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Bill had been on the road for hours. He had started in Los Angeles early in the morning, the sun not yet peeking up over the city-scape. Now the sun was hanging low in the sky, lighting up the horizon like an apocalyptic firework. The engine of his Ford Explorer was rumbling smoothly as he cruised across the desert landscape, the dials showing a quarter tank left, Gatorade bottles and candy bar wrappers littering the passenger seat.
He sighed, turned the music down a touch, and leaned back in his seat, holding the wheel steady with one hand. The road stretched on straight, arrowing into the distance. He felt like he was in a dream, frozen in time. Just 24 hours ago he had been caught in the whirlwind of the big city, his head filled with it, intoxicated. He had been close to a promotion, he was positive, all the signs were there, and once he had it he would have been on top of the world. He could have finally afforded a bigger apartment, one where he and Karen...
The thought was still too painful, too fresh, even here, 400 miles away in the middle of nowhere. He focused back on the road, trying to latch his attention onto something, but it slid across the smooth, unchanging landscape to the dashboard, his eyes lingering on his dirty fingernails and then flicking up to the rear-view mirror where a lone, black car could be seen in the distance, shimmering from the heat of the road.
His eyes glazed over as once again he began reliving that fateful scene. He remembered walking up the red carpet stairs, under the light that flickered. Stopping outside his apartment, a rusty number 18 nailed to the wood. His key turning in the lock, catching ¾ of the way around like it always did. “I really need to replace that” he thought as he jiggled and forced the key all the way around, then opened the door. He was home early, Karen would be surprised. He walked down the hall, shoes lightly tapping against the linoleum floor. He turned the corner, and the whole apartment shook like it had been hit by a wrecking ball.
It took Bill a second to return from his vivid memory. He looked around, confused. The black car he had seen in the distance was right behind him, so close he could see the small scratches on the hood. He realized it must have been the cause of the bump, and swore to himself as he began to slow down to pull over. This was the last thing he needed right now; an insurance claim to deal with.
The car jolted again, harder this time. A half empty bottle of Coke rolled onto the passenger seat, leaving a dark stain in the cloth. “What the hell!” Bill shouted this time. He layed on the horn, looking in his rear-view mirror again at the tinted windows of the car behind him. The glaring black surface reflected everything, giving Bill a view of the back of his own car, riddled with various bumper stickers, the red paint chipped.
When the third hit came, even harder this time, Bill was ready for it on a subconscious level. He floored it, jerking the wheel left again, the engine whining. The whole car lurched as it abruptly changed gears. He looked at the speedometer, creeping up past 70, now 75, soon going towards 80, but slowing down, as if the very needle was afraid of such a number. He looked back at the black car, which was being left in the distance now. Except it wasn't. Bill broke out in a cold sweat as he saw the car still right behind him, not more than 3 feet, and closing in again.
Bill s hands were slick on the wheel. The speedometer read 87 now, but it didn t seem to be moving, even though his foot was flat down on the pedal. Yet the black car gained once again. He felt helpless, unable to do anything as it crept forward behind him. His whole car was rattling, weaving slightly back and forth against the massive wind pressure. The car moved up behind him, so close he couldn t see the bumper anymore. Time seemed to pause a moment, nothing but the blood red desert and the high whine of the racing engine.
Then the cars collided. The front wheels lost their grip, the whole front of the car slid left, wheels screaming against the asphalt. The wheel slid sickeningly, nearly pulling out of Bill s sweaty hands. He grabbed it with all his might, gritting his teeth and leaning so far right he was nearly in the passenger seat in his attempt to straighten the car. For one terrifying second, nothing happened. Bill could see what would happen, could picture the car continuing to the left, turning sideways, rolling, everything inside being pulverized in the process. Then the tires caught, and the car straightened with a jerk.
And the dark vehicle hit again. Once more the car swung out, once more Bill fought it back to a straight line. He anticipated the next hit, slamming on his breaks as the contact came. It was a mistake. The chaser slammed into the back of his car, overpowering it, pushing it forwards. His brakes squealed, the speedometer dropping, but slowly, way to slowly. A terrible screeching came from behind him, the sound of metal bending and snapping. The whole car jerked with a pop, leaning left. He could smell burning, melted rubber. He thought he must have blown out a wheel. He felt heat on his back, he looked once again to the rear-view mirror but saw nothing but smoke. His eyes started stinging now, and he realized he had to something, anything to free himself from being roasted inside his own car.
He grabbed the wheel again, but it was still unresponsive in his hands. His car was still going 45, even with the brakes on. Now, staring death right in the face, Bill felt almost calm. He knew that if he did nothing, he would burn alive in there. He could picture it, first his hair lighting up, making a halo around his head. Then his clothes, the polyester mixes melting along with his skin, puddling together on the floor, his fingers growing charred and black, the nails falling off sporadically like leaves from a tree. Against that grisly end, what he was about to do seemed almost sane.
He jammed his foot onto the gas, once more hearing the whine of his engine kick in. Almost immediately he could feel grip return to his tires as they stopped skidding and began to roll again. He pulled away from the car behind him, hearing something shriek in protest as the two cars seperated. Immediately the steering wheel jerked in his hands, live like a snake. He jammed his arm through the openings in the wheel to keep it from jerking back left, back into the median. He saw an exit, to his right in little over 200 feet, and with the same unnatural cool knew that it was his only chance. He waited till the last possible second, hoping to shake his persuer, then abruptly turned into the exit. “Oops, didn't signal” he though to himself maniacally, and made a noise that in other circumstances might have been a chuckle. His car zoomed onto the exit ramp, his hopes flared as he left the highway, and then the other car collided into his back right corner with an ear-shattering bang.
The road in front of Bill seemed to be opening up like a trap door, folding away beneath him. Everything seemed slow as he watched the car flip, the world outside turning upside down. It landed on its roof and then, instantly, the second car, also upside down, landed on top of it, and Bills whole world turned into a maelstrom of pain and color as both cars tumbled through the overpass, bouncing off each other and the walls like a pair of dice thrown in a craps game.
When Bill opened his eyes again, he was not sure where he was. All he saw was a blur of black and red. It slowly sorted itself out into the red sunset and black sky, the black asphalt and flickering red flames around him. He turned his head, and was greeted with a chorus of pain from his body. His whole back felt like it had been flayed, and it stuck to the hot tar of the road. Every breath he drew felt like fire, and made his ribcage crackle. He felt a warm trickle of blood running down his face, and along both legs. His left leg, when he turned his eyes down, was nothing but a charred black log, while his right leg seemed the opposite, one giant, open wound, black blood puddling with black oil on the ground. Almost worse, he could not feel anything on his right from the neck to the hip, including his arm. When he looked, he found his arm ended about 4 inches below the wrist in a sharp spike of bone and gristle. He felt awash in a sea of red pain, his senses swelling and blurring. He could hear his leg hurting, smell the sounds of burning fire, feel the acrid stench of blood and burning. Gone was the sense of calm he had felt-now he was afraid. “Still” he thought “I'm alive, the police must show up soon, theres enough fire here to make be seen from space.”
As if he had conjured it, he saw a shape emerge out of the haze. He could not seem to focus on it, only make out the vague humanoid shape approaching. He felt it was his salvation coming, and stopped focusing on the figure. As soon as his eyes relaxed, the vision clarified. Bill tried to scream, but all that came out was a dry, ragged sound. The figure aproaching was a thing out of hell itself. Hair of flames licked towards the sky, lighting up the gruesome face beneath. It was twisted, looking like plastic that had been in the oven. Two bright, insane eyes looked out from underneath bloody, blackened brows. A mouth hung eternally grinning a deaths head grin, the flesh completely removed from it's lower lips. Everywhere was blood, sizzling and smoking as it fell to the ground. The thing shuffled in a grotesque mimicry, the burning eyes above the grinning mouth. A piece of metal protruded from it's stomach, glowing red hot and sizzling as the blood poured over it.
Bill tried to crawl away, to turn over even, but his body could respond with nothing but pain. He jerked sideways, ripping his back off of the tarmac, and then collapsed in a swell of pain. He tried crawling, oh so slowly, every inch seeming a mile, every pebble in his path a mountain. He could hear it behind him, panting, sounding hungry, like some freak mockery of an animal. It was gaining, and Bill turned over once again to look into its bright eyes, to see its two red hands sink below his field of vision, fasten around his neck. He felt his dry throat cracking and splitting as the hands squeezed, and the edges of his vision started to grow black. He felt himself sliding into the nether, and with one final burst of survival instinct, he acted. His right arm found strength it hadn't had before, and he drove it forward. The bright sliver of bone that was his wrist drove up, into the creature's insane eye. It popped, juices spilling out onto the white bone, sliding down his face, sizzling upon his burned cheeks. An unearthly scream emanated as the man, or whatever was left of him, jerked back, snapping the wrist bone. It stayed in the socket, a white dart in a red bulls-eye. The hands left Bill's throat, and he slipped into darkness.
The Needles Times
Thursday, October 4th
Violent car accident ends in death of grief-stricken father
When police arrived on the crash at exit 43 yesterday, they found an untellable scene. Two cars had crashed in the northbound lane, underneath the overpass. On the scene were found two bodies, one in critical condition, the other dead by the time police arrived.
What was especially uncanny was that police found the bodies, both suffering from burn and impact wounds, nearly on top of each other. The body on top appeared to have been killed by brain trauma, coroners found, most likely resulting form a shard of bone found inside the prefrontal cortex. The other body, still on fire when police arrived, was rushed by air to the nearest hospital.
After analyzing the dental structure of the corpse, it was found to be a Mr. Richard Simmons. Simmons lived in Los Angeles, C.A, with his recently deceased daughter, Karen Hoffman. Hoffman was just yesterday found murdured in her bed along with a co-worker. Her husband, Bill Hoffman, was supsected of fleeing the city after the murder. Simmons was “mad with grief,” according to his wife who said that he fled after hearing the news, not telling her where he was going.
Pyschologists believe that Simmons, who was an ex-C.I.A agent and former stunt driver, may have had delusions of finding the mising husband suspected of the murder. It's believed he drove straight to the point of the crash, and most likely at that point fell asleep at the wheel. Examiners believe he drifted off of the road and struck the car in front of him as it was turning onto the exit ramp. Howver, recent findings of broken glass and skidmarks up to two miles before the exit have thrown confusion onto the case.
The other body remains in critical condition, and unidentified. Burning has made facial and dental records un-usable, and D.N.A testing may not be used until the person exits the coma he/she is in. No persons have been reported missing, and experts believe the man may have been from... see Man, B6