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Gothic Beauty Magazine

Friday, 23 May 2014

Willow Creek Chapter 1

Trees flashed by the darkened windshield, their branches reaching out protectively over the roof of the tiny car, as if they knew each occupant personally. The roof light flicked on, and Anna, leaning back against the red leather of the passenger side seat, looked intently at the map for the millionth time that night, carefully following the line of the correct road with her finger. “What are you doing?” Sean glanced from her to the road, and back again- deep lines set around his mouth, his face twisted in uncommon annoyance. “We should have found it by now.” She said matter-of-factly, snapping the map sharply- simply to annoy him.

“How do you know that?” he asked incredulously, turning in his seat to stare at her now, ignoring the road completely. “Because of the marker we just passed and WATCH THE ROAD!” she screamed as a coyote suddenly came into focus on the road ahead, pointing out the windshield, directly ahead. Sean hit the brakes hard, coming to a wet, sloshing, and screeching stop just before the shocked animal. It stood still for a moment, letting the rain that poured down that night soak into its fur, then suddenly it seemed to snap out of it and it ran off. Anna exhaled noisily, relaxing back into her seat. “Are you going to keep an eye NOW?” she asked sharply, slapping the map down onto the dashboard.

 He said nothing, giving her a sideways glare as he gently got the car going again. Stony silence reigned in the car then, a thick wall between the two. Anna leaned forward in her seat, peering through the silver rain, trying to see lights ahead. Where had the moving van gone? She wondered, as Sean reached up and snapped the roof light off with as much attitude as he could muster. She ignored him, still peering ahead. Nothing came through the silver veil that fell, no lights were visible ahead. “Yeah, I haven’t seen the van in a while either.” Sean said suddenly, making her jump in her seat. She leaned back, worry creasing her forehead. “What’s the name of the place we’re looking for, again?” she asked softly, trying to ignore her emotions.

 “Cherryville,” he said squinting hard as another sign suddenly loomed up on his side of the road. It was a deer crossing sign- no indication as to where they were. A luminous sticker was stuck over the deer’s body, and the left side corner was shorn off. “Did we turn at all?” she asked, shifting in her seat as if she were uncomfortable. “No, we stayed on the highway.” A sign suddenly came streaking through the headlights, and as it passed, Anna leaned far to her left, squinting to see it. “Highway 33?” she asked, sitting up again. “What?” Sean asked, confusion playing across his face. Anna gave him a cool look, a familiar annoyance churning in her stomach. “Highway 33.” “You’re crazy.” He said, snorting. “Excuse me?” her eyebrows almost disappeared in her hairline. Backpedaling, he turned the car off the road. “I mean there is no such thing as highway 33. We’re on highway 6.” “No we are not.” She said calmly, only her still raised eyebrows betraying her true emotion. The engine purred quietly, the heater pushing out hot air.

“We are, too! Look at the map!” he said, pulling it off the dashboard. With an exaggerated sigh, she flicked the roof light on again and opened the map. There, plainly on the map, was the aforementioned highway 6. She looked up and down the wrinkled paper thoroughly, but there was no highway 33. “But I saw it!” she said angrily, pointing back over her shoulder. “I’m telling you, I saw it!” “It must have been a joke sign.” He said calmly, pressing his foot down, bringing the car back up on the road. “I bet the next one will say the right number.” Anna folded the map quickly, throwing it down on the dash. He flinched, his eyes fixated on the road. “Don’t be mad!” he said reproachfully, trying to keep his tone from being mocking. “I told you, it was probably a joke-“his voice halted as another sign suddenly loomed up out of the mist. Written across it, in plain, bright, reflective lettering was the road number- HWY 33. “Sign.” “I TOLD you.”

She said sharply, folding her arms across her chest. “That makes no sense.” He said, his voice taking on a sharper edge, as well. Anna pulled out her phone, tapping it furiously. “What are you doing now?” he leaned far over the steering wheel, not really watching his feet, trying to see the next sign. The visibility was becoming too limited- trees flashed out of the mist only a few feet away, disappearing as quickly when they reached the back window. His foot weighed heavily down on the gas, and the speed gradually crept up without either occupant noticing. “I’m trying to goggle this.” She said, holding up her phone until it almost touched the ceiling. “I don’t have any reception!” she said indignantly, glaring at him as if it was his fault. “I told you, Cherryville is outside the service zones.” He leaned back, glancing at the speedometer.

 He pulled his foot up sharply, trying not to let Anna see his surprise. The dial read 145 km/h. as the car slowed down, another sign streaked out of the nothing that pressed in, now, incessantly on the windshield. It was a deer crossing sign. A luminous sticker was stuck over the deer’s body, and the left side corner was shorn off. Sean pulled over sharply, turning the engine off this time. They both stayed still for a moment, staring forward at the silver swirl that was all they could see ahead. Then, quickly, unbuckling his seat belt to do so, Sean turned around in his seat and looked back. There, at least fifteen feet from the back window, Was the sign. From the back, the only detail you could see was that the left corner was shorn off. “Sean!” Anna shouted, and he whipped back around quickly, banging his head on the sun visor which stuck out at an odd angle. “Ow!” he complained, rubbing his forehead. “What?” Anna simply pointed, her mouth hanging open.

The silver mist that had obstructed their view the entire time they had been arguing now moved, as if a wall- as if they were in some strange haunted house at Halloween and someone flipped a switch to move a wall backwards or forwards. It didn’t swirl, it didn’t separate from the main unit at all, as mist usually would- it moved, all together, like a living thing. And as the mist pulled back, it slowly revealed, slicing through the unsettling mass, the next sign; HWY 33. And then, as it pulled back even further, in the light of the headlights, a coyote appeared, slipping out of the mist sideways, staring down the road at the car, as if challenging them. The steady rain that still fell soaked into its fur, and it stood perfectly still. Suddenly, as if it had enough of staring at them, as if they were something new on the landscape that it didn’t find interesting anymore, it simply turned its head, and disappeared into the trees at the side of the road. Behind it, the mist slowly disappeared, still moving, yet still, into the dark. They stayed still for a moment, staring first at the road, and then at each other. Then Sean grabbed the map off the dashboard, popping it open. “It must be a loop in the road.” Anna said, her tone as natural as possible.

 Sean stayed quiet, just looking at the map. “Well?” she snapped, her fake patience evaporating. He pulled the corner of the map down, tilting it for her to see. She stared, confused. The map had changed- it was just a circle, a small one, in the middle of the huge map. Where previously it had listed cities, towns, roads, back roads, and highways there was blank paper, flecked with the fibers that held it together. And in the middle, in the very center of the paper, there was a small circle of road, maybe 2 inches across, and from the right side of this circle, a road led in. in the very center of the small circle, a town was indicated- the bold black dot a shock after the emptiness of the rest of the page. Beside the dot, inside the small circle of road, read the name; WILLOW CREEK.

  “What’s willow creek?” Anna asked, confused. “I’ve never heard of it before.” He shook his head, biting his lip. “What’s happening, Sean?” He simply stared at the map, his forehead creased with thought, perfectly still. “SEAN!” she shouted suddenly, making him jump. He threw the map away, all patience gone. “I DON’T KNOW!” he wrenched his door open, jumping out, slamming it shut behind him. Anna wrenched her seatbelt off, jumping out of the car to stand beside him- leaving her door open, swinging slightly, drenching the inside of the car with rain on her side. The map lay, crumpled, beneath the deluge of rain. Ink ran from the page onto the once-white floor mats of the old and tiny car, disappearing once and for all. “Look, we should find that town.” “Are you crazy?” Sean shook his head, leaning against the car. “There it is again!” “There WHAT is?” “That word!” she waved her arm around, too angry to vocalize.

“What? Crazy?” his face crumpled with the force of his annoyance. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she demanded, getting up in his face. “Because you’re crazy! You think everything is a game.” He folded his hands behind his back. She punched him in the shoulder, walking off around the other side of the car. “Where are you going now?!” he demanded, twisting around in place to see her. She ignored him, grabbing her purse out the passenger side. “I’m leaving.” She left the road, hiking up a small rise between some trees. “What about the moving van? What about Cherryville?” he called after her, still leaning against the car. “Go yourself. I’ll send someone to get my stuff.”

She disappeared quickly between the trees, leaving him far behind. Sean shook his head again, anger rising up in his gut. It had been HER idea to move in the first place! He ripped his door open, turning back towards the other side of the road. “HEY!” A voice screamed out of the darkness, the shock of it almost knocking him off his feet. He looked up, spotting a young woman standing on the other side. She was barefoot, dressed only in a torn shirt and a pair of shorts, and her skin was torn in various places- blood spilled down her side from a cut across her chest, and blood poured from a wound above her eye, almost blinding her.

She sobbed, reaching out to him from the other side of the road. “Hey! Hey, are you okay?” he asked, forgetting his anger and dashing around the end of the car. “You see me?” she screamed, holding her hands up to her head. “Of course?” he stood by the end of his car, giving her a second look. Did she have mental problems? “Thank god! Oh, thank you!” she began to run across the road. A sudden, blinding light came from his left, and he threw his arm up to protect his eyes.

A roar of sound crashed over him; an engine, so loud and powerful for a second the sound confused him after the silence beneath the trees. For a split second he was blinded, and then he saw the girl turn in the middle of the road, staring at the light, her mouth hanging open. A heartbeat later, he realized the source of the light; the moving van, seemingly from nowhere She threw her hands up in front of her face, trying to defend herself. “STOP!” he screamed, waving his arms. The moving men saw nothing, carrying on as if no obstacle stood in the way.

With an odd, cracking THUD and SQUISH, the moving van hit the girl. Her scream was cut off by the sound, and an odd, warm splash hit Sean in the face, rained down on the car. The moving van vanished again in another flash of light, disappearing as quickly as it had come. The girl, what remained, lay strewn across the highway. He stood, frozen, staring, as her head and part of her torso rolled to a stop about 20 feet down the road.

His scream rose above the trees, a thin wail that started from the bottom of his soul and crashed and cartwheeled all the way up to the stars.

-This Work belongs to Horror Author Cheyenne

Leo. All outside contributions are credited.

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