“Shit.” We race down the hall and soon come outside. It’s pitch-black except for the moon. It’s full, and not a cloud is blocking the view. “Double shit. This really ain’t good.” He starts to turn before tilting his head ever so slightly. It reminds me of this dog that would run around town.
It would often tilt its head like that. I would like to think it was trying extra hard to hear all the words that spill from my lips. Most may deny their intelligence, but my mother taught me the True Way. I know that all beings were blessed by the High Spirits. They have no favorites, and each of us is touched differently. Animals are no lesser than humans or creatures.
I liked to run my fingers through the fur though it was greasy and matted with dirt. The dog was old, and the ribs were easy to see. I would feed it scraps when I had some to give, but that was a rare thing. On good days I could provide the dog with a bite of bread or maybe even a piece of fish.
I would have given him a chicken, but Bobby superstitions had caused the surrounding towns to all drive away the cattle and livestock. I guess they thought the Bobbies would choose the animals over them. I’m not sure if it’s correct, but the number of people who came back to the village was always decreasing no matter what they thought. Most pets went with them by sometimes a mislead stray ends back up in the town limits every so often.
The dog and I would walk the beach shore and watch the tide on the bad days. Nothing but the roar of the waves could drown out the growl in our bellies. Mom would sometimes say it would get better, but that was often a rare reassurance. Despite the awfulness in the world, she didn’t like having to lie, so she usually just kept quiet. I knew enough about this strange new world, but just barely. I would never be one of them, and she made sure to drill that knowledge deep in me.
The humans may hate us, she would say, but only other creatures have the real chance of causing us harm. Of course, this was before the NTSCU made their presence known. I had been with the dog that day when I accidentally lifted up a stick we had been playing with. It went up, higher than any human little girl could hope to throw a stick. Sadly this was seen by some passing townsfolk.
I never expected it when the man ran at me with a mad look in his eye and a knife in hand. The dog jumped in between us, and the man showed no hesitance in cutting him down. I ran and ran all the way home and barely had the tale out before my mother had packed our belongings. This was the first of many towns where we were found out and ran away, fearing for our lives.
Sometimes I would catch myself crying over that dog. The way its blood seeped into the sand and in between my toes. My mother would hold me close and get a haunted look in her eyes. There are worse things than death, she would tell me. I look up at Nate and can only hope he’s not loyal like dogs are. Nate shakes his head, and we continue our way outside. We come across a little alleyway. It’s a dead-end, and no light reaches inside.
“Perfect.” Of course, Nate shoves me inside. He grabs me, and we squat low to the ground. I try to say something, but Nate puts his finger over my lips. A chill runs up my spine at the thought that he might have seen that. I can’t see my hand in front of my face. At least before, the moonlight gave the illusion of objects and whatnot. Sitting here, there’s no light to see anything with. At least for a human or witch.
“Did you find anything?” A voice rings out in the dark. I can faintly hear the sound of shoes scruffing against the gravel and concrete.
“Negative, sir.” This one is different but sounds even closer. I look in Nate’s direction, but he hasn’t reacted, so I guess we’re still good. Assuming he really can see in the dark.
“We missed her again. What do the trackers say?”
“The monstrosity is still located in the building.”
“Good work, soldier. Let’s move out. Hopefully, the beast will have enough smarts to give us some information before we terminate it.” I hear more scuffing, and Nate’s hand comes to rest on my shoulder. He pulls me up and out of the alleyway.
“Let’s get goin’ before the realize that’s a dead-end.” He starts away from the building and tries to pull me with him, but I refuse to budge.
“What the hell was that.” I work to keep my tone low as I don’t want the NTSCU to realize we’re still here.
“Not now, Vanessa.”
“Swear you’ll tell me what’s going on. Those men want to put a bullet in your head for no reason.”
“Well, maybe they have a good one.”
“I don’t care what it is,” he scoffs, and I pull him by his scarf, making him look me in the eye, “I don’t care because you haven’t hurt me. So I refuse to let them hurt you.” I can’t see in the barely-there light, but I swear a tear drips down.
“Whatever you say, Witchy.” He loosely grips my wrist and tugs me forward. “I swear to tell you, and I’ll understand if you get pissed.” I open my mouth, but his grip tightens. “You’ll probably be mad.”
Nothing is said after that. We walk until we hear voices yelling coming our way. I let Nate be our eyes and lead us in the right direction. All of a sudden, he stops, and I fall into his back. I would have been knocked to the ground if not for his grip. Bricks. He’s definitely made of bricks.
“Hey, Witchy, can you pull off that trick again?” He points the hand handing my wrist forward, and they’re hiding in the shadows is another car. It’s more prominent in size than the last I think they call these ones tunks, trunks, trucks, something like that. I race forward and get in the seat. I grip the soft wheel and try to get my magic to work with me for once.
“I can’t do it.” I lower my head down, and a few tears slip down.
“Maybe you’re overthinkin’.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like don’t think about doin’ it. Just want to make it open.” His silhouette hangs in front of the passenger door, and I can’t help but nod along. It’s not like I have a lot to lose. I put my hands on the wheels and can just hear the click of the car, and that fire builds up again and spreads to my hands.
I almost jerk away, afraid I set the thing on fire before the car roars to life. I have no time to celebrate as Nate gets in the car and throws the bag in the back.
I press my foot down and thank the High Spirits when the car moves forward. We shoot off in the dead of night and luckily haven’t crashed into anything. I look at Nate for a second and see him looking out the back window. He leans forward and then lets loose a bunch of curses.
“What is it?” I look at him as something from the outside of the car bumps into us. The vehicle jerks, and I have to grip the wheel hard to gain control again.
“Shit!” He turns and looks at the side of the door. For half a second, I’m afraid he’s going to yank the door open and jump away into the night. After all, everyone else left, why shouldn’t he? He presses a button, and the window goes down with a whining sound.
“Nate! Wha the hell is going on?” I keep swiveling my eyes from the road I can just barely see his steadily tensing form. “Nate!”
“Look,” he reaches into the back seat and starts pulling stuff out of our duffle, “whatever happens, you can’t stop this car no matter what.” The car is jerked around some more, and if I don’t die from whiplash, it’s going to be a miracle. “Vanessa.” I look at him as long as I can before diverting my eyes again. “Swear to me, you won’t stop.”
“Don’t you mean promise?” I give a bitter laugh and shake my head.
“No, I mean to swear. We both know promises ain’t worth shit, but swearin’ you puttin’ what you stand for as a person on the line. And honestly, that’s all most of us have left.” He gives a sigh, and I see him grip the roof of the car and heave himself out until he’s sitting on the window ledge. Despite how the roar of the engine, I can still hear him clearly though his voice is muffled. “Swear to me, Witchy.”
“I swear.” I nibble on my lip and blink away the mist that clouds my vision. There will be time for tears later. If we survive. Now, if only the tremors in my hands would get with the program. He couldn’t have known. What swearing means for witches. The last time I saw her and had to do because of what I was made to swear.
“Vannesa!” I shake my head and almost let out an earth-shattering scream when I plow into someone. I stare at the body lying against the hood of our car, my foot never once leaves the pedal. It had to be NTSCU. Nobody else was out there. The body is just there, and I have the impulse to push it off. I don’t want to stare at some slowly stiffening and rotting corpse all night. I won’t do it.
Of course, it’s at that moment that the body jerks, and I’m thankful for my empty stomach. The flesh is hanging low on the jaw. I can’t tell if it melted off or if it’s been slowly rotting to get to that position. In the dim light, the bones look to be darkening in some places as if infested with disease. Suddenly it starts to slither up the hood, and even without flesh on its bony stubs, it reaches the windshield at inhuman speed.
It brings it’s head down and connects with the glass, causing fractures to form on impact. I can see its fangs opening and closing as if trying to reach through the window and take a bite out of something. A snap rings throughout the air, and the creature falls like a marionette that’s had their strings cut. There’s a hole on the side of its head that is oozing a black, chunky, tar-like substance.
“Well, Vanessa,” Nate has leaned his head down and is staring at me, “what did you think of your first encounter with Bobbies?”