You Can Never Escape

May 4, 2012
A beat-up 1969 fastback sat idling in the narrow driveway; its blue paint flaked from years of harsh weather and careless driving. Lyla knew the sound of that old car anywhere, and she knew the boy behind the wheel: Travis McAlister. She moved to the window to catch a glimpse of him. His downy chestnut hair and muddy cowboy boots made him stand out in their little Oregon town, as did the fact that nobody knew where he came from. Lyla had been instantly drawn to him because neither of them could remember their parents, having been bounced from foster home to foster home herself before being taken in by her best friend's mom. She fell in love with him the year they met, and after four years they were nearly inseparable.
At the honk of the horn Lyla came back to herself and moved away from the window, returning to the open bag on the bed. He had told her they were going on a road trip, to pack what she needed, and that he'd pick her up at six that night. She was running ten minutes late, but being a girl meant over packing was unavoidable. She zipped the bag closed with difficulty, struggling as the seams cried out in protest, and slung it over her shoulder. She locked her apartment door behind her and headed for his car, pausing to deposit her bag in the back before climbing into the passenger seat. He greeted her with a smile and a kiss, followed by that raised eyebrow look she knew was meant to say “I told you I’d be here at six". She apologized, explaining why she had taken so long as he backed out of the drive.
They talked as he drove, and they laughed as they sang along with the radio. The one subject they didn't talk about was where they were going. He had suggested they drive until they came to someplace different or exciting, and she had agreed mostly because she wanted to spend time with him. After a few hours it had grown dark, and with the darkness came thick gray clouds. At half-past nine the rain started to fall, and by ten the steady gust of wind made driving difficult. They had been driving a lonely, open stretch of road for quite some time when they finally saw a set of headlights up ahead. They seemed to be elevated, almost as if they had come over the crest of a hill obscured by the dark of the night. As the car got far closer than would normally be possible in a matter of seconds, Lyla realized it had to be going over one hundred miles per hour. When their headlights passed over the front of the car as it flew by, Lyla couldn’t see the figure behind the wheel. For a few moments she wondered what would make a person drive so fast on such a stormy night, but she soon forgot the car and returned her focus to Travis. Not wanting to chance driving in the storm much longer, Travis told Lyla they would need to pull off to the side of the road for the night.
He had brought a few blankets and a pillow and began arranging them in the back seat as a sort of makeshift bed. Travis took the spot along the edge of the seat and moved Lyla into the crease between his own body and the seat backs. She threw her arm around his waist and rested her head upon his chest as he pulled a blanket up around them. In the raging storm that started, the young couples found warmth and comfort in each others arms and slipped into blissfully untroubled sleep. The two of them slept soundly; neither noticed the sounds of the storm nor woke as it grew worse. By morning the rain had stopped and the wind had died down, leaving behind only puddles as evidence. Travis put his lips to Lyla's forehead and whispered for her to wake up. Once she had rubbed her eyes and stretched, they both climbed back into the front seats. The empty stretch of road was as it had been the night before, but something had changed. Lyla couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she kept the anxious feeling she had to herself. Travis pointed out a town a few miles up ahead, and they headed for it hoping to find a place to grab some breakfast.
From a distance the town looked completely normal, buildings and trees lined the streets. Once they drove closer, however, the bizarre qualities began to present themselves. There were no cars in sight; there were no bikes or buses either. Not one person could be seen and there were no birds or any other animals around. The houses were all the same, walls the color of steel with two windows on the second floor and a deep gray door. There was no grass in the yards, each house surrounded by cement instead. They finally came to a diner and parked in the empty parking lot. Hand in hand the two walked into the building, making the bells on the door jingle jangle as it opened and shut behind them. Nobody was inside. There were no customers, waitresses, cooks, busboys. Travis and Lyla looked at each other and slowly turned toward the exit, but by then it was too late.
The diner was surrounded by people, if they could be called people. Their skin was light blue with darker blue spots up the arms and neck. The clothing they wore matched, though there were slight variations for the women, and they had a body structure that was essentially that of the average human. Their faces were long and they had purple-ringed, deep set eyes, each creature with irises as black as ink. The upper lips were drawn out, almost like a short duck bills, and their foreheads were pinched between where eyebrows would normally be. Dozens of them stood staring at Travis and Lyla; the largest of them stood front and center, obviously the leader. He seemed to shutter for a moment, then was instantly standing directly in front of the couple.
The two stared in terror at the hideous creature before them, too stunned to utter a single sound. The creature laughed as Travis finally pulled Lyla behind him, yelling for her to run, save herself and leave the town without him. That made the creature laugh harder still. As he cackled, Travis and Lyla noticed the skin on their hands began to turn the same shade of light blue. "The virus has begun to change you," said the creature. "It has spread farther in these last few years than we dreamed, and soon it will infect the rest of this miserable planet. You may run my friends, but you can never escape." The last words he spoke with an evil grin; he and the other creatures faded into nothingness, leaving the newly infected Travis and Lyla alone in a ghost town.





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