Authors: Christopher Andrews
They’d gotten a little turned around almost immediately, but Harry refused to admit it, so they didn’t backtrack when it would’ve been easier. He wanted to save time, so they kept going. And going. And as they got more and more lost by mid-afternoon, it became clear to Helen that they’d never reach home tonight. Harry’s big plan had not only failed to save time, it was going to
them another night in some motel.
Helen enjoyed that little victory in private.
"Now what the hell is this?" she heard Harry grumble.
She looked back to the road. Ahead of them, two small cars had had what appeared to be a minor collision, a fender-bender that shouldn’t have resulted in any injuries. What was odd, though, was the sheer number of people surrounding the cars. It had to be at least a dozen, maybe more — too many to have been squeezed into the two little vehicles.
"Lookie-loos, I guess," she commented.
"What’s a ‘lookie-loo’, Mommy?" Karen asked from the back.
"An assho—" Harry answered, but cut himself off in mid-swear. "A jerk with too much time on his hands." He raised his voice, "Come on!" and honked the horn twice as they approached the cluster, which was blocking well over half of the road.
None of them paid any attention. Harry had to come to a full stop, and he honked the horn again, longer this time. And the people still ignored him — they were too fascinated with the interiors of the two cars from the collision.
Maybe Helen had been wrong. Maybe the people inside were hurt after all, and these witnesses were trying to help.
"Oh, for fuck’s sake," Harry snarled, throwing the car into
"Harry!" Helen snapped, appalled by his using such language in front of Karen.
But Harry didn’t pay her any mind. He opened his car door, practically kicked it open, and got out.
"Just go around them, Harry," he heard Helen whine just as he closed the door, but he didn’t pay any attention to that, either. He had been trying to control his temper for a while — not an easy task, what with Helen’s endless nagging, but he had tried for Karen’s sake. So in a way, he was glad for this obstruction. Sure, he could just go around, but then he wouldn’t be able to blow off some steam.
," he declared, just short of shouting. "There’s been a little accident, what a sight, we’re all impressed. Now could some of you please move your asses out of our way?"
The group of people
ignored him. What in the hell where they doing, anyway? He couldn’t see exactly, there were too many of them, but from the car closer to him, he heard ... what was that? Smacking? What was going on here, a
goddamn gum-chewing contest?!
As he stomped over, his short legs pumping, Harry failed to notice the haphazard way these people were dressed. A few of them wore the expected rural outfits, suitable for farmers who didn’t know the first thing about
about having to meet quotas every month, about keeping your money-sucking wife in the latest fashions, about having so much fucking stress in your life that your hair starts falling out!
So it was only the very fringes of Harry’s distracted mind that noted something that Helen was just starting to absorb from her viewpoint in the car — several of these people were wearing hospital attire, for staff and patients alike. And ... was that
What exactly was going on?
But again, Harry was too perturbed to notice this on any meaningful level, so he walked right up and grab one of the women by the arm, and not gently. Tugging her away from whatever the hell was going on in there, Harry started, "Look, idiot, why don’t you and your buddies—"
The woman tottered around on shaky feet, giving Harry a good look at her.
"Aah!" Harry blurted, letting go of her arm and stumbling back.
The woman’s face was a bloody mess from the nose down. It reminded Harry, of all things, of the way people looked after competing in a pie-eating contest, the kind where their arms are tied behind their backs and they have no choice but to shove their faces right into the tin. But this wasn’t blueberry or apple or any other pie Harry had ever heard of — if he hadn’t known better, he would’ve sworn ... but no, surely not ...
The woman stared at him, her eyes looking murky and jaundiced. She opened her mouth wide, revealing more gore to turn Harry’s stomach, and made a gurgling sound in the back of her throat.
Harry didn’t like that sound, not one bit. He took another step away from her.
The woman made the sound again, reaching up with hands that were as sanguinary as her face, and others in the group reacted, rising up and out of the car to turn and stare at Harry. And they were all, all of them, were ... were ...
Harry spun on his heel and ran back to the car. He could see Helen staring behind him in shock and disbelief, her wide eyes showing too much white all the way around. As he jumped back behind the wheel, she didn’t ask any questions, she just said, "Harry, get us out of here!"
For once, the two of them were in complete agreement.
Without bothering with his seatbelt, Harry threw the car into
, stomping down on the accelerator and sending the tires into a squealing fury.
Alarmed, Karen asked, "What’s going on, Daddy?"
"Be still, honey," Helen replied, not wanting her daughter to get a look at the gore-splattered insanity out—
The car had just started building some real speed when they were jarred from the rear. Both the Coopers had been so fixated on the people in front, they hadn’t bothered looking behind them.
"Oh, my God, Harry," Helen said, one hand covering her mouth. "Did you just
They both turned in their seats, their faces close together as they looked out the back window. They had indeed hit not just one, but
people. But any distress they would normally have experienced was warped by the sight of their victims, both of whom were men, both of whom wore doctor’s greens, and both of whom were missing parts of their anatomy — one was missing his arm from the elbow down, the other missing one of his eyes
and part of his cheek
. Neither of them seemed to be in any pain as they flailed and tried to rise from where they had bent over the Coopers’ trunk, but they did appear enamored by the sight of the Coopers looking at them, and reached out just as the woman had reached for Harry.
"God, Harry," Helen whispered, touching her husband’s arm for comfort without realizing she was doing so, "what’s
with these people?"
"I ... I don’t know," he admitted.
Then he went into action once more. He shoved the car back into
and floored it, turning the steering wheel to go around the two collided cars, something he should have done all along.
But now the group had spread out, covering even more of the road than they had before. He turned wide, trying to go around them, and the tires on his side went off the shoulder of the road, spinning in the gravel and dirt, losing any real traction.
"Harry—!" Helen cried as those insane people slammed into the passenger side of the car. They were all moving as though drunk, but the two that reached them rapidly became four, then seven, then it seemed the whole dozen or more were against the side of their car, pawing at the window and slapping at the roof and hood and trunk.
Karen screamed. So did Helen. And though he might’ve denied it later, so did Harry.
The car lurched, almost made it through ... and then it rocked up onto just the driver’s-side tires. The engine roared in protest and dirt flew everywhere. Harry heard a strange
, and realized it was probably the sound of one of those people reaching right into the wheel well and losing a hand or arm for their trouble.
Then the car rolled over.
Harry got the worst of it, never having refastened his seatbelt. He reached up to catch himself, but his forehead still banged up against the roof, sending stars across his vision. Helen and Karen had their belts on, but the whole experience was so unexpected and terrifying that they cried out along with him.
The car ceased rolling as it settled onto its roof, but it continued sliding down the slope away from the road, but also away from those maniacs. The noise was surprisingly loud, and the windshield cracked as something raked across it, a rock or pipe — Harry wasn’t sure.
The important thing was, by the time the car stopped, they had gained a respectable distance from the mob, whose inebriated stride was making it difficult for them to follow down the slope off the side of the road. They stumbled and fell and tripped each other — Harry could see that much as he crawled onto his hands and knees — but it wouldn’t take them long to catch up.
"Helen!" he asked. "You all right?"
"I ..." she looked around at him from where she hung upside-down. "I think so ..."
"Then move your ass," he ordered, keeping an eye on those things as best he could. "We’ve got to get out of here. Help me with Karen."
Karen was crying— no,
at the top of her lungs, and Harry didn’t blame her.
After some struggling, they managed to get their daughter free of her seatbelt and pushed her out on Helen’s side. Those people, those
, were way too close now.
"You go, Helen," he said in a moment of uncharacteristic chivalry. "Go, hurry!"
Helen crawled out
— grabbing her
out of habit, the silly woman! —
then reached back in to help Harry.
"We’ve got to run," Harry was saying as he struggled to get out, "we’ve got to get the hell—"
Then the pitch and tone of Karen’s wailing skyrocketed; she was
now, but Harry couldn’t see why.
" Helen cried, her helping hands disappearing just as Harry tried to get to his feet. "Stop! Stop that, you
up to a standing position, and his eyes bulged when he saw what was happening.
It was the same woman, the one Harry had grab before. She was the one who had reached into the wheel well, the one whose arm had twisted into an impossible knot as it snapped in a hundred places and wrapped around the rim of the tire, which had served to drag her along with them as the car slid off the side of the road ... and the one who had snared Karen by the wrist, then dragged his daughter closer and sank her teeth deep into the little girl’s right arm.