Down the Drain #4
Down the Drain #4
Stunned by the sight before them, the remaining quintet stands in the parking lot as the blueish-green, corpselike body of what was once their friend walks toward them from the water. Even from this distance, they can make out the yellow reflection in her eyes and growth and death at her feet, but mostly they can make out her smile. A smile so large that it distorts her face and warps her lips and teeth into a terrifying rictus.
“We have to get out of here,” Angelica murmurs, “We have to keep moving.”
Glossy, tearful eye-contact is made among the group as they take their supplies and turn and run toward the market at the edge of town. Deep into the darkness, they run, trying not to look back, trying not to talk, trying not to cry, trying not to think, but Angelica does.
For the first time in as long as she can remember she hopes that her dad will find her, that he will come to her rescue. He hadn’t been there for her much. Maybe that’s not fair. He had been there, just maybe not in the ways that she wanted him to be. He was a deeply critical man and that can leave scars on a child, driving the course of their lives toward self-destruction, or at least counseling.
For all of his belittling commentary and biting wit, he was there. Most of the time she felt that he was just there to tell her what she was doing wrong, tell her she had to be better, inform her of all of his unattainable expectations, and hopelessly lofty goals. Not his goals for himself, but his goals for her. She had come to a point of forgiveness, however, she’d hit the age a while ago where she had become aware that his drive for her success was his weaknesses in himself, that his words to her were forgotten interpretations of his father’s words to him. He didn’t mean it, but how often it is that we hold grudges and carry scars from inflictions that were not malicious. Probably most of them, if not all?
As she runs, she tells herself that if there is a part of her that does not forgive him, if he saves her, she will forgive it.
As she runs, she tells herself that if there is a part of him that she has refused to understand, if he saves her, she will try harder.
As she runs, she remembers times when he was and was not there. He was there when he had to be. Those times that threaten a parent’s safety, threaten a parent’s reputation. Times like her saxophone recital and the meeting with the principal that followed her pulling down the pants and underwear of Geoffery Taylor in the ninth grade. It was the first penis she had ever seen in person and up until now, the memory was burned into the back of her mind. Now, most of the memory was gone. What was once a memory that was hers, a defining memory of her youth, was now just a memory of when her dad was there to bail her out.
But there were times when he was there when she did need him. At the time they too were a source of frustration, a source of embarrassment. Like in tenth grade when she snuck out of the house and got way too drunk at Jennifer Cooly’s house when Jennifer’s mom was out of town. The house was full of drunk boys and girls. Angelica had drank so much that she was throwing up uncontrollably on the back porch as the other kids laughed and pointed. Her dad came storming in and picked her up completely, even with his slight frame, carried her to the car, and took her home. It was the first time she realized that he was tracking her phone, but he also held her hair out of her face while she expelled what alcohol was left in her system and then made her a sandwich.
And, of course, he was there when her mom died.
It is sometimes shocking how relativity comes into play, such as the comparison of a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t want to be embarrassed by her dad and a girl from a third world country that has to do unspeakable things just to eat at the same age. She never had a relative moment to truly put things into perspective, until now. If he came, if he dropped everything and saved her from this smiling face of evil that literally wanted to consume her, the needle would be shoved. It would be shoved so far to one side that everything he ever did or did not do that hurt her would be minuscule in comparison.
Next to her, there is a crack and a sizzle as Carter ignites one of the flares. The light both terrifies and comforts her. Comfort that she can see, terror that she might be seen.
“It’s not far. There’ll be a phone,” Carter says through heavy panting to the left of her. Left of Carter she can hear the footfalls and whimpering of Brad, to her right she sees the eyes of Tiffany, wild with fear, and beyond that, the stone-faced look on TwoBits face.
Brad falls to his knees sobbing as the group stops.
“Get up!” Carter yells, attempting to convey compassion, but expressing only panic.
“What’s the point?” Brad moans.
“We have to keep moving,” Tiffany begs, crawling under Brad’s arm trying to help him up.
Carter grabs his other arm and throws it over his shoulder and helps get Brad to his feet, “Come on, man. I’ll help you, but we have to keep moving.”
“On, shit,” Angelica whispers as she notices and points at a faint green glow in the tree line next to them. Looking up they can see the sharp silhouettes of the trees in the starlight expanding and bending, the ominous creek of the growth and death of the trees cutting the silence, a subtle sound made deafening by the fear and stillness surrounding.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” TwoBit repeats as he fumbles through his bag and finds the other flare. He cracks off the striker cap doubling the orange glow as they all look into the blackness around them. “Get him the fuck up and let’s keep going,” he continues attempting to sound commanding.
“Deb’s dead,” is Brad’s only response.
“I know she’s fucking dead and we’ll be fucking dead too if we don’t start moving you fucking pussy!” TwoBit yells at Brad, darting his eyes back and forth at the group in front of him. “Fucking leave his ass, we have to go!”
“I’m not leaving him,” Carter says to TwoBit.
“You’re such a bleeding heart pussy, you fucking pussy,” TwoBit now directed at Carter, “your sensitive, shy bullshit might work at the fucking warehouse or some shithole coffee shop, but that shit ain’t gonna keep you alive now! Now, fucking move!”
“How is this helping?” Angelica asks.
“Fuck you too, you fucking talentless hack!”
“Woah man, chill out,” Carter says, finding some assertiveness.
“Look who got a backbone,” TwoBit continues as the group just watches his anger fueled breakdown, the anger and fear in his face exaggerated by the whipping orange sulfuric light sources against the blackest black. A black so dark all depth to it is gone, except…
From behind TwoBit a feature breaks the blackness. Two yellow eyes peering through the darkness. The eyes move quickly, but the adrenaline of fear allows every second to seem like minutes as Angelica watches powerlessly. A sharp nose cuts through the dark beneath the eyes and then below that, the awful, dreadful smile of teeth and blood. Large triangular fangs and curled lips move toward the unexpecting TwoBit. Through the darkness, an orange-lit cerulean hand with black claws and blood splatter rises above him.
As protracted as the previous moments were the next came in stark contrast. As Angelica looked on, the clawed hand came immediately down from behind, over TwoBit’s head to his chin and then quickly raked up his face slashing along the way until sticking in his eye sockets, Angelica’s shoulders startling with the popping sound and the gush of blood from TwoBit’s face and eyes.
TwoBit drops the flare as his body is ripped back into the darkness.
“No!” Angelica yells, scrambling forward and grabbing the flare, then holding it as far out as she can to try to see in the black.
“There!” Tiffany howls pointing off into the darkness.
Angelica throws the flare in the pointed direction. In the flarelight they see the naked pale body of Biscuit hunched over the still corpse of TwoBit, using her neck and razor teeth to rip chunks of flesh from his face.
“Go… Now!” Angelica wails as the remaining four run in the opposite direction from the gore. Ahead, far down the road they see a lone streetlight in the darkness illuminating the small roadside market.
Their adrenaline does it’s job. What seemed like an insurmountable distance passes in a moment as they approach the market.
The market, called T-Birds, is one of those old highway stores that only sees business during the tourism months. It was probably buzzing when the road was a highway, but when the new freeway was put in years ago, it was relegated to a drinks and ice stop on the way to the lake. At this moment, to Angelica, it is a haven, a fortress, a castle glowing with hope under it’s lone streetlight.
They run to the locked door of T-Birds and, with a new found lust for life or vengeance, Brad immediately punches through the glass, reaches through and unlocks the door. Throwing the flares into the street, they scramble inside.
Inside the store is lit with crosshairs of shadow from the windows, flares, and streetlight. They huddle in a pile at the back of the store, attempting to catch their breath and their sanity.
Angelica feels her heart skip a beat as she notices the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Again the thunderous metallic sound resonates through the night rattling the store’s windows and extinguishing the streetlight.
They hold each other in the darkness wondering what to do next.