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It was one in the morning and she was driving along Sweet Hallow Drive. She just ran over something.

Hands shaking, she pulled up her handbrake and got out of her seat. Her pulse was dizzyingly high, her body full of adrenaline. She was tense and alert. Then she saw the thing in front of her car. She tensed even more.

A deer was slumped dead on the asphalt. But it wasn’t just any deer. This one was small; too small, in fact, to be an adult. At about two feet tall, she was certain she could carry the fawn in her arms if it were alive. That in itself was bizarre, since fawns don’t usually stray far from their mothers, and she can’t see a single deer around.

But that wasn’t the strangest thing about that scene. The deer in front of her was also missing its head.

Her trembling hands ran to cover her mouth, tasting bile at the back of her throat. Slowly, she walked towards the victim of her fear and carelessness. Little by little, every fiber of her body was betraying her. Shock. Terror. Guilt.

She looked around. Her front bumper was scratched and slightly dented. Aside from her car’s beams, it was dark everywhere. She couldn’t see where the fawn’s decapitated head was. There were no cars around.

H-hello? H-help me, please.”

Startled, she whipped her head around to the woods just a few meters to her right. The voice belonged to a man, and she could swear he looked more dead than alive. From inside the tree line, his injured frame slowly hobbled towards her.

Please help me.”

The woman stood frozen. The man wore a shirt that was once white but was now caked with blood coming from his left forehead, just inside his hairline. His right eye was shut. Above it, there was a huge, gaping wound, covering his eye and face with even more blood. His pants were covered with soil and dirt. His right shoe was also missing.

And on his face, was a huge, hideous burn scar. It looked old, and it covered the left half of his face, along with the top part of his nose. It was like half of his face was melted and covered with a layer of melted wax.

She took a deep breath. “What happened to you?”

I n-need help. C-can I get a ride? We really should get going.” She recognized the terror behind his blood-smeared face.

What do you mean? I- I can call an ambulance for you. You shouldn’t move-“

No, no, y-you don’t understand.” His voice quivered. “This is Sweet Hallow. Don’t you know the stories?”

* * *

Of course, she knew the stories. At first, it was the decapitated bodies. Then it was the weird crashes, where people would be found dead inside their crashed cars, all of their airbags somehow broken, failing to deploy when they’re needed most.

Then it was the burned cars on the side of the road, their drivers burnt to a crisp inside, fragile plastic dolls stuck inside a bonfire.

Four months, and the news reported all of it. Four months, the police were clueless as to who was doing it.

She didn’t want to believe it, but it all got to her, nonetheless. That was why she was driving so fast. That was why she was out of focus. She wanted to get out of the long stretch of Sweet Hallow, as quickly as she could. She hit a fawn instead.

The midnight wind was cold. She shivered, but it wasn’t because of that.

I’m sure you know what happened to me. I’m lucky I survived, but I know I can’t get lucky twice.”

She looked at the dead deer in front of her car. She hesitated. “But I need help with-”

The man was already moving towards her. “I got it. You should get inside.”

Opening her car’s front door, she propped her body onto the driver’s seat, feeling highly strung. She unlocked her car’s doors. Her head was still throbbing, and the tremors still hadn’t left her hands. She stretched them right in front of her, palms facing out. She’d known her hands since forever, but she can’t remember a time when it convulsed like this.

She looked past her hand and into the man in front of her car. He was just standing there, looking down at the deer she hit, a deadpan expression in his face.

His bloodied face took a nervous expression. He shuffled around the front and into the passenger’s side as quickly as his injured body could carry him, leaving the dead mammal laying on the road. Reaching for the door handle, he opened it, and set himself into the seat, a loud grunt following his trail.

Run it over.”


He closed the door. “Don’t stall. Just drive straight.”

W-what? Why?”

That deer was bait. Someone put it there so you’d hit it. Drive. I’ll explain.”

* * *

Minutes passed by in silence. She was going fast, but not too fast, in fear of hitting something again. A slight mist was settling down around them. Their passage was quick and clear, and all this time, they only saw two or three cars, all on the other side of the road.

It was too clean”. The man was staring straight at the road. His burn scar was still clearly visible despite the dried blood in his face. She thought it looked freaky.

What was?”

The deer. You didn’t decapitate its head. It was cut off. With an axe or a butcher’s knife or something. The wound was too clean.”

She took a second to take it all in. “So when you said that was bait…”

You’re the fish.”

And I swam right into their fish trap, she thought. “I took it. I was just very unlucky, then.”

Yeah. They probably propped the dead deer on the road with some sticks, kinda like how you’d make a scarecrow stand. You were just the first one to hit it.

She had mostly calmed down by now, but all this revelation was enough to get her nervous again. She narrowly escaped being in the news for the wrong reasons.

I take it you’re unlucky, too.”

The scarred man took a deep breath, and sighed. “I saw this huge pickup splayed on one side of the road. It blocked the road completely, so I had to stop. Next thing I know, a man went out of the truck, with a gun pointing at me. Another went out from the woods. He had a shotgun.”

She noticed he was rubbing his hands, the same way you rub your hands when you’re cold. The car’s heater was on.

They made me go out of the car. Then they beat me up until I passed out.

I woke up tied to my car seat. I was bleeding, my head hurt, and I was dazed. There was a fire inside my car. It smelled like gas. I couldn’t see the two men, so I tried my bonds. Luckily, it gave after a few seconds.

I went out of the car and hid inside the tree line so they won’t see me just in case they go back. I walked the opposite direction, hoping to see a car and ask for help. I didn’t find any.”

She thought that was a bit weird. The road was wide, and a few cars definitely overtook her before she hit the deer. He must have seen those cars.

So thank you,” the man with the burned face continued. He looked at her this time. “I’ve been walking for almost an hour. I was lucky I saw you.”

Thanks. I was quite lucky you saw me, too.”

You have no idea.”

It had been a few minutes since her near-brush with death, but something didn’t feel right. She was supposed to be calm by then, and for the most part she was. But her gut was telling her there was something wrong. It doesn’t want her to relax. She just couldn’t figure out why.

Is it okay if we find my car first? It should be near. I want to see what happened to it.”

* * *

After a few minutes, the man with the burnt face pointed to a slight curve ahead. There was what looked like the outline of a vehicle, but the mist around them hampered their vision.

As she pulled close to the side of the road, the features of the car became more visible. She realized what it was: it was a pickup truck parked on the side of the road, all of its lights off.

There it is.” There was a look of satisfaction on the man’s face.

The black pickup was in perfect condition.

How do I look?”

She whipped her head towards the man beside her. He was looking straight at her, his eyes manifesting a wicked expression not even the mess on his face can hide. His lips were a thin line on his face.

She didn’t know what to feel, what to say, what to do. She froze.

How do I look?”

Hideous, she thought. Pristine. Scary. Handsome. Like a monster. Like a baby fresh out of the womb.

He was a different person when he got out of the car. Gone was the stooped, deformed person beside her just a few seconds ago. The man outside the car stood straight, his head held high. His shoulders were pulled back with his stomach pushed in, making his chest puff out like a proud gorilla fresh from conquest.

Her mind was in tatters. She thought about the things she could do, but a part of her mind betrayed her. It was telling her not to do anything. She knew she should move, but she couldn’t. She wanted to move, and not to move. To scream, and not to scream. To fight, and not to fight. Her mind reneged against its own.

The man who was not the man walked proudly to the back of the pickup, reached over, and pulled a shotgun.

He walked back to her car, got inside, and closed the door. He used the butt of the gun to hit her straight in the head.

* * *

She woke up tied to her car seat. Her head was bleeding.

There was a fire inside her car. It smelled like gas.

She couldn’t see the man anymore, so she tried her bonds.

It didn’t give. But she kept on going.

Her screams pierced the darkness of the night.

The flames caught on.

* * *


Christian Jerome is a psychology graduate and a hobbyist writer. Trying to rekindle his childhood love of writing and reading books, he is now trying his hand in producing short works of fiction. He likes writing about science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, crimes, and human behavior. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines, where he’s trying to figure out how he wants his life to look like.


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