's 2013 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by C. Lonnquist


I see them more along I-35 than anywhere else; ducking between the cars, sitting nestled between semi cabs and their trailers, eating things that are stringy and pink.

The first time they saw me was at the onset of winter. The first day I had to scrape frost from my car. I drove with the heater on and the Current playing on the radio. They were doing a member drive and as they asked for my money I recited the donation line, whose number I now know by heart.

The edge of the sky was pink; the sun was somewhere to my left as I headed north. The tops of the trees shone in orange, though I saw little daylight where I sat, nestled in the box canyon of the interstate except for when it went across the bridge. I dozed. I paid traffic no mind as it crept at a near lack of forward movement. I changed the radio to a cd and listened to the Pacific Rim soundtrack.

The first one looked like a child when I saw it; naked and strangely yellow. Clammy, ochre skin. Like old bananas right before they turn brown. It looked like it was smiling, but more likely it couldn’t close its mouth with teeth that long, that thin. It had eyes of a sort; flat red spaces on its face with tiny black pupils that darted around constantly, almost like flies trapped in the recesses of the thing’s skull.

It trotted between the almost-parked cars, looking back and forth at the drivers. I saw it in my side mirror. I wasn’t afraid then. It was small and a little potbellied. It was harmless. It looked harmless. It passed by my driver’s side, its head a little lower than the window. We looked at each other, and it opened its mouth a little. Its pupils rattled around the holes in its face and it made a strange chittering noise, like the sounds bats make.

It didn’t stop running, but it did look back at me as it trotted off.

I figured I was just up too early.

The second time they saw me was when I was on my way home in a snow storm. The roads were harsh and slick, and I wasn’t used to driving on the interstate in the city during that kind of weather. Sure, there had been a bunch of snowfalls by that point, but it was different when it was dark and the eighteen-wheeler next to me seemed to buck wildly every five feet. There were fewer cars, but I didn’t dare go any faster. I’m not that good of a driver.

One of them stuck their head out from the edge of the trailer, craning it down on a long neck, dirty grey hair falling down around its face. Its teeth were very red. I had seen them a number of times, and they seemed to keep getting bigger. This one was about as tall as I am—a good bit over six feet, but not closer to seven. It was thin, though. They were all thin. Thin and ochre-colored except for teeth that seemed to stain more and more red as they grew.

It hooted. They did that; a soft, warbling sound that seemed to ignore the fact that I was surrounded by glass and metal that should stop the noise. A few times, I had looked over my shoulder, because their voices always seemed to come from inside the car.

It hooted again and threw something pink and wet at my car. I gripped the wheel tight and tried to ignore it, not because I wasn’t afraid or intrigued, but because I knew paying attention to it would have sent me over the concrete barriers along the bridge. I figured they usually ignored me as they ran between the cars and hung from the bottoms of bridges. I figured maybe I could ignore them back.

The thing didn’t like that, and the hoots became more hurried and anxious. I glanced up at it; its pupils bounding around its eyes, still so clear despite the constant white that hammered my windshield. It reached one hand around the top of the trailer and banged long fingers against the white metal side of the long box. It only had three fingers and a thumb. They all ended in claws. The claws were a dirty orange color; ochre mixed with red.

I sped past as quickly as possible. I couldn’t see a driver in the truck’s cab; there were no lights, but it rocked back and forth as if something was fighting inside of it.

This continued. Slowly, I saw them more and more. I watched them drop from the bottoms of overpasses onto cars, punching through sunroofs to reach at drivers. No one seemed to notice. No one swerved or veered as long claws pulled at hair or yanked back on throats. I saw one lift a dog from a passenger side window and leapt away across the tangle of vehicles, hooting victoriously. They ignored me, and I tried to ignore them. Why didn’t anyone see them?

They were getting bigger now. Some of them stood as tall as large SUV’s, drumming their fingers on the metal as they stood next to cars and whipped their heads back and forth on their long necks, chittering and hooting and fidgeting among the traffic jam. It wasn’t unusual to hear the click of claws on my own vehicle as they shambled by, always heading in the direction of the traffic. There were less cars now. Why were there less cars?

Were there less people?

Why did no one notice?

The third time they saw me, it was during rush hour on a bright spring morning. There were no clouds in the sky, and that seemed to irritate them. They huddled under the overpasses, banging on pylons, throwing fleshy things at passing cars and screeching. There must have been twenty of them under the exit for Black Dog Road. As I drew near, they howled all the louder. The bigger ones were pointing, their pupils rolling in their fiery eyes. Some of them descended from the overpass, their arms seeming to drip like sap, distorting and elongating as they fell towards me. I gunned my car. Even in rush hour, there weren’t as many cars on the road as their used to be. No one talked about it. I never asked—who would believe me?

One of them landed alongside my car, trotting on four legs next to me like a disfigured antelope. It pressed its face against my driver window, teeth raking against the glass, hot breath fogging the smooth surface in the chill of early morning. It chittered and screeched, sounding furious. I tried not to look. It broke off as the traffic ended, turning back towards its companions.

It stood in the road, rising up on two legs. It must have been nearly twelve feet tall. It pointed at me as I drove away. A car behind me slowed and stopped inches from the creature as if it weren’t there. The thing put its other hand on the grill of the car and pushed it off the road. The driver’s face was blank as if nothing had happened. It slipped into the ditch and out of sight.

Cars drove around the thing.

It continued to point.

Why are there so few cars now? Where are the people? Why do half my coworkers never come to work anymore? When I ask other people where they are, they get a confused, distant look on their face and never answer. Why does no one see the things on the road?

The last time they saw me was in summer; blistering and hot. There were more things than people now; as soon as I got onto the interstate, they were everywhere, like ants, like cockroaches. They clambered over the other cars. I didn’t even see drivers. Mine was the only car that still moved on the road, and I wove between the parked, empty vehicles, their windows red from the inside from old blood. The things could be seen with human limbs in their hands, between their teeth, gnawing at bones, sucking at the marrow with long tongues.
They all follow me now. They all watch as I drive by, pointing and hooting and gnashing their long fangs with a sound like knives being sharpened. They descend on me as soon as I get off the side-streets, tearing after me on all fours, sometimes on two legs, their bulbous heads flopping at the ends of long necks.

I can’t focus. The road whips by me. I’m not afraid of the police; I’ve seen too many cruisers on the roadside, lights and sirens blaring but with no people in them. If I can make the bridge, they’ll leave me alone. If I can make the bridge, they’ll turn back. They always do. They aren’t past the bridge.

I’m going too fast. Ninety. One hundred miles per hour. How are they still alongside me? Why do they keep getting bigger? Semis have been replaced by wretched, slinging forms, dragging themselves along on clawed hangs, their distended bellies scraping along the highway, leaving long red smears behind them. The road isn’t black anymore; it’s red. The plants are choked out by human remains.

So close to the bridge! So close!

One of the things hurtles itself onto the car, latching to the hood, gibbering madly as it claws at the windshield. I think I’m screaming now. I think I’m pressing myself back into the fake leather seat and howling at the creatures. I can feel the car swerving, hydroplaning on blood, as the creature tumbles off from the motion. I can feel it under my tires as my car bounces once, twice. I’m at the bridge.

Something is there.

Its eyes are the size of manhole covers, pupils bouncing around burning red sores where irises should be. Long teeth are pulling at the concrete. A hand the size of a Mini Cooper is reaching over the barriers. The pupils stop moving and look directly at me, and the thing seems to smile. I’m still screaming now. The concrete is coming closer. It’s the only thing left that’s normal. It’s welcoming me. It looks so s--