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Twist: Chapter 23


  03:45:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 2207 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 23

I never found the gas station. I wandered around down town for hours.

My wanderlust turned to dread once it started to get dark. My destination shifted manically. I didn't really care, anymore, if I ended up at home, or the station, or even at work- I just needed to get somewhere, to try and get safe.

Finally, I decided to try walking in a spiral, going one block in one direction, then left one block, then left two blocks, and left two blocks, then left three, and so on, so that my net was slowly, but managebly, extending. It meant a lot of doubling back- a lot of it- the same exact buildings passed on street corners, just one block removed. But it meant that even in this fog, which I now understood was complemented by the mental fog I'd initially taken for a headache, I kept my bearings.

And eventually I found home- or at least the road I lived on.

I felt a breeze, warmer than it had been all day. And somehow I knew. It wasn't the wind. It was breath, perhaps mixed with the heat permeating off a body. I looked behind me, and saw the shadowy silhouette, hunched down, like a cat or a distance runner, ready to blast off the blocks.

I ran. I was in awful shape, for the amount of running I'd been doing, and it had taken its toll. I was heavier, this time, too. I fished the brick out of my pocket as I went, and threw it to the side, like jettisoning ballast. I realized as it struck the moist earth that perhaps I should have thrown it at my pursuer- but something told me that one brick wasn't going to do it. I pictured immense fangs, and claws as long as my arms, and knew that if I was going to fight it, I wanted a bit more reach than a brick was going to afford me.

I could feel myself slowing this time, knew instinctively that I wasn't going to make it inside like before.

I passed the car I stole the starter out of. The hood still looked like I left it, not completely shut. That gave me a renewed sense of purpose. There was some continuity to the world. Maybe that meant that I could leave it- on foot.

But hope could only spur me on so much faster, and eventually my stamina flagged. I heard the thing behind me, panting like a dog, its breath warm and wet against my ear.

I was twenty feet before my cross street, and then a set of stairs before safety. But I could feel fingers reaching out to me, tangled in the edges of the shirt billowing behind me. I was so close. But I wasn't going to make it.

I flung myself at full velocity against the stop sign in front of my neighbor's house, shoulder first, and sprung off it, kicking behind me with all the force I could.

I hit something. It was terrifying and exhilarating- because I wasn't crazy, just madly kicking air. But that meant the thing chasing after me was real.

My shoulder ached, though it wasn't quite broken, and I needed to move. I ran across the street, planning to sidestep the somewhat cumbersome stairs by running up the hill on the side of the yard. But it meant running around the tree. The thing recovered faster than I hoped, and went straight up the steps, and cut me off.

I knelt down as I ran, and snagged a branch snapped off the falling willow tree. It was a part of the trunk, so thicker like a normal tree, not thin and whip-like.

When I didn't round the tree and head up for the porch, the creature had to climb through the branches to get to me. That bought me time, and I used it to turn and run for the park.

I ran for the fence, by the freeway, across the field, and hid in the brush beneath the trees. I was far enough ahead of whatever the hell was chasing me that I watched, from my hiding spot, as it entered the park.

It lumbered along the path, so it took longer, to get to the trees; whatever it was, it wasn't tracking me by scent. That gave me some modicum of hope, but I was glad to also have my branch.

At the fork in the path, it stopped and stared. No- it was weighing my options, as it figured I had. The path to the left would have taken me near the back of the house. If I could hope the fence, I would have been home free- assuming that I didn't run smack dab into it trying to cut me off. The right path looped around, and from there there were exits to the southeast, the southwest through an alley, and the entrance I'd come in.

He took the right fork.

A thinking monster. That made me grip my branch tighter; that was the kind of wording Gram would have mocked me for. I wished she was with me, for comfort. Unless that thing could hurt her, like the mower had. Even if she was dead, I didn't want her to get mauled on my account.

The thing walked slowly towards me, staring beneath the trees, though occasionally glancing up at the stars. If I hadn't known better, I might have thought it was just a man on a late night walk through the park. But he moved wrong, jerkily, like he had a bad case of Parkinsons, MS and was having a seizure, and the only thing keeping him upright was a massive dose of adrenaline.

I still couldn't see him well, even though the light from the moon in the park was probably the most illumination I'd seen one of them in. But the fog was denser than I'd ever seen it, more pervasive- and I'd never known it to last for so long.

The fog, the power outage, the car, Gram, these things- none of it seemed real. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe I was insane, crouched in a park waiting for a shadow to pass me by, or an opossum.

The only thing I could be certain of was that that thing was still coming. It prowled along the path, moving like a drunk vet with a metal shin in the throes of a meth high- if he was pretending to be a velociraptor.

I hunkered down, hoping that it wouldn't find me. But it was taking its time, systematically checking under benches and in trees. Eventually it came to the bush I was hiding behind. I thought my way through a bit of a prayer, but wherever the hell I was, I was pretty sure I was going to have the same trouble getting hold of God as I'd had getting hold of anybody else.

I held my breath, hoping it would pass me by. But somehow he knows that it isn't going.

The fog was so dense that even as near as it was, I couldn't entirely see it- only that its silhouette didn't seem human. A sliver of moonlight cuts across it, and I could see that in its hand it was clutching one of my ?Missing? fliers. That had to be a hallucination.

I waited until I was nearly certain it had seen me, and leapt from the bushes, brandishing my willow branch. I smashed the thing in the head, and it went down, wailing horribly. It was a piercing, inhuman sound, so cruel in my ears that I felt I had to keep hitting it to shut it up. By the time I stopped, it wasn't wriggling anymore. I dropped the log, and no longer had the strength to stay on my feet, and fell to my knees.

I could feel its blood soaking into my knees. No, it was cold, I was in the grass beside the path. But I looked down at the body, and the pool of blood, less than I anticipated, but growing still.

Then I panicked. What if I was hallucinating? What if this 'monster' was just some guy- unless I was hallucinating his body shape- strolling in the moonlight. What if I'd just murdered a person?

I rolled the body over, and felt around its neck, trying to find a pulse. There wasn't one. A dark cloud crossed the moon, and I lost what little light I had. So I had to touch its face to try and find its mouth. Its entire head was a wound, like a grab burst underfoot. How many times had I hit it?

But I found two holes, holes that I thought might be the nostrils. I held my hand in front of them. Nothing. No air being sucked in or out.

I wrapped my lips around the holes, ignoring the taste of blood or the fact that my tongue slapped against its raw flesh, and blew in two lungfuls of air. My hand, holding its chin, glanced on lips swollen beyond recognition, and I wondered with horror if he'd been black; for some reason, the thought that I'd perhaps murdered a black man filled me with shame.

I traced my way down the body's neck in the dark, and found the middle of its chest. I remembered you were supposed to keep your body straight, and deliver the thrusts with your shoulders. I pushed down several times. I knew that if you did it right you probably would break someone's ribs. But the ribs were already shards of bone; it felt like I was giving compressions to a garbage bag full of uncooked rigatoni noodles.

I have no idea how long I tried to resuscitate it, other than to say that I only stopped when I collapsed from exhaustion, trying to scream at the corpse to live. But I was so tired, that it came out more a whimpered plea. I was crying, covered in snot and tears. I couldn't have left more physical evidence behind if I tried.

Evidence. The word echoed in my head. I was killer. Goddamn me. I wondered if Gram would be thrilled, if she'd feel closer to me- or if she was going to feel worse, because she'd raised a monster.

One thing I knew she hadn't raised was a fool. Maybe it was a person. Or maybe I had killed something most people were fortunate enough never to see. But I sure as hell wasn't going to make it easy.

I rolled the body into the bushes and ivy beneath the tree. Then I snuck out of the park, going the long way and tossed the murder wood over a fence.

Every step, I expected someone, a neighbor, a policeman, to stop me, and ask if I needed help. I made it to the basketball court at the park entrance. There was a metal trashcan in a little circular fence enclosure, like it was wearing a wooden skirt. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears. It seemed like, if I had wanted to dispose of a body- Hanah's body- like it was almost an ideal place, the kind of place that would at last redirect suspicion to the homeless people I knew slept on the edges of the park.

I glanced over my shoulder, but I didn't see any of them on the benches. It was possible one of them was lying in the trench by the alley, but I knew that from that distance I would have been a speck to them.

But I was preoccupied with the can. I had just enough of my wits with me that I rolled off my shirt, and used that to touch as a glove. I tore the metal lid off, and looked inside. I moved the garbage at the top to the side, soaking myself in Christ knows what, but it was sticky, and had a horrible sweet stink. There was nothing but trash. I screamed like an animal, and tried to shove the can over. Wisely, someone had chained it to its wooden enclosure, and without tearing that out of the ground, the can was staying upright.

I wiped what I could of the blood off my hands, and balled the shirt up, to hide as much of it as I could. Then I jogged. I made it to my front door unscathed. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the police, or more of those tings- and I wasn't sure which I dreaded more- came to the door. I tried desperately to get the front door lock unstuck, but to no avail.

I couldn't shower, but I used some dirty clothes to at least wipe the blood off my hands and face.

I tried to sleep, but I knew that was never going to happen. During the night, I saw lights flashing from the park. But they weren't the red and blue of cop cars. And there sounds, too, like a distant cacophony, though I couldn't make any of it, or make any of it make sense.

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