Good Hallow’s Eve, friends, and welcome to after hours. (Or what we vampires commonly refer to as our morning.) As a little bonus to the Dark and Stormy Night submissions my fellow wordsmiths have been penning for you, the spirit moved me to write my own while I was doing warm ups for NaNoWriMo. So consider this a little celebration of the holiday before the esteemed Kayleigh Grian gives us her submission tomorrow.
I pick on a certain plucky reporter with nearly sadistic frequency in my blog posts. He has suffered through one encounter with Flynn and lived to tell the tale after another brush-up with my former alter ego. Now, the plot thickens.
Will he make it out of this particular dance with the devil?
You tell me.
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
“I don’t like this idea, Scott,” I said, slumping in my seat with my arms crossed like a five year old throwing a temper tantrum. Somehow, my best friend had managed me into his car, and an hour into our trip, I was already regretting the decision to relent. The doctor had told me I needed to rest and no matter how many times I swore I was fine, neither he, nor Scott, were buying it.
To be perfectly honest, even I was beginning to question my own sanity at this point.
Lifting a hand to adjust my glasses, I settled it back down on the opposite arm and continued staring straight ahead, as though making damn well sure my objection remained stated. I could see him smirking in my periphery, though – the red-haired rich kid with the million dollar lawyer grin. We might have been friends since our freshman year in college, but in that moment I could have knocked one or two of those pearly whites out. “C’mon, Andy,” he said. “You’re acting like I’m driving you straight to the gates of hell.”
“Might as well be. It’s the countryside.” I glanced out the passenger side window, gaze lifting to regard the darkening sky. Sure, we were close to dusk, but sure as my name was Andy, I knew the sight of a thunderstorm when I saw one. “The weather’s turning and we should be inside.”
Scott sighed. “I’ve driven through rain before.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s not safe.” Straightening in my seat, I reached for the dials to the satellite system and had Lynyrd Skynyrd playing within seconds. Scott wrinkled his nose and I just grinned smugly, letting the sounds of classic rock drown out the uncomfortable silence. Even still, it was hard to ignore my own thoughts, and while I knew the vacation had been offered as an escape, I couldn’t shake the feeling that leaving Philly wasn’t going to cure me. Yes, I’d been having black outs and sure, I freaked out over a couple of bug bites, convinced I’d been bitten by something much worse.
Yeah, alright, I was unraveling. But I was a reporter. Wasn’t it my job to consider all the possibilities?
‘Getting a little full of yourself this Halloween?’ I thought, chest rising and falling with a deep breath while the rhythmic pitter-patter of rain started tapping against the windshield. The wipers lent a gentle ‘swish-swish’ to the mix and as Scott flicked on the headlights, I relaxed in my seat. Maybe he was right. Maybe stealing away to his parents’ place in the Poconos was what the doctor meant to order.
The car lurched, the wheels swerving suddenly and my friend struggling to compensate. He gripped on tight and veered over to the side of the road when another familiar sound added to the symphony. Thugunk-thugnk-thugunk. “Damn it,” Scott said, taking the words right out of my mouth as I slid to a more upright position. We stopped altogether and Scott cut out the ignition with a grumble. “I think you jinxed us.”
“Jinxed what?” I asked, as indignant as I could manage. “Because being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat was what I’d ask for?” One hand settled on my chest.
Scott just shook his head and opened the driver’s side door.
It shut, leaving me inside the car all by myself, this time without “Sweet Home Alabama” to break the quiet. The intensity of the rain picked up and as a loud expletive reached my ears I muttered and threw open the passenger door, lifting my coat to protect myself from the rain. Fat lot of good it was going to do in a moment, granted, but the sooner we could be out of there, the better. “What’s up?” I asked, shouting over the downpour to be heard.
Mr. Preppy frowned at me from where he stood, rain sliding down the back of his shirt and his hair turning dark with beads of water gathering at the ends. One hand rested on the trunk, head bent as he studied the interior. “I have the spare, but not a jack,” he said without looking back at me.
I glanced away, taking in the sight of our surroundings while hoping a Pep Boys might appear out of nowhere. What I saw instead was the edge of the woods, a twisting path leading away from the main highway and toward what looked like the base of one small mountain. The presence of a mailbox at least seemed encouraging. “Why don’t we go see if anyone’s home?” I pointed toward the side road.
Scott looked up, following my finger and furrowing his brow. “We’re in the middle of nowhere. I’m not going to go knocking on some stranger’s front door.”
“Oh, now you’re the patron saint of caution.” I grumbled. “This is the problem with you damn Northern folk. You’ve got no sense of hospitality.”
“Well, last I checked, this wasn’t North Carolina, Andy.” His lips curled, amusement dancing in his gaze when it returned to me. “I think they’d be about as hospitable as I’d be.”
“We’re a long way from the suburbs.” I shot him a wink, adjusting my coat and walking a few paces backward. “Besides, what’s the alternative?”
“I bet I’d be there and back before your Triple-A guy was.”
Scott laughed, slamming the trunk shut and scrambling for the driver’s side door. I watched him settle inside and pull out his cell phone. My eyes diverted back to the winding road and feet led me there before I could second guess myself. Granted, I could’ve stayed in the warmth of the car, and talked to Scott until help arrived, but being out here any longer than we had to suddenly spurred me on to action. I jogged across the rural highway and into the woods, still holding my coat over my head.
I regretted the decision almost immediately.
A few yards up the road, the rain had abated just enough for me to not get completely saturated. This meant any light from – well, anything – was being blocked by a thick patch of forest, dialing the spook factor up to eleven. I let my soaked collar fall back down to my neck and adjusted the jacket before burying my hands in my pockets. Specks of moisture on my glasses stopped me from seeing everything clearly, which only made matters worse. I was seconds from turning tail and bolting back to the car, but willed myself around one of the bends.
Relief washed over me when I saw the house not much further up the road.
I jogged the rest of the way to the front door. And while the wrought iron gate creaked and some weird noise from the woods made me jump, I still found the gumption up to a residence I could only describe as rustic. Well, rickety applied, too. Okay, it was a dump, but still, there were lights on and cars parked outside and no sign of any banjos playing Deliverance. Surely this meant my luck was changing.
The screen door protested while I cranked it open. Knocking hard and steady, I kept a hand on the handle while waiting for someone to answer. A few seconds went by, feeling more like a few minutes, and I gave the door another solid pounding, feeling a shiver crawl up my spine I couldn’t be sure was from the rain. Just as I thought I was being ignored, the door squeaked ajar and I charged forward like I owned the place. “Hello,” I said, prepared to apologize for being forthright. “Thanks for answering. It’s pouring like cats and our car blew a…”
I rounded the door, seeing nobody behind it.
“… tire.” My breath hitched for just a moment. I coughed to compensate. Well, damn. I had knocked too hard, apparently, because that was the only logical explanation I could come up for a door just randomly swinging open on its own. I mean who thinks there’s such things as ghosts or werewolves or vam…
No, we weren’t going to get into that last one. And I needed to get a grip.
Steeling myself, I walked further into the house, shutting the door behind me and hoping that might generate some response from the occupants. Nothing. I continued inward, my steps cautious and my shoulders tense while I looked one way and then the next, half expecting the Boogeyman to pop out at me as I made it through the living room, into the dining room, and farther into some stranger’s place than I probably had any right to be. I paused by the edge of a large room and jumped when a crack of lightning illuminated the area right in front of me for a sparse few seconds.
Wait a minute.
I couldn’t be sure, but had I just seen… coffins?
The lights turned on in the room all at once. As the area illuminated, I tensed even more, a shrill whimper escaping past my lips despite my best efforts to bite it back. Oh holy hell. Yes, there was a ballroom filled with coffins, and just like I’d walked onto the set of a B-level horror movie, the lids began to open and one by one, a series of pale, human-looking creatures emerged, confused at first until every set of eyes on the room was fixed on me. I felt that lump in my throat grow to gargantuan proportions. My sense of self-preservation kicked in just long enough for me to spin on my heels and decide for the door, but I made it no more than two steps forward when I rammed into someone.
“Damn it,” I said, my voice sounding small. “Ohhhhhh damn it.” My rational mind said, ‘Don’t make eye contact,’ while the other side replied with, ‘Huh?’ and as I found myself peering up at a guy dressed all in black, the expression in his eyes so very hungry, another, “Damn it,” made it into the air. It provoked the tall stranger to smirk.
“We simply keep running into each other,” he said. “One would begin to believe it was Providence.”
My mouth hung agape, but the more I thought of it, the more something did seem eerily familiar about this guy. I fought for something to say, but he advanced forward, setting me back another pace and chuckled when I lifted my hands to stop him. “Mr. Lane, was it?” he asked. Head tilting, he allowed his lips to part, and the unholiest of grins revealed two sharp teeth which slid down to full extension. “If you remember me, I did not do my job correctly, but my name is Flynn.”
Flynn? Faintly, I remembered a phone call. And that smile. I couldn’t summon a clearer memory, but yes, now I knew I’d seen it before. I quivered. “Those weren’t bug bites,” I murmured.
“This one is mine,” he said, addressing the room behind me. He walked forward and I froze in place. His hands gripped my shoulders and I screamed as loudly as I could, wondering what use it was being buddies with a superhero when he was out in the damn car and not anywhere nearby to rescue me. A cacophony of laughter and shadows enveloped me, leaving my fate hugely in question by the time I blacked out.
Oh well. I guess I’d walked into this one, hadn’t I?