A Short Story
by Jennifer ChaseTwitter: @JChaseNovelist
The chase is on…
I ran northeast to the railroad tracks through the night in pitch-blackness. I knew they would track my whereabouts with their keen animal senses and unrelenting proficiency. There was a shortcut to get to the next county down a winding rural road, but only scattered memories of the roundabout trail would be my guide. As the intentional target, it propelled me out in the middle of a hellish nightmare and straight into the bowels of the undead.
Now my life boiled down to just one defining moment, but the dire reality of the situation loomed - a chance for survival.
The frigid night air choked my lungs. The drastic drop in temperature fought against my body’s constant movement to keep my heart pumping.
I kept my focus on the path ahead never averting unnecessary attention to the hunters closing in fast.
Every second counted.
My footfalls clipped the dirt and gravel path with quick, dull thuds.
As I ran, the handcuffs affixed to my right wrist dangled and painfully whipped back and forth. There had been no time to pick the tiny lock or even pry the cuff loose. The path turned uneven and forced me to slow my speed. I was acutely aware that the next step could land unstable; spraining my ankle, or worse, leaving me sprawled out unable to defend myself once they attacked.
I stumbled, feet flew straight out and I hit the ground, smacking my head as a sharp pain radiated from the lower lumbar and up between my shoulder blades. I dared to sit still only for a moment to assess my injuries.
Tiny razor sharp pieces of gravel poked through my jeans and embedded deep into the palm of my left hand and the back of my scalp.
I averted my attention to the night, expecting to hear them approaching.
The explicit chill of the air seemed to momentarily increase in temperature, like an oven preheating for a Thanksgiving feast.
The stillness of the outdoors prickled my spine with small goose bumps.
I scrambled to my feet, slipping and wavering, resembling a drunken partygoer before I could gain my bearings once again. Moving forward, I kept my focus straight ahead and sprinted on.
My mind spun back to the series of events that formed my fate up to this moment…
Bright red and blue lights flashed in my rearview mirror. A couple of seconds passed before I realized that a patrol car had eased up to my truck’s tailgate and shined the mind numbing lights without warning, urging me to pull over. With only a quick whoop of a siren as if the glaring high beams weren’t bad enough, the local deputy sheriff eased the cruiser off the road behind me.
The blinding multi-colored lights extinguished, but the high beams of the headlights remained directed at the back of my head.
I wondered if the cop would smell the two beers I had consumed earlier in the evening. It was only a get together with a couple of friends after a long day of work of painting condos.
The clock on the dash read: 9:47pm. The red digits hypnotized me and I noticed how really red the numbers looked.
My vision blurred and then focused a few seconds later.
A loud tap hit my driver’s window and interrupted my momentary lapse. I lowered the window slightly just as the frigid air wormed its way in and slapped my face. A heavy winter coat accentuated the authoritative squeak of the leather garb from the patrol officer.
“Driver’s license and registration.” The cop stated with a flat monotone. His stocky build made him appear as a weightlifter shrouded in obscurity.
“Sure, no problem.” I managed to say as I opened the glove compartment and snatched the registration. “Here you go.” I handed the cop both my license and registration through the partially opened window, but I still couldn’t quite see his face.
I waited for more instructions or at least a lecture on road safety and the speed limit.
My strong intuition flipped a switch as it has always done throughout my life, and I caught a distinct whiff of something rotten. It perfumed stronger and more putrid, and then fainted away.
It was strange since I parked in a relatively rural area with trees and bushes, and I counted only one passing car the entire time. Maybe it was something dead in the bushes, but it bothered me for some reason. As my mind drifted, it created macabre images of terrified people with slashed, bleeding, missing limbs, and it ran continuously in my imagination.
I felt uncomfortable, fidgety, and slightly off balance. I tried to shake it off. “Step out of the car Mr. McGraw.”
“What?” I asked. “Is there a problem?”
“I said step out of the car.” The officer spoke firmly and took two carefully placed steps backward as he pocketed my paperwork. He shined his flashlight directly in my face.
Again, I still couldn’t see his face as I squinted my eyes, but what I could see was pale and mannequin-like with greasy, opaque skin.
I opened the driver’s door and felt a chill, not by the evening temperature but in response to something more sinister.
I began slowly, “I’m sure that I can explain if there’s been a misunderstanding…” Before I could finish my sentence, I caught a whiff of something dead and rotting, my knees felt weak as my mind flooded again with gruesome images of ripping and tearing of flesh. Blood inundated my vision.
I staggered a couple steps to the left as the truck door slammed shut.
The lack of any natural sound in the evening was deafening.
“Turn around and place your hands on the back of your head.” The officer said. His words seemed muddled and robotic.
“What?” I weakly replied.
The deputy took a step forward as he swiped a set of handcuffs from his utility belt. “I…I…” The only thing I dumbly said as I slowly turned to the right, and then moved again looking into the three quarter window of the truck. I gawked at my own shaken appearance staring back, but that wasn’t all I saw.
Before I could turn to face the officer, he snapped the handcuffs onto my right wrist – uncomfortably tight. I instinctively turned to the right to face the officer and saw his face.
Hollow and distorted with dark areas of rotting flesh in a sickening tone of grey and black, and the unmistakable carcass stench ratcheted up my terror. Oozing sores and exposed bone, the monster’s face stared through me like a predator.
The gleam of his sharp canine teeth entranced me, but the internal survival fight or flight mechanism kicked me into warp drive. My left hand flew up in an erratic display, grappling for the car door handle, as my lanky six-foot frame momentarily stunned the underworld officer backward and off balance.
I’m not quite sure what actually happened next or how I got my truck to drive, but I did. The Chevy whined a high-pitch rev as I kept second gear engaged out of full-blown panic.
Glancing in the rear view mirror, I expected to see the red and blue lights flashing again, but nothing appeared.
What had just happened?
I know what I saw and I still didn’t believe it. All the books, all the movies, and all the stories passed down through the generations to scare children about what lurked in the nighttime of the undead, and vampires seeking the blood of mortals, seemed to hold true.
Or, did it?
I kept looking in the rear view mirror and I didn’t realize that my truck had veered off the side of the road where some downed trees waited to be cut into firewood. With a deafening roar that turned my truck into an airborne flying machine, I was too stunned to take a breath as both man and car soared into the night.
One... two… and then almost three seconds passed before the truck landed on an uneven roadway, teetered to the side, and careened down a hiking path.
Several seconds passed and when I awoke, I found myself lying on the ground ten feet from my truck, which had twisted its driver’s door around a tree. I sat up and waited a moment for the world to stop spinning; I quickly got to my feet. Clambering to the top of the hiking path, I heard several sets of sirens approaching from the distance.
I looked back at the truck; it was obvious that it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I couldn’t find my cell phone, didn’t have any identification, but I didn’t waste any more time searching.
I had to get to the next county and get help because it was my only chance. I had to make someone believe my wild tale – anyone.