From his vantage point atop the roof across the street, Kenneth could see straight down the alley, from the street entrance to the dead-ending wall where Shari stood. Shari waited in the dim lighting, back to the wall, terror locked upon her face as she anticipated the arrival of their so called prey. Her breathing was quick, but she worked to bring it under control.
Positioned beside an industrial rooftop Air Conditioning unit, Kenneth crouched in the darkness, the barrel of his rifle resting on the concrete rail. He checks the chamber, adjusts the scope, and signals Shari. Everything is good to go.
Shari nods, and takes a moment to get her breathing under control. Once satisfied, she sucks in a deep breath and screams at the top of her lungs. That was her part, to scream and draw the prey. This particular prey was fond of screaming youth, and Shari certainly fell into that category at that moment.
It wasn’t too long before it arrived; the large, lumbering, hairy beast that had been terrorizing the City of Maytek for far too long poked its gigantic head around the building at the end of the street. It followed the screaming and soon stood at the mouth of the alley. Its yellow eyes reflected the light, glaring at the young woman deep within the cavity between the buildings, her smelling telling it she was everything he wanted; youthful, sweet, frightened. The creature moves into the alleyway, turning sideways to fit its broad body, and still requiring effort to force itself in; if it were only a little larger, or the alley a little smaller, it would not have fit at all.
Peering through the scope of his rifle, Kenneth centers the creatures head within the crosshairs, only to realize that from where he rests, it is a straight line through the monster and to Shari. If he fires now, it could potentially injure Shari in the crossfire. He can’t risk her.
“Shit,” he mutters, pulling quickly from his hiding place and running around to the other side of the AC unit. He finds no clear shot; trees and a telephone pole. He curses further as he hurries to find a new vantage point.
Back in the alley, Shari watches the creature squeeze closer and closer, its progress slowed by the narrow alley but its hunting instinct powering through the obstacle.
“KEN!” Shari cries out as the monster makes its first effort to extend an arm and reach her. It is still several feet too far, but much closer than desired. She crouches and crawls to a corner, hoping the addition of two other walls will somehow protect her. “KEN!” she cries again, watching the creature as its mouth curls in what could only be described as a satisfied smile.
The seconds drag by like minutes until Kenneth locates a new point, higher up and to the side. He throws himself to the floor, bringing the rifle into position, bracing it atop the ledge and taking aim. The large, furry head of the creature falls into his crosshairs once more and he sets his finger to the trigger.
“Heh,” he snickers, “Goodbye, Mister Bad Wolf.”
… No, no… Delete, delete…
“Heh,” he smirks, “Hasta la vista, Mister Monster.”
God no… Delete, delete.
“And pop goes the weas
I abandon the keyboard, pushing my chair back from the desk, removing myself from my work, and hunch over. My face plants itself within the palms of my hands and a groan of aggravation escapes from somewhere inside of me as I rub my tired eyes. The deadline is two weeks away and I’m still ninety-six pages short of the minimal requirements. I can describe this monster with vivid detail, create a believable city from scratch in minutes, detail every action exactly as I can imagine it, but I can’t figure out what witty, smart-ass comment Kenneth makes in the eleventh chapter before blowing werewolf brains onto a brick wall.
Coffee, Michael needs Coffee.
I lean forward, reaching to take my coffee cup from off the desk and I sit back.
Relax. Take a moment and relax. Breath in, breath out. Inhale the smell of coffee, sip. Inhale the coffee, choke. I jerk forward, straightening up in my seat and stretching out to return the coffee to the desk before I drop it in a fit of coughing. I drop it anyway, miscalculating the distance between the mug and the desktop. The coffee sloshes about, flowing over the edge and endangering the notes I have been taking for the last two years.
I reach to steady the mug, but only manage to knock it over as I continue coughing.
“Shit!” The chair tips as I jump to my feet, bumping the desk (much to the dissatisfaction of my knee) and jarring the decorative pencil sharpener I purchased on a road trip through Mexico, which topples over, pops open and shares its wood shavings with my coffee puddle before rolling off the desk. I quickly correct the coffee mug (a pointless action considering the mug has emptied and done its damage already) and stand, staring for a second in a moment of dumbfounded, coffee-less confusion.
Towel. Towel! TOWEL!
My eyes dart over my immediate surroundings, seeking an object which matches the repeating word currently flooding my brain.
No towel! Where is it? Logically speaking, it should be…?
“Bathroom!” I inform myself, though I don’t hear, as my body has beaten my mouth to the conclusion and is already half way down the hall. I turn through the open door into the bathroom, but there is no towel on the shower door. No towel on the hand rail. No towel in the laundry pile by the washing machine.
Oh, no towel, but there is… That might work!
I hurry back to my desk, my hands full of dirty socks which I mash into the mess, pressing, holding, and swapping wet for dry socks. I pick the wood shavings from the coffee as things dry and within a few minutes I have a dry desk, damp notes, and some new brown socks.
“Come on, baby,” I mumble as I peel the damp notes away from the desk, hold them up, blow them dry and examine each sheet. It seems they will be fine. Still legible, just a little darker and looking aged. A few I’s might be L’s, a few N’s are M’s, but it’s mostly the same as I’d originally written it. My quick action has saved the day. Go me! I can sigh now, a big, deep sigh of relief, as I rest my hands upon the desk and use it to lean against.
Breath in, breath out. Calm down. Where is my pencil sharpener?
Leaning forward, I bend over the desk to peer behind it. The way I have this room set up, the desk juts out ninety degrees from the wall; a quarter of this room sectioned out for a makeshift office. Beyond the desk are small piles of laundry leading to my bed – a simple futon with one of those double thick mattresses. The pencil sharpener has rolled across the wooden floors and come to rest under some cloth.
“Oh, the Irony,” I mutter sarcastically as I reach beneath the towel to retrieve my old souvenir and return it to its rightful place atop my desk
Well now, all is in order once again. Peace has been restored to the little city of desktop. I believe Michael has earned lunch. CTRL + S, X, Start, Shut Down, and I am off to the kitchen; first stop, refrigerator. I yank the door open and lean down, examining my menu of condiments: ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard. Questionable science experiment? Or leftovers from that barbeque three months ago?
Two months ago. Has it been that long? It has, the calendar proves it – it’s May and it still says it’s March.
I haven’t left this cabin in almost two months.
Right now, I am working on a science fiction/horror novel for the young-adult section of the local library. But, I usually work with a small paper in southern California, covering whatever I get my hands on. Back in August, a friend borrowed a copy of the first few chapters and sent them to a friend of his who owned a publishing company. They took interest and asked me if I could “wrap it up” by June. The money he said I could get off this was well worth missing four or five months of journaling, so of course I said yes.
When my colleagues at the paper heard I was heading to my cabin in the mountains, 2 hours from nowhere, California, they threw me a going away party, piñata and all. After the ambulance had taken Gary away with piñata related head injuries, I had left and come out to my Grandfather’s cabin. We always kept this place stocked up in case the family felt like escaping city life, or in case the hippies took over and we needed to REALLY escape. That’s what Grandpa always said it was for, the hippy take-over.
And here I am now. Two months here alone with my work. No TV and no phone, make Michael… something, something. I was never a social butterfly and I enjoy my privacy, so two months just isn’t much, I suppose. There’s no one back home to really miss or be missed by. But, with a fridge this baron, and cabinets to match, it seems now that I will have to put my work aside, risk human exposure, drive down to the nearest thing to be called a store, and go grocery shopping.
But first, coffee!
Bottom shelf above the coffee machine, just left of the empty and beneath the empty, is that familiar red can which holds the key to life. I set the coffee can on the counter, pull the filters from the drawer and clean out the old gunk from the machine. Not that old, really. A new pot is made every few hours. After refilling the water chamber I pop the can open, nudge the furry lump aside and grab the sp-
“Fruhkly Crap!” I shriek – some fusion of ‘holy crap’ and a foul word – and yank my hand from the can.
A moment passes before I hesitantly step forward and peer inside, glaring at the small rodent nesting in my last scoop of coffee as it glares at me for attempting to steal its last scoop of bedding.
“You’re in my coffee,” I tell it.
“You’re drinking my bed,” it responds… of course, that could have been imagined, like I’m imagining its beady eyes glaring at me with contempt and possible murderous rage. I woke up Wednesday evening and haven’t slept since. Combine thirty-six plus hours of sleeplessness with a lack of caffeine source, and Michael imagines talking mice.
“Evil mouse,” I mutter… quietly, so as to not anger it further.
I return the lid to the can, and the can to the cabinet to let the critter get some more shut-eye. It will need its rest for the argument we will be having when I get my caffeine. In this state, the mouse could probably take me. But, with enough coffee, I could rule the world.
It would never last though; just until people realized they shouldn’t give me another cup.
Well, suppose I should get that shopping done. The sooner I get to town, the sooner I can get back and get to work.
It takes only a few minutes to make myself decent. I’m a hermitic writer slash crazy cabin guy, so showing up in town with messy, unkempt hair, several days of stubble, jeans, a robe, and a pair of novelty monkey slippers that ooh-ooh and ahh-ahh when you pinch the left ear is perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, there appears to be rain in the great outdoors, so the usual few minutes becomes fifteen as I hunt down my jacket and find a pair of non-slippers.
Now appropriately dressed, I am out the door and on my way. There’s no real need to lock up as there is no human life within an hour of here, but I do so anyway so I’ll have a story about getting tipsy in town, fumbling with my keys and having an inability to get part A into slot B.
Around the back of the house is the gas guzzling generator which supplies all the power to my humble little cabin. Out here, there are no power lines, no city plumbing, no phone service – and subsequently, no television. It’s kind of nice, not having that gentle humming of power lines over head; just the soothing roar of a gas engine.
I do have indoor plumbing, though. Water supplied from a well a few hundred yards out runs to the house, is used, and dumped into a septic tank which gets emptied once a month.
Come to think of it, they’re two weeks late on that. I shall have to call and complain when I get into town.
I kill the generator and head to my car.
Any man can navigate these bumpy mountain roads in a monstrous 4×4, but a REAL man can do it in a compact four-door family sedan. My car was such a car, a real man’s car; covered in dirt, mud, chipped paint, and a green haired troll doll on the dash with a wedding ring for an arm-band. Not my ring, no, I’ve never been married. This is something I had picked up at a thrift store as inspiration for chapter nine, when Kenneth proposes to Shari after a near death experience with a man-eating troll with – here it comes – green hair.
It is almost 90 minutes down the twisting dirt roads, and when it rains, you can add half, but a little more than 2 hours after leaving home I finally hit the freeway to town. I reach down and click on the static box – more commonly known as a radio – and flip through to see if anything comes in today. On some trips down here, I can occasionally pick up an oldies station or some gospel; assuming the weather is decent, the car is in the proper place at the proper time, the antennae is aligned correctly, the sun has no flare-ups, the moon’s gravity is just right, and all the planets in the solar system are aligned in a perfectly straight line
This is not such a day, nothing but static over the radio. Oh well, I can suffer the half hour left to town.
It’s eight-forty by the time I pass the sign welcoming me to the small town of Twin Oaks. It’s not a place found on maps and very few know about it. This is kind of a secret society of excessively rich and not-so-well-known people. If my great grandfather hadn’t built that cabin and claimed that land a hundred or so years ago, my family would never have heard of this place either.
The streets are deserted, but that’s normal for Twin Oaks, especially in Spring rain. I pull into the market and park near someone’s male compensation unit. I exit the car, lock the door and hurry inside to avoid the rain as best I can. The doors slide apart as I approach and I enter the warm building with soft elevator music. Someone has knocked a few carts over, and another is abandoned, full of groceries. I shrug it off; the employees know what they’re doing. Grabbing a cart from the cart corral I move into the produce section.
Carrots, celery, lettuce, these, those, that and all the other things I skip over. I’m not a chef, and I don’t have time to cook every night. I’m more of a frozen foods, microwave meals kind of person, so I leave the produce section with an empty cart and cross into the freezer aisles.
Through here I find a variety of wonderful, low cost meals meant for the few locals who run the stores. The locals can’t afford to shop at their own stores since everything is overpriced for those with the winter cabins and summer homes in the hills, but a few sections feature low budget so-called-gourmet microwavable dinners.
After a visit to my coffee section, and a stop on the snacks and soda aisles, I make my way to the front to pay. The cashier is away from the counter, so I unload my cart onto the conveyor belt and wait. A few magazines take my notice, and I skim them over.
New relations amongst the celebrities. He’s cheating on her again… again? My goodness! Another baby for her? Oh my!
A few minutes pass and I have added bubble gum and a few candy bars to the stack of frozen foods. I glance about to the other registers, down the nearest aisle, up towards the manager’s window above the customer service counter. No one. I can only be so patient and it’s beginning to leave me. Where is the cashier?
I head towards the customer service counter, smacking the bell. Another minute passes and no one responds. I look around again, moving down the front of the store to check every aisle and I make a startling discovery – the store is completely empty, not a single person on the floor; employee or customer. Curious… and disturbing. I head for the front door and check outside. There are several cars in the parking lot, including the one I recognize to be the manager. People must be here.
The local posting board hangs beside the front entrance, on the left just as you enter. According to it, a number of missing people have been filed in the last month or so, and the yearly spring festival will be coming at its usual time. Someone is offering yard work, another, guitar lessons, and yet another, babysitting services. Nothing truly abnormal posted aside from the number of missing people. Usually a kid or two goes missing every few months, but this must be a whole bus that vanished of every age. A tour bus, perhaps?
“I must have taken a wrong turn,” I mutter quietly to myself. “I’ve wound up in the Twilight zone.”
Pretty soon, I’ll find I have all the time in world… then I’ll discover the donut shop is permanently closed and determine that life is simply unfair.
My mind races through everything I’ve seen since I came to town as I head back to the register. I could have sworn I saw a girl turn down an aisle as I entered but I could have been mistaken. There were two abandoned shopping carts of food by the entrance; I know that is true because I can still see them.
“Hello?!” I holler. My voice echoes through the store. I think I hear something, but I probably don’t. I get no answer. “Well… shit,” I mutter as I stare at the food. If no one is here, and I cannot steal food, and I am unwilling to starve to death, then I can try and ring this all up myself. Nothing illegal there, right? Maybe a slap on the wrist from management, a stern telling to not do that again, and life resumes normally.
I grab the essentials; coffee, coffee, a few microwave dinners, a few candy bars, and a case of soda. I leave the rest, I’ll come back later when the world is normal again. The register is very helpful and assists me in my purchase. Press here to pay. Press here for debit or credit. Please slide the card. Does the customer want cash back?
Hmm… Tempting, but no.
I take the receipt, move my bags into the cart and head for the exit stopping by the board once more to see if I missed anything; an evacuation or big party at Tom’s and everyone’s invited, or something along those lines.
I exit back into the rain. My movement through the rain is slowed by the cart, but I push it on at a soft jog and am quickly back to my car. I pop the drunk and start loading up, when I hear a sudden and alarming screeching from down the street.
Turning around I instantly notice the first sign of human life since my arrival; a seemingly drunk driver swerving around the corner at high speeds. Their truck wobbles, tipping onto two wheels for a moment before settling back onto four. The driver struggles to regain control of their vehicle, jerking the wheel around to straighten the wheels and pull out of a fishtail. It seems they almost have it, but the street light gets in their way and their truck comes to a sudden halt through it. The horn blares, the lights flicker, and the front wheels spin like crazy despite the front end being lifted off the ground and propped by a bent post.
I stare in amazement.
Did that just happen? Holy shit! Did that just happen? Are they alright?
I pull my cell phone and dial 911 as I realize I’m the only person witnessing and begin to jog towards the incident. No cell service, useless junk phone. The phone is dropped into a coat pocket and I pick up the pace.
Half way to the truck a small group of people round the corner from where the truck just came. I notice the uniform one of them wears and I slow to a walk as they rush for the truck. An officer of the law, they can do a lot more for this situation than I could. They will probably want to talk to me, as a witness, after they get the driver squared away in an ambulance.
Life takes a further twist into the Twilight Zone as the officer leaps upon the bumper of the truck, vaulting himself into the empty bed. He smashes into the roof of the cab, raising his fists and pounding down upon it like some angry gorilla. The other three come around to the sides, one bashing upon the door as another tries to smash in a window with his fist. I stop completely.
What the fu-
The side window shatters and its destructor half climbs into the cab. He grabs the limp body of the driver and pulls them from the truck, throwing them to the ground. The driver must be unconscious or dead as they make no sound or show any sign of conscious life. The others swarm upon it, each reaching and grabbing, yanking, punching, pulling and throwing fists at each other and the driver to get their share. Two of them take the driver by either arm and seem to play tug-o-war with them.
What the hell is going on? My mind races as it searches for any logical explanation to what I am seeing but all I can come with is; there is none.
“HEY!” I call to them before I can tell myself not to. The officer and the other individual not involved with the tugging game stop fighting and look at me. Their stares are lost and confused, but realization breaks upon their faces and they are instantly sprinting at me; not jogging, not running, but full on sprinting.
“Oh, shit.” Before I can think, I am reacting. I turn and run, heading for my car. The distance that didn’t seem very far not too long ago feels like a mile now, but I run it as quickly as I can. I slam into the side of my car, not wasting time to slow down, and glance over my shoulder. They are gaining on my, quickly. I slip my hand into my pocket and out through the hole in the bottom of it; my keys and my phone, both missing. “Shit!” I cry out once again and take off around the car.
The police station is only two blocks from the market, if I can maintain a safe distance for that long I will be fine. Those months of sitting and writing have left me tiring too quickly, but my life is at stake right now. I can’t stop.
They are gaining too quickly; 50 feet by the corner, 25 after the first block.
Fuck, fuck, fuck! One more block!
I round the second corner, missing my footing on the curb and stumbling into the street. They are on my heels and the civilian takes advantage, diving through the air. We both hit the ground hard, his grip around my ankle. I roll to throw a kick at his face and I see the officer right behind him. He dives through the air, leaping over his accomplice. I clench my eyes shut.
The pain that follows is indescribable, and everything goes black.