“This actually happened to my friend’s uncle’s roommate. I swear.”
Chloe looks at me skeptically. One eyebrow rises smartly, but she is smiling.
“Chris Thompson, you are full of shit,” she laughs.
“No, I swear to God… this is a true story. This guy and his girlfriend were out on an abandoned country road, making out in their car. Suddenly, a radio announcement came on, saying that there was a killer that had escaped a nearby asylum.”
“Chris… all asylums were either shut down or abandoned by the end of the 1960’s.”
I ignored her and went on. I knew that my story must be scaring her at least a little bit, considering how easily frightened she was. I began to lower my voice, making it sound creepy and even slightly demonic in order to punch up the dramatic tone.
“The announcement said that the inmate was armed with a knife, and he had a hook in place of his left hand. The boy wanted to stay where they were, but the girl insisted that they leave and go home after hearing a strange scratching sound on her side of the car door. So the boy takes off.”
Chloe rolls her beautiful violet eyes. “Let me guess… when they get home there’s a hook attached to the girl’s side of the car door.”
I balked in false surprise and looked at her suspiciously. “Shit… how did you know?”
“Everybody’s heard that old urban legend Chris. You’re going to have to try harder than that if you really want to scare me.”
Personally, I thought the tale suited the mood perfectly. Considering I was walking her home alone at night on a forsaken country road after a wild party at a friend’s house. Chloe began to shiver in the frigid winter air as a gust of wind tore through the trees. I hurriedly took off my coat and offered it to her, as I did every time I saw her discomfort, but as usual she refused me, and walked on.
“You can’t tell me that didn’t scare you a little bit.”
She hesitates momentarily before answering, “No way Chris, you can’t freak me out with your pathetic horror stories.”
I knew she was lying, but didn’t press the matter, and instead reached into my pocket absentmindedly and felt for the cool metal of my lighter. I brought it out as well as a cigarette from my special case and lit up in the near darkness that the streetlights were doing little to pierce. I admired how the flame shone against Chloe’s copper hair.
My friends had seen little in Chloe, being more interested in blondes with hefty breasts, but to me she had always seemed perfect, with the proper amount of knowledge and intelligence to even out her petite curves. We had started dating in our sophomore year, and had been going steady ever since. She wanted to be a doctor, and me a lawyer, so we conspired to go to the same college.
When she got an email announcing that she had been accepted into the UNC School of Medicine, one of the best colleges in North Carolina, and certainly the best colleges anywhere near Blackwood, where we both lived, she had stepped down, declining to go unless I was accepted also. When I was not, she stuck to her word and started making new college submissions.
I would have done the same thing for her.
She sees what I am doing and slaps my arm playfully. I know she hates it when I smoke, and it’s something I’ve been trying to give up lately, with her help, of course.
“Chris, I’m not going to kiss you goodnight if you have shitty breath,” she giggles.
In mock horror I yank the cigarette from between my teeth and stamp it out on the concrete.
“Will you kiss me now?” I ask playfully. “Of course,” she whispers, and brings me into a loving embrace, pressing her lips against mine. I run my fingers through her frizzy hair before tracing them down her back. She feels so warm against me…
That’s when we both hear it, at the same time, the subtle scrape of feet against the mortar of the road. Chloe breaks away from my hold and grasps my arm tightly, cutting of circulation in mere seconds. My blood freezes as I see the outline of a figure, approaching us in the dark from about a few feet ahead in the road.
I cast a protective arm around Chloe and back up slowly. She is surreptitiously reaching in her bag where I know she keeps a canister of pepper spray in case of emergencies. We say not a word, too frightened to speak as someone or something shuffles closer. My jaw quivering, I open my mouth and force out the words; “Hello? Who is that?”
We are met only with silence as the figure moves closer. He appears to have some sort of injury to his leg. His steps are misshapen. Although I cannot see, I can hear his movements in the dark. One leg moves forward steadily, and the other is dragged up to meet its partner. That’s when the smell hits me. The horrible stench of what can only be described as rot and death. I feel vomit rising in my throat as the vile aroma breaches my nostrils, and beside me Chloe gags violently.
Then the thing that had remained in the shadows until now steps below a streetlamp, and he is bathed in white light. Chloe lets out an earsplitting scream of terror, and I open my mouth to cry out as well, but all that comes out is a thin croak. I can only stare in absolute dread at the thing standing not ten feet before me.
It appeared to be a male, whatever it was. Half of its face had been ripped clean off. The flesh hanging from its profile dripped a greenish red liquid of what I could only assume was a mixture of blood and oozing pus. The white of his skull was visible, and it gleamed underneath, its teeth sneering at me with a grotesque and otherworldly smile. The half of its face that was not torn from his head was encrusted in thick layers of gore, making whoever or whatever this atrocity was unrecognizable. The clothes it had on, what appeared to be a white shirt and shorts, were also sanguine and tattered horribly, as if some great beast had tried to eat him but ultimately spit him out. As he took another step forward I saw with extreme revulsion that his leg was broken. It was bent at an awkward angle near the knee, and I could see the bone poking out through the skin.
I grabbed Chloe and pulled her backwards, grabbing her purse and rummaging inside, never taking my eyes off the thing until I had the pepper spray in my hands. It reached out his decaying arms, fingers quivering. A dreadful moan escaped its mouth, no, it’s jaw. It made a series of incoherent noises that gurgled from its rotting throat, as if it were trying to speak… With my heart pounding fast in my chest and my legs weak with fear, I held the pepper spray out in front of us, pushing Chloe behind me.
“Don’t come any fucking closer! Don’t move, stop where you are!”
I yelled at the thing loudly, trying to sound brave. It didn’t do any good, he just kept hobbling closer and closer to us, and I was backing up, my hand shaking aggressively. He continued to groan inarticulately, more frantically. He started to come toward us faster. I had no choice, I raised the pepper spray and stepped in close, thrusting my thumb down on the nozzle as hard as I could and sending a jet of liquid pain right into the eyes of the monster.
No effect. The pepper spray was virtually useless. The thing just kept lumbering forward with its arms outstretched, garbling incomprehensible words.
Then I was able to make out one single word that it was saying.
The deepest and most severe kind of fear rose in my chest. Expanding inside me like a balloon. It knows me! It knows us! Jesus Christ, somehow it knows who we are!
I lunged forward quickly and shoved the thing backwards with both palms, hard. It tried to grab me as it went down but I jerked my hands back as if I had touched something with a grievous disease attached to it. Its skin felt spongy and raw underneath that ripped shirt, and it toppled backwards, landing on the pavement with a sickening schlock.
“Run!” I shouted, and, clutching Chloe’s arm as hard as I dared, I took off, sprinting around and past that despicable creature which was now unleashing an inhuman howl, and attempting to get to its feet.
I was still running when the truck hit me.
Chloe saw it coming. She was looking ahead. I was peering backwards, trying to see the creature in the darkness. I had the bizarre fear that it would give chase in the obscurity of the late hours.
Then everything became unbearably bright. Chloe had let go of my arm and dove out of the way. She was screaming my name. I turned around to find myself face to face with a white Dodge that was speeding around a tight wind ahead in the road.
It was too late, and too dark to see me.
There was a shriek of the brakes, but not before I had been hit by the front bumper and fallen underneath the tires.
Agony as I had never knew it before rolled over me like a tidal wave. My face was completely lacerated by the front tires, and I let out an unearthly wail as I felt my leg break. Every part of my body hurt. The last thing I remember before everything went black was Chloe kneeling over my body, tears streaming down her cheeks as she tried to apply pressure with shaking hands everywhere I was bleeding on my torso.
I woke up. I was lying in the middle of the road, alone.
Everything was numb. Nothing hurt at all. The pain that I had endured what seemed like seconds before was gone. Although, when I looked down upon myself, I saw that I still had all my injuries.
Something was terribly wrong here…
Where the hell was Chloe?
Everything seemed so alone and desolate without her at my side. I needed her.
I decided I would have to try and get to my feet. To my surprise, there was no sudden flare of pain that forced me back to the ground. My whole body felt anesthetized, and, although it felt strange to get to stand up, I was able to do it without much trouble at all.
I stared down at the road before me in confusion. There were no traces of blood, no tire marks, and no sign whatsoever of the accident that had surely occurred. My mind was swimming. What could possibly have happened here?
I staggered forwards. I knew that I would have to get to a hospital. Everything would be explained to me there.
I set out in the direction of the party that I and Chloe had left. It was surely still going strong, and I could call an ambulance once I got there. I was expecting the task of walking to be difficult and painful just as I had expected the challenge of getting up to be demanding. But again, everything was easy as could be, with the exception of having to drag my broken leg around.
I had made it about a hundred yards before I heard voices ahead. I began to walk faster. They could help me; they could call the ambulance that I so obviously needed. As I came closer, bit by bit, I began to make out their voices.
“Chris, I’m not going to kiss you goodnight if you have shitty breath,”
I froze. I knew that voice all too well. It belonged to Chloe. There was a momentary pause in which I heard the scratch against pavement that indicated a cigarette had just been stamped out by someone’s shoe.
“Will you kiss me now?”
My voice, that was my voice… she was talking to me in some sort of twisted paradox… what the hell was going on?
I only barely caught Chloe’s whisper through the wind.
It all became clear to me, devastatingly clear. I had to tell them about my own imminent death before it was too late!
I shuffled forwards quickly, opening my mouth and filling it with the cool Carolinian air. Preparing to say what I had to. Chloe and I were undoubtedly backing up now, reaching for that canister of pepper spray as they heard my footsteps emanating from the dark.
Then there came my own voice.
“Hello? Who is that?”
I keep going forward. Once I see myself I will be recognized, I thought to myself.
I was very much mistaken. As I move into the light of the streetlamp Chloe lets out a horrified scream. The other me whips out the pepper spray and holds it out in front of him menacingly, even though I can see from the shake of his arm that he is fearful.
I try to form the words to explain what was happening, but all that comes out is a mess of distorted gurgling sounds from deep within my throat… when the truck ran over me it must have destroyed my vocal cords.
I tried harder and harder to talk but everything I try to say to the other me is incomprehensible.
“Don’t come any fucking closer! Don’t move, stop where you are!”
When I continue to advance he steps in close and unleashes the pepper spray right in my face. There is, of course, no effect. Shock shows in my frightened features. I continue trying to talk to him, more desperately this time.
Please, I try to say, do this for Chloe. Try to understand for Chloe. You have a life with her. I have a life with her. Don’t waste it here and now.
That’s when I see the unmistakable terror in my own eyes. The opposing doppelganger makes a sudden move forward, shoving me down onto the concrete. My already broken leg lands in a delicate position as he takes off running, dragging Chloe close behind him.
I make an attempt to get up, to follow, but it is for nothing. My leg is damaged beyond repair and I am unable to try to warn him any longer.
I give free rein to a roar of anguish that echoes throughout the area. But in the end, I can do nothing but listen to the squeal of the brakes in the distance before everything goes black.