Authors: Kaitlyn O'Connor
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy
© copyright by Kaitlyn O’Connor, January 2007
Cover art by Jenny Dixon, © copyright January 2007
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Noticing her fingers had begun to cramp and her hands to sweat, Sabrina consciously relaxed her grip on the steering wheel, trying not to think about the poor decisions she’d made that had led up to her current situation. Outside the car it was as black as the inside of a cave despite the fact that it was a clear night. For that matter, it was as black as pitch inside the car, too.
She glanced down at the clock again--12:05--two minutes later than it had been the last time she’d checked.
Realizing her foot was getting heavier and heavier on the gas pedal the more anxious she became, she eased off on the gas, glancing in her rearview mirror, her side mirrors, flicking a quick look at the darkened woods that crowded close to the narrow highway.
With the exception of the greenish glow of her clock and dash lights there wasn’t a sign of any light in sight that said ‘civilization’. Even if there were any houses nearby, it seemed that everybody had gone to bed and she was the only person in the world still awake.
“Stupid,” she muttered, irrationally comforted by the sound of her own voice.
She should’ve stayed on the main highway, she chastised herself for the dozenth time. But she’d been stopping periodically since before dark trying to get a room, and everything was full. Of course, it hadn’t been until it was getting around nine o’clock that she’d decided to lower her standards and try anything that looked even reasonably respectable. By that time, though, even the cheapest, meanest looking places were full.
She hadn’t realized the middle of the country was still almost a no man’s land for travelers. She hadn’t fully comprehended the massive destruction and long aftereffects of hurricane Katrina. It hadn’t occurred to her that two years after it had hit every hotel for several states were still full to overflowing with the homeless and the construction workers that had piled into the area to rebuild.
When she’d stopped for a fill up around ten, she’d finally decided to try looking for something off the main highway.
She was scared shitless, and her eyes were still so tired from driving so long that every time she blinked it felt as if the inside of her eyelids were sandpaper.
She was almost tempted to speed in the hope that a state patrol would pull her over.
The thought of being pulled over on such a deserted road by a cop was almost scarier than being alone.
Stories she’d heard of serial killers posing as cops immediately began to fill her mind. And then, of course, any position of power always attracted the unscrupulous. A
cop might be tempted to take advantage of a stupid woman, alone, on such a deserted stretch of back road.
Taking one hand off the steering wheel, she felt around blindly and finally managed to turn on the radio. The blare of static almost made her jump out of her skin. Feeling around again, she found the search button. Country music filled the car.
After listening to the twang as long as she could stand it, she started punching the search button again. A road sign appeared in her headlights just about the time the search settled on an oldies station.
“Fuck!” she exclaimed in fear inspired agitation. “Shit! Shit! Shit! Hell! Damn it!”
She’d only caught a glimpse of the sign. It might have been indicating a town up ahead--or not. It could’ve just been a county line or the state line. She slowed down, wrestling with the temptation to find a place to turn around so she could see what the sign had indicated.
The music faded out, became an ear splitting static. At almost the same instant, the engine died.
It took Bri several seconds to assimilate the fact that the engine had flat lined. Panic swept through her, annihilating anything approaching common sense. Almost a full minute passed before she realized she didn’t have to come to a full stop to try to start the engine again because she was wrestling with the terrifying thought of stopping on the deserted road. The car had already dropped a good bit of speed before it occurred to her to slip it into neutral and try to re-start the engine.
Relief touched her, but only briefly. She was shaking like a leaf by the time she managed to shift to neutral and grabbed the key.
Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. She didn’t even hear the whir of the engine trying to turn over.
The car coasted slower and slower.
She checked the door locks a little frantically, not terribly reassured when she heard the locks click all around.
Abruptly, light surrounded her.
Stunned, she simply stared at the blinding light for a time, blinking, trying to figure out where the light was coming from. Helicopter, her mind finally deduced as the car rolled to a halt. With an effort, she guided the car off onto the shoulder of the road, praying there wasn’t a deep ditch or a swamp. The alternative of sitting in a stalled car in the middle of the road wasn’t acceptable, however. She hadn’t seen a car in at least an hour, but that didn’t mean a semi wouldn’t come barreling out of nowhere and flatten her.
The light grew brighter. Her heart rate spiked as the thought flitted through her mind that the helicopter was going to land right on top of her.
There was no sound, she realized abruptly just about the time she began to feel woozy and heavy. The sensation of falling swept over her just before she slid into unconsciousness.
A sound rather like a clap of thunder jolted her back into awareness. Disoriented, sluggish, Bri struggled with that thought and finally decided it hadn’t really sounded like thunder. It had been more like the crash of something heavy and metallic against metal--like heavy doors closing. It took an effort to lift her head and open her eyes.
The disorientation deepened as she did. She was surrounded by a strange light, an eerie bluish-green glow that didn’t seem to have any obvious source. Blinking, trying to adjust her vision to the dim light, she stared uncomprehendingly at the cavernous room that surrounded her car, supported by curved arches of metal that looked more like the steel columns and beams of a building than anything else she could think of, and yet not the same at all beyond the fact that she knew it must be some sort of support for a structure.
Before she could even begin to sort through her chaotic thoughts to figure out where she was and how she’d gotten there, movement caught her gaze. A wave of shock rolled through her.
A--thing was moving toward her car. Her mind was entirely unable to supply her with an explanation of what it was beyond the vague sense that it was bug like in that it had many legs. It was as big as the car and moved stiffly, mechanically.
Sucking in a sharp cry, Bri clawed a little frantically at her door handle and finally turned to locate it. As she did, she saw another one of the things was almost at her door. Screaming, she fought with her seatbelt and finally managed to unfasten it. The car rocked as she struggled to climb over the seat into the back. But she saw two more behind the car.
The crunch of metal and shattering glass filled her ears as she screamed again. Even as she sucked in another breath to scream, though, a fine mist filled the car around her. A sensation of cold washed over her, dizziness. Her body began to feel heavy, too heavy to hold her up. She oozed into a limp puddle in the floor, floating in an odd state of awareness, staring up at the things that surrounded her car and methodically shredded it. When the roof of the car vanished, one of the things reached for her. A pincher like hand moved over her, closed around one ankle, and lifted her from the wreckage.
She dangled head down for a moment, wondering why she felt no pain, wondering if the thing was about to dismember her the same way it had taken the car apart. She was too divorced from her senses to feel more than a vague relief when, after apparently studying her for a moment, the thing slowly lowered her to a hard, icy cold surface.
She should try to escape, she thought vaguely. She found she couldn’t put any other thoughts together, however, nor could she manage more than a twitch of any body part. She lay still for a time, feeling the coldness beneath her back slowly seeping into her. After a while, she felt the sensation of movement and realized the robot--it had been a robot of some sort, not a living thing--had placed her on something like a gurney, or maybe more like a conveyer belt. She passed from the dark, cavernous room into blackness and then after a time into a smaller room with the same strange lighting of the first room, except that it was brighter.
Uneasiness flickered through her when she saw that this room was occupied by what at first appeared to be people, but she still felt divorced from her body and her surroundings. After staring at her for a time, they moved toward her, and she saw they weren’t people at all.
* * * *
Bri’s first vaguely clear thought when she woke was that she felt hung-over. She was still grappling with that and the fact that she seemed to have fallen asleep on the floor when she finally managed to lift one eyelid enough to see. A brightly colored blurry image came into view. After staring at it for several moments, blinking, she finally realized she couldn’t focus on it because it was too close, and she gathered herself, pushing away from it.
The image resolved itself into some sort of floral print.
She stared blankly at the bright comforter and finally rolled onto her side, scanning the room she found herself in.
It looked like a hotel room.
The problem was, jog her brain though she would, she couldn’t recall checking into a hotel, much less making her way into the room and lying down on what was surely to god the hardest frigging bed she’d ever lain on in her life. Shifting until she was sitting up, she drew her knees up and dropped her face into her hands. Nothing became the least bit clearer. Bits and pieces of memories surfaced, but she thought they must be from a nightmare, because she could hardly make sense of the little she could recall.
Little by little, she became more alert, but she was none the wiser for it. She still couldn’t remember checking into a hotel.
A flash of fear went through her, and she lifted her head with a jerk.
She was still fully clothed, she saw with relief.
Ok, so she could ditch the idea that she’d stopped somewhere for a drink, been drugged, and raped.
“This is just so weird!” she murmured, slipping from the bed and looking around the room as if that might jog her memory. When it didn’t, she headed toward the door she knew must lead to the bathroom.
The fixtures looked a bit old fashioned, but she was relieved to see they looked clean. She could remember thinking she would stop anywhere she could find a vacancy just to get off the road.
That wayward thought brought an avalanche of memories along with it, and relief. She’d been driving home, she remembered, from her business trip and hadn’t been able to find a place to stay.
found a place, but it bothered her that she couldn’t seem to jog her memories past a specific point--that point being her car dying on the road. How could she
remember past that point? She must have gotten the car started again and made it to this hotel, or motel--it reminded her of one of the old motor courts that had been popular years earlier.
When she’d relieved herself, she automatically reached for the flush handle and pulled it. The toilet made an ungodly noise, and she nearly tripped over her pants around her ankles as she leapt away from it. A nervous chuckle escaped her as she righted herself and jerked her pants up, turning to look at the toilet. The half laugh died in her throat, though, as she stared at the toilet.
There was no water the bowl, and she could see that there was some sort of trap at the bottom, sort of like the toilets in an airplane or bus.
Feeling perfectly blank, she stared at it for several moments and finally moved to the lavatory. The lavatory didn’t work at all. After turning both knobs around and around and getting nothing, she finally gave up and looked at the shower rather doubtfully.
“Surely to god the shower works, at least,” she muttered, not believing it for a moment.
It occurred to her just then, though, that she didn’t remember seeing her suitcase in the room. “God! I was out of it last night,” she said under her breath, heading out of the bathroom toward the outer door. Turning the lock, she gave a tug at the door. It didn’t so much as budge an inch. She frowned, turned the lock the other way, and tugged again. Nothing happened.
Planting her hands on her hips, she looked around for a phone. She’d scanned the room twice before her gaze lit on the black, clunky, ancient looking thing on the table by the bed. “Geez! I must have touched down in the twilight zone!” she murmured. The telephone looked like an antique!
It didn’t work either, damn it! There was no dial tone. “Well, goddamn it to hell!” she cried, slamming the receiver back down. “Does nothing in this god forsaken hotel work?”
Stewing over the fact that she couldn’t get out to retrieve her suitcase, or even call the front desk for help, she flopped down on the edge of the bed. It didn’t give one iota, and a jolt traveled all the way up her spine and into her skull. “Fuck!” she shouted, leaping off the bed and grabbing the coverlet and tossing it back.
Her jaw slid to half mast when she saw what was beneath the cover. There was no mattress, rock hard or otherwise. There was nothing beneath the comforter but a box. “What the hell?”
After staring at the thing blankly for several moments, she leaned down and rapped on the thing with her knuckles. The sound that echoed back told her that, whatever it was, it was hollow, but she couldn’t even determine what it was made out of. Oddly enough, it felt like some sort of metal--except it wasn’t cold like metal. The temperature and texture was more like plastic--cool but not cold, and smooth, but almost porous.