“Why?” said Pete, easing his foot off the accelerator slightly. “It’s three o’clock in the bloody morning. The coppers are asleep. Gimme that bottle!”
“It’s dangerous,” replied his long suffering girlfriend, Kelly, before reluctantly handing him the bottle. She was used to his penchant for speeding and criminal disregard for safety. An urgent reminder in the form of loud verbal abuse was usually all it took to bring him back into line, even if it never lasted very long.
“It’s so dark,” she said.
“It’s night time, stupid!”
They always travelled at night. In fact they did everything at night. She didn’t really know why, it was just the way they were. Living a life of occasional highs under a smothering blanket of darkness.
A sign appeared on the left of the narrow highway, shining briefly in the unearthly glare of the headlights. Kelly read it out loud in a tone of forced interest, as she often did, mocking Debra Winger’s senile father in Forget Paris.
Welcome to Hell.
A New South Wales tidy town.
“Wanna spend a night in Hell honey?”
“Why don’t you drive right on through to Heaven instead?” said Kelly, trying to sound flippant. She had never felt more afraid and it wasn’t just the name of the town.
A shadow moved on to the road ahead, and stayed out in front of them for a few seconds. Then it disappeared. Did she imagine it? It returned, quickly growing as though inflated by an invisible compressor, and began to form into a ragged sphere. What was it? Could Pete see it?
She pointed but Pete was already looking, straining for a better view.
“What the hell was that?”
He flicked the high beams off, then on again to see if it was a trick of light. No trick. The shape grew larger still and was soon joined by another, then another.
Pete gripped the wheel in panic, his blood starved hands shared a ghostly luminescence which shone on his face but he did not slow down.
“Is it an animal? I can’t see. I can’t tell!”
Kelly was frozen, suffocating behind a mask of awful terror as she watched a third shape ooze up from underneath the road. The three things maintained their speed and kept themselves just in front of the car before suddenly merging into one. The new shapeless entity was bigger than the car.
As they stared in dumb horror, a huge misshapen head extended from the centre of the black formless mass, followed quickly by two arms, then two long and powerful legs. It was running!
Kelly screamed as it turned to look over its shoulder at them. Accompanied by a wide toothless smile, two bloodshot eyeballs floated in a sea of torn flesh, gawking mischievously.
Madness gripped Pete, insane fear drove him to press harder on the accelerator as the monstrous apparition turned its whole hulking frame to face them. Still running, backwards now, it laughed at them.
“I’ll kill you, get off the road, I’ll kill you!” roared Pete.
“I’ll kill you, get off the road, I’ll kill you!” mimicked the beast, its disturbingly deep and raspy voice amplified inside the car.
In the same instant that the running creature put up his open palmed hands and stopped dead in the middle of the road, the car crashed into a tree and split in two. Flung like worthless trash, the twisted halves of metal and plastic sped through the cold night air in opposite directions, carrying human debris with them.
The crumpled bodies of the young couple were discovered the next morning, on either side of a sign post which stood like a sentinel in a grassy field. The doctor rose from his knees and nodded to the police sergeant who pulled a blanket over the face of the woman. He looked at the sign and sadly shook his head as he read.
Welcome to Hell.
We have two graveyards and no hospitals.
Please drive carefully.
D.A. Cairns is married with two teenagers and lives on the south coast of New South Wales where he works part time as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had 17 short stories published (but who’s counting right?) Devolution was his first novel and novel no.2 is currently seeking an agent or a publisher. Anyone interested?
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