Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
Staring at the clock, Brandon heaved a sigh as the digital numbers switched once again, marking the death of yet another minute as he sat outside the Sun Theater waiting for his girlfriend to get off her shift at the Flying Saucers bar. The gently humming engine of the older model Dodge filled the air, along with a soft mist that was coming from the nightly rainfall. The city of San Antonio had suffered from these strange heat waves before, but never these heat showers. It would rain just after the sun went down, which in the summer was late, cooling the hot streets too quickly, creating a thick fog that the people of the Southwest were hardly equipped to deal with.
Brandon flipped his headlights off and rolled up his windows, locking his doors out of habit. With the fog rolling in, you never knew what kind of crap you were going to see. There’d been reports on the news that gangs of teenagers had been using the clouds as a means to carjack people, sneaking up on them and just yanking them from their vehicle. Brandon smiled; no way that would happen to him.
A sudden knocking on his window caused him to jump in his seat, dropping his cell phone down to the floorboards. Cursing under his breath, he looked up to see who had knocked on his window.
Two young boys stood in the pale light of the Sun Theater’s glow, clothes immaculate. Brandon watched as the taller boy, the one on the right, motioning for him to roll down the window. The boy on the left was smiling, his glistening white teeth luminescent in the roiling fog.
Brandon stared at the kids for a few moments, looking them over. He knew all the movies at the Sun were starting up or were on their last round, and there was no way they were going to be interested in the bar… in fact, they were of that delightful age where Brandon couldn’t exactly tell how old they were. They were somewhere between ten and fourteen, and lanky; they had red curly hair and freckles while the one on the left was dressed in an old video game tee shirt the one on the right was wearing his Sunday best. As the fog licked at their edges making them indistinct, Brandon rolled his window down a few inches.
“Yeah, what do you kids need?” Brandon asked, trying to sound friendly.
The one on the right folded his arms behind his back and teetered slightly to lean on his right foot. “Well sir, we were coming to the movies to see the new action film and we realized we left our wallets at home.”
The boy on the left nodded, eyes still not meeting Brandon’s as he kept twitchily looking around.
Brandon nodded, urging the boy to continue.
“So you thought you might get some random adult to fork over some cash for you two?” Brandon asked, reaching down to pat for his cell phone. The fog rolled over his hood, obscuring the chipped paint and warped metal from view. From the light of the Sun’s marquee, the two young boys shadows split into three distinct lines, stretching out over the car as they stood by silently watching Brandon fumble.
The boy on the right’s head drooped. “I wasn’t planning on asking you for money, not at all. We just want a ride, see?”
The other boy nodded, his smile widening even further.
“A ride?” Brandon repeated, not bothering to look at the boys as he watched them from within the dark car’s interior. “A ride where?”
“Well, that depends on you actually,” The boy said, now standing directly outside the window of the Dodge. Brandon jolted, looking up as he tried not to spaz about the boy’s sudden movement. Looking up through the inch slit of glass at the boy’s silhouette, Brandon blinked. Had he been that tall?
“What do you mean?” Brandon asked, looking at the darkened figure as it peered down at him.
The boy… no, the man that stood there seemed to lengthen and grow as he peered down with shadowed eyes. His clothes were no longer church perfect- no, they were tousled and dirty. The skin that was apparent was blocked by flecks of fog dancing over him. Brandon stared up at the figure for what felt like minutes, until he heard it.
The figure had tried to open his front door. That seemed to break the spell that had fallen over Brandon, snapping his gaze away from the shadow figure while rolling his window up as quickly as he could. As it sealed in place, Brandon thought he could hear an angry hiss of a serpent being denied its dinner. A palm slammed into the window, the fingers impossibly long and willow-thin to be that of a child, or even a normal human being.
“Come on Mister,” the boy’s voice implored from the fog all around him, a dark humor underlying the plea. “The ride would be quick, we just need a lift a couple miles.”
“Get the fuck away from me!” Brandon shouted, flipping on the headlights for his Dodge so he might have some chance of finding his phone.
Standing in front of his suburban were dozens of black forms, all thin as reeds with mirrored eyes of inky darkness, partially wrapped in tendrils of fog bouncing the brilliant lights of the Dodge back into the cab.
Brandon screamed and dropped to the floorboards as his suburban started to shake, the heavy steel exterior scraping as innumerable fingernails pried and pulled at the edges of the Dodge in search of an easy opening. The voice of the boy, now seemingly from everywhere, was growing deeper by the second, a thick gravelly baritone that was commanding Brandon to open the door.
“This isn’t happening,” Brandon said to himself as he turned on his hands and knees to face the seat, his eyes never leaving the floor. “This can’t be real!”
He heard the handles being depressed and repressed in and out on all four doors repeatedly and let out another scream when something climbed up on top of the vehicle. Looking up, Brandon could see the skylight.
Open, wisps of fog sinking in like sinister fingers looking to pry a wound apart. Brandon climbed up onto his knees and slammed his fingers on the side panel, rolling the glass closed as he felt something shuffle about atop the vehicle. At the very last second, a hand dripping of darkness hit the glass wetly, smearing a greasy line that was only made that much more pronounced by the reflecting headlights.
Brandon turned, eyes closed, and reached up to grab the keys, killing the engine with a silent pull, the lights dying, along with the sounds.
Sitting in the roomy space for his pedals, Brandon remained silent. As did the night. No voices, no cries. No scratching of nails on steel.
His moment of peace was broken when his cell phone rang, violently and loudly, causing Brandon to yelp as he sought to silence it.
“Hello?” He answered hesitantly.
“Hey baby,” Rebecca said from the other line, weariness creeping from her voice. Brandon smiled. His girlfriend was calling him. He almost laughed.
“H-Hey honey,” Brandon said, crawling up into the seat of his suburban, sticking the keys back into the ignition. The lights came on, shining over the parking lot and onto the front steps of the Sun. He saw his delicate little girlfriend standing there, holding a large cake. “What have you got there?”
“Oh one of the cooks had a birthday and he’s diabetic, they said I could have the cake. Figured it could be a reward for how well we’ve been doing on the bills.” Rebecca smiled over the line, her tiny body walking out towards the suburban. “Do me a favor and unlock the back, ‘kay?”
Brandon smiled and pulled the lever unlocking the back gate, which lifted up slow enough to allow a breeze to breathe across the back of Brandon’s neck. Brandon slowly started to choke as Rebecca’s voice grew deeper, gravelly, all while laughing over an increasingly staticky call. Staring forward, a wave of fog rolled from beneath the Dodge, billowing like drapes caught in a wild wind as the feather light claws of the dense mist danced over the hood and windshield, scratching like nails on a chalkboard.
Credit: Nicholas Paschall