For her birthday I took my girl, Katie, to Arizona so we could stay with some friends of hers and spend a few weeks partying and getting crazy and stuff before heading back to school for the year.
We drove up in my dad's car. It's a really old Ford make, and it's pretty beat up. The road there was bumpy and long. Our relationship seemed at its strongest on the road. We were really in love. That was the first time I realized that. I had never truly been in love before.
We were about half way there when we realized we were going to run out of gas long before the nearest petrol pump. Katie's head was out of the window, sunglasses on in the blistering heat outside. Nothing but the wild desert landscape to be seen in all directions. We became frantic. We hadn't seen another car on the road in almost an hour. What if we broke down here, in the middle of the desert, with no food or water, with no one out there to find us. I sped up slightly, driven by these fears.
It was then that we came across a gas station. Smack bang in the middle of nowhere, in dry, empty nowhere. It was an old worn down servo. Long, yellow grass blew in the breeze beneath it. Outside were two rusted gas pumps. At first we didn't know if it was occupied - it seemed so lifeless. But as we pulled up and saw the petrol stains in the dirt we were convinced otherwise. Katie started refilling the car and I went inside to pay, and grab something to eat on the road.
When I first went to open the door, it jammed. This perturbed me, so I looked up at the sign to check, and was reassured that the store was "OPEN", according to the torn sign that hung in between the dull yellow curtains at the door window. I pushed harder and harder with effort, got into the shop.
Inside it was totally abandoned, and left to ruin. Complete isles lay on the ground, the fridges were smashed and glass coated on the floor. Despite the brightness outside, the interior of the Gas Station was dark and bitterly cold. Then there came, from behind me, this quiet weeping, like a child's. I felt my heart race. It was coming from the back room.
I stepped over the smashed glass and twisted metal remnants on the floor, over where the patches of grass had grown through. I ran my hand along the wall and felt the criss cross of ivy beneath my fingers. It was overgrown.
There came the crying again, and now I was facing the back room door. It was directly in front of me. I pushed the door open, and it creaked with rust in its joints. Inside there lay several wooden steps into the basement. It was pitch-black, and the smell was horrific. The drip drop of water alerted me to the fact the basement was flooded - the water was up to my knees. Again, there came the crying, and a small splash in the far corner of the basement.
"Hello?" I called out, "Is anyone there?"
I started approaching the corner. The smell was horrible, and cold water eventually got to me. The sobbing was getting louder. In the corner I swore I saw something move amongst the shadows.
"Hello?" I called again, "What's wrong?"
I finally reached the corner. Still dark, I had to bend down to avoid the pipes, which leaked down my back and trickled down my spine. The figure in front of me was very small and black. Hunched over, sobbing quietly, head in its hands.
"Why are you down here?" I whispered.
Then, it stopped moving completely. It was totally still. All noise seemed to cease, but for the quiet dripping of a broken pipe somewhere behind me.
I outstretched my arm to touch its tiny shoulder, but it then began to slowly turn in my direction, to look me eye to eye.
As its face swiveled around to look into mine I remember screaming, and swinging my head up in recoil, cracking it on the pipes up above. The face was white as a sheet, pale like a hideous, moving mask. The eyes and mouth were completely black holes, huge and widening even as I looked at them. They were so huge, they almost consumed its entire face. As I desperately tried to escape, it splashed towards me at rapid speed, uncurling its long, thin fingers. It was wailing now, staring into me with its huge black eyes, and as I scrabbled up the stairs with great difficulty, as I felt my legs begin to give way beneath me.
It sprinted out of the water and up the stairs towards me. I slammed the door, flipped the lock and tore out of the store, into the old Ford. Katie began to laugh when she saw me, jeans wet, trembling with sweat soaking my chest, but I grabbed her and screamed at her to drive. For about a half an hour, I could barely tell her what happened in the store. She listened and gave me a look of sheer horror, when I finally gave in and told her everything. She pulled the car to the side of the road and began to cry herself. I asked her what was wrong.
She said, "I saw something while you were gone. When you were in the store, I was just putting the pump back when I saw this little girl, and a man, her father I guess. The father stared at me with blank eyes and a hanging jaw. But the girl, oh god, the girl.. She was staring straight at me, grinning with this huge smile that just stretched so far across her face. I couldn't see any hair on her, and her skin was so dark. Not dark, like a colored girl, but dark like a shadow. And her smile just shone through the window. I convinced myself it was a trick of the eye and looked away. when I looked back they were gone. Then a little while later, you came back out."
It was dusk by now. We had nowhere to stay. We had not traveled nearly as much as we hoped to that day and the nearest motel meant going back past the gas station. So we just drove up from the roadside where we were, into the clearing a little way up, where people camped sometimes. We had obviously come the night after a big party - there was broken glass everywhere. When we arrived, however, it was empty. After awhile I tried to reassure her that we were okay. I calmed her down, put my arms around her and we started to kiss. I moved to get closer to her when she suddenly screamed like hell itself.
"IT'S HER! IT'S HER!" she screeched, fumbling to start up the engine. I turned in time to witness a small black face, grinning literally ear to ear with only darkness inside. It was crawling into the car through my open window, with its limbs splayed out like an insect. It had too many limbs. Way too many long arms. The fingers feeling my face like antennae. We sped off, back down onto the road.
Back on the road, nothing seemed right. There were no stars.
That was what I noticed first. I was too shaken to think much of it, but there were no clouds that could be blotting them out. There was just the vast night sky, devoid of all light. Then, a few minutes after we had been driving forward, still sweating and breathing heavy, we passed the gas station. My heart skipped a beat. The gas station was at least a half an hour away, in the opposite direction. All the lights were on, and I saw the door sliding open. As we shot past it Katie was in such hysterics she found it hard to keep driving.
We stopped the car, in the middle of the desolate road. I decided we should switch seats, so that I could drive. She shuffled across from her seat to mine, and I opened the door to get out. As soon as I was outside the foul stench of the basement overwhelmed me. I gagged, then vomited down the side of the car. It was then I noticed the runner. A pale white thing, sprinting towards us through the fog, its limbs practically a blur. I could make out no face. How long had it been following us? Running after us in the night?!
I got into the driver seat as quickly as possible. We drove off again, not talking. Katie whimpered and I silently prayed. Then we passed the gas station again. The door was open now. There were two figures standing at the door. Waiting.
As we forced ourselves on, we both became aware of a soft, barely audible weeping in the back seats. Neither of us dared turn around.
"Ignore it," I whispered, my trembling hands gripped the steering wheel.
Katie was curled in the fetal position, holding her head in her hands. The wailing increased, becoming extremely loud, ear-piercing and horrific. Finally I ordered myself to end it, and looked behind me.
For a split second, I thought it was a girl, in a white dress looking back up at me. But she was gone as soon as she had appeared. I checked the seats carefully, there was nothing. In my tiredness and fear I had completely lost track of the road.
I drove on, and all through the night Katie whimpered. I touched her once but she screamed. I never tried again after that. The noises from the back seat started up again. We passed the gas station twice more. The people at the door were closer and clearer every time.
The finest slither of red light had begun to settle on the horizon, it was still dark as hell, but at least I was able to see the road ahead of me now. Katie had been silent, face concealed under her hands for some times. I decided to check the time, so I turned on the radio. At first there was only static. Instead of time, or anything at all, the digital clock simply appeared black. I fiddled with the dial, trying to change the station. In between the static I found only one audible channel. It had a high pitched buzz in the background. (Writer's note: UVB-76?!??!?!) A man was muttering names and numbers under his breath.
"29. Lucy -
31. Katie -"
I switched back to static. I knew which name was next.
When we got to Katie's friend's house, it was morning. It was overcast and everywhere had the smell of rain on it. Her friends weren't home. Katie's friends lived way out in the country, with no one else around in a mile. The grass was climbing the walls outside. How long have they been out?
As soon as we were inside, Katie started whimpering again. I realized that while she had been silent she was biting on her lip - Blood was trickling down her chin and the skin around her mouth was torn and chewed through. She grabbed the newspaper, and some masking tape off the table and began blocking out the windows. After the nights events I didn't know whether I would be insane to join her or stop her. I simply watched. She covered the windows, jammed the door and turned the lights off. For some time, it could have been minutes or hours, we sat silent in the dark. I offered to turn the television on. Katie said nothing, sitting blank and comatose. I turned the television on anyway.
A grainy, black and white image flickered to life before us. A white face with empty eyes and an impossibly huge smile flashed up, the smile growing wider and wider the longer we stared into it. There came the sound of weeping. From the television, or in the house? I couldn't tell.. We turned off the TV.
It's been three whole days now. I haven't seen Katie at all today. She spends her time in the closet, crying. I once tore the door open and screamed at her. She screamed back, her face contorting into something grotesque, and inhuman. I slammed it in her face. The phone rings, often. A voice, my mother's I believe, whispering under its breath. I can only catch snippets of what it says.
"Come back.. You're always welcome to come back..."
Sometimes in the background I hear quiet chuckling.
I hang up without saying a thing, usually. The bathroom is shining white, I hear the shower running, and will walk in to find nothing. Nothing at all.
Then, when I'm in the bathroom I will hear the television flick back on.
It always goes to the face. In the background there are muttering voices now. I've called the police. Twice. All I get is the whispering woman's voice. I called Katie's friends too, just as fruitlessly. There are knocks at the door a lot now. Through the newspaper, on the other side of the window I see their hands slam against the glass and slide down. They do this for hours on end sometimes.
They press their eyes up to the glass, through the holes in the newspaper... At night we hear screaming from the guest room. I boarded it up. Sometimes I find tiny pieces of glass on the ground. A leak sprang up about a day ago in my room downstairs. Black spots of mold have appeared on the walls. There is a smell throughout the house, seeping in from my room. The odor of decay.
I pray. I pray hopelessly, and I wish, I swear to god, I wish... That I had never gotten out of that car.