fear for our lives.
Within the hour, the fog is mere inches away from the road. Breathing heavily, the man eases slowly off the accelerator, letting the car roll to a stop. He gently moves his hands away from the wheel. I raise an eyebrow while the man’s face freezes in sheer terror.
“Why have we-”
“Shh-shh-shh!” he interrupts, placing a finger to his lips.
“Why have we stopped?” I continue, in a much quieter tone.
“You don’t see it?” he whispers. “Right in that… fucking fog over there.” The man jabs a stiff finger at a spot of fog just ahead of the car on our left. I lean in for a closer look, still not being able to make anything out.
“I… I just saw it. Some sort of massive fucking… thing. Three times the height of this car, easily.”
For what feels like days, we stare at the fog, waiting, anticipating for anything to show up. Neither of us dare to look away, or blink much. I am suspicious of the man’s growing paranoia.
"We're going to die out here," he speaks, his hand sliding down the side of his face.
"I won't get into Heaven. Believe me, I'm not a good person. I did some bad things back in the war. Things that would make you sick at the sight of me. Things that make me sick at the sight of me. We tortured prisoners. We took them away from their families and friends."
Silent tears roll slowly down the man's face.
"What about you? Got anything you'd like to confess?"
He turns and stares worriedly into my eyes. I stutter, struggling to form an answer.
"I... I ran over a young girl in the countryside. Never told anyone. I was drunk, I think. I was speeding. I just... left her there. She... oh, God, she might not have..."
I shiver, and the man turns back to face the wheel.
"Maybe we'll see each other again, in Hell."
My heartbeat pounds in my ears. The tension is unbearable. It feels like something is going to jump out at us at any moment.
“Back it up,” I finally speak.
“Back it up. If there’s something there, we’ll go the other way. Better than just sitting here, waiting to get eaten or some shit.”
Eventually, the man nods and places a sweaty palm on the gear shift. For a moment, time seems to hang still. Nothing moves, not even the fog.
An unholy screech ripples through my eardrums just as the car begins to reverse. I clamp my hands to my head and scream, only managing to peek a glimpse of the horrible apparition as it steps out of the fog on its bony, jagged feet and claws its twisted body towards the car. The man spins the wheel hard, pressing his foot down furiously. It stomps after us, making the ground tremble. My ears won’t stop ringing, even when the screaming stops and the figure disappears back into the fog behind us. For half a minute, it feels like we are safe again.
The creature appears before us on the road again, taking up too much space for us to avoid. The car almost swerves straight into the fog, instead flipping sideways as we hit the monster's foot-like appendage resting on the road. For what seems like forever, we tumble down the gravel road, our bodies bouncing off the car's interior like ping-pong balls in a washing machine. At some point, the car loses momentum and comes to a stop upside-down. The man is half-conscious, streaks of blood cast across his forehead.
The being lets out a victorious yell, violating my ears once again. I moan and crawl out of the wreckage on my hands and knees, finally getting a half-decent look at what it really is. A pale humanoid figure, two to three stories tall with bones poking out from its tightly wrapped skin, barely hanging on to its flesh. Its head features a single dark hole, pushed deep through the thing's skull.
I press myself firmly into the gravel, taking shallow breaths. The monstrous thing reaches down with a long finger and scrapes the ruined Clipper into its palm. The man’s helpless screams can still be heard inside the vehicle as the monster carries him away with the car, disappearing once again into the fog.
Broken, I lay down and wait for death, but it doesn’t come. The creature does not return for me, and I wail hopelessly at the sky, begging to be put out of my misery. I still can't move my legs an inch, and an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu prods at my mind, like I've lived through this experience countless times. Another memory fades into my mind. Today’s date. 17th of September, 2019.
Finally, it all clicks.
I died 65 years ago today.
Once more, I hear the wheeze of a car engine coming down the road. A few seconds later, it rolls out of the fog. A navy-blue Packard Clipper, its headlights beaming down at me like the light of God himself.
Written by Cornconic