Powered by Blogger.

Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus


The parking lot was an ominous landscape of hiding places and unknown dangers.  The storm-wracked trees next to the street-lights cast erratic shadows like dark birds flying on damaged wings. Jack sprinted toward the pay phone. He slowed only to glance over his shoulder to look for the man. Nothing. Only shadows

Jack reached the phone and snatched the keys off the ground. He was about to turn back to the car when he saw the phone hanging off the hook. He froze. The new option dangled there in front of him. He looked back to the car, then to the phone. He didn’t want to just run away from this man, he wanted him caught. Besides, the call would only take a second.

Jack lunged forward, grabbed the phone and slammed it back into place. He lifted it up and jabbed his finger into the keypad. 9-1-1. The dial tone disappeared and the phone clicked through the relays. “C’mon. C’mon.”

He switched the receiver to his other ear so he could twist around to look back at the car. The dome light was on and he saw the blurry outline of the girl’s sitting in the back. 

No sign of the stranger.

Where is the Goddamn operator? 

The phone continued to click.

His eyes shifted to the far corner of the parking lot. A dim light twinkled through the rain. He hadn’t noticed it before. Then headlights came on and started to move toward the rest area exit. Jack breathed easier. The car must belong to the stranger. He was leaving. It was over.

Then the car stopped. The rain slowed for a moment and Jack could hear the car’s motor across the parking lot. The driver was revving it hard, over and over.

“Oh God.” As the words stumbled out of Jack’s mouth, the driver engaged the clutch and the car’s wheels spun on the wet asphalt. Once the tires found traction, the car bore down on the Jeep, engine whining.

Jack tore off across the lot, screaming at his daughters. “Get out. Get out of the car!”

The car closed the space. It was going too fast. He would never make it in time.

“Becky. Sarah. Get out of the car!”

The rear side door opened on the opposite side from the approaching car. Through the windshield he saw Becky pulling her sister by her jacket. Finally, they tumbled out of the car and started to run.

As the girls cleared the door, the incoming car turned hard to the left, its rear tires losing traction. The car’s back bumper crashed into the rear panel of the Jeep in a grinding screech of metal on metal. Sparks flashed then disappeared in the rain. The stranger kept the accelerator down and the wheels spun again. In the seconds it took before the tires found purchase on the asphalt, the car trunk car popped open.

Jack’s wiped the rain away from his eyes. He could have sworn he saw a face staring at him from the truck of the car, and thought his mind was playing tricks on him in the stress of the moment.

He staggered forward a few steps and stopped.

Jesus, it was a face.

The face of a girl tied up in the back of the stranger’s car. A young girl, not more than a teenager, with duct tape stretched across her mouth, blood covering her shirt, her body twisted into a grotesque fetal position. The image lasted only a couple of seconds. The tires grabbed, the stranger’s car surged forward, and inertia forced the trunk closed.

Jack stood frozen in place and watched as the car sped out of the parking lot and disappeared into the storm. He had to do something. It had happened so fast he couldn’t tell if the girl had moved. Still, somehow he was sure she girl was alive. Her eyes had begged him for help. And people didn’t look scared when they were dead.

He cried out as something ran into him from behind and wrapped itself around his leg. He reached down to defend himself, and felt something soft and smooth. It took a second to register: the texture of children’s jackets. Becky and Sarah. They were hugging his legs and crying.

He knelt down and scooped the girls into his arms and held them. Their hug lasted only a few moments while the image of the girl in the trunk forced its way back into Jack’s brain. “All right, girls. Back in the car. Quick now.” They obeyed him without hesitation, needing no urging to get away from the parking lot as fast as possible.

A minute later they were on the road. The girls were silent in the back seat, strapped into their car seats, too afraid to do anything but whimper. Jack looked in the rearview mirror and watched Becky reach across to her sister and run her fingers through her hair. He smiled. It was what their mother did to comfort them when they were sick or scared.

Tail-lights appeared on the road ahead, one red, one white where the rear bumper was smashed. The stranger’s car.

Jack flipped open the cell phone and dialed out. Seconds later it beeped and an error message appeared on the LCD panel, ‘Signal Faded.’

What now, Jack? What the hell are you going to do now?

When he looked up from the phone, the tail-lights were gone. Jack didn’t remember a curve in the road here and there were no off ramps either. Still, the road ahead of him was pitch black, as if the stranger’s car had disappeared into a tunnel. Jack slowed to a crawl and squinted through the rain spattered windshield. There were steep ditches on either side of the highway so the man couldn’t have turned. The windows started to fog up and he realized that his breathing was too quick and shallow. He needed to calm down. He reached up with the sleeve of his shirt to wipe off the fog on the window in front of him.

As he wiped the condensation away, he saw the car out of the corner of his eye sitting on the side of the road, its lights turned off.

As soon as Jack was past, the headlights came on and the car swerved onto the road behind him. In a matter of seconds, Jack had gone from being the hunter to the hunted.

Jack gripped the wheel and accelerated. The Jeep reacted and surged forward but the stranger’s car already had momentum and bore down on them. The rearview mirror blazed with the approaching headlights. It was right on his bumper.

The girls screamed with the first hit from the car. Jack steered to the right, careful not to overcorrect on the slippery road.

The stranger pulled alongside and swerved into them.

Jack felt the blow on the door next to him.

Sparks flew as the cars ground into each other as they sped down the road side-by-side.

Jack stepped on the brakes, the ABS system controlling the deceleration on the wet highway.

The stranger didn’t react fast enough and his car continued down the highway.

Once Jack was clear of the car, he accelerated again to stay behind the stranger’s car.

He wasn’t going to let him out of his sight again.

The stranger’s car lurched to the right once the Jeep decelerated, but soon corrected itself. A second later, red light filled the Jeep’s windshield.

The car had locked up its brakes.

Jack didn’t have time to react.

The Jeep smashed into the car’s back fender.

Screams erupted again from the back seat.

The force from the collision ripped open the car’s trunk. Jack lost sight of the road as something landed on his windshield with enough force to shatter the safety glass into a spiraling web of cracks.

Oh Jesus, not again. Not like before.

Jack tried to turn but the cars’ bumpers were caught together. Then he saw it. In the lower corner of the window, where the windshield was still intact, was a face.

The girl from the trunk.

Her body, thrown from the trunk by the impact, was draped across the windshield,.

And she was alive.

Her eyes stared at him through the glass.

Full of pain.

Full of terror.

Jack cried out.

Then the face was gone. 

The world turned on its end and gravity ceased to exist. His girl’s screams mixed with the whine of metal twisting in on itself. Jack heard a muted explosion and felt pressure over his chest and face. And then darkness.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

More details about the author

Connect with Jeff Gunhus on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.jeffgunhus.com/

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment